Is Smaller Better? The Trend toward Smaller and Shorter Meetings


Image courtesy of Omni Hotels

According to a recent survey conducted by meetings software company Active Events, half of all 2012 eRFPs tracked across the study’s five major cities were for meetings of 0 to 50 people, an increase of 5 percent over 2008. In addition, over the same time period, the number of events of 51 to 100 people fell 2 percent, while the number of meetings of 101 to 250 participants fell 3 percent. This survey agrees with other information suggesting that despite continued economic recovery, the impact of the recession will be long lasting and may permanently change the way businesses plan and conduct their meetings.

The growth in the number of smaller meetings comes from small, medium, and large enterprises and associations and is taking place in destinations across the United States. Originally motivated simply by the downturn in the economy, the trend toward smaller and shorter meetings represents a shift in a number of areas: the continued development in meetings technology, the need for shorter lead times and planning windows, and the wish to avoid appearing lavish and extravagant in a lean business environment.

These trends have a far-reaching impact on the meetings industry. There has been a shift away from choosing resorts in favor of downtown hotels. Destinations that offer more direct flights or more travel options are winning out over their competitors. Significantly, venues that are capable of offering smaller meeting spaces are finding themselves on level footing with large convention halls, competing for events that had not traditionally been available to them.

The 2014 American Express Global Meetings and Events Forecast sees an increase in total meetings and total meetings attendance, yet it reports that total meeting expenditures are expected to hold steady. Companies are still trying to maximize their meetings dollars, and smaller and/or shorter meetings help reduce costs in lodging, meals, transportation, and venue rental.


Image courtesy of Mount Pleasant Granary

The AmEx survey suggests that stability in meetings growth will continue into 2015, with more organizations committing to future events than in the past several years. However, this long-range increase is incremental, giving small venues that don’t require long lead times or planning windows an advantage. The meeting budgets for many companies are not approved until the latest financial data is available. All of this information taken together means that there is a market for venues that have not traditionally seen themselves as competing for those dollars.

Taking advantage of these trends, the “non-traditional” business meeting venue must be able to offer more than simply having small and inexpensive conference rooms. During the lean years from 2008 to 2013, technology and connectivity became crucial components that every facility has to offer. Fast and easily accessible Wi-Fi along with remote conferencing hardware and software went from being a competitive advantage to a baseline requirement. Properly trained support staff and updated equipment are investments that offer a tangible return and will help capture a greater share of the small-meetings market.

To fully take advantage of the long-term changes in the meetings industry, venues that can offer small-meetings services need to effectively promote themselves to their potential customers. eVenues offers small and medium-sized facilities the means to quickly and clearly show how they’re geared to provide the perfect meeting space.

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