Trendwatching: Trends for Events 2017

After two years Tom Palmaerts returns to our studio. He shares the latest trends among youngsters with us and tells us how you can use these trends for your events.

Kevin Van der Straeten
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After two years Tom Palmaerts returns to our studio. He shares the latest trends among youngsters with us and tells us how you can use these trends for your events.


Hi Tom welcome back to our studio.


Hello Kevin.


It’s been about two years I think now.




You predicted back then some trends, did they come true?


I think most of them, yeah. No but a few years ago we were talking about raw design.


That’s correct.


Not only slick design but can be tougher and rougher. And I think that wood and all those wooden pallets we have seen then now already, enough. So it’s time to stop and go to the next phase. And then the need for experience but also the need for silence and the need for a positive vibe at events through colors. And I think that other event organizers and exhibition did that, or do it.


They all watched our show and…


Probably. You are so popular, not only in Belgium but worldwide.


Yeah. Now it’s time to look back to the future again, what do you expect, what’s coming now for us? Well of course there are different possibilities, different scenarios, different futures. And I always like to tell people that you can choose your own future, but you still need to innovate even if that future is not that technology driven. I think, today it’s really important for companies and for events to find their true values. And from that point of view look towards the future and find your own path. And maybe your path is technology but maybe your path is completely the opposite. It’s shutting down everything, and so it’s… where are you going to? I think that is a really interesting question to… But now if you ask me like what is really important then there are a few topics. In food, maybe we first talk about food.


Okay, great.


It’s a balance. Health is important and will stay important. That doesn’t mean it’s only salad, there are other healthy foods. You even have gin today based on quinoa, so you can…


That sounds ‘wrong’, not?


You can waste yourself and you can still be healthy. So there are a lot of possibilities. But I like to think about, it’s a bit of a tricky idea but we have been talking a lot about local and local is important. But local…


Sustainable and…


Yeah but it’s not always sustainable. Local doesn’t always mean that your product is sustainable, that your product is qualitative. So I think we can go through this, the idea of local is that we trust food. We have the idea that everything is okay. Its quality food, it’s sustainable and people wo are working for this they get equally paid for it. That’s our idea. But I think it can be a bit more adventurous in the next five years. Local is important and will stay important but we can also get food from everywhere in the world as long as we know where it is coming from. And that we trust the event that they know that the place where it has been created, that everything is okay.




And I think that those are the traceability, track ability of our food. And the knowledge that it’s okay then that’s important. I think that’s a good thing to know. And then food can be healthy and can be sustainable. Food can be sustainable even if it’s coming from Africa. Really, it can be more sustainable than the same food coming from Belgium.


It’s about knowing the back story.


Its knowing the back story and also as an event organiser really knowing where it’s coming from. And I know this is a big issue that it’s difficult to know where it’s coming from. And it’s really difficult to know that everything is right there. So this is a new thing that we have to think about. It can be adventurous, we can show the world to our audience. And be healthy at the same time and be sustainable and responsible.


Now we are talking about food. The last few years we did see a lot of baristas, cocktail shakers, food trucks and all that stuff… Will we keep seeing them at events?


Well we love them, aren’t we. And I love my cappuccino and a great cocktail. But if there is somehow nostalgia around it that it used to be better that’s not true. In the past it wasn’t better. So I think craftsmanship is okay but we have to think forward. And the beautiful thing is when a crafter today can work together with an innovator or some kind of a tech nerd, to go beyond the knowledge of a crafter. A good example is alcohol, gin and tonic. Three years ago we could give people a really great gin and tonic but now everybody at home can do this. What is the value at an event, what’s the value of a really good barista, when you talk about gin and tonic. And a really good example of a guy I appreciate a lot is Ran van Ongevalle, who is experimenting with Bacardi and proof a kitchen lab. What they are doing is they just threw sound waves, they put sound waves inside the rum and they mimic the ageing process of three years in the barrels. So instead of waiting for three years having your rum in a barrel they do it in two and a half minutes, by injecting the rum with the sound waves. It’s a sound wave that we as adults can’t hear. It appears that children can hear it, they get completely nuts about it.


But they can’t drink, so…


They can’t drink so it’s not bad. This is going beyond the craftsmanship. This is using innovation technology to get to a next level.


It’s also a story to bring.


Yeah, it’s true and it stays an experiment. Because what is going to happen when you do it for three minutes? Is it going to be a 10 year aged?


Or you have to throw it away.


No, it’s fun. I like the combination. I don’t like the opposite, going completely towards technology and innovation. I think it is the combination between the human craftsmanship, the craftsmanship of a speaker and the craftsmanship of the barista in combination with tech innovators and science. I call it craftific. Craftsmanship and science coming together.


Yeah. And will it always be bigger, crazier or can it also be less?


Two years ago we already said, experience… Experience is really important but also please… I know that people… Silence is the new luxury. Give people the space and the time to… chill and to listen to themselves. And that’s why I think we will see bigger events, more bigger events, but bigger events with smaller spaces.


But at the same time, I don’t know if you heard about the Fire Festival?




That was supposed to be the next level, all luxury on a remote location and so on, but it failed. It wasn’t doable anymore.


Yeah, you have different directions here. Big can be wonderful and you can give people a real sense of community feeling. The opposite: go smaller, give people time. It needs to be more expensive. But you can give people an enormous experience that they have never felt before. One of the restaurants that I really love to go to is Ultraviolet in Shanghai. It’s a restaurant for ten people, that’s it, ten people, it’s pretty small. One table, ten people. Every dish has a completely other climate. The walls change, the ceiling changes, your table, the visuals change, temperatures will change, the sound will change. Every dish you are in a completely other environment and extremely other experience. So those are ultra-luxury and very small but going to a real next level of sensation. Of, again, craft effect, the craftsmanship, but together with neuroscience and tech and visual artist and creating together an enormous experience.


I f you look at conferences, a lot of people sitting in a room, in their chairs watching the show, it’s been around here for decades. It’s about time to change something about that format.


It’s true, I can’t sit still, I know. When I give a speech I always say, okay, you need to listen to me for the next forty-five minutes. I can’t sit still for more than fifteen minutes. For me it’s not normal that they will sit down for forty-five minutes. So I ask them to please stand up from time to time and turn around and move a bit. I think we really need to give this atmosphere’s vibe to our audience. Because sitting is the new smoking. It’s not healthy, it’s not healthy for your body but it’s also not healthy for your mind. So you lose your focus.


Treadmills instead of chairs.


For instance! No, let them stand, let them walk, let them… Last year I had the opportunity to give a trend talk in Johannesburg. And the audience: I love them. It was a bit weird in the beginning but it was a wonderful experience. Sometimes they just stood up and started yelling. And I, what do you want to do with it? Hell yeah, okay thank you. But then there were people standing up and started dancing when I was showing a movie. We are Belgian, we are never going to do that, no way. But this was a wonderful vibe. Because they listened to me for two hours. Insane! But it was no problem, because they were moving or dancing, they were yelling. It was such a wonderful experience, for them but definitely for me as a speaker. In Belgium, as a speaker, I don’t like to speak after lunch. Actually I don’t do it, because we drink red wine, and like…


Only in Belgium because you travel all over the world?


It’s really typically from Belgium, yeah, and definitely red wine. The impact of red wine it’s terrible. Don’t give people red wine during lunch, don’t do that, it’s not a good idea. By the way some people plead different. Alcohol is also an interesting topic for events. Because, first sobering is getting bigger and bigger.


What do you mean with sobering?


Not drinking alcohol. We are both Belgians, we can’t imagine a bar without beer but it’s coming. There are going to be more and more bars, restaurants, with hundreds of different waters instead of hundreds of different wines. And I think when you look to a younger audience, not forty plus but thirty-five and younger, you see that during the week when they still need to go home with their car that they are not drinking. But nót drinking at all. So I think events really need to think about what will we give them. And it shouldn’t be only water and some juices. Be adventurous, like give them really beautiful, great looking, great tasteful mocktails or water with different aromas. You can do research on the impact of different aromas to your mind set. We can influence people to be more concentrated or to be more flexible through just water. It’s wonderful. I think we need to know that people will have difficulties with alcohol, and we should think about alternatives. And I hope those alternatives will be better than only some cola or some juice.


Okay. For people who want to know more about this subject, you did write a trend report on the topic.


Yes, we have a trend report. It’s a research on young consumers, young families, and we hope to capture the vibe for the next five to ten years. So we can give people the time to actually innovate. It’s a big book.




We are really, really proud. Not only about the concept but also by the design. And we hope to inspire people so that next time we see each other we can say, look there are a lot of alternatives to alcohol, and look there are people moving and dancing, and we get craftific instead of baristas and coffee makers.


Where can we order it?


Just on the website:


Okay Tom, thank you very much.


You are welcome, Kevin.


And you at home, thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week.