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Are You Ready for the Future of the Conference Industry?

Author: Joy Lin
Posted: September 04, 2013
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In a recent article on the booming conference industry, Skift's Rafat Ali said, "Even as everyone predicted the rise of digital would do away with face to face, precisely the opposite is happening, as the value of in-person meetings and conventions rises. And the need's only getting bigger, much to the delight of the travel industry and CVBs."

Let the industry rejoice!

The article written by David Ferrell of the Orange County Register, also goes on to describe six factors that point to a conference boom, which is only going to get bigger. Supposing we're all seeing the same trends in this conference "bubble," are you and your team prepared to handle these six trends?

1. Global Extravaganzas

Some of the fastest-growing conferences are no-longer industry driven, siloed, events. Ferrell cites examples like the popular TED and TEDx spin offs, the Clinton Global Initiative, and the Milken Institute Global Conference, where bringing together some of the most powerful people face-to-face, while in turn broadcasting them to an online engagement platform to reach audiences around the world, will become the new norm.

Ask yourself: Can I empower meeting planners to achieve a diversity of delegates and a far-reaching audience?

2. Booming Market

Ferrell shares an interesting statistic from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, stating that "conventions and events are expected to expand by 44 percent from 2010 to 2020, far beyond the average projected growth of other industries." With the evolution of new markets -- from hackers to fanboys, new meetings with distinct attendee needs and opportunities won't be long to follow.

Ask yourself: Can I position my destination to serve these emerging markets' distinct needs?

3. Investing in Ideas

Ferrell also mentions that our "fear of missing out" ultimately determines whether people want to attend a conference, and several events are dedicated to showcase conversations among our brightest minds, discussions across many subjects, and social events that are the new hotbed for idea generation and business deals.

Ask yourself: Can I help meeting planners achieve a higher ROI by creating an environment for ideas?

4. Risks and Logistics

We are no strangers to the risks that planners face when putting on a great show. As Ferrell explains, it takes "many months of planning for a jackpot that lasts less than a week." As different kinds of conferences emerge with new and booming markets, event organizers will have to make some educated guesses and even take some risky bets before getting established.

Ask yourself: Can I work collaboratively with meeting planners and provide reliable advice in order to minimze their risk within my destination?

5. "Engineered Serendipity"

Ferrell takes the growth of SXSW as its prime example of how Austin, as a creative hotbed for music and youth, lended itself to bring the right people together to the right places at the right time. Montreal's C2 or commerce and creativity conference also replicates this idea by carefully arranging to "have people crash into each other."

Ask yourself: Can I help the meeting planner work through floor plans and destination maps and engineer how attendees "ebb and flow" throughout the event for the ideal amount of interaction?

6. Aesthetics of Creativity

There's no denying the beauty and attractiveness of a destination can influence whether people are enticed to travel to a conference. Ferrell goes so far as to say that some planners, like Philip Lader with his invitation-only conferences, purposely embrace environmental beauty as a factor in creativity and purposely choose resort locations for that reason.

Ask yourself: Can I help the meeting planner to manage the perception of my destination by aligning the attractiveness of the location with interests of their target attendee?