What Is the Meetings Industry’s Biggest Challenge?

Every year, respondents to our annual Meetings Market Survey give answers to open-ended questions about the industry. Here are what they listed as the most pressing challenges in 2017.

When it comes to Convene’s Annual Meetings Market Survey results, words can speak more loudly than numbers. Each year, we pore over the comments to the open-ended questions at the end of the survey, finding the drama behind the data and parsing out trends from often-repeated remarks.

We are releasing the results of the Meetings Market Survey this week and, to complement the data, here are the responses to the question:

What is the number-one challenge facing the meetings industry?  

While costs remain the most commonly cited challenge, compared with last year’s survey, concerns about political upheaval and security were on the rise. Multiple planners also mentioned perceptions of the business events industry as a pain point. We’ll be adding answers to additional questions in the coming weeks.

Airbnb and other housing sites (two mentions)

Airline industry raising prices.

Alternative housing. The rising cost of audio-visual.

•  Attracting a younger crowd to the events.

Balancing supply and demand and keeping costs down for non-profits while allowing for decent and fair profits for

• Budgets (two mentions)

• Companies wanting more for less

• Continued growth

• Cost containment

• Costs, attendees travel budgets cut, the election

• Creative meetings and seminars methods

• Demonstrating and proving to attendees that the money they are spending to go to your convention is worth the return

• Economic uncertainty and possible political upheaval (three mentions)

• F&B expenses keep going up and hotels are looking at everything as a revenue opportunity: charging for lecterns, charging to store luggage, mandatory resort fees that have no value to a meeting guest, charging to check in to your guest room an hour or two before official check-in time even when a room is vacant and ready, charging $10 per person more when less than 50 people for a meal, forcing you to buy the Chef’s lunch buffet du jour or pay $10 per person more for a buffet where you know in advance what the menu is going to be, etc.

• F&B, taxes, and service charges getting insane

• Fighting for time and attention!

• Find me somebody who is in the business of having meetings … hotels are in the business of selling rooms, catering is selling food, airlines are selling seats. Who exactly is in ‘the meetings industry’? Meetings are just another revenue stream.

• Finding dates and space.

• Finding new ways to attract attendees. Keeping them interested in coming back year after year and not making it boring, but also not making it so different that the ones that like the way it was are turned off. It’s a fine line to walk.

• Flexible budgets

•  Government oversight. The more laws that are passed re: travel, tourism, meetings that aren’t suitable to our industry means we’re worse off

• Growing too fast for the average association to implement suggested changes.

• High demand for innovation technologies without any budget increase

• Hotel costs

• Housing (managing housing block, attendees booking outside the block, slippage at the last minute, etc.)

• Housing pirates. Keeping rates affordable in top-tier cities

• I feel, for people like me, the largest challenge is just pay for the work that meeting planners do. Those not directly involved typically don’t have any idea what goes into making an event happen seamlessly.

• Implementing format changes that we know would improve learning and retention. Too many groups (boards) are still wanting the same old lecture and PowerPoint formats with very little interaction.

• Increased costs

.• Increasing hotel room rates and lack of customer service from suppliers. … [T]he model seems to be focused on revenue generation, however, what seems like a small meeting or low-revenue generator could be a small piece to a larger puzzle. I likely will steer away from destinations, venues, or chains that don’t look at the big picture.

• Knowledgeable clients

• Lack of influence in the strategic planning of meetings, which results in a lack of buy-in.

• Lean staffing in recent years has led to poor-performing “meeting planners.”

• Meeting cross-generational attendee expectations.

• Meeting-registration rates in general are too high, millennials dealing with student loan debt are unable to afford it. (I am definitely not able to spend $1,000 on a registration — I pay almost $1,000 per month in student loans alone and I am 31 years old.)

• More governmental regulations; i.e., FSLA

• New technology means more virtual meetings.

• Not enough education specific to corporate leaders in our industry. I would like to see more leadership skills instead of just planning skills. When you are a director, your skill set will be a little different than planners.

• People want personalized experiences, and they’re willing to get it from non-traditional sources (i.e. not meetings).

• Perception of what we do from those outside our industry (three mentions)

• Trying to prove our worth.

• Proving the value and impact of our industry and those who work in it. Elevating the role of professionals in our industry from the “party planner” stereotype to a true business professional.

• Rising costs due to rising wages and negative impacts of labor regulations

• Rising costs for AV, food, and sleeping-room rates (two mentions)

• Security (two mentions)

• They keep throwing in all of this new technology, and it costs a lot of extra money. The prices keep rising and there are a lot of inexperienced people handling this market.

• The cost of doing business is increasing so fast. Webinars would be my vote for the No. 1 challenge — they provide credits without having to travel to and physically be engaged in trainings and meetings all to save money. What about networking, people?

• The infrastructure to support the technologies being introduced is lacking.

• The perception of travel safety/security.

• The seller’s market in the hotel industry.

• The threat of global terrorism.

• Too many underestimate the value of planning ahead, setting goals and objectives and measuring success.

• Using technology appropriately.

• Venue demand.

You can see how this year’s list compares with last year’s list here.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.