Trendwatching: Trends for Events in 2024

Maintaining their yearly tradition, Kevin and trendwatcher Tom Palmaerts dive into the future of events. This year, their conversation unveils a transformative shift in the job market, examines if AI is still a trend, and ventures into the concept of 'delulu,' among other forward-looking discussions.

Kevin Van der Straeten
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Hi Tom.

Hello Kevin.

Welcome back in our studio. It's a yearly tradition.

I looked back at some of your predictions of last years and I must say you're mostly spot-on. And I was wondering. Because in the past we already talked about AI. And AI is still a big topic. But for you, as a trendwatcher, is AI still a trend? Something you keep looking at? Or is it already past and over the hype?

It's interesting. AI is definitely something that I've been watching for years. I think that at the end of 2022, with the start of openAI, ChatGPT, the talk about, the hype about AI was faster than I could imagine. And I know I was doing lectures on technology and AI during that time and all the time I asked: who of you use AI? And there was no response. No-one. And then I saw that growing. It was October, November, December, January, February. In just a few months...

It just exploded.

And I think the beauty of the system, or the scariness of the system, is that it's learning. It's learning by the amount of people that are using it. So I think that it will not stop. It will only become bigger and bigger and bigger. But is it a hype?

If you look at a trend. A trend, most of the time, goes very slowly. And sometimes you have a hype and it comes back. But it always ends up on a higher position than it started. So sometimes it's watching several waves and then look what's underneath it. And you know that story about people overestimate the power of tomorrow and underestimate the power of the next ten years, twenty years.

So I think, and it's also in the hype-cycle of Gartner, we see the generative AI, generating images and text and video, is on the top. Is on a maximum peak of the hype. Sometimes a little bit over, even. So I suspect that the next months and year, there will be some kind of slowing down. The technology will not slow down but maybe the use of it will slow down. Maybe there are some laws against it. Maybe there's some...

Like: you should expect that there is some kind of element that's going to slow things down. That are going to be less interesting.

Yes, if you look at laws alone: copyright infringements. Nobody knows how it will work, because the battles need to be fought.

Yes, there are a lot of battles. And I think there's also a big contrast between people who are using it, people who are understanding it and people who are not yet there. So many people just don't know how it works or where to go to. There's such a big difference. And so, those people need to have time to come to us. And to join the idea of using AI as a way... 

And the impact of it on every aspect of live is going to be big. So, I keep on monitoring it. I really believe that the impact of it is going to be massive. I truly think that, at this moment, we can't foresee yet what the impact is going to be, of AI. And sometimes it's a bit scary.

I'm really fascinated today by the AI companionship. If you're now already on Snapchat, you have an AI companionship from Snapchat. It doesn't work well. And then it's frustrating. But give it, maybe, five years or ten years.

There's a story of Esther Perel. Esther Perel is one of the most famous relationship therapists. And there was a guy called Alex. I can't remember his family name. And this guy went through a break up and contacted Esther Perel. But of course Esther Perel doesn't have time to do this. And that guy was a bit of a nerdy guy and a bit into AI. So he searched for all the data. All the stories. All the podcasts and all the videos of Esther Perel. And he put it in an AI system and called it AI Esther. And so AI Esther helped him to go through the break-up. And he talked with AI Esther everyday. And Esther Perel, later on, saw the script and saw what happened. And she was like: wow, this actually is pretty good.

The problem about people is: they're not so easy to understand, from a mathematical point-of-view. Like: they're not average. People do weird things. And we try to explain it but there's no way you can explain it. And you definitely can't explain us with averages. But if you look at our mental well-being, the mocking and people struggling…

Maybe we can talk about that later on as well.

Yes, this is incredible. This is wonderful. That, in the future maybe, a lot of people can first contact their AI therapist before going to...

But the scary thing about this is, I don't know whether you've seen them, but there's two Black Mirror-episodes about similar things. Where you loose somebody but bring them back. In an AI-version and something like that. A few years ago, they looked very futuristic. And unrealistic. But if you see what technology already brings and how close we are to that...

I totally agree that big things will come out of AI. But indeed: maybe we're now at the top of the hype and it will fall back a little bit. Giving room, maybe, for also other technological evolutions, we've seen in the past and will come back.

Yes, definitely. Well, what fascinates me in the event industry or the content makers...

There's a girl, Kaitlyn. She's a Snapchat influencer. Two-million followers. And probably she was tired to, all the time, respond to all the questions online. And so she created an AI-version of herself. AI-Kaitlyn, I don't know, something like that. And it costs you one dollar to have a conversation with the AI-version. And the AI-version can text you, can talk to you, can send pictures to you. Everything AI-generated. Based on all the videos of that woman. She earned a lot of money with it. After seven days the system went completely loco. Because after a few minutes the system started talking about sex. It was learning from...

Of course, people always try that.

It was learning from the audiences. Like: you know, humans, they want to talk about sex. So, yes, they’ve got a little bit of work there. But now, the system that she created to do this...

By the way, that system is created by a person who is actually...

He lost his dad. Same story. Lost his dad and wanted to keep on talking with his dad. That's why he started that system. And now people like Kaitlyn are using this. But now, that person, he's in jail. I don't know the right story but I think he's in jail. And the system went down. And now the AI-version of Kaitlyn isn't there anymore. So now, people are really…

Yes, they go into a break-up. Because their companion is gone. And not because that companion hates you. No, because of: the CEO of the software is in jail. It's incredible. It's fun to see how things will evolve.

And for me, imagine that one of my favourite authors, like Seth Godin. Like, imagine there is an AI-version. Or Timothy Ferriss. Like an AI-version of Timothy Ferris. And every time I have a problem in my company, I can talk with an AI-version of Timothy Ferris. And I can get his thoughts, to me. It would be impossible for me to sit down with Timothy Ferris. For two hours, for three hours. To think about my business. But with the AI-version.

Or think about a guy. He or she is fourteen years old. And he's dreaming of a football career. And then you can talk with the AI-version of Kompany. He can be in your ear, helping you. Pushing you further.

But also, maybe the AI-version of Sandra Bekkari. Who's helping you with a healthy lunch. And so on, and so on, and so on. So, maybe...

But also applications for events. If you organize a conference on a certain topic. And have, kind of, the conference expert on that topic. Where you can chat with. Or some star you feature on your festival. Where you can have conversations with. It opens a lot of possibilities.

Yes. And maybe it's more easy for...

Because in Belgium the worst thing...

I do a lot of lectures on events and the worst thing at the end of my lecture is: are there any questions? In Belgium it's horror. Like: damned. And then everybody is quiet. But maybe it's more easy to talk to an AI-companion. About how you feel with certain trends and certain future visions. And that AI-companion can, maybe, take all the stories of the audience, put them together, put it in certain questions and then we have questions. That are on the lips of everybody but...


Nobody dares to ask.

I would like to see those questions. No, I truly believe in the idea of an AI-companionship. And I think that, maybe, generative AI will slow down a bit.

On LinkedIn, all those texts by AI...

You just see it. You just see that it's AI-generated. So I think there's going to be some slowing down.

On the other hand, I think: we're in an election year.

Oh, that will be fun. I didn't think about that.

And generative AI and visuals, deep fake is going to be part of the elections. And what I see today: it's not going to be a gentle election.

So I think that there's also a lot of opportunities. Maybe from that direction there's going to be pushdown. Like: let's slow down.

Okay, in the backstage talk we had, you said: okay, AI is indeed, maybe, over the top but will bring big things in the future. But you also said there are other technologies that are coming back. Like, for example, Bitcoin, Blockchain. That kind of things.

Yes, we're looking forward, this year and next years, to the evolutions in Crypto.

Yes, it's interesting, every year, there seems to be something else that's on top of the minds. Everybody asking to write about, to talk about. Today it's generative AI. A few years back it was NFTs and Metaverses and Crypto and Blockchain. But, I think it's going to be in April, it's going to be the Bitcoin halving. Where the miners get only half of the money they receive for all their work. So, Bitcoin. So there's going to be, again, a pressure on the market. And what we see in the past...

And trendwatching is a lot about recognizing patterns. We see in the past, all the time, that that was the moment that there is a lot of evolutions on the market. Prices going up, going down. A lot of articles. So I expect that April-May, there's going to be more articles on Blockchain. And maybe in the year ahead, it's going to be more about all those new Crypto-stories. Of scams. But also of opportunities. Because I know that a few years back, there were a lot of events, thinking about: what can we do with NFTs? What can we do with...

And maybe they stopped, the past two years, the past three years. And I should look back into it. I should advise: please, reconsider it. It's not yet the moment to launch it. But it's the moment to, again, take a look at it. See what's possible. Because, there were no articles written about it. But again, it's like the same as AI, the technology kept on growing. And kept on being better and better and better. I know that one of the negativity  around Blockchain was the impact on energy. If you see like, for instance, Ethereum. I think that's one of the most popular systems people can build a Blockchain Crypto on. I think they reduced the use of energy with 99%. Like: snap. It's incredible. Imagine that our electric cars tomorrow say: well...

That would be great, yes.

99% less energy we're going to use. Like: it's incredible. So, there's a lot of great things going on. But the most important thing is, based on the patterns of the past, that you can expect, the second half of 2024, there's going to be more stories. More start-ups. More people who are interested. And maybe again, those stories about: okay, what can we do as an event? Can we give people certain Crypto? Can we let them invest in our idea? Can we exchange NFTs? And so on. All those...

Maybe even Metaverses. I think that's a bit too soon but maybe. First maybe think of the Blockchain again. Yes, I'm curious, let's say.

I've read you also did some research in the sports industry. Which might have a link to the event industry.

Yes, so Sport Vlaanderen asked me to do research on trends among Gen Z and Gen Alpha.

Who's Gen Alpha?

Gen Alpha are the youngest. They're under the age of twelve.


Yes, talking with Generation Alpha about the future of mobility, that's not an easy one. Consider a boy or a girl who's three years old, like: how do you see the future of mobility? How do you see the future of the event industry? What do you think? It's difficult. But we can talk about Generation Alpha, because my colleague is finishing his book on Generation Alpha. He calls it Generation Zalpha. Between Z and Alpha.

From the event industry, if you're focussing on people who are teenagers, people in their twenties, that's Generation Z. Generation Alpha are really the youngest. And of course, from sports initiatives, there are a lot of people who are five years old, six years old. And it's the first time they go to a club and start playing football or soccer. They try playing tennis. Whatever.

So it's a very important age for them. We have eleven trends. Something like that. It's very interesting and they can look it up. Sports Vlaanderen. You will see the entire report. It's in Dutch and in English.

But one of the trends I thought was very interesting for the event industry, is the idea of wild and ugly. How to be attractive for a younger audience. And it's a little bit based on the influence of TikTok for them. Short attention span. Snackable content. Video. But also AI-system that says who can see what. And yes, what is successful? Most of the time things are successful because it's very wild. And ugly. And a Goblin-mode is one of the words of 2022. Yes, being Goblin. Being weird. So the question is: how can a sport be wild, weird and ugly? Or in your case: how can an event space be wild and ugly? And maybe we can learn...

Because yes, you can think: okay, we do some snackable content. Yes, okay. Art...

And please don't ask me that. Because I would hate that. Why not give lectures of five minutes? You know? Something like that. Not me, by the way. But maybe we can think about: okay, how can we play along?

But if you look at sports, there were a few great examples. For instance Red Bull. Red Bull are thinking about basket and they're doing that three to three.

To make the match shorter.

To make the match...

So, they make the match shorter and with less players. So it's fun to watch. It's easy to watch. And it's fast.

If you look at Formula 1. Formula 1 races. They're also rethinking, experimenting with new elements. Short races. More spectacular. Again to get the attention. Because it appears that, for a lot of sports games, the attention is too long. For a younger generation.

But you did research based on Gen Alpha, Gen Z. That kind of age ranges. But doesn't it apply to all of us? Because also older generations get used to the fast content. And I must admit - maybe it's the age, that's also possible - but I must admit that my patience to watch a very long movie, to go to a very long event, to...

My concentration span is getting shorter somehow.


First, if you look at generations, it's...

If you talk about generation, generation is always the average of a certain age group. It's not about you, it's not about...

It's about the average. But what I found interesting...

Because I'm doing research on youth trends for twenty years. What I find interesting is that for someone who is sixteen years old, seventeen years old, something that is existing for two years, three years, for them it's normal. For them it is the only thing that they know. If something exists for two years or three years, for our age group, it's new. That's why we keep on talking about new media. What the fuck, new media? It's just, yes...

So, for us: yes, we are also adapting. But it's slower.


And there are differences. But then, maybe that's for another edition. So, I find it really...

One other example was the Tennis Federation. In England. Tennis is declining.

Yes, we are all playing Padel now.

We are all playing Padel. And watch out for pickleball. That's coming next.


I don't want to know.

Yes, pickleball.

Yes, the first in the research questions: what's the future of sports? And then you start talking with sports lovers. Like athletes and organizers, club owners and they all talked about pickleball. And it's interesting. Because when everybody says: that's going to be the future, I always get suspicious. What's going on here?

But: pickleball.

No, the tennis federation in England saw there's a decline in tennis, because indeed more and more people are playing Padel. So, it's not about the racket and the ball. It's just about tennis. And they now launched a campaign that says: your court, your rules. So, you can rent the courts. Rent a tennis court for, like, an hour. But then you can do what you want. Like: you want to play Padel? Or do you want to play tennis? Or you want to have a tennis racket? Or maybe something that you created on your own? Like very DIY. Do you want to do it one on one? Ot two on two? Or maybe ten against ten? Your court, your rules. And I really love this idea because I know that a lot of clubs, or federations, it needs to be in their format.

But imagine that you do this for, like, a one day event or an afternoon event. Just to attract a different audience. And maybe, amongst your new audience, there's someone who says: you know what? Tennis could be cool.

But I don't know whether you went to that extent in your research, but is it also clear why tennis was a problem? Is it because - well, depending on how goof you play - it's a long format? Or is it just because: oh, it's an old retro game. Or is it a combination?

I'm not sure. And my research didn't go there. It was not specific on the future of a certain sport.

It was broader.

Broad and general, yes. So, yes, I can only...

Yes, it's difficult to get an answer right. Because I'm not sure. Most of the time when...

For instance, I don't know if tennis is declining in Belgium. I honestly have no clue. But most of the time, when a sport is declining, it's not only because of. It has several reasons.

It's a combination.

It's a combination.

The reason why I was asking is because if you're an event organizer and you see some decline in attention for your event, it's worthwhile to start looking: okay, where does it come from and what can I do about it? And the trends you share are very insightful, already to help look forward and try new angles. Try new takes on your event. Like the tennis federation did with: play by your own rules. It's their interpretation of: okay, something needs to change.

Yes. And: we need to attract another type of audience. To not end dead at the end.



No, I think playfulness is a very important aspect. Don't take yourself too serious. I know that you're used to certain structures, but keep it fun. And see what you can do. And also: you don't have to be scared of the ugliness. The weirdness. And you need to get out of your own comfort. Because I know a lot of events, they need to be...

Everything needs to be clean, everything needs to be beautiful. Everything's perfectly prepared. But I don't know how many events I attend every year. But it's a lot. It's one or two a week. If I look back, the greatest experiences were experiences that were not organized. It was something that happened. It was something that went wrong. But yes, have fun. Yes.

Another thing you brought to my attention, we need to talk about today, is the way we work. Flexi-jobs are becoming a big thing. Yes, on one hand we have the struggle in the events-industry that we need some legal platform to be able to have flexi-workers.

On the other side, and that's something you know a lot about, is that people want to do flexi-jobs. The whole way how we work is changing. Can you elaborate a little bit on that?

Yes, in the past two, three years, I've been doing some research on flexi, together with NOWJOBS. And it's interesting to see that a lot of people in Belgium actually really want to have a second job. Feel the necessity to have some extra income. And if you ask people: why do you want a second job? Why do you want to do this? Because there's also Netflix. Why do you do this? Then we see, well maybe the more negative side-effect, that there's a lot of people that need a second job.

They just need the money to make ends meet, yes.

They just need to survive. And that group is growing. Because we saw that, in one year time, growing from 11 to 17%. So this is growing. And I'm looking forward to the next data of Wallonia. To see how this is evolving over there.

But then, most of the people who do a second job, they do this because they want something extra. They want to travel. Or they want to buy that new piece of technology. Most of them are actually just doing it for that little bit of extra.

And then there are other elements. Meeting people. That social aspect. Like: meeting other people.

It's like a hobby.

Yes, it's like a hobby. But then you earn something.

It's a better way then needing to pay for it.

So, variation is also interesting. Definitely with people above thirty. Imagine that you have a desk, office...

Like you have a job on your computer. And in the weekend or on Friday evening you just love to have some variation. You like to be surrounded by people. You like to be at an event. Working there. Walking around. Stocking, tapping. Whatever. That variation is a very, very powerful reason why people do this.


But you said: especially above thirty. Does that mean that there is a difference in the age groups?

Yes, that's interesting. Because I think that if you're thirty and above, you're working for a few years. And like: yes, I like the work but I can use some variation. So that's why they search for variation. And maybe it's a good thing. Because , maybe, when they find variation during the weekend, that they can come back on Monday, fully energized. Doing the same thing all-over that they're doing already for a few years.

But people in their twenties, we see that they're also searching for something to deeper focus on their actual jobs. So they are interested in doing a flexi-job, maybe with a competitor.

In the same industry.

In the same industry. And I think that's interesting. Because I think a lot of employers don't like that idea. But maybe we can do something with that. Maybe some companies can work together to think about recruitment, retention. And work with flexis. And to share them.

Because there's a lot of powerful elements in doing a second job. You get to meet more people. You train skills that you don't train when you're on your only job. So, there are...

And not only for the employee. Also for the employer.

Yes, also for the employer. People are maybe more happy. Maybe people stay with you longer. Because you have the flexibility to...

No ,there are several...

But you need to have a more open mind as an employer. For your people to also work for the competition. That's not an easy one. But maybe you can state that there is a possibility that there's an end in employment-monogamy. That we're going to not only choose for one employer. That we're going to go from one to the other. And maybe also work for different competitors. And you can see this as a negative element. But you can also try to use this and try to maybe work together and see how you can share...

Because every event industry, every event company, they work with peak moments. And so, you can't have all your people with you all the time. So you have those peak moments. And then flexi is perfect.

But also, and that's what I never really thought about, at an event you need a lot of people. But you also need, on key positions, some really more experienced people. Knowing that there is a group of people, thirty plus, with maybe very responsible jobs in their daytime, who are also willing and open, that there is a market for it, to come to your event and take some responsibility in a totally other context, it brings opportunities. Because now we typically look at the very young people. Interim workers and people like that. But I think there's a real value to get some experienced people as well.

But definitely. But even people above fifty-five. For them, the local aspect is important. And the family feeling. That they know other people that they're working with. There needs to be a very good vibe. But also people above fifty-five, sixty-five, they really like to work. Maybe for them it's less about the money, but variation, seeing people, searching a new life. So there's a lot of opportunity, not only for people in their twenties. But definitely older people. And the beautiful thing is that if you have a team surrounding you, of different generations, different age groups, it's way more interesting for the audience. Because they can relate to. They can listen to each other. They can help each other out. It's also...

If you're, I think we talked about that a few years ago, surrounded by different generations, as a company you're smarter. Your response, your reaction to a problem, is way better. Because you have the ability to think from the other perspective. That's why a lot of startups fail. Because they only have people in their young twenties surrounding them. So, make that variation. And thanks to flexi, it's interesting.

The last trend we were going to talk about. Now I'm really thinking because you mentioned some term. But I'm not in the target audience group, I think, because I can't remember it. Please help me.

Yes, it's delulu. It's funny, Delulu.

Yes, you need to explain that. Because you tried before but you lost me.

You need to remember: delulu is your selulu.

Okay, now I'm more lost.

No, it is just a hype on TikTok. But I think it's way deeper than that. Maybe today it's a hype but underneath there's some powerful ideas.

Let's start by explaining what it is about. Because I have the feeling more people in the audience might not recognize it.

Delulu is delusional thinking. And delusional thinking is kind of harsh. Is negative. But delulu is fun. And maybe before we try to give examples, let's take a step back.

During Covid our well-being dropped. But there's a research done by Lululemon, the fashion brand. At the end of last year. And we saw that, actually, global well-being is the same as in 2019-2020. So yes, there is: we're not stuck at our homes. But we're not feeling good. And definitely amongst Generation Z. Generation Z and men apparently as well.

The great thing about the report was that there is a solution. Apparently people who are more happy are people that do sports on a regular basis. Together with other people. They give more time to their loved ones. Friends, dearest friends. And they are opening up a wide scala of emotions. So they not only talk about the positive emotions, but also the searching ones.

So if you do those three things, you feel better.

You feel better. Wow.

We solved the world problems.

We solved...

All those wars.

Just go do Padel or...

Do Padel. Do some pickleball. And spend some time with your friends.

Now, what we see: during 2029-2020 people start manifesting. Start imagining a positive outcome and so that: by manifesting, we become that positive outcome. That's why all the time, on Instagram, people are sharing positive thoughts. You can do this.


It looks like everybody's very happy.

Everybody's wonderful and if there's something negative in your life, embrace the positivity. And other people have different problems. You know? Like: we are okay. And people are re-inventing their career. They are re-inventing their life. Like: everything is possible. And you're in control of your future. Whatever.

What we saw this past year is that, actually, this has a negative impact. So you don't talk about positivity, you actually talk about toxic positivity.

Yes, you must feel positive.

You must feel positive. You are able to create that million dollar business. You are able to lead this type of life. As long as you manifest that you understand. But then you just wake up and you're completely tired. And you don't know what to do. And, I don't know, you're stressed or you're...

Whatever. How you feel. And then you see all those positive thoughts. And, actually, those positive thoughts make a very negative impression on you. And suddenly, you're only watching Netflix.


And I think that, if you look at delulu...

Delulu is, maybe, a younger answer to this. Is, maybe, an evolution to manifesting. Where we keep on trying to stay positive. In this fucked-up world. With a lot of uncertainty. I need to deal with this a lot, as a future thinker. Because it used to be way more fun to talk about the future. There's a lot of negativity, but people try to stay positive. The only reason why people wake up. But it's not just by manifesting but by being delulu. By thinking on the positive way in a very delusional way.

So, an example. You have a crush on someone. And you're texting. But your crush is not responding. So, rationally, drama. You know the feelings are not mutual. That's your realistic self and probably that's also true. But from a delulu perspective you just keep your mind: well, maybe he's writing a love letter.

And it takes more time, yes.

It takes more time. So just be patient. But the way you pronounce it, the way you address this, the way you talk about this, online, is: you actually know that it's not true. But what if.

And you make a little bit fun of it.

And you make a little bit fun of it. And so, if you look at delulu, it is a vibe. It is funny. It's laughing with yourself. But keep on being positive. It is somehow a coping mechanism. Definitely. It's also a bit of trying to stay positive. But it's also, maybe, talking about mental problems. Or talking about difficult problems. In a fun way. Because by saying: well, maybe he's writing you a love letter, you actually show that you are weak. You show that you're waiting. You show that you ache. And if you only say: stay positive. Then you don't show your doubts. Your negative emotions. You just keep on being 'happy'. While the world is gun roar.


Yes and I think...

I'm not the person who is will do that. But there are creative people out there. Who can take that vibe and convert it into a clubbing concept. Or in a festival. There is something happening, which can be used, also, for events.

Yes, definitely. One of the easiest answers is: please be careful with all those events saying that you can do your own startup and that you can stay strong and you can stay positive and you can...

Watch out. Because it's not true. People sometimes feel very left behind. Or stuck. And understand that there are other types of emotions. And maybe be a bit more delulu. Maybe a bit more...

Try to have...

And maybe it's also connected to the wild and the weird and the ugliness that we talked about. But don't only say that people need to be positive. There is a broader scale of emotions. And maybe humour...

Maybe be a little bit of delusion can help. Talking about another type of emotions can help people connect with each other during events. On a deeper level. And maybe help people forward.

All right Tom, thank you again for sharing all those insights you gathered in the last few years to project on the future.

Thank you for coming over.

You're welcome. Let's stay a bit delulu.

Indeed we will.

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