Michael Massari is Senior Vice President, Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Las Vegas, Nevada. He oversees the meetings, conventions and events business for Caesars Entertainment’s portfolio of nearly 40 U.S. properties. He also is an Executive Committee member of the board of the U.S. Travel Association, sits on the MPI Foundation’s Global Board of Trustees and also serves on the College of Southern Nevada Board of Trustees.
Every New Year marks the beginning of certain traditions that are as familiar as fireworks or the ball dropping in Times Square. Naturally, we grow and gain new knowledge over the course of the year, and we use this to guide us through the next 365 days. This new awareness often results in a compilation of trends to look out for, setting the scene for the future. Trends are important. Trends help us through the decision-making processes when planning a meeting, whether it’s choosing a menu, using new technology or selecting the perfect location. They show us what engages and interests people, allowing us to keep our meetings successful. The new options and ideas that are prevailing at meetings today, have led us to the idea that all of these trends have completely transformed meetings and the attendee experience.
“A meeting is defined from the value that comes from the face-to-face connections that are being made.”
Some would say that meetings are always changing; I believe that if we look a little closer, we might find that meetings haven’t really changed at all. The core of a meeting doesn’t change; they are all going to have a general session, breakouts and engaging content. This is what defines a meeting — it’s the content and the connections that define why we are all here, doing what we do in this industry.
CHANGE [cheynj] verb
1. to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone.
Glancing through our industry’s news, everyone is talking about the current trends for 2016. All backed by research and observation, this year’s headlines say that hotel demand and room rates are increasing, food and beverage features more interesting and healthier choices, safety is a major concern, and experiential options during meetings are a must have. This is helpful information as these trends provide us with expectations of what attendees are hoping to experience at their next meeting or conference, in addition to any potential hurdles that can surface during the planning stages. Knowing where the industry is headed is important to keep experiences relevant and to create memorable moments. However, these trends don’t define what a meeting is and why they are important to an organization. If you take away the enhanced and interactive technology, the upscale food and beverage and the lavish décor, you still have a meeting.
TREND [trend] noun
1. the general course or prevailing tendency; drift. 2. style or vogue.
Historically, it’s easy to see that trends will come and go but the essence of what a meeting is will remain unchanged. People coming together to meet is the oldest and most natural way to communicate. Something as seemingly unrelated and simple as grabbing a cup of coffee with an old friend demonstrates the positive effects that are generated at meetings. This face-to-face interaction reinforces the relationship between people. It’s being able to make that connection with someone that is completely irreplaceable in creating a better understanding and relationship. That connection and understanding cannot be replaced by email or virtual gatherings.
The setting doesn’t need to be extravagant: If we took away all the peripheral aspects of a meeting, we could see that a meeting is still just that — and it would look the same across the board from small to large groups. When we think of the fundamentals of a meeting, it’s a group of people coming together to enhance and further their ideas by sharing them with one another. There is value there, and it is still a worthwhile venture for businesses and those participating. Right now, with business booming, it’s easy for us to focus on the trends and the new and exciting options available to us. It’s easy to forget that not too long ago, we didn’t have this luxury.
FUNDAMENTAL [fuhn-duh-men-tl] adjective
1. serving as, or being an essential part of, a foundation or basis; basic; underlying. 2. of relating to, or affecting the foundation or basis. noun: 1. a basic principle, rule, law, or the like, that serves as the groundwork of a system; essential part.
During the economic downturn that began in 2008, businesses were forced to substantially limit their budgets, and some organizations canceled their meetings completely. Budgets were reduced, and with this, the options for entertainment, food and beverage and other inclusions were limited. However, meetings were still successful. Businesses that continued to hold and attend meetings experienced continued growth and proved to be more profitable through the recession. This led everyone to reevaluate why they held meetings, as they clearly affected their success. When it came down to it, companies realized the value of face-to-face interactions were undeniable. Every dollar spent on business travel converted into $10 in new revenue, and that was only one of many benefits. Spending the time and effort to make a personal connection and communicate effectively through a live interaction sets a high precedent for productive and successful businesses. At the end of the day, holding meetings with engaging content and purposeful conversation is what drove our industry forward.
I encourage you to take a look at what the emerging trends are for 2016 in the meetings industry. It’s important to remember that a meeting is defined from the value that comes from the face-to-face connections that are being made; the technology, food, décor and activities act to enhance the meeting, not define it. When it comes down to it, meetings have remained true to their fundamentals. The look and the experiences have changed and progressed on the surface but at the core of it all, the foundation of what a meeting is has and always will stay the same. C&IT