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19 February 2020

Platforms in the meeting industry: Using tech to human effect

By Matthias Schultze, Managing Director German Convention Bureau

Imagine this: A “Smart Meeting Assistant” (SMA), powered by highly advanced Artificial Intelligence, that is present throughout the entire customer journey. From initial brief to post-event analysis and all the way through proposal preparation, booking, post-booking and on-site management. Never going to happen. Or maybe? This scenario is one of the possible future set-ups that came out of the GCB German Conventions Bureau’s recent platform economy study that we carried out with partners– and while the SMA might for some still be unthinkable, our look at the challenges and opportunities of platforms for our community resulted in some key aspects that stakeholders should consider now because the role of event planners, suppliers and destination marketing organisations is bound to change.

Technology driving rise of platforms in the meetings industry

There is still a widespread belief that organising meetings and events is too complex to be processed via one central platform only. However, market trends and technological advances suggest otherwise. We currently see a move towards consolidation, with a small number of platforms and dominant players – a development that was confirmed by both experts and focus groups that were questioned for the study. Plus, the rapid progress of Artificial Intelligence will even lead to the automation of processes that seem unsuitable for being automated, resulting in change for a range of activities related to the organisation of events.

Smart Meeting Assistent

Why event professionals should up their tech know-how

All market players will therefore have to familiarise themselves with the workings of platforms. Essentially this also means knowing how AI and algorithms work to develop specific platform strategies. As customers and event planners increasingly expect instant availability of information, venue suppliers need to be able to deliver timely digital information. To make booking easy, offers need to be packaged and broken down in small, standardised units. At the same time, suppliers need to cater for the trend of customisation as customers want offers that fulfil specific needs and make sure that their services stand out in a digital environment against the competition. All of this needs sophisticated tech support, from data tools to virtual reality, and our industry needs to be prepared for that.

Human creativity driving platform potential

While technology and mainly AI play a key role for the platform economy, it would be wrong to treat this as a tech topic only. Just the opposite. The customer-centric interplay of human skills and the enabling technology is key. This also means that the customer journey in the meetings industry takes centre stage because stakeholders need to know where and when to present their USPs in the required way. When, for example, is direct human contact indispensable for planners? Would they be prepared to book with the click of a button if only smaller amounts are involved? For the meetings and events sector, the platform economy therefore ultimately means an increased focus on the customer. We need to know our customers better than ever.

And while we will have to adapt our processes to platforms, let’s not forget that this is not about letting technology “take over”. In fact, automating certain activities of work will enable event planners to concentrate on key planning and creative phases while getting optimum tech support and service providers get the chance to highlight their unique USPs and the added value they can provide. Be it complex planning, creative problem solving or understanding worries and concerns – databases only retrieve and package information, they don’t generate new ideas and experiences.

Read more in our platform study white paper:
Platform Economy: New Players, New Markets, New Business Models – Evolution or Revolution for the Meeting World?