The corporate meetings and events industry is thriving. In virtually every category—from training seminars, to leadership summits, to product demos and customer-centric gatherings of all types—experts are seeing record numbers of events being held and more meeting spaces being opened or expanded in 2019.
According to a new report, planners expect significant growth in the overall numbers of meetings and attendees as business seek to engage and train more attendees with more events and meetings.
But even more changes are afoot. As meeting and training planners juggle shifting budget constraints, attendee experience demands and corporate ROI expectations, the one thing everyone should definitely expect more of: Change.
Here are five of the biggest changes anticipated to happen in the corporate meeting and training event industry in the coming year in order to help you optimize your meeting planning moving forward.
1. More Focus on Participant "Engagement" and "Experience"
We live an era of customized experiences. In fact, the Millennial generation doesn't really know life before the digital revolution, where businesses now target specific groups tailored to their unique needs and wants.
As such, planners are employing varying strategies to engage participants in their meetings aimed at building brand loyalty, event engagement and, of course, just mere attendance.
"Depending on the meeting type, people have choices as to whether they will attend," observes Issa Jouaneh, Senior Vice President and General Manager of American Express Meetings & Events. In his company's annual global meetings and events forecast, Jouaneh states, Once the choice is made to attend, the level of attendee engagement is directly correlated with the experience. With more event choices than ever, the attendee experience has become a differentiator and a key driver in achieving the meeting or event objectives.”
Industry research shows that meeting participants desire to have more than a business gathering—they are seeking venues that provide a hands-on experience. As a result, planners are placing an increased emphasis on the quality and cuisine options of catering, crafting an agenda that is creative and stimulating, including specialized coffee bars or lounge areas, and choosing locations other than, say, a hotel or conference center. Some are even looking at breaking giant meetings into several smaller ones to create a more intimate atmosphere of less than fifty participants at a time.
In the aforementioned 2019 forecast report, a meeting professional in Germany summed up the challenge: “The goal is to reach out and really engage the audience. That means people are not just listeners, they are completely integrated into the event. There needs to be plenty of opportunity for them to give feedback, raise ideas, and have virtual and live options to come together with ideas. It’s how the space is set up, how you use technology, how you design the sessions, and the venues you choose.”
2. Hotel Meeting Rates Will Rise
A recent survey found that meeting planners anticipate an increase in group
hotel rates, with North American rates rising the highest at an estimated 2.41% (comparatively Europe is at 1.61% while Asia Pacific and Central and South America increases will be closer to 1%).
Hoteliers have acknowledged the rate increase, citing a corresponding rise in demand, actually forecasting an increased booking rate of over 2.2% globally.
This expected rate increase could motivate planners to seek alternative venue options, particularly at smaller meeting centers that focus specifically on the corporate client. In many hotels, your business meeting could be happening in the same ballroom where a wedding occurred the night before—which doesn't necessarily equate to a very customized experience. Also challenging for hotels is that many don't offer all-inclusive pricing packages that can save money for businesses. It is reportedly still common for hotels to charge costs line item by line item based on the meeting or event. This can create uncertainty in budgeting and make it potentially more difficult to control costs.
3. An Increased Emphasis on Technology
Industry research shows that face-to-face meetings in person are the preferred method of meetings for the vast majority of events. However, for reasons of convenience and sometimes cost-savings, planners are increasingly requiring virtual technology to allow remote participants to attend meetings.
As Milton Rivera, Vice President, Business Development and Strategy for American Express Meetings & Events observes, “In the last 18 months, there has been an explosion of technology emerge for every part of the end-to-end meetings and events process."
4. More Internal Meetings and Training Events
We have found that around 30% of all meetings in North America involve internal team and training meetings. Whether it is technical training, employee on-boarding, or stakeholder meetings and seminars, businesses are seeking to engage even more with internal team members.
In this Gig Economy, where technology is involved in virtually every aspect of modern work life, keeping employees knowledgeable and up-to-speed with the latest technology will only become more of a challenge.
And with the currently robust economy leading to record low levels of unemployment, there is as big a need as ever to train new employees, in addition to developing knowledge of existing workers for competitive and retention reasons.
Stay informed: Read our complimentary training program planning guide!