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With its eyes and ears on the global meetings marketplace from two vantage points — one in Europe at IMEX in Frankfurt and one in the U.S. at IMEX America — the IMEX Group offered its predictions for meetings industry trends and changes in 2014. Announced Nov. 18, these are supported by speaker and expert anecdotes from IMEX America 2013 in Las Vegas.

1. Content gets bigger as attention spans grow shorter 
The meetings landscape has changed. It’s now content that’s defining meeting and event type, not the other way around. The incredible growth of YouTube, TED and short, sharp TV and video news clips (including the birth of super-bite-sized Vine) means attention spans are shorter than ever. Four minutes is a lifetime online. Expect meetings and event content to be delivered in ever more entertaining, diverse and digestible pieces. The label ‘hybrid’ fades away as all meetings and events become multi-faceted and multi-dimensional for participants on and off-site.

Glen Thayer, the Voice of Meetings & Events, spoke on the INCON-sponsored Social Hub at IMEX America.

“The attention span of our attendees is a big factor,” said Thayer. “My tolerance for a YouTube video is 60 seconds and I’m done! That’s a big challenge…both at the physical live event and online.”

2. Happiness is hip
The big watchword for our working lives in the ‘90s and new millennium was ‘work/life balance.’ In 2014, this shifts to ‘workplace spirituality.’ A growing number of organizations recognize that employee loyalty and motivation hinges on a convergence of personal values with corporate ones.

IMEX America 2013 MPI Keynote, CEO & Chief Happiness Officer of Delivering Happiness, Jenn Lim, was on trend when she urged her audience to think of happiness as a science that can be applied at work.

“When values, vision and purpose in individuals and organizations come together, the impact can be so positive, and it’s about much more than a happy worker being a productive worker,” said Lim.

Expect more organizations to embrace happiness as their ethos for growth in 2014.

3. Technology connects the dots
Convergence and connectivity. Both will be the next big technology wins the meetings industry strives for in 2014. As DoubleDutch CEO Lawrence Coburn and Eventgenuity CEO Michael Owen observed at IMEX America 2013, many big technology advances have been made, now they need to be managed. Coburn expects “the bandwidth of Apps to get lighter,” where Owen sees regulation and standards coming into play, such as through the new Apex Standards. He’s also clear that the future is “not about more technology but how that technology is delivered.”

2014 will see offline coming online even more energetically, further notes Coburn. Engagement will also lead to better data capture with the ultimate win being deeper business insight. The proliferation of smartphones and “wearables” with their innate ability to capture data will also improve ROI, forecasts Coburn.

4. Social media shifts up, out and everywhere
In 2014 social media starts to receive its own budget, and begins to play a meaningful and measurable part in marketing and communications strategies across the meetings and events industry. Witness IMEX showing the way with IMEXLive, its online (and essentially, short-term and pop-up) ‘window onto the show.’

“Everyone’s had their first go at social media,” said Sam Stanton, president, redbutton.tv. “Now it’s time for phase two. Expect to see some really cool crossover where participants who are highly social at home find they can still behave that way at an event.”

5. “glocal” – helping hands on your doorstep
With the announcement of the 2014 IMEX Challenge — which will involve building a new healing garden at the Shade Tree shelter in Las Vegas next October — the IMEX team demonstrates a growing sustainability trend: keeping it local. Where once the international nature of the meetings industry meant thousands of opportunities to ‘do good and give back’ in far flung corners of the world, the trend now is to reach out to help those right on your doorstep.

“Like many growing and successful cities, Vegas still has pockets of poverty and groups who need special support,” said Carina Bauer, CEO, IMEX Group. “IMEX and its Challenge host sponsors – Sands Cares and GES (Global Experience Specialists) – all appreciate how lucky we are to work in the meetings industry, to travel and enjoy experiences that others only dream about. We want to show our commitment to the whole city…and that means being hands-on with our two legacy projects, Opportunity Village and the Shade Tree shelter for women, children and their pets.

“In Frankfurt we also support the Lichtblick Homeless Shelter and Maisha’s Sewing Project; and in our home town of Brighton, England, we support a young people’s homeless charity – The Clocktower.”

6. Meetings sector as leading economic indicator
Could 2014 be the year when the meetings and events industry is finally recognized as an important economic indicator? Economic impact studies are now commonplace in at least five mature markets, and they have been rigorously executed.

When the recent U.S. Government shutdown threatened to stifle business on many fronts, President Obama was quick to request a meeting with U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow. This is in stark contrast to the post-AIG panic when the meetings industry was lobbying from the back foot and the rallying cry was “if you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu.”

“Those of us in the industry know that when meetings and events start to rise they are the pulse of growth,” said Dan Berger, CEO, Social Tables.

If the Purchasing Managers Index can do it, then why not a meetings market barometer as a reliable forecasting tool?

7. Workplace diversity
Demographic shift was once a hot topic for the global meetings and events market, now the big debate of 2014 looks set to be ‘workplace diversity’. With so many generations working alongside each other (be it virtually or physically) and issues of gender balance and racial diversity still being addressed, organizations are having to look at their recruitment and talent development strategies with more creativity, and awareness.

In July 2013, Deloitte University Press went one step further, suggesting that ‘diversity of thought’ is now the new frontier: “Advances in neurological research that are untangling how each of us thinks and solves problems can help organizations, including governments, operationalize diversity of thought and eventually change how they define and harness human capital.”


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