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IMEX identifies four key trends for 2015

The IMEX Group, organizers of the annual IMEX in Frankfurt and IMEX America trade shows for the global meetings, incentive travel and events industry, presents a round-up of industry predictions for the year ahead. 

1. ‘Play’ gives new meaning to profit
2014 was the year that ‘play’ as a tool for unlocking creativity and new sources of competitive advantage returned to business. In truth it had never left but the current manifestation of ‘play’ has a distinctly 21st century flavor. According to IMEX guest speaker, Creativity Guru, Rhea Blanken, Einstein reputedly said: “Play is the highest form of research.” Gartner has been predicting for the last few years that in 2015 up to 40 percent of Global 1000 organizations will use gamification as their primary mechanism for transforming business operations, citing Nike, Quirky and My Fitness Pal as leaders in this space. IMEX America Keynote Steve Gross also advocated that “When people get together through meetings and events it is critical to deliver playfulness which helps them engage, connect and explore, to enjoy being there … in the now.”    

The rise of “double bottom line” companies and entrepreneurs appears to support this trend. In the new business matrix where “profits meet purpose” it’s often the case that playfulness, creativity and fewer corporate do’s and don’ts are fundamental values in the mix.    

2. 50 Shades of Apps
Apps continue to be ‘sexy’ (in advertising parlance) and their strength and novelty will be unbounded in 2015. But this is not apps for app’s sake, as paper swaps or standalones. Rather meeting and event apps will be seamlessly linking across other media platforms, and especially websites, in line with customer/community market needs and pain points, deeply connected to real-time analytics and incorporating interactions such as live messaging, polling and other instant engagement and feedback mechanics. The IMEX/QuickMobile global survey reported that 60 - 63% of all respondents had used a mobile app for at least one of their events in the past two years - and 92% of corporate event marketers had done so. Additionally seven of the 10 finalists in IMEX America’s Tech Start-up competition were apps, clearly demonstrating that this is fertile ground for fast innovation and added value.

3. Let’s Take it “Outside”
In 2015 expect to see meeting spaces and formats going through even more of a revolution as the principles of meeting design become more firmly embedded throughout the supply chain. Where wifi allows set meetings free to ‘roam’ it also creates a subtle pressure to be ‘always on’.

Witness David Silverman of the Harvard Business Review suggesting 50-minute meetings so people have the chance to take a breath in between and actually be on time for today’s inexorable back-to-back work commitments.  Contrast that with Arianna Huffington (of Huffington Post fame) who likes to hold walking meetings -- supporting research from Washington University that workers are more engaged, less territorial and more collaborative when they’re working on a project while standing upright.  

Finally take note of the ‘slow meetings’ trend that’s come back round again. A return to the first principles of face-to-face meetings, no devices, no distractions and a focus on less, rather than more, could be one of the defining developments of the coming year. Add a five-minute guided meditation at the front of your meeting (no need to hold hands, just breathe) and your gathering is now bang on trend. 

4. Wellness is Fit as a Fiddle
Beyond drinking water, eating protein-laden nuts and taking a quick, rejuvenating massage there is a higher level of spiritual awareness starting to make its way into meeting keynotes, sessions and formats. When both Time Magazine and Forbes give space to a topic then it has surely ‘arrived’. In this case it’s mindfulness that’s earning the “ink.” Also, with leading proponents such as Deepak Chopra (MPI’s WEC keynote this summer) reaching global rock star status, and CEOs such as Oprah Winfrey, Russell Simmons (Def Jam), Marc Benioff of and Rick Goings of Tupperware endorsing the business and spiritual benefits of meditation, the meetings industry and meeting planners have a great opportunity – and importantly, the permission - to shift this new slant on wellness out of the spa and into the spotlight. Lee Papa, wellness advocate, transformation advisor and IMEX America speaker summed it up: “I believe this is the new paradigm of business….it’s a time of moving into working from the heart and using our internal navigation to be more powerful and more authentic.”

Many of the themes above will be reflected in the education programs and initiatives on offer at both IMEX in Frankfurt May 19 – 21st at Messe Frankfurt and IMEX America, Oct 13 – 15 (Smart Monday, Oct 14) in Las Vegas, 2015.

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