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Will Curran of Endless Events addressed more than 200 life-science meeting planners at the Pharma Forum conference in New York in March.

A.I., Cannabis, and the Future of Meetings

At a recent conference for event planners, meetings guru Will Curran addressed several factors that are reshaping business events in the near future.

“With your events, you should not think outside the box—you need to crush the box and start thinking from scratch rather than implementing minor tweaks year over year.”

So said Will Curran, founder of Endless Events and creator of the #eventprofs online community, to an audience of 220 life-science meeting planners at the annual Pharma Forum conference held in mid-March in New York City.

His central message: The post-pandemic business landscape that’s been shaped by technological and social changes requires planners to reimagine both the marketing and execution of their events.

For instance, “if you don’t start to understand ChatGPT from OpenAI right now, you will fall behind the curve,” Curran stated. “You can use it to generate session titles and write session descriptions” that are enticing. Also, the artificial-intelligence program can summarize white papers and research reports instantly, making it easier for attendees to come into meetings with a baseline of knowledge from preferred sources.

Further, Curran advised planners to “use Microsoft Bing more than Google for search, because ChatGPT is integrated into it. And if you use the Microsoft Edge browser, you can call up ChatGPT on the side of the screen to use at the same time.” One example of how AI can aid planners with tasks other than marketing: “You give it a topic like, ‘how to save money on AV,’ and it will generate an outline for you based on all the relevant articles across the entire web,” he says. Lastly, “whenever OpenAI announces a new version of ChatGPT, find out what is different and better about it” that will make meeting-related tasks easier.

One other technology that Curran says is critical for planners to learn is Runway, a creative suite where the user collaborates with AI to generate video content for marketing or educational purposes. “Video content is going to be revolutionized by it,” he said. On the other hand, one technology that Curran dismissed for the time being is virtual reality. “Until Apple releases its headset” and has the complications around battery life, comfort, and price worked out, “do not pay much attention to VR.”

Cannabis Usage Could Require New Meeting Formats
One societal change that’s affecting business events is the rising use of cannabis. “While you won’t necessarily offer cannabis in your events, many attendees are going to use it anyway,” Curran said. “This is going to fundamentally shift how we run meetings.”

One example: Alcohol consumption will likely decline. As a result, “you need to offer attendees mocktails and other options,” he noted. “You might also have to provide more snack offerings throughout the day, and more comfortable seating in break areas for people to relax and talk.”

An even larger alteration that meetings might require: More “white space.” “Attention spans are changing, and planners must account for that” in their session formats and lengths, Curran added. Also, “rather than have a one-hour lunch in the ballroom, maybe you give people a three-hour window and let them walk to local restaurants” where the meeting host has set up per-person food and beverage credits, “and then people can mingle where and when they feel like it.”

Pharma Forum Europe 2023 takes place in Amsterdam in early November - click here for more info. That event will be followed by Pharma Forum U.S. in Tampa in March 2024.

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