Budgets, greater quality control, cost and reliability of audiovisual (AV) and technical services, security of content and the challenges of meeting the increasingly complex dietary demands of a more diverse demographic are among the major concerns of meeting planners, reports Teneo Hospitality Group.
Teneo, a firm representing 300 independent and branded hotels, resorts and DMCs around the world, polled top U.S. meeting planners from banking, pharmaceuticals, technology, associations and travel management companies to determine the issues and trends impacting the business events industry today.
“Today’s attendees want to be plugged in at all times and everywhere in the conference venue.“
According to the company’s president, Mike Schugt, rapid expansion of technology has generated new and more complex issues and rising prices. “Concerns about technology costs and reliability led the list of trends, and planners expressed unease with their ability to protect meeting content.”
In dealing with these issues, planners must be able to trust their suppliers, Schugt notes. “Our planners stressed the need for honesty, accuracy and rapid response as a major requirement for effective planning,” he said.
The top concerns and trends are:
- WiFi – Due to the proliferation of smartphones, tablets, laptops, messaging services, audiovisual, lighting and special applications, effective, high speed WiFi is critical to the success to meetings today. However, planners are frustrated by high prices, increasing labour costs, lack of flexibility, difficulties in negotiations, and in some cases, a lack of options in hiring firms for events. The planners polled agree that WiFi should be more reasonably priced
- Audiovisual – Linking WiFi to AV is increasingly problematic, with stories of breakdowns in coordination that have impacted presentations and events. One respondent reported that at a recent luncheon in a major city, the AV company failed to do the required run through and the entire AV had to be shut down. Reliability of AV can be easily compromised – interference from outside the venue can compromise bandwidth as much as 25 per cent. Controlling costs and ensuring technical quality are a challenge for both venues and planners. Venues must provide top-of-the-line technical services, keep abreast of advances and ensure their equipment is operated by a highly-trained staff, either in-house or outsourced. In order to negotiate effectively, planners need to become more familiar with terminology and the specific needs of exhibitors, vendors and attendees.
- Plug-In Power Sources – The proliferation of electronic devices has outspaced available charging options, leaving airlines and railways scrambling to add charging stations at airport gates and aboard trains and planes. Hotels and conference centers are equally challenged. It is no longer enough to have power sources in guestrooms and meeting spaces and comments from meeting planners and attendees indicate that the existing outlets cannot always accommodate the number of devices guests take with them. Today’s attendees want to be plugged in at all times and everywhere in the conference venue. That includes lobbies, bars, dining rooms, gyms and lounges.
- Diet, Diversity and Liability – These issues are not new but few elements of meeting planning have expanded more rapidly and caused more concern than the demand for special dishes at meetings. Where once planners offered a few options such as Kosher, vegetarian, or perhaps a Heart Healthy dish, today’s menus are flooded with choices that span gluten free, lactose intolerant, Halal, pescatarian (fish, no meat) and infinite varieties of vegan and vegetarian. A recent meeting of 271 participants drew 37 requests for special meals, mostly vegetarian and vegan. As the attendee base becomes more ethnically diverse, dietary requirements are predicted to increase.
- Consistency of Service – Even in an age of highly standardized big brands, consistency of service remains an issue. As one respondent noted, it is possible to book the same meeting at the same hotel brand in two different cities and find notable discrepancies in cost, facilities, services and staff competence. This may be due to several factors, including the inability of owners to make necessary renovations or invest in new technology and training.
- Security of Data – As technology expands, so do the opportunities to steal information and compromise a company’s data. Security problems can range from thefts of mobile devices that can result in a major loss of information if an attendee has downloaded any of the meeting content, to a full-blown hacker attack.