What’s on the Horizon for Meetings in 2020?

A new year often brings change. Here are three ways that association meetings may transform in 2020.

The beginning of a new year comes with lots of industry predictions, and there’s no shortage of them when it comes to meetings and events. So, how different will association meetings look in 2020? Here are three possibilities:

Meetings Tech Will Move Beyond Apps

According to the 2020 Global Meetings Forecast Report [PDF] by American Express Meetings & Events, meeting pros think that this will be the year when technology gets fully integrated into the event experience.

And that means moving beyond event apps, which have become so ubiquitous that one meeting planner referred to them as the “new lanyards.”

“In 2020, I think there will be a renewed focus on utilizing solutions that will help increase attendee engagement, streamline post-event follow-up, and help organizations fuel their sales pipeline through live events,” said Cvent CEO and Founder Reggie Aggarwal. “While tradeshows, conventions, and other event types may not have changed format much over the years, the tools to maximize their impact certainly have, and I think the need for better and more actionable data will continue to drive the technological developments in the year ahead.”

One idea to consider: using facial-recognition software to speed up registration. For example, at IAEE’s Expo! Expo! last month in Las Vegas, attendees could use a facial recognition check-in process onsite. According to a press release from Streampoint Solutions, whose FaceReg software was used at the event, 35 percent of attendees took advantage of it.

“Investing in this technology in the event space opens the doors to not only advancing the check-in process but also creates new opportunities to enhance audience engagement experiences,” said Sam Louie, director of operations at Streampoint Solutions.

Speaker Diversity Gets Prioritized

In late 2018, I wrote that I really wanted to see “manels” go away in 2019. While they’ve yet to be completely eradicated (a recent Bizzabo study showed that almost two-thirds of conference presenters are still men), we have seen some strides.

For example, National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins said in June 2019 that he would no longer be a part of all-male speaking panels.

“Starting now, when I consider speaking invitations, I will expect a level playing field, where scientists of all backgrounds are evaluated fairly for speaking opportunities,” he said in a press release. “If that attention to inclusiveness is not evident in the agenda, I will decline to take part.”

Then, in November, Shoptalk announced that its March 2020 conference would feature an all-women speaker lineup—a decision that some praised and others thought was extreme.

“We believe this groundbreaking move—a first in events to our knowledge—is necessary to propel our industry forward and showcase many incredibly talented women who are working to transform retail in every way,” said Zia Daniell Wigder, Shoptalk’s chief global content officer, in a blog post. “Starting in 2021, Shoptalk will feature 50/50 male and female speakers every year.”

Sustainability Moves to the Forefront

More associations are facing this reality: A greater number of meeting attendees want to reduce their carbon footprint by flying less, and some companies are limiting how often their employees can fly.

In the EventMB report “10 Event Trends for 2020” (registration required), one of the trends highlighted is an increase in virtual meetings due to “flight shaming.”

“As the meetings industry embraces a stronger commitment to sustainability …, unnecessary flying will be a key target of green company policies in 2020,” wrote EventMB Editor Julius Solaris. “Unnecessary travel … will be cut in favor of online delivery methods.”

What does it mean for associations?

For one, they will have to diversify their conference offerings. That may include creating regional events or even bringing education to members by hosting roadshows across the country. And, of course, associations can add a virtual component to a meeting for those who can’t be there.

Associations can also start examining ways to reduce the environmental impact of travel to their conferences—something my colleague Tim Ebner explored in the Fall 2019 issue of Associations Now.

What changes do you think meetings will or should undergo in 2020? Tell us about them in the comments.

(hanohiki/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

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

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