The following entry was written by Jackie Mulligan, a principal lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University, which is conducting our future of meetings research
Some of the worst service experiences I have ever had made me feel "processed." It is the worst kind of service experience, because when you go out, travel or shop you want to feel special. I want to feel special at events I attend. So my question for you: In your meetings, do you look after groups or individuals?
The reason I ask is that personalization—the need to individualize experiences in group settings—is a rising issue for meeting designers now and very much in the future. It presents some serious challenges, too. The importance of catering for individuals in groups, understanding human interaction at a deeper level, is clear but what about coping with changing expectations, behaviors and values? Within the challenge of meeting individual needs is the fact that the attendees will be more diverse than ever. No wonder that experts in the future of meetings study believed people would be the key drivers of change in the meeting industry. As Dr. James Powell says, “I see conferences that change as they develop. People are expecting greater interaction and engagement. They don’t want to go to meeting without knowing ‘what’s in it for me?’”
Those people—your attendees, your clients, your work forces—will be multi-generational. According to the latest reports from The United Nations Population Fund, in 2050 there will be more people aged over 60 than under 15 in the world. This is a massive transition that impacts on all of society, our economics, our policies, our communities and most definitely your meeting designs.
In the meeting industry, it will mean considering how you can design for multiple generations— specialize or generalize? You will need to consider pace and structure of content, because generations differ because they grew up differently. Dr. Sarah Harper, a professor of gerontology at Oxford University and director of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, cites one European city that was running out of bus drivers.
“Its leaders decided to recruit drivers over the age of 60," Harper said. "Then, they trained all their prospects in simulators…and the vast majority failed. They were flummoxed, until someone suggested that they teach them in the old, traditional way—in the field—after which they saw a marked improvement in passing rates.”
The design of our venues will also change—having to consider an ageing population that while connected and tech savvy, will still be getting older. Younger generations will be harder to wow, having grown up with more technology, more instant responses, more screen-time, more on-demand than ever before. The future of meetings paper provides strategic takeaways to help reach out into these new and emerging demographics. But the supplement moves beyond this— to consider how values, lifestyles and attitudes are changing. So the question is: Are you prepared to cater for the needs of individuals at an unprecedented level? Read about the changing expectations and behaviors for the future of meetings in the new supplement and come join the conversation on the future of meetings LinkedIn group. This week we will be discussing new and older generations and much more. See you there!