by Lisa A. Grimaldi | December 15, 2015

Industry trade show firm IMEX Group has identified trends that it expects to remain key factors affecting meetings and events in 2016. Following are the six top trends they've selected for next year:

1. The personalization trend will continue. Coca-Cola and Starbucks are already using it, and McDonalds and British Airways are headed in that direction: personalization is hot. The practice was described in December 2015 by leading U.K. marketing title The Drum as "one of the hottest topics in the marketing industry today. Consumers today are living seamlessly across different devices and platforms and today expect a highly personalized experience from brands." People like to be treated as individuals and to tailor how they are treated, whether as an employee or a consumer. 

In 2015, Gartner, a market research firm, indicated that this trend will continue to grow and reach its plateau in two to five years. This suggests that this flurry of activity is just a prelude to what might develop next year and beyond.

2. Data and analytics will influence new marketing strategies. Gathering and analyzing information that drills down into the behaviors of individuals and groups is essential to personalization strategies so, in turn, there will be an increased focus in this space. Digital marketing expert Mark Goddard said in Forbes magazine that, in 2016, personalization "will rely heavily on data integration and customer segmentation." Also in Forbes' marketing predictions for 2016, financial technology expert Kevin Brown says: "Marketing and data science will be the new dynamic duo."

3. Face-to-face contact will remain important. The continuing growth of the meetings industry in an era when Skype and video conferencing are established reflects the essential importance and need for F2F contact.

Similarly, in contrast to the data-driven approach, marketing expert Alan Hart, founder of marketing consultancy, predicts, "Being human will return to marketing" because "consumers want to be inspired and have meaningful and personal connections with brands to move them to buy products and services." 

4. The shared economy will increase its presence in the meetings industry. Consulting firm PwC predicts that the shared economy globally will grow from a value of $15 billion in 2013 to $335 billion in 2025. Within the travel sector, from Airbnb to Uber and Bookalokal to Vizeat, the concept has made enormous inroads among consumers. Next year the meetings industry will be discussing more intensively and proactively how it can and should adapt to this trend and use it cooperatively.

At IMEX in Frankfurt, Germany, in April 2016, this topic is set to be featured throughout the show.

5. Giving back will remain in style. Despite living in an age where spare time seems to be shrinking, the drive to contribute and give back through volunteering and programs such as the Meetings Industry Fund will continue to grow.

In fact in 2013, one in four adults (25 percent) in the U.S. volunteered with an organization, and 62.6 million Americans volunteered nearly 7.7 billion hours in 2014, estimated at a worth of $173 billion, according to the Corporation for National & Community Service.

6. Asia will be a key growth area for new meetings destinations and venues. The importance of this region is endorsed by the latest annual American Express meetings and events industry report, which says that "meetings spending is rising globally, led by the Asia Pacific region with 2.1 percent growth expected."