The Possibilities Are Mind Boggling

The last time we met on this page we had a delightful little chat about how far the speaking and meeting industry has evolved over the last ten years. Ah. . . . those were good times.

Now it seems fitting that we spend some time peering into the abyss to see what lies ahead. (And fortunately, it’s not as abysmal as you might think it is after I just suggested we are peering into an bigstock-Success-Questions-44181952abyss. I was kidding about the abyss part. It’s more like a big, yawning cavern chalk-full of uncertainty and angst.)

So let’s crystal ball ten years ahead (by the way, in the future, “crystal ball” will become a verb) to see what possibly, maybe, just perhaps, might definitely be waiting for us.

First of all, after doing some simple calculations, I’ve determined that most of us will be ten years older, thus causing our clients to speculate that our marketing photos are not just pictures of our younger brothers or sisters, but of our children. This will serve as a timely reminder to update our speaker photos at least once per lifetime.

Of course, some of us won’t need to worry about our photos, as many speakers will become obsolete as they become replaced by “motivational-androids”—or “mandroids”—capable of telling that tiresome “tossing the starfish back into the ocean” story in 107 languages. Fortunately for us, one of these robots will go on a rampage one evening after the emcee botches their introduction, and meeting planners will return to hiring real human beings again, if only for reasons of safety and national security.

Also on the technology front, the number of virtual meetings is expected to more than quadruple in the next ten years, meaning they’ll account for close to 1% of all meetings. Which is good news for those of you who enjoy traveling to Flin Flon in February, bad news for those of you who enjoy doing presentations in your underwear.  (And for those of you that enjoy doing your presentations in Flin Flon in your underwear, please seek professional help immediately.)

It’s been suggested that keynotes have been getting shorter over time, and this trend is expected to continue, leading many speakers to pull out the old line that Salvador Dali  once used in the world’s shortest speech: “I will be so brief, I have already finished.”  In fact, at some event, due to time constraints and the speaker’s notoriety, the speaker will not even have to show up for the talk.

Substantive demographic shifts will mean that speakers will need to speak louder in the future and offer washroom breaks during their three-minute long keynotes. As well, the expanding global marketplace will mean increased opportunities to speak in such exotic locales as Greenland, Antarctica and Flin Flon.

Now the really interesting thing about gazing into the future is to imagine that there are things that we can’t even imagine imagining because we don’t even know what it is we don’t know and therefore can’t possibly know what there is to know or what there is to not know without knowing what can be known or unknown even when we know what we know and don’t know what we know we don’t know. This can lead to some confusion.

Take the topic of speaker topics. Who could have imagined twenty years ago that people today would be speaking on topics such as, “Who Moved My Cheese?”—since twenty years ago the movement of cheese (or for that matter, any dairy product) was rarely a concern for most people. So when we look forward a decade, it’s easy to see that some of us might be speaking on topics we can’t even imagine a need for yet, such as “Who Moved My Milk?” Or, quite possibly, “Who Moved My Gorf?” (I don’t even know what a gorf is yet, which is what makes the future so very, very exciting!)

The key thing to remember about the future is that we need to be adaptable, or as the kids are so fond of saying these days, “change-ready.” The meeting industry needs to plan for any number of future possibilities, to the point that planning will eventually become a complete waste of time. Even more so than it is today.

So really, the future isn’t a frightening place, no more than the present is (unless you live in a frightening place already). No, the future will belong to those speakers who are able to speak without really speaking, and to those meeting planners capable of planning without really planning. The future belongs to those speakers adaptable enough to fight off deranged androids, and who can speak about moving any damn thing that needs moving, no matter how heavy the object. Most of all, the future will belong to those of us who can truly embrace all of the mind-boggling possibilities awaiting us.

But be forewarned, because as Steve Allen once said, “The possibilities are mind-boggling . . . and if you’ve ever had your mind boggled, you know how painful that can be.”

Michael Kerr is the president of the Humor at Work and the author of six books, including, “You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work,”  “Inspiring Workplaces,”  and “The Humor Advantage.” For humor in the workplace books, DVDs, articles and other resources, surf him up at www.mikekerr.com or reach Michael at mike@mikekerr.com

Copyright Michael Kerr, 2006

 

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