Pictured from left: Rohit Talwar, Alexandra Whittington, Steve Wells

Written by Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington, April Koury, and Helena Calle of Fast Future

There will be fundamental changes in the next five year affecting many aspects of the events sector – from the technology that will be used to the clients themselves.

The changes will create new opportunities, unexpected challenges, and pressure to stay ahead of the game by spotting what’s next.

Here are 10 developments that will come more to the fore in 2018 and could be major industry trends over the next five years:

  1. Business Model Experimentation – In a world where new charging models are proliferating, there will be a growing pressure on events to bring greater creativity to bear. From paying based on the perceived value and seat auctions through to pay per session and results-based charging – the sector will be exploring a range of attendee payment ideas.
  1. Political Uncertainty – For the travellers to the US, uncertainty will continue over whether travel bans or enhanced border vetting will be in place for visitors from a range of countries. This may lead some organisers to locate global events in locations with no such restrictions.

In the UK, as Brexit continues to unfold, there will be growing demand for events which help suppliers – from and to the UK – to understand the implications for their sector. The key here will be the ability to organise and promote relatively short, high quality, sector-specific events at speed.

  1. Smarter by Design – The involvement of artificial intelligence (AI) in the sector will expand quite rapidly. From designing agendas, setting prices, and targeting potential attendees through to customer service chatbots, determining best fit locations, and providing backup content and fact-checking of presentations, AI tools will become a feature across the entire industry value chain. In a very human business such as the events sector, it seems likely that AI will be used to free up time for value adding tasks rather than reduce headcounts.
  1. Real-Time Conference Agendas – Participants will be able to use meeting apps to schedule impromptu sessions held in any available space – coffee bars, lobbies, exhibition floors, even car parks. The speaker will talk into a microphone attached to their own smartphone and have the talk broadcast to those who tune in to that particular channel. Attendees will be able to view presentation slides and hear the speaker via their own device and headphones. So, no matter how noisy the background, the audience will be able to understand you perfectly clearly.
  1. Integrated Events Apps – Users will not have to download individual APPs for each event, we will see integrated systems emerge that present content for multiple events – these may even become standard features on many smartphones. App developers will create more cohesive systems that merge the information and presentations for all the different events that sign up to use them. Users will have the opportunity to browse for the most interesting and useful information across a range of events and conferences – perhaps making micro-payments to access content for the events they didn’t attend.
  1. Robot Realms – Events will make greater use of robots as mobile customer service assistants, kitchen staff, baristas, waiting staff, security guards, and porters. We’ll also see more robots featuring presentations and even delivering them. Within facilities, we might see drones capturing videos of the sessions, transporting goods, and even moving people between sessions.
  1. Paradise Unplugged – Some meetings will be elevated to a luxury experience by adopting technology-free policies that demand unplugging, disconnecting, powering down, and “off-gridding” for all participants. Events will set a tone of intimacy and authenticity by discarding the free Wi-Fi and discouraging conference hashtags, for example. The venues would provide a facility at check-in where participants can drop off their devices for the day and unplug, putting a total focus on the experience at hand.
  1. Circular Economies and Zero Waste – The meetings and conference industry will come under growing pressure to take greater action to alleviate food, energy, and water waste. Scientific studies have shown that the earth’s ecosystems are weakening due to inefficiencies in current economic structures and distribution systems. So, for example, millions go hungry while fresh food is routinely discarded. Events and meetings that put into practice the principles of circular economies and zero waste, philosophies that encourage reuse and discourage overconsumption, might have a powerful role to play in the future where natural resources, even food, could be in short supply.
  1. The Replaced – As the automation of work and jobs progresses as an economic force, it is possible that there will be a rise in the number of technologically unemployed people. Events and meetings aimed at this audience might emerge as an opportunity for the meetings sector.  Past employers, governments, other sponsors, and even the individuals themselves might pay for seminars, conferences, education sessions, and certification courses aimed at counselling, reskilling, and retraining the replaced. Indeed, these could become regular events in many local communities.
  1. Enhanced-Friendly – People are beginning to pursue a range of brain and body enhancements – chemical, genetic, physical, and electronic. From nootropic attention stimulating drugs and supplements through to body strengthening exoskeletons, and genetic modification, the sci-fi notion of “bodyhacking” is becoming a reality. Event planners will increasingly need to consider the needs of these enhanced visitors. As biohacking and bionics go from fringe to mainstream, how will meeting planners adapt to dealing with customers, colleagues, and vendors who are partially enhanced? Within the next five years, various forms of biotech implants could become more normalised, giving some individuals superhuman hearing, vision, or memory. As the sensory spectrum is expanded, will meetings be expected to accommodate the needs of the enhanced human?

The next five years could see more dramatic change taking place in the events/meetings sector than ever. New opportunities will be created by a powerful combination of economic, social, technological, and environmental factors. These will force the sector to undertake a fundamental rethink of every aspect of what it does. The question to ask is: will you be ahead of the curve and use these impending changes as an opportunity to innovate in advance of the competition? Or wait and see? The choice of when to act is yours.


Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington, Helena Calle, and April Koury are from Fast Future which publishes books from future thinkers around the world exploring how developments such as AI, robotics and disruptive thinking could impact individuals, society and business and create new trillion-dollar sectors. Two new books from Fast Future are: ‘Beyond Genuine Stupidity – Ensuring AI Serves Humanity’, and ‘The Future – Reinvented: Reimagining Life, Society, and Business’. See: www.fastfuture.com


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