MPI’s annual FutureWatch survey has led meeting and event industry forecasting research for the past eight years, gauging the pulse of an industry projected to be worth US$1.6 trillion by 2020. Here’s what FutureWatch 2011 interviews with hundreds of industry professionals told us. The global financial crisis forced many industry practitioners to accept what a handful of their peers already knew—that meetings must meet organizational strategic imperatives and provide detailed proof of ROI. Events will be smaller and smarter this year—and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
In many countries, the failing economy also caused meeting suppliers and planners to collaborate in new and different ways, creating stronger intra-industry relationships that will last for years to come. And as budgets became tighter, many meetings moved to cyberspace—a trend that will continue through 2011. Technology, it seems, has finally gone mainstream in an industry that has long pushed back against what was once viewed as a direct threat to in-person events. Meeting professionals maintain that face-to-face meetings are far better equipped to form lasting relationships, business partnerships and revolutionary ideas, but acknowledge the sufficiency of online meetings, especially in sectors such as education. Concern for environmental impact has made planners further consider which events are best in-person and which are best online.
FutureWatch results show that the tides of the meeting industry have shifted, and there will be no return to the events of the past. Instead, meeting professionals will find that in presenting the value of their events to company leaders, board trustees and stakeholders, they better understand their own roles within organizations and better prepare for the future of meetings and events.

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