What’s Frustrating Business Travelers — and What It Means for Event Organizers

Author: David McMillin       

Shrinking legroom on planes, uncomfortable beds in hotel rooms, traffic jams, and more — there are plenty of challenges awaiting travelers when they begin their journeys. Despite such a wide range of potential frustrations on the way from here to there, a new survey from the Global Business Travel Association Foundation reveals that the majority of travelers all agree on the most difficult aspect of being away from home: time spent in transit.

For event organizers, the results are a reminder that the attendee experience begins long before people ever pick up a name badge or take a seat in an educational session. It starts when they catch an early-morning cab to the airport to check bags, proceed through security, wait at the gate, board the plane — you know the drill. Traveling eats away at the minutes in the day.

Of course, the events industry can’t solve the challenges of wasted time. It’s up to someone else to build a Hyperloop or bring back the supersonic Concorde. However, organizers may want to think about all that lost time as they plan programming — carving out some blank space, for example, where attendees can catch up on the work they miss during all those hours in transit. This isn’t a new issue. Not quite two years ago, Claire Smith, CMP, vice president, sales and marketing for the Vancouver Convention Centre, discussed the challenges of the average action-packed conference agenda.

“I think we have to let go of trying to control our delegates,” Smith told me. “Meetings tend to be overly structured. We expect attendees to eat certain meals during certain times and sit in sessions at other times. The reality is that people are so busy and technologically connected to the office and home that this sense of control no longer work. We have to allow them to interact with the meeting in ways that will matter to them.”

As we near the end of 2017, Smith’s advice continues to resonate. Attendees are arriving with the feeling that airlines and taxis are using their hours inefficiently. It’s up to event organizers to send them home with the feeling that the conference, trade show, or meeting helped make up for some of that lost time.

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