Producers, Managers
and Convenors

Rohit Talwar HeadshotArtificial Intelligence. We will see far more use of artificial intelligence (AI) across a range of industries and applications will emerge in the meetings sector. The technology will help with things like trawling for popular topics and emerging issues for conference content, through to identifying and targeting potential attendees who fit the ideal candidate profile. We’ll see AI being used for customer service chatbots, and in performing detailed multi-parameter evaluations of bids from different possible locations and venues for an event. Within events, AI in meetings apps can help with better matchmaking between attendees, and in searching for and providing relevant content to presentations – and also fact checking claims made by speakers.

Immersive Technologies. We’ll see far great use of technologies that enhance the multi-sensory immersive experience at events. We have grown used to seeing fun and engaging demonstrations with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in the exhibition area. In the near future, we’ll see entire workshop sessions or even plenaries where the technology is used to create a more immersive experience for some or part of the session. The aim will be to shift meetings and conferences from events where delegates are “spoken at” to more participative and engaging experiences that allow delegates to go deeper into the exploration of a scenario or issue.

Internet of Things. Growing use will be made of sensors, cameras, and tracking devices to monitor flows around an event and to provide deeper information to exhibitors about the visitors to their stands and what they spent time looking at. Effectively, we’ll see an Internet of Things (IoT) emerging within events – with lots of questions about the extent to which people are willing to be tracked and the rewards they will receive for agreeing to such monitoring.

Q. How can the events industry help shape or influence this future?

We see an accelerating pace of disruption, increasing complexity, and growing uncertainty to be at the root of many issues that businesses and organisations are addressing today and will continue to face in the emerging future. Events remain one of the most universally powerful ways of helping people learn about these changes, hear how others are responding, and explore the implications with their peers.

Exponential technology developments and the resulting disruptions they cause will create new challenges and opportunities for innovative business solutions. There will be tremendous potential benefits to be gained by those events that can tap into these drivers of disruption, provide choice and personalisation for how and when delegates can participate, and help people make sense of the resulting skills challenges and opportunities for their sector. As wicked problems become the norm, and tame problems the exception, events need to think about how they are adapting their design to help participants understand the challenges and craft well-thought out solutions.

With a growing array of event options and online alternatives, proving the value and relevance of our events will never have been more important. Increasingly, organisations are beginning to grasp that the future may look very different to the present, hence the growing interest in “future proofing”. This in turn is driving event owners to ensure they have genuinely forward-looking content and experiences that challenge participants, stretch their thinking, and open the door to new possibilities.

Q. Do you see the changes ahead as positive or negative for the events industry?

Almost every change on the horizon can be viewed from either a negative or a positive perspective. For example, on the one hand, confusion over Brexit may lead some organisations to postpone meeting plans while staff focus on the practicalities of the UK decoupling from the European Union. However, there will also be a massive growth in events focused on helping different sectors make sense of Brexit and determine the actions to take. The challenge is to have forward thinking people in the business who are looking at the issues on the horizon, and determining the potential impacts and opportunities that could arise – acting pre-emptively to create solutions rather responding to a crisis or rushing to respond to an opportunity when they emerge.

Q. How should we shift our mindset and leadership style in order to compete in this emerging future?

The first step is make sure that everyone is encouraged to be looking at the broader changes taking place or emerging today across society to understand what they might mean for the meetings sector. The next is to allocate some dedicated time to explore the longer term future. This means, for example, looking at the meeting needs and expectations of emerging generations. This also means looking at how the exponential technology developments we are already starting to see could impact our sector and society over the coming five, 10, 15, or 20 years. As an increasingly critical component of leading in a time of increasing disruption, futures thinking can play a critical role in helping leaders and their organisations come to terms with the nature of a rapidly evolving world.

Q. How can we harness this technology to our advantage in order to ensure a very human future?

In some sectors, there is a clear expectation that technology will automate roles and jobs and replace people – this may not be so apparent in the events sector. In a highly service oriented sector such as meetings and events, technologies such as AI will provide power tools to help in the design, marketing, and management of events. This should hopefully free up staff time for customer facing activities. The success of the sector depends on the quality of service combined with the capacity to understand and respond to the meeting and event needs of the marketplace. This requires human relationships, research, quality dialogues, and time invested to create the best possible event design – all of which suggest a very human future for the sector.

Published in micenet December eMag here

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