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Five Wishes for the Meetings Industry in 2011

Number 5 image

It’s January. It’s that time of year, when all of us prognosticators and pundits look into our crystal balls and make big and bold predictions about the future.

Last year, I wrote an article called 10 Ways Social Media Will Transform Events. I talked about the way Social Media will transform communication at events. The article is still relevant today.

For 2011, I have five wishes for the meetings industry. With your help, these wishes could become reality. Have a look and let me know what you think.

1.  I wish we would stop stuffing people in chairs in rows and making them listen to speakers for 5 hours.

Seriously people. Friends don’t let friends stuff attendees into chairs to mindlessly listen to speakers babble for 5 hours per day. Attendees brains can’t absorb the 400-500 slides that you are throwing at them during the day. Plus, today’s attendees are smarter, more educated and have access to more information at their fingertips than ever before. Why don’t we do more to work on harnessing that capability?

Strangely, I feel like the reason meetings have not evolved more is that we don’t have enough good examples of what “different” looks like in meetings.There are many people talking about making events “different.” Yet, there are very few public examples of different approaches. It seems like we need to round up these meeting mavericks that are innovating and get them to share all of their examples and case studies with others.

Here is an example from my 2010 work that was recently written about in PCMA Convene: 5,000 Points of View. Please share yours as well.

2.  I wish that the meetings industry would invest more to create conversations and experiences that resemble the future of meetings.

We need to do more to create “safe” spaces for people to try out new and innovative event concepts.  The Event Camp Series, Engage365, BizBash’s Rethink Forum are a good start. Velvet Chainsaw Consulting’s Learning Lounge at PCMA’s upcoming Annual Conference could be another good example.

I think that we can still do a lot more. Would you be willing to sponsor (or work on) an innovation lab project in 2011/2012? If so, email me.

3. I wish hotels and venues made conference WIFI and LAN services more affordable for meeting organizers.

To me the venue Wifi discussion is like the wart on the wicked witches’ nose. It’s big, ugly and in your face – yet, you can’t do a darn thing about it. Help may be on the way.

Since October, I have been using Verizon’s MIFI card. It is a private wireless hotspot that allows me to connect 5 devices to the internet via Verizon’s cell network. It saves my bacon anywhere AT&T doesn’t work (like the entire state of Wisconsin). I use it rather than hotel or venue wifi while I am traveling. It makes life so much easier.

Hopefully, in 2011, we will start to see more competitive products like Verizon’s MIFI Cards and Tradeshow Internet that will put pressure on suppliers to improve their pricing and performance.  In the interim, I strongly encourage you to negotiate Wifi and LAN service levels and access into your venue contracts. This way, you can save yourself money and make the connectivity more affordable right out of the gate.

4. I wish that your event website was social media friendly and designed for mobile devices

With so many people accessing the internet from mobile devices, I don’t understand why your event website doesn’t have a mobile version. I get so mad when I have to look at a “browser” based website on my mobile phone. The text is too small, your flash graphics don’t work and it gives me a bad experience with your organization.

In the next two years, the number of people accessing content from their mobile devices is going to outnumber those that access content via PC.  It’s time to talk to your IT guy about setting up a mobile version of your site – it’s dead simple and will make your growing audience of mobile users happy.

While you are working on the website, go ahead and make your event website social media friendly, as well.  Please add some social sharing buttons for Facebook, Twitter and Email. These butttons should be put on each of the key pages of your website, so that attendees and fans can tell their “likeminded” social media friends about your event.  If you want people to talk about you in Social Media, you need to make it simple to do. A “tweet” button and a “like” button are about as simple as it gets. It amazes me how many of you miss this valuable opportunity.  (Need an example? See the buttons at the bottom of this post and every post on this site.)

5. I wish that I could transfer all of the crazy ideas for interaction and collaboration in my brain to your boss’s brain.

Imagine what would happen if there were like 10,000 leaders talking to meeting planners about getting people to collaborate and work together in large groups at meetings. I think that would be awesome!

What would it take to do that? Should we create some cards like the IDEO Method Cards to give away? Or is it enough to show leadership the TED examples and then let their imaginations start running wild?

Bottom Line

Those are my five wishes for the Meetings Industry in 2011. I don’t think it’s asking for the world. In fact, if I can get you and five of your friends to join in – we should be able to turn these wishes into dreams come true in a year from now.

What do you say? What should we tackle first?

Image Credit: krkdesigns
17 Comments Post a comment
  1. (Ah .. like a group I put together 8 yrs. ago that’s still at it! So it’s OUT there! Give lots of us credit for TRYING, Sam! Some of our voices have been screaming this for .. decades!)

    My 5 wishes:

    -Facility designers, builders, owners, management cos., and all staff (incl. AV — Midori excepted of course!) would learn about learning — even about using space and the impact it has on input and outcomes. (Paul Radde’s book is a good start — at

    -Everyone would challenge the status-quo! The law of motion and responsibility apply to each of us. If the learning in any form is not working, depart and say why you did.

    (The gentlewoman from the District of Columbia reserves her time for her 3 remaining wishes!)

    January 3, 2011
    • Happy New Year Joan!

      Yes – exactly! We need more people to join that group that has been working and laying a foundation for 8 years.

      Also, I like your wishes, too! The use/abuse of space was one of my personal lessons learned from 2010. I think there is a lot that we can do with this.

      You are free to return at any time to cast your 3 remaining wishes! Looking forward to hearing more!

      January 3, 2011
    • I am a little late on responding but I had just found this article! I love the suggestions! I would like to comment on this wish by Joan Eisenstodt:

      -Facility designers, builders, owners, management cos., and all staff (incl. AV — Midori excepted of course!) would learn about learning — even about using space and the impact it has on input and outcomes. (Paul Radde’s book is a good start — at

      Ms. Eisenstodt, it was refreshing to see this wish as it has been our experience that most facilities are not interested in learning about additional space options! I own a software company that develops room layout software for the event/meeting industry and one of our goals is to educate planners and facilities about the many options to setup a space. We also want to ensure that they have the latest tools to easily plan and organize a space accurately and efficiently.

      We do not consider ourselves as simply a supplier but that we are here to help the industry that we love. Our company constantly strives to keep the software up to date with the latest event industry changes. We purchased Dr. Radde’s book and found his suggestions very logical and helpful. It is our hope to work with him more in the future to further educate the industry on other options than just “straight seating”.

      We are also very committed to continuing education for the event/meeting industry so we have developed “Room Layout 101” that is being taught in some meeting planning workshops around the country. We are going through our revisions now and would love to expand this coursework and gather feedback to include additional options. I would be open to any suggestions and ideas to help in anyway.

      Thank you,
      Ann Puckett
      (This is not intended as an advertisement in any way)

      February 12, 2011
  2. Sam, thanks for the mention and the forward looking post! Nice to have good company on the need to improve learning and participation.

    The Learning Lounge at PCMA is going to ROCK! The vision of it was born out of their Annual Meeting Programming Committee. We’re just making it reality.

    We’ve programmed a killer speaker line-up (77) plus 50 Peer2Peer roundtable discussions (with expert facilitators) plus a Social Media Expert Bar plus live interviews that will be streamed to a virtual audience plus speed networking.

    What’s really cool about this concept is that it was added to the program after many had already registered. It’s all value add for those that take advantage of it, compliments of PCMA.

    We’re hoping to get the speaker line up on the NET in a day or two. One thing for sure, the hungry learner will have lots of opportunity…they just need to set their alarm.

    January 4, 2011
    • Happy New Year Dave!

      Thanks for your comment and explanation of the Learning Lounge. It sounds like an all-you-can-eat learning smorgasbord! I am really excited to see how the attendees respond to the concept.

      Also, I am excited to see your crew in action after following most of your 200+ blog posts last year!

      January 4, 2011
      • Thanks Sam. It’s quite a bit different serving a client in the same industry that you practice. We’re used to helping Historic Preservationist, Explosive Engineers, Ophthalmologists, Mental Health Profs and Tax Professionals.

        The result of an engagement like PCMA is that you not only help on the strategy part, but you have to deliver on the tactics and details too.

        January 6, 2011
        • I am sure it will be awesome! I have been telling people about it all week. I can’t wait!

          January 7, 2011
  3. Yay! Thank goodness the holidays are over, was struggling with some IMT blog withdrawals…

    I love, love, love those IDEO cards. I have one posted next to my desk. I suggest to anyone that if you ever get the chance, attend one of their workshops or sessions. Worth every penny.

    It’s encouraging to see that the newer venues being built actually consider your wishes. More flexible meeting spaces, built-in technologies, green buildings, etc…very exciting stuff!

    @Joan – wow, thank you!! The excuse primarily heard with venues (at least when it comes to AV) is the high turnover rate. The lack of foresight at seeing education as an investment rather than an expense for most of the big-box AV companies really seems to build an ugly cycle of highly transitory workers…there’s not much of a point in being loyal when you’re 18 and see minimal opportunity for future growth. A shame, really.

    Midori Connolly, Chief AVGirl
    Pulse Staging and Events, Inc.

    January 4, 2011
    • Hi Midori,

      Thanks for your contributions and sharing that link.

      I had no idea that you needed an IMT fix! Hopefully, I hope to publish some more regular posts during the first half of 2011.

      Wish you a much success in 2011!

      January 6, 2011
  4. Hi Sam: Very interesting post. Here are my five wishes:

    1. I wish the meetings industry would take a hard look at whether we
    really need so many meetings. (Heresy, I know, but a necessary
    process of self-examination for a variety of reasons I need not
    detail here.)

    2. I wish the meetings industry would place greater emphasis on making it easier to sustain the flow of learning and knowledge after the F2F event ends. (The value of meetings would be enhanced if their impact rippled back to the organization of their attendees.)

    3. I wish the meetings industry would work on the economics of presentation technology so that speakers can use the best tools easily. (As a speaker, I’m tired of begging for wireless lav microphones. We can do better.)

    4. I wish the meetings industry would discourage alcohol consumption. (I’m no teetotaler, but I see a great deal of drinking at the conferences I attend, and it makes
    me wonder just how important learning is to the organizers.)

    5. I wish the meetings industry would embrace the same level of innovation in the attendee experience as we have seen in the hotel guest experience over the last several years. (Sam, I would totally be up for contributing to some kind of innovation lab. Let’s chat!)

    January 6, 2011
    • Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for your comments. I like your wishes. I think we can tackle these as well.

      For number 3 – the presentation technology – I think this could be resolved with an awareness campaign digital/other. It would make most sense to come from an A/V or production company. I know a few people that might want to take this on – I will talk to them.

      For number 2, most people agree that this is a big black hole. Last September, at Event Camp Twin Cities, we took some first steps in tackling this discussion. First, we had a discussion about it during the event and got more than 100 ideas from attendees. Then, we repurposed all of the content (videos, photos, summary documents) from the event and redistributed it to attendees, virtual attendees and other likeminds on several different blogs/communities. We are writing a case study on the results right now. This is just a first step – we still have a lot of work to do.

      For number 5, this is a great point. I think the engagement, experience, learning, networking and change process all go hand in hand. I think you tackle it at the strategy level.

      Finally, here’s my take on number 1. I think hybrid and virtual technology will lead us to more focused meetings (smaller sizes) and fewer one-size-fits-all-mega-meetings. Before this happens on a macro scale – we have to figure out the “virtual attendee engagement” piece. Right now, this whole area is still very experimental. I have some data and experience on how it can work – but we need more people talking, thinking and experimenting with it.

      Thanks for your comments. I will be in touch about the innovation lab. Several people are interested.

      January 7, 2011
  5. Hi Sam:

    The spacing on my comment above is off. Can you fix it?



    January 7, 2011
  6. Love your five Sam, but as Joan aptly notes, many have been pushing for #1 and #2 for a very long time. We taken far too long to make far too little progress.

    I simply refuse to attend any event that doesn’t include at least some interactive elements, nor will I speak at any event where the constraints on facilitating learning are too significant.

    So I’m ready to convert your #1 and #2 wishes into demands. Wishing doesn’t seem to be working.

    January 7, 2011
    • Thanks for your support, Jeffrey. I like people that are ready to take action!

      I think we need to go out and infect a bunch of other people with enthusiasm for #1. Then, get them to agree to participate in or contribute to #2. The question is what is the best way to do it.

      January 7, 2011

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Five Wishes for the Meetings Industry in 2011 by @samueljsmith | Lykle de Vries
  2. Meeting Innovation: PCMA’s Learning Lounge « Interactive Meeting Technology
  3. How GMIC is Using Gaming to Transform its Learning Platform « Interactive Meeting Technology

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