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Five conference trends to watch out for in 2018

The conference and meetings landscape has been going through a seismic change with organisers very much more aware of time constraints and getting the most value out of time away from the office. Here are some of the themes we think will become prominent in the 2018 when thinking about meetings and events.

The ‘Be Here’ Focus

We all know how precious time is, and how we’d all like more of it to get things done. How often do you see people checking their phones and laptops during breaks in meetings just so they can stay connected? Encouraging people to ‘be present’ is an area we think you’ll see continuing to develop.

From collaboration and engagement through to creating a positive environment, there will be a conscious push to have people in the ‘here’. As a result, the environment of a meeting is likely to be a bigger consideration, so delegates feel more relaxed and inspired, so there’s more satisfaction and positivity to the whole conference or meeting experience.


Travel and business is inextricably linked which has led to the creation of the Bleisure movement – with people looking for ways to incorporate leisure into any business travel time. It makes sense doesn’t it if you’re travelling any distance for a conference and there’s an opportunity to enjoy some down time that you extend your stay? That way the trip is more of an enjoyable experience. Forget your long six-hour intense; information overload conference then drive home approach.

And many people will use loyalty points (such as our Thwaites Affinity scheme) where they can to make this cost effective. Get ready for a more trip based approach with a mixture, of conference and leisure combining to create the major trend of 2018.

Creative Spaces

Conferences aren’t all about the four walls nowadays. It’s about creating space and rooms that can provide change and inspiration for delegates. Zoning is a word we’ll start hearing more about. Zoning spaces and creating multi-faceted areas will change the old conference room into a selection of multi-purpose areas to provide delegates with space to network talk privately or group discussion.

We’ve already seeing this happen naturally over time, with delegates moving to the bar area or finding quiet spaces around our conference venues when they are doing break out activities, which is why we have so many different types of rooms and seating on our conference centres – from pods to high tables through to sofas and comfortable chairs.

Outdoor space is also becoming an integral part of this mix – getting fresh air and a different environment can help revitalise delegates. We’re seeing people consciously taking that time to step outside, walk around and clear their mind and more people are using our outside space to sit and meet, particularly for break-out exercises.

We’re expecting people to want more creative spaces – inside and outside in the coming year.


Remember when you used to use an overhead projector and acetates to deliver your presentations at a meeting or conference? How things have changed. The tools used have changed beyond recognition – even pen and paper are becoming less visible in favour of people using digital notebooks and laptops.

And it’s not just about the delivery of a presentation – interactivity is a key part of any meeting. Digital voting, Skype guests, multimedia, live streaming and online comments are all becoming more commonplace. And this means technology is an integral part of the planning stage.

We were the first hotel group in the UK to offer free, superfast wifi throughout our conference centres – now this is expected everywhere. Some of the other advancements we’re seeing growing are dedicated conference apps, virtual meetings and webcasting, to name just a few. People are more and more reliant on technology – before, during and after their events.

At Thwaites, we’re investing more and more in our technology to create agile and diverse environments, and this is set to continue in 2018.

Experiential Learning

Hermann Ebbinghaus pioneered the curve of forgetting – in fact we will forget 40% of what we hear within 24 hours (probably even more now we live in an age of text and social media-size messaging) – which is not good news for anyone wanting their delegates to absorb information!

Experiential learning can help, because we can more easily remember the ideas and information that we turn our attention to often as opposed to forgetting things that we hear once. When people are hands-on, it’s more memorable – and people are likely to talk about the activity.

Having that memorability factor is another way a conference or event can live on longer and boost greater success for delegates, teams and companies. We’ve been trialling that ourselves with our teams in 2017, both as a way of adding into the learning mix and as a way of getting people to know each other better and we’ve some exciting things in the pipeline for 2018 to offer to our event organisers.

It’s an exciting time for the conference and meeting world. Individuality, being connected and strong engagement will be among the enticing factors that delegates will be looking for in 2018. We’re all set to make it happen – enquire today to discover how we can help you get ready too.