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Society Trends

Sustainability and the Environment

Society Trends: Environment

The Greta effect has been pronounced among the young particularly. In reality it has brought some urgency to an underlying strong environmental awareness. We first set out to reduce the environmental impact of our events in 2008 as part of the 1010 movement (10% reduction in carbon by 2010). A lot has changed since then and will continue to change. But money will remain the priority for most businesses and consequently we have to continue to quietly reduce carbon, remove plastics and plant thousands of trees, as we have been doing for years.

By the end of 2020 we aim to have no single-use plastics in events we organise. By the end of 2022 we aim to have planted half-a-million trees though the Eden Reforestation Project. So far we have funded 135,000 trees.


Wellbeing has become a catchall word which symbolises a huge shift in attitude to mental health, caring for people and their personal needs in everyday life. 

Disability and Mental Health Making sure that venues are accessible for those with physical disabilities has been a staple for event planners. However, there is, and will continue to be, increased awareness of those who have other accessibility challenges. Technology and techniques are increasingly commonplace for the deaf or hearing impaired through induction loops, signing or text-speech interpreters. Ensuring that websites and materials are accessible for machine readers used by the visually impaired and indeed colours used everywhere are considerate of different types of colour blindness. 

Ensuring that seating is always available for those with invisible disabilities or with chronic pain, for who forced standing can cause them extreme discomfort. Epilepsy, autism, dementias and even dyslexia suffers should all be considered in the design of spaces and materials. 

Making a quiet room available for anyone should be necessity - it is a place to stretch out, escape from sensory overload or just rest. Making our events truly accessible as a routine will continue to be our challenge in the decade ahead.  Society Trends: Fitness

Cycling peaked following the successes of 2012 - the Olympics and Team Sky - but is currently in decline as road safety concerns have increased. Running has become huge. parkrun have tapped into a real desire to create and strength communities through basic fitness and shared endeavour with weekly runs worldwide.  We are aware of needing to build in time and space into conference programmes to accommodate morning fitness activity. Sexuality and Gender The awareness around the LGBTQ community has become very visible over the past 10 years, but the most striking example of how we have to think very carefully about what we are doing as event organisers is the story of a man on a train leaving a Pride march and quickly and discretely wiping glitter off his face so that he would not draw attention to himself after he left the event, where he obviously felt free and safe. It is not our place to wade into political arguments, but it is important that we provide a safe environment for everyone. Increased proportion of users are in need of what was called the 'disabled' toilet by using more inclusive signage e.g. "Not every disability is visible", "Available to anyone who is not comfortable in gender specific toilets". We don't believe that for the majority of events, gender-neutral or access by Radar key is necessary or desirable. Metoo The metoo movement has heightened awareness of sexual harassment and perceptions of previously acceptable content and entertainment. In the events industry, where evening events are often drink fuelled, incidents of sexual harassment are depressingly widespread - not least among event staff, as anyone in our industry will testify.  Meat free Chefs are now dealing with more dietary requirements and diet preferences than ever before. Not least is the no-meat movement. Selecting a dining menu used to start with: chicken or lamb? Can we afford beef? Now we have vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, flexitarians then we have religious diets like Kosher and Halal, we have dangerous allergies, such as peanut, we have intolerances e.g. wheat and lactose and we have dietary diseases like Coeliac. This make menu selection and choices very important. Added to that, there is an environmental and ethical need for local sourcing, organic, avoiding un-sustainable Palm Oil or artificial ingredients and the chef and planner's job is difficult - but more exciting!  People are not retiring

That's not actually true, but more and more people are working longer and will continue to do so. For many it is through the need to earn money to supplement a pension, for some it is to remain active - physically and mentally.  We must be conscious that as we age, our bodies age too and some everyday tasks, distances or processes are not easy. We have to be mindful of what we are asking people to do.

Not all 18-year olds are going to University Since the change in the way University tuition fees are charged and the prominence of Apprenticeships, the number of young people choosing the degree route is reducing. There are, and will be more, vocational courses and apprenticeships which means more young people in employment in the coming decade. The combination of these two employment realities means for event producers is that we have an ever-widening age difference between our youngest and oldest delegates at some events. We have to plan everything accordingly - the length of day, the music and cultural references, dress codes, technology used for comms and so on.

Flexible Working Attitudes to working in an office environment have changed significantly and are likely to continue as the confluence of attitudes around work-life-balance, productivity, travel time, the environment and operating costs all force change. More flexible working from shared workplaces or working from home, allied to reduced working hours, mean that human connection is reducing. That increases the importance of making time at events for people to interact and make personal links.

Surveys and Feedback Fatigue 10 years ago, we would routinely send out a post-event survey as part of our event evaluation. If done well, we could expect a 60% or better response rate to a survey of 15 or more questions. Today, partly through the availability of technology, there are surveys for just about every transaction we make - even going to the loo in some places. Too often the pay of a salesperson or call centre operator will depend on our response score. Our response rates dropped so far that we have had to change the way we evaluate altogether and in future all feedback will have to be live and embedded within the content. Transport Depending on where you live you will have very different experiences of transport. The diesel engine has been demonised, the electric car feted as the future, but without the infrastructure to support mass use (yet). Driverless cars are getting closer but are unlikely to be the norm in the next 10 years. There are smart motorways everywhere now, but journey times are still increasing and one day national conferences are increasingly difficult with road delays. 

Rail is changing significantly as the major franchises change operators. Rail use is up, but so are costs. Local light rail transport in cities is growing and becoming increasingly viable. But buses, outside London, are struggling and not hugely reliable for event planners to depend upon. Coaches remain a viable and economical way to move people over long distances. Uber and other cheaper alternative taxi services are also featuring in transport plans, as is car sharing.

Flying is bad for CO2 and flight-shaming is now a thing. The airlines and aircraft manufacturers are taking steps to reduce the emissions per flight by reducing weight, more efficient engines and non-carbon fuels, for the longer term.  Venues located close to integrated transport hubs are likely to be favoured by the environmentally conscious. Dress Down Dress Codes People's attitude to dress is very different now than 10 years ago and is likely to continue to evolve in the same way - it is more varied and more casual. For men, the tie is becoming rare and within the next decade could easily become extinct in everyday use - reserved for special occasions or specific sectors. People no longer 'dress up' for the theatre or to eat out, but they do take good care of themselves and how they are presented. Jeans, trainers, running and active gear are all acceptable almost anywhere. Black tie can mean a black-tie rather than a bowtie. Jackets are optional. Many ladies and young gentlemen love to dress for going out, whatever the event. Fancy dress remains popular, because it makes you part of the experience. This has been exploited perfectly by Secret Cinema, who recreate film scenes and TV programmes where the audience dress in the period. Peak Stuff? People are shopping less, in the physical sense. It is no secret that one of the huge changes since the financial crisis has been the shift away from the high street and shopping malls into online shopping. That cultural shift has had a knock-on effect. It changes how consumers discover new things to buy, it changes impulse purchases. Overall it changes the nature and purpose of town and city centres. They have become a place for experiences and independent retail. Physical retail will increasingly be about discovering and enjoyment, not just buying stuff. At the same time there is evidence of a shift away from ownership into people wanting experiences and memories. 

This change has already directly affected our business over the last decade as we have evolved away from retail conferences as retailers have changed their needs. It also changes what people are expecting in their rewards and incentives. People are experiencing more and more. They are not only holidaying in Tenerife or Mallorca on the beach anymore, they are seeking more - going further afield, seeking the spectacular, not least for the ultimate Instagram evidence of a fabulous life!

What to drink? In this healthier society, the youngest are not binge drinking as they were 10 years ago. In the twenty something and upwards, craft beers are popular, flavoured ciders are on their way out, spirit-based mixers remain the thing with gin leading the way, chased by whisky and vodka. Wine is widespread depending on the demographic of the audience, with red wine more popular than white or rose, and Prosecco ever popular. The variations of different ways to drink coffee (and tea) has exploded. Long gone are the days where a catered dinner would end with coffee served in cups and saucers!

Entertainment Everywhere

Today you are seeing the sort of special entertainment we would organise for an evening spectacular in a city bar on a regular Friday night. Costumed performers, bands, acrobats etc are commonplace - as are themed nights (how many Greatest Showman and Gatsby themed events have you seen?). An evening out now could easily include pool, table tennis, darts, ten-pin bowling, axe throwing or fuss ball. Experiences are everywhere. The hunt for the perfect 'Insta' moment and 'selfie' has created a creative explosion of installations in venues and events to provide the perfect photo backdrop (flower walls, angels wings, festoon lights...) All of this puts pressure on event organisers to be truly creative with experiences, because the bar is always being raised as people's expectations increase. Peak Festival? Have we reached peak festival? The Fyre Festival fiasco was a great illustration of the generation who want to ultimate festival experience. There are now festivals for everything and for everyone. We love them, they are great fun and we have been recreating the set up for corporate events for more than fifteen years. Some will evolve in the decade ahead and shrink into more special interest and quieter experiences - there is an increasing acknowledgement that not everyone wants a shared social experience centred on being drunk and loud live music. The rise in demand for Yurts and luxury trailers suggest that people want the entertainment and social aspects of festivals rather than the truly authentic, and often hideous, reality.  Big Charity Backlash There is increasing awareness and frustration at the fundraising practices of big charities. The wider issues under review by the Charity Commission are not for this piece, but the awareness of where donations are going and what proportion is being swallowed in costs is. Charity auctions at events are doubly affected - in part by a resistance to 'paid' auction prizes and through increased financial controls in businesses avoiding prizes without business benefit.

Our fundraising events need to be thrifty with costs and clever and open with fundraising.


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