Ask domestic meeting planners what their three biggest challenges are and they’ll say: budgets, lead times and keeping up with new technology. Those were the Top 3 concerns we heard from planners polled on LinkedIn.
Add a wider circle of U.S. and international meeting professionals to the mix, and anxieties expand to include economic uncertainty and fear of increased government regulation — big areas of concern for those surveyed in MPI’s June 2012 Business Barometer. Let’s take a closer look.
The increased cost of food, hotel and travel mixed with budgets that have shrunk or remained stagnant for years is causing many planners to rethink the traditional way of organizing events.
“The financial model for running large conventions is broken,” said one Business Barometer participant. “No one wants to pay for anything.”
As a result, MPI predicts that meetings will become more regional, local and virtual/hybrid in order to increase reach while decreasing costs.
The sponsorship potential of hybrid and virtual events, one survey respondent pointed out, will create a whole new revenue stream for event organizers. And the focus on reducing travel and spending money locally can be given a positive spin, as well. It will reduce considerably the carbon footprint of meetings and allow organizers to paint a picture of greater environmental responsibility.
Want to know how your peers have dealt with budget challenges during the recession? Here are three articles you may find helpful.
- Your questions answered: Meeting planners speak up at MPI-CEC
- Industry challenges and solutions: Cost-saving strategies that make cents
Short lead times
Way back in 2008, corporate meeting planners at PYM LIVE events were complaining that they used to have almost a year to plan their events and that their bosses were now asking them to turn it all around in three or four months. Today, they’re lucky if they get more than 30 days.
Unless you’re well-entrenched in the industry with a vast network of resources and contacts you can mobilize quickly, this is a stressful predicament. Finding a place to meet and doing so quickly is paramount, because every other detail and vendor contract hinges on setting those dates.
To make things more difficult, it’s now a seller’s market. But hotels have rebounded unevenly. Some properties have no problem accommodating last-minute business, while others choose to pass on a RFP in hopes that a better, bigger piece of business will come their way, especially if there are no room nights attached.
“When looking at the forecast, tentatives do not exist,” said one MPI hotelier surveyed for the Business Barometer. “It makes it hard to determine if budget can be achieved. It’s a Catch-22.”
The prevalence of online RFP providers has astronomically increased the amount of leads the hotel industry receives every day. But hotels are booking less business because the technology lets planners send RFPs to too many hotels at once, explained Zentila founder and ZEO Mike Mason at 2012 PYM LIVE events.
Hotel sales teams are drowning in a sea of “lead spam” that they don’t have time to sort through, he said. Planners get frustrated because they don’t hear anything back. And hoteliers don’t send responses because they don’t know if they even have a chance to book the business.
That’s why Mason created Zentila, an online search engine that specializes in helping planners source venues and book meetings that will take place within the next 90 days. The intuitive drag-and-drop system features an impressive list of U.S. hotels and is expanding to help space-only meetings find appropriate (and welcoming) venues.
A time limit ensures that planners will receive completed bids within three hours. Hoteliers are incentivized to respond quickly because they can see who they’re bidding against and know that they are one of only a handful of options the planner is considering. It’s an elegant solution to the pain of planning short-term meetings. See how it works HERE.
The hottest trend in meeting technology is the growth of hybrid/virtual events because they can dramatically increase an event’s reach, save money and make events more interactive. So it’s no surprise that learning how to execute one has become an in-demand topic of education.
In anticipation of this, PCMA partnered with the Virtual Edge Institute in 2011 to offer its members increased educational resources about this technology. The Virtual Edge Institute also offers certification for planners who wish to become digital event strategists.
If you’re interested in learning more about planning hybrid/virtual events, you can watch this hourlong hybrid event how-to session, streamed live to three MPI chapters in North Florida simultaneously on Feb. 14, 2012. The other video on the PYM Livestream channel (18 min.) discusses the pros and cons of hybrid events.
But, of course, there’s a lot more to technology than virtual and hybrid events. For stories about technologies that could save you time, money or help you plan more engaging experiences, check out the Meeting Technology 101 series. To learn more about how to leverage technology to market events, read our Technology Primer series.
Next week: Economic uncertainty and government regulation