Looking Ahead: Embracing the Future

Business events are at the epicenter of the technology boom. Let’s capitalize on the opportunities that brings.


Sherrif Karamat

Sherrif Karamat, CAE

Rapidly developing technologies are transforming the way the world — including the events industry — works and does business. That fact is made abundantly clear in this issue’s Annual Industry Forecast. Technology’s profound impact on the way events are planned and the way participants experience them starts from the moment attendees provide their registration profiles. That data, aided by artificial intelligence (AI), guides them toward sessions to attend and fellow attendees to connect with.

In a larger context, the tech boom reinforces our industry’s value proposition. We facilitate its growth. After all, it’s at business events that tech startups gain exposure for their ideas, meet potential investors, and learn from other entrepreneurs. And think of all the events that power the five fastest-growing industries in the world: renewable energy, cybersecurity, biotechnology, virtual reality, and AI.

But we have an even greater role to play. As organizations, we have a responsibility to help prepare the world’s workers for the coming changes. Workforces must be retrained to ensure that people have the skills needed to take on the new challenges that technologies, like AI, bring. Historically, new tech has brought new jobs. Those new jobs require education and that’s where we’ve fallen short.

Associations can spearhead worker retraining. That was the conclusion drawn in a 2016 white paper, “The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm,” by Shelly Alcorn, CAE, principal at Alcorn Associates Management Consulting, and Elizabeth Weaver Engel, CAE, CEO and chief strategist at Spark Consulting. “The association community has a vital role to fill in addressing the needs of both workers and employers in the coming decades in helping to bridge the gap from education to employment,” the authors wrote.

The white paper presents sobering statistics: By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the U.S. will require some form of postsecondary education or training. At the same time, 47 percent of jobs in the States will be significantly impacted or replaced by AI and automation within the next decade.

We know that associations already have experience providing credentials and certifications. According to the authors of the paper, that provides a foundation on which they “can rapidly build professional development programs that directly address the specific needs of our industries and professions and create a pipeline of qualified candidates.”

The current shift to high-tech presents us with challenges and opportunities, and adds even greater value to the work we do. As this month’s forecast spotlights, technology will continue to disrupt the way we conduct our personal and professional lives. We can’t even dream of all the ways our lives will change. But one thing is certain: Our industry is mission critical to the world’s future.