What’s the Meetings Industry’s Biggest Challenge?

Author: Convene Editors       

When it comes to Convene’s Annual Meetings Market Survey results, words can speak louder than numbers. Each year, we get a sense for the big-picture direction of the meetings industry as we pore over your individual answers to open-ended questions like this one: What’s the number-one challenge facing the meetings industry?  

In last year’s survey, rising costs were the most commonly cited challenge — “F&B, taxes, and service charges are getting insane” was one response — but concerns about political upheaval and security were also on the rise. Planners additionally mentioned housing, perceptions of the business events industry, and the need for education focused on business strategy and leadership for meeting professionals among top challenges.

We’ll share more comments from the survey below, but first want to ask you to participate in the 2017 Meetings Market Survey. You’ll have the opportunity to contribute your experience and point of view, and you’ll be entered into a random drawing to win a $250 American Express gift card as a thank you. We’ll publish the results in the March 2018 issue of Convene.

Now, on to what survey respondents had to say about the biggest challenges to the meetings industry in last year’s survey, listed in alphabetical order:

  Airbnb and other housing sites 

  Airline industry raising prices

•  AV costs

•  Attracting a younger crowd to the events

•  Budgets 

•  Companies that want more for less

•  Cost containment

•  Costs; attendees travel budgets cut

•  Creative meetings and seminars methods

•  Demonstrating and proving to attendees that the money they are spending to attend a convention is worth the return.

•  Economic uncertainty and possible political upheaval

•  F&B expenses keep going up and hotels are looking at everything as a revenue opportunity, such as charging for lecterns, charging to store luggage, and charging mandatory resort fees that have no value to a meeting guest.

•  F&B taxes and service charges are getting insane.

• Fighting for time and attention

•  Finding somebody who is in the business of having meetings. Hotels are in the business of selling rooms, catering is selling food, airlines are selling seats. Who exactly is in the meetings industry? 

•  Finding dates and space

•  Finding new ways to attract attendees. Keeping them interested in coming back year after year and not making it boring, but also not making it so different that the ones that like the way it was are turned off. It’s a fine line to walk.

•  Flexible budgets

•  Government oversight. The more laws that are passed regarding travel, tourism, and meetings that aren’t suitable to our industry means we’re worse off.

•  Growth

•  Growing too fast for the average association to implement suggested changes.

•  High demand for innovation technologies without any budget increase

•  Hotel costs

•  Housing (managing a housing block, attendees booking outside the block, slippage at the last minute, etc.)

•  Housing pirates; keeping rates affordable in top-tier cities

•  Implementing format changes that we know would improve learning and retention. Too many groups (boards) are still wanting the same old lecture and PowerPoint formats with very little interaction.

• Increased costs

• Increasing hotel room rates and lack of customer service from suppliers. The model seems to be focused on revenue generation, however, what seems like a small meeting or low-revenue generator could be a small piece to a larger puzzle. 

• Knowledgeable clients

•  Lack of influence in the strategic planning of meetings, which results in a lack of buy-in.

•  Lean staffing in recent years has led to poor-performing “meeting planners.”

•  Meeting cross-generational attendee expectations

•  More governmental regulations; i.e., FSLA

•  New technology means more virtual meetings.

•  Not enough education specific to corporate leaders in the industry. There needs to be more leadership skills instead of just planning skills. 

•  Pay for the work that meeting planners do. Those not directly involved typically don’t have any idea what goes into making an event happen seamlessly.

•  People want personalized experiences, and they’re willing to get it from nontraditional sources (i.e. not meetings).

• Perception of what planners do from those outside the meetings industry

• Trying to prove the worth of meeting planners

• Proving the value and impact of the industry and those who work in it; elevating the role of professionals in our industry from the “party planner” stereotype to a true business professional.

•  Rising costs due to rising wages and negative impacts of labor regulations

•  Rising costs for AV, food, and sleeping-room rates

•  Security

•  Technology — particularly new technology — costs a lot of extra money. The prices keep rising and there are a lot of inexperienced people handling this market.

•  The infrastructure to support the technologies being introduced is lacking.

•  The perception of travel safety/security

•  The seller’s market in the hotel industry

•  The threat of global terrorism

•  Too many underestimate the value of planning ahead, setting goals and objectives, and measuring success.

•  Using technology appropriately

•  Venue demand

•  Webinars provide credits without having to travel to and physically be engaged in trainings and meetings all to save money. What about networking, people?

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