While coronavirus remains a major concern among the meetings industry, Dan Berger, founder and former CEO of the event planning software company Social Tables, urged event professionals to look beyond the current outbreak and begin planning for the decade ahead.
"I'm here to talk about a thing that a lot of you are scared to talk about and that's predictions of the future," Berger told event professionals attending SMU International, a Northstar Meetings Group event held at the New York Marriott Marquis. "There is absolutely no reason for our industry to worry. I really believe in the power of meetings. Events are the oldest form of human interaction. At Social Tables, we used to say that 'when people get together, they achieve great things.'"
In his presentation on the final day of SMU International, Berger outlined a handful of predictions that could affect the meetings industry over the next decade.
The Buyer's Market Is Back
Chief among Berger's predictions was the shifting tide towards a buyer's market.
"The new decade will start with a buyer's market," he said. "If you're sitting down with a hotelier today for an appointment, the table has turned. For the first time, you get to tell them the budget they have to hit. The ball is in your court."
F&B Will Become Optional
Berger also delved into the changing dining scene, which includes local fast-casual eateries replacing traditional hotel restaurants, CBD-infused drinks appearing on beverage menus and the rising trend of sober-curious attendees.
According to Berger, food-and-beverage menus are not just changing but will become an optional offering and might disappear entirely from some events. Those that do continue to offer meals at their meetings will largely rely on meatless menus and an alcohol-free environment.
"Every aspect of F&B is being challenged," said Berger. "This is really important for meeting professionals because it makes up such a large portion of the bill and a lot of margin for hotels because they have a complete monopoly over what you can put on the table."
Using Tech to Upgrade Events
Technology is also transforming the industry. Berger expects demand for in-person events to grow in an age of remote work but cautions meeting organizers that privacy concerns will become increasingly important to attendees.
The good news is technology will help make the planning process easier, leaving organizers with more time to get creative. He believes virtual site visits will become routine, simple proposals will be automated, and floor plans will become more effective with the help of machine learning.
Planning With a Purpose
Corporate social responsibility, which has generated a lot of buzz over the past few years, will really take off in the next decade. Going forward, Berger says it will be an industry imperative for events to consider their social and environmental impact. Every meeting will include diversity and inclusion components, and sustainability will be top-of-mind for all planners.
"The next generation's values will be reflected in the way we plan," Berger said. "Organizations will take a strong stand on social justice issues and 'leave no trace behind' will become an industry standard."