Smaller Budgets, Bigger Risks

A host of Conversation Starters — small group discussions on a range of hot-button topics — were held for in-person and digital participants at Convening Leaders 2022. Here are some takeaways.

Author: Michelle Russell       

small group discussion at CL22

Conversation Starters at Convening Leaders 2022 gave both in-person and digital participants a chance to discuss a range of hot-button topics. (Jacob Slaton Photography)

The new realities of holding digital, hybrid, and in-person events were discussed in Las Vegas and online last month during CL22 in topic-based, facilitator-led, 30-minute, small-group discussions. Eighteen different Conversation Starter sessions gave participants a chance to share their ideas and challenges and learn from their peers on topics ranging from how to mine data insights at digital events to leadership lessons and leaving a legacy. Volunteers took notes on the main discussion points. We share some of those takeaways from a few sessions, below.

Session: How Have You Hacked Your Budget to Stretch and Scale Your Event?

As participants brainstormed, it became clear that planners need to know their audience well in order to decide how to trim costs at their events.

Options to be considered:

  1. If we cut breakfast completely, but they need coffee, then they’re going to be angry.
  2. Will they be okay with a print-at-home badge?
  3. What are their production expectations?
  4. Does anyone really go back and listen to post-event recordings?
  5. Will they miss the floral budget?
  6. Will they RSVP to help fine-tune meal counts?
  7. Do you really need a 50AMP drop when a 20AMP would do?
  8. Will they miss signage and instead use the mobile app?
  9. Will they notice the difference if you cut back from a six-piece per-person to a four-piece per person catering order?

Session: How can Buyers and Sellers Collaborate Better to Overcome Challenges and Create New Offerings?

  • Collaboration between hotels and planners can help alleviate the stress around the constant changes that COVID presents.
  • Planners should tell venues what they know about their attendance numbers and tentative plans as much as they are able.
  • Hotels should tell planners the best way to approach cancellations or changes in the program in order to ensure success on both sides.
  • Staffing issues can be addressed by all parties: hotels, convention centers, planners, and CVBs.
  • CVBs can provide insight and support to planners to help adapt to an ever-changing event landscape.

Session: Room Blocks and Shared Risk Structures (Digital Group)

  • The majority of participants shared that they are still in limbo for how meetings in 2022 are going to go.
  • Many agreed that for their rooms blocks currently contracted, they are finding that the hotel/venue reps they have been working with for years are no longer there —they have either retired, moved to a different position, or chosen not to return to a job in the industry. As a result, they are finding a need to redevelop the relationships. Participants found this difficult after spending years cultivating the old relationships.
  • One participant successfully hosted an in-person meeting in Q4 2021. Despite a decrease in registrations, this planner met their contract room block minimum and felt this was due to the fact the hotel was really the only one around, so attendees were not able to book outside of the block. Another association group ran the risk of paying cancellation damages should the group need to continue rescheduling events. It was shared that many associations are pulling from their reserve funds to pay cancellation damages.
  • Another risk many are concerned with is the cost of airfare and fare inflations. Some of the attendees of the planners in the discussion are only allowed to charge back a certain number of room nights and if they are not able to get a flight home or the fare is too high, they would be responsible for paying an additional room night on their own.
  • Another participant just contracted for their group from 2026 – 2034. This was a difficult task to accomplish especially because for two years (during the pandemic) no room blocks were needed. In order to plan for those future blocks, this group used the room block history from the last five years (excluding the pandemic years).
  • Everyone agrees that many factors will be considered when it comes to room blocks in the future but feel the location of the event plays a large part in their audience’s decision to attend.

Room Blocks and Shared Risk Structures (in-Person Group)

  • Communication about the upcoming event is key — the host organization needs to be transparent and to communicate early and often.
  • If at all possible, don’t cancel your program. Show up and hold the event — it shows intent.
  • If you must reduce your room block, expect to reduce meeting space as well.
  • Most folks are having positive experiences with good faith renegotiations but there is still a lot of uncertainty/anxiety around the risk of these discussions not going well
  • Suppliers need cash influx to staff and support the event and planners may need to expect to make more advance payments and deposits.

Watch CL22 Sessions

Convening Leaders 2022 attendees, don’t miss your chance to peek behind-the-scenes in our MashUp Studios, or re-watch the Main Stage and other sessions for education credits in JUNO’s CL22 Library. On-demand access to CL22 content is available through March 12, 2022.