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November 2012

Behind the Scenes: An Omnipresent Thumbprint

By Michelle Russell, Editor in Chief.

Michelle Russell ConveneWhat we can expect and prepare for in 2013. Maybe.

This issue marks Convene’s 12th Annual Meetings Industry Forecast, and my ninth time helping pull together this ever-evolving package. Our forecast started out as an exhaustive almanac of industry facts and figures about the year that was - with commentary from the same stable of experts on travel, lodging, and exhibitions - but more recently has shifted to focus on what the future might hold.

This year, instead of filling page after page with lists, pie charts, and tables, we’ve taken a streamlined approach. You’ll find more of an “editor’s picks” kind of forecast, with illuminating bits of information gleaned from a mix of sources and perspectives, as opposed to a no-stone-unturned, comprehensive analysis. With just enough of the right kind of data about the current state of travel, lodging, exhibitions, and technology, taking a peek at 2013 should seem like a logical next step, and not a daring leap into the unknown.

For me, though, technology is still a wild card. In fact, I could relate to a story I recently heard media theorist and writer Douglas Rushkoff tell during an online interview at PSAV’s Inspiration Café. Rushkoff was writing a book about the Internet for Bantam Books in the early 1990s, only to have the publisher cancel his contract at the end of 1992. Bantam, he was told, felt that the Internet was just a fad that would be over by 1993. Of course, that seems ludicrous to us today, but I wonder if I might not have been one of those people in the room who proclaimed the Internet a passing fancy.

Today, we have a bigger challenge than ever in trying to forecast technology. An overwhelming number of new tools are introduced daily, and it seems our only guiding principle when it comes to evaluating them is how they may create a better experience for their users. What Rushkoff said that what he recognized about the Internet 20 years ago was its power to enable people to connect with one another in ways they hadn’t been able to before.

Which is similar to what Convene Contributing Editor Molly Brennan and Executive Editor Christopher Durso experienced during the recent national political conventions, where the “omnipresent thumbprint of technology,” Molly writes, changed the viewer experience from passive recipient to active participant. While the elections will be over by the time you read this, I encourage you to go backstage with us in our cover story. The conventions informed us how the candidates envisioned America’s future; the way in which they were staged can inform our industry.

But no matter how far we've come technologically, we’re still pretty much at the mercy of the elements. Both national conventions were affected by inclement weather, but went off without a hitch due to contingency plans. Convene Assistant Editor Sarah Beauchamp explores how a solid emergency-management plan potentially saved lives this past summer during the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago. See our CMP Series story here.
Speaking of Predictions
How might the global business economy look next year? Convene Senior Editor Barbara Palmer talks with PCMA 2013 Convening Leaders General Session speaker Stéphane Garelli - a professor at the top-ranked International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland, and a leading expert in global competitiveness.

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