Meeting and event spaces have changed drastically since the onset of COVID-19 back in early 2020. Nearly every industry had to pivot their way of conducting business, and meetings and events saw a quick uptick in virtual gatherings. According to a recent report from the Meetings Recovery Forecast, the industry is expected to reach full market recovery in 2023, and here in Indiana, we’re seeing more and more meetings and events regain an in-person presence.

As someone who has always loved events — both hosting and attending — it’s thrilling to be a part of this next wave of creativity in event planning, much of which includes a significant progression in technology. Modern meeting and event collaborations can include anything from virtual reality systems to touch-screens to large projectors. The goal? To give the audience a sense of interaction, participation and belonging that was missed when events had to shift to behind screens.

Event space trends for 2023, with an Indiana lens

According to a recent study from The Technology Councils of North America, Indiana remains at the top of the list when it comes to highest tech worker percent growth by state, and the technology advancements throughout Indiana continue to spike. Technology is truly everywhere, and according to TechPoint, “Indianapolis is moving out of the shadows.” Circle City is increasingly becoming a focal point for not only accepting technology advancements, but welcoming in companies of all sizes who are at the forefront of integrating technology into the overall experience. We see this with companies like Back 9 Indy that offers state-of-the-art technology within an interactive game of golf.

And Newfields, one of the largest and oldest art museums in the nation, has its fourth floor filled with 150 high-definition projectors that bring digital artwork to life inside THE LUME Indianapolis. This is one of many local event spaces leaning into innovation and offering something that awakes all senses. Be it a cocktail party, press conference or gala reception, attendees are looking for an experience, not just a stale event that they’ll easily forget. I can take an empty room and give you the feeling of walking in the streets of Paris, and still have you back in Broad Ripple by the afternoon.

Broadening experiences, broadening audiences

So what’s the goal when it comes to offering immersive experiences for events? Personally, I see them as a key way to broaden audiences and allow them to escape reality, even for a few hours. These kinds of experiences provide a pathway for organizations to amplify visual efforts to convey a message, be it an artist you’re hoping to educate the community about, a company announcement or even a way to distill complex data. (This could be through projected images or b-roll.) This is especially enticing for spatial learners, or visualisers. We’re all wired a little differently, and providing a format for those that learn best, or even enjoy an event best, by way of visualization has the potential to keep bringing them back for more.

Many of my personal and professional experiences are tied to art. While art in and of itself can be a heated topic when it comes to how people think it should be perceived and displayed, art is truly an expression of human imagination, and that means it can be fluid. And we’re fortunate to live in a day and age where we have increased capacity to be creative by way of technology.

We are all a different kind of consumer today than we were a few years ago.  Social media has not only put our leisure environment on display, but now meeting and events leaders are looking for ways to engage audiences with immersive locations. There was a time when the only way to entice guests to a conference was a flashy location — today we can transform a blank, empty room into a beach in the south of France with waves lapping at your feet or make it appear that you’re standing in a painting while it’s being painted around you.

I’m eager to witness what unfolds in the next decade here in Indianapolis and how the city continues to flourish on the “cutting-edge.” For meetings and events, my hope is that we continue to see a spike in in-person gatherings and that it triggers creative minds to think outside the box. This is the primary way to reach new people and to re-engage with those that are looking for a new and fresh experience. THE LUME Indianapolis, for example, continues to draw people to the city for jobs, building upon statewide goals for economic growth. Indianapolis definitely has the capacity for cutting-edge events, which can entice more and more people to visit and host events.

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