Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 2013

Convene's 22nd Annual Meetings Market Survey

By Michelle Russell, Editor in Chief

Up, Up, and (Sort of) Away

Things are looking up, according to the meeting professionals who took part in this year's Meetings Market Survey. Respondents say that over the last year, they've experienced growth in key indicators of industry health — attendance, exhibitors, size of exhibition space, and budgets — and in general they paint a brighter picture for meetings in 2013. But some vestiges of the recession remain, and doing more with less now seems the standard business model. “I think the No. 1 challenge,” one respondent commented, “is being creative with your budget.” Turn the page to learn how planners have taken stock of their 2012 events — and are sizing up what lies ahead.

Let's get right to it, because it is good news. The majority of this year's Meetings Market Survey respondents told us that 2012 was a better year for meetings than 2011 — from corporate training sessions for 50 employees to exhibitions with tens of thousands of attendees. Moreover, they expect a continued uptick throughout this year.

Stack the 2012 survey results against the 2011 survey results, and you'll see only plus signs down the line, however slight some of the increases may be. Here's a look at some of the average gains earned and anticipated:

  • Size of 2012 convention/meeting budget vs. 2011 convention/meeting budget +2.1 percent
  • Size of 2013 convention/meeting budget vs. 2012 convention/meeting budget (projected) +1.5 percent
  • 2012 attendance vs. 2011 attendance +3.7 percent
  • 2013 attendance vs. 2012 attendance (projected) +2 percent
  • Number of 2012 exhibitors vs. 2011 exhibitors +2.5 percent
  • Number of 2013 exhibitors vs. 2012 exhibitors (projected) +2.2 percent

These positive indicators have convinced most planners that the meetings industry has stabilized. Many expressed concerns, however. Among them:

  • Rising costs — “We want our suppliers to be successful,” one respondent wrote, “but are anxious about pricing — not to mention the increase in flight and airline charges.”
  • A lingering negative perception — Overcoming the “bad publicity of events that spend much more than they should” was what a corporate planner said topped a list of challenges.
  • “The cost-to-value ratio” — That's what a respondent termed it. “Being out of the office is a cost just like registration expenses, and a lot of organizations simply can't have people out of the office for three days at a time.”
  • Restrictions for government-employee attendees — This was often cited as a major hurdle. The government sector is “hypersensitive to cost issues,” wrote one planner, “because of various scandals.”

The rough patch that planners went through over the last few years has forced them to trim the fat; many said they continue to cut back on F&B and AV costs and remain vigilant about avoiding waste. For others, economic pressures have opened the door to different opportunities. “We are experimenting with virtual content capture and streaming,” one respondent wrote. “We anticipate that not everyone can travel to meetings as much in the future, and are also reaching out to those that are likely never to attend — in developing countries.”

What's the overall sentiment about the state of the meetings industry today and in the near future? Mostly positive, although planners’ comments reveal mixed feelings. “I foresee 2013 into 2014 being the best years for the meeting and travel industry since the early-'90s!” wrote one respondent with a decidedly glass-half-full perspective. “People are craving the face-to-face connection. All the technology has now created something of a disconnect. Meeting in person creates more of a fun and interactive event instead of a boring educational event. Meeting planners are asked to raise the bar at every turn so that they will increase attendance each year.”

The planners who participated in this year's survey seem up to that challenge.



38% Professional

24% Trade

24% Medical or health care


3% Other

Respondents who work for associations were most likely to be employed at a professional association (38 percent), medical/health-care association (24 percent), or trade association (24 percent). Eleven percent worked for SMERF organizations, similar to last year's respondent composition — although this year, medical meeting professionals and trade association meeting professionals represented a larger percentage of respondents than last year. Respondents who worked for associations were more likely to work for one that was international (47 percent) than national (42 percent).


27% Fewer than 1,000

24% 1,000 - 4,999

13% 5,000 - 9,999

12% 10,000 - 24,999

9% 25,000 - 49,999

15% 50,000 or more

Association professionals responding to the survey were employed at associations that vary greatly in size, from under 1,000 to 50,000 members; approximately half (51 percent) worked for associations with fewer than 5,000 members.

Average: 14,917 members



39% Fewer than 1,000

26% 1,000 - 4,999

6% 5,000 - 9,999

14% 10,000 - 24,999

4% 25,000 - 49,999

11% 50,000 or more

Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of corporate meeting professionals responding to the survey worked at companies employing fewer than 5,000 individuals.

Average: 10,951 employees


30% Professional services

17% Technology

7% Consumer goods

7% Manufacturing

7% Pharmaceutical

39% Other

Respondents employed in the corporate world were most likely to work for a professional-services firm (30 percent) and to work for a company with an international market base (51 percent).


35% 1 - 5

16% 6 - 10

15% 11 - 20

34% 20+

More than one-third of respondents (34 percent) planned more than 20 meetings per year, and nearly two-thirds (65 percent) planned at least six meetings per year. Close to three-fourths of respondents (72 percent) expected their total number of meetings in 2013 to remain the same, while 22 percent expected it to increase; 6 percent expected to plan fewer meetings this year.

The average for association professionals: 11; independent planners: 12; corporate planners: 13. The overall average among all respondents: 11.



16% None

33% 1

18% 2

18% 3 - 5

5% 6 - 10

10% 10+

A majority of respondents (84 percent) hold at least one event with an exhibit every year, the same percentage as last year's results.

Average: 3


3% Less than $50,000

7% $50,000 - $99,999

9% $100,000 - $249,999

17% $250,000 - $499,999

12% $500,000 - $999,999

23% $1 million - $2.5 million

29% More than $2.5 million

Close to one-third of respondents (29 percent) reported that their organization's total convention/meeting budget in 2012 exceeded $2.5 million, and more than half (52 percent) indicated that it was $1 million or more.

Average: $1.3 million vs. $1.27 million in 2011 survey


Respondents indicated that the average total budget for their largest 2012 event with an exhibition was $1.9 million (up from $1.5 million in last year's survey results).


Respondents indicated that the average total budget for their largest 2012 event without an exhibition was $800,000, up slightly from last year's survey budget of $782,338, but down significantly from a high of more than $900,000 budgeted for 2009.


The largest group of respondents (62 percent) reported that their convention/meeting budget stayed the same in 2012 compared to 2011. More than one-fourth (28 percent) reported that it increased, while 10 percent reported their budget went down.

Average change: +2.1 percent compared to +0.

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