Planner shift: Keeping up with change to create more meaningful meetings

In a recent article, I looked at six shifts I have noticed in the past few years of planning meetings and events. This week I will look at what we can do to keep up in practical ways with these shifts and create even more meaningful meetings.

Food and beverage becoming healthier and more responsive to the many allergens and dietary concerns is one shift that should be quite easy to keep up with, as convention centres and hotels throughout North America and Europe have responded in a big way with lifestyle menus and a practical reality of serving guests and their many needs. Planners need to ensure they are asking their CSMs and chefs about these options, being clear about their group needs and budget.
Keeping up with change to create more meaningful meetings
There is so much education including in the new Convention Industry Council manual, on many webinars and in sessions taking place at industry conferences, as well as in listening to our participants. Being able to use the available information to craft delicious and nutritious fare at functions is important. It is not to say you cannot offer food which is fun (such as a candy break or late night poutine), but as this is often fatty or high in sugar, alternatives need to be available too.

Increased travel costs have forced planners into alternatives, and learning about the possibilities for creating collaborative environments within virtual structures is a new skill we need to add to our toolkits. Talk to your partners in this area, beginning with audio visual, and expanding to a media-site partner where your videos can be both viewed and archived, and include a platform which allows for interactivity including Q & A functions, polling and surveys and moderated discussions. There is now an ability to do this on both desktop as well as mobile devices making it easy for people to engage no matter where they are in the world.

The above also ties into shifts in sustainability. This is an area of focus for many properties and destinations, as well as organizations, and if your organization (or your client) has a written sustainability policy, you will want to include the key points from this into your RFP process. The reality is we have one world, and we have the opportunity with our choices to make a positive impact and leave behind our meetings a legacy of doing good things, which is not only good PR, but also a nicer way to work.

As our audiences shift and younger generations come to stay, learn and play with us, we know sustainability is important to them. We are already seeing restaurants and hotels changing their spaces and practices to fit these needs. It goes much deeper than marketing into a fundamental shift in business practices and is a philosophy we can move forward with planning meetings beginning with site selection and program design.

The biggest change, and one we have perhaps been slower to respond to, is in communication. The world around us still has TV, commercials, radio stations and billboards, but what we have now that we did not before, or even two years ago, is 7 billion mobile phones, an average of 23 apps being used on a daily basis and a shift from email and web based communication into a myriad of channels all ending on a handheld device. This fundamental shift happened so quickly that our ability to understand what this means is only beginning, and for most of us it is the time to play catch-up.

How can we use this new reality is the next imperative for:

  • marketing our events,
  • sharing information pre-event and on-site to build momentum both internally and externally with social sharing,
  • setting the stage for the buzz the next year, and ultimately
  • building year-round communities that extend our organization and association brands in ways we are only beginning to understand.

We like or even love our smartphones and tablets, and we cannot imagine what we did without them. As planners, we now have one more thing to learn how to use, but there’s power in this when you consider the realm beyond the paperless agenda. As my teen son would say, “KAPOW” – it makes our head explode in the way the first people who said we can put a man on the moon experienced. So whether you are comfortable with this new environment, or still don’t get Twitter, it is time to move forward and together change the way we meet and rock some worlds.

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