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Blurring Lines Between Work and Leisure: What Does it Mean for Meetings?

If you are a North American reading this article today (Monday, September 1), it is probably because you are trying to catch up on email, taking a peek at what your peeps are up to on LinkedIn, or maybe you caught the headline on Twitter. Anyway you have it, you are "doing work" instead of chilling out and enjoying the Labour Day holiday.

If it's after the long weekend, hopefully you got to enjoy it, work-free!

Regardless, many of us are finding ourselves working evenings, weekends and holidays... How many of us have truly been able to "go dark" while on vacation in the last five years, or at least since "The Great Recession"?

Casual inquiry and observation of my meetings industry colleagues indicates the lines between work and personal time are decidedly blurring. And for an interesting article on the subject, please read Doug Saunder's piece in The Globe and Mail: Work? Leisure? It's all a blur these days.

What does this mean for the meetings industry? Years ago associations avoided vacation months because delegates were to set on taking time off at specific times. Now we are seeing some groups betting on cheaper meeting space and rates in the summer – and their attendance isn't necessarily suffering. Greenfield's own inaugural Engaging Associations Summit was held this year in July; we had a hunch busy executives would be more available to come to a new conference in the summer, because they had fewer competing priorities than during the rest of the year. The numbers and event evaluations told us we were correct!

Since executives seem to be willing to mix pleasure and business, many DMOs are hoping that delegates will tag on extra days to enjoy a particularly interesting or "bucket list" activity. Is this a reasonable expectation? The meetings industry might help itself by delving into this issue a little deeper; how much business does a conference generate pre or post-event?

Because, as we are seemingly getting less downtime, one interesting industry headline caught my eye: the August cover of The Meeting Professional, MPI's monthly publication, shouts "Meetings Outlook Research: Virtual Meetings are Outpacing Live Gatherings."

Could it be that, as we continue to become the hyper-connected, we're also pushing back at attending more meetings in person? Not because we don't want to be there, but because getting there is such a pain?

And speaking of wanting to be there, what is it in a meetings agenda or program that makes us truly want to go?  This easily could be the next frontier in research for the meetings industry: proving when and how bringing people together face-to-face justifies the time, money and effort.

I don't what the the future holds in this regard, but I can tell you that I for one am happy to be at home on this Labour Day Monday. And if you'll excuse me my garden beckons...