Let's face it, face-to-face meetings are here to stay. Technology will contribute and change how we learn, contribute and engage, but it will never take away the effectiveness of face-to-face meetings. In his article, Jeff Hurt from Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, brings attention to this point on several occasions. That is not to say that the concept of conferences wouldn't change drastically. Online will definitely be there to compliment the face-to-face meetings.
To make a difference in the future, or even now, you need to be able to adapt. Keeping your mission in focus is more important than ever, but so is choosing the model that you do it with. As the article notes, the way we consume media, just as an example, has changed a lot, so why wouldn't the way we engage in conferences. The opportunity to gain from those events and experiences is a lot greater than the chance to lose.
Context, peer-to-peer learning and real engagement are the elements that will provide results. Engagement is not a given fact though. We've always expected that attendance will drive engagement, but according to Jeff Hurt, that model is flipping upside down. It will be engagement that will drive the attendance. Attendees need to be engaged physically and mentally. Make them part of the program rather than making a program for them to just join. The article also refers to Dr. Josh Packard, who states that "attendees prefer active participation to passive consumption".
Meeting design does also make its appearance on the list in the form of creating those comfortable places within the conference area where the human connection can be naturally created. Building a coffee shop in your venue to foster those connections might very well pay off. Creating those connections does require a bit more thought from the organizers than just scheduling time for networking. Building befriending opportunities into the program will create actual friendships which are much stronger. As the article so eloquently puts it, "meeting in the same location doesn't mean relationships are developing".
One important thing is not to over complicate and over-schedule your conference. It may seem like a good thing to have something for everyone, but in the end conference guests will leave the event overwhelmed and needing a vacation to process everything. Keeping the program simple and efficient will work better in your favor. That does not, however, mean that large scale conferences would disappear. When the program is built so that it's easy for the attendee to customize their own journey, the size of the conference doesn't matter. There's anyway room for larger conferences and for the more intimate ones.
Read the full article and all the predictions at Velvet Chainsaw Consulting. MPI member's can also access the Future of Meetings Research for free. Download it here. To access all the MPI research and studies for free, join now as a member.
MPI in Europe team