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Five Wishes for the Meetings Industry in 2011

It’s January. It’s that time of year, when all of us prognosticators and pundits look into our crystal balls and make big and bold predictions about the future.

Last year, I wrote an article called 10 Ways Social Media Will Transform Events. I talked about the way Social Media will transform communication at events. The article is still relevant today.

For 2011, I have five wishes for the meetings industry. With your help, these wishes could become reality. Have a look and let me know what you think.

1.  I wish we would stop stuffing people in chairs in rows and making them listen to speakers for 5 hours.

Seriously people. Friends don’t let friends stuff attendees into chairs to mindlessly listen to speakers babble for 5 hours per day. Attendees brains can’t absorb the 400-500 slides that you are throwing at them during the day. Plus, today’s attendees are smarter, more educated and have access to more information at their fingertips than ever before. Why don’t we do more to work on harnessing that capability?

Strangely, I feel like the reason meetings have not evolved more is that we don’t have enough good examples of what “different” looks like in meetings.There are many people talking about making events “different.” Yet, there are very few public examples of different approaches. It seems like we need to round up these meeting mavericks that are innovating and get them to share all of their examples and case studies with others.

Here is an example from my 2010 work that was recently written about in PCMA Convene: 5,000 Points of View. Please share yours as well.

2.  I wish that the meetings industry would invest more to create conversations and experiences that resemble the future of meetings.

We need to do more to create “safe” spaces for people to try out new and innovative event concepts.  The Event Camp Series, Engage365, BizBash’s Rethink Forum are a good start. Velvet Chainsaw Consulting’s Learning Lounge at PCMA’s upcoming Annual Conference could be another good example.

I think that we can still do a lot more. Would you be willing to sponsor (or work on) an innovation lab project in 2011/2012? If so, email me.

3. I wish hotels and venues made conference WIFI and LAN services more affordable for meeting organizers.

To me the venue Wifi discussion is like the wart on the wicked witches’ nose. It’s big, ugly and in your face – yet, you can’t do a darn thing about it. Help may be on the way.

Since October, I have been using Verizon’s MIFI card. It is a private wireless hotspot that allows me to connect 5 devices to the internet via Verizon’s cell network. It saves my bacon anywhere AT&T doesn’t work (like the entire state of Wisconsin). I use it rather than hotel or venue wifi while I am traveling. It makes life so much easier.

Hopefully, in 2011, we will start to see more competitive products like Verizon’s MIFI Cards and Tradeshow Internet that will put pressure on suppliers to improve their pricing and performance.  In the interim, I strongly encourage you to negotiate Wifi and LAN service levels and access into your venue contracts. This way, you can save yourself money and make the connectivity more affordable right out of the gate.

4. I wish that your event website was social media friendly and designed for mobile devices

With so many people accessing the internet from mobile devices, I don’t understand why your event website doesn’t have a mobile version. I get so mad when I have to look at a “browser” based website on my mobile phone. The text is too small, your flash graphics don’t work and it gives me a bad experience with your organization.

In the next two years, the number of people accessing content from their mobile devices is going to outnumber those that access content via PC.  It’s time to talk to your IT guy about setting up a mobile version of your site – it’s dead simple and will make your growing audience of mobile users happy.

While you are working on the website, go ahead and make your event website social media friendly, as well.  Please add some social sharing buttons for Facebook, Twitter and Email. These butttons should be put on each of the key pages of your website, so that attendees and fans can tell their “likeminded” social media friends about your event.  If you want people to talk about you in Social Media, you need to make it simple to do. A “tweet” button and a “like” button are about as simple as it gets. It amazes me how many of you miss this valuable opportunity.  (Need an example? See the buttons at the bottom of this post and every post on this site.)

5. I wish that I could transfer all of the crazy ideas for interaction and collaboration in my brain to your boss’s brain.

Imagine what would happen if there were like 10,000 leaders talking to meeting planners about getting people to collaborate and work together in large groups at meetings. I think that would be awesome!

What would it take to do that? Should we create some cards like the IDEO Method Cards to give away? Or is it enough to show leadership the TED examples and then let their imaginations start running wild?

Bottom Line

Those are my five wishes for the Meetings Industry in 2011. I don’t think it’s asking for the world. In fact, if I can get you and five of your friends to join in – we should be able to turn these wishes into dreams come true in a year from now.

What do you say? What should we tackle first?

Image Credit: krkdesigns

Written by

Samuel J. Smith is the Managing Director of Interactive Meeting Technology, LLC. He wakes up every morning to save the world from stuffing attendees in chairs for hours on end at events. Oh, and he has small children who usually want some breakfast.