Here’s an article that just ran that offers some of my thoughts on what’s up with the global meeting and events industry.
Convene Magazine, January 2010
by Maureen Littlejohn
During 2009, many organizations battened down the hatches and waited for the recession to pass. As we enter the new year – and a new decade – the time for waiting is over. It’s the organizations that keep their eyes peeled for budding opportunities – and are prepared to pounce on them – that will succeed. Convene asked futurist and trends and innovation expert Jim Carroll to identify five emerging megatrends of particular interest to the meetings industry.
- Faster business-model reinvention – Industries need to listen to what clients want and be able to change without getting bogged down in traditional, time-consuming approval stages or administrative red tape. In the meetings industry, according to Carroll, this means that organizations need to watch for members’ shifting needs and respond quickly. For example, delegates might want more customized options during online registration, or more room to make last-minute confirmations. “The newer model, based on agility and flexibility, is the model that will take many businesses into the future,” Carroll said. “To understand the link between future trends and innovation, you must get into that mindset.”
Since the economic meltdown, some business procedures have been turned upside-down. Carroll points to the American automobile industry: “The big automakers used to build up their assembly lines to produce 700,000 cars in a year and hope to sell them. Then they would tear the assembly line down a year later and rebuild for the next year’s model. That formula is broken. Honda looks at this week’s consumer demands, sees what is working, and can tear down and rebuild the assembly line in 10 days.”
Carroll said that organizations seeking an edge over their competitors are motivated to mess up their rivals’ business models. “Before that happens [to you], you should mess it up yourself, so that you better control the endgame. Technology has and will play a huge role in business-model transformation, and your infrastructure has to be up to the task,” he said.
- Rapid ingestion of new technologies – Companies must stay current with technology, especially in the delivery of services, Carroll said. “There’s going to be a huge amount of adaptation as the tsunami of technology continues unabated,” he said. “An example would be in retail, where there will be a rapid transition to cell-phone-based payment technology. Credit-card companies need to stay on top of this. Winners will be able to transition at the speed of Silicon Valley. The leaders will be those who continue to find operational innovation in ways they had not thought of before.”The lesson for meeting planners? Integrate the latest technologies into the meeting’s infrastructure by partnering with technologically up-to-the-minute companies, Carroll said. Planners need to be early adopters of technologies at every stage of the meeting – prior to, during, and after the face-to-face event. This includes everything from promoting the meeting to Web sites, to offering the latest technology-enabled services to delegates on site, to gathering metrics and following up after the event.
- Faster knowledge requirements – Carroll believes that “the future belongs to those who are fast.” Organizations need to get smart quicker. “There are a tremendous number of new companies and new industries being built around the high velocity of ideas that surround us – which is increasing the pace of business startups,” Carroll said. “New ideas continue to be explored, markets grow, and industries emerge as rapid innovation occurs in health care, agriculture, and countless other fields. It’s all about rapid science – and exponential knowledge growth – leading to faster discovery of the next thing.”That translates into the need for meetings to deliver more education, to be seen as “knowledge events.” Carroll said: “This can take the form of short-term, high-level management meetings where the intent is to do things differently. Rapid ingestion of knowledge is needed by sales forces, management, and associations. Face-to-face education, done off site, will continue to be very effective. Networking is important for relationships and learning, especially human bonding with beer at 5 p.m. That’s when participants are willing to share tips and ideas.”
- Rapid partnerships – Social networking is the best way to form more successful partnerships in a short amount of time, according to Carroll. “This way, people with expertise can be brought in to help work out the problems on new projects,” he said. “Teams that are gathered rapidly and work quickly are critical to solving problems and achieving success.”
- End of the “AIG effect” – This, Carroll believes, is the biggest trend. “It is silly to think we shouldn’t go to meetings,” he said. “It’s time to beat back the hysteria. In Las Vegas, where so many workers were laid off, it’s had an effect. Politicians are paying attention and realizing they were shooting themselves in the foot by discouraging meetings.”Carroll predicts that 2010 will usher in a return to long-term thinking. “Companies and associations will be making plans and strategizing how to reach goals in the next two to 10 years,” he said, adding, “To that end, I’ve noticed an increased demand in my services as a futurist. We’re all coming back with a vengeance.”