I just returned from Cancun and the Incentive Research Foundation Annual Invitational, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. The event perfectly mirrored how much meetings—and our lives—have changed in that time.
The latest and coolest technology was everywhere, starting with a meeting app developed by QuickMobile. Twitter was prominent, with a competition and incentives (of course, considering this group!) for the highest number of tweets. For the first time, the event was captured for a virtual audience and will be released in segments on the IRF web site over the year. A morning session by Tahira Endean, CMP, a gamification innovator for EventCamp and other cutting-edge industry conferences, was followed in the afternoon by three TED-style presentations about integrating tech tools into your meetings and the multiple-PhD’ed Michael Wu, chief scientist at Lithium Technologies, who illustrated how connected we have all become via social media. The polling devices they supplied could also be used for texting and placing silent auction bids.
Of course, the IRF was showcasing a variety of options; not everyone is going to integrate this potpourri of tech into their meetings, nor are attendees always going to use it. There were plenty of people at IRF who weren’t tweeting, for example—but this was a more mature group. The reality is that attendees are coming to expect at least a few elements of what IRF offered.
I used everything they had to offer on the tech scale, but something occurred to me as I heard Dr. Wu’s presentation: Just 20 years ago, the date of the first IRF, mobile phones were the size of bricks, and we were just starting to hear about the World Wide Web. Twenty years really is but a blink in time.
And as he pointed out, this is all new ground. The more connections we try to squeeze into our lives, the more they become what he calls “weak ties,” which are less meaningful than “strong ties,” or real relationships. We can answer only so many e-mails and absorb only so much data streaming at us from so many sources. Our friendships—even our families—can suffer from all this connectedness.
It was ironic that in the midst of all this, an anonymous text came in via our automatic polling devices:
“Has it ever occurred to the audience that a real incentive trip would be one where everyone had to leave their cell phones at home?”
The audience chuckled, but I’m not sure it was all that funny…