Eye on the horizon

Key industry trends were shared with the audience present at the 'Re: Imagine MICE Global Industry Thought Leaders Panel' by Deborah Sexton, president and chief executive officer of PCMA.

The session, moderated by SACEOS president Janet Tan-Collis, was one of several talks held during the Singapore MICE Forum 2016, which spanned across two days from July 28 to 29. 

Together with key influencers, PCMA, and Marriott International, as part of the latter's Meetings Imagined initiative, distilled five trends that would impact meetings in the next three to five years, namely: sensory analytics, being able to capture an event's pulse and allowing for real-time adjustments; tribalisation, which means shifting from content consumption to collaboration, crowdsourcing and co-coreation; content safaris, the need for a non-linear approach to storytelling; Living 360, a holistic focus on wellness during events; as well as immersive telepresence, the ability to capture a virtual audience. 

From an incentive perspective, Kevin Hinton, chief excellence officer of Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) believes that while content is important, being an association that provides certification and training for incentive professionals, context is critical. This bags the need for analysis to help people tap on content in the right way, he opined. 

The increasing focus on collaboration, i.e tribalisation hints at the growing importance of face-to-face interactions. Companies include a meetings component in their incentives over 50 per cent of the time, he shared. "This reflects the desire to capitalise on opportunities where top performers come together."

And in terms of wellness, Hinton is heartened that more are thinking about how to provide delegates the opportunity to give back, when they do events in a destination. "Not just to paint the school, but something with a lasting impact on the community," he stressed.

Giving the exhibitions perspective was Kai Hattendorf, managing director of UFI, who believes that the industry is capable of adapting in the face of changes, albeit in varying degrees on the show floors. 

"There is no definite point of learning that can be applied to the entire exhibitions market," he said. In terms of digitalisation, many are still grappling with its impact. For instance, he shared that UFI just ran a competition to garner fresh ideas for the industry, and many of the less-matured markets came up with things that are new for them, although not necessarily so for the seasoned players.

"Ultimately, as long as one is in sync with the industry developments, he can progress well," said Hattendorf. 

From an organiser perspective, David Audrain, executive director of Society of Independent Show Organisers (SISO), talked about bringing buyers and sellers together as the fundamental idea behind 'tribalisation'. 

"While trade shows have evolved over the decade to become more niche, people still want to communicate and network, that hasn't changed, and is the tribalisation that we're talking about," he said. The challenge is having to address people's short attention spans, and getting them to dedicate time to attending events. 

When it comes to venues, some of the trends are already in motion, said Geoff Donaghy, president of International Association of Convention Centres (AIPC), who believes that venue providers have "the antenna to pick up on trends" although some may take time. 

"Most importantly is still the ability to build closer relationships to our clients, being adaptive and having the flexibility to change." 

Asia, in particular, has been embracing changes and trends in a big way according to Walter Yeh, president of Asian Federation of Exhibition and Convention Association (AFECA). He highlighted the introduction of different IT applications during trade shows, for instance, QR code registration and Apple Pay for B2C shows; and the focus of educating and grooming young professionals with events such as the AFECA MICE Youth Challenge.

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