I'm often asked what's new in the meetings industry. The answer, in my opinion, is another well-known question: 'What's in it for me?' Whether the 'me' in question is the corporation or the individual attendee, the demands and expectations of today's meetings are greater than ever.
The latest meeting trends? They're all about 'me'
We are definitely seeing a more raised awareness of the potential inherent in all meetings. If we take Maslow's concept of a hierarchy of needs and apply it to meetings, it seems that the meetings industry has matured: the basics are easy to meet, and people are now moving into the self-actualisation phase.
In other words, they are starting to think more deeply about what they want to achieve from the experience — as a company and as individuals — and how they can measure their success.
Trend 1: Greater expectations
Some organisers are limiting attendees to those who are likely to actively participate in and progress the meeting. Delegates themselves are being asked earlier in the process about their own hopes and expectations (such as networking, education or sales) of the upcoming meeting or event. The organisers are then delivering targeted content and opportunities for everyone to maximise the success of the meeting outcomes.
Trend 2: Food glorious food
Nutrition is another subject that is being given greater attention than before: what will be served at the meeting? A carb-rich buffet may lead to a post lunch slump. How can they keep those brains fuelled and engaged until the meeting closes?
- Carbohydrates with a high glycaemic index (GI) have been shown to induce sleepiness
- Milk and milk products contain essential amino acids that promote sleepiness
- Simple sugars induce a quick high, but can be followed by a crash, leaving the eater sleepy and lacking in concentration
- Alcohol has a sedative effect that will quickly reduce performance
- Fresh or dried fruit and nuts give a longer-lasting burst of energy than sweet treats
- Staying hydrated is important as it keeps the brain awake, so make sure everyone at the meeting or
- Event has easy and unobtrusive access to water at all times
Trend 3: Longer lasting impact
The rise of mobile event apps has given organisers the ability to engage with their audiences directly, wherever they happen to be and long ahead of the event. So today's attendees are no longer the people who pitch up on the day. They are active participants whose opinions and preferences are being used to tailor the event experience for them in the perfect circle of engagement.
Apps offer the level of involvement enjoyed by groups of teenagers playing Minecraft, with interactive involvement during the event, peer to peer messaging before and after each segment, real-time messaging and directions and post-event surveys and feedback opportunities.
The organisers, in return, can use the tremendous amount of data generated to evaluate the participants' interests and actions, measure the success of the current event and, more importantly, identify possible improvements for future events.
Consolidation may be key
Alon Alroy, co-founder of event platform Bizzabo, believes the plethora of apps on the market will lead to confusion, and more integrated platforms are needed to give the same 'big event' impact with fewer resources.
Meeting demands are all about 'me' ©iStock/mediaphotos
Trend 4: Last minute dot com
Another advantage of having the latest information at your fingertips (via event apps) is that you can keep so much more information digital — and therefore fluid.
Many of our clients are choosing to delay printing event material (including delegate lists, exhibitors, agendas and programmes) until the last minute rather than waste the time and money so often involved in frequent reprints.
Mobile event apps are as open to hacking as any other software application. Some are compliant with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) data security standard and protect data against external threats. Always check the security standards of any mobile app that you are considering using.
Trend 5: Shorter is sweeter
It's not just meetings that are changing. The whole world is now presented to us all in sound bites through 60-second news updates, social media feeds and more. The general population's attention span is reducing as a result, and meeting organisers need to adapt their presentation styles if they want to maximise the potential for message retention.
Shorter talking presentations, audience participation tools and a heightened use of video and imagery will all make it easier to retain and engage attention.
Looking for inspiration?
Then consider the PechaKucha 20x20 format.
A single presentation uses 20 images, which are displayed for just 20 seconds each. The presenter's talk keeps time with the changing pictures.
See www.pechakucha.org for details.
Trend 6: Out-of-the-box venues
The clamour for venues is enabling hotels and established venues to put their prices up during peaks in demand. Some organisers are bucking the trend by seeking out alternative venues that are more cost effective than the main contenders.
Many are really thinking out of the box and looking for basic facilities that can be dressed up to meet the needs of the day, such old warehouses, or quirky venues and unusual spaces that will ignite their teams' creative spark.
And if they can't find what they want elsewhere, some will simply arrange to have their next venue space brought to them, by setting up a marquee or hiring in a 'drag and drop' mobile pavilion, for example.
Trend 7: Defying tradition
Some meeting organisers are doing away with traditional meeting room layout styles (cabaret style, theatre style) and designing their own dynamic speaker/participant environments. This can range from having the presenters in the centre of the room to 'hybrid' meetings that have participants gathered in one room and connected via technological links to a speaker in another.