3 Rules to Help You Design the Meetings of the Future

Author: David McMillin       

Organizing events can feel like playing a constant game of catch-up. As new innovations in technology, food, and transportation reshape your attendees’ lives at home, they expect similar groundbreaking elements in their on-site experiences, too. Rather than hoping to keep pace with other industries, event organizers can take the lead by embracing a futures-studies approach. At the upcoming PCMA Education Conference in New York, Elliott Montgomery, assistant professor of strategic design at The New School/Parsons School of Design, will challenge participants to think about futures-oriented social, psychological, economic, and political signals and how those signals may play a role at their own events. Before his two-part session on Tuesday, June 13, Montgomery offered PCMA a preview of how organizers can revamp their approaches to design for the future with three helpful tips.

1) Embrace the Absurd.

Put yourself in the shoes you were wearing in 2000. If someone told you that, over the next 15 years, you would disconnect your landline, rely on a fake persona named Alexa to turn down the music in your living room, and regularly ride in the backseat of a stranger’s car via something called ride-sharing, you probably would have scoffed at the predictions. It would have felt ridiculous, right? Exactly. Montgomery believes that organizations should embrace a notion originally put forward by Jim Dator, the former director of the Hawaii Research Center for Future Studies, when thinking about what’s next: “Any useful statement about the futures should appear to be ridiculous.”

2) Invite New Faces to Your Brainstorming Sessions.

If you really want to embrace the ridiculous and bizarre, you’re going to want to look outside your team — and perhaps outside the events industry altogether. “One of the best ways we can introduce more seemingly ridiculous visions into our concept development process is to invite diverse and unconventional collaborators to join our creative teams,” Montgomery said. “Pedagogically diverse perspectives, when organized with a constructive dynamic, can generate highly unexpected and captivating new thoughts.”

3) Don’t Limit Your Creativity to Current Buzz Words.

It’s easy to get lost in the current headlines when thinking about what’s next for events. Right now, plenty of organizers may be focused on integrating virtual reality into their events or brainstorming ways to use Snapchat to appeal to an emerging generation of prospective attendees. While both of these areas are important to consider, preparing for the future isn’t about understanding the present conversation. “We often fall into the trap of thinking about the futures that others are already talking about,” Montgomery said, “so this is why many futures-research groups use models to distribute their research across a range of contexts before digging deeper.”

Montgomery said that Education Conference attendees will be experimenting with one of these models in New York. Click here to register.

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