5 Trends Shaping the Future of Association Meetings and Events

Association professionals learned in March of 2020 that our crystal ball was broken. If you had asked back then what the future of meetings would be, we might have said virtual integration or hybrid; little did we know that future was closer than we realized. Future-proofing association meetings and events means understanding the trends that will continue to re-shape how we deliver content. Some are new and some are time tested. Read below for some of these trends on the future of meetings and events.

Start with Why

This is not something new to associations and it will continue to be an integral part of shaping future meetings. Remember, we aren’t just meeting planners, we are event designers. We don’t just follow a checklist and plan a meeting; instead, we start with why. In 2020, we learned that the platform for content delivery could change while the overarching purpose of the meeting could remain the same. If there was a disconnect, it allowed us to have some tough conversations about those sacred cows. If the answer to ‘why’ is history and habit, then it is time for a serious talk. To help begin some of these conversations, consider a facilitated discussion with key stakeholders using a methodology like Event Design Canvas.

Yes and…

In 2020 we reworked, revised, and retooled our association events. We figured out how to offer our members virtual opportunities to engage and grow. But we are not done yet. The future of association meetings is omnichannel, meeting people where they are and where they want. One key lesson we learned was that we don’t have the luxury of ignoring technology. Customization and personalization continue to be trends to watch. Technology can help us leverage these experiences in our association meetings and events.

Generation Z

Our members are evolving and changing as we welcome the next generation to our meetings. The vast majority of Gen Z participants in a recent PCMA survey, conducted by JUV Consulting and sponsored by the PCMA Foundation stated they would like to see more engaging activities. Others asked for more inclusive events in the same survey. Gen Z is leading the experience economy, and we need to listen. This comes back to to idea of history and habit – if we simply copy and paste meeting agendas from the last 50 years, we risk excluding our newest members.

Less is More

The days of meeting agendas starting at 7 AM, ending at 7 PM, and lasting four or five days are gone. Going forward, successful association meetings will build more intentional whitespace into their events. This allows more time for connection and processing. In 2020, we learned how to deliver professional development digitally. Now, it’s time to keep doing that so our in-person events allow more time to network and learn from peers. Micro-learning may seem like a buzzword, but it is what keeps TED Talks so successful over 20 years since its inception. It is time to consider designing events to save attendees’ time.

Purposeful & Strategic Event Building

Association meetings are not piecemeal. Each one contributes to your overall events program and plays a key role in member engagement and retention. Taking the time to develop a purposeful event strategy can be the key to your association’s overall health. For some members, a single meeting may be the only extended interaction they have with your association. Make sure to dedicate the right resources to each meeting to make that experience count. Keeping a long-term strategy with larger goals in mind will help drive the success of each individual meeting.

Trends continue to evolve over time, but taking the time now to invest in your association’s meetings and events is tried and true. For more guidance on meetings and events, RGI is here to help move your association forward. Reach out today to learn more about association meetings, events, and the Event Design Canvas.