Meeting and Event Trends to Watch in 2021

In these early weeks and months of 2021, it’s unclear exactly how meetings and events will shape up. We are still in the midst of unprecedented upheaval and a public health crisis, of course. Yet so many of us are eager to get back together—safely.

Here are some of the top early trends we’re seeing in the industry this year.

  • Limited-service hotels. Some groups and events are opting for smaller facilities and limited-service hotels, which don’t offer the big gathering spaces and amenities which corporate travel and events favor. As the pandemic recedes and more and more people are vaccinated or otherwise immune, the market may shift back toward full-service hotels and event spaces.
  • Health and immunity in dining. Certainly, COVID-19 has changed how we eat, and this will influence dining at events. Gone (for now) are buffet tables with communal serving utensils. This time has also increased people’s focus on healthy eating and overall well-being. As a result, some early trends indicate event menus are trending toward plant-based immunity-boosting foods, along with an increased emphasis on local flavors and ingredients. In addition, glass and plexiglass dividers and to-go servings may remain a fixture in catering and dining going forward, or at least until COVID-19 is really under control.
  • Increased focus on sustainability. For many event planners, the pandemic has accelerated a push toward sustainability. The events industry spends billions of dollars on conference swag and giveaways, which generates a great volume of waste. As the event industry recovers, 92% of event planners are focused on ensuring sustainability is an important priority, according to a new industry report. They are also making more eco-conscious choices for swag and materials. Going forward, we may see more experiences than things, which can still create warm fuzzies while lessening the environmental impact.
  • Technology repurposed for safety. We’re at the beginning of the era of wearables—with the Apple Watch and Fitbit being just the tip of the iceberg. Technology can be repurposed to help us stay safe by alerting people when they are too close or enabling contactless check-in experiences at events. Tech like Safe Space from Indoor Lab will also help event venues monitor foot traffic for more effective cleaning and sanitizing procedures.
  • Events will embrace hybrid models and spaces. Many large venues are having to rethink and redesign their spaces to accommodate less density in 2021 as events return to our schedules. Venues are implementing technology to help welcome both in-person and virtual attendees and to make their content more accessible to a broader audience.

Amid these changes, event planners are upskilling, too. We are learning to adapt to a new and changed world, and to make the most of the opportunities which technology, experience, and circumstances will allow this year and beyond.

Though it is months away, we are making plans already for The HRSouthwest Conference. This year’s event will be a hybrid event, with both in-person and virtual education and experiences available. We can’t wait to welcome you back in ways new and familiar.

DallasHR is the third largest SHRM affiliate chapter in the nation. With more than 2,300 engaged HR professionals, the Chapter has been Advancing the Value of HR since 1939 through cutting-edge education, fun networking events and opportunities to share best practices with others in the field of HR. The Chapter powers The HRSouthwest Conference, one of the largest regional HR events in the U.S. hosting more than 2,400 attendees in Fort Worth annually. DallasHR events are held in both Dallas and Collin Counties. Visit us at to join or to register and follow us at #DALLASHR, #HRSWC.