As we start 2017, there are several trends that organizations and the teams involved in designing and implementing meetings will need to consider in order to meet the changing needs of their members and attendees. A few trends to consider are to incorporate new learning offerings and innovate how meetings are created and executed. In addition, organizations need to stay apprised of local and state policies that are evolving around diversity and inclusion. These decisions can have a significant impact on the meetings industry, and potentially, participation at your events if your events are held in the affected states.
One area of change happening in organizations is adapting their events in order to meet the changing needs and expectations of attendees and industry partners alike. ASAE starts with a holistic view of all the products, services and events we offer our members. It’s important to conduct a high-level scan of your products and services to accurately assess stakeholder and audience mindset, audience size and the competitive market position.
When examining the data, organizations need to decide whether the event meets the expectations of their customers, especially if it’s a mature event. Factors to consider are: the performance against all of the relevant business objectives as well as format, stakeholder feedback and market position. The primary question evolves around asking whether the show is positioned for future success. If not, what steps should the organization take to evolve the show or reimagine it?
In 2014, ASAE decided to reimagine its Springtime Expo, an event that served the community for over 40 years. After a thorough review, it was determined that ASAE needed to innovate a new engagement model. After scanning the marketplace, ASAE engaged its stakeholders and went through an experience strategy and design process, which led to the co-creation of Experience Design Project (XDP). XDP will launch on May 23–24, 2017 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at National Harbor, Maryland.
Over the past couple of years, several other industry organizations have decided to change how their events are delivered. For example, the Convention Industry Council tweaked its evening event for the Hall of Leaders from a sit-down dinner to a reception. The Professional Convention Management Association redesigned their Foundation Dinner to a more interactive and engaging model as well. NCTA – The Internet & Television Association (NCTA) decided to sunset its INTX trade show after 65 years.
Along with rethinking how a meeting is designed, another trend is new learning formats. From boomers to Generation Z, everyone learns differently. Some are audio or visual learners and others like short education formats. The key is empowering and motivating your attendees, so they pursue the knowledge and skills necessary for lifelong learning and productive contributions to their organizations.
There’s a fresh approach called connected learning, which is based on research, learning theories and using social and digital media. This new form is still evolving, but regardless of the format, learning needs to be accessible to everyone, allow for full participation, interaction with peers, intellectual growth and social connection. The new learning format builds on existing models and engages with stakeholders across generations, so organizations can remodel the learning experience for their attendees.
There’s also a cultural and cognitive shift towards micro-learning, and organizations must embrace it. Self-directed learning is also gaining in popularity, but the overall goal is to incorporate a variety of formats and learning levels. These changes can range from the length of sessions and how you deliver education to different levels of learning sessions from foundational to strategic.
It’s essential to provide attendees with lots of choices, so they can develop their own learning pathway. As you plan education sessions, it’s important to incorporate different lengths and types of formats that range from formal to informal opportunities as well as one-on-one networking. For example, ASAE has created a variety of learning opportunities to appeal to a broad audience and learning styles. Two examples of five-minute learning opportunities include Ignite and Story Slam. For longer forms of shorter learning, organizations can create 20-minute education sessions. This could be formal (similar to TED Talks) or informal learning (discussion dens).
In practice, learning is becoming increasingly social, and informal learning outside of a classroom is very important. At the 2016 ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition, ASAE debuted Open Space, where attendees initiated the learning on a topic of their choice. They facilitated the conversation in a reserved discussion pod, shared takeaways with others and extended the conversation in the meeting app.
Connected learning is active, hands-on, networking and personal. These new learning formats not only will engage your attendees, but they will create cross-generational learning, especially when it’s centered on a common interest and goal. For example, an organization could engage members from all generations to create a Massive Open Online Course or record a podcast that is member-only content.
Along with innovating new programs and learning formats, associations and the meetings industry needs to keep an eye on policy issues that may impact the meetings business this year, and how those policies may affect your organization’s attendance in states where these policies are in place. ASAE anticipates several states will try to develop legislation that discriminates and denies public accommodation.
It’s important that industry partners, in particular hotels and destination marketing professionals, help to educate their local and state legislatures on the potential consequences of passing laws that are viewed as discriminatory against a segment of our society. ASAE is not alone in its concern about the impact of state laws on its members and events. Such laws have been viewed as discriminatory by other associations, corporations, sports teams and leagues.
ASAE’s intent is not to tell other associations where they should hold their own meetings and events. Each association has its own decision-making model and criteria for determining where to host a meeting and convention.
With a new administration and Congress, it’s a great opportunity for the association community to communicate how they impact the economy. For example, associations represent a major piece of the meetings and conventions industry with nearly 1.8 million jobs and accounting for $280 billion in direct spending by attendees. Trade and professional associations generated $142 billion in revenue in 2013, up 13.8 percent since 2008.
The meetings industry continues to thrive because we have more face-to-face and online learning opportunities as well as growth within the association industry. As we move into 2017, it’s vital the community pays attention to trends in their specific industry as well as meetings to see if any will disrupt it. It’s important to remember associations are stronger together as we advance the meeting industry forward.
John H. Graham IV, FASAE, CAE, is president and CEO of ASAE, the essential organization for association management, representing both organizations and individual association professionals. Organizational members are trade associations and individual membership societies that represent almost every sector of the economy and countless professions. AC&F
By The SmithBucklin Event and Education Services Team
What can associations anticipate for their events in 2017? We — the Event and Education Services team at the association management and services company SmithBucklin — gazed into our crystal balls and compiled a list of trends, predictions and forecasts for meetings and conventions, including education, food and beverage, sponsorships and technology. Here is a selection of trends we are looking forward to in 2017:
MEETINGS AND CONVENTIONS
1. Data analysis no longer will be a “nice to have” — it is table stakes in 2017. The gathering, analysis and synthesis of data and using it to design event strategies will be the standing elements in every event project plan.
2. Organizations that view their hotel, convention center and other third parties as “partners” will gain more long-term value from their relationships, especially during negotiations. Partnering in good times and bad will help in particular when addressing new contract fees or seeking additional concessions.
3. In an uncertain world, a well-designed and communicated emergency plan and crisis communication strategy are essentials for all meetings and conventions. Make sure your crisis plans are comprehensive and shared with the entire team.
4. Meeting attendees and hosts will increase their awareness of social issues surrounding meeting destinations. Organizations are more likely to consider local laws and their potential impact on attendance and their attendees as they consider future sites.
5. Events will have a greater emphasis on “structured distractions.” Watch for formal opportunities to “doodle” during general sessions. Displaying these creations is a great way to show attendee interaction at the conference.
6. Interactive installations that connect attendees will be great additions to lobby spaces, lounges, reception events, etc. Simple exhibits such as graffiti walls, sharing or story boards, and photo collages will provide fun visuals and foster great networking energy.
7. People will come to meetings for something more than what they can get on their own. They will want an experience that will change their hearts and minds, and they are looking to your event to do just that.
8. Association education programs will support more micro-credentials — discrete, competency-based credentialing programs that supplement the larger certification programs that associations offer.
9. Death by PowerPoint will take on new meaning as new session formats and “facilitated conversations” will be the key to driving engagement. Additionally, education is not only for the classroom — attendees will engage before, during and after events sharing the application of their learnings.
10. Education-focused podcasts will be a trend for associations. This format allows learners to listen to their topics of interest on-demand, on-the-go and in smaller chunks of time from various experts in their industry. Podcasts are relatively low-cost to produce but pack a big professional-development punch!
11. Informal educational opportunities during live events will continue to grow in popularity. These opportunities will take place on the exhibit show floor or in common spaces where attendees will gather in small groups to discuss ideas. Sometimes, they will work with a facilitator. The key is keeping it short. Instead of sitting through an entire planned session, they will network, brainstorm and ultimately learn with their group of like-minded professionals.
FOOD & BEVERAGE
12. Event planners will work with culinary and catering teams to discard the chafing dishes and Sternos, and find innovative food delivery options. Also, finding ways to eliminate food waste will be important.
13. More beverage offerings will be available at hotels and convention centers. They’ve already started providing fruit-infused waters and, moving forward, we’ll see more requests for beverage alternatives to soda and sugary juices.
14. Personal preferences will be an integral part of attendee participation. Attendees will choose the bread, open the wine, and help in the selection of the food. For example, at a recent board meeting dinner, the board president supplied his favorite wine, opting to add his personal touch on the meeting.
15. Healthy food options will continue to drive event meals in 2017, especially during breakfast. Attendees are gravitating to lighter morning fare versus the heavier options you find on many breakfast buffets. For example, an avocado toast station with various toppings was a huge hit, and another association’s event breakfast in 2017 will feature a make-your-own-smoothie bar.
16. Sponsors will be looking at the quality of the audience, not just the quantity, and their expectations will be higher for connecting to the right audience to achieve their objectives. Sponsors also will request to activate their sponsorships with specific segments. They will want to track specific actions of each desirable audience segment and understand how these audiences interact within the association.
17. Associations will listen to exhibitors and treat them as valued partners so they can better understand their exhibitors’ marketing goals and objectives in order to develop a custom booth and sponsorship packages.
18. Exhibitors and sponsors will expand their one-on-one or small group meetings with attendees — separate from their traditional booth space. Associations will be helping these companies find more quiet time with their customers and prospects, away from the show floor.
19. Virtual book clubs will evolve in associations in 2017. A virtual book club allows members from all over the world to come together and share ideas and perspectives on relevant topics in the industry. Associations will leverage a dynamic platform that allows for collaborative discussion and assign a facilitator to lead the sessions.
20. Virtual reality has been buzzing at association trade shows. With the continued rise of mobile apps that create a VR experience and the low cost of VR headsets (you can buy one for less than $15!), more exhibitors will turn to VR in 2017. What a great way to showcase a new product or unveil new ideas.
21. Engagement-driven technology will deliver new ways for like-minded attendees to connect and network. Attendees want to define their experience but don’t want “forced fun.” Associations will understand their audiences’ wants and needs, and be willing to take risks to try out new tools to meet those goals.
For information about what to anticipate for your association event in 2017, contact SmithBucklin’s Event and Education Services team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-539-9740.