There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to creating the perfect product launches, team meetings, conference and incentive travel events – apart from making sure the activities align to your objectives and the audience! Each event should be unique and therefore trying to match your event to a list of ‘ingredients’ can often actually cause you to lose sight of what you were trying to achieve in the first place. There are, however, incentive industry trends that change over time and for good reason too. These trends reflect what is important in the world, what is innovative, and what provides the best bang for your buck in the current climate.

Based on our experience, and what is being seen around the globe, we take a quick look at the industry trends of 2018 and how they can be deployed to the most effect

1. Unique destinations gain popularity

Unique and offbeat destinations continue to gather popularity around the world according to a recent IRF report.

Whilst Rome or Lisbon may have been the primary consideration in the past when planning a trip to Italy or Portugal, locations like Puglia or Cascais are now being included in the mix. These areas are seen as having similar – or even higher – brag power and wow factor to their bigger, greater known counterparts.

As an added bonus, their risk is seen as lower as well. Smaller communities are seen as somewhat safer and less targeted because they are off the beaten path. These locations, by default, are often less populated, as well aligning with the key incentive industry trends for more comfort, less stress, and greater personal space.

2. Wellness focus

This is a trend that has been growing in significance across the world and the event industry has a central part to play in facilitating change. The largest number of net increases reported by IRF trend respondents was the inclusion of wellness/well-being components (38%) in their programmes. The report says, “Across the board, the reduction of anxiety and a feeling of comfort will reign in 2018.”

There is an increasing trend of travel events focusing around yoga lessons and mindfulness sessions. Equally, day events such as team meetings are moving away from heavy morning bacon baps and post-event drinking sessions and towards buffets of fruit and granola to kick off the day followed by sushi and smoothies.

On longer events, such as incentive travel, however, it is important to get the mix right – bear in mind that this is likely to be a reward after all. Guests should be given the choice to have later nights or a glass of wine should they wish. Not everyone wants to miss out on dessert on their holidays!

3. Make it memorable

This is the fifth straight year that the market has noted a 20–30% growth in experience-related rewards. This push toward experiences highlights another of the key incentive industry trends: there is a strong desire in 2018 not for more choice, but for more meaning.

For rewards to matter in a world where all things are varied, abundant, and accessible, the reward must, more than ever, have a personal meaning and a personalised delivery associated with it.

We work to ensure that an event sticks in the audiences mind long after the event itself – whether it be by sending out personalised thank you notes with a hamper of local delicacies once the unpacking and washing has been completed, or making sure that each of your conference delegates leaves with a framed photo of the black-tie gala, or even organising a smaller, closer to home, reunion for all guests. We know that memories are special, and that positive memories are shared, further driving up the ROI of our event.

4. Build your brand

A company’s value is now calculated on the intangibles as much as on their tangible assets. Whilst equipment, land, factories and products were once the only items taken in to consideration, these days over 80% of a businesses’ value can be based on its brand value, customer data, relationships, and leadership quality.

Whether it be incentive trips for your best sales staff or franchise owners, or a product launch that communicates the innovative products and organisational stance such as environmental issues, events can ensure that your organisation is positively talked about and your brand values remains distinct. This can, in turn, drive brand value as your company builds on its customer service scores, employee ratings, and industry standings.

5. Budget growths

Net Optimism Scores for the incentive travel industry are up almost 20 points year-on-year according to the IRF. This optimism is reflected in increases to incentive travel budgets which are up to an average annual per-person spend of $3,915.

Of course, budgets still need to be safeguarded – the ROI needs to justify the initial spend. Focusing on objectives from the outset and ensuring that budgets are spent in a considered manner, on items that reflect and support such objectives, will make sure that you can drive ROI up.

Of course, sometimes simple events can be the most effective, so don’t view this average per-person cost as the figure you should be spending! Working with a great event organiser will help you to get the most for your money, whatever your budget.

6. Increased cost and time tensions continue

Although incentive travel budgets are increasing, 60% of respondents said costs are rising faster than budgets. This is evident in the percentage of respondents saying their newly increased budgets will go to F&B and hotel costs.

Additionally, over 30% of respondents to the IRF’s survey expect a rise in the role of procurement, ensuring a desire for higher value quotient on each dollar sourced. As cost and time tensions continue to mount, trusted partnerships along the intermediate incentives and rewards chain will become ever more valuable.

We understand the significance of the responsibilities that we share with our clients. That is why we focus so hard on Event ROI in our event management planning process, making sure at every stage that objectives are being met and budgets are being utilised to the maximum.

7. Data-driven at every stage

This isn’t unique to incentive industry trends – this is a trend throughout the world, in every action we take in both the corporate and personal elements of our lives!

With the volume of data we now produce each and every day – employee engagement data, survey data, network analysis, external data from Glassdoor, employee text data, and “ambient data” in employee emails, peer-to-peer platforms, sensor data, swipe card data, etc – businesses now have an ability to potentially harness unparalleled insights into their workforce’s productivity, information flow, innovation, collaboration, and engagement levels, as well as their preferences, habits and motivations.

Using this data, with the assistance of a seasoned event organised, will enable you to personalise your event to your audience. Knowing if you audience are young, single, thrill-seekers, or parents who are time poor, will shape your event and help to ensure its success.

Similarly, event planners also hold a valuable key to discovering how attendee data augments existing internal business data and how it predicts wider people business pattern (for example, does engagement in our sales meeting predict top performer departure?). Working with a trusted partner to provide post-event insight will enable you to shape both your future events as well as other internal programmes, from recognition schemes to communication platforms.