Research

What You Told Us About Your Biggest Challenge Surprised Us

When we asked about the meetings industry's biggest challenge, we anticipated that rising costs would come up. But you also are worried about security, the global perception of the U.S., and increased competition.

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Each year, along with the numbers we collect for the annual Meetings Market Survey, we ask respondents open-ended questions, including this one: What’s the biggest challenge facing the meetings industry?”

The responses are illuminating, showing us not only the most common pain points, but spotlighting new challenges. Along with the perennial concerns with coping with rising costs, we spotted a new worry in the responses. A number of people mentioned competition and a saturated events calendar as the biggest challenge, a response that we’ve seldom seen before. It makes sense — the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that conventions and events would expand by 44 percent from 2010 to 2020, growing far faster than other industries. That not only brings opportunities, but more competitors.

And politics cropped up more often this year, along with worries over travel policy and terrorism and their effect on meetings, continuing a trend that we first noticed in last year’s survey.

Here are the responses — some have been edited for length and clarity.         

  • A flooded industry; there are too many events making the industry redundant through too many choices, reducing the size and viability of existing events. A lot of associations rely on events as an income stream and their viability is affected by the increase of events in the market.

  • Acknowledging how the communities are segmented and divided

  • AirBnb and other disruptors, budgetary constraints relating to government meetings

  • Attendance

  • Attendee numbers in some areas; convention center size in other areas;  shuttle transportation to/from venues in large cities

  • Attendees having the time and budget to come to your events

  • Attendee security, both physical and data

  • Maintaining audience engagement in an age of declining attention spans; finding fresh approaches to an old model

  • Bad PR

  • Changes in healthcare

  • Continuing to offer a reason to attend besides the location and the getaway

  • Costs are increasing, as we are trying to cut costs.

  • Creating new, innovative, valuable events

  • Decrease in attendance

  • For medical, it is the impact of compliance (especially MedTech Code of Ethics).

  • For us the number-one challenge is financial. We have to make the events as affordable as possible knowing that if the attendees can’t afford the travel costs they will not attend, even knowing how important it is for them to be there.

  • Geopolitical factors threatening the security of our attendees at our face-to-face meetings

  • Global perception of U.S. as a safe and welcoming meeting destination

  • Increasing attendance

  • Justifying the value for the money and time investment needed to attend

  • Keeping up with technology and behavioral changes

  • Lack of engagement —  it takes a lot to get people to commit to travel and attend meetings when the default comfort zone is home/office/computer.

  • Lack of sleeping rooms and meeting space

  • Legislation in major states

  • Making sure that conference and meeting programming is attracting delegates across age ranges and geographical areas

  • Managing attendee expectations, when they’re used to having something included in their registration fee and the organization now has to cut or reduce what’s included due to rising venue costs.

  • Negotiating favorable room rates for budget conscious attendees

  • Hotels where add-on charges are too high

  • Personalization of meetings while at the same time maintaining profit levels

  • Political climate …. with our POTUS mouthing off, people will gladly choose other destinations.

  • Professionalism

  • Providing a secure event without bringing in the National Guard

  • Recognition of the value of F2F meetings

  • Reduction in staffing, less travel and face to face meetings, more Skype meetings

  • Rising costs

  • Rising costs, and those who wish to “go it alone” to manage their meetings

  • Saturation of events and trying to get people’s attention

  • Security concerns. Vulnerability, especially since freight doors are kept open during move-in and move-out, which are easily breached.

  • Showing upper management that participating in live meetings is still needed and important

  • Terrorism

  • When venues have a hold on them by another events professional, they can’t keep holds indefinitely. It makes planning very hard and then I hold venues, hoping that my preferred venues comes available — therefore making the whole situation worse.

  • The nondiscrimination status has many states changing laws that are taking away individual rights; the political leadership/climate has contributed to this. Our contracts are getting tougher to negotiate to minimize our risk for late cancellation.

  • There are still too many venues (older hotel properties) that cannot support the internet/WiFi requirements of an event adequately and/or at a reasonable cost.

  • Too many events

  • Travel and security — attendees are getting scared to travel due to illnesses and terrorism. We have an online platform that we have to try to offer an alternative.

  • Travel budgets

  • Travel restrictions and security

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.