Global Meetings

How Artificial Intelligence Will Elevate Human Interaction

As robots and artificial intelligence become more commonplace, the conference industry has a bright future, says tech expert Inma Martinez.

Inma Martinez
Inma Martinez

The PCMA European Influencers Summit will gather approximately 40 European business events leaders in Monte Carlo, Monaco, June 25–27, to address the future of the events industry. Although the event is invitation-only — intended to be a discussion by Europeans for Europeans — Convene will be covering the summit and passing along key insights and takeaways.

In the meantime, we interviewed summit presenter and European technology expert Inma Martinez to get a sense of what’s in store for the audience in Monaco. (To feel even more like you’re a part of the Monaco experience, check out this  360 virtual reality tour.)

Martinez will help put the audience in a future-focused frame of mind — a world, as she described it, in which  artificial intelligence and robots are commonplace and a focus on right-brain skills will be increasingly important. In that future, she predicts, “very abstract things” like conferences will fulfill a growing need in society. 

“When I speak with HR managers at major global banks, or the Deloittes of this world,” Martinez said in an interview that will be published in the May issue of Convene, “they ask, ‘What’s going to happen to the human capital in the workforce?’ I’m telling them, ‘You need to retrain workers to be right-brain people and do tasks that the machines will be completely unable to do.’ This is the talk of the town right now: The link between artificial intelligence and human capital, and how you will combine both of them and how you will hire people for different skills. It’s not about because they went to a top Ivy League university. It’s a new society of skills and abstract values and knowledge.”

Here’s more from the interview:

 Where do face-to-face events fit into this new society?
“Conferences are the business of humans and are very abstract things,” Martinez said, “because one goes to a conference to acquire knowledge, but mostly to meet other people who can ignite ideas. It’s a terrific right-brain business, which makes me really happy for you. It’s a business for the future.

“If you want information, you spend days looking at what’s on the internet. But if you want wisdom, you go to a conference. When you’re sitting listening to someone, you get so much valuable feedback. Not just for the person you’re seeing, but you tap into thoughts you had years ago and now they seem so important. It’s a really, really important moment that doesn’t happen at the office, doesn’t happen at home, and doesn’t happen when you’re sitting on a train. It’s a combination of being with others, sharing, and then listening to really smart people that you would never meet in your daily life. These truly right-brain episodes are about to explode; people will need them.”

What examples of conference design have you seen that better tap into a right-brain experience?
“I go to a lot of design, tech, and scientific conferences,” Martinez said, “but also fun conferences about things that are going to inspire me that have nothing to do with tech. The formula is always a big amphitheater, so everybody is looking in one direction and then there’s either someone doing a keynote or then there’s a discussion panel and then that’s it. The conferences where I really felt, ‘Wow, I have been to some special event,’ were conferences where the actual space was redesigned in some cool way — because when you make changes to the space, that creates innovation and creativity. As soon as you change the traditional format, immediately humans react with, ‘Okay, something extraordinary is going to happen here.’

“That’s the reaction we have to changes. Conferences where you put the stage in the center or you put the stage around the audience — I saw one where speakers were just moving around in a circular way around the audience, so you had to constantly move your chair and see where this guy was or what’s happening or what demo happened at the other end.

“And screens. Visual content is super-inspiring. Also, you know that most people when they watch someone deliver a keynote, it’s not that they remember every word. They remember the word that makes the connection in their hearts and in their minds. All the rest is about how entertaining it was. Something that is going to snap you out of the routine and make that brain of yours and those ears and those eyes see new things in a new way. It’s a performance. Something that can stimulate your right brain is what really helps you come back home refreshed with ideas, feeling like it was worth going.”

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.