06 APRIL 2017
There’s no shortage of articles and guides on how to run live meetings or broadcast events via Facebook and YouTube. From Eventbrite to Livestream, they give you tips on how to engage remote audiences and efficiently adapt to new digital technologies. Today marks "Global Meetings Industry Day" and INCON, the partnership of leading event organizers wants to explore why we are still in business.
If you were to listen to Mark Zuckerberg you might easily get caught up in the rhetoric that the future of meetings is digital. Take a peek at his virtual future of events where Zuckerberg presented a new social Virtual Reality (VR) experience that "overlays VR avatars of friends who are elsewhere on top of your vision so you can hang out together."
No doubt, live stream meetings or events are the best option if you want to save money and time. It involves less headaches and sleepless nights, as the logistics aren’t so painful. In addition, it brings together a larger number of people in different areas of the world, increasing the event’s reach.
"Are you implying that this is the end of face-to-face meetings?" I can practically hear you asking, possibly slightly worried. On the contrary. Live streamed events are real proof that (virtual) attendees crave face-to-face interactions now more than ever. Don’t believe me? Check out the statistics!
According to Digitell, "Up to 30% of people attending a live streamed event have attended the live physical event the following year." At the same time, Dr. Rob Davidson, managing director of MICE, highlights, "The meetings and events industry has seen global growth in 2016, with increasing demand for our services and facilities, as well as in many world regions, increased budgets."
In addition, as President at Boone Associates Mary E. Boone describes, "Never before have meetings occupied such a central position in the government, business, and non-profit community’s focus. While many are justifiably concerned about meetings being cancelled, cut and under-appreciated, this is also a time when the opportunity exists to completely shift the way in which meetings and events are understood by people in positions of power and responsibility."
So we’re good—no reasons to worry. In-person meetings will continue to exist and we, as event professionals, will continue to struggle with countless logistic and planning issues. However, taking into account this new digital layer and multiple live streaming tools with a continuous impact on the event industry, there’s a big question that we must ask ourselves: What exactly keeps face-to-face meetings and events successful?
"Lots of people who want to escape their offices and attend events," you might be thinking is the answer. Why not? It’s a good excuse for a nice change of scenery. Yet, by going deeper and understanding the real value of in-person meetings in the face of multiple digital options (that most of the time appear to be cheaper and more sustainable), we’ll be able to keep up with the change and contribute to the reinvention of this industry.
Thus, in the context of the global awareness campaign "Global Meetings Industry Day," celebrated on April 6, let’s hear from INCON’s partners across the globe why organizing face-to-face meetings is still so successful.
As Vice President of Marketing & Sales at ORTRA, Galit Shimshoni notes, face-to-face meetings contribute to the development of local economies, businesses, and communities by providing a large number of attendees who spend money on travel, accommodation, and city touring. In addition, Shimshoni remarks that face-to-face meetings also allow participants to meet new vendors, potentially creating new businesses opportunities for the local economy.
Face-to-face meetings, as a dynamic, provide a great example of adaptability when it comes to new technological tools. When asked if the digital layer of the event industry (such as live streaming) is a threat or an opportunity for event professionals, Executive Director at DEKON Group Michael Kern answered that it is a good way to promote the event, consequently attracting more participants for future events. On the other hand, as Kern highlighted, technologies such as live streaming are a great opportunity to expand the event to reach a larger audience. In other words, as a format itself, face-to-face meetings are adaptable and "responsive" to new digital challenges.
As the Group President of MCI, Robin Lokerman suggests that the more connected the world gets, the more we need face-to-face communication. Lokerman emphasizes that apart from flawless logistics and strong content, people expect engagement and involvement during the sessions. They don’t want to be passive participants anymore. They are interested in being part of the discussion. Moreover, the attendees want the organizers to create an efficient networking environment and provide apps that will allow them to connect with other participants. Therefore, face-to-face meetings offer the irreplaceable possibility of building meaningful connections and gaining relevant prospects.
Emotion. This was the answer of Arinex's Roslyn McLeod, the chair of INCON and an internationally recognized leader in the meetings industry, when asked what's the one thing technology can't replace. McLeod highlighted that "Meetings’ technology facilitates engagement, but just like internet dating providers, meetings are the matchmakers that provide the personal touch between people who have more of a need than ever to interact with other people." In other words, people are attracted by the opportunity to connect with others, this way fostering "the desire to meet in-person at conferences and networking events."
In an issue of Skift magazine, the authors argued that we are slowly moving from experiential to transformative events. According to Patrizia Semprebene Buongiorno, AIM Group International Vice President, face-to-face meetings enable this transition by providing a deeper level of engagement, which is inaccessible to virtual attendees. Semprebene Buongiorno notes that event professionals should focus on experimenting with new ways of engaging people who attend events, not only making them listen to or consume the content, but also by directly involving them in the event activities. Nowadays, face-to-face meetings have an active profile, allowing the participants to co-create the event, feel more engaged, and induce a powerful transformative experience.
As Roslyn McLeod notes, "Face-to-face meetings are like any other business in a changing world—they must adapt to survive. Adoption of technology is a must for face-to-face meetings in order to drive engagement with generations who are immersed in their devices." In this context, we can see how the event industry is changing, trying to reinvent itself and following the need to keep up with the new challenges, but also the desire to harness new possibilities. However, in this constant chase for self-improvement and self-actualization, we can see the multiple reasons why face-to-face meetings remain the essential tool for engagement, networking, learning, co-creation, and transformation.
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INCON is a partnership of the world’s leading conference organisers and event management companies. The partnership covers 170 destinations and employs a total of 3,500 staff. INCON has substantial purchasing power and organises annually 10,000 projects and serves 3 million delegates.