The impact of the Brexit vote, the outcome of the upcoming US Presidential election, the importance of big data, the revolutionary possibilities of virtual reality and more — the conversation at the Center for Exhibition Industry Research Predict Conference covered the issues and trends that will shape the future of business events. Hosted at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC, the conference looked at big-picture economic predictions and out-of-this-world experience design possibilities. Here’s a look at some of my favorite quotes from the two-day discussion.
1) “The reality is that we all have a lot more power over the outcome of where events are going than we think.” - Marc Pomerleau, Global Strategy, Vice President, FreemanXP
Worried about your attendance numbers? Wondering if your organization will be able to appeal to a younger audience? Struggling to figure out which education sessions really matter? You may have plenty of questions and concerns about the future of your conference or event. However, Pomerleau offers a reassuring perspective: you can shape that future. By harnessing the power of data analysis, you can do more than review the past; Pomerleau believes trade show professionals and business event strategists can develop prescriptive solutions to keep their audiences engaged.
2) “Any useful statement about the future should at first seem ridiculous.” - Jim Dator, Professor and Director of the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies
Dator wasn’t actually in Washington, DC, but this quote served as the foundation for one of the most thought-provoking sessions of the conference. Andrew Trabulsi, Research Manager at California-based non-profit think tank Institute for the Future, offered Dator’s perspective when he took CEIR participants on a tour of possibilities for the next generation of face-to-face experiences — a tour that, among other awesome ideas, included using a Waze-like navigational tool to identify networking prospects within 20 feet. If you’re aiming to spark the creative energy of your own team members, I recommend writing Dator’s quote on the whiteboard in bold letters.
3) “We’re all obsessed with delivering content to our attendees. What we could be doing is delivering assistance.” - Marc Pomerleau, Global Strategy, Vice President, FreemanXP
Content is king, right? Well, sort of. Sure, you need to offer educational sessions that will appeal to your audience, but content is already everywhere. Your attendees can find compelling content on their laptops, tablets and smartphones. Rather than focusing on curating more of it, Pomerleau believes trade show professionals and business events organizers should be aiming to make their lives better. For example, he highlighted how data analytics might be able to help an organization recommend more affordable flight options for prospective attendees. If you can save an attendee $300 simply by recommending flying to Oakland instead of San Francisco, Pomerleau believes you can make a difference in the decision to attend.
MORE: This Is The One Question You Need To Start Asking Your Attendees
4) “Uncertainty is a brilliant thing for the trade show industry.” - Bob Bierman, Principal, Tiny World Media
It’s a very uncertain autumn in the US. As the strangest Presidential elections in my lifetime unfolds, business leaders aren’t quite sure what to expect in November. While uncertainty can create plenty of worries inside organizations and force leaders to press pause on big decisions, Bierman, a media executive with experience at The Washington Post, Bloomberg and many other top names in publishing, believes this environment will prove to be valuable for anyone involved in trade shows and conventions. “This is the time when everyone wants to get together,” Bierman said. “They want to compare notes and talk about what’s ahead.”
MORE: What Will The Presidential Election Mean For The Economy And Your Organization?
5) “AI and ML are going to help drive so much ROI for the events industry.” - Lawrence Coburn, Founder and CEO, DoubleDutch
How’s this quote for an acronym sandwich? Coburn is referring to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, and he paints a picture of a new generation of conventions and trade shows that will be able to deliver more benefits to everyone involved. He imagines that advances in these fields will be able to create a concierge-like experience for all attendees — not just VIPs. Not sure of which sessions to attend? Attendees can count on technology to curate a more productive schedule that meets their needs. Looking for new sales prospects? Exhibitors will listen to notifications when a key decision-maker is near their booths. An incident just backed up traffic on the way to the airport? A reminder to leave earlier for a flight will automatically avoid potential personal chaos. If the future comes to life the way Coburn sees it, the face-to-face industry is going to be amazing.
MORE: 5 Next-Gen Technologies That Already Are Changing Meetings
Interested in more insights for the future of the trade show industry? CEIR recently released two new reports in its 2016 Changing Environment of Exhibitions series. Click here for more information.