Meetings

2016 Meeting Trends: Tech and Atmosphere Leading the Way

By / Jan 15, 2016

Associations use the new year to try out new trends. PCMA and Marriott International reveal five meeting trends event planners should be ready to examine to boost attendees’ experience.

Associations are looking to spice things up in 2016, and Marriott International and the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) predict meetings are going to get a sprinkle of change, too.

“In 2015 the majority of both meeting professionals and meeting venues reported growing attendance and revenues. While we are excited about these strong results, we also need to remain focused on our industry’s future,” PCMA president and CEO Deborah Sexton said in a statement. “Together, PCMA and Marriott International identified both the trends on the horizon and the actions we need to explore to prepare our constituents to leverage these trends.”

Discussions of the upcoming trends predicted to affect meetings were part of the two groups’ Meetings Imagined project. They resulted in five key areas meeting planners should be ready to examine to improve their meeting experiences.

The organizations expect an increase in sensory analytics, which involve sensors placed in meeting rooms that can send information about the attendees’ physical experience to coordinators in real time. Monitoring heart rate, eye movements, and stress levels would allow the coordinators to make minute-to-minute adjustments to the rooms and programs.

Attendees, on the other hand, are moving away from a desire for individual focus and instead expect a communal atmosphere. Meetings’ setup will follow suit, with a growing focus on group events, collaboration, and connections.

“The U.S. has been heavy on individualism as a society for a long time. I think that has created a need for—and a hunger for—community, which technology is helping to solve,” Dean Foster, president of the Intercultural Consultancy DFA said.

Meeting-goers also want to start personalizing their own dynamic convention experiences, and meeting planners will begin to adapt to that expectation. Planners should be able to create a physical setup that is easy to alter based on feedback. “I want to personalize my experience, and I don’t want the organizers to determine my experience for me,” PCMA’s COO Sherrif Karamat said. “Instead, I want them to create a platform where I can personalize my experience.”

In addition, events will start to address holistic wellness, which includes emotional, spiritual, and social health, and not just physical health. While many meetings already include healthy exercise and diet options, meeting planners may also need to consider other factors that aid a healthy mind.

This could involve incentivizing hotels “to customize everything from lighting to airflow in their venues to create healthier environments that help the attendees achieve their desired lifestyle goals,” the statement said.

Lastly, meeting planners will start to implement new technology to further involve the virtual audience. Going beyond the livestream, technology allowing for interaction between in-person and virtual attendees will become more commonplace. This change will also lead to alterations in the speaker presentations as they seek to involve and engage both audiences.

Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. More »

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