It’s almost impossible to tie meeting trends to a 12-month period, even though many attempt it. Meetings are not innovating at the rate of the Internet, although sometimes we like to think so. Discussions about meeting trends (usually presented by a technology company) address things like networking technology and event apps, or footprint-conscious approaches to green meetings or going virtual. Each of these trends is absolutely valid and also highly tactical by nature. Real mega-trends are harder to identify and take some perspective.
Here are some of the mega-trends that have surfaced over the past two decades and continue to challenge us, despite terrorist attacks, swine flu epidemics and struggling economies.
THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES. It’s not a sexist comment to notice that most planners today are women, and most staging/technical suppliers are men. There are exceptions everywhere, of course, but the exceptions only prove the trend. This has not changed over time. What has changed is that the corporate and association stakeholders (or key buyers) are now more frequently women. This effects how sales get made and how relationships are established. While this has been something of a chicken and egg conversation, the net result is that meetings take on the communication style more prevalently used by women — the inclusive dialogue.
THE DEATH OF THE SHOW. The stories of excess and extravagance in the corporate meeting arena from as little at 10 or 15 years ago are legendary. Things like MCI (no longer in business, we might add) tearing out a wall in a ballroom in order to bring in a helicopter so they could make it look like it was landing onstage for a five-second executive grand entrance. This sort of antic will no longer fly (pardon the pun). Instead, a more practical, results-driven approach has prevailed, and the focus has shifted to education, networking and recognition, with many companies measuring the business impact of the event as well as the associated ROI. As Liza Doyle of Dynami, an Atlanta-based event management company, puts it, “Companies are thinking more strategically now, understanding the value of time and refocusing their approach to meetings to help drive attendance, increase ROI and simplify budgets … companies are consolidating their meetings in order to develop a better learning experience for the attendee, focusing their attention on creating more opportunities for connections, collaboration, quality education and innovation.”
THE RISE OF MARKETING. Twenty years ago many national conferences were handled through the human resources or operations department. Today, almost all conferences are run out of an events department or the marketing department. Even internal management or sales meetings of any scale are seen as a marketing initiative instead of an employee communications initiative. This creates an interesting distinction in the expected role of the attendee after the event. Is he/she inward-looking to their team functionality as it supports the company, or are they outward-looking, focusing instead on being a brand ambassador to the almighty customer?
Within each of these trends are many related trends. What are some of the trends you’ve watched creep like a glacier and invade the meeting landscape for better or for worse?