14 Conference And Event Trends That Will Shape The Next Decade

What do the next ten years have in store for conference and event organizers? Plenty.

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14 Conference And Event Trends That Will Shape The Next Decade

As 2010 comes to a close, many conference and event professionals have been looking ahead to the 2011. Here’s a look into 2011 and the next decade.

1. Increased complexity and volatility as change is the constant and uncertainty its response.

The successful will be able to navigate rapidly changing times with increased flexibility. The ability to be nimble and make quick midcourse corrections will be highly prized and valued.

2. Conferences will become increasingly specialized.

Attendees want education that provides a deep-dive and is customized to their unique needs. Large conferences that provide a buffet smorgasbord of overview offerings will suffer. Those that can provide customized, innovative, unique content for sub-specialty groups will succeed.

3. Integration of face-to-face and digital experiences will be commonplace.

Our fears of digital events cannibalizing face-to-face experiences will be replaced with designing experiences for both on-site and remote audiences. More organizations will flip the paradigm and have presenters participate virtually to a live audience.

4. Conference software will help attendees make smarter choices for content experiences, registration and connections.

These software applications will become increasingly intuitive and invisible with the ability to predict the intentions of past attendees.

5. Smaller conferences will join forces with larger conferences through co-location.

Collaborative partnerships with large conferences will increase, as small niche conferences bring innovative formats, organization agility and intimate customer knowledge.

6. Conferences see the rise of free-agent, consultant-type attendees.

Conference organizers will see a shift of traditional employed attendees that fall into one or two registration categories as untraditional employment becomes the norm. With an increased flexible workforce of consultants, contractors, free-agents and freelancers, conference organizers will redefine distributor and supplier registrant categories.

7. More corporations and associations will outsource their meetings and events.

Organizations will increasingly see the value and savings of a contract workforce.

8. The meeting experience designer will become as important as the logistics.

Organizations will place higher demands on experiences that have an emotional impact and align with their brand. Logistics by itself will not be enough.

9. GenY and Graying Baby Boomers will define the largest two segments of attendees.

Baby Boomers will be “unretired” and actively engaged in a profession. Some may start new careers. GenY will mature and be fluent in mobile and social platforms with the global grid at their fingertips. Organizers will have to address both audiences.

10. Conference attendees will demand active participation in all stages of the event from the planning to the onsite experiences.

Attendees will become increasingly bored with talking head lectures that could have been shared online. Association members will demand that traditional annual meeting bylaw requirements be moved into business meetings outside of general sessions and luncheons.

11. Conference organizers must provide information via mobile devices and onsite Wi-Fi.

Smartphones and mobile devices will be the standard for computing. Attendees will expect to connect and do business while at your meetings as well.

12. Asian and Middle Eastern markets will attract sophisticated American and European meeting and event professionals.

As these economies grow, more meeting professionals will leave their American/European jobs for these high-paying experiences. Competition for experienced professionals will increase.

13. Sponsors and exhibitors will shift money from the show floor to other areas with high visibility.

The high cost of exhibiting and changes in how goods and services are procured will open up new areas of potential outside of the show floor.

14. ROI of conferences and events will address the triple bottom line.

ROI of meetings and events has come into its own in the past five years, increasingly looking at the bottom line. Some talked about profits and impact to the planet. In the next ten years, we will look at profit, planet and people.

Bonus:  As GenZ comes of age, they will challenge traditional face-to-face educational programming and fees.

They will increasingly want more customized, personalized information that they can afford. Their comfort with digital learning will force conference organizers to provide real-time, on-demand options.

What would you add to this list? Which one of these trends are you already seeing at your conferences?

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dave Lutz and others. Dave Lutz said: 14 Conference And Event Trends That Will Shape The Next Decade by @jeffhurt http://bit.ly/gX0ViL #pcma #assnchat […]

  2. Paul Salinger says:


    Though I think sustainability (or your #14 about triple bottom line)should actually be higher on the list as I see this as becoming a core value of event planning, I think this is a great list. Passing it on to our event marketing team.


  3. Susan Levin says:

    Great forecast. I am enjoying your posts and passing them along to my network of speakers as well as social media friends.

    Susan Levin

  4. Debra Roth says:

    Thank you Jeff! Yes this is right on target! And yes I do see some of these trends already taking shape. I don’t know why but it seems many event planners, conference organizers and attendees do not see the “light” – yet we are all in a real period of change and the change is coming quickly. I look forward to the challenge!

  5. I can’t see face to face every being impacted by Digital. I do see digital enabling face face meetings though. Great post Jeff!

  6. Ed Heiland says:

    Great list Jeff and one every planner should take to heart! Although I’m biased, I’d like to add the use of video to your trends. Of course we’re all looking at how virtual meetings are going to impact our future but what I’m predicting is an explosion of video-rich resources to better inform, explain, enlighten and yes, entertain our attendees. If a picture is “worth a thousand words” then imagine the possibilities with many images put together in a clear, concise message.
    Best to everyone as we move forward in these exciting times!

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting.

      We appreciate you passing along the information. Thank you!

      Yes, we are in the era where change is the constant. I’m not sure why some event and meeting professionals have not seen the “light” yet either. It’s clearly bright pink! 😉

      I like what you said, “…I do see digital enabling face to face meetings.” I’m with you on that one.

      How could I omit video?!?!? That was a major faux pas on my part. I’m with you that the internet is increasingly going video. Meeting and event professionals need to start embracing its rich resources now or be left behind on that one!

  7. Nancy Largay says:

    Nancy’s #15: Conference and event organizers need to keep their fingers on the “pulse” of their community.

    Demonstrate passion, pulse, interaction, engagement, quantification,understanding all drives a better ROI experience for both attendees and exhibitors/sponsors.

    Those who don’t will produce “just another event”, and devalue f2f marketing, and eventual disappear. Please don’t because any negative f2f experience works against the entire industry.

  8. […] From Jeff Hurt – 14 Conference and Event Trends for the next Decade! […]

  9. #14, the “new” roi of profits, planet and people is really important and I know of one group at Washington U. in St. Louis, at student led group, that is running a consultancy for campus events to ensure they are green. Great group! Great Idea!
    Also, as a triathlete, I love “Athletes for a Fit Planet”–doing the same thing for triathlons.
    Sue Hodgkinson

  10. I think there’s another slice that will cut across a lot of the changes you talk about. Similar to the “community orientations” that we talk about in our book on Digital Habitats, conferences will develop different styles of participation according to whether the emphasis is on “ongoing conversation,” “project,” “access to expertise,” etc. Those styles of participation determine lots of other things, like the technologies that support a conference, that connect people before and after, etc.

    Also, I think the business models for conferences will become more complex.

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