4 questions about the technology innovation in the meetings industry
posted 21June 2006 for publication after 01 July 2006What are the new technology innovations for the meetings industry that are most impressive?
The most important innovations for the meetings industry need to be invited still. Number one is the replacement for fuel driven jet engines. If we can not make airplanes fly with another kind of fuel, and oil prices keep rising, the cost of travel could be deadly for international meetings. That is a big fat wake-up call that made me think about the future of this industry. It will not surprise the traditional meeting industry that such topic was discussed at a conference about virtual meetings and remote participation/collaboration. The statement was that "in 2020 only the happy few and the brave, will travel for meetings". An other innovation we still need to come up with will have to help society at large with 'media information management'. Insignificant epidemics like sars, mad cow disease and other have had a major impact on our industry. We need to become more proficient to help "the masses" with being more realistic about risk. If we can turn the masses into statisticians, they will see that more people die every year in home accidents in a single country, than globally from all the above viruses. Both the above may seem a bit far fetched, but I think that we should think about what next. What can we do today to be ready, in case something really bad happens and keeps happening? I guess it won't hurt if we keep our eyes open for virtual meetings for international groups. At the same conference in Berlin, I was pleasantly surprised by what is possible today in virtual meetings and what is coming in the next few years. It made me see that for my company, we can serve our clients real meetings better by activating the potential of virtual meetings, before, during and after their real meetings. A combination of online elements and a real meeting is very well possible today. It just becomes so much richer to brainstorm on-line to design the meeting format and content. How logical and valuable is it to create on line communities of members / participants to start discussion before, and to continue the networking after the real meeting. The membership of the Meeting Support Institute has a lot of digital and on line tools that will enable you to improve your real meetings with both real and virtual elements. (www.meetingsupport.org
) Why are these tools worth knowing about?
All tools that can have even the slightest impact on the content side of your meeting, are worth looking in to. If a tool or a service can improve the learning, the networking or the motivation of your participants, we should get involved. We all know that learning, networking and motivation have an influence on the ROI (Return On Investment) of meetings. So improvement there will improve the outcome of the meeting. Since this side of our industry, we call meeting support, is underdeveloped, it is the place to be for improvement with real impact. How will these items change the meeting professionals' way of doing business?
The main result will be that, once meeting planners know the power of meeting support, they will be seen more as full consultants with an important impact on the meeting itself, not 'just the logistics'. Some meeting professionals can become meeting support managers or meeting support consultants on top of their logistical talent. That will truly give them 'a seat at the table' and increase their influence in their organizations. Meeting Support Managers, certified by the meeting support institute, could be the way to go, and it is certainly in our plans. On www.meetingsupport.org
, we are building a knowledge base that will generate the curriculum for such certification. How can a meeting professional determine whether a new innovation is useful or just a passing fad?
It is really just a matter of time. Reading the "Tipping Point" explains all about how some people are early adopters and they may or may not be right. Everyone needs to determine when it is time to get on board of a new technology. If it's cheap (less than 0,1% of your revenue), just try it out and drop it if it fails. If it expensive (costing you more than 0,1% and lass than 1% of your annual revenue) talk about it with a few friends, if thy like the idea, than just try it out. When an innovation costs ore than 1% of your annual revenue, it is a real investment: serious investigation is necessary, references, talking to users etc may be wise. Innovating means taking risks. If you can handle a mistake, and if you are not afraid to change, also changing back, the positive effect of being seen as an innovator may be worth it. Like large companies do today, you could try out 10 innovations to discover one successful one. That trial and error scenario, may turn out much more cost effective than doing extensive (and expensive) testing and research.
© 2006 Maarten Vanneste, CMM, President Meeting Support Institute and CEO Abbit Meeting Support