by Cheryl Cran | August 1, 2017

cranIf you were around in 2008, you will remember the disruption and the toll those times took on the meetings industry. Back then, there was a lot of talk about the end of face-to face gatherings and the rise of virtual meetings. Only that didn’t happen. What did happen was a deeper focus on the specific purpose of a meeting and its ROI. It also was routinely expected that well-attended meetings would continue to have large turnouts, year after year. The new reality is that planners need to keep adding value in very specific ways in order to keep attendees coming back for more.

Looking to the future, there are a number of trends on the horizon as well as facts of life that will remain. The emphasis on ROI and added value will stand at the forefront. Attendees increasingly will be stretched for time and will need to know that they will receive massive value by attending an event that takes them away from the workplace. 

With the rise of mobility, attendees have their work with them at all times, so planners need to figure out how to create events that will allow attendees to stay engaged, while also recognizing that they are working while attending the meeting. One solution is to make work areas available with WiFi and charging stations, and conducive to meet-ups.

The future of meetings also will be impacted by changing technology. Virtual reality, for example, will be incorporated more into the meeting experience: If you were hosting, say, a meeting on travel, you could have a VR booth where the attendee could actually experience the location you were promoting. Other technologies such as “cobots” (collaborative robots) that behave as augmented cognition assistants will be incorporated into a presentation. Another example is that for a keynote session, attendees will wear augmented glasses or earpieces equipped to add to the speakers’ presentation. A cobot could flag ideas that can be implemented, organize them and provide links and additional information to follow up on either during or after the meeting.

In the future, planners will be able to enhance the live streaming of sessions, creating a convergence of participation between those on-site and those viewing the meeting remotely. By touch or voice, participants will be able to ask questions that are instantly received by the presenter (an advance on current methods of audience polling or text messaging).

Registration will be accomplished via a touch bar, fingerprint or iris recognition. The food-and-beverage department will be able to customize meals based on real-time data provided via wireless remotes connected to the central meeting data system.

If this all sounds a bit too much like Star Trek, keep in mind that one of the mainstays of the future of meetings is that there will always be people. In the meetings and event industry, the focus is on people first — the attendee experience — and creating events that are impactful, valuable and memorable. That’s a mainstay.

And we can all agree that even with the advent of event apps and other technology tools, there is room for people in the industry to improve communication, collaboration and service delivery. In fact, as technology increases and enhances, we as humans need to upgrade our human skills. 

In my keynote at Northstar’s upcoming Destination Southeast, I will be providing tips, tools and strategies for meeting/event planners and suppliers to upgrade his or her operating system to maximize the ability to be future-ready and to leverage the future of the meetings industry.

Cheryl Cran is a leadership expert, author of the bestselling The Art of Change Leadership — Driving Transformation In a Fast Paced World and a globally renowned consultant on the future of work and leadership. She will deliver a keynote address, sponsored by Goodman Speakers Bureauat Northstar’s Destination Southeast, Sept. 10-13 at Nobu Hotel Eden Roc Resort in Miami Beach. View a preview by Cheryl below.