By Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington, April Koury, and Helena Calle of Fast Future
The next five years promise to bring fundamental changes across society – from the clients we serve, to the technology we use, and the needs and priorities of business. Literally everything is “up for grabs” creating complexity, new opportunities and unexpected challenges. And, of course, the pressure entrepreneurs thrive on – to stay ahead of the game and spot the next opportunities.
Let’s look at some key developments for the business meeting and events sector that will impact existing businesses and have potential for new businesses to emerge.
Conferences will have an increasingly interdisciplinary focus – In many sectors, participants will tire of hearing the same industry speakers and vendors saying roughly what they said last year! In the search for inspiration to maintain attendance levels, organizers will invite inspiring people from different fields, arts, science, music, business, education, or engineering to share their ideas with participants. The convergence, between people coming from different fields, will contribute to more creative solutions for the complex problems of the future of business.
Smarter by Design – The of artificial intelligence (AI) in the sector will expand quite rapidly. From designing agendas, setting prices, and targeting potential attendees through to customer service chatbots, determining best fit locations, matchmaking people at events, and providing back-up content and fact checking of presentations, AI tools will become a feature across the entire industry value chain. In a very human business such as the events sector, it seems likely that AI will be used to free up time for value adding tasks rather than reduce headcounts.
Thinking Hubs – Meeting venues will have interactive technology that will enable creative thinking and idea testing. Interactive technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented reality (AR) will allow participants to visualize data or ideas developed in a workshop session in a more tangible way. Participants will be able to test different ideas in VR/AR software and compare their possible outcomes to make better decisions.
Business Model Experimentation – In a world where new charging models are proliferating, there will be a growing pressure on events to bring greater creativity to bear. From paying based on the perceive value and seat auctions through to pay per session and results based charging – the sector will be exploring a range of attendee payment ideas.
The Brexit Boom – Businesses the world over are struggling to understand what form the UK’s exit from the European Union might actually take – or if it will happen at all. Should it happen, the process might take five or ten years to complete fully. As the story continues to unfold there will be growing demand for events which help suppliers from and to the UK understand the latest picture and implications for their sector. For the meetings industry, the key here will be the ability to organise and promote relatively short, high quality, sector-specific events at speed.
Silent Conferences – Participants will be able to tune in to every parallel session via their personal devices and listen through their headphones from wherever they are in a venue. So, if the current session doesn’t appeal, you can simply switch to listen to or watch another parallel session another without leaving your seat.
Integrated Events Apps – Users will not have to download individual APPs for each event, we will integrated systems emerge that present content for multiple events – these may even become standard features on many smartphones. App developers will create more cohesive systems that merge the information and presentations all the different events that sign up to use them. Users will have the opportunity to browse for the most interesting and useful information across a range of events and conferences – perhaps making micro-payments to access content for the events they didn’t attend.
Digital Twins – Early adopters of technology could soon be able to send a digital stand-in to attend face-to-face conferences. The participant’s digital twin would be a software incarnation of the person embodied (or not) by a hologram or device that can see, hear, and observe the event in real time. The digital twin could engage with other participants in virtual space or on social media during the event, leading up to scheduled face to face meetings with interesting contacts at later points in time.
Robot Realms – Events will make greater use of robots as mobile customer service assistants, kitchen staff, baristas, waiting staff, security guards, and porters. We’ll also see more robots featuring presentations and even delivering them. Within facilities we might see drones capturing videos of the sessions, transporting goods, and even moving people between sessions.
Paradise Unplugged – Some meetings will be elevated to a luxury experience by adopting technology-free policies that demand unplugging, disconnecting, powering down, and “off-gridding” for all participants. Events will set a tone of intimacy and authenticity by discarding the free wi-fi and discouraging conference hashtags, for example. The venues would provide a facility at check in where participants can drop off their devices for the day and unplug, putting a total focus on the experience at hand.
Big Brother – Events that gather large numbers of participants could become attractive to proponents of the growing Internet of Things (IoT) and smart city movement. Attendees of large events might earn rewards, discounts, or actual money for agreeing to use tracking devices during business conventions or meetings. Attendee data would provide key insights to exhibiters, and non-participating marketers, for example those aiming at the business traveller.
A powerful combination of economic, social, technological, and environmental factors will create new opportunities and challenges in the next five years. This will force a fundamental rethink of literally every aspect of the meeting and events sector. Will you act fast and be ahead of the curve? Will you use these impending changes as an opportunity to innovate in advance of the competition?
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington, Helena Calle, and April Koury are from Fast Future which publishes books from future thinkers around the world exploring how developments such as AI, robotics and disruptive thinking could impact individuals, society and business and create new trillion-dollar sectors. Two new books from Fast Future are: ‘Beyond Genuine Stupidity – Ensuring AI Serves Humanity’, and ‘The Future – Reinvented: Reimagining Life, Society, and Business’. See: www.fastfuture.com