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What’s Next? The Top 4 Meetings Trends & Forecasts for 2019

Michael Burns |

What’s Next: Top 4 Meetings Trends and Forecasts for 20192018 was another milestone year for the meetings industry.

In terms of expenditure that went to meetings, 2018 saw 30% of businesses increasing their budget while 57% maintained their spending level from 2017.

Bar graph showing the change in convention and meeting budget in the United States from 2011 to 2018, presented by Statista

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When it comes to the number of attendees, 48% of organizations reported an increase in the number of participants:

Bar graph showing the change in attendance at largest meetings and events in the United States from 2011 to 2018, presented by Statista

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A few months into 2019, meetings are progressing in full steam around the world. Based on what has happened so far, industry experts have weighed in as to what trends will shape how meetings will be planned, managed, and executed for the remainder of the year.

From more niche events to limiting device use, here are four meeting trends that you should keep an eye out for the rest of the year. After reading this post, you’ll have a good sense of whether you should take these into consideration when planning your organization's future meetings:

1. Innovation, Innovation, Innovation

The MPI Meetings Outlook Report Fall 2018 Edition started with an anecdote of how a Fortune 500 insurance company used blender bikes as the center of attraction during its annual leadership meeting. It was a hit. Attendees were game to hop on the bikes which powered blenders to make healthy smoothies that they got to enjoy.

According to Bill Voegeli, president of Association Insights, the group behind Meeting Outlook, the meetings industry is in a period of extended growth creating more room for innovations. He explains: “The meeting and event industry is healthy and has been for quite some time. Any time we have years of health and growth, we see people are able to be more innovative in their meeting design. They have a healthier market. They aren’t trying to squeeze everything into a single event.”

Expect to see more innovations this year in how meetings are executed as attendees also expect unique experiences every time they go to these events.

2. The Rise of Niche & Shorter Meetings

Another key takeaway from the MPI Meetings Outlook report is the emergence of niche meetings. 58% of meeting planners agree that they are re-structuring their meeting from covering general discussions to niche topics.

Table showing the changing structure of events

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Further, while 60% will not modify the length of their meeting sessions, 30% of meeting planners are planning to shorten their meeting sessions.

As mentioned, the meetings industry is in an era of growth, so this change isn’t prompted by practical reasons (i.e. cost-cutting in meeting expenses).

The move to shorter, more niche meetings is driven by the clamor for better engagement among meeting attendees. Focusing more on specific topics provides more value to attendees compared to meetings saturated with a ton of information.

Meanwhile, shorter session duration creates more opportunities for attendees to get a holistic experience. Starting sessions later in the day and finishing early allows attendees to participate in other activities and do more networking during the event.

3. New Ways to Use Technology

According to EventMB, 59.3% of event and meeting planners will increase their use of technology this year, with only 1.4% saying that they will scale back.

Pie chart showing results of will your use of technology change this year?

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Technology is always a hot topic among event organizers and meeting planners year in and year out. This year is no different. Just when everyone thought that it will take a while for new forms of technology to emerge, a new meeting software or mobile app or smart tag system is being tested by early adopters.

For example, the use of facial recognition is gaining momentum. Recently, a company called Big Bear X used facial recognition for registration as well as to analyze audience sentiment during meetings and events. This is a step toward a better event registration experience. It is also a significant development when it comes to accurately understanding attendee satisfaction level during meetings. Conducting a survey is the quintessential method to get feedback from meeting participants. However, organizers have learned that there could be a disconnect between what attendees are saying versus what they’re feeling. Using facial recognition can bridge this gap.

4. Adoption of Strategic Meetings Management Based on a Specific Business Need

Strategic meetings management (SMM) has been around for years. Yet, it’s only recently gaining traction among organizations. One reason for this is meeting planners get overwhelmed because they try to implement SMM in its entirety all at once.

On that note, one trend that’s going to emerge this year is the adoption of SMM not as a holistic system, but in parts and parcel to address specific needs and goals. According to American Express Vice President for Business Development and Strategy Milton Rivera: “Strategic meetings management is simply that – managing your meetings strategically. Some people get overwhelmed if they think of it in its fully mature state, but it’s not meant to operate that way for every company. The question is, do you want to manage your meetings strategically simply to know where your spend is going and that it’s working for you? Then construct what you’re comfortable with to achieve your goals.”

This establishes a good foundation for strategic meetings management among meeting planners and, eventually, adopt SMM more holistically in their respective organizations.

Which Trend to Ride?

The constant emergence of new trends every year is proof just how dynamic the meetings industry is. While trends could be reflective of the current best practices in meetings management, they are not at all prescriptive. Meeting planners should know the needs and goals of their respective organizations to help them discern which trends they should adopt and those they should postpone for now.

The key is for meeting managers to be open to these changes to keep their practices aligned with the gold standards of the industry.

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This Post was Written by Michael Burns

Michael is the Chief Revenue Officer at Aventri.

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