From unforgettable incentive programs in Dubrovnik, Croatia and Riviera Maya, Mexico, to sustainability and CSR efforts taking center stage at events, 2019 was an incredible (and busy) year for Castle’s event team! To kick off the new year, we’re sharing our top destinations and industry trends from 2019 and our 2020 event trend predictions.
What were some of the most memorable Castle events this year?
- One of the most memorable events we produced was an incentive trip to Dubrovnik, Croatia for a large international technology company. This was one of the more unique destinations the group has been to and it was amazing to see how they soaked up the culture and experiences of this quaint, yet dynamic city. Surprising attendees with an amazing electric violin final night performance and seeing their excitement at sitting on the original Game of Thrones Iron Throne were highlights of the trip. A few months later we hosted a program in Riviera Maya, Mexico at an amazing resort with a connection to nature and serenity that is often lost in hot spot incentive destinations. Seeing how a tranquil luxury experience in a natural setting can rival an energetic program in a trendy location was truly enlightening. Whatever a group’s goals are, there is a perfect fit destination!
- There are amazing moments in every event. One element I loved from one of the spring incentives we planned, was bringing in the Aruba National Synchronized Swimming team as part of the final night event entertainment.
- As part of the Ocean Spray Annual Growers Meeting, attendees of this year’s conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, were given the opportunity to tour the Henderson Beverage Processing Facility, located a short drive from their hotel on the strip. It was heart-warming and educational to watch Growers/Farms from across North and South American, interact with Facility Operators as both groups of people are vital to the Ocean Spray product. They had a chance to see the plant in action, ask one another questions, and put faces to names of the people who work to turn their raw fruit into juice for consumers to enjoy!
- Chairman’s Club Event in Marbella, Spain – Integrating entertainment with culture, we wove a variety of Spanish traditions throughout the five-day event from sangria making and flamenco to horse dancing, bullfighting and box drumming. Attendees were hosted at the beautiful Puente Romano Hotel and enjoyed specialty cuisine and a variety of evening events, including a private party at the renowned La Suite night club.
- Two of my favorite events of 2019 were the final night celebrations of two vastly different programs:
- In Croatia, attendees were blown away by a surprise electric-violin performance. The event was held in a medieval fortress overlooking Old Town, Dubrovnik!
- In Riviera Maya, Mexico we had planned an over-the-top beach party to finish off a great week. Our plans shifted once the forecast switched to rain, but we saw it as an opportunity to take the event to the next level. We were able to use a covered space that was not previously available to us, utilize most of the décor and entertainment and, add a surprise fire show- it was the best of both worlds!
- All of them!! However, one program that really stands out was an incentive program that Castle planned this past spring in Dubrovnik, Croatia. This amazing destination allowed us to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience for nearly 300 guests including a sailing regatta on the Adriatic, a Game of Thrones tour throughout Old Town, oyster tasting straight from the sea, and a final night dinner in a fifteenth-century fortress with a renowned Croatian cellist to cap off the event. It was an incredibly unique and memorable program.
- There are a few standouts that come to mind:
- CSR in Riviera Maya – Castle produced a large-scale assembly of care packages for local Mayan communities during a corporate incentive trip to Rivera Maya. Nearly 300 guests assembled “Dispensas” (care packages) that were delivered to local families in need. Upon delivery of the packages, the Mayan communities compiled a video message expressing their thanks and bringing tears to everyone’s eyes. It was incredible—the best kind of joy.
- Blind Tasting Challenge at Wine Bar George in Orlando – Castle worked with Master Sommelier, George Miliotes (one of only 250 Masters in the world) to craft an exclusive wine-tasting activity for a group of senior leadership in Orlando, FL. The attendees were engaged in a competitive series of blind wine tastings followed by a memorable lunch paired with wines hand-selected by George. The winners took home a special bottle and some serious bragging rights.
- Cloud 9 Party in Miami – Castle took over LIV nightclub at Miami’s trendy Fontainebleau hotel for Model N’s signature Cloud 9 Party. It is always a blast to work in a sensory environment but the best part was watching 400 buttoned-up executives hit the dance-floor harder than a group of college kids.
- And of course, Emily and Macie joining the team!
What was your favorite event trend in 2019?
- The “Instagram-able” moments definitely make for some fun décor!
- 2019 brought in an array of exciting new event trends—from technology innovations to new interactive elements. My favorite trend of 2019 started quite some time ago but has really taken off this past year and will continue to do so in the years to come. I love the interactive and individualistic way event planners are shifting their focus in order to create a meaningful and memorable experience for all participants. Gone are the days where conferences revolved around singularly focused sessions delivered to a diverse group of attendees who may process information in different ways. Conferences are increasingly planned with different learning styles in mind. Conference elements and breakout sessions encourage hands-on experiences, networking, and participation in a way that allows for a more meaningful experience.
- I love that we are getting back to the fact that the content and intention in events matter. There were a few years where consumers, guests, and our cyber-selves were exclusively seeking, and sometimes with disregard for the cause or content, the Instagram-able moment, the photo opportunity. We’ve seen a trend with savvy consumers and event attendees, that it’s no longer just about a beautiful space, it’s about what they can learn and who they are learning from. I am hopeful this trend will continue into 2020 and beyond!
- Event Apps – As apps and digital technology continue to take over the world, event apps have given planners the ability to customize attendee agendas, communicate with any subset of attendees at any given time, and make on-demand updates to meeting rooms, timing, etc. throughout the program. While apps have been around for a while, 2019 was the year we started seeing more advanced features and seamless integration into our events.
- A continued emphasis on wellness, sustainability and corporate social responsibility in the meetings arena.
- Automation/Personalization Technology. From automated event registration to personalized agendas, meals and activities; technology has taken our events to the next level.
What meeting and event trends are you most looking forward to in 2020?
- Mindfulness and wellness are a major focus of society right now. In the coming year, I foresee clients making a concerted effort to integrate these elements into programs wherever possible. There are so many new ways to bring wellness to the forefront of an event—meditation vans, charitable runs, nap zones, healthy snacks, and so much more. It’s exciting to think about how this trend will grow in the years to come, as wellness is a trend that’s here to stay!
- Wellness initiatives: Tech-free zones, meditation lounges, exercise/yoga classes, just plain “free” time. All are becoming more important aspects of event agendas.
- More Veggies! – While the percentage of vegetarians and vegans in the U.S. may not be substantially increasing, there is a trend for Millennials and Gen Z to have a more veggie-focused diet. I think we will see hotel and catering menus embrace this in 2020 and I look forward to it – bring on the cauliflower and brussels sprouts, I’m ready for more creative vegan/vegetarian entrees and non-meat protein options on buffets!
- Less Screen Time More Face Time! – with people becoming more aware of the downsides of screen time, attending live events becomes even more important, AND I believe in 2020, having unstructured time to network will be even more important. More and more people attend events, not only to see who is on stage but also to meet those around them.
- I’m looking forward to some new, unique locations for corporate meetings! While Orlando and Vegas have always and will continue to be a large player in the world of corporate events, smaller cities like Austin, Nashville and Denver are attracting more meetings with their blossoming culinary scenes, nightlife and growing hotel markets.
- This is not a new trend, but we are beginning to use texting platforms to communicate with our attendees for incentive trips. I am looking forward to testing the waters. It makes it easier when there are last-minute changes.
- It has always been important to make an event personal and customized and this will continue to be a theme moving forward. I look forward to the challenge of finding new ways to engage and make an emotional connection with attendees through creative event programming. I also look forward to continued advances in technology to make the user experience more fulfilling and the planners’ lives more productive!
- Demand: With the increase in remote employees, gathering live has become more important than ever.
- Smaller, more curated experiences and increased interested in green event practices.
Interested in seeing what the rest of the Castle team was up to in 2019? Keep an eye out for the PR team’s 2019 recap to learn their favorite media moments, top social media and PR trends and to find out what they think is in store for public relations and social media in 2020.