Looking at the Future of Face-to-Face

Author: David McMillin       

As meetings and events evolve, the PCMA Education Foundation is supporting the German Convention Bureau’s efforts to predict the next era of engagement.

When the German Convention Bureau (GCB) began research to forecast what meetings and events will look like in the future, its findings hinted at a future trend that runs counter to current thinking: Meetings might actually get longer. The first phase of the research, supported by a grant from the PCMA Education Foundation, revealed that the structure of an event may expand to accommodate the demands of work.

“[The research] puts forth the idea that meetings could be made longer in terms of number of days — up to seven — spreading out the learning modules with more time formally built in for participants to attend to items back at the office and to provide more dedicated work space in the main meeting venue,” Matthias Schultze, managing director of the GCB, told Convene in 2017. “During this ‘working time,’ it is expected [that] people will be plugged into their offices more deeply. Here attendees are more autonomous in an unconference-like format, yet still focused on meeting goals. Extended stays also mean more opportunity to network with, get to know, and share knowledge informally with fellow meeting-goers.”

One year later, the next phase of the GCB’s research indicates that while the length of a program may change, the core value proposition of a face-to-face event — to deliver networking and learning opportunities — will remain the same. However, to accommodate the shifting learning preferences of professionals, education needs to embrace a more social approach. While the subject matter experts on stage are critical to sharing new insights, the GCB’s research indicates that participants in the audience play an equally important role. The GCB’s latest round of research predicts that the ability to meet as many different people as possible will be a key differentiator in determining an event’s success in the future.

That’s an exciting possibility for conferences. Traditional annual gatherings can often be environments for reconnecting with friends and colleagues from past events. If the face-to-face industry can connect more people with more new faces and new voices, meetings and events will be able to deliver what everyone wants: more new ideas.

Stay tuned to pcma.org for recommendations on how to prepare your event for the future. The GCB will release complete findings and tips for creating more engaging events in November.

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