Let’s face it.  Times, they are a changin’.  At least in the meeting industry, they are.  You may not be able to put your finger on it, but everyone from planners to attendees, to hotel workers feels it.  Whether we are talking about corporate meetings or conferences, conventions or trade shows, there has been a significant shift in the planning and execution of industry meetings.  So, what are these changes I speak of?  Well, let’s talk about three major trends that have developed, and will continue to shape the meeting industry in the near future.

Meetings have gotten shorter.  Some industries have been hit harder than others by the recession, but the budgets of faith-based organizations and government associations seem to have been scrutinized more than others.  For this reason, many of the meetings and conferences planned have simply been shortened due to cost.  While the main objective is to save money, shorter meetings do not have to mean lower quality meetings.  In fact, according to Mark Smith of Rejuvenate Marketplace, shorter meetings can do quite the opposite.  Shorter meetings have been found in some cases to increase attendance and help planners focus on what is most relevant in their programming.  In other words, planners have to “cut the fat” so to speak.  With smart planning, shorter meetings in many cases have proven to deliver exceptional quality to attendees. 

Social Media is no longer optional.  Meeting planners and sponsors are honing their social media skills in order to better connect with attendees.  According to Successful Meetings’ most recent reader survey on small meetings, 63 percent of planners use Facebook to promote their meetings and encourage participation, and 42.5 percent use Twitter.  What’s more, social interaction before, during and after meetings will become of greater importance.  Michael Alderson of FSA Management Group says that developing more ways to integrate technology into events will result in more personalized content and off-site networking for meeting attendees. 

People want to make the world a better place.   A large percentage of today’s companies want to leave the communities they meet in better than when they arrived.  This may include cleaning up beaches, planting trees, building shelters, or even “socializing” with puppies in the process of being trained as aide dogs for the disabled.  According to Successful Meetings 2013 Corporate Responsibility Survey (CSR), nearly 75 of meeting planners said that their companies included some sort of CSR activity in their meetings and events last year.  Meeting planners often partner with charitable organizations in the cities they hold events to coordinate their CSR activities and have found that such activities are extremely popular among meeting attendees.  And if making the world a better place isn’t reward enough, organizations have also found that 9 out of 10 employees at companies that implement CSR feel a stronger sense of “pride and loyalty” in their company. 

While the great recession has definitely forced change in the meeting industry, the new trends emerging are proving to be beneficial to all parties involved.Shorter meetings mean more attendees and better quality information, especially with the use of social media interaction before, during and after events.Giving back through Corporate Social Responsibility not only benefits the communities we meet in, but also makes for better employees and employers.So, embrace these emerging meeting trends…they’ll be around for a while.