We’ve all heard about how drones, holograms, robots and more will alter the future of meetings—or already have, in a few exclusive settings. But when we asked several industry thought leaders to predict what meetings will look like in five years, we were interested in innovations and practices that would be in common use by 2020. (Some of these technologies may exist or be in development now, but they have not yet been fully realized or built out.) Their responses were illuminating. Many of our prognosticators talked about how attendees in 2020 will be the drivers of meetings in a much more significant way—through instant feedback, crowdsourcing, tracking and co-creating meeting content, often on the spot. All emphasized the continued dominance of mobile; some extolled the virtues of a “super app,” a single, multi-event app that will handle the meetings experience before, during and after. Others touted technologies such as geo-fencing and Beacons, which will be ubiquitous by 2020—not only at events, but everywhere in our daily lives.
That last point, in fact, emerged as the big concept in our conversations:
Meetings in 2020 will not be about a single event, or even series of events. Instead, they will be about a connected community that spans years of participants’ lives.
This is partly because increasingly smarter technologies will allow personal data—from public records, social networks, group and club memberships, and employers past and present—to be connected and accessed. The data will give planners and marketers tools to tailor their offerings to meet attendee needs, not only in, but also beyond, a meeting environment. Their goal will be to provide participants with customized, satisfying content and products, and foster a lasting community of loyal, like-minded people. n It’s also due to a more sophisticated understanding of data and how to use it: The more participants reveal about their likes and dislikes, background and interests, and the more they express what they want from a conference, a speaker, a networking event, the better their experience. It will be an experience, in fact, that participants will want to extend and repeat. n In this context, meetings are part of a continuum that gives us an enduring network of relationships, matches us up with ongoing personal and professional opportunities, and delivers personalized information and services wherever we are in space and time. n Get ready for 2020.
1. Before the Meeting
“Event discovery” gets turbo-charged: Meetings find you, based on your preferences, memberships, past attendance, where you live, your profession, etc. Planners no longer rely on email or social media blasts and campaigns to spread awareness.
An integrated registration system feeds into a single “super-app” that captures your preferences and other data, and connects to your social and professional networks. You see a list of other attendees and presenters, and indicate who you want to meet.
- You have unlimited choices in hotels, airlines and ground transport that include event discounts. The app lets planners know when and how you are getting to the conference, where you’re staying, when and how you’re leaving, meal preferences and so on.
2. At the Meeting
Your single super-app contains all the info and documentation you need, including boarding passes and ground transport reservations. Your mobile or wearable device allows keyless check-in. Flight delayed? The app seamlessly changes ground transport and hotel arrival time, and notifies you of your new schedule.
The event hub, whether it’s a convention center, hotel or other venue, is connected through geo-fencing, facial recognition, Beacons, etc., so you are recognized, identified and served information tailored to you. Among other things, this means:
No lines: When you enter the hub for the first time, you’re automatically printed a badge and personalized information is delivered to you.
The app tells you when a person you want to meet (as you indicated earlier) is in the same room as you.
The app identifies other attendees in close proximity, including names, titles, companies and even data, such as how long the person has been in the industry, previous experience, etc.
Language is no barrier: Real-time translation on your mobile device allows you to carry on a conversation with anyone, in any language.
On the exhibit floor, you can stand at the end of a row of booths, hold up your mobile device’s camera and through augmented reality see an overlay that shows booth names and descriptions, reviews, special offers and more.
Wayfinding is easy: The app gives you step-by-step directions to get from point A to point B.
The app provides instant video and other content from the keynote session or breakout sessions that is easily shared with your boss and colleagues back home.
The app tells you who in your network(s) is in which breakout session, guiding your decision on which session to attend; planners know in real-time who is attending and which sessions are popular.
The app takes continuous input about your likes, dislikes, what you want more or less of, what kind of session you want right now or tomorrow and what you want speakers to focus on. Planners track accordingly, revising, reconfiguring and scheduling on the fly.
- The big picture: The app tells you if lines are long at the buffet, and lets you buy a drink or two in a cashless transaction.
3. Outside the Meeting
You are recognized as an event attendee at local restaurants and shops with special promotions and targeted offers.
- If you’re a member of a specific chain of restaurants, gyms, retailers, etc., you’re recognized at branch locations and your preferences are known (such as medium-rare steak, just the way you like it).
4. After the Meeting
Planners, marketers and organizations use data from the event to better understand your needs and refine their offerings. Their relationships with you and other participants become ongoing conversations in connected communities.
Glossary: Geo-fencing—a virtual barrier that uses GPS or radio frequency identification (RFID) to define geographical boundaries. Beacon—hardware that uses Bluetooth connections to transmit messages or prompts directly to a mobile device. (Apple’s iBeacon is built into its devices and iOS7.)
Our Panel of Experts
“Attendees can expect greater say in events and meeting design through reviews and comments. …The word ‘attendee’ is transforming to ‘participant.’ People expect to participate, not passively absorb.”
Corbin Ball, speaker and consultant focused on meetings technology
“The next-generation badge is a wearable device [that relays data] in real time, based on how the planner set up the event to track where participants are going and what event they just attended. Marketers can leverage that information.”
Glen Bentley, vice president of product management for Certain
“[During registration] I marked off five, six people I want to meet. Through geo awareness and iBeacon, the app tells me that a VIP on my list is near me. It IDs people in the corner [and tells me] how long they’ve been in the industry. It points out people in my network—and indicates which of them are going to session A or B. This guides my choices.”
Brian Ludwig, senior vice president of sales for Cvent
“Mobile will continue to be a big thing, but the app itself is different: You won’t have to seek, you won’t have to download—the app will just look at your behavior and prompt you. Tech will allow people to spend less time seeking out information and more time on face-to-face meetings.”
Jason Paganessi, vice president of business innovation for PCMA
“Ready-made peer groups [at] face-to-face meetings are a powerful foundation on which to build relationships. Big data can give you intelligence about issues and ideas flowing through these networks. In 2020, access to this information and what it all means will be the important differentiator.”
Patrick Payne, CEO and co-founder of QuickMobile
“As soon as you see behavior happening, you take action: A marketer knows that you went past Beacon, and in a flash, will start telling you about an offer. Or you walk by the Microsoft booth, and suddenly the screen shows products targeted to you in real time.”
Betsy Zikakis, vice president of global marketing for Certain
Dahlia El Gazzar
“Meetings are an ongoing conversation, not just limited to registration, but a lifelong conversation. You engage attendees when they’re young; they become brand ambassadors.
Dahlia El Gazzar, CEO & founder of The Meeting Pool