When Sherrif Karamat introduces the term metaindustry as an expression of what business events are about, he says that meetings and events influence and develop all other industries. These are powerful words. However, Covid-19 has made us have to do things very differently, digitally, online, and now we focus on why we gather, why we need events and how much work needs to be done.

Why have we not previously concluded that the meeting and event industry is a metaindustry, and why have we not had the representatives of the business event industry in a stronger position all over the world?

We have been writing about neuroscience, meeting psychology and its impact on our meetings for many years. Yet, nowhere else is its impact greater than at the personal meeting, face to face.

According to a German study that ended earlier this year, our brains form stronger connections in a personal meeting instead of indirect forms of contact. The study was conducted at Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Germany and started in February 2019.

Neuroscientists Géza Gergely Ambrus, Gyula Kovács and their colleagues were interested in getting to know new people in different situations.

Since the pandemic started, many have become acquainted only by video chat. From the neuroscience perspective, this leads to some exciting questions about how our brain perceives different ways of interacting online and offline.

To dig deeper into this phenomenon, the researchers separated the study participants into three groups. Each group got in touch with two new people in different ways: personal interaction by chatting with laboratory technicians; perceptual exposure, through an identity sorting game with still images; and exposure from the media, from watching a TV show.

The strength of people’s familiarity with each other, called the familiarity effect, was linked to how participants learned the new faces. Personal interaction made the most substantial difference, followed by media exposure. Perceptual exposure had little or no effect at all.

Researchers recorded participants’ brain activity with an electroencephalogram (EEG), a device that detects electrical activity in the brain. They took the readings twice before the participants became acquainted with the new people and once afterwards. In all three groups, the second EEC reading revealed a clear pattern of brain activity approximately 400 milliseconds after participants saw the now-familiar faces.

The face-to-face interaction provided the strongest contacts, although participants spent less time in real life than the media exposure group: The personal interaction group chatted with lab technicians for three hours, while the media exposure group watched 20 hours of video.

The meeting and event industry is a metaindustry precisely because the face-to-face meeting creates the important contacts, the ones we carry with us in our working life, but of course also in our private life.

So now we take the next step. We are now returning to the human encounter between us, thus increasing the insights that the meeting and event industry is a metaindustry that will continue to change and develop the world in the future.