Five Global Meetings Megatrends

A newly released German Convention Bureau study revealed big trends shaping the global meetings industry. What are the implications for associations in the years ahead?

Sequestration and the government shutdown have affected the meetings industry—both inside and outside of associations—over the past few months. And while planners must navigate these situations in the short term, it’s also important that they think about trends that may affect their meetings and events in the years ahead.

To help with this, last week the German Convention Bureau released “Meetings and Conventions 2030,” a study [PDF] that identified trends that are—and will continue—to impact the global meetings industry.

The worlds of virtual and live events will blur as planners incorporate virtual components in live events and the number of networked virtual events increase.

Here’s a closer look at the top-five meetings megatrends, according to GCB’s research, and some thoughts on what it could mean for future association meetings and events.

1. Technology

Close to 42 percent of respondents identified technology—both in their work and personal lives—as both influencing and challenging the meetings industry in the short and long term. “New forms of knowledge transfer will influence all phases of event planning,” said GCB in a press release. “For example, the worlds of virtual and live events will blur as planners incorporate virtual components in live events and the number of networked virtual events increase.”

The increased use of virtual events or broadcasting in-person events to a virtual audience will have a number of implications for associations. One would be increased cost for the technology required to do this, but it may also require additional speaker training and thinking outside the box for ways to generate collaboration and conversation among virtual and in-person participants.

2. Globalization and Internationalization

Almost 30 percent of respondents think globalization will have a major impact on meeting and events. “Individuals will need to be more aware of nuances among country cultures, preferences, and lifestyles and speak multiple languages,” said GCB.

As associations continue to expand globally, will planners have to consider offering in-person education sessions or virtual events in attendees’ native languages? Also, even if the content is presented only in English, they may to customize it for different audiences, taking into account cultures and preferences when it comes to words and images on presentation slides and so forth.

3. Mobility

Twenty-six percent of respondents said mobility will affect future meetings. “Getting to and from events easily and comfortably and with the smallest possible ecological footprint will continue to be an important aspect of event planning,” said GCB.

Associations will need to keep things like proximity to public transportation and restaurants, hotels, and entertainment venues in mind as they choose convention centers and other locations for their meetings and events—something I discussed in an earlier blog post about convention centers of the future. Some destinations are already doing so. For example, Portland, Oregon, recently announced it would offer free access to the region’s transit system to convention center attendees.

4. Sustainable Development

Sustainability will influence all areas of meeting planning, from construction and renovation of venues, to transportation, food, and entertainment, according to 20 percent of respondents. “One aspect of this development is the increasing ‘regionalization’ of meetings, where meeting organizers focus more on utilizing local suppliers as well as inviting local and regional audiences more than before,” said GCB.

While many associations already use locally grown food at their events and work with regional vendors, this trend will become more prevalent. Attendees will likely demand more of it, while associations could see benefits from it as well, including cost savings and the ability to immerse their attendees more into the “local experience.”

5. Demographic Changes, Feminization, and Diversity

Eighteen percent of respondents said demographic changes will affect the global meetings industry.  “An increasingly older meeting attendee population will require accessibility, but the implications extend significantly beyond getting around; they affect the meeting format, even the credentials and demographics of the speakers and presenters,” said GCB.

Associations must combine an aging attendee audience with younger attendees also entering the fold—and think about how best to create learning experiences that appeal to attendees of all generations and go outside of traditional formats.

Additionally, the study pointed out that as more women continue to attend meetings around the world, child care and security will need to be considered. “Meeting topics and flexible formats will also be shaped by the growing number of females traveling to meetings and conferences,” said GCB. “Similar considerations, such a food choices and holiday observances, must be made as the meeting populations become increasingly diverse.”

Besides these five megatrends, one trend I think we will hear more about is mobile learning. This would give people access to e-learning programs anytime, anywhere, no matter what device they’re using, allowing for a continuous learning experience. Now it’s your turn: What other future meetings megatrends are on your radar?


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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