7 Industry Leaders Discuss the Future of Events

Skift Take

What do event industry leaders think about the future of events? We have asked seven inspiring women about the future of the event industry.

The event industry is an incredible environment made of exceptional individuals. A very, very large portion of them happen to be women. Without getting into the diversity talk, which is not the matter of this post and that we have covered many times, we’ve decided to ask some leaders in events to discuss the future of our industry and guess what, they are all women.

Where Is The Industry Going In 2017?


Carina Bauer, CEO, IMEX Group

The industry is looking bright fin 2017. Whilst we continue to grapple with political upheaval and surprises and are braced for more of those in 2017, the meetings and events industry continues to be resilient in the face of change. Suppliers, particularly in North America, are reporting a very busy year ahead with strong bookings already confirmed. Compression in a number of cities will continue to drive pricing. On the other hand, budgets continue to be tight for meeting planners as they struggle to keep costs under control and are faced with increased costs from issues such as security and increasing demand for better technology solutions and experiential events from delegates.

Organisations increasingly understand the power that face to face experiences brings to their clients and staff, so whilst other marketing budgets are under attack, many organisations are protecting the ‘face to face’ marketing spend. However, security is top of mind for all sectors in the industry and I am pleased to see initiatives such as EMSSI [The Exhibitions and Meetings Safety and Security Initiative] which are bringing together the industry to talk about and set in place best practices and procedures around security at our events.


Theresa (Terri) Breining, CMP, CMM, Principal, Breining Group, LLC

The industry has been moving over the last decade from one focused primarily on logistics, identifying ourselves as a segment of the hospitality industry, to one looking at meetings and events as components of business as essential as marketing, communication and HR. As such, we are approaching business events with a more thoughtful process and as part of an overall business strategy. There is a greater need for accountability for not only the expenses and other resources supporting business events, but for measurable outcomes of those events. This has always existed in some parts of business, but it seems to have spread and reached critical mass more recently.

I am concerned that the safety and security elements could overshadow the purpose of the meeting and become the focal point. And if this happens, people and organizations may make decisions to not attend events because it’s just too much hassle and too much risk. The upside to this enhanced focus on security is that the value of business events could take on a higher profile within an organization if there are more departments within the organization – especially one as visible and essential as security – that get involved in the production of the event.


Joan Eisenstodt, Eisenstodt Assocs., LLC

There are multiple industry segments to consider and although they all intersect, I’ve chosen these:

Technology: It will continue to be both the best and worst thing we have. On one hand, it allows us to communicate, bring in speakers and others remotely, present differently, etc.  AND it is eradicating jobs (such as front desk – which has been a stepping-stone job for years for those who want to be in our industry) and [is] being proposed for more, such as servers, food prep, etc.  Drones, outlawed in some places like DC’s no-fly zone, and other technology will continue to present invasions of privacy. Our industry, in ’17, must convene leaders who will discuss the best ways to help and not hurt many.
People: Laws are changing in the US and around the world that impacts people and thus ‘our industry.’  IF the US bans or makes it more difficult for people who are Muslim to come to the country, it will hurt medical and scientific meetings by limiting the research and ideas that can be presented. If hate is allowed to fester in all countries against certain populations, our industry can go the way segments of it have: by speaking up against bills such as NC’s HB2 and the proposed TX legislation. Until we walk the talk of ‘relationship industry’ and focus on people industry, we will not go in a good direction and instead will hurt many. Meetings Mean Business must include discussions about the economic impact of hate… and of technology.
Patti J. Shock, CPCE, CHT, Academic Consultant, The International School of Hospitality and Professor Emeritus, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. 

The big items I see on the table are the evolution of technology and safety. Technology is moving so fast it is hard to predict exactly where it will go, so it is imperative to stay on top of it. If it is too much for you to handle, hire someone. Recent terror attacks have moved public safety into the spotlight. Anywhere where people gather is vulnerable. Update your risk management plan. Include risk management items on your checklist for site inspections. Can the venue be secured? Are there enough exits? Where do the exits lead? Also attendees will become more and more active on social media before, during and after an event.


Kate Patay, CPCE, Executive Director, Creative Coverings Specialty Linens

I see the industry moving towards a more transparent and standardized approach to pricing and what the industry actually does. With information being literally at everyone’s fingertips daily it needs to be clearly outlined what roles people play and how they communicate that to clients.

We should see a universal set of best practices throughout the industry instead of so fragmented by sector. Standards will be recognized and acknowledged by all facets of events, regardless of how you categorize them… you’ll have organizations working better together to unite our industry and help it continue to rise and grow.
Judy E. Brillhart, CSEP, PBC, Director of Catering & Event Management, Sheraton Commander Hotel 

I see continued growth and evolution in the live events industry. Clients expect customization and creativity in all aspects of their events. Whether through experiential design or personalized offerings, expectations are elevating.  Thankfully, the economy is stable, but there continues to be a disconnect with spend versus expectation. Additionally, colleges and universities continue to expand their event industry specific degrees so there is an increase in educated young professionals entering the work force. This tightens the job market for those seeking employment or a job shift but by continued education and certification offerings, we are elevating the industry overall.

I see budgets continuing to increase as companies invest in events. There will be a greater emphasis on ROI. Planners have an ever increasing responsibility to demonstrate the ROI for an event through hard data. The technology to collect this data is rapidly improving and we are seeing more and more companies reach out to the industry with new apps, programs, etc.


Maddalena Milone, CEO, Meeting Planner and VP of Finance MPI Italia

From the meeting professional point of view, we always have to stay focused on the objectives to be achieved in the meeting; this will allow us to choose the best way to make it happen. Even the need to share (documents, experience, solutions, etc.) has to be considered as a value and we are very lucky to live in this present time, we have a lot of solutions to suggest and encourage interaction between participants. There isn’t a single recipe in this world of endless opportunities we live in, only studying, reading and meeting our colleagues will give us the opportunity to build our experience.

I see participants becoming more and more the actors of every situation, this process may be considered real “empowerment” and is supported by easy access to information. We can easily realize how fast this is growing in tourism; people choose where to go on the internet, they can book a hotel, quote a restaurant, find out what to visit and when, share their experience and influence other people’ choice

In Conclusion

2017 is the year of tech, security, ROI, transparency, participation. These are some of the topics the leaders of our industry will make an impact over the next year.

Are you taking care of these issues? Are you experiencing what our leaders share?