Meetings in 2012 and Beyond: Predictions, Predictions, and More Predictions

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Meeting industry veteran Joan Eisenstodt has now weighed in with her predictions for this brand-new year, and mainly, what she sees is likely to be more of the same. Specifically, since the spaces we're meeting in are pretty much the same as they've always been (think big ballrooms with stages up front, traditionally set breakout rooms, etc.), and formats still tend to follow the keynote/plenary/breakout/evening reception, and people are still reeling from a tough economy and feeling uncertain about what the immediate future will bring financially, we'll stick with the tried and true, despite what we know actually will increase learning and retention.

I'd love to argue with this contention, but I really can't.

Joan is among the voices I've been hearing for years now speaking out about how we need to change our adult education learning environments and information-sharing habits when it comes to meetings. While we may be getting the message that we could be doing things a bit more in line with what we know about how adults learn and what causes us to change our behavior, frankly, with a few exceptions, not all that much has changed. Yet. But I do remain hopeful that we will ring in some much-needed change in formats and environment, even if those changes continue to be achingly slow.

But at least, she says, we'll continue our love affair with new technologies, and I'll add that some of these technologies will force us to at least rethink some aspects of meetings because they are changing how people interact when face to face (think the social media/smartphone mashup, an increasingly gamified online world, and all kinds of interaction-enhancing tools that are becoming available).

In fact, according to the Meeting Professionals International Foundation's Future of Meetings project, which gathered opinions from experts outside of the meetings industry to get a different perspective on familiar meetings-related topics, your future (and many current) participants will demand that your meeting keep up on the tech front, whether that be providing a good, useful app, new ways to engage, or possibly even 3-D printing. Like it or not, the rate of change in technology is continuing to speed up, and if you're managing to put it off for now, that grace period is rapidly coming to an end—don't get caught off guard.

And, while you may not be willing and/or able to go all out with the latest and greatest tools, for goodness sake at least make free Wi-Fi available in your meeting space! I do not understand why this is such a sticking point for both supplier and planner sides, but I'll add to my considerable wish list for this industry that 2013 is the year everyone figures out how to provide what is fast becoming an essential element, up there with lights and electricity, at an affordable rate.

And with that, I'll wish you all a prosperous, engaging, fabulous 2013!

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