2020 Event Industry Trends - View from the Bridge as seen by Jo Mayer, Showlite’s Head of Marketing

Posted on Wed 12th Feb 2020 at 9:42pm

So, what's going to be changing in the event industry in 2020, apart from everything? There's a bit more Brexit certainty than there was this time in 2019 (or 18 or 17), and that can only be a good thing from a planning perspective. But what other trends and tendencies are bubbling up in exhibitions and events that might make their mark this year?


The desire for wellness and spending money on experiences rather than stuff is as strong as ever, and the industry, companies and associations are putting more focus on wellbeing and mental health in the workplace too. Expect to see more opportunities to train in mental health first aid, learn about good mental health habits, and to understand how positive and open attitudes towards mental health contribute not just to employee wellbeing, but company success too.

Food and beverages are ripe for change, and the momentum behind meat alternatives and plant-based foods has come as a result of environmental and wellness pressures acting in the same direction. When Burger King was criticised for cooking its meat-free burgers on the same griddle as its Whoppers, people missed the point. Burger King wasn't aiming at a vegetarian consumer, it was targeting carnivores who wanted to cut down on meat. This kind of mass-market shift isn't going unnoticed.


Which brings me to the next trend - it's so obvious that I'm almost cheating, but sustainability issues will continue to dominate the event sector. As an industry that is constantly building and dismantling on such a large scale, the scope for waste creation is massive. The rise of sustainability standards and best practice guidance has led to big wins in terms of reducing, reusing and recycling - with plenty of events generating zero waste to landfill. But looking at the carbon economy, the bulk of the event industry's carbon footprint is still generated by transport.

The growth of modular stands will continue, propelled as much by sustainable goals as financial ones. Not only do they offer accelerated build and breakdown times, but they also offer advantages in terms of reduced waste, reduced transport costs, and greatly increased reusability, all of which help to reduce the overall carbon footprint of exhibiting.

At the moment, Electric Vehicles account for fewer than 1% of the cars, vans and lorries on British roads, but the first production, all-electric, lorries are currently being trialled by several major manufacturers, and sales of consumer electric and hybrid cars and vans are growing by 220% annually. 2020 is going to see much more aggressive interest from the event industry in electric vehicles of all kinds, but it's going to take longer to decarbonise the transport side of events.

Expect to see greater determination from conferences and exhibitions to cut the use of single-use items, whether that’s paper cups, lanyards, delegate cards or water bottles. There will be more and more support for zero waste, low-carbon options wherever there is a choice - meat-free menus, reusable bottles for delegates and contractors, and discounted train travel. More events will have their own CSR programmes, many of which will have sustainable goals like beach cleaning, tree planting or food donation.


5G has now been rolled out over most major UK cities with a few glaring exceptions. It doesn't sound like a huge leap from 4G or even 3G, but it’s likely to signal a huge shift in how we use our digital tools, and that is going affect everything. Apart from offering big jumps in internet speed and capacity on mobile devices, 5G won’t be making any big waves this year, but within the next ten, it’s likely to revolutionise how we use digital technology. It will be possible to instantly connect anything to a secure, high-speed network, from a lightbulb to an autonomous fork-lift. How the innovators use this ability over the next decade will surprise and delight no doubt, but more importantly, 5G offers massive increases in efficiency across the board to accelerate towards sustainability goals.


Finally, I think that 2020 will be the year that the events industry really begins to register as an attractive career option in the minds of the graduates and school leavers this summer. With increasing professionalisation through ESSA Accredited and the launch of Exhibition News Event Careers Live, there has never been a better time to connect with young people getting ready to start their careers, whether that’s through school visits, university career fairs or apprenticeships.


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Andrew Dowding, Managing Director, Essential Infrastructure Events
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Joel Swarc, Associate Director, Promotor Events Ltd
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