Get Ready for the Supercharged Next Decade

If artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) seem everywhere, remember: From Open AI’s ChatGPT to Google’s Bard, Microsoft’s Bing, and Amazon’s offerings, the party is just starting. Soon, meeting and event planners (not to mention attendees) won’t just be able to leverage smart and self-aware technology assistants to aid with tasks such as conference planning/organisation, programme design and content development. They’ll also be able to use autonomous AI “agents” like AutoGPT, capable of self-directing themselves to perform multiple steps in sequences and complete complex tasks without much human prompting, to aid with every facet of business events operations.

In effect, is the pace of change rapid and the rate of disruption growing now? Just wait until you see what the next few months will bring. After all, it’s no coincidence that each passing week seems to bring new AI-powered advancements as we move towards the inevitable future: A world where you’ll soon be able to turn to an AI-based service for just about any professional need, activate and turn these solutions on or off with the flick of a switch as-needed; and one where AI routines are powerful enough to create their new AI routines themselves.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. With demand for AI set to top $90 billion by 2025 alone, per UBS Wealth Management, keep in mind: As a meetings and events pro, it’s important to consider what artificial intelligence can and cannot do for the moment. And, for that matter, in practical terms, how you might go about leveraging AI-powered tools to help boost accessibility, interest, and attendance … not to mention put a growing number of current and future AI tools, which will only become increasingly available in more user-friendly, cost-efficient, and pay-as-you-go format going forward, to work in a more productive fashion.

After all, as we explain in the new training and education game The Future is Yours, the next ten years will bring more change than the prior 10,000, and the best time to start preparing for this growing tidal wave of disruption is now.

“It’s important to consider what artificial intelligence can and cannot do for the moment”

A quick primer on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning  Think of artificial intelligence tools as a form of smart technology that can be utilised for various purposes. For example: Analysing online visits to your event’s website to see which topics and speakers resonate with your target audience or parsing ticket purchases to see which offers or pricing plans are most popular. Alternatively, you might use these tools to monitor your trade show’s mobile app, see which sessions and tracks are getting the most interest, or track social media activity to determine which topics are trending in your industry. On the other hand, machine learning describes software programs’ ability to learn over time and get smarter with every interaction.

In any event, we’re currently experiencing a boom in the space for two reasons: (1) Many AI solutions can now hold conversations and spit out accurate answers to questions on command like a human would, and (2) Generative AI solutions (which can be used to generate original text and, in the case of tools like DALL-E and Midjourney, images, animations, or video) are now reaching a critical tipping point in terms of performance.

To wit: You can ask many AI programs questions on various topics and get helpful responses in seconds. But on top of this, because AI has also become way smarter in recent years, you can suddenly ask it to perform research, write articles, and design creative assets so convincing that working professionals could’ve produced them. In fact, artificial intelligence tools have become so brainy that you can even ask them to spit out software code just by asking them questions, allowing you to design your websites and applications, even if you’re not a computer programmer.

Want to know what subjects event attendees are currently buzzing about or that they most prioritise lately? Curious about what the best destinations are to hold a medical symposium or all-hands meeting during the first weeks of fall or winter? Do you need write-ups for a series of talks, panels, guest keynotes, or original illustrations and marketing copy to accompany your design brochure? Suddenly, all you have to do is grab an AI tool and ask. And we’re not talking about restricting yourself to simple queries either: You can ask these programs to help design your marketing plans and budgets or find local catering or transportation options and get valuable answers in seconds.

“Opportunities here are as manifold as they are mind-blowing”

Just one catch: Most of these tools need to be trained on millions of data points and interactions so that they have a frame of reference to draw upon, a process which takes considerable time. And some, like ChatGPT, are based on information that may be several years old. However, as technology continues to grow and advance, and data sets expand, you can see where the trend is eventually headed, a world where every exchange is more informed and contextualised and one of the growingly customised and tailored attendee experiences.

Ways to use AI and ML to build your business  But enough with background and theory: You’re doubtlessly wondering how these futuristic advancements can help you grow your profits, operate more cost-efficiently, and improve event experience and attendance. As it turns out, opportunities here are as manifold as they are mind-blowing. For example, just off the cuff, you might use the power of AI and machine learning to:

  • Aid with event planning and research, including vendor and destination selection
  • Keep up with changing rules, regulations, and compliance protocols
  • Brainstorm new topics, ideas, and formats for meeting and event sessions
  • Determine unique sales points and how to differentiate best and message your event’s benefits and upsides
  • Craft advertising, marketing, and promotions plans
  • Create a mobile, online, social media, and marketing copy or content
  • Identify guest speakers, virtual presenters, and thought leaders to work with
  • Get a better handle on potential event costs, revenues, and budgets
  • Analyse and identify key insights based on data and information that you’re collecting from attendees
  • Design presentations, write speeches, and summarise event learnings and takeaways.

For instance: Need a helping hand generating content to fill all your online marketing channels, publications, and social media feeds? You can ask AI tools to create articles, blog posts, website copy, and product brochures or summarise longer content into social-media-friendly write-ups. Are you looking for a cost-efficient way to answer attendees’ questions or field customer service queries? You can have smart software personalities (aka “chatbots”) that are intelligent enough to pass as humans handle them. Are you hoping to boost audience engagement? You can leverage automated email newsletter programs to quickly populate preprogrammed mailings with relevant articles and data. Then, you can analyse open and response rates to improve send times and mailing frequencies. In short, the sky’s the limit.

“The next ten years will bring more change than the prior 10,000, and the best time to start preparing for this growing tidal wave of disruption is now”

Put simply; you can now tap AI tools to help with everything from developing potential event concepts to designing meeting tracks and programming for educational certification programmes. Alternatively, ask them for help thinking up a list of questions to put to guest speakers or even which guest speakers you should invite. From helping identify the right destination to host your programmes to helping you know how much you should be spending on A/V setups, travel, and lodging, options are endless here, and they’ll only continue to grow.

Bottom line: For business events leaders, it’s a whole new high-tech ballgame  As a futurist keynote speaker and consultant for over 1,500 brands, I’m often asked: What’s the future of AI? How will it transform the world we live in? The answer is simple: Looking ahead, this technology becomes (a) more ubiquitous, (b) more user-friendly and (c) more capable, even as it fades into the background and quietly integrates more deeply with every facet of our work and life experience.

To put things in perspective: From now on, you won’t type in search engine queries like “best ecofriendly destinations in North America.” You’ll ask questions like: “My event budget is $50,000, and I’m looking for a nearby location to hold an ecofriendly, regional escape for 500 executives at a life sciences company in May of 2024 that offers all sorts of fun and cost-affordable activities and dining options, where should I hold my get-together? Also: Please provide me with three top options and how I might expect to break out a budget for each.”

Implications are profound and inspiring for meeting and business event leaders and will transform how we interact with technology. After all, if applications and websites can be coded just by asking questions in the future, we won’t even need software engineers to help create IT solutions for conferences and trade shows … we’ll need “prompt” engineers who know how to ask the right questions instead. In any event, if you think the last few years have been head-spinning in this business, get ready for the supercharged next decade.

Who knows: From now on, planning a meeting or event may be as easy as asking a straightforward question, and thanks to the magic of AI and machine learning, everyone in your organisation may soon be a potential meeting planner.