As the meetings industry prepares to kick off Convening Leaders, many leaders are already hard at work in Orlando addressing some of the key challenges planners and suppliers will face this year. At this morning’s Industry Business Forum for Local Leaders, Bruce MacMillan, president and CEO, Bandwidth Management, and Roger Rickard, partner, Revent, welcomed representatives from CVBs, convention centers, hotels and other suppliers for a candid discussion of how to attract group business and continue to promote the value of the meetings industry to the public as a whole.
MacMillan highlighted statistics from the American Express Meetings & Events 2013 Global Meetings Forecast, which show that the industry will need to adjust to increases in airfare and group hotel rates in 2013. These changes could carry serious implications for attendance numbers. Some attendees may face challenges in getting their organizations to pay for more expensive experiences. Others may struggle to personally justify covering their own higher travel costs.
The answer for the industry: make sure that meetings are “always on.”
Always on means embracing new technology so that no matter where attendees are, they’ll be able to be part of the experience. It’s a phrase coined by Kati Quigley, senior director, worldwide partner community events, Microsoft, but the rationale applies to corporations and associations of all sizes and industries. On a panel of planners who shared their insights with these local leaders, Quigley says her team’s thinking is that hybrid is no longer an option. It’s a necessity.
Hybrid: A Friend of Face-to-Face Meetings
For planners and suppliers alike, the explosion of hybrid may seem like trouble. Will everyone stay home? Will room blocks go unfilled? Will fewer attendees be spending money at restaurants in host locations? Done right, the answer to all of these questions is “no.”
MacMillan and Rickard stressed that hybrid technology is not a threat to the industry. It’s a support mechanism, one that can inspire first-time hybrid attendees to figure out a way to be part of the real deal the following year. While technology can help connect hybrid attendees with valuable education materials, it cannot replace the human connection that makes face-to-face meetings so valuable.
“We’re not trying to duplicate what’s on-site in terms of networking and connecting people because we still want people to come to the event,” Johnnie White, CMP, executive director, Cardiovascular Research Foundation and incoming Chairman of PCMA, says.
Consider the hybrid element somewhat of a teaser that can introduce members of an audience to some of what an experience can offer. If the introduction is strong enough, it will inspire them to join on-site the following year to discover the full benefits, spend money in hotels and be part of the massive economic impact of the industry.
For planners who are not offering a hybrid extension, this means it’s time to start exploring your options for extending your audience to remote parts of the world. For suppliers, it’s crucial to ensure that your infrastructure can support the necessary bandwidth to engage those off-site attendees.
For a glimpse of a meeting that will always be on over the next few days, register for the Convening Leaders Hybrid