7 Event Trends For 2015


Early every year lists of trends start appearing out of everywhere. Some are interesting, some awful, some are click bait, some aren't even that, some are compiled by an intern who's been told to churn out 5 of them in one day and others are done by people who know what they're talking about. I'm hoping this is in the latter category!

Don't Be At Me

I run an events business. We have loads of different clients in loads of different sectors and I feel I have a good sense of the industry and what's happening in it. There are areas we work in more than others and areas other companies specialise in more than we do. What I'm saying is that these trends are what I'm seeing. If you ask the woman running that event company over there she may well have a totally different list. Here we go - the trends in the event industry as I see them at the minute:

1. Experiences

People want to experience something, not go to something. They're not the same and there's a definite desire among the public for one above the other. People want to be fully immersed in an event or festival rather than just attend it. We have clients who really get this and who are building portfolios of events which match this shift in thinking among attendees.

A good example would be the Run For Your Lives event we worked on last October. Essentially it was another 5km obstacle run, and yet it was something a lot more than that. The 2,500 people who took part were released from a pitch black box onto the course, where they were chased by around 100 zombies who were looking to take one of their lives. Lives were in the form of 3 tags on each participants' belt, much like tag rugby. Those who made it through the 5km with at least 1 tag left, arrived to the Safe Zone to celebrate in their new 'I survived' t-shirt. The event was a great success, especially for its first staging. Multiple events are now in the pipeline for this year. IT was a success because it was MORE than just another 5km obstacle race - It was an experience.

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2. Feasibility

Since about he end of last Summer, we've seen a steady growth in the approaches we're getting in relation to feasibility studies for festivals & events. People and organisations with an idea for an event or festival are actively looking to engage the likes of ourselves to do a 'feasibility study' on their idea, to see if it's a runner. People seem to know what they don't know and see the value in us putting a piece of work together for them. There seems to be an understanding, for the most part, that this will involve a cost with it often being the case that those contacting us 'need something to bring back to the Board' for a decision.

We've actually had one organisation come to us with a fairly well-thought out idea, which we knew couldn't work the way they wanted it to, within their budget. We were comfortable telling them this without charging to do a full study on it and we thought we were doing them a favour and saving them money. The response we got was 'We thought the same ourselves, but we need you to do a full study to TELL us that, so we can bring it back to management'.

Events & festivals can be a big investment to do properly so paying some money to do a study on whether it would likely work or not seems like a smart decision.


Photo Credit

3. Niche Festivals

We're fielding a lot of inquiries & approaches from people looking to do niche festivals. The festival, as a communication vehicle, is becoming more & more popular. There's probably a 'cool' factor to it, whereby people looking to communicate about something inherently 'uncool' or challenging see a festival as a way to do something effective.

We're currently working on 3 of these projects - one with a cultural focus, one built around a shared language experience and one for a charity. We've been approached on countless more, which may or may not come to anything. Festivals don't have to be for 70,000 people. There are plenty of local festivals all over the country catering for 1200 to 4,999 people (licensing, cough) that are very successful and run really well. People like festivals and, done right, they can work very well as a communications vehicle - even for something 'uncool'.

Malahide Festival 1

4. Charity Competition

A lot of people seem to be adopting the 'go big or go home' approach to events at the minute. We're finding this to be the case a lot, particularly in the charity events sector. There are some very well-known charities who have some very well established events on the calendar annually. They're extremely successful. They raise a lot of money and are also hugely effective with regard to building the charity profile. The Darkness into Light events are a great example of this. These events, run for Pieta House, are run just as dawn breaks, which gives them a unique selling point over other 5km walks.

Events like these seem to be putting other charities under pressure to come up with that marquee event that's 'theirs' and that they can roll out either annually or, in some cases, in multiple locations around the country each year. We've had charities come to us simply saying 'We need a big event - what do you think will work?'. We've also had charities approach us saying 'We've seen this event in another country - could it work here?'. The requirement / desire for the 'next big charity event' seems to be growing steadily. Photo Credit


Photo Credit

5. Safety Focus

We're seeing a definite shift in thinking and understanding of Event Safety among those involved in running festivals and events. We specialise in the safety side of things here at Cuckoo and it's generally been a hard sell to have people understand and appreciate the importance of safety at their events. Things are changing on that front and we're fielding a lot of approaches in recent months from organisers looking for us to get involved in their festivals and events on the safety side.

To some degree, this change can likely be attributed to insurance companies and insurance claims. A lot of small to medium sized of festivals & events in Ireland are run by informal, voluntary committees. This can prove problematic if and when there's an incident or accident and someone gets hurt and everyone ends up in court. Insurance companies are looking to ensure there's a professional element to the organisation of the event so that there's someone else to share the burden if there's a payout awarded by the court.

Organisers are finding that involving us and letting us do things properly can keep their insurance company happy, save them headaches and help ensure the people attending have a great time.


Photo Credit Brian Dempsey

6. Cost-Saving

In recent months we've been engaged by some local festivals with a very straightforward remit - to save them enough money on their suppliers to cover the cost of our involvement and more. People are starting to realise that there can be economies of scale to benefit from when you involve a professional company to help you organise your festival or event.

If your festival only runs once a year then, from a business perspective, your suppliers are unlikely to be giving you much of a discount. However, if we've events running every week for a wide variety of clients, we likely get significantly discounted rates from suppliers. We're also likely to be using good, reliable suppliers too.

So, there's potential for you to make a cost-saving that will cover the costs of us being involved and more. One of the festivals we worked with on that basis was the 'Malahide Has It' Festival and it worked out really well for them. It won't work that way for every festival or event but it's worked for the happy clients we've done it for.


7. Family Fun

There has been a major increase in the amount of 'family fun' event requests coming in. There's also been a bit of a shift in thinking in relation to what clients actually want as part of their family fun event. People seem to be looking for something more than the usual face painters and balloon modellers. Those are good and they're always popular but clients want something a bit more.

For instance, we did this series of activity for in 2 locations in Dublin city centre last Summer over 6 weeks and probably the most popular element of it was a gyroscope. People loved it as they don't see them around too often so it's something a little unusual. Even the corporates are really focusing on the family fun angle for their events. There's a big movement on at the minute for organisations to involve their employees' families in these events. We did a great one for Etsy where we did a BBQ Garden Party featuring a lot of family fun day elements for the employees' children. The weather helped, in fairness, and it was a super event.


The Bottom Line

You're going to see more and more smaller festivals and events springing up. They'll be better run than you might expect with a real focus on giving you an experience you'll remember. There'll be an obvious focus on attracting families and giving something for the kids and the parents. You'll see some festivals and events organised and you'll think 'There's hardly enough people interested in that, is there?'. There likely are and it could be very successful.


Mark is one of a Co-Founder of Cuckoo Events. He is an experienced Event Controller & Safety Officer and has been working in event management for over 18 years. He is also a SAGE Business 'Expert' & a Graduate Member of the Marketing Institute of Ireland. Cuckoo Events is an event management business with a particular specialisation in Event Safety. Beyond that Cuckoo does everything from running local festivals to fire parades, large national charity events to gigs on college campuses and anything in between that they know they can do well.

Follow Mark & keep up-to-date with Cuckoo here

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Written By

Mark Breen