I was twelve in 1980 when the book The Third Wave, by Alvin Toffler, came out. It was a fascinating book for a boy that, just a months before, read The Future Shock, by the same author, written exactly ten years before. I discovered The Future Shock in my parents bookshelf, and was a perfect treat, as good as nay adventure book. I was so enthused with The Third Wave book coming out that I spent our yearly week-long beach ritual with my parents reading it. I did not leave it from my hands, and at the end it looked all worn out, with sand, with some Coke stains, and sprinkled within its pages with all my dreams of the world Alvin described. Toffler talked about how the standardized industrial society is changing into a highly customized, driven by the value of information and knowledge. About how our allegiances will change, how our interaction with the others will be impacted by technology. Alvin talked about how we will create cross-national tribes (he called them “adhocracies” – very fluid organizations) , and how our connectedness via technology will dramatically increase. For anyone that witnessed the Egypt revolution and the Facebook communities supporting the Middle east revolutions, these are instances of adhocracies at work. I want to remind you that, when The Third Wave came out, Larry Page, the founder of Google, was seven years old, and was playing with other boys in Lansing, Michigan, and four other years before Mark Zuckerberg was not yet born.
What fascinated me, reading that book on a beach in 1980, was the exciting future ahead, but more than anything, the power of the mind being able to extrapolate and see way in the future, with such clarity. While this Bootcamp by no means is the Third Wave for Tradeshow and Conferences, is my little attempt to look at how technology will impact the industry.
With the explosive growth of mobile technology, the Tradeshow, Conference and Events are changing in a significant way. Our Zwoor Bootcamp is created for event planners, be that corporate planners, association planners or independent planners.
There are several good materials on this topic form the leading professional organizations, be that the MPI (Meeting professional International), PCMA (Professional Convention management Association) or ASAE (American Society of Association Executives. This Bootcamp is written from the perspective of a technology insider. To start, full disclosure, we do have several software products that target the industry, however we will attempt this guide to be as unbiased as possible. We will review some of the meeting products available, and I will recommend and talk, to the horror of our Marketing folks, some of the competing products.
So, with that, my take on the industry future, and the technology that will influence it.
Predicting the future is an impossible task, and what one can do is identify the sign posts of change, and mentally extend them a bit into the future.
The way we look at New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles as signposts for trends that will hit Cleveland a decade later, there are signposts coming from the Corporate Events world that are driving the entire industry forward, and will change also how Conferences, Conventions and Tradeshow are done. The Corporate Events have some key catalysts to be innovative. One: the economic downturn cut dramatically the discretionary spend and put pressure on the Corporate event planners. Two: there is already a very heavy investment on technology – be that bandwidth, mobility or video. Three: the “new normal” pushes everyone to try new things, and being innovative is cool again.
The technologies that are shaping the Conference and Tradeshow industry right now are social media, mobility, and video, in that order. There is a fourth catalyst, that I’Il call “wicked problem solving” that is still in its infancy, with several leading corporations driving a breakthough there.
The social media is clearly well developed in the Event Industry. Each conference now has a hashtag in Twitter, the participants are sharing LinkedIn profiles more than business cards, and sophisticated CRM systems bring a mashup for a lead visiting a booth from Google searches, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn in a second. If your event does not have a hashtag, a Facebook profile, and a social media consultant seeding the conversations and reporting in the Tweetspace, read on our BootCamp. Even if you’re doing all this, maybe you’ll find a nugget or two on that article. it is Part 2 of our Zwoor BootCamp – Social Media for Tradeshows and Conferences.
It is now socially acceptable for someone to tweet twenty times during a conference, follow, annotate and forward materials during the presentations, rate and send comments real time to the speaker. Sophisticated algorithms match your interests, the agenda topics you attend, and suggest other sessions, booth to visit, people to meet.
Video technology is the third in the maturity curve. Convention centers are still the places to be for the events, and we are still a few years away from split locations, or remote participation, in a large scale. However, if we look at what the leading corporations are experimenting with for their Corporate meetings, is a strong indications of the changes to come. Remote speakers invited to deliver a keynote to a General Managers event, CEO webcasts to tens of thousands of employees, Monday morning Board meetings enhanced by business intelligence data are just a few example on where the industry goes.
And fourth, the least developed component of the ingredients for change: Innovation management. My prediction: The events of the future will no longer centered around a location, and a fixed agenda, but mostly on creating connections, sharing expertise and solving wicked problems. If you have not yet witnessed a “hackathon” or “startup in a weekend”, make sure you go to one and observe it very closely. Focused efforts, with clear rewards, with clear themes si what you will see. The Adhocracy that Alvin Toffler spoke on 1980 will develop more and more, and new collaboration tools will emerge.
I am not talking here about Office 365 and changing how we jointly write a document – a step in the right direction, but just a step – but a breakthrough way we will locate expertise, engage them in solving problems and innovation, and reward them. I called this a few paragraphs back “wicked problem solving”, we can call it “innovation mobs”, “crowdsourcing”. It’s all about leveraging collective expertise into solving faster, cheaper, some of the key issues that keep leadership up at night.
So what does that mean for the Industry?
Part two of the Zwoor Bootcamp will dive into social media – where we are today,best practices, technology to use right now, and where I see the industry going.