Meeting professionals will have entirely different jobs in the future from those they had 20 years ago--and they will need to draw on a different set of skills. They will have to consider things like learning theories, meeting return on investment, and how to bring an event to new creative levels. They will have to decide which educational techniques they can use to communicate to attendees who are being bombarded with information. They'll also need to recognize that while people should spend less time at meetings, they should accomplish more.
Meeting planners will have to develop a new level of cultural sensitivity and an understanding of how business is done in different parts of the world long before they get to the details of planning an international meeting. The first time I did a meeting in Japan, for example, I took a course on the meaning of silence in Japanese culture.
It's important for people who plan meetings to familiarize themselves with the tools they need to cut down planning time and to make the whole process more efficient. Software and Web-based applications for online housing, online RFPs, budget planning, flight reservations, etc., will all become the norm. Planners will also need to better integrate technology into their meetings to obtain their objectives. When people can't attend conferences in person, organizers will have to bring the meeting to them through distance learning. 7 But there's still a lot of technophobia around. Even at technology companies like EMC, there are executives who still refuse to communicate electronically. And technology has moved faster than most meeting managers' ability to use it. They can't keep up because they're inundated with work. For example, I was sent a copy of PlanSoft six months ago, but haven't yet had time to invest in learning how it works.
The meeting manager of the future will be part marketing specialist, part communications expert, and part strategic problem solver.