February 1, 2017
2017 Meeting Planning Trends
Karen Kotowski, CAE, CMP is the president and CEO of Washington, DC-based Convention Industry Council (CIC). The CIC’s 33-member organizations represent more than 103,500 individuals and 19,500 firms and properties involved in the meetings, conventions and exhibitions industry. The mission of the Convention Industry Council is to strengthen the value and sustainability of the members, support the premier credential for the meeting professional and provide a vibrant, collaborative platform to address critical issues to ensure a thriving events industry. For more information, visit www.conventionindustry.org.
The events industry was impacted in 2016 by a series of innovations, consolidations, world events, changing demographics and individual preferences. Here are the top trends to pay attention to in the coming year, as curated from the members of the Convention Industry Council.
From airlines, hotels and technology providers, the industry has seen many brands and services consolidating.
A CIC member organization, HSMAI has noted this on the hotel side, with consolidations significantly increasing in 2016. While large mergers, such as Marriott and Starwood, are making headlines, last year 15 other hotel companies merged brand management companies and ownership groups — a trend that is likely to continue as competition becomes more and more fierce.
This M&A activity will eventually trickle down to our organizations. As an industry and profession, we must be able to adapt and change with the times.
- Certification is more essential than ever.
According to a PCMA salary survey, meeting professionals holding a CMP certification make on average $9,000 more annually than those without it. Getting your CMP shows employers that you have dedicated yourself to a higher standard, committed to a goal and reached it. Our certification and member resources enable meeting professionals to scale with the industry.
- Elevated security concerns.
Organizations, venues and planners are preparing for potential security risks, crises and emergencies, and considering how to budget for them. Cost pressures continue to increase, and while budgets have been rising for the first time over the past 12 to 18 months, there are also rising costs from inflation as well as food and beverage costs.
Additionally, related to crisis management, the political landscape has made it precarious for some convention bureaus to attract and retain meetings, when the values of the city or state lawmakers don’t align with that of the organizations booking meetings. This has forced some meeting planners to deal with highly charged and sensitive issues when choosing their meeting destinations.
- The struggle to stay relevant.
The geopolitical and economic conversation is really more of an ongoing reality than a trend. The reality is that our industry is constantly changing and so the true question is: how are we adapting?
In the past, it often has been difficult to create additional revenue streams for meetings and events. Now, meeting professionals are working closely with their event and membership and marketing teams to develop year-round content to create additional attendee touch points.
All CIC member organizations and our organization in particular have the responsibility to remain relevant as the industry rapidly changes around us.
- Creating a brand experience.
One way to stay relevant in the industry is to turn events into a brand experience for attendees. Some of the best ways to do that include: experiential hands-on education, using the latest technology and creating new learning environments.
More meeting professionals are experimenting with new ways to engage attendees such as virtual reality, drone footage of the conference and socially conscious art installations. With that, meeting planners are working side by side with marketing teams to create live video on platforms such as Facebook. They also are releasing immediate content on social media channels such as Snapchat and Instagram to showcase their individual experience.
A big part of the brand experience should be cultivating authenticity. Customers are looking for a genuine customer service style that feels as personal as possible.
- Sustainability is more than a trend.
In his role as CIC’s CMP Commission Chair, Matt DiSalvo has seen sustainability go from a rising trend to a common practice among meeting planners. Using sustainable products and practices during meetings and conferences makes it clear that event planners are socially responsible and looking towards the future. This is especially true of younger generations. According to a study by Horizon Media’s Finger on the Pulse, some 81 percent of millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship.
Legislative changes relating to social issues continue to occur, and the landscape is changing, so as meeting professionals how do we provide direction and confidence to our attendees and stakeholders that we can get through this period of uncertainty and emerge stronger? What happens when a specific ruling or change directly impacts our business or members? For example, the most recent executive order by President Trump on travel directly affects meetings with attendees outside of the U.S. as well as increases the uncertainty of travel. Meeting professionals must exhibit foresight and plan for the long-term impact and implications both within our organizations and beyond. For instance, ASAE now includes a clause in their contract that they can cancel their meetings due to legislation.
- Personalized service and education.
All sectors of our industry are receiving more and more demand for personalized services: from content, to membership to meetings themselves. To meet the increased demand for personalized services, organizations and planners must have the resources to develop personalized content as well as analyze the data that is best suited for each sector/member/attendee/business unit. To stay relevant, we cannot stay in the era of top down, one size fits all, for the evolution of the whole professionalism of the industry, personalization is necessary.
Technology is also a large piece of this trend, especially in regard to content. This also extends to interacting with the growing global audiences as there is an enormous appetite around the world for professional education, clear standards and clear guidelines.
Companies are increasing their business units and are performing multiple business functions within the same industry, which is impacting how organizations provide services and benefits to their members. For example, the recent merger of Cvent and Lanyon combines multiple technology platforms in one with services ranging from mobile event apps, online event check-in and registration, venue sourcing, email marketing and more
- Emerging markets.
Organizations are obtaining new members or expanding business into places they have not had members or customers previously. They are considering how they can ensure that their existing ethical and professional standards are being followed while also honoring local customs or cultural aspects of that particular country, particularly when those standards were developed or based on U.S. regulations and practices.
Pay close attention to these trends in your meeting planning for 2017 so the industry and your careers will continue to thrive. If you want to make 2017 the year you jump-start your career, visit www.conventionindustry.org for more information on industry standards, best practices and CMP certification. C&IT