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A report published by the Roosevelt Institute and the Kauffman Foundation outli
<p>A report published by the Roosevelt Institute and the Kauffman Foundation, outlines five changes we can expect to see over the next 25 years. Here&rsquo;s how I believe each could affect meetings&mdash;and meeting planners.</p>

What the Rise of the Freelance Economy Might Mean for Meetings

What do you think, will we be traveling to meetings via jet pack by 2040? (Image: Thinkstock by Getty Images)

I recently read a Fast Company article about how the rise of the freelance economy, and the fall of traditional jobs and companies, will change the U.S. economy in pretty dramatic ways by 2040. Citing a report published by the Roosevelt Institute and the Kauffman Foundation, the article outlines five changes we can expect to see over the next 25 years. Here’s how I believe each could affect meetings—and meeting planners.

1. Say good-bye to job security, and hello to serial assignments. As more companies outsource, and more platforms to connect workers with jobs (think Task Rabbit) spring up, more of us who used to have corporate jobs will be bidding our 401Ks, health benefits, and other perks adieu and either starting our own companies or hiring out our services as freelancers on a per-job level.

Will the outsourcing pendulum permanently swing back out for in-house meeting management departments? According to this study, which gleaned insights from 30 economists, technologists, policy makers, and entrepreneurs, you betcha. There will likely be even more third-party planners, either functioning as long-term preferred partners for a select few organizations, or constantly chasing the next gig for a larger group of potential clients.

And, if these people are right, I see this happening at associations as well, where the growth in association management companies—and of course their meeting management offerings—already is pretty healthy. It may take longer to get there, but in-house meeting planning departments at corporations and associations may become rare birds over the next couple of decades.

2. More organizations will rise up to help connect talent buyers and sellers, following the model Etsy developed for the home-made craft market. They’ll also provide some of that social safety net that corporations used to provide, according to the FastCo article, including healthcare insurance, pensions (anyone remember pensions? I’m guessing also other forms of long-term retirement savings), and child and elderly care.

Enterprising meeting managers should glom onto the third piece of this trend, which is that these platforms will also be providing education and training to help workers get that work. One would think that this should provide a plethora of meeting planning jobs, and long-term-contract ones at that.

3. In the future, headhunters will want your head. There currently aren’t a whole lot of talent agencies or headhunters who specialize in meeting managers (Hi, Dawn Penfold!), but that may change, according to the study. So we'll have more platforms to connect talent to jobs, and more individualized help as well. That's all good.

4. You may spend more time marketing your services, but at least the pay will be better. As boomers retire—assuming we will eventually, which we may not be willing or able to—and the labor force shrinks, paychecks should increase as demand outstrips supply. Also, since we’ll all be working for ourselves, we’ll charge what we’re worth, according to the article. I’m not entirely sure I buy this one, though. Unless those platforms become de facto employers, we’re going to be paying more for insurance, etc., and, unless the tax code changes to mirror the marketplace, self-employment taxes will still be a bear. We may charge more, but I hope the take-home will at least be equivalent to what planners make now.

5. We will live in a world of constant change, and that will require lots of education and training. It’s this last point that I think will bring meeting professionals, and the career they love, to that strategic level once and for all. As the article says, “To be successful, individuals will have to be more entrepreneurial in thinking and planning their lives, meaning constantly selling themselves, defining one’s own work, and educating themselves for future assignments.” If in fact the American workforce does become more entrepreneurial, meeting professionals are going to be an important lifeline to keeping people ready and able to leap onto the next assignment. So that strategic place will be in the economy as a whole, not just in individual organizations.

Of course, anything could happen over the next 25 years. After all, 25 years ago, none of the things this study is basing its projections on—crowdfunding, online buyer-seller platforms, localized production made possible by micro-manufacturing, and now 3D printing, etc.—even existed, and the rate of change, especially change driven by technology—keeps increasing exponentially.

What do you think meetings, and meeting planning careers, will look like in 2040? I just hope we're still meeting face to face—and that we'll have perfected the transporter beam to get almost anywhere instantaneously without having to rely on air travel. Or at least have  jet packs for shorter hops.

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