Findings from the largest ever foresight research study and consultation to be conducted on the future of the global meetings and events industry were announced at IMEX in Frankfurt.
The Power of 10 Study was commissioned from Fast Future Research by organizers of the award-winning IMEX trade shows to mark IMEX in Frankfurt’s 10th anniversary this year – with the aim of giving “something of lasting value” back to help drive the development of the industry over the next decade.
Fast Future’s researchers built on the findings of their earlier Convention 2020 report (of which IMEX was a founding sponsor) and conducted interviews with over 100 leaders, respected practitioners, innovators, change agents, and future thinkers from across the industry. The research explores both the internal mechanics of the meetings industry itself and the full range of business sectors it serves. As well as looking 10 years into the future, the study also looks back over the last decade to trace and define the key lessons learned from past experience.
The interview insights, together with desk research, a student essay competition, and the results of a global survey, which gathered feedback from 765 respondents in 68 countries on 6 continents, were analyzed to produce the final Power of 10 Report. The study was sponsored by IMEX’s partners in Germany – Messe Frankfurt, the Frankfurt Convention Bureau, the German Convention Bureau, and CPO Hanser – together with researchers, Fast Future Research.
THREE DOMINANT THEMES
Against a backdrop of “a perfect storm of mega-trends,” the study identifies three main themes that look set to dominate the decade ahead and, therefore, hold the key to success for the industry as a whole and, more urgently, those companies, associations, and destinations that serve it.
THE THREE THEMES ARE:
i. An uncertain global economic outlook and the challenges presented by hard to predict macro-economic shifts;
ii. The rapid availability and penetration of new technologies, whose quality, cost and diversity are touching every aspect of our lives; and
iii. The everyday reality of shorter and faster business cycles.
As the report makes clear, many other industry sectors are currently wrestling with similar challenges. However, for the meetings industry, these challenges raise specific and sometimes fundamental questions, which must be faced quickly – and faced collectively – if the sector is to fulfill its highest potential as a universally-respected and strategically-valued business tool within the next 10 years.
In a snapshot, from the global survey findings on key factors shaping the industry’s next decade, 71 percent expect global economic uncertainty and instability to have an impact across the sector worldwide. A further 49 pecent believe we will start to experience the impact of improvements in the quality and cost of technology alternatives to live meetings. In addition, shorter and faster business cycles are expected to play a significant role by 47 percent, while 46 percent anticipate growing political and economic influence coming from Asia.
THE NEED TO RETHINK THE EVENT EXPERIENCE
At the operating level, there is a very clear expectation that the industry will need to undergo both evolutionary change and more radical transformations in a number of areas if it is to keep pace with developments taking place in client sectors. The report addresses specific findings and recommendations for corporations, associations, venue owners, hotels, convention bureaus, agencies, and industry service providers.
In order to both improve its resilience against economic shocks and address competition from the growing range of communication and knowledge sharing alternatives available to clients, the research reveals a strongly-held view that the live business events sector has to demonstrate and raise the perception of its direct value to those involved. Ninety-one percent of survey respondents strongly agreed or agreed that “to reduce its vulnerability to economic cycles, the business events industry must demonstrate a tangible return on investment for event owners, delegates, sponsors, exhibitors, and other key stakeholders.”
The Power of 10 report also shows that the forces of change are already being felt in the areas of event design and the delegate experience which, in turn, are producing fresh priorities for event owners, including a range of new design and delivery challenges for in-company events, corporate events, and conferences and exhibitions.
There are 5 main sections to the final research: The Delegate Experience and Event Design; The Learning and Knowledge Transfer Imperative; Sector Analysis and the Future of the Value Chain; 10 “Grand Challenges;” and future scenarios for the industry.
SIX SUB-REPORTS TO BE RELEASED IN COMING MONTHS
To enable the industry to embrace and act on the true scale and depth of the research, the full findings are set to be released and presented in 6 detailed sub-reports over the coming months. The first sub-report will focus on “The Big Picture – Reflections on Past and Future Factors.” Thereafter, other parts, such as “What will the Future Event Experience look like?;” “Maximizing Learning and Value – The Role of Knowledge Management, Technology and Social Media;” “Event Ownership – Fresh Perspectives and Event Economics;” “Beyond Tourism – Evolution of the Industry Value Chain;” and “Shaping the Future – Grand Challenges and Winning Scenarios” will be published over the next 6 months. All of the interview transcripts and the best of the student essays will also be released over time.
Said Ray Bloom, Chairman of the IMEX Group: “This was a major undertaking for IMEX and for Fast Future. The report’s findings are extremely comprehensive and make compelling reading for anyone involved in the sector. We are delighted to be able to gift the research to the meetings industry to mark the end of IMEX’s first 10 years. What becomes very clear from the study findings is that the pace of change has accelerated far quicker than any of us ever thought or imagined possible 10 years ago. I fully expect the next 10 to be even richer with change – bringing both anticipated and unexpected developments – and if the industry has the collective will to transform itself to meet those challenges then we are set for a very exciting decade ahead.”
Fast Future CEO, Rohit Talwar, who presented the findings at a press conference at IMEX in Frankfurt earlier today, said: “The research paints a vivid picture of a rapidly maturing industry. There is a growing desire for the sector to be taken seriously as a vital enabler of communications, learning, knowledge transfer, and business development. In response, across the globe we see increasing acceptance of the need for genuine longer-term thinking, strategic innovation, and the kind of collective and collaborative agility that is the norm in many of the key client sectors that the meetings industry serves. There is a tremendously exciting decade in prospect for those who give themselves permission to open the door and let the future in.”