21st Century Meetings Spark the Imagination

By Chris Neuberger

Meetings of the 21st century won’t focus as much on delivering information as on strategic use of human interaction to nurture new business ideas and answers. That’s one of the conclusions recently cited by the meeting industry’s research-oriented MPI Foundation. “Meetings of the future will become more strategic in nature,” says David C. Scypinski, senior vice president of Industry Relations at Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide and vice chairman of development for the MPI Foundation. “Meetings are going to be designed to create – rather than just relate – critical new ideas, approaches and solutions to key business issues.”

Here are other key points from the Focus on the Future paper issued by the foundation, a research institution serving the meetings industry and the 17,000-member Meeting Professionals International:

Meeting planners traditionally have faced the task of facilitating face-to-face meetings, tending to the planning required to successfully deliver information. But with new technological advances springing up every day, the techno-revolution has diminished information transfer as the leading goal of meetings. The pace of change in the Internet and email, among other technologies, is dramatically changing business and how meeting planners work within it.

What does that mean for the people who plan meetings? They’ll need to take on a more strategic role in the development of their companies. “One way the meeting professional may do this is to become an ‘interaction specialist’,” said Scypinski, “a highly educated, strategic marketer who facilitates the communication processes that lead to new ideas and ways of accomplishing key organizational objectives.”

There’s more. Be adaptable, and be prepared to offer flexibility in changing environments. Live by a “no-rules” mentality. “Instead of maintaining strict adherence to time and agenda constraints, meeting professionals should become skilled at working group dynamics,” said Scypinski, “to make the most out of new ideas and opportunities germinating from each session.”

Like other professionals in various fields, meeting planners will have to be “continuous learners.” They’ll need to continuously expand their skills and their knowledge. Here are a few of the skills required to create the meeting of tomorrow: consensus building, negotiation, diplomacy, presentation and leadership.