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Emerging trends in meetings and event management

Increasingly tech-savvy and eco-conscious clients will drive continued change in meetings and events management in the year ahead, according to a leading meetings management, logistics and event company, Publicis Meetings USA (PMUSA).

“Technological advances continue to be increasingly important and are leading to more requests for customization and interactivity in meetings and events,” said Karen Young, managing director and vice president of meeting services for PMUSA, a total solutions meeting management company. “We expect technology to be at the core of several trends in the meetings industry in 2011.”

Customizable mobile apps
One noteworthy trend Young’s team is already seeing is the use of mobile devices and customized applications to promote audience engagement, interactivity and networking. Mobile apps are now being developed for individual events and programs, allowing organizers to communicate with attendees before and during the meeting, especially regarding time-sensitive subjects like changes of itinerary, maps and other announcements.

There are several devices and services currently on the market that help increase the technological and interactive aspects of a meeting.
These include audience response and networking apps such as VisionTree, Spotme and others.

VisionTree utilizes proprietary software on either existing client phones or rentable equipment, and is useful for tracking audience responses, while Spotme uses proprietary software and equipment for messaging, customized agendas and audience response.

PMUSA expects customized lead generation, comprehensive registration tracking and reporting to become more prevalent through the use of barcode scanning and RFID.

Hybrid meetings
In today’s cost-conscious business environment, PMUSA forecasts that new technologies will also drive continued growth in hybrid meetings. By incorporating hybrid components into their meetings, clients are saving money, achieving higher attendance rates and promoting sustainability.

“We expect to see more requests for hybrid meetings in 2011, with an added emphasis on their ability to reinforce a meeting’s ‘green’ efforts,” said Young. “Incorporating technology, such as live broadcasts and video streaming, allows clients to conduct and attend meetings from a remote location. The cost savings is a major factor in this trend, along with the importance of a meeting’s environmental responsibility.”

Comprehensive green meetings
Meeting clients are increasingly requesting green events, but it’s the comprehensive nature of these requests that PMUSA sees as the most important trend for the coming year.

“It’s not enough to simply select LEED-certified destinations and use recyclable products,” said Young. “Increasingly, clients are expecting every aspect of a meeting to include an environmental component, from biodiesel vehicles and biodegradable materials to the use of locally sourced food, and reusable plants for centerpieces in lieu of cut flowers.”

Among other green-friendly options, PMUSA has managed several events where attendees are encouraged to pre-print their name badges in order to reduce on-site waste, and where water refill stations replace bottled water.

Social media interaction
As companies become more aware of the power of social media tools, PMUSA expects clients to request more use of social networking websites like Twitter and LinkedIn to communicate with attendees before and during meetings. Requests for interactive meetings have increased exponentially and Young expects this trend to continue well into 2011.

Examples of this trend include the increasing popularity of computer kiosks that provide meeting-goers the opportunity to tweet during events and Twitter boards that stream live updates for all attendees to see.

Young also forecasts that 2011 will bring greater use of technology to connect clients and meeting managers during the planning stages of events. For example, PMUSA is making extensive use of Skype to provide immediate assistance and allow for face-to-face client interaction no matter where the meeting manager might be.

Young suggests that meeting managers increase their capabilities in these areas by incorporating them into internal operations.

“Our team is using Skype not only for client interaction, but also to connect our team members around the globe,” said Young. “It provides for more effective internal communication and gives our entire team the opportunity to become expert users of the technologies our clients increasingly demand.”

Corporate social responsibility
The company continues to see an increase in customers requiring corporate social responsibility (CSR) components in their meetings, looking to have an impact on the local communities in which they meet.

“Many of the companies we work with are incorporating CSR community service outings in lieu of, or in addition to, standard tours,” said Young. “Another popular trend is incorporating CSR into a team-building event at the meeting location, from building bikes and stocking children’s backpacks to assembling oyster mats to help with oyster reef restoration.”

According to Young, donation stations are also becoming more popular in tradeshows, allowing attendees and exhibitors to donate their leftover tradeshow bags and giveaway items for donation to local organizations.

Luxury meetings recover
While 2009 and 2010 have clearly seen less focus on high-end resorts, PMUSA’s meetings management team is beginning to see a change that bodes well for five-star and five-diamond properties.

Over the last half of 2010, the company began receiving increasing client requests for high-end properties, something PMUSA expects to continue if the economy continues trending upward in 2011.



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