20 ways meetings and events might change in the next five years (Part 1)


By Rohit Talwar, founder and ceo of Fast Future

The next five years promise to bring fundamental changes across society – from the clients we serve, to the technology we use, and the needs and priorities of business – literally everything is “up for grabs”. At the same time, societal shifts, changing delegate and employee expectations, economic shifts, and financial uncertainty will all add to this mix – creating complexity, new opportunities, unexpected challenges, and a pressure to stay ahead of the game in spotting what’s next. Here I outline 20 developments that will become more prominent in 2018 and potentially become major industry trends over the next five years.

Conferences will have an increasingly interdisciplinary focus – In many sectors, participants will tire of hearing the same industry speakers and vendors saying roughly what they said last year! In the search for inspiration to maintain attendance levels, organisers will invite inspiring people from different fields, arts, science, music, business, education, or engineering to share their ideas with participants. The convergence, between people coming from different fields, will contribute to more creative solutions for the complex problems of the future of business.

The Brexit Boom – Businesses the world over are struggling to understand what form the UK’s exit from the European Union might actually take – or if it will happen at all. Should it happen, the process might take five or 10 years to complete fully. There is likely to be a high level of uncertainty and chaos. As the story continues to unfold there will be growing demand for events which help suppliers from and to the UK understand the latest picture and implications for their sector. For the meetings industry, the key here will be the ability to organise and promote relatively short, high quality, sector-specific events at speed.

#metoo Charters - The meetings industry will take positive action in the wake of the harassment and assault cases made public across many sectors in 2017. Codes of conduct will appear covering behaviour at events, participants will be asked to sign these to confirm their adherence. Reporting of incidents will be made easier and more discreet, and offenders' organisations will be notified immediately when such issues arise.

Political Uncertainty – For the travellers to the US, uncertainty will continue over whether travel bans, or enhanced border vetting, will be in place for visitors from a range of countries. This may lead some organisers to locate global events in locations with no such restrictions.

Smarter by Design – Artificial intelligence (AI) in the sector will expand quite rapidly. From designing agendas, setting prices, and targeting potential attendees through to customer service chatbots, determining best fit locations, matchmaking people at events, and providing back-up content and fact checking of presentations, AI tools will become a feature across the entire industry value chain. In a very human business such as the events sector, it seems likely that AI will be used to free up time for value adding tasks rather than reduce headcounts.

Business Model Experimentation – In a world where new charging models are proliferating, there will be a growing pressure on events to bring greater creativity to bear. From paying based on the perceive value and seat auctions through to pay per session and results based charging – the sector will be exploring a range of attendee payment ideas.

Silent Conferences - Participants will be able to tune in to every parallel session via their personal devices and listen through their headphones from wherever they are in a venue. So, if the current session doesn't appeal, you can simply switch to listen to or watch another parallel session another without leaving your seat.

Real-Time Conference Agendas - Participants will be able to use meeting apps to schedule impromptu sessions held in any available space - coffee bars, lobbies, exhibition floors, even car parks. The speaker will talk into a microphone attached to their own smartphone and have the talk broadcast to those who tune in to that particular channel. Attendees will be able to view presentation slides and hear the speaker via their own device and headphones. So, no matter how noisy the background, the audience will be able to understand you perfectly clearly.

Next Generation Meeting Scheduling - The intelligent assistants (IA) on our phone, or on the meeting app, will book appointments and meeting locations for us based on the types of people we say we want to meet. The IA will scan the attendee list, find the people who fit the criteria we've defined, and then contact their IA to request and set-up meetings.

Stress Centres - concerns over our mental wellbeing are rising across society and workplace stress is reaching epidemic levels in some sectors. Events will start to include facilities where participants can talk discretely to counsellors and therapists about their issues. 

To be continued next week. 

Rohit Talwar is a global futurist, award-winning keynote speaker, author, and the CEO of Fast Future. His prime focus is on helping clients understand and shape the emerging future by putting people at the center of the agenda. Rohit is the co-author of Designing Your Future, lead editor and a contributing author for The Future of Business, and editor of Technology vs. Humanity. He is a co-editor and contributor for the recently published Beyond Genuine Stupidity – Ensuring AI Serves Humanity and The Future Reinvented – Reimagining Life, Society, and Business, and two forthcoming books - Unleashing Human Potential – The Future of AI in Business, and 50:50 – Scenarios for the Next 50 Years.


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