A genuine innovation culture today is THE key success factor in global business and there are many reasons why companies place so much value on innovative processes or products. This applies not only to manufacturing companies, but also to the event, conference and congress industry.

In recent years, the meetings and congress industry has undergone major change and continuous growth. Technological advances, changes in participants groups and new forms and platforms of communication have meant that traditional concepts have had to be rethought, revised and in some cases completely redesigned.

Congresses and conferences successfully bring people from all over the world together to discuss the latest scientific findings and thus to share the latest state of knowledge. At the same time, these events are facing increasing competition for participants and sponsors. Particularly in view of the changes in the most diverse areas, the work and preparation for these events is therefore of utmost importance. The aim is not only to ensure that the event runs smoothly, but increasingly also to use creative formats and models appropriate to the intended groups to convince all stakeholders involved to take part in this particular event and to position it in relation to other congresses or conferences.

What is innovation and why is it so important?

The “problem”: innovation and creativity are intangible elements. So one can’t just “buy” or “use” them. They are also more difficult to define than material elements, such as the bandwidth of a W-LAN connection at a congress. Innovation and creativity are therefore processes, developments, which require a permanent questioning of the existing and whose impact only becomes apparent after the implementation, and not even immediately, but only gradually. One can speak of “soft factors” in these terms. These have an effect – here the analogy to the Herzberg model is permitted: The absence of soft factors leads to dissatisfaction, and thus in the medium term to the business failure of a company or even a congress. Or as Lorenz Fochhammer puts it: “Soft and buttery factors … quickly decide whether companies … can keep up.”

Genuine innovation culture instead of “little innovations”

The future challenges for associations and congress organizers mean nothing more than that they have to deal permanently with the idea of innovation. Of course, optimizations of existing processes and ideas are still necessary, but these small improvements – let’s call them “little innovations” – are not the ones with which the fundamental changes and requirements of the future can be met. It is much more necessary to establish a genuine innovation culture that helps to think continuously, time and again in completely new ways and outside the existing business models – and then to act.

A genuine culture of innovation has the task of generating ideas that are far ahead of today’s times, and which may therefore still appear somehow utopian from today’s perspective. However, a genuine innovation culture is needed in order to recognize the potential and trends and to be able to react to them in good time. Innovation is future-oriented and therefore always one step ahead of thinking about current improvements.

Innovation and congresses – one process

The first and most important step into the congress of the future is openness and impartiality: just because something has worked so well to date does not mean that it will work in the near future. It is of fundamental importance to think today about tomorrow, to scout and recognize trends and to implement them today – at least partially.

Therefore, organizers must always think one step ahead. Due to the time and effort required to plan and organize an event, organizers must always look to the future to see what stakeholders’ requirements, needs and desires will be at the time of the event.

Topics and ideas

There are a wide variety of areas from which developments and innovations can be incorporated into the organisation of events. The following are just a few examples:

Crowd sourcing and co-creation

The true potential of crowd sourcing or crowd creation offers stakeholders the opportunity to directly contribute to the realization of their desired events by allowing all participants to contribute their ideas and suggestions to the event concept with new perspectives. Especially with regard to community building and active participation, this area is of increasing importance.


The proactive consideration of sponsoring is essential for the sustainable (economic) success and innovative strength of events. Cooperation with start-ups, universities and other key players, as well as the establishment of innovation hubs or technology partnerships are just two examples of the possibilities to position oneself clearly and independently in the market.

Introducing new perspectives from other industries

Keynote speakers are the connection to another world. They introduce new perspectives and explain the significance of general trends from a different, new perspective. They promote the new and necessary knowledge and set impulses for innovations. The role of a keynote speaker therefore often goes far beyond the thematic framework of an event.

Integration of new technologies

The new technologies not only create the opportunity to make events dynamic and innovative, they also help to organize processes efficiently and effectively by providing various platforms and functions. In particular, chatbots need to be more integrated into the planning and execution of events in the future. These bots can take over standard tasks and increasingly communicate interactively with the participants.

Robotics is still a dream of the future for many, but especially in the event industry, at congresses and conferences there is a huge untapped potential for the use of robots – for example humanoid robots like “Pepper“. As strange as the idea of being greeted and informed by a robot may still be today: In the near future it will appear to us to be quite normal. To start thinking today about how and where this technical tool can be used is a step towards the congress of the future.


Innovation is one of the most important and complex issues that companies are facing today. In fact, every industry today is confronted with real and in some cases existentially threatening risks due to disruptive progress.

Therefore, innovation should not be a static issue. Rather, innovation must become a continuous process and work culture that extends across the entire value chain and creates a continuous stream of solutions and methods that create, secure and expand the event offerings, business opportunities and, above all, continuously positive user experiences.