MPI’s latest quarterly Meeting Outlook survey, conducted in November, found that the rate of growth in the meeting and event industry is slowing slightly. While 58 percent of respondents projected favorable business conditions for the coming year, that figure declined from 67 percent in August.
There are now some indications that the market isn’t strictly a seller’s or buyer’s market, says Bill Voegeli (MPI Georgia Chapter), president of Association Insights, the Atlanta-area research firm that conducts the survey. Instead, a level of equilibrium is being realized in the industry. "It is a good place to be," Voegeli says. "A balanced market is a little more comfortable." Nonetheless, meeting planners and organizers must stay on their toes, with budgets cooling off. "More than ever, they are doing more with less, and there is a focus on ROI," he says. "That is pretty normal in markets where it feels like budgets are tight and expectations are high."
"Most of our clients have been going ahead with every event they have on their books," says Tim Neill (MPI Oregon Chapter), sales manager of AV Rental Services, a division of Henry V Events in the Portland area. "We’re having to hire more people, both freelancers and contract labor and full-time employees. We have more work than we have seen in a long time."
Although corporate meetings showed the greatest projected growth of all types of meetings in the survey, there are many signs that organizers are being cautious about spending decisions. Linda Nelson, CMP (MPI Carolinas Chapter), owner of To Plan Ahead, a full-service meeting planning firm in Asheville, N.C., that specializes in technical meetings and conferences, has, for instance, seen more of her corporate clients taking meetings in-house. One had previously disbanded its meetings department and was outsourcing all of its meetings.
"All I can think of is maybe they are better able to manage the logistics when everything is in-house—even when it’s costing them more because they have to pay benefits," Nelson says. "It’s just one of those things that goes around in circles. At one point it seems good to outsource everything, then suddenly they keep it all in-house."
Meeting Outlook closes saying, standard professional education to focusing specifically on tech, planners need help and are seeking it. "They need help with technologies and different ways to introduce interactivity to events and maybe with the RFP or proposal systems," Voegeli says.
Often, the need goes beyond technology, too. One U.S. planner, who asked to remain anonymous, said, "We see that training is becoming more important. Since individuals are being tasked to do more, we see…that individuals need training in all areas: meetings/events, exhibitions, global protocol."
However, some are having trouble finding suitable educational options. Fortunately for others in the meeting industry, providing that training could turn out to be an attractive opportunity for growth in the future.