A Look at Meetings of the Future

As I gaze into my crystal ball I see the future of meetings. What does it look like? As a kid I watched a cartoon called The Jetsons about a futuristic family living in 2062 with holograms, hovercraft-type transportation and aliens. 

I liked Judy, the daughter in the family with her floating robotic diary and their robotic maid Rosie. So thinking about the future, do I see robots managing registration, or hovercrafts transporting attendees from various hotels? Wouldn’t it be great to fly over traffic in lieu of busing in a city? Whatever happens, technology will impact our meetings future. But technology itself won’t transform the meetings—it will be how planners and attendees shape its use and how they better ingrain it in the overall development of the attendee experience.

Mobility and the continued expansion of smartphone utilization will continue to drive the engagement factor of our meetings. Engaging attendees before, during and after events will be table stakes. Whether it’s leveraging this technology during a session (à la second screen technology—pushing information from the speaker’s platform to the attendee), or engaging them in real time in providing input through crowdsourcing, the attendee will help shape the experience and technology is the engine. 

Our tradeshow floors are already transforming. iBeacon technology and Near Field Communication are changing lead retrieval tactics. The days of "passport to prizes" is coming to an end. The future is attendees walking freely throughout an environment, where both vendor partners and educators are presenting roadmaps, or leading practices and information is being sent, via radio frequency to their smartphones. Information transferred will be tailored specifically to the interests of that attendee. Individuals won’t be running from booth-to-booth to get their stamp. They’ll get their points engaging in a conversation with a vendor partner versus getting a flashing bouncy ball. 

Planners, educators and marketers need to look at their event framework and ensure, based on their desired and existing attendee demographic, that they are using the right tools, technologies and formats to evolve their event experience. My advice to planners is not to underestimate your attendees embracing technology, no matter what demographic you are serving. 

Mobile changed the how and whether we print on-site guides, social media changed how we communicate updates about events, long registration lines are replaced by self-service iPad stations with print-on-demand badges. That’s today. In the future, ensure you build technology into your event strategy, but don’t let the technology define your strategy. 

So thinking about 2020, we may not be transporting individuals with hovercraft, but I’m certain I’ll attend an event and Rosie from the Jetsons will have a new job—she’ll be serving cocktails at the reception.

Posted by Carol McGury

Carol is executive vice president of event and education services at SmithBucklin Corporation.

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