German Convention Bureau Releases New 'Future Meeting Space' Report

The research attempts to crack the code of what makes a successful meeting.


The German Convention Bureau is out to uncover what makes for the perfect meeting, which was the objective of the second phase its Future Meeting Space initiative. Published Tuesday at Convening Leaders, the annual meeting of the Professional Convention Management Association, the research is based on a survey conducted for the GCB last year by the European Association of Event Centres and the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO, a research organization in Europe. Together, they and other research partners sought to answer the question, "How to create successful events?"

The result is a recipe with two principal ingredients: knowledge transfer and surprising or disruptive elements. "Attendees are happy with events if they learned something new that they can apply in their everyday work, and if events surprised them or triggered changes," the GCB stated in a press release. "Networking, interaction and use of digital technologies are further success factors."

Given attendees' penchant for learning and surprise, the GCB's report recommends "the use of new and innovative formats and technologies, as well as visualization aids and interactive formats to foster knowledge transfer."

Of course, not all attendees are learn the same way. Researchers therefore concluded that successful events also require meeting planners to create individualized elements that are tailored to attendees' unique requirements. Specifically, they identified six attendee "types" that vary in age, gender, tech-savviness, communication behavior and career ambitions.

One attendee type, for example, is characterized as "tech-savvy, young, quiet"; in this group, 54.1 percent of attendees are female, 34.4 percent are between the ages of 26 and 35, 82.6 percent have an academic degree and 84.5 percent work full-time. Another group is characterized as "tech-savvy, male, experienced," made up of attendees who are 72.4 percent male, 18.5 percent of the attendees are speakers, 37 percent are between the ages of 46 and 55, 91.7 percent have an academic degree, 14.8 percent have a Ph.D. and 21.3 percent are self-employed.

To succeed, researchers argue, planners must incorporate programming that caters to all six types of attendees. This might include, for example, providing dedicated support for more introverted or less tech-savvy attendees, and organizing a mix of sessions that focus on individual versus organizational success.

Said Dr. Stefan Rief, who heads the research unit for organizational development and work design at Fraunhofer IAO, "The study has identified realistic attendee types as they currently exist. It also highlights the most relevant success factors and reviews some common assumptions about the effects of certain factors."

The GCB launched its Future Meeting Space initiative in 2015 with the following goals: to gathering key trends, innovations and developments in society, business and technology; to examine their influence and applicability to meetings; and to deliver tangible tools and data to the industry. Completed in June 2016, the first research phase produced an Innovation Catalog from which the GCB developed six Future Meeting Scenarios that paint a picture of what future meetings might look like.

Findings from both the first and second phases of research are available at the Future Meeting Space website.

Concluded GCB managing director Matthias Schultze: "As our analysis has proven, knowledge transfer is important for events. Building on that, the planned third Future Meeting Space' research phase will look at the primary role events play as trendsetters for business and science."