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5 Future Jobs

By Jason Hensel

In his book, Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert offered a great thought about predicting the future.

"Just as we tend to treat the details of future events that we do imagine as though they were actually going to happen, we have an equally troubling tendency to treat the details of future events that we don’t imagine as though they were not going to happen," he wrote. "In other words, we fail to consider how much imagination fills in, but we also fail to consider how much it leaves out."

Meeting professionals can’t afford to leave anything out of the imagination. We hope these jobs intrigue and incite you to think more about your industry and how it’s growing. The only people who stay in the same place forever are dead. And this industry is anything but dead.

Hologram Specialist
During 2008 U.S. presidential election coverage, the 24-hour news network CNN did something people have been dreaming about since Princess Leia’s ghostly image was projected from R2-D2’s robotic head. They used holograms to facilitate face-to-face communications.

In a few years, let’s say less than 10, there will be a need for hologram specialists, people to work with and on holograms for meetings and events. There are already patents pending and trials taking place. In May, Microsoft applied for a "virtual office devices" patent that would allow for holographic meetings with remote attendees. And recently, Masergy Communications—along with U.K.-based Musion Systems Limited—started trials of interactive holographic meetings over fixed-line networks.

"Hologram technology can provide the industry with some very unique advantages in terms of creativity and competition," said Lori Tuma, an event management instructor at Central Michigan University. "My concerns with holographic technology are specific to liability: This technology can be manipulated and distorted, and although data can be stored many ways on many different mediums, as with anything else, I foresee a need for oversight. I also have concerns regarding branding—consistency in production is the lifeline to any event, and relying on holograms to mass-produce the same message, with the same inferences, could pose some problems."

Oh, but what an exciting problem to work on.

Director of Senses
There are many levels to a meeting or event, such as information sharing, decision making, problem solving, strategic planning, etc. And according to James L. Creighton, Ph.D., a conflict resolution and interpersonal communications consultant, the type of function, combined with its subject matter, should let you know who needs to participate and the type of interaction needed to satisfy goals and provide context for the group selection process.

"In the future, as various kinds of collaborative technologies become common, defining the meeting purpose will be a prelude to the question: 'How many senses does this meeting require?’" Creighton wrote in "Using Group Process Techniques to Improve Meeting Effectiveness" on the Web site Effective Meetings. "If the purpose of the meeting is trust building, you probably need a face-to-face meeting with everybody present in the room (all five senses)."

We’re already seeing sense manipulation at hotels ("Wow, this room smells like white tea with a dash of cinnamon…I just may have to hang out here more!"). And scientific research has shown that room temperatures can affect the type of language used among attendees.

In fact, One+ contributor Jon Bradshaw wrote about sense management in his Reboot Your Brain column in March.

"The fact that human values, beliefs and behavior can be influenced in such a way may have personal as well as professional benefits," Bradshaw wrote. "Getting curious about how behavioral science can be used most effectively within the global meeting and event industry could make your next event extra special."

Look for directors of senses to start popping up in the next five to 10 years.

Sustainability Compliance Officer
The recent economic nightmare may have dented the green movement, but it didn’t stop it. In fact, it will come back even stronger and more powerful. With that, companies are going to have to start paying even more attention to CSR strategies. And one field that’s gaining steam is sustainability compliance. In the future, the meeting and event industry will be (maybe lawfully?) impacted by strict environmental rules and regulations concerning conferences. Enter the sustainability compliance officer (or chief).

Sure, this job exists, but its role will be greatly expanded.

"No longer focused narrowly on compliance and risk associated with a company’s environmental impact, chief sustainability officers now reach out to all constituencies—management, shareholders, customers and employees—and convey the benefits of environmental sustainability to all," wrote Caron Carlson in Compliance Week. "Integral to the sustainability chief’s job is the ability to make the business case for sustainability to senior executives and shareholders, as well as customers and employees."

Cultural Guides
How gently can I say this? Meeting professionals can be known to have thin skins. Or the thin-skin ones just boast the loudest voices. Being culturally sensitive, though, is not a bad thing. (I can’t tell you how many new holidays I’ve learned about in the six years I’ve been covering this industry.) So, it’s not too much of a stretch to expect that within 10 years there will be people working as specific cultural guides for meetings and events.

For example, if you’re meeting in a foreign country, you would work with a cultural guide to follow all the laws and traditions native to that culture so as not to offend any locals or create unpleasant experiences for attendees.

This cultural guru would be just another weapon in your quiver aimed to make the event a success—and prevent an embarrassing cultural faux pas.

Chief Connecting Officer
In 10 years, the term "meeting professional" will no longer be sufficient in describing what meeting or event planners and suppliers do. There will be logistical aspects of the job, sure, and those people who do the buying and selling will be called planners and suppliers.

But the people really creating the meetings and events, the ones with the leaderships skills, resources and know-how, will go by a different name. Maybe it will be Gladwellian such as connectors, or maybe they’ll go by relators, a term promoted by author Bijoy Goswami to describe those who are relationship driven and always striving to create new relationships. Whatever they decide to call themselves, their jobs will be focused, as well as widely influential, in that they will be bringing people together to exchange ideas.

You’re saying that’s what meeting professionals do already. Agreed, but if we don’t start thinking of ourselves as purely connectors, we’re never going to get a seat in the C-suite or influence executives. CEOs, CFOs and COOs focus on strategy primarily. The word meeting is too narrow for their broad view. Our future fails or succeeds on what we call ourselves, so let’s propose a new C acronym: CCO (chief connecting officer).

In fact, this is such a fundamental shift in thought I suggest you start calling yourself that right now. Take the future in your own hands. One+

JASON HENSEL is associate editor of One+.

These Gigs are Growing
Here’s a quick look at several real, current jobs that may proliferate within the meeting and event industry in coming years.

Beekeeper/Gardener: The importance of local produce for meals is growing, and in the future, convention centers and restaurants will have their own beekeepers and gardeners to help with sustainability aspects of their operations. Recently, the Vancouver Convention Center gained attention by keeping a colony of bees on its six-acre green roof, a trend Dallas-based restaurant Park is working to mirror with the goal of introducing honeybees to its rooftop herb garden.

Distance Education Consultant: The number of mentally focused jobs are increasing more than physical jobs, and with that comes a desire for customized and portable education platforms. Within the next 10 years, planners—if they’re not already doing it themselves—will work with distance education consultants because distance learning is poised to be a larger and more important part of physical conferences.

E-marketing Manager: An e-marketing manager is responsible for managing marketing content on the Web, which includes search engine optimization, e-mail marketing and creating Internet distribution channels. This job should see a growth explosion in the next five years, especially in our industry. Take a look at The Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Mass., for example, which added an e-marketing manager to its sales and marketing team last year to help serve guests through technology.