Behind the Scenes

Forecast, Flying Drones, and Food

In this issue, the future is now. Hope you’re hungry for it!

The first few times I oversaw Convene’s Annual Meetings Industry Forecast — or “Almanac,” as it was called when I joined Convene nearly 12 years ago — I followed the existing template. The Almanac was an attempt to pinpoint where the meetings industry currently stood, based on what had transpired over the previous year in travel, lodging, and exhibitions.

It didn’t take long before we recognized that with business — including the meetings business — moving at warp speed, taking stock of where we were today wasn’t enough. So we made the forecast our research project, collecting and collating data to provide a current picture of the industry while scanning the horizon for telling trends — and added technology to the mix. If you’re just in observation mode while treading water, the wave of change will drown you. Better to ride the crest.

In that spirit, we offer this year’s forecast, which includes some predictions from experts both inside and outside our industry. As we’ve done in recent years, we’re focusing heavily on the sea changes brought about by technology.

Which takes us to this month’s cover-story topic: drones! We thought it would be cool to explore how one burgeoning tech gadget has — or hasn’t — registered on our industry’s radar. Read about drones’ promise and potential pitfalls.

Also this month, we’re launching a regular department on a hot, new topic that happens to be older than time: F&B. It used to be that meeting participants only cared whether the coffee was hot and the food was filling. But F&B has undergone a revolution. Attendees today bring with them a more refined palate, higher expectations, and a host of preferences, food allergies, and dietary restrictions.

Given that, perhaps we should think about making food part of our annual forecast. In the meantime, here are some future-focused food facts, relevant to our industry, that I picked up in Fast Company’s October issue: According to an informative Aramark ad, 87 percent of consumers regard availability of locally grown produce as a major influence when it comes to purchasing food, and 75 percent of chefs and restaurateurs believe hyper-local sourcing (i.e., on-site gardens) is one of the hottest trends on restaurant menus in 2014.

Also in that issue, when it comes to meat, there’s more for planners to chew on: Our habits are changing. An article on innovative meat-substitute company Beyond Meat highlights the results of a recent NPR poll in which 39 percent of Americans say they are cutting down on meat consumption, primarily for health reasons. But health is only part of the push for alternative forms of protein. By the year 2050, according to a UN report cited in the story, we’re going to need 70 percent more food to feed the world’s population, which “isn’t going to be easy given that we already devote 26 percent of all land to livestock … a wildly inefficient process globally.”

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.