Savvy Meeting Professionals Need These 21st Century Skills

Future is Bright !

Society is undergoing some sweeping transformations today.

Conferences and meetings face radical disruptions as attendees integrate mobile devices and personal expectations for authenticity, participation, ROI and documented proven value.

Meeting and event professionals cannot afford to keep their heads in the sand and ignore major culture and societal shifts. These changes are creeping into the traditional meeting and upsetting the fruit basket. Counting coffee cups, assigning room sets and preparing standard excel sheet schedules will not suffice.

Savvy meeting professionals must also now deal with WiFi bandwidth issues, strategic event positioning, content curation, audience participation techniques, remote and face to face audiences, social media marketing and engagement, and sophisticated audiences that want a fully integrated social-sharing experience that starts online in advance of the meeting and continues online after the meeting.

Every meeting professional should reconsider their basic beliefs of what makes a successful 21st century meeting professional in light of these changes.

Seven Skills Today’s Meeting Professionals Should Adopt, Develop and Foster

1. The Risk Taker

Meeting professionals should not wait for direction from others to take initiatives. They should consider 25 percent of every event as an opportunity to experiment and take risks. Demonstrate to attendees that taking risks is ok because people learn from experimenting and failure. Attendees will trust you more when they know you’re being authentic and willing to try new things for them.

2. The Visionary

It’s time for meeting professionals to be both detailed-oriented and visionary. They need to see the potential in Web 2.0 tools and how they can enhance a face to face experience. They need to see how their customers’ world is changing and what topics and trends could impact their futures.

3. The Leader

For years meeting professionals have been the followers, only reacting when supervisors requested it. It’s time for them to be the leaders within their organizations as well as lead their customers to where the world is moving.

4. The Adaptor

Change is the constant today. Meeting professionals should not get stuck in routines that a conference must always be run the same way it was in the past. Instead they should adapt to changing environments, four generations attending their meetings and new technology tools.

5. The Communicator

Some meeting professionals have not been eloquent at diplomacy and communication. It’s time for them to be fluent in current communication tools and know how to artfully articulate conference format changes and upgrades. They should also be able to facilitate, entice and moderate various 21st Century communication tools like texting, Skype and social networks.

6. The Learner

Many meeting professionals learned the basics of logistics and then closed the education door. Savvy meeting professionals realize that learning is a lifelong process and have made a commitment to seeking new knowledge and its application. Our world’s landscapes constantly change as do our customers. Unless we keep up with the trends, we will become fossils of the past.

7. The Collaborator

Acting independently in a networked world is a mistake. Collaboration with coworkers and colleagues outside of your four walls is imperative. Today’s online tools allow collaboration to happen in real time quickly and efficiently.

What skill would you add to the list? Which of these skill do you think will be the most difficult to adopt and why?

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  1. thom singer says:

    This list is not just for meeting professionals….. it is for EVERYONE. I am making my teenager read this list – because the world she will enter is one that without these skills, one would be left behind.

  2. Linda Chreno says:

    I agree with Thom – this list is for more than just meeting professionals. Association professionals need these skills as well as the volunteer leadership of the associations!

    Most difficult would be The Visionary because blending detail-oriented with a future vision often curtails the ability to see something new. We also get hindered by the “don’t rock the boat” and “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” mentalities. Because of this hesitation, we often wait too long to see the vision, the future, the change that is needed to remain vibrant and vital to our members and attendees.

  3. William says:


    Great stuff as always. Some organisers do have these skills; although not many. There are a few reasons for this. Most organisers are still being trained (especially in the corporate and commercial conference world) to specialise. I was very lucky when I started in events I’d programme developed, sold, marketed, logistically arranged in the first year of my career: how many ‘new’ organisers have this grounding? Most settle and get stuck in logistics, marketing, sales, prog development. And that is certainly to the determent of the industry. But the industry can change this.

    The other main reason is that we don’t have a host of multi skilled organisers is the lack support from our industry bodies. How many conferences or training courses, run by our associations, truly support this idea of the role of an organiser? How many truly inspire our new organisers? How many explain that conferences are about learning and not about logistics? In the UK we are bereft of industry support for these type of organisers. We all know what we want organisers to be like but what as an industry and as individuals are we doing to help?

    And finally do we have enough organisers who want to step out from the shadow?

    I will be running Event-Fest in the UK in January 2013. The strapline is: “Making Good Organisers Great” and I am really keen what support I can get from industry, meeting associations and organisers. Do enough want to become ‘great’? Will our industry invest in them? And will our associations support those ideals and their development? Only a ‘yes’ to all three plus support from people like you are me will we start to upskill our future eventprofs. And that’s to this article we do have a target.

  4. Terri says:

    This list is wonderful and I will have to share it with my students where I am affiliate faculty member as I agree with Thom that this list is for everyone. Navigating in this fast paced environment in a constant state of change takes unique skills to shine to be successful and focusing on sharpening these skills early on in your career is very beneficial as the world will change drastically in another 5 years for the current graduating class.

    Education and continuing education is very important to me and I believe strongly that we all need to make time to continue to learn and be on the cutting edge of the latest information…I also believe that this can be the hardest thing to do with everyone doing so much more with less since the expectation was set in post 2008 times…stay on top of as much as you can to stay on top of your career success.

  5. Sean Smith says:

    In the past month or so I have been thrust into the world of being a public speaker on things Social Media. I am completely comfortable with public speaking, but this gem of an article helps me A LOT. I think like this constantly, so it’s nice to see that I am heading in the right direction that others should be heading, too.


    Sean Smith
    Campbell River, BC

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      I’m with you that staying on current in education can be difficult especially as technology adoption moves faster and faster. Thanks for reading and furthering the discussion.

      Glad we’re on the same train going the same direction! Thanks for reading and commenting too.

  6. Allison says:

    This article provides a litmus test for planners (including those on my staff!) who will thrive, and those who will fade into oblivion. Those planners not taking this to heart won’t survive the next few years in this space.
    Thank you for putting it so perfectly concisely!

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