Where Is This Going: The Future of Meetings

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Where Is This Going: The Future of Meetings

By Carl Winston | Mar 30, 2020

In this op-ed by Carl Winston, director of the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at San Diego State University, the question burning on everyone's mind—"Where is this going?—is addressed.

It is almost impossible to imagine that almost every meeting in the world has been cancelled or postponed. For meeting professionals, it is the end of most work and their livelihood.

I have been around enough decades to know this will pass and we will “reboot, restart and meet again.” We will. As human beings, we crave human interaction—we need to meet—now more than ever. And, businesses know that live meetings and face to face sales are required to grow and thrive. 

Face-to-face meetings have been pronounced dead more than once, notwithstanding a crisis such as we’re in today. When video conferencing started years ago some asserted the end of live meetings. When email came online, our paper usage was supposed to plummet. It did not, it grew. This history suggests that social events may very well lead the way in recovery. Business events will follow as the world needs face to face interaction as a tool of the marketplace. And, we need to travel and meet for fun, too!

So, What Will Meetings Look Like As We Recover?

There will be a lot of predictions around a “new normal” in meetings. Tables of ten might become tables of four or six. Buffets may be extinct. Preset tables might be a non-starter. Gloves and mask dispensers in every meeting room? How about instant tests for all meeting attendees or requiring a doctor’s note to attend?

I can imagine some of these things actually being tried. The market will tell us how far we need to change our profession. Time will tell.

For me, there is one lesson we will all remember and adopt:

Safety, health conditions and cleanliness just got escalated to the top of all our checklists. This will apply across the entire supply chain from transportation to food and from sleeping rooms to furniture to audio visual to staffing to everything. Safety verification along the supply chain may become the gold standard for future meetings. 

Think about it. The leadership of organizations has a fiduciary obligation to ensure a safe, sanitized and healthy environment for workplace and meetings. Some of us will take a leading role in this elevated level of accountability and become the “trusted” source for this. Are you ready?



Carl Winston
Carl Winston

Carl Winston has over 35 years of experience in a variety of senior executive level hospitality and tourism industry positions in academia and the “real world.” He is the founding Director of the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at San Diego State University, founding Managing Director of the China Hospitality Education Initiative (CHEI) and lead Academic Advisor to the Marriott Foundation for the initiative.  CHEI was launched in 2013 and now supports more than 100 colleges and universities with more than 300,000 students.