As recently as a decade ago, corporate meetings were called “shows,” and that’s exactly what they were, with all the drama and special effects of Cirque du Soleil.
Themes resembled pep rally slogans and had some theatrics in them, with themes like “Mission Possible,” “Winning Combination” and “Operation Excellence.” There were bands and dancers, executive entrances from helicopters, money drops and laser shows. While events still happen at this level — with ever-increasing screen dimensions, holographic presenters, name entertainment and speakers of global proportions — they are generally reserved for larger, annual, national or international gatherings.
Today’s meeting intelligence tells us that while everyone still loves an impressive show, fewer seem willing to pay for it. Budgets are not being funded at those levels, and critical scrutiny of what a “show” costs has increased. In this environment, planner organizations must recognize that what corporate and independent planners need now more than ever is access to innovative, highly efficient, budget-friendly, time-saving ideas and resources.
Even many local organizations have gotten the message. SITE SE, for example, has launched its Open Minds Forum, set for August, where attendees can join industry experts like Bruce MacMillan, former MPI president & CEO; Mike Mason, ZEO of Zentila; and Midori Connolly of AV Girl Productions at an open forum to discuss how to adapt and succeedl in the ever-changing landscape of the event industry. They will present topics such as fixing the “RFP Tsunami,” “The Digital Culture of Events” and becoming a more efficient event professional.
Plan Your Meetings, meanwhile, provides unprecedented access to unusual new technology and applications with hands-on learning opportunities — from Prezi presentation software to QR codes and smartphone apps, among others.
CONTENT IS KING
These organizations are focusing not just on the sexy “gee-whiz” factor of tools, but on the net result that innovation can bring to a meeting, an organization and the bottom line. Sexy just won’t cut it in today’s meeting world. Now it has to be sexy with a purpose.
Just as our cultural perception of beauty has shifted over the years, so has our ideal meeting format. General sessions are shorter and breakout tracks are more numerous, with requests for networking with peers on the rise. National conferences, which have had a bit of resurgence, are supplemented by live webcasts, regional meetings and webinar training.
Today, content is absolutely king, and education is as important to a meeting for meeting planners as it is for their attendees. Like their clients, planners want to see what their peers are doing successfully. They are not looking for a sales pitch, nor do they have time to waste on information below their own expertise level. They are hungry for as much information as they can absorb as quickly as an organization can provide it — and like any other audience — if there’s real value in the information, they’re willing to pay for access to it.