Keeping up with the latest trends is paramount to keeping your meetings and events relevant in today’s ever-evolving landscape, and Visit Orlando is here to assist (Orange County Convention Center pictured).
A true sign of the events industry embracing the return to normalcy is the desire for new and innovative events. And now that we know business is clearly back, what are the trends we are seeing now, and what should we look for in the future?
Here are some meetings and events trends to keep on your radar — and the many ways that Visit Orlando can help you make the most of them.
Learn more: Why Smart Planners Choose Orlando
Trend No. 1: In-Person Is Back, Hybrid and Virtual Here to Stay
There is no question: We are all ready to meet in person. If there is one lesson long-term WFH and digital conferences taught us, it’s that connecting face to face is of paramount importance for exchanging ideas and coming together for a common purpose. While in-person meetings are back, we’re also acknowledging that hybrid and virtual meetings are here to stay.
Orlando has proven itself as the quintessential example for safe in-person events, tradeshows and conventions. Since July 2020, the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) expertly hosted more than 200 conventions, trade shows, meetings, consumer and sporting events. No small feat amidst a global pandemic.
The safety-centric OCCC has led the way, showing the rest of the country, event planners and attendees that the show must go on. And then they showed us how it’s done by doing business better than usual during multiple large-scale events including IPW, one of the largest international travel tradeshows in the world with 4,800 delegates — including 500 media professionals — from 60 countries.
The OCCC has also reeled in recreational fishing show ICAST with 12,000 exhibitors, buyers and media; the National Association of Home Builders hosting 45,000 industry professionals; and ASI, the promotional products industry show, registering more than 3,000 suppliers and distributor professionals.
While those shows demonstrated that in-person events can be both safe and successful, a recent report by tech giant Amadeus makes clear that the pandemic highlighted the need for ongoing hybrid meetings that include both in-person and virtual components. Meaning, hybrid will evolve into an essential part of the meeting experience of the future. The report states that hybrid provides a nearly complete meeting experience for those still reluctant to attend in-person due to COVID concerns. Similarly, hotel event managers can stand out by helping planners new to hybrid events tie together the in-person and at-home experiences.
Visit Orlando has introduced virtual site tours, not just because of the pandemic, but to provide an alternate opportunity for busy meeting professionals and attendees to experience the city. when they are crunched for time. For starters, attendees can virtually see all that Orlando has to offer from the comfort of their mobile device, tablet, computer, or even virtual-reality headset with the Orlando Virtual Tour.
Using state-of-the-art technology, this innovative, interactive tour provides the full Orlando experience, introducing key meeting venues, from the award-winning Orange County Convention Center campus and top hotels, to dining and entertainment hot spots, to world-famous theme parks and attractions. Users can also explore downtown Orlando, the tech-focused Lake Nona area, and the culturally enriching museums and charming restaurants of Winter Park, all certain to delight attendees.
Trend No. 2: Unique Venues
Attendees yearn for transformative experiences to excite them, and Orlando features an extensive array of potential venues to help meeting planners create those magical moments. These range from cultural events at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, including its brand-new Steinmetz Hall, to the high-end production Drawn to Life by Cirque du Soleil & Disney at Disney Springs®, part of Walt Disney World® Resort.
The International Drive Entertainment District (aka I-Drive) is sure to captivate with Museum of Illusions Orlando at ICON Park®, featuring more exhibits and illusions than any other edutainment destination in Central Florida. Also at ICON Park is the Madame Tussauds Orlando wax museum and The Wheel, a 400-foot observation wheel revealing the most breathtaking view of the famous Central Florida landscape. All this excitement is sure to work up appetites. Hungry attendees can choose from live music joint Tin Roof or Blake Shelton’s Ole Red, which delivers fab food and a sound system to rock your group all night long.
Pointe Orlando is another dining and entertainment center on I-Drive with such favorites as Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar and Main Event Entertainment, offering bowling, billiards and a laser tag arena.
Universal CityWalk at Universal Orlando Resort helps attendees dance the night away at Red Coconut Club or sing karaoke for their supper at CityWalk’s Rising Star, among many other delightful ways to play once the sun goes down. Of course, the lavish "Industrial Gothic"-themed restaurant and entertainment venue, The Edison at Disney Springs, will delight attendees with varied entertainment such as stilt walkers, DJs and live bands, ensuring your group is still hopping long after the theme parks have closed.
Trend No. 3: Healthy Meetings
“Healthy meetings mean a healthy balance”, says Barbara Scofidio, editor of Prevue magazine and curator of their Summit Series. “People have worked so hard to create fitness routines and eat well at home; they don’t want to ruin everything when they travel to a meeting,” she says. “At Prevue's Meet Well Summit at Lake Nona Wave in Orlando in August, we worked with the chef to create two days of healthy, but tasty menus. Then, on the last night, we did a progressive dinner in Lake Nona where people enjoyed gourmet small plates at Chroma [Modern Bar + Kitchen], pizza at Park Pizza [& Brewing Company], yummy desserts and the chance to live it up a little. It was the perfect balance!”
The Amadeus report concluded that the pandemic ushered in changes in human behavior that ensures health and wellness stays front and center. “Our internal compass, guiding the way we work and travel, was suddenly disrupted, leaving many to emerge with a newfound view of wellness, food and beverage, and sustainability. This commitment to a healthy and a sane way to meet shows that the forces for good are a critical component for meetings and events, despite existing challenges and those that lie ahead.”
Having designated Orlando Health as its Official Health and Wellness Partner, Visit Orlando remains at the forefront of healthy meetings, offering myriad health-related benefits for the millions of visitors who help make Orlando the most visited destination in the United States and Cvent’s No. 1 U.S. meeting destination.
Learn more: Healthy Business Travel
“This new partnership allows us to seamlessly connect both leisure guests and meetings groups with Orlando Health’s medical experts to make healthy travel more accessible,” says Casandra Matej, president & chief executive officer, Visit Orlando. “Orlando has been a leader in healthy meetings for the past several years, and with Orlando Health as our official Health and Wellness Partner, we are elevating the services and resources we provide groups to ensure Orlando remains a top choice for meetings and events.”
The partnership provides for event planners customizable health solutions for their conference and attendees through an Orlando Health Virtual Care Center, which will open later this year at the Orange County Convention Center. Located in the West Concourse on the first floor near the Visit Orlando Welcome Center, medical providers will be available via virtual visit 24 hours a day. During major conventions, the clinic will be staffed by Orlando Health clinicians.
Also, attendees and Visit Orlando member organizations have access to a new concierge telephone number, (321) 265-4200, created to help visitors connect with local medical resources such as emergency care, urgent care or even access to a virtual visit while visiting Orlando. For additional information and access to visitor-specific wellness tips and individualized health resources, visit OrlandoMeeting.com/OrlandoHealth.
Trend No. 4: New Teambuilding Events
Post pandemic, companies are looking for something extraordinary and different to engage their attendees. Self-proclaimed “of and for the future,” Lake Nona Wave Hotel has created a remarkable 90-minute “Mindset Workshop” that merges classroom-like discussions with physical activities. Experiences include ROX Climbing, the region’s only 42-foot rock climbing tower, or meditation at the Chopra Mind Body-Zone & Spa. Nearby, Nona Adventure Park is a water-based entertainment center with an inflatable aqua-park and wakeboarding/waterskiing that thrills groups with its one-of-a-kind, 60-foot climbing tower and ropes course.
Your group can play outside the cubicle with Wildly Different, a DMC in Orlando that creates results-oriented, in-person and virtual teambuilding activities that bring attendees together in a collaborative and entertaining environment. Hop aboard their Float Your Boat where groups work together to build a boat in a race against all other teams with nothing more than cardboard and duct tape.
SurStrivor Tribes will challenge attendees in a series of creative, physical and mental challenges. Who will survive and who will be thrown off the island at the end of the activity? Only time will tell in this competitive teambuilding activity with a tropical twist.
Another company, Best Corporate Events & Team Building, offers charitable CSR events like bike building, where 3,400 Lowe’s managers first built and then donated 1,048 bicycles. Their Fiesta Fun! recipe contest puts teams together to make their own brand of salsa, guacamole and golden margaritas. Judges award medals for the best taste, creativity and presentation.
Trend No. 5: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Is Expected
No longer just buzzwords, diversity, equity and inclusion are becoming increasingly important to corporate America.
A recent Forbes article suggests a range of factors might impact who feels included and who doesn’t. Together with race, cultural background and gender, other qualities like age, tenure, academic background, salary grade and personality/extroversion level can also impact whether someone feels included and valued.
Raven Solomon, a thought leader in DEI and speaker at Visit Orlando’s Annual Business Insights Luncheon and Economic Forum in August 2022, suggests companies employ DEI training that “goes well beyond solely unconscious bias training, and should also include empathy training, inclusive leadership training, training on power and privilege, identity training, and more. It is worth noting that training is not the be-all and end-all. There must also be accountability for behavior change after such training.”
Orlando is committed to creating wondrous adventures for all visitors. In fact, we strive to be the nation’s most inclusive travel destination, welcoming people from all over the planet – to enjoy everything we have to offer regardless of their gender, ethnicity, romantic preferences or life stage.
The destination’s openness can be traced to our local residents and their fascinating histories, which represent a true melting pot of global cultures and customs. For meeting planners considering the destinations of their next meeting or event, resources are offered here to explore African American, Asian American, Hispanic and Latino, and LGBTQ+ history and influence in the Orlando area. They’ll also discover multicultural festivals, museums, galleries, restaurants and other locally owned businesses that can be included in their event’s official agenda or offered to attendees to experience on their own during their visit.
Learn more: New Reasons to Meet in Orlando