by Matt Alderton | September 05, 2012
Healthy food, social media and so-called "unconferences" are a few of the big trends that are taking over small meetings, according to Apella, the event space at New York's Alexandria Center, which yesterday released its list of the "Top 10 Small Meeting Trends."

Compiled by celebrity event planner Arthur Backal, CEO of Backal Hospitality Group — which manages and services all events at Apella — the list follows:

1. Healthier Food and Beverage Offerings: Apella has reported an increase in health-conscious catering requests from clients for both daytime meetings and social events. "For example, there are more requests for grilled chicken and fish orders for entrees and nut and fruit requests for snacks," the venue reports. "As if taking a cue from Mayor Bloomberg, many clients have eliminated soda from their beverage choices at events altogether, while some have added green tea as a refreshing alternative."

2. Hybrid Events: "Hybrid events have become a cornerstone of the events industry," according to Apella, which reports seeing many videoconferences and live-streamed events. "They offer both an in-person component and live-streamed video content, which can save money on travel expenses and still reach an expansive audience and maintain human connectivity."

3. Social Media and Event Application Engagement: "Clients across industries are incorporating social media into their programs by way of Q&A through Twitter and contests through Facebook," Apella says. "Event applications on smartphones are also becoming more popular for planners, even if guests are still catching on."

4. Inspiring Meeting Environments: "Clients are always looking for non-traditional space to inspire creativity during events," according to Apella. For example, breakout rooms that have dry erase walls or tackable surfaces are ideal for brainstorming.

5. Green Meetings: "Today's meeting professionals are recycling nametags, minimizing the number of handouts they print and requesting water in pitchers rather than individual bottles," Apella says.

6. Technology Amenities for Attendees: "Attendees are beginning to expect certain technologies offered at meetings, such as computer access and phone charging stations," Apella explains. "Many clients have rented charging lockers and table charging stations for their guests to power up."

7. Philanthropic Spirit: "As companies increase their corporate social responsibility efforts, building a philanthropic component into meetings and events when combined with team building exercises is gaining in popularity," according to Apella.

8. Mobile Event Planning Tools: "There has been an increase in electronic event planning tools to assist with registration and floor plans and seating chart generation," Apella points out.

9. Unconferences: "A different approach to meeting planning is to create a conference based on what the attendees want to discuss," Apella explains. "This new trend is called the unconference. Clients join casual, breakout conversations and bring the takeaways to another conference environment within the same event. This gives the attendees a chance to create their own agenda and participate in relevant sessions."

10. Using In-House Technology as Décor: "Today's meetings are on a tighter budget and clients are looking for unique, creative, and inexpensive ways to customize and decorate event space," says Apella, which reports having clients who utilize plasma TVs and projection screens to create color and light without having to outsource to a production company.