The conference included a session in which six industry associations had to debate a series of “bold predictions” for 2030. It took place in the former Parliament of Singapore (which looks like the English one, with contenders on both sides of the room). Making the most of this format, each team was placed on one side of the room and took turns to briefly argue in favour or against a bold prediction which the organization gave them, before the public voted for one or the other group. More than predictions per se, they are scenarios of significant change which may happen by 2030. Which are they, and what can we learn, to be up to date tomorrow? We wont give here the vote of the public, which was probably not fully statistically representative.
First prediction: There are too many associations in our industry – there will only be half in 2030. They will merge or will close down. The idea here is that professionals who want to be active in the industry can spend most of their year going from a world congress of MPI to a European one of ICCA or a national one of OPC Spain, on top of several big shows like ibtm or imex, and some more industry events (those of eventoplus are really cool, you know?). And being so divided could harm our ability to be noticed and heard by politicians, CEOs and the general public. Will this happen? Hard to tell, but a bit of coordination could help.
Conclusion: we have to order associations, maximize coordination (the JMIC does that already at international level) and make sure each brings a clear value added and is directed at a very specific market segment.
Second prediction: Industry events will be irrelevant by 2030, overtaken by marketing, communication, HR, innovation events, which will be more strategic. When you think of it, events are a format, a type of communication channel; they are not an objective and this could make meetings & events conferences less strategic than conferences which deal with the objectives of companies (marketing, communication, motivation, education, community-building). On top of that, we increase this risk by our syndrome of “revolving doors”, with our industry events being filled with the same old people, speakers, topics…
Conclusion: Events about the event industry have to open up to new talents outside our industry to avoid this “same old” syndrome, but also strive to be much more strategic. Logistics, formats, production are all important, but they are not the objective… so our conferences have to include clear content about strategy, communication, HR management. And avoid any speaker who participated in more than two industry events during the last year!
Third prediction: DMO’s will cease to exist as mice-oriented entities and be absorbed by economic development agencies or city development agencies. This prediction even includes another one: that 75% of the future CVBs annual report will be about non-economic impact. The idea here, which we will cover in other articles (but you read ALL our articles, don’t you?), is that convention bureaus today mostly have a mission to fill beds and venues, and are usually not seen as bringing knowledge, investment projects, cultural development, branding for the city. The prediction here is that the mission of CVBs tomorrow will be economic or even more global (and definitely not merely touristic). A huge challenge ahead for many convention bureaus who see their role as touristic (and are highly influenced by hoteliers, which explains).
Conclusion: convention bureaus: time to look up, be more ambitious, be a bit freer from hoteliers and aim to be relevant to the mayor as a generator of knowledge, positioning and economic development beyond the beds you fill. If you have no notion of city strategy, economic development, investment criteria of companies, you won’t be relevant tomorrow…
Fourth prediction: 75% of the jobs in events will be irrelevant in 12 years, as technology facilitates logistics management, provider sourcing, event speaker management, maybe even event creativity thanks to AI. You have all read about the end of work and it is not crazy to think that managing providers, logistics, registration, can be done in the future with technological platforms, AI and chatbots.
Conclusion: make sure your job includes solid creativity or human skills, because preparing rooming lists, managing registration, organising transfers and handling changes in attendees preferences, will not be a job for too long.
Fifth observation: We are not able, as industry, to attract the best talents. Sorry guys, and we are part of this industry too. But we have to accept that MBA students rarely enter the event industry. The dire prediction is that salaries and careers will be going down as we limit ourselves to being a non-strategic industry, executing what cool marketers come up with. But the positive reading is that in a digital world, events become the absolute human connection, the moment in which important things happen, in which innovation is created and synergies identified.
Conclusion: Limited talent means limited value added, means limited profitability. Successful players will have to get out of this loop. This calls for strong profiles to enter our industry; our companies having proper HR policies, events including science, research, innovation which attract bright people and enable us to add more value and generate more margin. Easy to write, hard to implement (but then, writing is what we do).
Sixth observation: As an industry, we have a poor track record of innovation. Well, sorry guys, this is true. We create amazing moments of live communications and now we find meeting design is ohhhh so cool, but it is hard to think we have brought great innovations to the world. The DNA of events has not really changed in decades, only the pixel pitch has. Neurosciences could be a great way to change the way humans talk to each other and jointly create ideas or solve problems.
Conclusion: Don’t cry, we are still amazing at creating experiences, offering really cool events with miraculous budgets, and attendees often say “wow!” when they come to our events. But either we consider R&D is part of our activity, or we will just be logistics and production experts tomorrow. A notion with which it is hard to differentiate.
By the way, SMF was an amazing conference, full of thought-provoking sessions and formats. Congrats to all behind this great event.