New Report Reveals Top Trends In Meeting Planning & Design

It’s probably no surprise to you that new technology and a changing delegate demographic are having an impact on the way meetings are planned and delivered. The continued trend toward experience creation and a shift toward more individual learning and personal development are also becoming important influences. 

How are these and other factors changing the approach that meeting planners take in their jobs? And what effect is it having on the way conference venues select technology and design the meeting spaces they offer?  The 2017 Meeting Room of the Future Report answers these questions and more. Let’s take a look at some of the key findings.

A Subtle Shift in Meeting Objectives

Emerging technology, changing delegate demographics and other factors are ushering in a new style of meeting that moves away from the traditional speaker-at-the-front-of-the-room presentations and toward creating more unique and memorable experiences.  The growing call for personal development is another factor affecting the way meetings are shaped. 

“The objectives we plan today are truly focused on education, networking, creating opportunities for sponsors to obtain new leads and obtain new business, and creating a more experiential/interactive memorable experience for the attendees,” said Carol Malinky, CM, Event Dir. C.A. Malinky Communications & Events. “The meetings from 5 years ago were mostly about education and networking,” she adds. “It is much, much more than that today.”

When asked to think five years ahead, respondents in IACC’s 2017 Meeting Room of the Future survey agreed that experience creation will be increasingly important when planning meetings. Planners pointed to the demands of incoming generations as the primary driver of this trend.

Meeting Planners Report Increase in Experience Creation
In 2017, 80 percent of meeting planners report their current role involves more experience creation, a 5 percent increase from 2016. 

   IACC Meeting Room of the Future Report [Tweet This]

Creating meeting experiences is part of the equation, but companies and meeting attendees are also looking for ways to unlock a new level of creativity, leadership and problem solving skills. They want a personal approach that offers attendees a memorable experience combined with an interactive atmosphere.  

In fact, a 2017 study conducted by Steelcase reports that 77% of workers believe that in the future, creativity will be a critical job skill. Meetings and conferences designed to help individuals think more creativity and advance their skills in problem-solving, critical thinking and communications will continue to be in demand in the future. 

A Shift in Meeting Formats

The changing delegate demographic is leading to new formats for meetings, as well. More interaction, shorter presentations, and individual activities and experiences are in demand. 

Meeting planners report that the new generation of meeting attendees are looking for more integration of technology, especially mobile connectivity, along with more opportunities for interaction and collaboration with other conference attendees. They typically like shorter formats for programs rather than longer, presentation-focused sessions. Q&As and hands-on activities are big hits with this group. Overall, there is much more of an emphasis on creativity. 

To meet the needs of the changing demographic, meeting planners and venues are finding new opportunities to work together to create unique offerings, such as themed experiences and on- or off-site physical activities.  

A Shift in Meeting Space Design

Unique meeting spaces that bring the outdoors in, and allow for interactive group experiences, are among the trends moving into the future. Meeting spaces that are flexible, and allow for quick changes in room setup, and even allow meeting attendees to break out into smaller groups and rearrange furniture on the fly, are good examples of how this trend is playing out.  Comfortable seating and lounge-style settings that allow for collaboration and social interaction are becoming more and more important for meeting venues, as well.

In addition, in some cases, aesthetic needs are more important to meeting planners and attendees than functionality. “Design elements have a large impact on meeting spaces.  We are experiencing a trend where operational advantages of some products are overlooked to accommodate the design and overall feel the product helps create,” said Heidi Neisen, Hospitality Sales Manager for SICO Inc., designers of meeting and F&B venue furniture highlights. “It’s more work on the operations side for venue staff, but visually pleasing for the meeting attendees.”

You can find more about what is involved in creating flexible meeting spaces in this article. 

A Shift in Technology Use

In addition to the growing need for broadband access to accommodate a variety of multi-media presentations, large screens and live broadcasting, conference and meeting attendees are demanding access to high-speed wifi throughout the day. Charging stations, personal work spaces and access to collaborative spaces for multi-tasking are essential for forward-thinking meeting venues that want to attract the next generation.  

The IACC survey also showed that technology use for collaboration and interaction between meeting delegates is increasingly important. Smartphone audience participation was at the top of the list of technologies expected to continue to experience growth in the next five years. Integrating these technologies into the format of meetings, and using them in a way that adds value, will be one yardstick of successful meeting planning in the future.

Tasks Requiring More Broadband in the Next Five Years

Broadband use in meetings 2017 report
Other technologies such as video streaming, conference apps, virtual participation and delegate screen-sharing are growing in importance, as well. Read more about some of the latest collaborative conference technologies in this IACC blog post.

A Growing Trend Toward Collaboration

The results presented in this year’s IACC Meeting Room of the Future report point to the continuing influence of the incoming generation, integration of new technologies, and the creation of experiential and collaborative meetings as the key drivers for how meetings will be designed in the future.  Find more details in this infographic.

2017 Meeting Room of Future Report

Get the Full Report 

The IACC Meeting Room of the Future™ report brings together insights from global meeting planners, IACC members and industry experts on the trends and issues that will impact the future of meetings and conferences.  

Download the full report here. 

2017 Meeting Room of the Future Report
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