When event planners talk about their biggest pain points, the issues that come up over and over include shrinking lead times, rapidly changing technology, disappearing budgets, and demonstrable return on investment in the conference itself. Many of these issues are new to the business and have only arisen in the past few years during the sweeping changes to the meetings industry brought on by a lean economy.
Shorter Lead Times
Industry professionals invariably mention shortened lead times as a modern challenge. Given that many organizations donâ€™t know what their meetings or event budgets will be until the most recent fiscal results are available, the planning cycle has shrunk from one or two years down to months or even weeks. Tish Davis, CEO of Elegant Event Sitters
, says, â€œComing to someone two weeks before and expecting a flawless shindig for 1,000 isnâ€™t impossible, but it is a lot of pressure to put on yourself and on your planner.â€ However, Davis notes that this is happening with greater frequency.
Keeping Pace with Technology
Image courtesy of adventurejay.com
Incorporating technology into meetings has grown from being a novelty to a necessity. The use of mobile devices has conditioned meetings and event attendees to expect information and interactivity to be constantly available. An event website now includes apps, mobile sites, and the use of pre-existing social media channels to enhance meeting attendance and experience. Recording and repurposing data and presentations at conferences and meetings is commonplace.
The term that has come to describe meetings that involve both face-to-face interaction and virtual technology is â€œhybrid events.â€ Meetings technology provider INXPO
describes the advantages of hybrid meetings, which may include extending the reach of your traditional audience, reaching new groups of customers, cutting costs, and generating additional revenue.
Shrinking Budgets and Controlling Costs
Most planners agree that the â€œtraditionalâ€ cost structure for meetings and events has permanently disappeared; in its place is a shift toward smaller meetings of shorter duration, scheduled regionally or locally to reduce travel and expenses. Sponsorships that were traditionally geared toward large signage and big dinners or receptions have moved into the virtual realm, creating new revenue potential at the aforementioned hybrid events.
Meeting and event planners have to prepare for these changes and the clientâ€™s expectations that go with them. Industry experts at Plan Your Meetings suggest such several tactics that will help you control costs while still presenting a memorable event. Consider writing everything that needs to be controlled into the contract, sign multi-year agreements, and make sure you receive credit for any unused comps.
Image courtesy of Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall
As cost-consciousness has driven visible changes within the industry, one of the invisible impacts is the desire to measure the return of the investment (ROI) in the meeting or event. Itâ€™s no longer enough to simply put on a great event and walk away.
The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials
offers a succinct primer on discovering the return on investment in a conference. First, planners must measure discrete expenses like registration, travel, lodging, local transportation, per diems, and other costs. Beyond that, however, are more intangible benefits: Do meeting sessions have relevance to your companyâ€™s work? Does the conference introduce tools and technologies that will benefit your organization? Will you meet new vendors and make important contacts while youâ€™re there? Does the conference highlight industry best practices or offer actual training?
An organizationâ€™s ROI will depend on finding out the answers to as many of these questions as possible as early as possible and then applying the benefits of the conference to the real-life work setting after the conference is over. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
suggests creating worksheets to track the value of participation in a conference and then, significantly, communicating that value to management afterwards.