Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

December 22 2014

5 Key Takeaways From 2014

By David McMillin

Before the ball drops on December 31 and the meetings industry ushers in a new year, here’s a look at five key takeaways from 2014.

1) Your room block is getting some new competition.

As meeting planners work to make sure attendees book their accommodations at the meeting’s approved hotels, some attendees are starting to do more than simply search for cheaper hotels. They’re beginning to browse hotel alternatives such as Airbnb. With hotel rates expected to rise in 2015, planners will need to work harder than ever before to educate attendees on the benefits of staying in the middle of the meeting’s action at host hotels.

SEE ALSO: The Room Block Disruptor That Meeting Planners Are Talking About

2) You need to be tech-savvy — not tech-obsessed.

Planners and suppliers alike are focused on what’s next in event technology. While it’s important to have a willingness to experiment with these new tools, it’s equally essential to recognize that just because something is new doesn’t mean it’s better. Brian Scott, CIO, Experient, stresses the need to exercise caution when it comes to integrating new technologies.

“Our industry as a whole could benefit from slowing down and focusing solely on what the ROI for the attendee will be,” Scott told me in an interview on augmented reality, RFID and iBeacons. “Technological innovation is always exciting, but the best attendee experience isn’t always about delivering what’s new. It’s about allowing attendees to focus on the real reasons they come to shows — learning, networking and enjoying themselves.”

SEE ALSO: 3 Key Takeaways From Apple’s Product Launch Struggles

3) Authenticity trumps everything.

Before you start work on your next meeting marketing campaign, ask yourself one question: what can we do that feels less like a brand and more like a human being? The massive viral success of this year’s Ice Bucket Challenge should serve as a reminder that there is no substitute for a promotion that can connect on a personal, shareable level.

SEE ALSO: What Your Organization Can Learn From The Ice Bucket Challenge

4) The world of Wi-Fi is evolving.

Remember when you used to fork over an additional $15 each day for Wi-Fi while you were traveling? Well, those days appear to be coming to an end. Marriott recently announced that the 47 million members of its loyalty rewards program will enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi access in 2015. IHG has already been offering its loyalty members free Wi-Fi access. While more major brands may soon adopt a coffeehouse-with-complimentary-Wi-Fi mentality, don’t expect Wi-Fi in meeting spaces to follow that same trend.

“Bandwidth consumption is going up faster than costs are falling, and more aspects of meetings are starting to rely heavily on good quality Wi-Fi,” Matt Harvey, Vice President, Client Network Services, PSAV, told me earlier this year in a conversation about connectivity trends.

Hoteliers aren’t the only ones impacted by the way Wi-Fi is evolving. After reading a recent article about convention center trends, Bill Reed, FASAE, CMP, Senior Vice President, Sales, Experient, highlighted that big centers are facing challenges with Wi-Fi.

“The traditional model at convention centers is built upon outdated behavior models, and the infrastructure is not in place to support highly connected attendees,” Reed wrote. “More organizers are bringing their own network in order to get a flexible design of access point locations rather than the fixed locations built into the current convention center model for WiFi.”

SEE ALSO: Big Convention Center Gets Big Wi-Fi Upgrade

5) It’s time to get really serious about risk management.

Don’t have a risk management plan in place for your meeting? You’re not alone. A recent American Express Survey revealed that approximately half of planners and company leaders do not believe risk is mitigated in their organizations. While attendee safety issues, legal risks and data security have always been concerns, this year’s Ebola outbreak has served as a reminder that meeting planners must be prepared for everything.

DOWNLOAD: PCMA’s Free Emergency Action Plan Template

Looking for more highlights from 2014? Check out “The Most Memorable Quotes From The Meetings Industry This Year.”

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