One of the great benefits of having a child in college, outside of the adored endless dinners of mac & cheese and hot dogs to save money, is the opportunity to go and visit said child at the university. This past weekend afforded me such an opportunity.
College students are all about live events, meetings, using social media to extend a live engagement, networking events, and connecting people with common interests as we do in trade shows with buyers and sellers. The campus environment renewed firmly in my mind that face-to-face will never be replaced by virtual events. Truly, it will explode even faster than it is today.
If you have not been back to college since you left as a student, I have two words: Go Back! Okay, granted we all would love to go back to college today with the knowledge and experience we now have as a weapon to ward off bad decisions that we made then. I’m not talking about that.
My college student took me on a walking tour of campus…even though I attended the school, and he is now a junior there…because he wanted to show off the university and his haunts for studying at the university. It was amazing the eye opening experience this was for me. It was definitely a case of “That was then, dad. This is now!”. There is amazing study, research, and work being done in these universities…by these amazing kids…that will have a huge impact on the look, feel, and design of associations, corporations, and the events being staged by them in the future.
And melting pots? Check out this video.
Bruce Springsteen sang decades ago about “…on the boats and on the planes, they’re coming to America…”. And how. Cultural diversity? Learning from each other and breaking down silos and borders? They’re doing it now. As a foreign student I spoke with explained on why she came to university in America? “Quite simply, they’re the best”.
For many of us, the notion of interactive learning, audience engagement, and staying relevant are really amazing new terms for us to get our heads around and find solutions for. On the campuses in our country, it’s a way of life. They don’t need our organizations to be “living brochures of information”. They went and got that on their own. These audiences are looking for more, looking to push what we now know well beyond what we’re currently thinking. When they arrive for the discussion, they have already done the research, networked with others about it, and want to talk to the subject matter experts on the deep dive points and how it can be changed and manipulated to do even more.
Over the past 6-9 months I’ve had the pleasure of engaging amazing young and energetic new thought leaders in our business. They have taught me to think about events differently, about why exhibitors are questioning the validity of participating in industry trade shows based on less trackable ROI than other methods of marketing, and how we need to create community and connections as well as environments.
After this weekend, I can plainly see that they are just the tip of the iceberg. We need to shrink this gigantic cruise ship we have been steering, which I will affectionately name “Because We’ve Always Done It This Way”, and break it up into fast moving speed boats that can change directions quickly in response to the currents of the ocean.
Because the currents are changing. And there are new blue oceans ahead for those that do.