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2024 Event Trends Predictions from Special D Events

Digital safety, mental wellness, authentic experiences lead the list

By Kathy Gibbons

2024 Event Trends from Special D Events
Special D Events’ 2024 Event Trends report predicts an increased emphasis on mental health as part of meeting planning. Shown here, Marriott International is incorporating practices into Marriott-hosted customer events that will make them more inclusive for people who have medical disorders, learning disabilities, and other conditions brought on by brain differences. || Courtesy of Marriott International

Digital safety. Community over content. Destination authenticity. Sustainability. Technology integration. Mental Health. Bleisure travel. Digital safety. Those are 2024 Event Trends Detroit’s Special D Events identified in researching what to expect nationwide and beyond for meetings and events. The women-owned third-party meeting management company has done business in all 50 U.S. states, with some international customers as well. Sherri Sitkauskas, Special D meeting and event manager, says she culled about 50 industry sources as well as clients to come up with the company’s list of 2024 Event Trends.

“We do a lot of research every year at the end of the year to kind of pull together trends that are industry-wide,” she says. “I have something like 40 to 50 sources of articles I read to get a greater overall feeling of how it was going for the industry, then we take that and compare it back to our clients and what we’ve been experiencing.”

One of the newer categories to emerge in Special D’s 2024 Event Trends study involves digital safety, she says. Pointing to the early pandemic days of Zoom meetings when security could be breached with random people jumping into virtual meetings and classrooms, she says meeting planners are much more aware of digital security now.

“Ensuring digital safety in hybrid events will become the standard in 2024,” Special D’s report states. “Event hosts will be encouraged to engage rigorous cycbersecurity protocols to facilitate a secure online environment.”

Special D’s implementation recommendations include using encrypted communication channels and secure platforms, conducting regular cybersecurity training for event staff, and implementing multi-factor authentication and robust access controls.”

With wellness becoming an increasing focus for meeting planners, mental health is getting increasing attention, Sitkauskas says, citing “having quiet spaces, having fidgets, or different table setups to allow your attendees to get up and sit down and move around, and just to keep them focused and manage their stress.”

Attendees are continuing to demand destination authenticity, the 2024 Event Trends report says, seeking unique and immersive experiences that support local communities and provide an authentic connection with a meeting’s surroundings. “Whether it be local food or local music or local experiences, I think the destination authenticity is taking it a step further,” she explains. “People want to know the history. People want to actually have regional dishes. They don’t want the standard one tourist thing that everyone does; they want to actually be immersed in the traditions and cultures.”

Special D’s 2024 Event Trends report predicts a surge in cutting-edge technology like augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and blockchain. How to make it happen? Use AR for event gamification and navigation to enhance engagement in a fun and interactive manner; offer virtual product demos or simulations using VR; use AI algorithms to match attendees with similar interests to facilitate more meaningful networking connections; and implement AI-drive chatbots to provide real-time assistance to attendees.

The report forecasts sustainability to remain a focus for planners as well as meeting-goers. It also predicts the rise in attendees blending personal and business travel to continue, suggesting meeting planners offer deadline-contingent local and cultural experiences prior to and following events.

“A lot of this has been stuff that have been consistent trends,” Sitkauskas says. “But we are seeing a greater demand and focus from attendees for these things because they are more choosey with which conferences they want to go to.”