The number of U.S. and European meeting professionals reporting uncertainty about the economy hasn’t changed since April 2012, but anxiety is increasing, according to MPI's June 2012 Business Barometer. Meeting professionals have been hoping for improved conditions for the past six months, and ongoing economic uncertainty challenges their abilities to execute, plan and strategize. This is reducing cost efficiencies and, in some cases, quality.
Ongoing concerns over the European debt crisis, the November U.S. presidential elections and anticipated rising fuel costs represent significant challenges for meeting professionals. Regional challenges do vary, but many of the solutions are the same—become more flexible and smarter with technology, broaden customer and supplier bases, build strong relationships and expose waste. At the same time, meeting professionals are challenged to provide extraordinary experiences, using engaging and novel concepts.
Even so, the future of meetings holds many known qualities—increased demands for social media, more technological solutions, younger attendee populations, relatively high fuel prices and governments that struggle for solutions to sovereign issues—all giving meeting professionals a framework within which to devise their long-term strategies.
Media coverage surrounding the decisions that led to the General Services Administration (GSA) meeting scandal has left many meeting professionals dismayed about U.S. government policy surrounding meeting budgets. The sharp decline in government meetings that followed the scandal has further shaken meeting professional confidence in government policy and decision-making. Several indicate their intention to focus less on the U.S. government market sector, citing its volatility.
Virtual and hybrid technologies are once again gaining popularity among meeting professionals as a way to expand the impact of events, expose more people to content with less budget, increase attendance and be environmentally responsible. Meeting professionals are more at ease with the virtual and hybrid technologies, as they have seen successful implementation over time. Some consider virtual and hybrid technology to be integral to modern events.
U.S. meeting professionals disagree greatly on how the upcoming election will impact events. They disagree on which candidate will have the most positive and negative impacts on the industry, but more consistently agree that changes are in store.
In general, industry health has gradually improved for the last 18 months. Budgets are increasing, as are attendance and employment. Meeting professionals frequently refer to changes they are making to adapt to a rapidly shifting marketplace, including the needs to remain flexible, embrace new technology, make smarter hiring decisions and provide better training.
Meeting professionals are looking for new employees with technology and social media know-how. The increased demand for social media exposure and advances in technology are changing rapidly and require the expertise that comes from employees who have been dedicated to the field for some time.
Meeting professionals are also looking at new marketing strategies and approaching new client bases in order to stabilize and expand their businesses. This means learning new vocabulary, new strategies and new ways of working. Meeting professionals are building new relationships and alliances that make it easier for them to adapt to changing market demands. This trend emerged almost a year ago and continues to become more prominent.
—Research by Association Insights