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Uber-copters and energy harvesting: the future of meetings?

Brian Ludwig, senior vice president of sales and McNeel Keenan, vice president of product management at Cvent take M&IT’s Holly Patrick on a tour of the meetings of the future, from getting there to networking and generating the energy powering the presentation slides…  

The Covid-19 pandemic was a catalyst for change in the meetings industry. Change that was once assumed would take years, if not decades to integrate, happened almost overnight and now there’s no going back.  

Brian Ludwig

While we can’t deny the value of face-to-face meetings, we can’t ignore the increased reach virtual and hybrid formats have provided to meetings and events – and that’s only the beginning. Ludwig and McNeel look 10 years into the future of meetings and events; here’s what they predict.  

Getting to the event  

“Cars, planes, trains, they are well-known modes of transport,” Ludwig explains. “Here’s something slightly different, and if this becomes reality, you can get to the airport on the highway despite traffic. This is called second-level public transport.” 

This, Ludwig explains it a type of public transport that uses existing road networks by travelling above the ground, literally stepping over vehicles and obstacles in its way. “That would be pretty wild.” 

A more plausible transport system, but still a high-in-the-sky idea, would be an Uber helicopter.  

“Driving is so old school and subject to delays,” says Ludwig. “In partnership with Hyundai, Uber is set to bring out a helicopter taxi in 2028.” Ludwig’s optimism is enough to power 100 Uber-copters, but whether it becomes a reality, remains to be seen.  

“Another cool concept, again, futuristic – imagine an autonomous vehicle picks you up at the airport and you’re trying to get to the venue but it takes you to the end of the pier, and then imagine a drone comes in and grabs the pod, lifts it off of the wheels that it was on, transports you across the water then puts you back on the wheels to take you that last mile. 

“Seems outlandish, but I believe we’re going to see this in 15 years. Bottom line, transportation options of the future may mitigate much of the travel inefficiency experienced today, and it’s that inefficiency that deters a lot of delegates from currently going to events.” 

With an encouraging smile, Keenan swoops in to bring the conversation back to reality with the idea of offering delegates ride-sharing vouchers to attend events. This is something Cvent offered delegates for its October 2021 Cvent Connect Europe conference in London.  

Keenan explains: “Instead of laying on mass transport and expecting everyone to be there on time, we could give out Uber or Lyft vouchers. They could only be used on routes to and from the venue and they would expire on the same day, but it’s there to say ‘look, we have you covered.’” 

“Energy harvesting concrete is a fascinating concept – absolutely genius” 

Lunch included 

Ludwig and Keenan are also keen to share their thoughts on how the sharing economy companies can make a difference to the hybrid event experience.   

McNeel Keenan

“For virtual attendees, you can send them an Uber Eats voucher so they can still have lunch at the same time as everyone attending the event in person,” Keenan explains.  

Venues of the future 

Sustainability is being built into future event venues and many long-established venues are making the decision to retrofit in to meet sustainability criteria. Initiatives from beekeeping on the roof to supply local honey and encourage biodiversity to on-site waste-to-energy plants are giving venues across the world an edge.  

But Ludwig thinks we can take this a step further. “Energy harvesting concrete is a fascinating concept – absolutely genius. Crowd harvesting energy from attendees footsteps is so smart and so logical.”  

The concrete works by producing energy through kinetic energy which can be used to partially power venues.  

If I’m at an event, I want to make the most valuable connections” 

Air quality plagues major cities across the world and can cause serious issues, but Ludwig surmises that hotels and venues have the potential to clean smog from the air. “This could be an entirely different level of an eco-friendly event,” he adds.  

The Manuel Gea Gonzalez Hospital in Mexico City is an example of how this can be done. In a single day, its 2,500sqm honeycomb-like façade is able to break down the equivalent pollution produced by more than 8,000 cars.  

Networking  

Reminiscent of everyone’s favourite cartoon detective – Inspector Gadget, Ludwig, reminds us of Google’s attempt to make smart glasses mainstream. While they were discontinued in 2015, Google hasn’t given up yet. 

“In 2020 Google bought a company named North and they’re bringing new glasses to market again. There’s also Facebook with Rayban, Spectacles by Snap and Lenovo is coming out with something called Think Reality. 

“Wearable tech didn’t die, it’s morphing into something called ambient computing.”  

This, Ludwig claims, transforms how we connect with each other at events.  

“So say I’m passing a VIP that I’ve marked in the app and it’s someone that I want to meet with, and the glasses are able to tell contextual information about them that would be useful to start a conversation.  

“Or perhaps I want to network at lunch but I don’t know what table to sit on, with the glasses I can look at people and receive contextual information over the top, their title, their industry.” 

“Time is money,” Ludwig states. “If I’m at an event, I want to make the most valuable connections. I want to consume the most meaningful content and I want to walk away with a great experience around your brand.” 

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