MICE industry predictions for 2020

By Georgia Ward

Get ahead of the trends for 2020 with our predictions from meetings and events industry experts on what will have the biggest impact on business. Be ready for everything the new year has in store with our round up of the top MICE trends for 2020 from a selection of Custard Communications’ clients.


Sustainability still a focus as food waste is put on the table

Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the Meetings Industry Association

“Sustainability will continue to be a key focus for the business meetings and events industry in 2020 as organisations explore further ways to lessen their impact on the environment. While 2019 saw the industry make headway in tackling single-use plastics consumption with many signing up to our #20PercentLess campaign, for example, the focus will be broadened in 2020 to consider other areas, such as food waste.

“According to WRAP, over one million tonnes of food is wasted in the hospitality and food service sector each year, so there is a pressing need to push forward with initiatives that can drastically reduce this amount. With many organisations keen to improve their CSR records, we foresee the introduction of innovative processes to reduce the amount of food wasted at conferences, meetings and events alongside other initiatives to lessen their carbon footprint. Our 30th anniversary year will see the mia continuing to support the sector implement sustainable initiatives while sharing guidance and best practice as the year progresses.”



Events industry to lead on CSR

Diane Waldron, sales & marketing director, QEII Centre

“After successfully championing sustainability and environmental initiatives, including campaigns like the mia’s #20PercentLess getting venues and events on the right track to become greener, the events industry is now ready to lead on the broader socio-economic issues of CSR.

“Although CSR is on everyone’s radar, I believe there is still a huge amount of education needed to ensure it’s not just done as part of a tick-box exercise but has real meaning and impact. It’s going to become not just about your CSR policy, but about your true corporate social reputation and how you really live your values every day.

“The events industry is perfectly placed to lead on this, with the unique position of being connected to every other industry, and regularly bringing industry leaders from other sectors together. We have the platform to educate and influence and in 2020, I think we are going to see a lot more of that.”



Curation of events

Nicholas Bills, managing director of Glaziers Hall

“Event organisers are constantly faced with a never-ending list of decisions and choices: What day should the event be on? At what time? Where should it be held? What food should be served? What activities should be included? Which speakers should be booked? What format should the event take?

“In 2020, there is going to be a shift towards the curation of events by venues; streamlining the process by limiting the options, using expert knowledge to create tailored packages that will perfectly meet the needs of the event planner, saving them hours of time and stress. It’s something we’re doing already at Glaziers Hall, and I can only see the trend growing throughout the year.”



Increased investment in training and development

Kirsten Kruls, head of sales & events at Lincoln’s Inn

“Training and development should be considered integral to work culture, because it is proven to have benefits for both employees and the business.

“I believe that the need for driven young talent in our industry and their demand for personal growth will see more venues focus on training and developing both their new recruits and their current members of staff.

“Research has shown that development is the key to staff happiness and is often favoured over career progression. Unsurprisingly, it also helps with staff retention. Something we should all focus on as staff shortages across the industry become greater. Whether it is allocating budget to external training, inviting experts into your venue for a masterclass or scheduling time to mentor a member of your team, more time and money will be invested in training in 2020.”



Mindful meetings

Dan Rose-Bristow, co-owner of The Torridon

“The wellness movement will finally trickle into the corporate market as employers take more responsibility than ever in looking after their teams and their wellbeing. Mindful retreats effortlessly blended with carved-out time for blue-sky thinking will become a sought-after choice as organisations seek to encourage taking care of oneself to consequently have a healthier company.

“In response to this cultural change, at The Torridon we have created our ‘Mindful Meetings’ package. From including ultra-fresh local produce on menus to taking the extra step with breakout activities including hiking and sea kayaking, the shift towards a more mindful meeting approach will help reinforce the ‘feel better, think better’ mentality, and curated speaker programmes centering on empowerment and happiness will both motivate and nurture delegates’ minds and bodies.”



Innovation and variety in vegan dishes now a necessity

Rachel Azzopardi, head of events at Regent’s Conferences & Events and chair of Westminster Venue Collection

“No longer is it enough for menus to offer a ‘vegan alternative’. The increasingly high level of culinary competition in the business meetings and events industry means that venues must up their game in their vegan offerings. The box-ticking exercise of ensuring dietary requirements are adhered to in events is redundant, and with flexitarianism swiftly on the rise, more non-vegans are opting for meat-free plant-based food choices.

“With the number of vegans in the UK set to skyrocket by 327%, according to a survey by finder.com, venues are going to have to ensure that the expectations of delegates are not only met, but exceeded, when it comes to offering innovative variety on a menu. Sourcing good suppliers that share your businesses’ ethics and themselves think outside of the box with identifying new flavours, sets a venue in good stead to produce a show-stopping vegan menu that will stand out from competitors. ‘Choice’ is going to be an ever more necessary word in this industry’s vocabulary and beyond.”



Artificial Intelligence and sustainability will be high on the agenda

Paul Martins, director of sales at Cavendish Venues and board member of Westminster Venue Collection

“Technology never stops evolving and there are stronger steps emerging towards Artificial Intelligence (AI) from a customer service perspective. Some large chain hotels have already incorporated self-service early check-ins, even with room keys being sent to clients’ phones in advance. This kind of interactive development will no doubt filter through to meetings and events further – with registrations handled through apps being just a start.

“Sustainability is also back high on the agenda with venues committing to future strategies by signing up to the Meetings Industry Association’s #20PercentLess single-use plastic campaigns for instance. This is just as well, so we humans can live as long as possible before the AI robots take over!

“A study in 12 developed countries by one of our clients, Accenture, revealed that AI could double economic growth rates by 2035 and will increase productivity by 40%. If Brexit has consequences that further exacerbates staff and skills shortages, investment in AI technology could well offer commonplace efficient solutions for some industry services.”



Sharing similar values

Clare Davies, sales & development manager at The Institution of Engineering and Technology and board member of Westminster Venue Collection 

“Much like 2019 was dominated by veganism, flexitarianism, and other dietary requirements, we think that event professionals and delegates in 2020 will be increasingly looking to connect with brands and venues rather than just attaching themselves to a space, so we will be asking “What does your venue choice say about you?”.

“In a highly competitive market, it’s imperative to have flexible facilities and state-of-the-art AV to accommodate all manner of events, but in 2020 that’s not going to be enough. Delegates will be looking to connect with a venue and brand that shares their values, goals and ethos, and while many venues will change and adapt their brand messaging to fit all, it’s important to stand out from the crowd. In 2020 it will be about your venues’ holistic credentials (do you care about the environment, do you care about your people, do you care about CSR?) as is it going to impact whether event planners choose your venue over budget.”



Improving the delegate experience with tech

Kate Dean, senior marketing executive (Hospitality) at 116 Pall Mall and member of the Westminster Venue Collection

“For events on a large-scale and bigger budget, technology will improve the experience for delegates in 2020 from the moment they arrive. Facial recognition makes the registration process faster. Apps can send push notifications with recommendations on which sessions you should attend based on your interests and your role to help you get the most from an event where there are multiple speakers across a host of sessions in different rooms… all happening at the same time.”



Increased wellbeing focus at scientific and medical events

Nicole Leida, head of conference and events at the National Cancer Research Institute and member of The Meetings Show’s Advisory Board

“We have seen a massive rise in interest in content focused around wellbeing in the scientific and medical events sector, and this is set to increase further in 2020. I think event organisers are coming to realise that people spend a lot of time away from home attending events, and if you can offer something that will help them keep to their regular lifestyle or indeed offer something new and creative, it most definitely adds value to the experience and helps with learning and development.

“We offer quite an extensive wellbeing programme at our Annual Conference including an early morning jog, mindfulness sessions, a step challenge, book club, free bike hire, creativity sessions and more. People who attend events value networking, and these types of activities are also useful to facilitate meeting new people in a more relaxed environment. More and more organisers will offer programmes like this going forward – the days of locking delegates in a dark room are long gone, now it’s all about the experience.”

Wellbeing programme