A recent survey conducted by Meeting Professionals International (MPI) indicates that a majority of meeting and event planners and suppliers are optimistic as business conditions continue to improve following an abysmal 2008-09. MPI membership is comprised of more than 24,000 members belonging to 70 chapters and clubs worldwide.
Sponsored by the MPI Foundation and American Express, the MPI Business Barometer is a bi-monthly “quantitative perspective of the global business of meetings and events.” It is a near-term study that reports what industry professionals are collectively thinking, doing and planning based on actual and anticipated economic conditions. The survey participants are members of MPI’s industry advisory panel, a group of senior-level meeting professionals.
“Overall, business conditions in April 2010 continued to improve,” as reported in the Business Barometer, April 2010 report. “In February 2010, we saw the first indication of an overall improvement in business conditions in 18 months. This trend continues and increases in April.”
Of those meeting and event professionals polled:
• 57 percent of respondents indicated that current business conditions are better this year compared to 2009.
• 67 percent of respondents project better upcoming business conditions for the remainder of 2010.
• 41 percent of respondents stated that the majority of new meetings and events activity is coming from the domestic corporate sector.
On the down side, respondents noted that a trend to shorter lead times is negatively affecting the meetings and events industry. The reasons for shorter lead times included greater budget and contract scrutiny, uncertainty regarding the speed of economic recovery and the reintroduction of meetings and events, which have been postponed in recent years.
“Meeting and event planners report difficulty evaluating options, assuring service levels, securing airlift, and identifying proper room block size in an environment of short lead times,” the report stated. “Summarily, meeting and event planners and suppliers both report greater difficultly accomplishing their objectives when lead times are abbreviated, especially in a growing market. The overarching concern is a possible diminishment of attendee experience.”
Other trends cited by survey respondents as affecting meetings and events business over the next six months include:
• Poor Perceptions/Coverage of Meetings
• Increasing Air Travel Costs
• More Web/Virtual Meetings
• Low Budgets/Budget Cuts
A conference hosted by MPI’s Orange County California chapter addressed the state of the meeting industry and many of the seminars and attendees echoed the findings noted in Business Barometer, April 2010. However, many attendees concurred the recent recession has forever altered how many meeting and events are planned and executed. About 200 meeting, event and tradeshow industry professionals attended the conference held at the Islands Hotel in Newport Beach April 14.
“We have to meet,” said Marci Dubois, corporate events manager for Taco Bell Corp. and a guest speaker for the session “The Future of Meetings – Setting the Reset Button”. “Virtual meetings do not work for us so we continue to get together, but what that looks like today has changed a lot. Our meetings are not the big extravagances they used to be because our budgets have been cut. Where we would have 1,500 people at a Ritz Carlton, we now have 300 people at a smaller brand (venue). We don’t hire Elton John or Collin Powell any more. Some of the hoopla is gone, but we are still getting together.”
Dubois added that even when the economy does pick up, Taco Bell will not likely return to how it managed its meeting and events in the past.
“We have learned to do a lot with a little,” Dubois said. “I don’t see us going back to the caviar and champagne days of the past any time soon because we have been effective with lower budgets, with less hoopla.”
Debb Duff, CMP, MPI Orange County board member, and sales manager for Freeman agrees that business is picking up from her perspective but still has a way to go to equal pre-recession activity. Freeman provides full service design and production resources for corporate events, exhibit programs, expositions and conventions across North America.
“Business is not doing as great as it was five years ago, but there is still a lot of movement in the industry and I believe we are on the upswing,” Duff said. “It’s certainly not going to get any worse.”
Those interested in the MPI’s Business Barometer, April 2010, can visit the web site at http://www.mpiweb.org/Education/Research/BusinessBarometer.aspx.
Aleta Walther is a marketing communications professional and freelance writer with several years experience as a corporate exhibit manager. Contact Aleta at: Aleta@prwriterpro.com.