The 2015 Global Meetings & Events Forecast produced by AMEX Meetings & Events launched at IMEX America in October. The comprehensive report breaks down meeting trends by major markets around the world, and by almost all accounts, the global meetings industry is showing strong positive growth that’s expected to continue through next year.
“That was our overall headline: ‘Business is Back,’” says Issa Jouaneh, VP/general manager, American Express Meetings & Events. “We’re seeing an overall recovery in budgets, and a reversal of budget trends from flat to growing. It’s a slight growth going into next year but it’s pretty consistent on a global basis, with some exceptions in certain countries based on local economic conditions.”
Jouaneh explains that AMEX Meetings & Events has just over 1,000 meeting professionals in over 40 countries servicing hundreds of clients. The company’s global perspective helps clients who are looking to expand into global markets, and it provides clear insight into local markets in specific segments of meeting types.
New in this year’s study, AMEX gathered research based on individual meeting types to better calculate and understand business priorities in different sectors. That better illustrates the demands placed on different types of meeting planners today.
“So, for example, one interesting tidbit is that training meetings in North America have increased more than any other meeting type in the region,” says Jouaneh. “In my mind, that’s a signal that organizations are looking to reinvest in their people in terms of education.”
The biggest surprise from the report for Jouaneh is the prevalence of risk mitigation, compliance and regulatory pressures impacting the planning of international meetings and events.
That’s been an emerging trend since the recession with so much scrutiny on meeting spend. According to the AMEX report, organizations in general are consolidating and better understanding that spend, and they’re more and more looking at meetings and events as investments rather than as a cost.
“The key in my mind is the balance,” says Jouaneh. “So it’s about not losing the focus on the business outcomes and the attendee expectations, while also having a focus on internal investments and driving savings and year-over-year benefits. I think having that balance is what’s going to make many companies successful, and what’s going to make meeting professionals be able to justify the value that they’re adding to the organization.”
That idea of meeting planners evolving into “meeting strategists” is something we’ve been hearing consistently over the last year. Planners are focusing more these days on developing and measuring KPIs across the lifecycle of their programs. By measuring event analytics to provide reporting that demonstrates meeting ROI to an organization, planners are assuming a more executive role with the help of new technology tools.
“Our perspective is that meeting professionals within an organization have to have a real understanding of what the corporate objectives are, and what the key performance indicators for success are for the organization,” says Jouaneh. “And then align their meeting portfolios or their individual meetings to those objectives, and have the measurements post-meeting to be able to demonstrate the value of those meetings.”
At Prevue, from a global perspective, we’re seeing somewhat of a disconnect in the industry revolving around technological innovation. Many planners tell us they don’t have time to focus on implementing new technology to test different methods of engagement between attendees and stakeholders because they’re swamped with logistics planning.
So we asked Jouaneh, do companies need to give planners more space to experiment with event technology?
“I think a key part of what needs to continue to evolve is that more decisions need to be made at the point of sale around the design of the meeting, and the components that are a part of the meeting, to deliver better outcomes,” he answered. “With virtual and hybrid today, many of those elements are discussed after the fact as an add-on to the existing face-to-face meeting. And I think having that intelligence, having that insight at the point of sale, to understand this meeting type for this audience for this objective, and to be able to repurpose the content and broaden the audience, that will determine the best mix of technology for face-to-face meetings. So I think technology is going to help meeting professionals be more efficient and be able to integrate more value into what they’re doing.”