Independent Meeting Planner and Travel Consultant
DW Consulting & Lighthouse Travel & Tours
Santa Clara, Calif.
Do you find that your booking window is increasing or shrinking recently? Are you finding it harder to book rooms/meeting space in a short timeframe at hotels and other meeting facilities?
The time is shrinking with meetings and events, except with larger conferences. Organizations are watching the bottom line expenses closer. They decide to hold a meeting with one to two weeks advance notice without all of the fluff. They are utilizing internal resources (meeting rooms) and equipment to save expense. Organizations are searching for venues closer to their company headquarters. Even saves when use local on-site meeting managers.
Is the duration of your meetings either shrinking or expanding?
Duration of meetings and conferences seem to be two to three days during the work week, at least in Northern California. Meetings have a local focus, and still connected to (by satellite and webcasts) to attendees not able to travel.
Is the attendance at your meetings shrinking or expanding?
See above for this answer. In-person attendance is shrinking unless there is a very popular, well known speaker of the particular industry appearing. It is expanding with more people listening/watching via the Internet for specific programs of interest. They do not have to fly.
Did you have a smaller or larger budget to work with last year? If so, how much do you estimate it was decreased or increased?
Budgets are smaller, with expenses increasing from suppliers (when you request proposals). One has to be careful when working with suppliers to ensure they don’t cut an item to work within the budget set, like adding on-site costs with additional extension cords, easels as a cost.
Do you expect your budget to increase or decrease in 2012?
I hope it increases; it will probably stay the same. Organizations are still watching budgets.
Do you expect your attendance to increase or decrease in 2012?
In-person will stay the same. Providing access to people with the Internet (live streams) will increase.
Are perception problems (meeting at luxurious properties, resort destinations, etc.) a great concern for your organization? Have they become less of a concern than they were in 2010, and do you expect them to present any perception problems in 2012?
Not applicable to me. Although I believe organizations are finding they may use boutique hotels (better experience without the luxury brand) and able to better negotiate lower prices or get more for the price with brand hotels like Hilton and Marriott
Have you planned, or do you expect to plan, virtual/videoconference meetings? Do you expect to see more virtual meetings in the future?
I have been involved with executing these types of meetings for technology and industry specific (medical, etc). Organizations are using movie theaters--a natural place to conduct these types of meetings. They also use brand-name restaurants like Morton’s Steakhouse because you may work with several restaurants across the USA with the same equipment. Yes, this will pick up in 2012. And, the use of experienced planners to assist will be needed. A Boston company may hire an experienced meeting planner in San Jose to work before, during and after meetings. You save $500 to $1,000, the cost of airfare, hotel room, meals, phone minutes and other expenses, up front. And, the local meeting manager has the expertise of the region which someone traveling to the region for the week does not have. This is a real secret which people are only now beginning to find out about to save costs.
Are you exploring the possibility, or have you already held, a “hybrid” meeting (meetings that combine live events with an Internet/digital component? If so, what are your observations?
Yes. The organizer in the room needs to ensure the local attendance has real-time connection to the host event that is being held elsewhere and manage the room. Or, with people joining in to live events, they have sound and visual quality to understand. And they are able to communicate in an easy way. Example, with a virtual conference call, be sure everyone uses mute. Or, with a live event, follow up with everyone’s questions which are e-mailed even after the event.
Have you offered, or do you think you will offer, a CSR (corporate social responsibility) component to your meetings?
Not applicable to me yet, although I believe it is a component which will be used more in 2012 to keep the attendees captivated.
Are sustainable (green) meetings something your organization has moved toward? If not, do you expect to implement more-sustainable meetings in the future?
Yes, and this will be defined better as people still have difference of opinion as to what green meetings are.
Are you finding that attrition clauses are being enforced more, or less, strictly recently?
Yes, attrition clauses are being added by supplier more and more, and planners are deleting the lines they don’t want. Example: There is a trend of hotels and restaurants charging for guaranteed numbers and not actual numbers as they make more money. Or, they count everyone that has the room or meal with them instead of giving a complimentary for one person. I believe this is the result of smaller group meetings and lower attendance numbers and suppliers don’t have the profit they once had.
Do you feel the pendulum is swinging back to being a seller’s market?
Not applicable with me. Prices are increasing for next year (suppliers) while the buyer is asking for lower prices. It is still very competitive. Complimentary items have value (Internet, parking, breakfast, etc.) to planners and travelers right now. People don’t want the hassle of paid parking and Internet to go to a meeting.
Are you using social networking websites for business purposes? If so, which ones and why?
Yes! Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn--and many others. Even if you work with an organization without a specific sales marketing plan, I find by using the correct way, you can make good progress independently. You need to be consistent, build followers in many areas, and contribute online by telling a story. And, in a professional, business way. You should create a buzz about the project or activity (or product/service) you are working with. No direct selling and don’t just send out links. Share, use conversations, to introduce yourself to people. Each business will find out which website offers the best results for them. Example, my blog, I contribute consistently and is a place where I share with everyone as I manage my own time. Last year and this year, I have added it to other larger entities to share my stories. Social media allows you to connect to people outside your normal range. It is key to meet them in person and continue to share. Now I am attracting people without having to let them know when I write. It is not about quantity of friends or followers, it is how you use them.
Have you planned more meetings closer to your organization’s headquarters (“drive-to” meetings) recently?
Yes, I have worked more drive to meetings. Rising costs of airfare, hotels. And, thinking outside the box with consumer awareness, you won’t get caught on a stranded airline on the runway. You can either drive locally, or connect via Internet.
Are you more optimistic, or less, about the meetings industry and the economy than a year ago?
Yes, although cautiously. There are still many people out of work and not spending dollars. We forget about this as we go about our own daily lives. Employees who are working forget there is a line looking for work just like what you are doing. People don’t have the money to pay for industry specific conferences on their own. And, employers are paying less and less. This hurts meetings.
How do you think 2012 will shape up for the meetings industry? Where do you see costs (hotel, restaurant, venue prices, etc.) going? Do you think your budget and/or attendance will increase or decrease?
Suppliers are increasing prices for next year, as they increase profit. Budgets are lower. It will definitely be an interesting year as people find new ways to gain education and skip the old methods. An example is using movie theaters as a venue during the work day for specialize live stream events. Save on the food and beverage and other expense.