The way people work has changed forever, and the changing nature of work is impacting the meetings industry in new and unprecedented ways.

The economic engine for mature countries such as the United States has moved away from manufacturing traditional hard goods and products towards the development of breakthrough ideas, technologies, and services. The transition from an Industrial Economy to a Knowledge-Based Economy is further accelerated by salient shifts in demographics, technology, and globalization. 

Moreover, as we live longer, we’re actually working longer–which means that for first time in history, there are five generations working within the same workforce. We now need to design physical spaces and service offerings that align with the tastes and preferences of a recent college graduate, while still being conscious of the expectations of the silent generation. This has broad implications not just for the future of the workplace, but also for the future of the meetings industry.   

We know that today’s workers (and meeting attendees) value choice and experience above all else. Unique, authentic, hospitality-driven environments that seamlessly integrate work, life, and play into one physical experience are the preferred meeting and workspaces of today’s most progressive organizations and their employees. 

We have also come to realize that 65% of today’s office workers believe they would be more productive if they could work anywhere except a traditional office environment. This growing desire for “off-site” work experiences is pushing more companies to consider outsourcing not only their workspace, but also their meeting space requirements to companies such as Convene and WeWork. 

Choosing how to work and where to meet is becoming an increasingly critical part of a company’s overall workplace strategy. If who we are working with and the way we work has fundamentally shifted, then what implications does this have on the future of strategic meetings management?

 

1. Meeting planners will be recognized as valued change agents. 

To thrive in the Age of Accelerationthe role of the strategic meetings manager must be redefined. The meeting planner of the future will go from being focused on venue selection, vendor procurement, planning, and logistics, to orchestrators of human experiences that are valued and vital change agents within their organizations. Strategic meeting planners will soon become the voice of a company’s brand, culture, clients – and ultimately the voice of change management within their organizations.

 

2. Face-to-face meetings will evolve from being a luxury to a necessity.

Within a digital-first world, the value of face-to-face meetings and human-to-human interactions will increase exponentially. The popularity of flexible working arrangements and the rise of the creative class means that workforces will continue to become more fragmented and employees increasingly dependent on technology to communicate. While there’s cost savings that can definitely be achieved through video chat and phone calls, these channels are not able to effectively copy our hearts, emotions, or the creativity that comes from face-to-face, human-to-human collaboration. 

A company’s future success will be predicated on their ability to physically (and cost effectively) bring people together in person – both internally with employees, and externally with clients – to share ideas, build relationships, and solve problems and challenges together. Technology will act more as connective tissue, whereas face-to-face meetings will be the real muscle for building stronger work experiences. 

 

3. Smaller meetings will have bigger impact.  

While big conferences – like SXSW and Collision – are seemingly getting bigger every year (with tens of thousands of attendees), we’re seeing a massive increase in the number of smaller, intimate, and more impactful events and experiences happening across the industry. There is immense value found in the human-to-human relationships that get cultivated in smaller meeting environments.

Another reason we’re seeing growth in smaller meetings is due to the outsourcing movement – on average, only 44% of breakout rooms are used, and 36% of meeting rooms are used on a regular basis within an organizations internal workplace. This has caused many large organizations to build less meeting, training, and event space internally which is pushing more demand “off-site.” At Convene, we have seen a 15% annual increase in the amount of inquiries for smaller space for meetings with 25 people or less.  

 

“The easiest way to predict the future is to create it” 

The role of strategic meetings management will become more important than ever.  They will be required to drive innovation, enable cultural integrity, and maintain the humanity within their businesses. Now more than ever, we must be bold enough to think different, try new things, push the limits of possibility, and look for creative ways to deliver enhanced experiences for our clients. We can’t lead from the back; the future of our industry depends on it.    

 

This article was adapted from the 2017 BTN Strategic Meetings Summit. Please see the presentation below for further insights on the future of strategic meetings management.

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