To kick off the new year inspired, I flew out to San Diego and attended what is coined as the event industry’s largest conference and tradeshow, The Special Event 2019. Together with over 4,000 industry professionals, I attended 3 over-the-top evening event experiences, had a selection of 100+ educational sessions to participate in, and perused the 150+ vendor trade show, showcasing the newest products on the market. To say the least, the days were action-packed, educationally charged, and filled with industry insights.
The best takeaways from the conference, besides the fantastic new contacts, were the tips, trends, and insights of the year to come. So, let’s break it down a bit and review what stood out and what to keep your eyes peeled for in 2019!
The Event Design and F&B Trends Forecast
The Event Design and F&B Trends Forecast session presented by industry professionals, David Merrell and Susie Perelman, was full of great ideas for events. Their overarching theme for the year to come is “Transformative Events”. This essentially means continuing to provide unique and inspired methods of presenting materials and experiences, utilizing elements of surprise and exploration in order to keep participants focused and engaged throughout the event.
The execution of this session was exactly that. Instead of presenting in a meeting room like the others, they scheduled this session on the trade show floor to help drive more foot traffic through the trade show while putting into practice a new and inspired way of presenting content in traditionally noisy areas; by using noise-canceling headphones.
Now, one of the perks of producing for a bunch of your peers is that they may be a tough audience, but they are also a forgiving one! I sat in on their first session, and sadly the headphones didn’t work correctly, leaving us with static-filled headphones and not enough sound-reinforcement on the floor to compensate when we had to stop using them. However, we all made the best of it and listened intently to the great ideas they had to offer! Here are some of the highlights:
Interactive Dinner Theater
An engaging dining experience continues to be a trend that is becoming more and more immersive as technology and creativity continue to push the boundaries in experiential events. Check out these three great ideas.
- Projection Mapped Tablescapes: Skullmapping, a Belgian-based artistic tech company, has taken YouTube by storm with their Le Petit Chef dining experience. This Virtual Reality company is utilizing 3D projection mapping on tabletops to create a fully engaging dining experience that could be personalized by creating custom storylines and narrative, or simply by incorporating your brand logo into the graphics.
- Fully Immersive Dinner Experiences: Want to combine team-building with a dining experience? We expect to see more and more activations like this one from the London-based group Gingerline – aka Chamber of Flavours. This video link shows you how they have created a funhouse meets escape room combined with do-it-yourself molecular gastronomy accompanied by hilarious talent, ridiculous activities, and an experience your team will never forget.
- Party-Crashing: There are a few long-standing dinner experiences that continue to engage large audiences! Star power never goes out of style! Treat your team to crashing Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding or catch them off-guard as they witness an impromptu singing competition by The Three Waiters. You can customize these acts by incorporating members of your leadership into the show or changing up the style of music to best fit your group. Wouldn’t it be great to find out your “cater-waiters” were formerly starring in Jersey Boys or Hamilton and your group was being treated to a private show?
Food Trends of 2019
The Food Trends forecast is sure to be seen all over Pinterest, Twitter, and PartySlate in the coming year. In keeping with the theme of “Transformative Events”, interactive food preparation and Molecular Gastronomy continue to top the charts of interesting and engaging culinary experiences!
Edible water: Yes, you read that correctly. Check out ooHo – the new water pods packaged in dissolving seaweed extract! Great for large outdoor events, festivals, or long days for your event teams!
Food Vending Machines: Everything from pizzas to salads to Moët & Chandon. Great options for those events when catering alternatives are necessary.
Cannabis Cuisine: Controversial, but on the upswing – Cannabis everything: cannabis cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, desserts! Companies like The Herbal Chef have been getting a lot of press lately. Check out this short video highlighting his Herbal Communal Dessert Table, it looks irresistible! HR departments across the nation are bracing for policy shifts because this is a trend not going away anytime soon – and it’s not only in food! CBD oils and treatments are also trending in the upscale spa market!
Trending Action Stations: Build-your-own Ramen Stations and Hummus Bars!
Airstream Beverage Trailers: Supplementing the food truck craze, these hipster-chic trailers are serving up anything from local brews to prosecco to cold brew; expect to see them all around the event scene in the coming year.
Sticking Around: Artistically displayed food: artisanal donut walls, cake pop suspended from ceilings, towers of bagels on pedestals, candy walls, you get the picture – these trends are not going anywhere
The Hot List 2019
Tickets to The Special Event also come with the coveted front-row seats to Michael Cerbelli’s, The Hot List. It’s a non-stop, action-packed 120 minutes of the coolest products and entertainment to hit the market for the coming year.Here are a few of my personal favorites:
Salavat Fidai – Pencil Sculptures: These are incredible premium gift ideas for someone that seemingly has everything! Not only are the actual products cool, but the gallery of what he has created is equally impressive!
Doob: Keeping in line with miniatures – these 3D printed versions of you are both amazing, and almost a little too realistic! An impressive way to commemorate an important night or life moment. Why settle for a photo when you could have a 3D figurine instead!?
The Mondo Collection: Mondo from AFR brings a perfect combination of form and function with high-impact custom branding. These oversized, 9’ tall floor lamps have large customizable lamp shades that can showcase your company logo, bring exposure to your sponsors, or indicated lounge groupings for speed networking or affinity group placement. Pro Tip: These lamps are easily shipped, easily assembled and include battery-powered LEDs that can be programmed to any color you desire.
Urequest Live: Imagine getting to curate the playlist for the band! That’s right, you help the band deliver an interactive experience to you and your guests. Guests use an iPad to request the song they want to hear. The band then works their way through the requested songs while doing what they do best – reading the crowd and keeping the energy alive!
Prinker: This portable, customizable temporary tattoo printer is great for outdoor festivals, company picnics, and large corporate activations! It connects to your phone so you can create your own custom tattoo on the spot!
Barsys: This won’t be replacing bartenders anytime soon, but it could be a nice addition to a VIP Green Room or Hospitality Suite. This little machine creates the perfect cocktail every time!
- Floating Video Hologram Digital Signage: Programmable digital video signage that appears to be floating in mid-air provided an impressive new way to display event signage.
- Lightform: New to the market, this portable and customizable system is just another example of how 3D projection mapping is becoming more affordable and accessible to audiences of any size!
As you can see, from only two of the many sessions I attended over the multi-day conference, exposure to great products and industry trends is at the forefront of what you get from attending The Special Event. Hopefully, this glimpse into some of my favorites will inspire you to help create new and engaging moments for your event participants, or highlight experiences you could possibly engage in yourself at upcoming events.
In addition to being exposed to all that is new and exciting in the industry, the conference also provided a platform for honest conversations around the state of the industry, focused sessions on best practices and business challenges, and many water-cooler conversations that got to the core of what is happening in the industry.
Keep an eye out for part two of my TSE Experience Blog, where I clear away some of the smoke and mirrors and dive into some of the prevailing topics that seem to be on the forefront of our more discreet conversations. Perhaps too controversial to discuss openly, but definitely worth exposing to help further the dialogue for what is molding and shaping our industry today and for years to come.