What is in this article?:
- Why Four Event Industry Association CEOs See a Vital Future
- What trends have had an impact on your association's meetings and how have you adapted?
- What must the industry do to better promote the value of meetings?
- How has competition affected the way you do business?
- How has globalization affected your business and growth?
- How has membership evolved?
- Given all the changes, is the meetings industry at a turning point?
The leaders of ASAE, International Association of Exhibitions and Events, Meeting Professionals International, and Professional Convention Management Association are bullish on meetings.
What trends have had an impact on your association's meetings and how have you adapted?
People are spending fewer days at meetings. They don’t want to be out of their offices for long periods of time so you have to market the benefits to them specifically. We have developed a blended communication strategyto push out information in a variety of ways—, e-mail, direct mail, or whatever.
For Convening Leaders, our annual meeting, we’re highlighting things that would be of interest to each of the different segments—independents, corporate planners, exhibition managers, suppliers, association executives, etc. We’re not leaving it up to our members to ferret through everything to find what they need.
We no longer have just lectures or panels for an hour and decide that five minutes of Q&A is interactive. In our Learning Lounge we have 10- to 15-minute presentations. In our sessions, programmingis anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the topic, with more interactivitybuilt in. We’re also creating conversation areas where people come together spontaneouslyand discuss certain topics. Our members have encouraged us to take risks, be innovative. Even if the risks don’t pay off, this allows members to observe new ideas and craft them to fit their environments.
We also have a more sophisticated digital hybrid event, providing education to a broader audience. We have found that the hybrid event drives attendees back to the meeting because it exposes them to what they are missing.
One of the unexpected issues is the depression of government-related meetings. That’s pretty serious for a lot of reasons—not just the revenue curtailment to our membership, but also the isolation it creates for government employees. How do you know what’s going on if you are imprisoned in an eight-by-eight cubicle?
Another issue is the crawling U.S. economy. For seven consecutive quarters the exhibition industry has outperformed the nation’s growth. If the economy were fully engaged and cranking out at 3 percent to 4 percent, this industry, based on all the pent-up demand, could probably exceed that by a factor of two.
Another ongoing trend is the demand for quality content. That content may be housed on a Web site, social media, or it may wind up in our online or face-to-face learningofferings. In response, we have doubled the number of program offerings, and we’re expanding the sectors and topics in which we invest. For example, we launched our new Marketing Academy, which is the latest of several of these kinds of learning programs. And to accommodate people’s frenetic schedules we have substantially increased the number of online programs.
A lot of the learning will be mined from the live content of events. That’s why a lot of us think that this bxb Online [BobTV] proposition is the wave of the future. I think it’s one of the few advanced-thinking ideas in my time. It is a concept that could change the face of the industry.
Demographic shifts are impacting associations as a whole as well as. The real challenge we face is addressing the needs of three and sometimes four generations that can be in the workplace at the same time.
We have incorporated new learning formats into our major meetings that will appeal to variouslearning stylesas well as age demographics. They range from deep-dive sessions that are designed to dig down into a specific topic over a three-hour time frame to Ignite sessions, which incorporate bite-sized learning delivered in five-minute presentations by fellow attendees on a wide range of topics. There are many other formats that we have tried and continue to encourage speakers to use. We have actually incorporated our various “Learn Differently” formats into the call for presentations so we can ensure that programming will be delivered in these formats. The response has been great because it allows attendees to select a learning
format that caters to their learning style.
One of the most critical things that associations have to do continually is make sure their meetings are delivering content and networking opportunitiesthat are relevant to their audience. Most organizations are quick to add products and services but have a hard time “sunsetting” those of less value. However, this is critical in order to make space for new and different [offerings].
We’re all being impacted by the speed of change that technology drives. Additionally, we typically have five generations in the work force, and quite often, in a meeting audience. Different generations learn differently, access information differently, and want different experiences. Combine that with the fact that people are becoming more demanding in their expectations regarding a return on their time. Audiences don’t have the ability or desire to attend everything, so they are being very selective. To be successful as meeting sponsors, we need to deliver the greatest value to our members and in a way they want to consume it.
We are adapting by getting back to the basics. By that I mean, we are becoming better listeners; understanding our target audience—their challenges, opportunities, and business needs—and then delivering meaningful content.
We have a very large membership, but they don’t want to feel like they are just a number. They need to feel like we know who they are and what they’re interested in. They want the ability to plan their own itinerary at a meeting. They want to be able to create their own networks. They want a personalized experience. It all comes back to personalization. How do we help attendees experience something that they feel is unique to them—that’s one of the driving priorities for us.
Our members want us to take risks. They want us to help them experience the most forward-thinking ideas and meeting-design formats. We are going to bring ideas that are very fresh and different so they can experience it and decide whether it’s something they’re interested in pursuing or not.