Meeting Trends From the Destination ExpertsAugust 1, 2016

HGA Global Forum Board Sets the Tone By
August 1, 2016

Meeting Trends From the Destination Experts

HGA Global Forum Board Sets the Tone
The HGA Client Advisory Board members and staff who met in Miami in June included (l to r) Jeff Broudy, Denise Marie Germano, Christi Heacox, Patti Palacios, Marty MacKay, Stuart Ruff, Lisa Sykes and Terry Epton. Credits both pages: Specialty Imaging

The HGA Client Advisory Board members and staff who met in Miami in June included (l to r) Jeff Broudy, Denise Marie Germano, Christi Heacox, Patti Palacios, Marty MacKay, Stuart Ruff, Lisa Sykes and Terry Epton. Credit: Specialty Imaging

Hosts Global Alliance (HGA), is a worldwide consortium of select Destination Management Companies. HGA represents more than 50 Destination Management Companies, servicing more than 300 locations.

The Hosts Global Alliance Client Advisory Board provided enlightening answers to Corporate & Incentive Travel’s questions about meeting trends after their meeting that followed the 4th Annual HGA Global Forum at Turnberry Isle in July. The answers reflect a consensus of the board, which is comprised of the following individuals, many of whom contributed to the edited answers.

  • Marty MacKay, DMCP, president of Hosts Global Alliance
  • Terry Epton, CIS, CITE, DMCP, president of Hosts New Orleans
  • Jeff Broudy, president of United Incentives Inc.
  • Kara Leodler, manager of conference and travel, Kansas City Life Insurance Company
  • Kathrine Faubert, senior manager, event services, Deloitte Canada
  • Christi Heacox, manager solutions, Fedex Services
  • Christina Lofton, CMP, manager, Meetings & Incentives Worldwide Inc.
  • Patti Palacios, president and CEO, GlobauxSource
  • Stuart Ruff-Lyon, CMP, DES, vice president, events and education, Risk and Insurance Management Society Inc. (RIMS)
  • Lisa Sykes, CMP, director of meeting services for DRI – The Voice of the Defense Bar.

Q How has technology most changed the meetings industry?

A We can look at technology in many different ways. There are actual software programs that have allowed businesses to work more efficiently and streamline work product, but also many other technology disruptors that have occurred in the marketplace. The speed and the tools that come with it also have reduced the planning window for meetings, as registrations and housing lists can be produced much faster and more efficiently, which shortens the entire planning window. Other disruptors include the speed at which business is now expected to be done and the personalization that comes with that. But this also comes with risk. How can you maintain the speed desired by clients and creativity? In addition, technology brings security risks that need to be managed on the cyber side. The group overall saw the changes as both good and bad — a double-edged sword if you will.

Q How important are certifications (such as the DMCP) in your industry? Do you require your staff to continue their education?

A While certifications are good, and they certainly show that employees are invested in their growth and development in the industry, the most important aspect is that overall education is most important — in whatever form it takes. All companies, clients and DMCs stressed the need for continuing education as being key to growing and staying on top of trends. This can come in the form of attending shows and being involved in associations such as PMCA, MPI, SITE, etc. We see this as targeted learning, and that the designation is not as important as the ongoing participation. It was noted that the DMCP was an important differentiator, showing the acceptance of both a sizable body of knowledge and best practices, as defined by the association of Destination Management Executives International (ADMEI), and that the DMCP was a single step in a detailed process of becoming accredited by ADMEI, the only body that speaks for the regulation of destination management globally.

Q What are some of the top entertainment and event trends?

A The event trends that we are seeing now all involve creating experiences for attendees. Whether they be fitting events (sunglasses, blue jean bars) or acrobatics, attendees want to be part of something interactive. This also includes the idea of “adults having fun” and the throwback to providing games like foosball, pool, Ping-Pong, video games, etc., which gives them permission to enjoy something they might not ordinarily be comfortable doing. Anything interactive is hot. For instance at an event in New Orleans we recently provided a VIP area where we had hot shaves and haircuts for men and a lash bar and makeup touchups for women. Also, the use of cover bands and interactive DJs can save over top-name entertainment.

Q What is an example of one of your most successful themed events.

A A vintage trend reminiscent of the 1920s Gatsby Era is currently successful: Everything old is new again, such as Speakeasys, Moulin Rouge and “Fedoras, Fringe and Fitzgerald!” Props are being replaced with attention to table décor, variations in seating design, all with a greater emphasis on mixed furniture and lighting effects.

Q What tips can you give planners on the best ways to engage audiences for memorable experiences?

A Create an experience! That was the overwhelming answer. Whether it is in the form of a digital game or even a Pokémon Go game. You need to engage through an experience. If you can relate that engagement back to the company, letting clients or attendees tell a story —that is even more effective.

Q How have client relationships and working with meeting planners evolved?

A All agreed that the key to the relationship was communication. We are seeing more transparent discussions on acknowledgment of communication, managing expectations on what can be delivered and how quickly, and with a proactive approach to timelines.

Q According to MPI’s Meetings Outlook, 2016 Spring Edition, meetings costs are outpacing budgets. How do planners cope with this reduction in buying power?

A Meeting planners are very resourceful, and the key is to work with resourceful partners. You need to understand the buying cycle, and if that means planning further out to get better prices, then you need to communicate that to your stakeholders. You can leverage your spend by, for example, booking multiple pieces of business at the same property to negotiate a better rate. And, in many cases, creating experiences for your clients can be less expensive than the traditional ballroom décor.

ROI is expected and rewarded. This was highlighted in the client advisory board meeting when we discussed the decision Turnberry Isle made to become the headquarter property for the HGA Global Forum. Three out of the five clients present in this meeting indicated that they had approached and were speaking to Turnberry about new group bookings. In addition, one of our guest speakers was booking future programs onsite with planners that were so impressed by both his content and delivery.

Q What are the major concerns for planners and what encouraging signs do you see ahead for the U.S. and global meetings industry?

A While many planners are making location decisions regarding the risk of a location, as some destinations do inherently have greater risks or perceived risks than others, the consensus was that no one is too concerned about traveling to most places nowadays. Planners have accepted that anything can happen anywhere, which is why is it so important to embrace emergency preparedness and make sure risk management is a fundamental process in planning.

Q How have you changed your approach to risk management in the face of increasing threats of terrorism?

A We all feel that heightened security will become the norm and the expectation, and talking about the risk and then preparing for any emergency will become a routine part of the planning process. Hosts Client Advisory Board members indicated that they anticipate tighter security with regard to access to their events in hotels, convention centers and other venues, similar to how public sporting events are now treated. C&IT

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