I think one of the most used “buzz words” in the past six months has to be disruption. Every article seems to be focused on the forces that are disruptive – innovative processes, changed economic realities, different technologies and new expectations.
Although we didn’t use the term disruption a few years ago, the biggest perceived “threat” to the meetings and events industry was seen to be the arrival of “on-line” meetings. Many pundits forecasted the end of live events, especially when the recession arrived and travel budgets were reduced. Some things changed, but most people still valued face-to-face communications and so meetings continued to be held.
The next big revolution was the popularity of social media. Twitter and Facebook arrived and meeting organizers had to adapt. No one at the podium said turn off your phones. Instead, presenters incorporated real time polling into their presentations and planners included social media walls into their event to engage the audience in new ways.
Then the sharing economy took hold. Airbnb and Uber lead the way, and planners worried about the impact upon their contracted room blocks and the liability of having attendees travel in non-traditional hacks. The legal battles are still going on in some cities, but in many locations the sharing economy has gained a permanent foothold.
I am not sure that any of these new forces are really disruptive. Yes, they force change to the way things are done, but nothing seems to stay the same for long anyway. Change is inevitable. As John Fitzgerald Kennedy said over 50 years ago, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
What will the next big change be? New venues? That’s a constant. New legal regulations? Just like today’s new requirement for fiduciary disclosure for the investment community and the impact on incentive programs, constantly changing conventions are common. New public policies? Just look at the results of the backlash on Indiana’s new measure legalizing discrimination against LGBT persons. Disruption is the new norm.
As a planner, you need to be constantly ensuring you are aware of all the changes in the marketplace to ensure you give your company or your clients the best advice. I know am lucky—working in a big company means I can receive information from a large group of industry personnel. But even independent planners can stay informed by reading industry blogs and articles and belonging to industry associations.
Change is the new normalcy. No business or activity is immune from change and, as it has been for years, the rule to live by is adapt or die. Keep looking forward to new trends and exciting changes. To remind me, I keep a coaster on my desk that says “The Past is a guidepost not a hitching post.” That’s my prompt not to get complacent—all change creates exciting opportunities if you are just open to them.
– Les Selby is the director of Meetings & Events for Aimia’s Channel and Employee division in Canada. He has been a corporate, third party and independent event professional for over 25 years. Les has earned both his Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation and his Global Certification in Meeting Management (CMM). Inducted into Meeting + Incentive Travel Magazine’s Industry Hall of Fame in 2009, he is an active member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI). He served on the Toronto chapter’s Board of Directors, and was the 2000-2001 chapter president. In 1997, Les was recognized as Planner of the Year by the MPI Toronto chapter, and received the President’s Award for 2009. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.