Postcard from the Future – Events 2020

I was recently commissioned by BT Publishing, producers of Micenet Australia,Australia’s leading bi-monthly publication for the business events community, to ponder how events might be in the year 2020, here is a
reprint of the article:

Postcard from the Future – Events 2020

I’m sitting here in August 2020, preparing for another conference keynote and reminiscing on how the business events, meetings, exhibition and incentives industry has changed over the last 10 years and how much of it is still the same.

The biggest difference for me over the past decade is that the industry offerings have become far more intimate and hyper personalized and the line between event organizer, client, venue, supplier, presenter and attendee has blurred.

The hype in 2010 of technology, virtual meetings, 3D meetings, social networking and constant online communications being the death of the industry has, as I had thought, not harmed the industry but strengthened it. It has become far more robust with those that innovated their offerings to take full advantage of the changes not only surviving, but thriving.

Technology has continued to enmesh itself in our lives and it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the real and virtual worlds, but strangely it has also become less intrusive and far better at discerning and presenting real time in situ knowledge when and where it is needed.

Turning up to events, meetings and venues now, as opposed to 2010, is a self-check in behind the scenes technology driven process.

Our me-centric superphone has already received, reviewed, stored and replied to all our bookings and event briefings. It has booked us into our room, sent our session attendance notifications, dietary and other needs to the organizers and is on standby ready to give us step by step in situ instructions of where we need to go, when we need to be there, how to get there, who’s around us and any last minute briefings we need before getting started.

Behind the scenes organizers now routinely and collaboratively use virtual 3D on line technology to trial venue and meeting spaces, decide on layouts and setups, design theming and lighting. In this online virtual space all suppliers are able to meet, negotiate, test, build and eventually run a virtual audition of the event or meeting and when it’s finalized use the online model as the collective 3D template for every facet of the event.

Attendees have become far savvier and acutely focused on their event needs. Long before deciding to attend they tap into their online communities to engage with prospective attendees, organizers, sponsors, suppliers, venues, speakers, industry delegates and other interested participants to get a real sense of what the event or meeting may be and how best, if at all, to attend.

Attendance decisions in the past were often influenced by a narrow band of work colleagues or networks, but now information, comments and critiques come from everywhere and the decision making process has
shifted to include and value a wider circle of influence.

Events and meetings have also evolved over the past decades offering a far more diverse range of attendance options ranging from the traditional entire event in person attendance, to being able to choose and pay only for those specific segments you want to attend either in person or online, through to complete virtual and online opportunities to attend and participate. These even include post event online pay per view opportunities to watch previously delivered content and presentations.

One of the other interesting shifts I’ve seen over the last decade is events and meetings being commissioned by members of self-assembled interest groups that have spent time on line with each other around their professions, hobbies, experiences, needs or interests and have the community desire and numbers to turn their ad hoc interaction into an event or meeting .

The demands of these groups have spawned a new breed of meeting specialist, someone who is capable of pulling together a multi-faceted online and offline event or meeting often with very short lead times, in a less formal or structured manner and in what may have once been considered less traditional meeting venues or spaces.

The other interesting change looking back is that it is now far more common for disparate suppliers, venues and organisers to work collaboratively and share resources and to come together around a tender or event and then disband only to form again with others as the need requires.

Looking around the year 2020 the meetings, events, incentive and exhibition companies that have thrived and grown over the last decade have been those that have embraced the changes.

They have clearly understood what they do but have constantly been willing to innovate and adapt, to find new markets and new opportunities and not been afraid to reach out and grab for them.

I’d love to know what you see ahead for the travel, meeting and events industry, please post and share

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  • There are so many ideas here, I had to read this twice to make sure I'd grasped it all. Predictions like this usually turn out to be ridiculously off the mark in retrospect, but I believe these predictions will actually turn out to be right. Meetings organized by self-assembled interest groups, new variations on "attendance," shorter deadlines for planning meetings, an even greater role for social networking -- from what I'm observing, you're on the mark.
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