Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

December 19 2016

Top 2016 Takeaways For The Meetings Industry

Carolyn Clark


It’s been a busy year for the PCMA community. You’ve attended face-to-face education sessions. You’ve tuned into OnDemand webinars. You’ve combed through survey findings, and now, you might be feeling overwhelmed with insights from 2016. Rather than trying to organize all your notes on the trends and issues from the past year, here’s a look at some of the top takeaways to help you chart the course forward for your organization, your attendees and your career in the new year.

1) Virtual Has Become A Reality.

The tech world has been discussing virtual reality for a long time, but VR crossed into the mainstream with some big strides in 2016. Qantas unveiled a new virtual reality app designed to drive interest in destinations across Australia, and Meet L.A. launched a new VR tour to help meeting professionals familiarize themselves with the City of Angels. Leading fashion brand Coach used Google Cardboard to extend the impact of its event during New York Fashion Week. As 2016 winds down, expect to see more of your attendees — and their kids — experimenting with VR at home, thanks to a new advertising campaign from Samsung that showcases the awesomeness that awaits behind those big goggles.

MORE: What Will Virtual Reality Mean For Your Meeting?

2) Room Blocks Are Evolving.

“The traditional housing block model is broken,” PCMA’s President and CEO Deborah Sexton declared on a panel at DMAI’s Annual Convention in Minneapolis.

Meeting professionals don’t have to search far to find proof of Sexton’s belief. Many attendees are regularly turning to OTAs to find an assortment of affordable — in many cases, more affordable than the room block — options. Hotels are getting more aggressive with their direct booking campaigns. And a new generation of experience-focused attendees are checking into the new cool kid on the block, Airbnb, for an alternative to the typical hotel stay. As the travel industry continues to change, meeting professionals and conference organizers must reevaluate their approaches to conference housing.

MORE: Are Traditional Room Blocks Becoming Extinct?

3) Voice Is Taking Over Text.

As more consumers turn to Alexa, Siri and a range of other voice-activated assistants, attendees are going to expect to be able to communicate with conference apps and hotel rooms without reading anything. The travel industry is already planning for the voice revolution. Check out PCMA’s coverage from the SKIFT Global Forum to learn more. As you look to the future of attendee engagement, be sure to consider how voice-based technology will impact the on-site experience.

4) On-site Security Is Strengthening.

From Brussels to Orlando to Istanbul and beyond, tragic terror attacks shook the world in 2016, and more meeting professionals are recognizing the need for enhanced security measures at events. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 60 percent of trade show organizers are beefing up their on-site protection procedures. CES 2016 was one of the major events to adjust its approach to keeping attendees and exhibitors safe. Click HERE to learn how organizers changed the 2016 show.

5) Communication Is More Critical Than Ever.

It’s not just about adding security measures that attendees will see once they arrive; in 2016, we learned that talking to attendees before they ever book a trip to your conference is becoming increasingly important. A survey conducted by Business Travel News showed that 49 percent of business travelers feel less safe on their trips than they did one year ago. As your organization works to address terrorism, health concerns and other crises, your marketing strategy must include a transparent approach to attendee communications.

MORE: Confronting The Realities Of Travel In The Terrorism Era

6) Wellness Is An On-Site Essential.

The early morning 5K is no longer enough to satisfy the needs of health-conscious attendees. More attendees are checking their step counts and monitor their rates, and more conference organizers are integrating exercise into their conference designs. Convening Leaders attendees will see wellness in action in Austin with sessions such as Power Meditation and Tone & Strengthen.

7) Real Networking Opportunities Require Work.

When attendees aren’t exercising their brains and bodies, they want to flex their business-building muscles. However, the most innovative conferences aren’t offering those opportunities via typical cocktail receptions and “networking” hours. Instead, they’re embracing some forward-thinking ways of facilitating connections with new technology. Want to see the next generation of networking in action? Sign up for Brain Dates at Convening Leaders in Austin to see how the E-180 platform can power more productive relationships in the conference environment.

MORE: 3 Ways This Conference Delivered Awesome Networking Opportunities Without Alcohol

What are your big takeaways from 2016? Were there key insights from your attendee surveys that will impact the way you approach the new year? Go to Catalyst to share your insights.

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