MPI’s 2014 Meetings Outlook Reports Highlight Event Tech & Business Upswing

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Meetings Outlook Winter & Spring 2014 were developed in partnership with Visit Dallas

At the beginning of 2014, MPI’s bi-monthly Business Barometer updates morphed into the quarterly MPI Meetings Outlook trend reports, produced in partnership with Visit Dallas and IMEX Group. Although less frequently distributed, a major shift in the content format includes significantly more survey feedback from planners.

In the spirit of co-creation, a global selection of meeting professionals are polled for each report, providing an interesting cross-section of data, trends, theories, quotes and best case practices.

The inaugural Winter 2014 MPI Meetings Outlook focused on:

The latest research predicts increasing attention to meeting design, hybrid and virtual meetings, social media, tech innovations and the overall health of the meeting and event industry.

Those themes must have played well because the theme for the Spring 2014 paper is almost the exact same. The winter report opens with:

“The tough conditions facing meeting professionals during the recession are slowly fading, particularly in the U.S. and Canada—but that downturn has, nonetheless, left a lasting legacy of challenges. In what appears to be a leading indicator of an economic recovery, U.S. and Canadian meeting professionals forecast a 5% improvement in overall business conditions in the coming year, according to the meeting professionals surveyed for this report. European meeting and event professionals expect to see a 4% improvement.”

In terms of business projections, 72% of planners expect business to improve in 2014. Reflecting that optimism, U.S. planners anticipate a 3.9% increase in attendance and 2.4% rise of their budgets. Of those polled, 45% of planners are enjoying budget increases.

And perhaps surprisingly, a large percentage of planners (46%) said lead times are still getting shorter.

“The new normal persists—it’s all still very last-minute, with budgets released grudgingly,” submitted on planner.

Primary Takeaways

The need to cut costs and speed up the overall planning process are primary factors driving interest in hybrid meetings and technology in general. This opens up opportunities for both buyers and suppliers who are educated about the last event tech. The winter report reads:

“To keep up with the latest tech innovations, 54 percent of those surveyed for this report are relying upon ongoing education to stay current. And respondents are also doing more to hire people with relevant knowledge and skills and looking to suppliers for guidance and leadership—two trends that could place tech-savvy meeting professionals in growing demand.”

Overall 54% of respondents said they incorporate hybrid and virtual meeting solutions into their programs, both to enhance face-to-face meetings and integrate onsite and remote meeting elements. Only 3% of planners said they were replacing some face-to-face meetings with hybrid/virtual.

One set of stats are particularly interesting regarding how companies and planners are addressing rapid event tech innovation:

— 25% rely on suppliers for guidance
— 28% are employing people with relevant skills
— 53% of planners educate themselves
— 15% are evaluating the impact on various demographics
— 23% are evaluating budgets/ROI

One respondent wrote, “We are seeing more integrative technology, which includes the use of tweets, texts and emails during a presentation and using [other tech] to aid the presenter in moving, gathering and answering questions.”

David Mitroff, Ph.D., founder of Piedmont Avenue Consulting and creator of Walnut Creek Events in San Francisco, says, “It doesn’t matter what your messaging is and who your audience is, it’s finding the right tools to engage with those people.”

The Spring 2014 MPI Meetings Outlook paper is heavily focused on tech. One significant shift from the quarter before showed that 9% of planners responded they were using virtual/hybrid meetings to replace some face-to-face, up from 3% in the winter.

The report reads:

“DSM, a 23,000-employee firm in Heerlen, Netherlands, has actively embraced virtual and hybrid meeting technologies since the recession. Alise Long, CMM (MPI Netherlands Chapter), communications manager, strategic meetings and events, first used the company’s Tandberg Videoconferencing System—with help from the internal ICT team—to connect employees to the firm’s top management meeting in 2009. The virtual meeting brought together 500 people from five hubs around the world.

“It was an amazing production,” she says—and it led to a huge increase in use of the videoconferencing system internally. Long was so excited by how well the meeting went that when it was again held in 2012, she opted for a hybrid approach, even though she had the budget to bring together 400 people at a face-to-face gathering at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Washington, D.C. In addition to the in-person attendees, she included 3,000 participants who viewed the live-streamed proceedings and could submit comments, chat-style, to the moderator via a jet communication tool.”

The above is just a brief overview of the two MPI Meetings Outlook trend reports. Click here for Winter 2014 and Spring 2014.

“Just to be aware of what’s out there puts you in the forefront in this competitive market,” says Shannon Guggenheim, CMP, who recently joined EventLink International in Dallas.

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