Face-to-Face Marketing: Event Trends 2021

April 1, 2021

WHAT’S IN, WHAT’S OUT, AND HOW TO INFUSE THESE TRENDS IN YOUR NEXT CORPORATE EVENT.

Finally, we are returning to tradeshows and live marketing events and it feels SO good! Knowing what to leave behind in 2020 and what to bring into 2021 will help designers and corporate event marketers plan for creating the most impactful and aesthetically impressive marketing environments.  

Keeping up with the latest design and interactive trends in hospitality, commercial design, and experiential marketing is usually the best indicator for what will be a hit on the show floor or for your next live marketing event.

For example —Shiplap walls and farmhouse style? Sorry, but that’s staying behind in the 2010s. Same for sliding barn doors, solid-color accent walls, and matchy-matchy furniture sets.  

Open floor plans, high ceilings, “grandmillenial” chic, and touchless tech? Hello, 2021!

Having a keen insight into the latest experiential design trends will help you stand out from the rest and WOW your clients and prospects!  

Be sure to keep an eye out each week this summer as we share some the latest trends in hospitality, commercial design, and experiential marketing:

Hospitality, Commercial, and Experiential Design Trends for 2021

We turned to the most innovative architects and interior designers who are designing hotels into 2021 and beyond. As we usher in a new era for in-person marketing events, one thing needs to be clear: space.

Functionality is beginning to tip the scale over fashion. Here are the latest experiential design elements we’ve rounded up:

Conscious & Touchless Tech

September 9th, 2021 - As we continue returning to the show floor, health and safety are certainly primary factors in event creation and planning. As consumers, we are more conscious of our shared touchpoints with others, and in response all industries are adjusting to these heightened concerns.

Hotels are updating their technology to offer more touchless transactions, whether it’s checking in from an app, keyless room entry, or contactless payment. In the age of unlocking phones and laptops with a fingerprint or facial recognition, consumers are now beginning to expect the same convenience to gain entry into their hotel rooms. Features like these help make sanitizing and cleaning easier and more efficient.  

And the same can be said for the event industry, with more and more "handsfree" interactions being implemented by show organizers and individual exhibitors. So how do we turn these seemingly mundane processes into something your prospects and customers will remember? Provide value, always. For example, when a prospect checks-in at your booth on their phone, have them be automatically entered to win your exciting giveaway! Link them to your company sponsored happy hour being hosted that night or provide your digital company business card where they can explore all your offerings and services further that may not be showcased at that particular show. The opportunities are endless.

toucheless tech examples

Open, Flexible Floor Plans

August 31st, 2021 - Arguably, a major result of the pandemic is the need for physical distancing. Having open, flexible floor plans will help provide certain functionalities when needed, while making your guests feel safe and comfortable.  

However, in the trade show industry, one alarming trend happening is in brands reducing their footprint at shows assumingly to save money. Of course, caution with funds makes sense in a time when trade show attendance is still uncertain.  

However, we’ve come up with some other ways to realize cost savings in a larger footprint. Taking a slightly different approach in the construction of your marketing environment can help keep you within budget without having to reduce valuable floorspace.  

open flexible floor plans examples

Plants & Natural Elements

August 25th, 2021 - Even if outdoor space is an option for your marketing event, but especially if it isn’t — bring the natural and restorative benefits of the outdoors inside.

As mentioned in our previous trend of Human Focused Design – consumers are looking for comfort and calmness, in workspaces and places of gathering, that can cultivate creativity. Bringing the natural and restorative benefits of plants and natural elements into your marketing environment, not only spruces up any space, but provides the calming and comfortable elements visitors are looking for.

More importantly, incorporating plants into your marketing environment provides universal health benefits, such as air purification.  

Beyond plants, one of the main principles of good feng shui in any environment is the incorporation of the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Although feng shui is an ancient practice that is centuries old, its teachings are still largely prevalent in modern interior design. Here’s an informative download to learn more about how to incorporate feng shui into your interior space

plants and natural elements examples

Sustainable Materials

August 17th, 2021 - Yes, we’ve already mentioned Sustainability as an ongoing trend, but its importance bears repeating as sustainability will certainly never go out of style, nor is it something to slough off.

Sustainability isn’t just a buzzy word; there are specifically proven materials and build methods that make a product sustainable. A designer who knows how to build with materials such as bamboo, biocomposites, aluminum framework, or cork will help convey your brand’s sustainability message and practice at the forefront of your live marketing events.

As event marketers, we unfortunately see firsthand the mass amounts of structure and materials that are shipped off to the landfill after shows end. Sustainability now plays a huge part in business purchasing decisions, ensure your prospects know that you are a value match.

Sustainable Materials examples

Personalized Experiences

August 10th, 2021 - Today’s consumers are impacted most when they are recognized and treated as individuals. Utilizing tools such as CRM platforms can not only help you personalize mass outreach but can also provide useful data for your target audience.

It has never been easier to use this data for intel to better understand your target audience. The best corporate event marketers know how to translate this data into curating customized experiences that are specifically created for your unique guests.  

Automation and technology aside, never underestimate the impact of personally greeting every single person who steps into your marketing environment.

Personalized Experiences Examples

Outdoor Spaces

August 3rd, 2021 - Travelers in 2021 want to worry less about local restrictions and close encounters with strangers. Hotels, restaurants, and other venues are upgrading their outdoor spaces to make them more inviting and comfortable. It also makes physical distancing easier and less obvious. Travelers feel safer in outdoor spaces rather than in confined, enclosed, not well-ventilated indoor spaces. Properties of all sizes are looking at how to incorporate outdoor areas into their guest experience.

For the months to follow we can see the demand rise for non-conventional venues that have access to outdoor spaces. Not only will these outdoor spaces provide expanded capacity for physical distancing, but they will also provide even more 'real estate' to get even more creative with your exhibit experience.

outdoor spaces examples

Human Focused Design

July 20th, 2021 - The current generations of workers expect to be comfortable and inspired in their workspaces. That’s why commercial architects and designers are moving away from the standard corporate layout and décor and designing with more human-centric concepts in mind, like soft lighting, comfortable seating, tactile fabrics, and flexible workspaces.

What makes the modern workforce comfortable in any environment is a sense of calm. Creativity flourishes the most when people are at ease. Think about where you are the most relaxed — it’s most likely in your home, your sanctuary. When it comes to your next event, adding some homey elements to your marketing environment can help put your guests at ease, and fuel those fruitful conversations.

Human focused design v2


Key Existing Trends for 2021

Before we dig into the new trends, let’s talk about a few things that we’ve been doing for a while now but will absolutely stay for 2021:  

Sustainable Partnerships

July 13th, 2021 - Using sustainable materials, energy-efficient lighting, and minimizing waste will never go out of style. That’s why it’s extremely beneficial to work with partners who have expertise in designing and building using sustainable materials and methods, and who match your sustainability values.  

In today’s corporate landscape it’s not enough to just be good at what you do, it’s imperative to be great at how you work. Steelhead is proud to be the first and only trade show company to be B Corp Certified, this certification means that we have met the highest standards of verified social, environment, public and legal accountability, balancing both profit and purpose.

Digital Marketing

June 30th, 2021— Staying connected has never been more important.

And digital Marketing helps us do just that. It's more important than ever considering the number of events that will follow a hybrid in-person/virtual model. Optimizing your digital output for a broader audience will be key for 2021 to ensure you meet your clients and prospects where they are in the moment.

Whether that be a virtual environment to accompany your in-person event program or a specialized online only campaign for those who may not be able to attend in-person events. There are endless options available to ensure everyone is included and in the loop with your latest happenings.

The Photo-op.

June 22nd, 2021— We gotta do it for the ‘gram, right?

The Instagrammable moment is still a necessary design feature to incorporate into your marketing environment. This is where your brand gets to have fun by utilizing features such as props, a plant wall, neon signs, or colorful balloons to give your visitors a spot for a spontaneous photo-op. Make sure your audience knows your hashtags!

Things Change, So Should Your Event Strategy.

If you have questions about maximizing your marketing event strategy, we encourage you to reach out to one of our brand reps for a brief discovery call.