by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | December 01, 2015

American economist Paul Romer once said that the difficulty of predicting the future is that "possibilities do not add up, they multiply." There is no question that technological innovation is moving at warp speed and driving global changes across every economic sector, from agriculture to infrastructure. In the past five years, its impact on the meetings industry has been enormous. Electronic RFPs, increasingly sophisticated meetings software, a dizzying array of apps and social media platforms are now par for the event-planning course.

There are, however, mega trends on the horizon that will have further dramatic impact on meetings. Technology will continue to dominate, but rapid globalization will see emerging markets become major meeting destinations, and hotels and convention centers will push the boundaries of innovative design and sustainability. At the same time, providing meaningful content that appeals to multiple generations, across different learning styles and expectations, will become even more critical. In short, as attendees' expectations grow, engineering an exciting, diverse and creative event is going to get a whole lot more challenging.

What follows is a look at four trends, culled from the predictions of experts, forecasters and futurists, that will shape the future of meetings and events in the next five to 10 years.

Convention centers reimagined 
In January of this year, a team of architects from Kansas City, Mo.-based Populous, a worldwide architecture and design firm, traveled to Chicago to host a workshop on the future of convention center design at the Professional Convention Management Association's Convening Leaders Conference. They sat down with planners from across the globe to get input on the challenges they were facing and what they would like convention centers of the future to have in order to meet their evolving needs.

One infrastructure initiative floated for urban areas promoted the idea of vertical convention center towers. Each tower would comprise four stacked units, each with its own exhibit space, ballroom and meeting areas. They could be combined or sold individually for different events. That design, says Michael Lockwood, architect and senior principal at Populous, who was part of the team, "would give each event its own sense of place, instead of feeling like one event in a much larger facility."

Other ideas centered on learning styles and wellness, including the introduction of more natural light to meeting spaces, creating more social hubs, putting speakers in prefunction areas rather than on a stage, and food and beverage stations that transition from lunch café to evening cocktail lounge. Also on the short list were "teleportation pods" equipped with comfortable seating to allow users private face time with colleagues or family; and opportunities for physical fitness, like bike-share programs and rock-climbing walls.

"As architects, we will ultimately design these facilities," says Lockwood. "But as collaborative designers, we look to our nonarchitect partners to creatively shape the future with us."


The year 2020 will see a dramatically
transformed Los Angeles Convention Center.

Populous is the architectural design team behind the $350 million renovation of the Los Angeles Convention Center. When completed in 2020, it will extend the center right into the city's LA Live District and feature four times more natural light and lots of open spaces, including an outdoor ballroom and landscaped public areas. In tandem, the city is retrofitting 4,500 miles of streetlights with new technology that responds to what's going on in the vicinity. For instance, lights might blink if an ambulance is on its way, or brighten for pedestrians after a ball game.

Similarly, while the design of the $500 million expansion of the Miami Beach Convention Center includes cutting-edge features like a huge vortex-shaped media screen in the lobby, it also embraces the city as an outdoor destination. Plans call for outdoor meeting space, tropical gardens and lawns for group games, as well as several pavilions and shaded gardens. The expansion should wrap in January 2018.