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November 26, 2013

IMEX Forecasts the Meetings Industry: Seven Trends to Know [VIDEO]

Last week, the IMEX Group shared its predictions for meetings industry trends and changes in 2014--many of which are supported by speaker and expert anecdotes from the recent IMEX America 2013 in Las Vegas.

1. Content Gets Bigger as Attention Spans Grow Shorter

The meetings landscape has changed so that content now defines meeting and event type, not the other way around. Sites like YouTube, TED and the growth of six-second-clip site Vine means attention spans are shorter than ever. Four minutes is a lifetime online. Expect meetings and event content to be delivered in ever more entertaining, diverse and digestible pieces.

Whether a planner is looking to educate or entertain, technology can help boost interaction with audiences, IMEX CEO Carina Bauer told International Meetings Review. "The key is getting the speakers and managers to understand how it can impact the content. It can't be the speaker on one side and the technology on the other. It must come together to work properly."   

At the same time, ‘hybrid’ events are disappearing as all meetings  become multi-faceted and multi-dimensional for participants on and off-site.

Speaking on the INCON-sponsored Social Hub at IMEX America, Glen Thayer, the Voice of Meetings & Events, said: “The attention span of our attendees is a big factor. My tolerance for a YouTube video is 60 seconds and I’m done! That’s a big challenge…both at the physical live event and online.” 

2. Happiness is Hip

The ‘work/life balance’ is out. In 2014, look for ‘workplace spirituality.’ A growing number of organizations recognize that employee loyalty and motivation hinges on a convergence of personal values with corporate ones.

IMEX America 2013 MPI Keynote, CEO & Chief Happiness Officer of Delivering Happiness, Jenn Lim, was on trend when she urged her audience to think of happiness as a science that can be applied at work. “When values, vision and purpose in individuals and organizations come together, the impact can be so positive, and it’s about much more than a happy worker being a productive worker,” she said. Expect more organizations to embrace happiness as their ethos for growth in 2014.

3. Technology Connects the Dots

Convergence and connectivity will both be the next big technology wins the meetings industry strives for in 2014. As Lawrence Coburn, CEO of DoubleDutch, and Michael Owen, CEO of Eventgenuity observed at IMEX America 2013, many big technology advances have been made, now they need to be managed. Coburn expects “the bandwidth of Apps to get lighter”, where Owen sees regulation and standards coming into play, such as through the new Apex Standards. He’s also clear that the future is “not about more technology but how that technology is delivered.”

2014 will see offline coming online even more energetically, further notes Coburn. Engagement will also lead to better data capture with the ultimate win being deeper business insight. The proliferation of smartphones and “wearables” with their innate ability to capture data will also improve ROI, forecasts Coburn.

Of course, as Bauer noted, these technological advances all depend on Wi-Fi being readily available in venues for attendees to use. "There is a high expectation of connectivity, and [the service] doesn't always live up to that," Bauer said. 

4. Social Media Shifts Up, Out and Everywhere

“Everyone’s had their first go at social media. Now it’s time for phase two,” is how Sam Stanton, President of redbutton.tv described it on the IMEX America 2013 Social Hub. “Expect to see some really cool crossover where participants who are highly social at home find they can still behave that way at an event.” In 2014, social media will start to receive its own budget, and begin to play a meaningful and measurable part in marketing and communications strategies across the meetings and events industry. (At this year's events, IMEXLive was an online ‘window onto the show’ that updated in real time, for example.)

"People need basic training, but the debate [over social media] has moved on," Bauer said. "People don’t ask what it is anymore, but are looking at it from a more holistic viewpoint across more  channels. It's not a tech issue like it was a few years ago." The question every planner using social media at an event should think about, Bauer said, is how to engage with people on a more personal level. "We’ve used it to make events accessible for people who may not be there. IMEXLive was a way for us to make IMEX a bit more of a hybrid event. It wasn't an educational conference, and we didn’t want to do a hybrid program that was just streaming content. That's not the core of what we do. We wanted to give people a flavor of the show--and through social media and video content, people got that." IMEXLive combined interviews, social media posts and pictures as a way for people to contribute and collaborate and get a more well-rounded experience of the show. "Different social media platforms can be very disparate," Bauer noted. "It constantly evolves. So a better understanding of this is that itis a communications channel."

5. “Glocal” – Helping Hands on Your Doorstep

With the launch of the biannual 2014 IMEX Challenge -- which will involve building a new healing garden at the Shade Tree shelter in Las Vegas next October -- the IMEX team is promoting sustainability by keeping it local. Up until recently, social responsibility looked to support charities in other countries, but going ahead, events will look to local needs. Bauer noted IMEX's two legacy projects in Las Vegas, Opportunity Village and the Shade Tree shelter for women, children and their pets. "In Frankfurt we also support the Lichtblick Homeless Shelter and Maisha’s Sewing Project; and in our home town of Brighton, England we support a young people’s homeless charity – The Clocktower.”

This trend, she told IMR, has earned the portmanteau of "Glocal": "Companies are global but have to be local," she said. "It filters down to smaller industries like ours. We’ve always taken that approach, but we really understand now that it is the right way to go." The initiative further supports communities where IMEX already has an impact, she added. "It's great when that impact can go beyond economic." 

6. Meetings Sector as Leading Economic Indicator

Could 2014 be the year when the meetings and events industry is finally recognized as an important economic indicator? Economic impact studies are now commonplace in at least five mature markets, and they have been rigorously executed. And, when the recent US Government shutdown threatened to stifle business on many fronts, President Obama was quick to request a meeting with U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow. This is in stark contrast to the post-AIG panic when the meetings industry was lobbying from the back foot and the rallying cry was “if you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu.” As Dan Berger, CEO of Social Tables declared at IMEX America, “Those of us in the industry know that when meetings and events start to rise they are the pulse of growth.” If the Purchasing Managers Index can do it, then why not a meetings market barometer as a reliable forecasting tool?

7. Workplace diversity

Where once a hot conversation topic was demographic shift and what that meant for the global meetings and events market, now the big debate of 2014 looks set to be ‘workplace diversity’. With so many generations working alongside each other (be it virtually or physically) and issues of gender balance and racial diversity still being addressed, organizations are having to look at their recruitment and talent development strategies with more creativity, and awareness. In July 2013 Deloitte University Press went one step further, suggesting that ‘diversity of thought’ is now the new frontier: “Advances in neurological research that are untangling how each of us thinks and solves problems can help organizations, including governments, operationalize diversity of thought and eventually change how they define and harness human capital.”

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