We are living in a time of unprecedented technology change. How will these changes affect meetings and tradeshows? Will events remain a central form of education, networking and marketing? Will virtual meetings and other communication technologies replace the need for face-to-face events and exhibitions? Although there will likely be very significant changes in these next few years, there are some strong drivers that bode well for the future of events.
Here are five constants that will keep meetings viable in the future:
1. Human gregariousness
Humans are social animals. We like to get together. Indeed, there is a biological imperative to do so! This basic drive will continue to bring people together for face-to-face events of some form for as long as we roam this planet.
2. Social connectivity -- the desire to meet with people of like interests
Meetings can be considered the original social media and associations the original social networking platforms. The rise of social media tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, enhances our ability to connect with people of like interests – the same goal of many events! As our social network expands, this continuing desire to connect with these colleagues will keep meetings as an important method of doing so. Social media may expand our contacts; meetings will provide the opportunity to meet them face-to-face!
3. The value of tradeshow and exhibitions as important marketing vehicles
If a product is a commodity, there are opportunities to automate the sales process online. However, there are many businesses that are highly service oriented (such as the hotels, convention centers and meetings management) – they rely on people to deliver the product. Tradeshows and exhibitions afford a great way to meet these service providers and gather information in a condensed, time-efficient and cost-efficient manner.
4. People like attractive destinations and are enriched by the travel experience
Travel broadens horizons and provides great ways to experience cultures, cuisines, new ideas and much more. Meetings often afford the opportunity to get away from our day-to-day business routine and to experience new horizons.
5. Live face-to-face events provide a much richer experience than virtual meetings
Webinars and other virtual meetings are great for short information exchange. However, in today’s multi-tasking and often distracting work environment, attention spans are short. Thirty minutes to an hour is usually the maximum you can expect someone to pay attention to a webinar sitting in front of a monitor.
Meetings, on the other hand, take people to a more focused location with fewer distractions. As long as attendees are informed, entertained and fed, event hosts can keep them engaged for days. At the minimum, there is a social contract to at least look like you are paying attention at an event. This is very different than most virtual events. The opportunities for networking, brainstorming, and relationship building are usually far greater at face-to-face events than online. To put it succinctly, there is no such thing as a virtual beer!
Meetings provide opportunities for people to connect. Our gregarious nature, our desire to meet with people of like interests, our curiosity to experience new locations and ideas will be constant driving forces to keep meetings a viable means on connecting, educating, and bringing people of like interests together for the foreseeable future.