To the Point

Positive Results

It was a good year for meetings, but how can we maximize attendance in the future?

Convene’s annual Meetings Market Survey paints a comprehensive picture of the state of the meetings industry. In the survey’s 24-year history, our industry has had its share of ups and downs. But this year, the news continues to be positive.  Attendance is up almost 5 percent and the total number of exhibitors is up 2.3 percent. What’s even better:

Projections call for continued growth on both fronts this year.

Yet despite the improving economy, meeting professionals are still being asked to cut expenses. In particular, 74 percent of you said food and beverage expenses are on the chopping block. And when asked about your top challenges and concerns, raising the profile of meeting professionals and promoting the value of face-to-face meetings were frequently mentioned.

While current numbers are positive, we must continue to look ahead — to push ourselves to reinvent our meeting experiences, to attract new audiences, and to promote the value of face-to-face meetings. That’s why PCMA partnered with The EXPERIENCE Institute and the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) to bring you another important study — The Decision to Attend Study.

As a result of in-depth research with more than 7,100 prospective or current attendees, we have gathered new insights into attendees as consumers and what motivates them to attend face-to-face meetings. As the year goes on, our goal is to work with meeting professionals and destination management organizations to develop new industry strategies to maximize attendance. After all, when attendance is up and attendees enjoy a positive destination experience, everyone wins.

What is especially valuable is how the research shows the importance of the destination experience, the extent to which attendees play the role of consumer travelers when attending a meeting, and how strongly face-to-face meetings are valued, even by Millennials.

Phase Two of the study will gather information from meeting and exhibition professionals, as well as DMOs. Ultimately, we aim to lead a change in the way we define the attendee as “the customer,” to provide feedback to destination leaders in terms of shaping their overall experience, and to develop best practices and strategies to maximize attendance.
I hope you take advantage of this important opportunity to shape the future of the meetings industry. Please be sure to take a few minutes to participate in a short survey at We’ll share more results in the year ahead.

Deborah Sexton

Deborah Sexton is president and CEO of PCMA.