As part of its Future of Meetings project, the Meeting Professionals International Foundation has released a second whitepaper, which addresses meeting design from the perspective of the individual attendee experience. To get the broadest viewpoint throughout the project, MPI conducted interviews with experts outside the industry, in fields such as science, population, technology, digital media, and business, as well as economists and general futurists. In the latest paper, this results in rather a hodge-podge of ideas, but here are six to consider:
1. Meeting content must be personalized.
This “will demand more knowledge from the outset about attendees,” says the report. Collaborative Gen-Y attendees will love the idea: Fully immersed in, they will readily connect apps to their Facebook profiles or engage with new networking tools. But what about your more independent-minded Gen-Xers? Or your traditionalists without Facebook profiles? As Dr. Sarah Harper of Oxford University notes, “The younger generations have learned at school completely differently; it’s all interactive. They’re encouraged to use the Internet. They learn in a particular way. Now, if I tried to learn how they are learning, I would have real problems, because I was brought up with a different skill set.”
2. Are hallway conversations “nonsense”?
We all hear that informal conversations are as important as formal sessions at meetings. But one expert in the study, Dr. Graeme Codrington, senior partner of TomorrowToday, takes issue with the notion.“The default setting is for meeting planners to say, ‘Yes, the corridor meetings are the most important,’ which is nonsense. The amount of money put into everything else...and then the real value is the corridors? If the corridors are the real value, then put effort into that. If the rest is necessary in order to have a corridor experience, at least build something into the corridor experience. We need to create the most mind-blowing corridor experience.”
The challenge, he believes, is that currently used networking tools are “primitive. We have very underdeveloped tools for the bits of the meeting that we think are the most important: networking, brainstorming, crowdsourcing, collaboration, and interactive sessions.”
3. I’m only paying for the value I get from a meeting.
The idea of paying for a conference based on what you get out of it—“a totally customized pricing model”— is another of the discussion points in the paper. Paying a flat fee to attend or exhibit will not be the norm. “The early bird rate will disappear,” the paper posits, “replaced by offerings specific to buyers, delegates, suppliers, sponsors, and their value drivers.” Pricing may be based on the number of individual education sessions attended or the number of sales appointments booked, for example.
4. The participants drive the content.
Peer-driven and open-space conferences are the future of meetings, experts say. The paper lists a number of new terms for events that blend interaction and sharing: “brainjams,” “hypercamps,” and “crosslabs.” This relates to venues, as well, which will have to begin providing places for attendees “to hear short, sharp snippets and then discuss.”
5. Planners need new skills.
Curating content, working with technology, analyzing data—these are all meeting planning skills needed today and in the future, according to the whitepaper. Says Martin Blinder, founder and CEO of Tictrac, “New skills will be a mix between technology and humanity. Technology should be used to facilitate interaction.”
6. Beware the snake oil.
Writer Baroness Susan Greenfield cautions against too much focus on new types of data entering the meeting sphere, especially when it comes to brain science. “People put neuro before everything, neuro-, to give it credibility it did not have before,” she says. Keep your critical-thinking cap on and maintain your focus on people.
The initial findings of this Future of Meetings project were released in October at the IMEX America event in Las Vegas. Researchers at the International Centre for Research in Events, Tourism and Hospitality at Leeds Metropolitan University in the U.K. wrote the report. The first whitepaper in the series covered meeting design with regard to technology.