It’s been a long time coming, but convention centers, hotels, and event spaces are welcoming larger groups back to F2F. However, after over two years of isolation and virtual-only, event organizers are finding pre-pandemic event designs don’t align with new attendee behaviors and preferences.
To create an event environment that draws people to come together today, organizers and venues can take inspiration from other business sectors. One similar area that’s being reinvented is the office environment. With offices still necessary to bring people together for work, companies are welcoming WFH employees with comfortable, flexible, and safe set-ups that meet the needs of the new hybrid workforce.
Take a page from the lessons learned from these four office design trends to inspire your event venue designs this year:
- Biophilic design
Now is the time to move away from rows of classroom tables and harsh artificial lighting.
Biophilic design focuses on incorporating elements of nature throughout office space to contribute to the health and well-being of occupants. The concept has been shown to reduce stress, improve focus, boost creativity, and improve overall well-being. With the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on everyone, implementing natural elements makes sense not just in offices but within events too.
Start small by implementing elements such as:
- Flowers and succulents, container gardens, or living walls. These improve air quality and give attendees a physical mood and creativity boost. Even small flower table centerpieces can make a positive impression, and greenery accents complement many event styles.
- Natural materials for furniture and decorative elements. Wood and stone also enhance many event design styles and add depth and natural appeal to interior spaces.
- Natural lighting and airflow. While it’s not typically possible to add extra windows to event spaces, maximize your light and look for ways to promote air circulation. Even better, incorporate outdoor spaces into your event agenda – whether it’s hosting an outdoor networking or cocktail event or moving sessions to a terrace.
- Water. Water features can boost the impact of other natural elements. Consider combining a water wall and a living wall for a showstopping design statement piece that anchors your event. Use small water features to create a calming ambiance on a smaller scale.
Bottom line: get creative and mix natural aesthetics to create visual impact and a comforting event design.
- The comforts of home
Think back to your working from home habits. Did you stay at your desk all day, or did you move from room to room? Forty-five percent of U.S. teleworkers regularly work from a couch, 38 percent regularly work from bed, and 20 percent often work outside.
While it isn’t practical to install mattresses at your events, the trend toward more comfortable and less formal event layouts has been around for years, and comfort needs to remain a top priority for 2022 events too.
Some on-trend ways to bring the comfort of the home to event design include:
- Plush carpeting
- Comfortable seating
- Warm lighting
- Soft textiles and cozy fabrics
- Ample snacks and refreshment stations
- Indoor plants
- Outdoor seating (if available)
To foster a comfortable sense of home, residential elements such as comfortable sofas and chairs, soft lighting features in reception areas, or even unexpected design elements like artwork bring warmth to an event space.
- Flexible and inclusive spaces
Offices are integrating more agile workspaces to accommodate a fluctuating hybrid office headcount and give employees options for what works best for them.
The same can be said for event design. Attendees want options. They want different set-ups that support their learning style, help them feel inspired to connect, allow for a brief respite, or support their need to work while on-site at an event.
Here are several ways to incorporate flexible and inclusive spaces in your event design:
- Private pods. When attendees need to disconnect or conduct work, offer private enclaves with plenty of power and connectivity options to make phone calls, participate in video conference calls, or literally and figuratively recharge their batteries.
- Casual lounge areas. With many returning to F2F events for networking, give attendees spaces with seating that supports informal conversations.
- Mothering and prayer rooms. Remember event participants may need quiet, private spaces to attend to other needs.
- Adjustable furniture. Just as some moved to a standing desk at home or in the office, have standing desks and adjustable table heights to cater to different event attendee requests. For example, some participants may prefer to stand, while others who use wheelchairs or other assistive devices may prefer to sit at a customized table height.
- Sensory-friendly set-ups. Neurodiversity refers to the differences in brain functions and different approaches when interpreting information. ADHD, Autism, Dyspraxia, and Dyslexia are all examples of neurodiverse conditions. While neurodiversity is not new, it is gaining traction in terms of planning sensory-friendly set-ups. For example, consider creating spaces that are quiet zones, areas with sound and light control, or deliberate use of colors or fabrics to create a calming space.
By providing a sliding scale of welcoming and inclusive spaces, event attendees have options to choose from depending on their well-being and psychological needs.
- Safety and protection
The pandemic put the spotlight on cleaning and sanitizing practices in large spaces like offices and events. And even as attendees come back to F2F events, there are varying degrees of comfort in mingling with large groups.
Taking inspiration from office practices, event organizers are rethinking event designs to proactively demonstrate a safe, protected environment.
Try these safety-first ideas within your event design:
- Visible sanitation. Ample hand sanitizer stations and frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces like doorknobs and elevator buttons make attendees feel safe.
- Contactless interactions. Wherever possible, limit the number of surfaces attendees, and suppliers need to touch to interact with your event space. For example, look for options to go contactless at registration and check-in, food and beverage orders, or survey collection.
- Socially distanced seating. Although capacity limits have disappeared, event attendees are necessarily ready to stand shoulder-to-shoulder again. When it comes to seating or floorplan design, allow ample seated and standing space between attendees. Use collaborative floorplan tools to design 2D event layouts and view them in 3D.
Since many people have spent at least part of the last two years in isolation, the best way to foster connection and collaboration among attendees is to ensure your event design provides comfort, flexibility, and safety.