Pain in the brain of the meeting planner?

The pain was almost palpable at IMEX in Frankfurt. I talked to a few people clearly worried or expressing concern about the challenges to innovate and to move forward in the meeting industry. Some individual planners as well as some leaders from big organisations literally expressed their frustration with this challenge. They felt it was difficult and clients or staff didn't seem able to make the necessary innovation happen despite a few years of trying. But they couldn't put their finger on what is causing it... It seems things just won’t move although the meeting industry needs to modernize and we have so many opportunities to innovate. And I think one key issue may be creeping up our backs and making our heads itch: cognitive overload. The opportunities for Innovation in our industry are abundant! Just look at hybrid meetings, mobile apps, meeting formats, participant interaction, content capturing, Social Media, networking technology, new av and production tools and a dozen or two on line systems and aps for all sorts of tasks. All this needs to be understood and managed by the meeting planner? The meeting planner who is already stretched, is doing more with less in an ever more regulated world. The event planner is armed with a whole bag of skills for the participant logistics and a heart for hospitality. I wonder, how much more can a professional take? Are we pushing this too far? Are we overestimating what one person, one brain can process? Just look at online participation alone. There is a certificate for that, so it is a lot of things including technical stuff and technology. Even for an AV technician, with his different skill set, it is a lot to grasp. So what do we expect from a meeting planner? Is it simply too much to ask? Yes, anyone can pick up some ideas at the Innovation Zone, the Meeting Design Hub or the Technology Track, but is that the right approach for the growth and success of our meetings and events? Yes, it is nice to have a success here and there with a ‘new and cool’ thing or with the latest technology, but will this contribute to the structural progress in this young industry? Are we running after the latest fad, or are we becoming true and knowledgeable partners and consultants in objective based meeting design? Let me not underestimate the intellect of the meeting planners of today. Many are senior people that demonstrated a great ability to learn and change within their field. Where some of the bigger players have teams that could play with the above trends in meeting design, still the larger segment is doing their meetings alone with a varying set of suppliers. If you are one of the last category, I wonder if you would welcome a second professional that can focus on these other things... Is it fair to expect a meeting planner to know all what is out-there for designing more effective meetings? Is it about time for the meeting industry to fully embrace our meeting planners and recognize that what they do is plenty! It is complicated enough, changing enough and challenging enough. With their hart and soul these planners are breathing and dreaming participant logistics, with all the management skills and technology needed to do this on a large scale with serious groups and budgets. Good meeting planners know about venues and destinations, about holidays and allergies, about room blocks and travel issues. They read the news, are members of associations and go to trade shows about this stuff... Can we consider stopping to push planners to do ever more and alternatively develop a second discipline around meeting design? This shouldn't stop ambitious planners to combine both up to a chosen level, or even change careers, but a good planner will always be needed so why don’t we let them be just that, good meeting planners. And even if we decide this today, it will take a decade or two to make that happen, so no worries, nothing is going to happen overnight if you support this paradigm shift and I’m sure that deep down, we all do.

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