The future that never happened, meetings style

One good thing about really long plane rides (like the one yesterday from Boston to Vancouver via San Francisco) is that I had a chance to really take some time with one of my favorite magazines, Wired. I don't think the story is available online yet, but the cover feature was about what ever happened to all those things we thought would have happened by now but haven't, like laser guns, supersonic airlines, personalized pharmaceuticals, and designer babies. (And, if you're like cover boy Will Ferrell, edible fake beards, ray guns that bring mannequins to life, and birthday cakes with a burrito inside -- it's worth buying the issue just for those little snippets -- I think I scared my seatmate by literally LOLing. A taste of the last one: [Having a burrito inside a birthday cake] "would solve the age-old problem of finishing off an entire birthday cake only to end up ordering out for burritos an hour later. Annoying, right? You know what I'm talking about?" Snort.)

Anyway, it got me to wondering what we thought conferences would look like in 2010, back in, say, 1980. What were the meetings industry version of flying cars, or robot butlers, or a weight-loss pill that worked? (All of which I was sure we'd have by now back when I was 20. The Internet though? Nope, not a clue.) At that point, I was one of those people who thought meetings just sort of magically happened and didn't think about the future in meeting terms.

But if I had, I would have guessed we'd be able to beam from session to session, or at least have flying shoes that felt like clouds on our feet, or something that would ease the pain of trotting miles in uncomfortable shoes that comes with pretty much all big conventions. Full sensory surround-sound and 3D projection immersion experiences in the story of what a session is trying to get across, rather than just the jazzed up overhead projectors and slides that constitute today's PowerPoints. Or even cooler, something like a Star Trek: Next Generation holodeck, where you can walk around and interact with a situation to learn by doing? But like I said, I wasn't thinking about it back then.

Were you? If you were, what did you think we'd have by now that hasn't materialized? Anyone want to hazard a guess for the future, say five years out? Ten?

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