Venue rates are rising, space is getting harder to find, planner positions are actually being advertised.
All is right with the world.
But if you really examine what is happening, the past 18 months have wrought some significant paradigm shifts that I think are here to stay.
Now that the C-suite has seen the economic benefits of supplier competition and the savings that can result from narrowing the number of suppliers that provide services, I expect that professional buyers will be increasingly involved in awarding event business, even if they do not really understand our industry.
For the same reason, RFPs are the norm, even for companies that have used the same suppliers for many years.
For suppliers, this means that more resources (employees’ time, creative energy and proposal production) needs to be invested in trying to win business.
Ultimately, this either drives up supplier prices or drives down supplier profitability.
Furthermore, since the recession started, there has been an increasing enthusiasm for justifying all business activity by using real data.
Traditionally, the meetings and incentive industry has been weak at setting measurable objectives and then collecting the right information, after events, to drive improvement.
Counting the number of attendees, and adherence to budget, will not be enough to justify most events.
I believe that without real data, the funds necessary to run an event or incentive programme will not be made available.
Currently, many planners use the few facts they have, to support the argument they want to make.
Events can provide a wealth of traceable data, if the objectives and measurement processes are set in advance.
The failure to set meaningful measurement criteria during initial event planning has meant that most planners lack relevant data to prove the economic value of their meetings and events.
And many CFOs and chief marketing officers recognize the weakness of the event justification.
And although business is improving, I don’t believe our industry is returning to 2008 levels.
The ‘new normal’ includes more Procurement-driven decision making, more competition for business among suppliers, and more meaningful data collection and analysis for event justification.
The challenge for all of us is to adapt to this ‘new normal,’ while still providing venues with impeccable service or delivering logistically flawless events.
In other words, we will need to keep our current skills, and add more skills, to keep up with the competition.
As I see it, we meeting and incentive professionals can improve, adapt or fail.
If you wait too long to adjust to this ‘new normal,’ you may find that you have been replaced by those who embrace this way of doing business.