For nearly one half of the last century, the modern meeting and event planner has been focused upon logistical planning (derived from the Greek word logistikos meaning reason) to deliver education, networking, entertainment and / or marketing. As a result of the global Corona Virus pandemic of 2020, this skill set will need to change and expand.
According to Professor Gianrocco Tucci of Sapienza University in Rome “The eclectic is a philosopher who, trampling on prejudice, tradition, antiquity, the universal consent, authority, in short everything that subjugates the soul of the common people, dares to think for themselves, go back to the general principles to more clearly, examine, debate, refraining them from admitting anything without the test of experience and reason; that, after having examined all the philosophies in unscrupulous and impartial manner, dare to make one of its own, private and domestic; I say “a private and domestic philosophy,” because the eclectic aims not so much to be the tutor as the pupil of the human race, to reform not so much the others but as well himself, not so much to teach as to learn the truth.” (Tucci, G., 2016, ResearchGate)
The expansion of the meeting and event planners skills set will need to include eclectic skills (derived from the Greek word for selection) and therefore learn to adapt their thinking to create a more sustainable industry. An eclectic thinker derives their ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources.
In ancient philosphy, Aristostle 384 BC – 324 BC) , himself a polymath, posited that ethics is the process in deciding how individuals should best live their lives. He used the term eudaimonia (the highest good) and used eclectic thinking to find the sources and ideas that would achieve the ultimate goal of happiness and success.
In the twentieth century, the meetings and events industry generally agreed that achievement of the greatest good would result in agreed upon outcomes (tourism, learning, sales, satisfaction and other quatifiable measures) being accomplished through the development and delivery of the live event. However, as a result of the pandemic of 2020, this global industry may need to radically and rapidly re – assess this construct and ask three critically important questions to insure that it remains sustainable.
- What do we do with WHY and HOW?
First, it is important to better understand the “why” of meetings and events in order to divine the “how” in terms of delivery of content, experiences, and networking. For example, Sal Khan, the creator of The Khan Academy that provides thousands of on line video learning experiences, predicts that in the future colleges and universities will deliver most of their content on line and students will only physically attend these institutions for specialised individual tutoring and for assessment that results in the award of a qualification. If Mr. Khan’s prediction becomes true, then the current physical use of thousands and thousands of colleges and universities shall have to be reconsidered and perhaps significantly revised. Therefore, meeting and event planners must now regularly ask “why” are we hosting this meeting, exhibition or event and “how” may we use a wide range of sources and ideas (eclectic thinking) to, with increasingly scare resources (time, capital, labour), ultimately best achieve our goals.
2. When do we engage with technology?
Secondly, if rapidly expanding on line education is the future for colleges and universities then primary and secondary schools shall not be far behind. After all, schools must prepare their students to become effective learners in tertiary education and that includes teaching them how to the widest array of use on line tools as comprehensively as possible. The rapid closure of schools to limit the spread of the pandemic of 2020 required teachers to immediately begin delivering their subject matter on line. Many were not prepared for this challenge. Therefore, meeting and event planners must be prepared to embrace and effectively use on line education to enhance, support and sometimes, and only when appropriate and necessary, replace face to face meetings and events with the online experience.
3. Where does the twenty – first century meeting and event participant best engage with education, networking, marketing and entertainment?
Thirdy and finally, the answer to this question is of course complicated and largely depends upon the experience, skills, and cultural comfortability level of the individual participant. However, just as Starbucks was once described as the sociology inspired “third place” for meeting and engaging with others (the first two were home and work), now their is a “fourth space” for your participants and that I believe is the nexus between face to face and on line experiences. Therefore, the eclectic thinking meeting and event planner of the future will soon serve as the curator of on line and face to face experiences that will provide participants with what Microsoft describes as “events without end”. The fourth space will include customised online content and experiences selected for individual participants through artificial intelligence (AI) with algorithmic analysis, the use of augment reality (AR) to layer the event experience with multiple relevant visual and auditory experiences and then the participant will arrive at the face to face event better prepared to seek and receive the information and experiences from which they will most benefit in the least amount of time. During the face to face event they may experience holograms (a three dimensional projection replicating a live person) to enable them to benefit from a deeper emotional experience with the presenter and they may use their personal technological devices to enhance networking, learning, assessment, and receive feedback. Finally, as the face to face event seamlessly morphs into the return to line learning, networking, marketing or entertainment, this journey will enable the participant to opt in or out as they wish whilst realising that their event without end is available to them at any time, in any place, for any length of time, until they once again return to the, much desired, but not always available, face to face experience.
The meetings and events industry has reached, as a result of the pandemic of 2020, what is known as a crucible moment. We are standing in the threshold of an opportunity that has been thrust upon us by forces that we did not expect nor do we have the immediate ability to control. We may either look to the future with eclectic thinking and select from new ideas and sources to deliver a higher quality experience and outcome for our participants or we many be held back by our previous half century of focusing upon logistics leading to outcomes.
The latin root word for event is e – venire and this literally means outcome. Therefore, if we are to, as did Aristotle and before him, Socrates and Plato, seek to create together the best life that is lived, we must confidently use eclectic thinking to design a fourth space that will propell us into a future that is both sustainable and sensational as well.
Tucci, G. 2 February 2016, ResearchGate https://www.researchgate.net/post/If_Cicero_was_not_an_original_thinker_it_means_also_that_he_did_not_have_an_own_philosophical_orientation_Was_he_a_real_eclectic