Seasonal Session recap —Industry professionals discuss trends, challenges, and more
By Cynthia DeOliver, CMP
MPISSN and CalSAE collaborated to present Meeting Industry Trends — a panel discussion, sponsored by HelmsBriscoe, on Wednesday afternoon, December 13 at the Sacramento Convention Center. Experienced industry professionals came together to share their insights about trends and challenges from 2017, and leave us with a little food-for-thought for the coming new year.
JT Long, content chief of Bright Business Media from Smart Meetings Magazine, served as moderator. JT’s December 11 article, “The New Customized Normal,” looks at several industry trends and allowed JT to thread these themes into the panelists’ conversations.
Mike Dominguez, chief sales officer for MGM Resorts International, worked his way through notable trends and economic indicators for the industry. Reminding us that it’s not a matter of IF but WHEN these trends impact your groups, readiness is the posture. Here are few of his main points:
- Customization is critical for growth and survival. How deeply are you connecting with attendees before the event planning process begins?
- Demographics vs. Psychographics. Now, it’s more about the behavioral indicators of your group versus who they are.
- Marketing outreach to your groups is not a digital or hardcopy challenge. Neither stands alone effectively. A strategic combination of both proves better.
- Small companies move really fast and fail often while big companies move slowly and are risk averse. For your consideration, where is your company on the scale of adaptability?
- A five-year plan is now a wish-list, not a strategic plan. Three-year strategic plans may be considered more realistic for agility, especially in the start-up world today.
- Business conditions for meetings and events are competing against the growth of transient travel, not so much other groups.
Deanne Vigil, regional vice president for HelmsBricoe, provided some helpful reminders and “to-dos” specific to the relationship and process between the hotel and event planner:
- Security, risk management and your RFP. Remember to include your security requirements in your RFP, while also inquiring about the minimum options the hotel has in place. Additionally, if you need heightened security, or sophisticated security, request a list of preferred security vendors to help you start your search.
- Communication and crises. A thorough communication plan that can be aligned with the groups’ hotel communication plan could make the difference in minimizing damage and injury. (Mike also added that “once a crisis is a deemed a crime, local authorities take over.”) Additionally, dependent upon the stature of your event, connecting with local authorities is a good proactive measure.
- Attrition in contracts. More likely, hotels are including per night attrition while possibly removing the helpful offset of pre/post stay rate options for your group. Negotiate with your sales person and read your agreement carefully.
Eric Hoffend, CEM, vice president, Nevada regional team leader with Freeman and David Stone, CMP, vice president of sales & marketing, Crescent Event Production discussed how they are seeing some technologies offered for attendee and vendor engagement. Additionally, they shared what meeting planners might also consider during their planning process:
Panelists emphasized the value and necessity of ongoing education on the vast range of business issues in the meetings and event industry. Consideration of reputable known resources for a balanced view of economic conditions and overall business trends, outside your typical industry reads, may offer important insights. You never know what you may learn, and where it may lead you.
- Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR. Augmented reality enhances one’s current perception of reality. However, Virtual Reality (VR) replaces the real world with a simulated one. Eric, shared that a vendor’s booth had nothing in it beyond an iPad that allowed the attendee to “walk into a hotel room and around the hotel” without leaving the booth. Mike commented that such options could allow business to get rid of routine processes and increase service.
- Think about the purpose and vision of the event; what do you want the attendee to walk away remembering? For example, the American Heart Association provided attendees with wristbands that indicated beating hearts. In an effort to remind attendees of the importance of heart health, during the session, they lowered the lights and asked all to raise their wristbands. While all wristbands lit up beating and red, some dimmed showing the impact of the odds of heart failure. A stunning and meaningful effect.
- In critical and crisis situations. As another reminder regarding health and safety, David mentioned that his company, and others, now provide CPR training and other life saving techniques.