The big trends for businesses to consider in 2021

Nick Gold 11 December 2020

Before we look forward, I wanted to share a quick reflection on the year at Speakers Corner and the journey we have been on. In January, we looked forward to an exciting year working closely with clients to deliver amazing speakers with content which could help them grow and think differently. And then the true nature of the year ahead came to the front and as the UK moved into the first lockdown, we saw our industry mire itself in events that had to be paused, cancelled and rearranged.

The buzzword of that first lockdown was pivot as initial impressions were held that clients where clients were holding virtual events because the physical events were not a viable option. But we have learnt virtual events and meetings offer something different to the physical environment. Both in-person and virtual events have strengths and weaknesses, benefits and restrictions and they can deliver different returns to clients dependent on what they are looking for from their events. This is an exciting opportunity for the speaking industry.

As such, and as we highlight some trends for the business world in 2021, with respect to Speakers Corner and the conference and events industry, we look forward to engaging with clients about how best they can use either or both of the virtual and the physical environments with their respective attributes to deliver the results for themselves dependent on what they are looking to achieve.

Reflections on 2020 leading in 2021

As we come to the end of the year, we should pause to reflect how every facet of our lives, both personally and professionally, has been challenged this year. It has to be said the pandemic left a devasting trail in its wake, and while the vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel, what will welcome us on the other side is anyone’s guess.

That said, the past 9 months have shown us that as human beings, we need to embrace our passions and take advantage of every moment in our lives. We have been asked questions about who we are, how we live, what we need, our purpose and our values.

As we move into the New Year and we start turning attention to life, both living with and beyond the pandemic, one of the few consensus certainties is that 2021 brings a deepening recession as business adapt and re-imagine themselves in the new environment around us. There are many words and case studies written about recessions and the trends that emerge from them, with one of the most referenced is how during times of recession brings opportunities for businesses and how some of the most successful companies were formed or emerged during downturns of the economy.

For businesses to bunker down and wait for the storm to pass would be to miss out on the real opportunity…to develop the talent within their teams. 2020 has shown we have a workforce who are creative, adaptable, can self-motivate and are highly skilled. The trends we’ll see during 2021 will be geared around helping them to become extraordinary individuals.

Mental Health

The pandemic delivered a huge blow not just physically, but emotionally too. Our highest attending virtual showcases we ran were both on the topic of mental health. When society undergoes a series of lockdowns and enforced social distancing, everyone of us is affected. Some businesses realised early on they needed to support their teams while they worked remotely, others are catching up to implement programmes.

We have an uncertain future ahead. There’s a global recession to contend with, and the future relationship between the UK / EU will enter a new dawn. There will be a new US President inaugurated in January. There will be changes in how we live and work. But the conversation around mental health won’t stop, it’ll grow louder.

As we continue to work remotely, businesses will need to put in place steps to manage their employees health. The warning signs that might be obvious in the workplace. We’ll see more businesses understand the ROI from investing into their employees health and wellbeing leads to higher performance, loyalty and productivity. And we’ll see the opportunity to use landmark dates, such as It’s Time To Talk, Stress Awareness Month, and World Mental Health Day, as opportunities in the calendar to share stories, demonstrate vulnerability, and to encourage the raising of hands to ask for help.

Diversity & Inclusion

I wrote earlier in the year “The unspoken truth is that Black Lives Matter’ is challenging businesses to face uncomfortable truths”. The conversation, and the polarisation that accompanies such a debate, continues to grow louder. Businesses will be pressured, both from customers and employees, to demonstrate progress through actions rather than words.

Regardless what happens in 2021, this period is unprecedented. We do not have historical comparisons to fall back on. No-one has all the answers. So herein lies the opportunity for business leaders…bring the entire workforce together; to strategise, to debate, to be heard, and to feel included.

Diversity and inclusion is being placed forefront and centre of our thinking and actions because the willingness to embrace the unknown, uncomforting and uncertainty means we are looking for guidance to ask the right questions as opposed to finding the right answers. This is a period when we are looking for thought leaders and experts around diversity and inclusivity to raise questions and highlight issues encouraging action rather than just awareness. It is understood that for true understanding, vulnerability must be shown and embedded privilege and perception be challenged.

We can use this opportunity to move away from the polarisation and divisiveness that has cascaded through society towards an understanding that differing opinions and thoughts encourage learning and acceptance of alternative ideas.

The Workplace Culture

Both as employees and consumers, we are seeking to align ourselves with products, brands and a way of life that will allow us to fulfil those priorities that we have re-discovered over the last year. In fact, during these days when we are all looking for support mechanisms to help and guide us through, we are looking to find the right network who can give us the strength to push forward with confidence to thrive during the uncertain times ahead.

This should be an exciting time for business leaders and employees. If there is a genuine purpose in the company, with visions and goals that align themselves with business practices, then the future should be a massive opportunity. Employees who share similar values will feel a deeper purpose and connection with their work, and in turn be more committed to the success of the business.

For those companies that maybe looked on their vision as words rather than as culture, this is also still an opportunity. This might have got lost on the way as the company navigated its way through the business landscape and the challenges it brings but somewhere at its root, the vision was there to be delivered to.

As we begin to return to the workplace naturally some will be delighted, and some will prefer to work remotely. The hybrid model therefore presents a critical opportunity for business leaders to shape the workplace culture by demonstrating to the team the value of the office space which they left behind in a hurry many months ago as they cleared their desks. It reminds them that meeting face to face and having time to chat ‘around the water cooler’ is a critical element to the culture and thought processes of the business. It is a time to remind everyone what the flexibility of this new hybrid way of working can bring the power of solitary focus with collective thought and ideas.

Individuals want to belong; they want to be able to live and breathe what they believe in. As we move forward into 2021, businesses have a chance to take this newfound sense of purpose, both from an employee and customer perspective, and drive it forward for a force for good.

We live in a constant flux, but we become so caught up in our lives that we forget to see the changes that take place around us. The pandemic afforded us the time to step back, look around and contemplate the new world that lies before us in our own time. The trends that we forecast for 2021 aren’t new per-se, but an affirmation of the changes which were already happening around us.

For further information or to book one of our speakers, call us on +44 (0)20 7607 7070  or email .

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