The Future of Meetings was a hot topic at the MPI World Education Conference this week. While there was a lot of discussion around the topic – the answer was not so easy to pin down. At times, I felt like the baby bird searching for his mother in P.D. Eastman’s Story “Are You My Mother.”
Is “Technology” the Future of Meetings?
The topic of the future of meetings sends some people flying toward technology. This was evidenced by the thousands of attendees that flocked to the many technology sessions to learn about the latest whizbangs and strategies. This was evidenced by the paperless program, the Mobile apps and the Pathable community.
So, it’s technology right? Smartphones and that kind of stuff. Um, not exactly.
Is “Environment” the Future of Meetings?
The topic of the future of meetings sends others into the “better room layout” and “environment” corner. Joan Eisenstodt, for example, wants pictures on the walls, natural light and flexible space. When she says that many in the crowd nod with approval. Some cheer. Venue Executives mumble profanities. While others would just be happy if the room setup would match the session. “Rounds in the general session room? What’s that all about,” asks one attendee.
So, it’s environment right? Redesign the conference centers OR match the room setup to the needs. That must be the future of meetings. Um, not exactly.
Is “Content” the Future of Meetings?
The topic of the future of meetings sends others into the “content” corner. These people are talking about content delivery, interactive formats, learning styles, objectives, discovery, etc. They say less time listening to boring speakers and more time interacting in an informal learning environment. When someone says more collaboration and interaction – groups of people start whooping and hollering Texas style. Speakers scratch their heads and ask if better hand gestures would help.
So, it’s content right? Use more collaborative formats. Get people out of chairs and writing on white boards. Um, not exactly.
Is “Attendee Experience” the Future of Meetings?
The topic of the future of meetings gets others talking about attendee experience. It’s about putting the attendee at the center of the event. Ruud Janssen says that we need to think about it like “100 events for 100 people.” Another person talks about interviewing “professional attendees” – the conference road warriors – and using their needs as the model for how these experiences could work.
So, it’s attendee experience right? Design events with the attendee in mind. Um, not exactly.
Is “Storytelling” the Future of Meetings?
The topic of the future of meetings gets others talking about storytelling. It’s about narrative and personas they say. They talk about the strong characters in movies and books that we identify with. They talk about the dilemmas created in good vs. evil situations. They continue on with more stuff that is over our heads – but sounds good. Many nod in approval.
So, it’s storytelling right? We just hire a scriptwriter create good characters, put Bruce MacMillan in a flying harness and get Stephen Spielberg to show us how to produce the stuff. Um, not exactly.
Is “Inspiration” the Future of Meetings?
The keynote speakers from the Opening General Session will tell you that the future of meetings is about passion and inspiring people to become part of something greater than themselves. They will site examples of people coming from remarkable circumstances that you couldn’t ever imagine to do something extraordinary. Since, we are all amazed – we nod with approval and donate $20.
So, it’s inspiration right? We find someone or something that inspires us – like Bruce Willis or the A-team. Then we book them for our next event. That’s the ticket! Um, not exactly.
Is “Outside the Industry” the Future of Meetings?
The topic of the future of events gets others to talk about looking outside our industry for the answer. Looking for inspiration in art, in movies, in design, in Farmville, in nature and in space. Or was it in Oldspice? Regardless, asking ourselves what the Future of Meetings looks like – doesn’t help – because we all have the similar answers. As we hear this point of view, we nod again.
So, it’s looking outside ourselves right? We watch a few OldSpice commercials, play Farmville and “friend” that Zuckerberg dude who created Facebook – then we will know the future of events. Right? Um, not exactly.
So what is the Future of Meetings?
Well, if the future of meetings is not technology or space or content or attendee experience or inspiration or outside factors – then what is it?
I have no idea. I just can tell you that it is not ONE of those factors – it is all of them. As far as I can tell that is the conclusion drawn from the MPI World Education Conference.
What do you think our future meetings and events will look like? or what do they need to look like?
Note: I did receive partial registration reduction for agreeing to participate in the Social Media Guru program at MPI’s World Education Conference.