What’s Next for the Meeting Industry?

A newly published report from IACC predicts an increasing emphasis on technology, in-person collaboration, and values-based site selection.

Author: Barbara Palmer       

Nearly two years of living through a global pandemic has not only changed how and where people work, but attitudes and preference towards meetings, according to the authors of a newly published report, “The Future of the Meeting Industry,” released this week by IACC.

IACC's newly published "The Future of the Meetings Industry," report surveyed corporate employees and others on their attitudes toward meetings.

IACC’s newly published “The Future of the Meetings Industry,” report surveyed corporate employees and others on their attitudes toward meetings.

“Now that employees have experienced the advantages of a hybrid work environment, some form of this will undoubtedly continue to be used after the pandemic,” write the report’s authors, students from the Netherlands-based Hotel Management School of Maastricht, who based their report on published research, a survey of corporate employees, and interviews with IACC clients.

“The perception of external meetings has changed and people’s motivations for getting together and meeting have shifted dramatically,” the report said. Gains in efficiency brought by virtual meetings are being weighed against the value of in-person connection, depending on the purpose of the meeting. “While in-person meetings will continue to be popular, hybrid and virtual meetings are becoming increasingly valuable, depending on the meeting’s purpose. Face-to-face meetings, such as team-building meetings, are preferred over online meetings because participants can read each other’s body language, intentions, and feelings in ways that are impossible to do virtually,” the report said.

“While the pandemic has shown the ease of attending online meetings, it’s clear from our report that significant value is placed on face-to-face gatherings,” said Mark Cooper, CEO of IACC. “However, the likelihood is that organisations will be more strategic about how and why they bring their teams together. It’s clear that venues need to be investing both in their onsite offer as well as in ensuring they have the appropriate meeting technology to seamlessly connect companies requiring a hybrid meeting model.”

The report recommends that meeting venues offer flexible spaces, including removable walls and mobile furniture, and immersive technology, such as LED video walls, interactive whiteboards, and video-conferencing equipment. Venues should look at creating experiences “by focusing on the look and feel of the overall environment instead of just the four walls of the meeting room.”

Most of the clients interviewed valued sustainability and carbon neutrality, the report said. To meet the needs of meeting planners going forward, “venues need to consider their ethical and environmental credentials to ensure that they are up to scrutiny and are clearly showcased to potential clients,” Cooper said. “Quite rightly, these issues are increasingly important decision-making factors for meeting bookers, particularly management of food waste and having a strong diversity program in place.”

Download the full report at IACC Meeting Room of the Future website.