Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 17 2013

Unlimited Possibilities

Jill Formeister

“Doing more with less” was one of the consistent themes discussed during both panels at the Industry Xchange: The Unlimited Possibility of Meetings at Navy Pier on July 10. The second annual event was a collaborative event presented by Meeting Planners International (MPI) Chicago Area Chapter, GMC PCMA, Association Forum of Chicagoland, GMIC, ISES, Site, IAEE Midwestern Chapter, EDPR Midwest, HSMAI, and GBTA. Katie Callahan-Giobbi, V.P. of Sales, Minding Your Business, Inc., moderated the panels.

The first panel pinpointed trends in the meeting industry. Panelists included: Scott Graf, Global President, BCD Meetings & Incentives; Don Welsh, President and CEO, Choose Chicago; and Christie A. Tarantino, FASAE, CAE, President and CEO, Association Forum of Chicagoland.

Don noted that technology was the biggest consideration a few years ago, replaced now by the need “to do more with less.” Scott pointed out that third party firms not only are expected to do more with less, they must also be quick and nimble. Christie agreed that many associations feel a similar push to maximize products and services with limited resources.

Outsourcing, another hot topic, was described by Scott as being “in vogue,” and that it makes sense to use one company rather than 20. Don noted that Chicago actually hosts more meetings than originally counted, as it learned that third party firms do some of the booking. Panelists observed that outsourcing allows staff to do what they do best and to focus on the members.

The panel also tackled the issue of “free” convention center space and agreed that this model cannot be sustained because of building upgrades, increased technology needs, requests for free wi-fi, and other items on groups’ no-charge wish lists.

Moving on to Millennials, the panel agreed that this generation is focused, eager, and well-prepared to enter the workforce. They have taken advantage of the opportunities available to them. Departing from traditional practices, they expect site visits to be short, allowing time to see hotels and convention centers, obtain information, and then leave. They deal with the personal side later. Millennials do not stay at any job longer than three to five years, which is a challenge for employers.

The panel’s final observations concerned CEOs, who often must be risk-takers rather than doing the same things the same way they have always been done.

The second panel focused on the impact of current trends on organizations. Participants were: Greg Fine, Global CEO, Turnaround Management Association; Susan Katz, Director of Corporate Events & Travel, True Value Company; and Paul Markowski, CAE, EVP & CEO, American College of Chest Physicians.

With so many external factors vying now for members’ attention, the panel identified top concerns as enhancing meeting value, increasing attendee engagement, and member retention.

Both panels stressed the need to understand a meeting’s purpose before beginning the planning process.  This knowledge should then inform the meeting’s development, choice of venue, changes or innovations, etc.