14 Conference And Event Trends That Will Shape The Next Decade


By Jeff Hurt

As 2010 comes to a close, many conference and event professionals have been looking ahead to the 2011. Here’s a look into 2011 and the next decade.

1. Increased complexity and volatility as change is the constant and uncertainty its response.

The successful will be able to navigate rapidly changing times with increased flexibility. The ability to be nimble and make quick midcourse corrections will be highly prized and valued.

2. Conferences will become increasingly specialized.

Attendees want education that provides a deep-dive and is customized to their unique needs. Large conferences that provide a buffet smorgasbord of overview offerings will suffer. Those that can provide customized, innovative, unique content for sub-specialty groups will succeed.

3. Integration of face-to-face and digital experiences will be commonplace.

Our fears of digital events cannibalizing face-to-face experiences will be replaced with designing experiences for both on-site and remote audiences. More organizations will flip the paradigm and have presenters participate virtually to a live audience.

4. Conference software will help attendees make smarter choices for content experiences, registration and connections.

These software applications will become increasingly intuitive and invisible with the ability to predict the intentions of past attendees.

5. Smaller conferences will join forces with larger conferences through co-location.

Collaborative partnerships with large conferences will increase, as small niche conferences bring innovative formats, organization agility and intimate customer knowledge.

6. Conferences see the rise of free-agent, consultant-type attendees.

Conference organizers will see a shift of traditional employed attendees that fall into one or two registration categories as untraditional employment becomes the norm. With an increased flexible workforce of consultants, contractors, free-agents and freelancers, conference organizers will redefine distributor and supplier registrant categories.

7. More corporations and associations will outsource their meetings and events.

Organizations will increasingly see the value and savings of a contract workforce.

8. The meeting experience designer will become as important as the logistics.

Organizations will place higher demands on experiences that have an emotional impact and align with their brand. Logistics by itself will not be enough.

9. GenY and Graying Baby Boomers will define the largest two segments of attendees.

Baby Boomers will be “unretired” and actively engaged in a profession. Some may start new careers. GenY will mature and be fluent in mobile and social platforms with the global grid at their fingertips. Organizers will have to address both audiences.

10. Conference attendees will demand active participation in all stages of the event from the planning to the onsite experiences.

Attendees will become increasingly bored with talking head lectures that could have been shared online. Association members will demand that traditional annual meeting bylaw requirements be moved into business meetings outside of general sessions and luncheons.

11. Conference organizers must provide information via mobile devices and onsite Wi-Fi.

Smartphones and mobile devices will be the standard for computing. Attendees will expect to connect and do business while at your meetings as well.

12. Asian and Middle Eastern markets will attract sophisticated American and European meeting and event professionals.

As these economies grow, more meeting professionals will leave their American/European jobs for these high-paying experiences. Competition for experienced professionals will increase.

13. Sponsors and exhibitors will shift money from the show floor to other areas with high visibility.

The high cost of exhibiting and changes in how goods and services are procured will open up new areas of potential outside of the show floor.

14. ROI of conferences and events will address the triple bottom line.

ROI of meetings and events has come into its own in the past five years, increasingly looking at the bottom line. Some talked about profits and impact to the planet. In the next ten years, we will look at profit, planet and people.

Bonus:  As GenZ comes of age, they will challenge traditional face-to-face educational programming and fees.

They will increasingly want more customized, personalized information that they can afford. Their comfort with digital learning will force conference organizers to provide real-time, on-demand options.

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