Operations & Training

By Danielle Yuthas, SpeedPro

Here are 10 trends you need to know if you’re hosting or attending an in-person event. 

Zoom fatigue is real, and while remote communication has proven to be an effective substitute in many ways, some in-person interactions are indispensable. Franchisees and franchisors across the country are craving their brand’s annual convention and are looking forward to attending other live events. The event industry expects to bounce back hard and anticipates a 23 percent growth by 2027. Here are the top trends for 2021:

1. Safety First

This is ingrained in our culture by now, but attendees are still gun shy and some are more bullish than others when it comes to being in large groups again. Make sure to convey visually that safety is a top priority and select a venue that does the same. Small details like individually packaged meals and beverages, signs that indicate that the space has been cleaned and readily accessible hand sanitizer will provide reassurance.

2. Identify the Comfort Level of Each Attendee

Anyone who has accidentally attempted a handshake in the last year knows how awkward it can be to try to discern what is appropriate when greeting someone and when to initiate an elbow bump. This is especially true at annual conventions for franchisees where many of the attendees are close friends and would be greeted with hugs in pre-COVID times. Developing a wrist band system where event participants can wear green for ‘ok to handshake and hug,’ yellow for ‘elbow bumps only’ and red for ‘please socially distance.’ This minor visual cue will remove a lot of anxiety for all.

3. Socialize Al Fresco

Keep large social engagements like welcome receptions and parties outdoors as much as possible. Outdoor air conditioning or heat lamps can create a comfortable temperature if needed. The patio party has never been so popular.

4. Create an Experience

“Experiential” is a buzzword in marketing, retail, and basically any consumer-facing business right now and will continue to be. Given an increased budget, 33 percent of event professionals would allocate extra funds to improve the onsite experience, according to Global Meetings and Event Forecast. Attendees are looking for the full hands-on, sensory experience of being there live and you will drive higher in-person attendance if there is more value than the information attendees could receive from home in the virtual version. Pro tip: ramp up the event graphics.

5. Step Up Social

Event attendees will have a renewed appreciation for being at a live event and they will want to share that enthusiasm with their networks on social media more than ever before. Go beyond just promoting the event and create templates, event hashtags and engage as much as possible. Add a photo or video booth and live social media wall to amplify reach.

6. Banish the Buffet

Buffets are a convenient option for quickly serving large groups while allowing full customization of each plate by each individual; however, it’s no longer appetizing to many. Buffets were already in decline and the safety concerns related to the pandemic solidified its faux pas status.

7. Integrate Wellness

Begin the day with a group yoga class, offer a hike as a social outing, schedule a walking tour of the city or slate a group workout in the itinerary. Attendees are health-conscious and restless, so getting the endorphins up will elevate moods and mentally prepares everyone for the day. It will also eliminate concerns of any time crunches trying to squeeze in a solo workout in the often-crowded hotel gym.

Make sure to convey visually that safety is a top priority and select a venue that does the same.”

8. Go Green

Audiences are increasingly conscientious, and a lot of value is placed on environmental conservancy. Show your attendees that you are committed to the cause by making small changes like eliminating straws, offering recycling, using recycled products when possible and moving to pvc-free, eco-friendly materials in your tradeshow and event graphics and décor. According to Global Meetings and Events Forecast, 58-67 percent of event professionals plan to address sustainability this year. 

9. Continue to Offer a Virtual Option

While schedules and budgets are still in flux in the aftermath of the last year, you may not hit your usual attendance numbers. Some individuals are at high risk, others are not vaccinated and you will still want to offer an option to participate for those who are not ready or able to attend for a little longer. It is critical to utilize properly functioning technology because patience levels for poor connections or scrambled audio are waning. EventMB reported 66.5 percent of event professionals plan to implement a hybrid format and 41.5 percent are willing to spend up to $5,000 on upgraded technology.

Keep large social engagements like welcome receptions and parties outdoors as much as possible.”

10. Overcommunicate

If you decide to require a vaccine, it will need to be made abundantly clear in advance, when the attendee signs up for the event and in person onsite. All other changes will also need to be clarified and communicated including schedule changes, venue changes, a smaller group format or new social activities. This is particularly critical for events that attendees return to year after year so that expectations are set correctly in order to avoid last minute surprises. 

A call or computer is never going to be able to capture the energy in the room at the awards banquet, the insight gleaned at the trade show or that business-changing breakthrough that is only accessible over late-night discussions with peers at the hotel bar. Business has always been built on personal relationships and that isn’t going away. Happy convention season!


Danielle Yuthas is a journalist and the vice president of marketing for SpeedPro, a B2B large-format printing franchise that specializes in vehicle wraps, point of purchase displays, wall murals, event graphics and more. For more information and franchise opportunities for International Franchise Association (IFA) franchisor member SpeedPro, visit