How ChatGPT Will Impact the Meetings and Events Industry
In the not-so-distant future, the world of meetings and events was transformed by the rise of artificial intelligence programs like ChatGPT. These powerful AI systems promised to revolutionize the way events were planned, executed and attended, offering unparalleled convenience and efficiency for event organizers and attendees alike. With the ability to handle complex tasks, from scheduling to ticket sales, with ease and accuracy, the impact of ChatGPT and other AI programs on the events industry was profound and far-reaching. The result was a world where events were more seamless, more engaging and more accessible than ever before.
The paragraph above, in fact, was entirely generated by ChatGPT, the AI app that is creating a firestorm of usage as well as anxiety about a robotic takeover of everything we hold near and dear.
The simple prompt I used to get that rather awkward lead graph?
Write an opening paragraph for a story about how ChatGPT and other AI programs will impact the meetings and events industry.
In fact, the new “It App” is so popular that when I began writing this story, it was overloaded with curious users, so it issued a new age affirmation to cool my heels.
Thankfully, James Spellos, longtime meetings industry tech guru and president of Meetings U., was, not surprisingly, hooked up with ChatGPT, so he entered my prompt and sent back the above result.
Ever the rascal, Spellos took my initial prompt and added two others:
Can you write a more dystopian version?
Here’s what ChatGPT spit out:
In the near future, the events industry was thrown into chaos as the proliferation of AI programs like ChatGPT began to take over every aspect of event planning and execution. These advanced systems promised to streamline the process and make events more efficient, but they had unintended consequences. The human touch was lost as event attendees were herded into impersonal, algorithmically optimized experiences, and event planners found themselves at the mercy of the cold, unfeeling algorithms that dictated every detail of the events they put on. The personal connections and unique experiences that once defined events were replaced by standardized, homogenous offerings, and the industry became a shadow of its former self, dominated by soulless AI systems like ChatGPT.
Have the robots have become self-aware?
And yet another prompt:
How about a version which makes people want to read further?
ChatGPT: The events industry was in for a major shake-up as ChatGPT and other AI programs made their mark on the world of meetings and conferences. These advanced systems promised to revolutionize the way events were planned, executed and attended, offering a tantalizing glimpse into a future where every detail was optimized for convenience and efficiency. But as the AI programs became more sophisticated, it was clear that they would change the very fabric of the events industry. As attendees and event organizers alike grappled with the implications of this technological revolution, one thing was certain: the events of the future would never be the same again. With each passing day, the line between man and machine blurred, and the true potential of AI in the events industry was only just beginning to be explored. Who knew what wonders, or dangers, awaited as the world of events entered this bold new era?
So, which version will be the closest to the truth of how ChatGPT and other AI programs will impact the meetings and events industry?
Let’s allow the humans to take one last stab at it before they’re rendered obsolete, shall we?
What Is ChatGPT?
More than the latest parlor-trick to astonish friends and colleagues on smart phones at cocktail parties, by its own description, ChatGPT is “an AI-powered chatbot developed by OpenAI, based on the GPT (Generative Pretrained Transformer) language model. It uses deep learning techniques to generate human-like responses to text inputs in a conversational manner.”
The AI chatbot was developed by San Francisco startup OpenAI, which in 2015 was co-founded by Elon Musk and Sam Altman and has backing from ubiquitous tech giant Microsoft. The tool allows users to enter written prompts and receive AI-generated text that eerily resembles what a human would write. Other “generative AI” applications, such as OpenAI’s DALL-E, operate in a similar fashion but deliver images and even videos that appear to have the human touch.
Proponents of such technology believe it will rapidly free us from having to perform manual, repetitive tasks like writing descriptions of items or subjects—such as meetings content—while detractors maintain the tool opens up users to delivering potentially damaging, inaccurate information or being subject to plagiarism laws because it draws on existing text that has been loaded into it.
For now, it doesn’t use the internet and has limited knowledge since its data was all uploaded in 2021. Prime minister of Great Britain? That would still be Boris Johnson to ChatGPT.
As with any revolutionary technology, most believe it will radically disrupt employment and perhaps sow chaos in the global economy.
“That’s the first conversation that people have—‘It will take my job away.’—but it will also create jobs,” Spellos maintains. “It’s going to have the same bias as the people it’s trained from, so we really have to be aware. It’s underdeveloped at this point. AI is not new to our industry. What we need to do is put our human hat on. This is a massive technological change, like 20-plus years ago when Google debuted.”
Spellos said he recently used the tool to develop a session title and description for a client. The AI tool developed a choice of 10 session titles and descriptions “and the client loved it.”
“It’s way smarter than us in some areas…and not,” Spellos said. “There’s still going to be room for the human touch—that’s where it and we will thrive. When it becomes a combative relationship, that’s where we’re going to make mistakes in how we use this.”
A major worry about using AI is in the area of contracts.
“In the construction industry there was a company led by a lawyer who created contracts [using AI] and it was phenomenal,” Spellos said. “I think the issue with contracts is the same issue each company has with their lawyers doing this the same way for the last 40 years and they don’t want to move away from it.
“The technology is not the problem,” he stressed. “I don’t want to hear that the tech isn’t ready. The tech is ready for prime time. Are we?”
In the end, the jobs disruption may come down to the most traditional of business principles—cutting costs.
“I think the issue of jobs isn’t a function of technology, it’s how much companies want to cut their bottom line,” he said. “I think what the best planners embody is the smarts, savvy and nuance to be able to do what a machine cannot do. For small-scale committee meetings and board meetings—people who do 50 or 100 contracts a year—the first thing the CEO will say is, ‘Do it on Zoom,’ and the next thing they’ll do is give it to the AI machine in the corner: ‘Plan a meeting for 50 at an airport hotel near O’Hare.’”
Spellos added at publication time that major announcements from Google and Microsoft—and in particular, Microsoft’s Bing search engine—are set to further move the AI needle in dramatic ways.
For meetings industry veterans such as Joan Eisenstodt, who specializes in meetings contracts, the specter of unfettered use of AI, along with relatively automated booking engines such as Group360, could be a recipe for disaster in an industry that constantly has to prove its value.
“We’re back to commoditization. That’s what I fear with all this; if you don’t know what you’re signing and it’s just something that fills in blanks,” she said. “Even from the two cases I testified in over the last two years, I know that people don’t read this stuff.”
The use of AI such as ChatGPT for industry accreditations could also further devalue the profession of meeting and event planning.
“Is our industry, currently and immediately, having this conversation about the CMP exam and what this means, and will people have expertise?” she asked. “If I just use a tool to fill in a test or do an essay, what does that say I know? If people are going to submit a contract or menus or whatever else and they’re not proofed, we may get to a point where we don’t need people.”
[Read More Articles by Joan Eisenstodt]
AI Association Impact
Association meetings veteran Willis Turner, who carries a CAE (Certified Association Executive) designation, has published The Power of ChatGPT: How to Put ChatGPT to Work for You, available on Amazon and via his website, www.oldclayburn.com. Turner also is the founder of Virtual Memorial Gatherings, which stepped in to fill the critical need for virtual funerals during the pandemic lockdown.
“One of the things that I think it’s going to do for the meeting industry is, as it evolves, it’s going to automate a lot of manual, repetitive tasks, such as event planning, scheduling and sending reminders to event attendees,” Turner said. “It’s going to allow event organizers and planners to really focus on high-touch human interaction.”
Like others interviewed for this article, Turner stressed that humans still need to take a very active role in editing the content that AI such as ChatGPT produces.
“You still need to have a human editor, and humans are still going to be responsible for making sure the information that’s output is edited and factually correct,” he said.
In the context of meetings and events, Turner said AI tech such as ChatGPT can fulfill a number of relatively sophisticated content tasks.
“It can generate the [session] tracks, it can generate content for information about sessions. If you put in the information and highlight the keywords and some of the information that you want it to talk about, it will then expand it for you, so it’s going to save a lot of time in that way,” he said. “It can help you optimize blog content for search. It’ll also write meta tag information that you could put into the description of the document so that when it’s shared on the web, it will be easily searchable by search engines. So, it’s going to be reducing the amount of time that it takes to produce content for everyone, including meeting and event organizers.”
Like virtually all other technology, the information that is produced is only as good as the prompts entered in: the “garbage in, garbage out” concept.
“One of the things that is going to set people apart when they use this tool is using the prompt correctly and knowing how to tease the information out of it,” Turner said. “I would suggest asking ChatGPT, using historical data, ‘Give me the best times, dates and places for this type of an event with these types of attendees,’ and it will search the data and come up with an answer for you. And then, of course, you need to verify it.
“I think it’s going to disrupt the people who don’t use it. I don’t think ChatGPT is going to replace humans, but it’s going to replace humans that don’t use it with other humans who are using it to augment their skills,” Turner predicted. “So, it is going to be a threat and a disrupter.”
KiKi L’Italien, CEO of Amplified Growth, a digital strategy firm for associations, and host of the Association Chat online community, has witnessed the anxiety over ChatGPT in the association world.
“At first I think the tension people feel, when they see how powerful it is, they’re like, ‘Oh my god, that’s scary. It can get really specific about stuff and spit out a blog post—what does that mean for me?’ But I think it’s amazing,” she said. “ChatGPT is just one AI example because it’s open to everyone. People are changing the way they think and reframing their approach to how they do work and what they are capable of doing.”
L’Italien referenced a 2018 study that pitted dermatologists against AI, and AI detected skin cancer better than its flesh and blood competitors—95% versus 86.6%. But to put it in context, she added that the diagnoses were more accurate when human insight was layered onto the initial AI effort.
AI was put to the same test in Beijing in 2018, this time tackling common childhood conditions such as influenza and meningitis. AI came out on top once again.
“Here’s the deal. This is about to change all of the tech tools that we’re using for everything from event management to email and communication,” she said. “It will knock out a basic marketing plan. It’s a great draft for a template, but what I think is it frees you up on the more mundane things we’ve done for a long time. It allows you to customize responses, customize for sponsors. It streamlines all these different types of business processes that can get hung up on some really mundane, back and forth communication tasks.”
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L’Italien added that the advanced version of the program, GPT-3, is especially robust for scoring engagement levels from emails, attendance and other metrics, and then can automatically create prompts based on those responses.
“Once it is determined that there is, say, a person in a database that is not opening emails or responding anymore, they have it set up so that GPT-3 will then set off a sequence of emails and correspondence that is customized to that individual,” she said. “If I had a particular leadership meeting, I could set up, using GPT-3, a way through the year to identify someone who is not engaging with me the way they used to and set up that chain of communication back and forth that I can jump into when the time is right. It is a game changer. You can make this so that all those customer service bots all tie into the data in your system to provide an even more unique response to that individual.”
An expert in SEO, L’Italien especially likes the job ChatGPT does optimizing content as well as developing social media content such as keywords and hashtags.
“It will give you the longtail keywords that will help you optimize your keywords,” she said. “It used to be you had to pay for tools to do this, like Jasper—that you would have to spend hundreds of dollars each month. The things that I spent tons of money on before I can now get for free on ChatGPT. It is a tool that is so automatically ubiquitous. It’s like a calculator for me. I can’t imagine not using it.”
Massive Disruption Ahead
Along with Spellos, Corbin Ball, principal of Corbin Ball & Co., is considered one of the foremost tech speakers and consultants in the meetings and events industry. Whether the end result is positive or negative, AI applications such as ChatGPT are going to be really big, he believes.
“It’s going to be the most significant technological advancement of this decade, just like in the ’80s it was the PC and the internet in the ’90s and 2000s. In the 2010s it was mobile technology. This is the decade of artificial intelligence, and it’s going to have huge, huge disruptions. ChatGPT is just one component, but it shows you what the power of it is.”
As far as employment disruptions, however, the job of planning meetings and events may not be impacted as thoroughly as jobs in other industries.
“The good news is the meetings and events industry is a service industry,” Ball said. “So, it’s something that’s going to be not as significant in the automation component of it, although significant parts will, i.e., for content writing and promotion.”
The day may be near—if not here already—when planning teams can prompt AI to kick-start the site selection process.
“It could be ‘I need a space for 5,000 rooms, and the major emphasis of the event is going to be this and this, and I want it three days long: Where are the optimal places?’” Ball cited as an example. “It’s not perfect yet, but some fundamental planning details that we’ve relied on from other sources could eventually be taken over by this.”
In many ways, the rise of AI may just be the next wave—or tsunami?—of that one true constant: change.
“Since the time of the industrial steam engine, we have had major disruptions, and electricity and radio and television and the internet and mobile technology,” Ball said. “This is one that people will need to be thinking about on a deeper level.
“This is where things are going,” Ball continued. “And I think that we live perhaps in a time where things are about to be kind of put into a blender and mixed up in a substantial way.”
The Pros to PLANNING With ChatGPT
On a recent Incentive Canada–Winter 2023 FAM trip with Destination Canada, Meetings Today’s Taylor Smith took part in casual conversation with fellow attendees (media, clients and suppliers) to discuss the ways in which ChatGPT can be used in the MICE industry. Some of the ChatGPT benefits industry professionals mentioned include:
- Generating a bullet-point list of concepts for niche or targeted meetings, which can be especially helpful when planning in an area of unfamiliarity.
- Prompting the chatbot to share experiential design ideas to implement in meetings and events, like the use of sensory stimulation or interactive activities.
- Putting together a quick list of destinations with a specific characteristic (cities with offsite excursions for groups, secluded meeting destinations in nature, etc.).
- Listing memorable, meaningful and unique incentives for executive retreats or small meetings, of which the chatbot recommended heritage tours, ecotourism and wildlife conservation, as well as giving back to local causes and charities.
- Brainstorming creative corporate social governance ideas to weave into event experiences.
- Providing examples of questions to ask a supplier about their meeting and event venue amenities and offerings.
Welcome to the CyberChef
Spellos recently had some fun with ChatGPT on the Eating at a Meeting Facebook group, which is run by meetings F&B leader Tracy Stuckrath, principal of Thrive! Meetings & Events.
Following is the transcript:
For this community, I wanted to share an interaction I just had with ChatGPT (an AI-based chatbot that is all the rage) about preparing a whole food plant-based meal for a group. Notice the second question I offered, mentioning a lentil allergy, and see its response. Is it possible that AI knows more about healthy eating than some chefs???
Here’s the interaction...would love to hear your thoughts.
ME: Help me create a dinner menu for 50 people that is entirely whole food, plant-based with no refined oils used.
AI: Here’s a sample menu that could feed 50 people:
- Roasted vegetable platter with dips like hummus, baba ganoush, and guacamole
- Fruit skewers with a variety of fresh fruit such as watermelon, pineapple and strawberries
- Grilled portobello mushrooms with quinoa and steamed vegetables
- Lentil and vegetable stew with bread for dipping
- Spaghetti squash with marinara sauce and a side salad
- Brown rice pilaf with sauteed vegetables
- Roasted root vegetables
- Grilled corn on the cob
- Fresh fruit sorbet
- Vegan brownies
- Fresh fruit tartlets
- Iced tea
- Lemon water
This menu incorporates a variety of whole food plant-based ingredients, including fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, and avoids the use of refined oils. You can make adjustments to this menu based on your preferences and dietary restrictions.
ME: What if someone has a lentil allergy?
AI: If someone in your group has a lentil allergy, you could replace the lentil and vegetable stew with another plant-based option. Here are some suggestions:
- Chickpea and vegetable curry served with rice
- Stuffed bell peppers with quinoa, vegetables and marinara sauce
- Roasted eggplant parmesan served with a side salad
These options still provide a variety of flavors, textures and nutrient-dense ingredients while accommodating the allergy restriction.