Published in 2008 and written in an anecdotal first person perspective, Meeting Architecture is a book of observations and conclusions told through the lens of many of Maarten’s own career experiences. Maarten has been in the meetings industry since 1982 as President and CEO of Abbit Meeting Support based in Belgium, and was the 2011 winner of MPI’s Industry Leadership Award. His book is written in three parts: the history and overview of the meeting industry, the current outlook on a global scale, and a manifesto on the next generation of meeting planners.
The book’s content is rich with specific case studies and contextualizing statistics working in complement to illustrate the depth and impact of the meeting planner’s role in the world today. In its opening, Meeting Architecture traces the roots of Maarten’s own career in the meetings industry, recalling how the rapid evolutions in technical productions technologies fueled Maarten’s own career evolution from AV specialist to integrated meeting services. Maarten tells his story through the company he has founded and led since 1982, Abbit Meeting Support (originally Abbit Videos), and gives detailed accounts of inspirations he has drawn from the clients he’s worked with and the industry organizations he’s been involved with.
There is a wealth of industry organizations and publications that make up the world of meeting planning, and many of them are illustrated in this book. Statistics drawn from the Convention Industry Council, case studies from local Convention Visitors’ Bureaus, and publications from the Meeting Professionals International are all amongst the resources Maarten draws on for this book to illustrate the strategic technicalities and depths of work done in the meetings industry. The book is written in part as an overview of the industry, and also in part as a didactic medium for what it means to be a meeting planner. Through stories of his own career, Maarten gives his approach to fundamental competencies such as how to measure and drive ROI for meetings, how to generate and communciate meeting content, the different types of companies that come together to create one meeting, and how industry trends have evolved over the years.
Finally, Maarten ends the book the way the title suggested: with a manifesto on why the future of the industry needs to recognize the role of what he calls a “meeting architect”. Maarten proposes that with all the complexities and ways that meetings must adapt to rapidly evolving technologies and demands, what the industry needs is a new generation of planners who understand the strategic importance of meetings and can execute a holistic approach to meetings success. Improving education is key. One of Maarten’s key arguments is that universities must recognize the importance of this growing field and offer Masters programs dedicated to training this next generation of meeting planners. In the closing of this book, Maarten underscores the impact of the meetings industry once again with contextual statistics on how meetings is impacting numberous other industries in the hospitallity and media fields.
Meeting Architecture is a book as useful for aspiring students as it for seasoned professionals. Its contents are a dynamic balance between powerful case studies and witty anecdotes, and the impact of its ending manifesto resonates in the industry to this day. Since the publishing of this book, Masters Degrees in Event Management have been made available in universities around the globe, from Geroge Washington University in Washington DC to the Queen Margaret University in Scotland. Maarten’s thesis on the outlook of the meetings industry is that its economic impact will continue to expand as people increasingly begin to understand meeting production as a strategic and not just logistical endeavor. Since the publishing of this book, the industry has certainly be trending in this direction.
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