What’s in store for meetings this year? I thought about renting a crystal ball but decided it’d be easier just to go from my gut. After all, I spend the year attending, planning and writing about meetings. Because PYM’s focus is always on how meeting and event planners can put innovative ideas into practice, I’m not going to waste space on things that are cool but impractical for most of you. So here are my predictions of five things you will find yourself doing this year (whether you like it or not).
- Be a bandwidth queen. You’ll have bigger concerns than getting free WiFi. You’ll need to ensure that meeting venues have enough bandwidth and Internet speed to accommodate all your mobile- and laptop-dependent attendees. The last thing you want is to encourage everyone to get connected only to find that their browsing and loading speed is slower than a Sunday driver with a bad case of the rubberneck.
- Go mobile. Conference apps dominate the buzz, but are they worth the financial investment? More than 85 percent of mobile phones can access the Internet. But less than 10 percent of people who download an app actually use it (and those people are probably playing Angry Birds). Mobile-friendly conference websites can be developed at a fraction of the cost of a traditional app. They can be saved to a phone’s desktop so it looks like an app. They load faster than an app. And to be honest, most of your attendees won’t know the difference. All they care about is whether they can access stuff on their phone.
- Choose luxury — with a conscious. Let’s be honest, people are stressed out. They’re doing more with less. They’re squeezed for time, and traveling is increasingly inconvenient. Your attendees need to be pampered. They need to be taken care of because, despite all the chatter to the contrary, the economy isn’t going to improve significantly this year. That means your events need to be an oasis, a little comfort zone that helps them relax and be receptive to the new tools you’re about to give them. The best way you can do that is to seek out venues and create experiences that pamper them a little. More and more resorts and upscale service providers are offering superior values. And, taking a cue from Josie Maran’s cosmetic line, they’re touting that they offer “luxury with a conscious.” Whether that means green initiatives, organic food, locally sourced goods or CSR, sharing the story of how your group’s business is helping do good will make everyone feel better about enjoying this rare, but necessary, indulgence.
- Scrimp and save. If you grew up with someone who experienced the Great Depression (or inherited the habits of someone who did), you probably lived in a household where every scrap of tin foil and twine was lovingly saved for a rainy day. Guess what? You’re going to start doing the same thing, event-wise, if you haven’t already. Hang on to those badge holders and save those double-sided documents as digital files because your meeting budgets are going to get even smaller this year. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you already kind of knew that, didn’t you?
- Create tech-free zones. Sure, you’re going to have a social media campaign to raise awareness and create buzz. You’ve invited bloggers at a special rate to augment your media coverage. And you may even have a conference-specific social network set up to help people communicate with each other and schedule appointments to drive sponsorship ROI and business connections. But, you’re also going to see major connection fatigue among your attendees. It’s exhausting being constantly connected. Don’t forget that the true magic of face-to-face events are the conversations that happen in the hallways, by the coffee table or over drinks with a total stranger who’s also processing new information. So build in some time where they can be off the grid and detox from technology. If you truly want people to connect, you’ll provide some lo-fi spaces where they can relax, hangout and — gasp! — actually talk.