Transforming Meetings for a Technologically Advancing Culture

By Sherry Hayes-Peirce, Contributor   

One of the best benefits of being a member of MPI is to hear from the best in the business and this month’s offering was perfectly in alignment with the 2018 trends for the meeting planning industry.

A panel discussion on four trends being seen by two titans of our industry, Michael Dominguez Chief Sales Officer at MGM Resorts International and Tanya Posavatz, Principal and Director of Sales at CLINK Events shaped a thought provoking afternoon about new ways to facilitate successful meetings.  Derek Damon, Regional Director of Operations at Convene moderated the discussion and his first question set a tone that technology is no longer an option, but a necessity.

How Are Venues Raising the Bar?

The bar is raised for all meeting professionals in terms of experience, professionalism and knowledge of technology. Helping clients create meetings that engage attendees, whether it is a huge conference or corporate meeting requires a new attitude. MGM Resorts is really stepping up its commitment to meeting the needs of a technologically advanced culture by building new meeting spaces termed “Ideation Labs”.  These spaces will be housed in the hoteliers’ Executive Meeting Center, a part of their new Park MGM property.  The sprawling nearly 80k square foot property space is designed with innovation in mind and will be the first of its kind in Las Vegas. Their Ideation Labs are designed with executives in mind and will facilitate more intimate and collaborative gatherings, a true meetings of the minds experiences.  The seven labs, geared toward creating think tanks of six to 25, to spur creativity and drive results. Multiple integrated displays in each room will enable users to connect seamlessly and instantly, while the furniture will be designed to encourage movement and conversation in order to maximize engagement and productivity during every meeting.

What Are The New Expectations of the 21st Century Meeting Industry Client?

Customization is topping the list for many meeting planners as they help clients design spaces and experiences that are unique to their brand. This means offering spaces that can reflect particular themes, geography or corporate culture.  This kind of customization creates opportunities for the provider and customer as it builds a level of exclusivity that people are drawn to and will pay a higher price point for. So a great tip came from Tanya Posavatz of CLINK Events about capping the attendee number at a smaller number with a higher price point to drive pre-sales opportunities and sell out sooner to boost the exclusivity factor that sparks FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

How are Meeting Professionals Challenged Today?

Implementing opportunities for training the next generation has to be a priority to ensure that client needs are met and industry standards are maintained. Whether the training takes place on-site, industry sponsored events or by memberships in organizations like MPI that foster educational opportunities. Another shift is breaking long standing mindsets about collaboration within organizations and within geographical regions. Fighting over clients internally and across the landscape of your city or state has been an accepted norm, but in this current climate of “kind” the needs of many outweigh the needs of the few. Meaning, securing a client for a conference that brings revenue or reconnection to an organization or region is a win! Fostering more collaborative options for clients really bolsters the “Meetings Mean Business” (MMB) initiatives as outlined this past Global Meeting Industry Day #GMID. Lastly, forecasting event budgets continues to be challenge and Michael shared a great idea about creating tiers of customer service, referred to as “lead triage” to respond to leads and inquiries vs. contracted clients.  To really put together great meetings within a defined budget takes time, thought and resourcefulness that comes from experience and having tiers allows for the most productive use of team member talents and tenure.

Do Meeting Designs Need To Keep Technology in Mind?

When it comes to technology attendees want staging areas for photo opportunities to post on their social media sites so be sure to add those request as a part of your planning checklist under technology. It is also becoming more common to have an app developed for conferences to enable the attendees to navigate the experience in the palm of their hands versus toting around a paper brochure or guide. Being mindful of the lighting used to illuminate the spaces where meetings are held during planning can promote more engagement. For instance blue lighting like on our phones can spark more engagement than traditional yellow lighting. Adding other elements like silent disco technology allowing people to be in a crowded space yet hear different broadcasts of music or speakers on headphones. Rather than using a speaker system, this technology broadcasts via a radio transmitter with the signal being picked up by wireless headphone receivers worn by the participants. There’s also micro-location technology that can be built into an app that were serve as a beacon to guide attendees to different locations throughout the venue.  Lastly, using video to introduce elements of the attendee experience or virtual tours as a part of the proposal are things that this next generation of clients will come to expect as providing superior hospitality.

Is Our Industry at a Crossroads?

As clients continue to embrace the opportunities that technological advances can bring to their events, it is apparent that the need for industry professionals to fold it into the options they provide. Michael Dominguez said “We Need to be Disrupters”, meaning if we aren’t learning new ways to serve our clients we lose relevance in a changing industry. Embracing innovation is the best way to remain relevant and here’s a challenge for you, choose two educational conferences or upcoming association meetings to attend for learning something new in the next six months to sharpen your saw!




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