What are the most impactful societal trends meeting planners should prepare for? How are our ways of communicating or relating changing?
There are a number of intertwined social and technological trends that we have to consider when thinking about how to connect people. The biggest is obviously that people now have many ways of being connected, and there's a trend towards communications becoming more immersive. Skype is still a poor approximation for a face to face conversation, but a couple of decades from now, virtual or augmented reality might be almost as good for most business and professional applications.
Meetings and events in person will still have huge value, but it will be even more important to explain their value. What is it about seeing someone in person that genuinely adds value beyond simply transferring information? You can tune in to a presentation or panel from thousands of miles away and you don't necessarily get that much more from being in the room. But it's the whole experience, and being able to build relationships with people that will probably become the biggest continuing sell for events. So instead of getting people to spend the majority of their time in formal sessions, shift towards having more unstructured time for people to meet other interesting people in a way they can't get through technology.
The other societal trend I worry about is the fracturing of people's attention spans. People's ability to concentrate on long-form structured content is declining as the amount of digital content explodes, and society speeds up. We're going to have to be more focused in how we engage and communicate with people, or risk them tuning out fast.
You name identity / nationalism in your session, how do you think it can impact events?
Seeing and communicating with someone face-to-face is essential for generating empathy. Nationalism is built on an absence of shard connection, so definitely there's something important about being able to bring people together physically. But it's important to also find the right ways to bring diverse groups together. You need to facilitate a dialogue, not just randomly bring people together who don't really understand each other. That's probably one of the big mistakes with how the tech industry as approached tech in the last few decades, just assuming more connectivity leads to greater understanding. Being connected creates new tensions and challenges too that we have to be mindful of.
You have analysed the best practices of a few large companies, can you give us one example which can inspire us?
When you look across the tech industry, the most valuable companies and their leaders continue to think super long-term. Google, Facebook, Amazon and others are focused on driving efforts which will take decades to achieve, or might never be achieved in our lifetimes. Having that kind of audacious vision infuses an organization with a totally different quality, and makes great people want to work there. When companies lose their focus on the long-term, that's when you tend to lose your talent and start to go into decline.