12 Event Planning Trends to Watch for this Year

August 11, 2021

Much has been made of the changes to the workplace imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The same goes for the meeting and event industry. As a result, decision-makers must factor in current trends in event planning resulting from the pandemic.

Before planning a function, presentation, or meeting, businesses must be aware of event planning trends. Let’s examine the most significant changes we are witnessing throughout the industry. 

Event planning industry trends are shaking up the way events are organized, and the experience attendees will get to enjoy. While some of these trends in event planning will vanish as quickly as they have come, others are set to remain for years to come.

Here are the big event trends that will dominate in-person and virtual gatherings in 2021.

1. COVID-19 Protocols


Even though it is not a popular subject, 2021 will see events following COVID-19 protocols. Depending on where an event is held, these could be stricter or more lenient as the year goes on because every nation is dealing with the pandemic differently.

Here are some of the protocols events may have to impose in 2021:

  • Limitations on attendance
  • Handwashing stations
  • Social distancing
  • Masks

Wearable technology will also have to play a part in ensuring in-person attendees feel safe as they roam conference halls and meet new people. These may also be a requirement to ensure events can meet local and national regulations in some countries.

Thankfully, most experts expect many of these protocols to be discontinued as the virus subsides.

2. Hybrid Conferences


A blend between virtual and in-person content at events is seen as the way forward. Not everyone is ready to return to the real world at the same pace. Some may still feel more comfortable attending virtually. This is especially the case for people who live and work remotely.

Businesses are expected to adapt to this demand for hybrid conferences by offering a blended experience. Expect this to continue long after the end of the pandemic.

Approximately 97% of professionals widely expect the hybrid model to be the future.

3. Education Will Be a Top Priority


Education is valuable and will continue to be a major focus of many events.

Offering skills-based workshops and the opportunity for certifications can be a big draw for any event. Corporate event trends are fast moving towards creating small, highly targeted events to help attendees meet their goals.

No matter the industry, ensuring attendees learn a new skill or technology is always a surefire way for an event to succeed. Attendees want some to take away from their conference experience, and this is an opportunity to do just that! 

4. New, Healthy Food


There is nothing like a global pandemic to make people reflect on their health. People are starting to think about their overall well-being, and this extends to the food they consume.

Industry experts have spotted important food trends in event planning. Menus are increasingly seeing the presence of plant-based superfoods.

A simple burger and fries are no longer sufficient for attendees. Invest in better quality food to enable people to boost their health and well-being

5. The Push for Sustainability


Sustainability is a spotlight issue. 2021 could prove to be a watershed year for organizations pushing towards sustainability. Event planners will move towards ensuring nearly all event materials can be repurposed or recycled in some way.

92% of event professionals say it is vital to have a sustainability plan. The event sector is well-known for being incredibly wasteful, and it is looking to change that, but only 12% of organizations currently have an advanced sustainability plan.

It has become obvious that organizations must work on their green credentials. As one of the current trends in event planning, going green could influence not only how an event is received but whether people attend at all.

6. Pricing Models will Change


Hotels and convention centers suffered financially during the pandemic. For international conference organizers, destination management companies, in particular, were left out of pocket.

Those who survived have realized they need to learn some important lessons about the pandemic. It is a certainty that one of the major event industry trends will involve altering traditional pricing structures.

Pricing models are expected to change, but it is impossible to predict in which direction these companies will move in.

In the short term, many experts think venues will offer steep discounts as companies look to coax people back outside again.

7. Broadcast Quality Production


As the world shifts towards hybrid events, organizations need to raise the bar for their virtual events. As far as corporate event trends go, many events flop due to the fact the quality of the production is subpar.

Modern virtual audiences will not accept a basic camera set up at the back of the house. Attendees expect a better production value. As technology advances, there is no longer an excuse for not having a higher broadcast quality.

Professional broadcasting will become one of the significant event trends in 2021. Whether it involves using better technology, LED walls, green screens, or multiple speakers tuning in from all over the globe, event organizers need to do better with a virtual event company.

8. Upskilling for Event Professionals


Event professionals understand that event planning trends are constantly evolving. As people become used to virtual and hybrid events, event planners need the skills to create an occasion that matches modern high expectations.

For this reason, post-pandemic planners are increasingly protecting their futures by obtaining formal certifications to demonstrate their expertise.

Many organizations offer training, including the Event Leadership Institute and the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA).

Upskilling will almost certainly be here to stay, and the industry’s barriers to entry are only going to get higher.

9. Virtual Must Become Interactive


Immersion is an integral part of any event. In the absence of in-person meetings, the worry for organizers is achieving that same level of immersion across thousands of miles.

While the coming of the pandemic meant planners were simply happy to have any sort of event at all, event managers must think about how they can provide a more interactive virtual event experience.

2021 is seeing more of an emphasis on interactivity within events. Whether it includes games, hands-on classes, or simply incorporating comments in the chat into the on-stage experience, organizers need to get creative to avoid people tuning out.

10. The Rise of Virtual Networking


One of the benefits of attending any sort of function is the opportunity to network. Countless business deals have resulted from two people who happened to bump into each other at a conference.

Unfortunately, for all the benefits of virtual events, networking continues to be a challenge. The Evolution of Events report revealed that 68.8% of event marketers believe networking virtually remains a challenge.

Expect to see technology and solutions that actively encourage and make networking easy online.

This is one of the trends in event planning that will see software evolve. It may even include integration with business networking platforms like LinkedIn.

Of course, virtual networking will never beat out in-person networking, but as hybrid events grow in prominence, networking solutions will define the likelihood of an online event succeeding.

11. Boosting Cybersecurity


Cybercrime exploded by 300% during the pandemic, according to the FBI. As more businesses move their events online, criminals are expected to increasingly target these functions. There is now a massive need for better cybersecurity to stave off this threat.

Modern event technology solutions must provide a more substantial layer of online protection, not only for the organizers themselves but also for the people attending them.

Security and compliance procedures are expected to become more stringent to defend private information within. With attendees providing personal and financial information to access events, event technology providers must offer a higher level of due diligence.

It may even lead to an increase in security outsourcing, rather than organizers managing their own security efforts in an attempt to guarantee standards and keep costs down.

12. Incentive Trips Will Be Closer to Home


In-person incentive trips have always been a popular way of enabling corporations to motivate and reward their employees. Two-thirds of event planners say that these will continue to be held in 2021.

However, where traditional incentive trips involved international travel and group events, 2021 incentive trips will be closer to home and involve fewer participants.

Expect scaled-down incentive trips for the foreseeable future, with domestic destinations becoming the norm.

Whether this trend holds in the long term is anyone’s guess, but until the COVID-19 pandemic is declared a historical footnote, incentive trips are set to change.



Specific metrics have always defined successful events. In 2021, event planning trends will measure the success of an event differently. What matters to participants has pivoted towards safety and security while continuing to prioritize educational content and networking.

As one of the leading event management companies in Europe, SmartWorks has the expertise to take meetings, conferences, and events to the next level. We excel at AV production and can even host live event streaming for companies. 

Contact us today to start planning!