IMEX 'Power of 10' Study Reveals Future Challenges, Opportunities for Meetings

Looking Back
In addition to looking at the decade ahead, the "Power of 10" study asked respondents to look at the previous 10 years. In doing so, the IMEX Group found that three key factors have had the greatest impact in shaping the industry over the last decade:

1. The Economy: 65 percent of survey respondents identified the global financial crisis and economic uncertainty in the period from 2007-2012 as the biggest single influencer.

2. The Internet: 52 percent highlighted the impact of the Internet in changing buyer-supplier relationships and 51 percent emphasized its role in transforming pre- and post-event delegate engagement.

3. Delegate Expectations: 51 percent prioritized the impact of rising delegate expectations — particularly in relation to the use of their time, event quality and content, and return on investment (ROI).

No one has a crystal ball. The meetings industry has the next best thing, however, thanks to the IMEX Group, which today released the findings of its "Power of 10" research study, the largest-ever foresight research study and consultation to be conducted on the future of the global meetings and events industry.

Conducted by Fast Future Research, which is in charge of the Convention 2020 study on the future of business events, the "Power of 10" study was launched to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the original IMEX trade show in Frankfurt, Germany. As part of the study, Fast Future asked 10 questions about the decade ahead to 10 individually selected thought and business leaders from 10 key sectors inside and outside the meetings industry, for a total of 100 interviews. In addition, it conducted a global survey of 765 respondents in 68 countries on six continents. The goal, the IMEX Group said, was to "help shed new light on what the next 10 years might hold in store."

"This was a major undertaking for IMEX and for Fast Future. The report's findings are extremely comprehensive and make compelling reading for anyone involved in the sector," said IMEX Group Chairman Ray Bloom. "We are delighted to be able to gift the research to the meetings industry to mark the end of IMEX's first 10 years. What becomes very clear from the study findings is that the pace of change has accelerated far quicker than any of us ever thought or imagined possible 10 years ago. I fully expect the next 10 to be even richer with change — bringing both anticipated and unexpected developments — and if the industry has the collective will to transform itself to meet those challenges then we are set for a very exciting decade ahead."

Dominant Themes

According to researchers, the study revealed three dominant themes that "hold the key to success" for the industry as a whole, as well as individual companies, associations and destinations in the next 10 years:

• An uncertain global economic outlook and the challenges presented by hard-to-predict macroeconomic shifts;
• The rapid availability and penetration of new technologies, whose quality, cost and diversity are touching every aspect of our lives; and
• The everyday reality of shorter and faster business cycles.

"For the meetings industry, these challenges raise specific and sometimes fundamental questions which must be faced quickly — and faced collectively — if the sector is to fulfill its highest potential as a universally respected and strategically valued business tool within the next 10 years," the IMEX Group said in a press release.

Initial Findings

The full "Power of 10" findings will be released and presented in six detailed sub-reports over the coming months. The first sub-report will focus on "The Big Picture: Reflections on Past and Future Factors." Subsequent sub-reports will include: "What Will the Future Event Experience Look Like," "Maximizing Learning and Value: The Role of Knowledge Management, Technology and Social Media," "Event Ownership: Fresh Perspectives and Event Economics," "Beyond Tourism: Evolution of the Industry Value Chain" and "Shaping the Future: Grand Challenges and Winning Scenarios."

In the meantime, the IMEX Group has released the following initial findings:

• Seventy-one percent of survey respondents expect global economic uncertainty and instability to have an impact across the sector worldwide.
• Nearly half (49 percent) of survey respondents believe we will start to experience the impact of improvements in the quality and cost of technology alternatives to live meetings.
• Forty-seven percent of survey respondents expect shorter and faster business cycles to play a significant role in future meetings.
• Forty-six percent of survey respondents anticipate growing political and economic influence coming from Asia.
• Eighty-six percent of survey respondents agree to some significant extent that, "A decade from now, the most important roles for live events will be the event designer, learning architect and digital strategist."
• A vast majority (91 percent) of survey respondents strongly agreed or agreed with the following statement: "To reduce its vulnerability to economic cycles, the business events industry must demonstrate a tangible return on investment for event owners, delegates, sponsors, exhibitors and other key stakeholders."
• The three most commonly cited future cost control tactics for event organizers are: closing unprofitable meetings, running shorter events and co-locating events with other organizers to share venue costs.
• For associations and commercial event owners, the three future tactics considered to be the most popular for generating additional revenue were: learning from sectors such as sports about attracting sponsors and exhibitors, making the event the launch platform for year-round revenue generation and premium pricing options with an event.
• The technology developments expected to have the greatest impact on live events in the next decade are mobile apps, free Wi-Fi and streaming video to remote audiences.
• The top five challenges facing the industry in the years ahead are: evolving a distinctive industry persona, establishing universal economic impact models, proving relevance and value, thinking and acting strategically, and nurturing agility and flexibility.

"The research paints a vivid picture of a rapidly maturing industry," said Fast Future CEO Rohit Talwar. "There is a growing desire for the sector to be taken seriously as a vital enabler of communications, learning, knowledge transfer and business development. In response, across the globe we see increasing acceptance of the need for genuine longer-term thinking, strategic innovation, and the kind of collective and collaborative agility that is the norm in many of the key client sectors that the meetings industry serves. There is a tremendously exciting decade in prospect for those who give themselves permission to open the door and let the future in."

A copy of the "IMEX Power of 10 Executive Summary" is available for complimentary download at