As you’ll see from this year’s Meetings Industry Forecast, our industry’s short-term future is bright. Hotel occupancy is up, all sectors of the exhibitions industry are growing, and value ratings for exhibitions are strong. Yet there are challenges — the seller’s market in the United States, shrinking travel budgets, rising costs, and meeting disruptors.
With that in mind, here are five opportunities the forecast brings to light.
1. Put meeting content to work
Many organizations make their incredible face-to-face education sessions a “one-and-done” proposition. As TechSavvy Global CEO Scott Steinberg points out, you can harness that meeting content and use it again for many purposes, including to market your event, organization, or cause; to engage attendees and members throughout the year; and to attract virtual audiences.
2. Virtual meetings add value
Speaking of virtual, are you taking advantage of this opportunity for additional revenue, potential new in-person attendees, and increased engagement? American Express Meetings & Events’ recent survey indicates that planners are out of step with attendee interest in this area: 63 percent of attendees said they would attend more meetings and events virtually if that option were made available, yet in a separate survey, 48 percent of planners said that they did not think attendees would attend more meetings and events virtually if given the opportunity.
3. Keep your eye on technology
It’s worth staying on top of some tools, like virtual and augmented reality, because they will get less expensive and improve in quality in the next few years, and their potential to engage attendees is amazing. Wearables — including smart watches, bracelets, and badges — are extremely promising when used to help attendees enhance their meeting experience, not just to help organizers learn more about their behavior.
4. Go global If the U.S. seller’s market has you down, or if your organization or attendees want to explore new destinations, now is an excellent time to consider taking your meeting abroad. You also can’t ignore China’s growing popularity: It has overtaken the U.K. and France to become the third-largest exhibitions market in the world. Other options include markets in Mexico and the Gulf region, where the meetings infrastructure continues to advance.
5. Keep innovating Challenges such as the seller’s market or rising F&B costs can cause you to reevaluate how you do business and how you engage attendees. For instance, the timing may be right to develop a strategic meetings management program (SMMP) or to build longer lead times into your booking process so you can negotiate better rates. It’s also a prime time to revisit your meeting program and be creative with how you use F&B to enhance the meeting experience