As part of celebrating the 10th anniversary of IMEX Frankfurt, which just wrapped up May 24, IMEX Group commissioned an industry study called “The Power of 10,” the first results of which were released during the show.

Led by Fast Future Research—and building on that company’s ongoing Convention 2020 project—the new study involved interviewing leaders and observers from across the meetings industry about the major influences on the meetings industry in the next 10 years and how meeting professionals should think about the evolution of their jobs. The project also involved a global survey that drew 765 respondents.

Those respondents said that, in the next 10 years:

What will shape the meetings industry most is:
1. Economic uncertainty (71 percent)
2. Better, cheaper technological alternatives to live events (49 percent)
3. Faster, shorter business cycles (47 percent)
4. Political/economic influence of Asia (46 percent)

The meetings industry’s priority should be:
1. Increasing the level and quality of strategic thinking and long-term planning (55 percent)
2. Positioning the industry as an engine of economic development (53 percent)
3. Proving the long-term, broader impact of meetings, such as how they help grow local knowledge-based economies (52 percent)

“Several findings really grabbed my attention,” says Carina Bauer, CEO, IMEX Group. “For example, 55 percent of the respondents believe the biggest priority for the industry is to increase strategic thinking and long-term planning. This is higher than I would have expected, but pleasing, as it is important for the industry to be working in a strategic way.”

The 10 Challenges
Researchers analyzed the interviews and survey results and, considering the broad range of factors expected to drive changes in the industry, they imagined four future scenarios for the next decade. Each unfolds from how long-term strategy is balanced with short-term tasks, and how slow and steady change is balanced with rapid and transformational change. Considering all of that, the researchers identified 10 challenges for the meetings industry to tackle in the next 10 years in order to survive and continue to be “a critical engine of economic development.”

The 10 challenges are:
1. Evolving a distinctive industry persona—Business events must be distinct from travel and tourism.
2. Establishing universal economic impact models—Legacy won’t get you funding anymore; stakeholders need proof of economic benefits.
3. Proving relevance and value— Show that meetings are not the (economic) problem, but rather part of the solution.
4. Thinking and acting strategically—Get out of panic mode, anticipate coming challenges, and design appropriate responses.
5. Nurturing agility and flexibility—Venues need to be open-minded about their meeting spaces and public spaces.
6. Personalizing and deepening the learning experience—Don’t forget adult-learning principles, and engage with your audience year-round.
7. Experimenting with business models and revenue streams—Think of events as launch pads for continual revenue generation.
8. Adopting value-chain thinking—Foster collaboration among all stakeholders, suppliers, and planners.
9. Acquiring, retaining, and developing talent and embracing diversity—Meetings industry careers must be seen as stimulating and rewarding to attract the next generation.
10. Developing tomorrow’s leaders and managers—Leaders in the next decade will be successful through innovation and experimentation.

Six Reports on the Way
Six sub-reports will be released, beginning later this year, with the idea that the full findings will help the industry act on the results. These reports will be:

1. The Big Picture: Reflections on Past and Future Factors
2. What will the Future Event Experience Look Like?
3. Maximizing Learning and Value: The Role of Knowledge Management, Technology, and Social Media
4. Event Ownership: Fresh Perspectives and Event Economics
5. Beyond Tourism: Evolution of the Industry Value Chain
6. Shaping the Future: Grand Challenges and Winning Scenarios

For now, you can get a free download of the IMEX Power of 10 Executive Summary from the IMEX Web site.

Fast Future’s researchers conducted interviews with more than 100 leaders and observers from across the industry. The research explores both the internal mechanics of the meetings industry itself and the full range of business sectors it serves. The interviews, together with other research, a student essay competition, and results of a global survey, were analyzed to produce the final Power of 10 report. The project’s founding sponsors are IMEX’s strategic partner, the German Convention Bureau; the show’s venue, Messe Frankfurt; its ground handler, CPO Hanser; and the Frankfurt Tourist Office.