Martiz Travel and Meeting Professionals International have partnered on a three-year study whose ambitious goal is to define and describe the future of meetings—worldwide, no less—in four major areas: technology, use of, meeting design, and meeting venue requirements. The goal of the two partners is to help meeting professionals develop expertise in the most relevant areas—through educational offerings and, potentially, new certification programs.
Step one was to send a survey to planners and suppliers in the corporate and association meeting markets. Rather than the usual multiple-choice questions, this survey was entirely “fill in the blank,” says Lynn Randall, strategic event consultant for Maritz Travel. “We aimed for 1,000 respondents and we got 1,612,” she says. “I think that speaks to how much people in the industry are focused on the evolution of meetings.” Of the total respondents, 46 percent were planners, 43 percent represented meeting venues, and 11 percent were “other stakeholders.”
The long-term plan is to create a series of white papers, webinars, and other educational modules based on the study’s findings. For example, Randall explains, “OK, the research says to get rid of one-way communication on site, but how? My role will be to take the results and build solutions. MPI chose Maritz as its partner in this project because we have a close alignment of researchers and consultants.” The consultants are guided by the research to create real-world meeting tools and programming ideas.
A unique aspect of the study is its varied methods of gathering input. In addition to the initial survey, small focus groups are being held at industry events such as MPI’s European Meetings & Events Conference, held in Dusseldorf in February, along with video interviews with big-picture thinkers such as Maarten Vanneste, CMM, pioneer of the Meeting Architecture Project, and Sebastien Tondeur, CEO at MCI Group in Geneva and chairman-elect of MPI.
The data is even being evaluated in a new way—with “contextual analysis” technology, which looks at how frequently certain words or phrases are used in close proximity to each other, and then creates a pie chart of major themes.
“We have found that people are desperately seeking industry leadership and guidance,” Randall says. “They want training on social media, on, on the business value of what they do. Many don’t have that background. They may have logistics down, but as this higher-level stuff becomes the core of what we do, we need to identify new skills and identify how to get those skills.”
Some initial findings of the project:
- Planners want help with hybrids. Using technology was the greatest theme running throughout the study, Randall notes. How can technology best enhance a face-to-face program?
- Some trends will continue: shorter-term bookings, changing , shorter meetings, fewer attendees
- And new trends will gain steam: the drive toward personalization of meeting experiences, the use of nontraditional meeting venues such as homes, museums—even the woods
- Planners—and attendees—think of free Wi-Fi like running water. They expect it to be free and they want it everywhere, not just in the lobby. The need for high-bandwidth service will increase.
Also sponsoring the study are: PSAV, Omni Hotels, Jumeirah Hotels, and the MPI Foundation.