I’m involved in several initiatives where associations work to understand how conferences will evolve over the next 3-5 years. When forecasting, one handicap suffered by many people is the assumption that the rate of change will remain constant. But it won’t. The rate of change will be cut to a fraction of what it once was, meaning technological advances like blockchain, artificial intelligence, and the metaverse will radically disrupt conferences and the way we live life very soon.

Let’s look at some examples.

Today, we rely on associations and other organizations made up of professionals performing peer reviews to validate breakthroughs in knowledge and information. What happens when we no longer need that central organization to validate what is being shared and distributed? Blockchain allows data to be distributed and validated without a central source, using technology to encrypt individual pieces of the chain so that each stands with its own integrity.

The most famous example of blockchain is in the banking industry – the introduction of cryptocurrencies. Most of us use a central bank to manage money. That bank is an intermediary that processes transactions, taking a percentage of the holdings, investing, and growing profits. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which operate on a blockchain, do not require a central bank to process transactions. Blockchains remove the bank from the equation, a radical disruption to the world. It is here today and growing exponentially in its application, impacting how we share what we know and learn together.

Another example of technology disrupting conferences, and life in general, is the metaverse. The metaverse is a virtual reality people can enter and fabricate an experience. Think of the movie Ready Player One. People are already living in the metaverse. I say THE metaverse, but there are many metaverses; some are even designed to be interconnected and do amazing things.

Metaverses are also places where people do ordinary things like set up shop and make money. Many millionaires have made their fortunes in the metaverse. There are places where the currency in the metaverse is translated into everyday currency to pay a debt or buy a Coca-Cola. These things are here now, not in wide use, but people are convening in metaverses. Where will they be in the next 3-5 years?

The advances expected with artificial intelligence, blockchain, the metaverse, and other technologies are coming at us faster than we can imagine. If you’re planning a professional conference in the next 3-5 years, or even just forecasting for your organization’s future, make sure you’re considering the significant technological advances already underway.