6 New Meeting Trends To Watch

6 Mosaic

There’s good news, and there’s bad news, on the horizon for meetings and events.

Take a look at these statistics released from current research reports.

1. Meeting Spend Up; Satisfaction With That Spend Down

Meeting spend was up 22% for 2010 as compared to 2009. Yet, 66% of respondents say that their number one concern is reducing costs while increasing savings of both face to face and digital events.

44% plan to reduce the number of registrants and 36% plan to reduce the length of the event.

~ The Aberdeen Group, Strategic Meetings Management: A View into the Best-in-Class SMMP, May 2011.

2. Digital Events Popularity Grows

More than 30% of all meetings are now digital. That’s an increase of 33% from 2009.

59% expect to include more digital meetings in the future to replace or supplement their current live meetings. Companies that use digital events save on average 12% cost savings.

~ The Aberdeen Group, Strategic Meetings Management: A View into the Best-in-Class SMMP, May 2011.

3. Speakers Treated As Commodities

With meeting expenditures up and organization’s dissatisfaction with that spend down, more meeting professionals are negotiating a speaker’s fee. If the speaker won’t negotiate, the buyer moves to another speaker who will. The speakers that are willing to negotiate win. Speaker bureaus are feeling the pressure of the bidding wars as well.

4. Shorter Than Short Lead Times

According to research by the start-up Zentila, respondents had on average 15 off-site meetings with an average booking window of 36 days. These respondents also redefined the traditional short-term meeting lead time of 90 days to 13 days! That’s a loss of eleven weeks, nearly three months, lead time!

97% of these respondents say they were flexible about short-term meeting space options. 72% said they only consider upscale or luxury properties for short-term meetings. Nearly 20% said if they couldn’t find the space they needed fast they would cancel the meeting or host it in their own facility.

With shorter lead times comes more meeting professional empowerment. 68% of respondents said they had permission to sign-off on short-term meeting contracts without managers’ approval.

5. The Rise Of The Spend-Shift Movement

Conference participants want quality and affordability. They also now put a premium on community, connection and purpose. Thus the Spend-Shift Movement was born.

Savvy conference organizers create experiences that cultivate connections of online community members in face to face meetings. They also establish overarching meeting themes and sessions that have great purpose and meaning.

~ Young and Rubicam Brands Company

6. The Business Case Trumps Intangibles

The direct link between business events and organizational success is well established. Corporations believe that meetings help them market their organization, promote their brand and retain customers. The C-suite understands the strategic use of meetings, especially as content marketing.

Meeting professionals therefore secure speakers that can provide a business case for their message. If a speaker’s message helps an organization meet their event’s goal, there’s a win-win for everyone.

What other meeting trends are you seeing lately? Which of these trends surprises you?

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  1. thom singer says:

    Good article. As a speaker I see all these trends happening in the trenches.

    In regards to number three…. this is painful, as speakers are not a commodity. Just because someone is smart or has done something cool, it does not mean they belong on stage. The speaker sets the tone for the event, and organizers need to make sure they have vetted the speakers message and style. It is not just content or filling a “slot”…. it is about impacting the audience.

    Per number five…. you are right on the money that people want to be part of the community (online and in person). I spoke to a meeting planner who did not think that her tech audience cared about “networking opportunities”, but audiences today want to learn from the presentations, but they also want to connect with the other attendees. A weak culture of community and people do not come back the next year.

    And finally, number six…. The “content” side is king right now, especially in the planning phase… but it is not too much to ask for speakers to have a strong business case and strong presentation skills. This should not be an “either / or”. I spoke to one planner who had a policy of “NO MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKERS”… but what is the opposite of motivation? Dull? Lazy? Boring. Nobody wants that. All speakers should be motivational (but if they are just fluffy that sucks too).

    thanks for this article, as it is right on point!

  2. Sarah Khan says:

    I have to add to what Thom has said – motivational speakers are only good if they have relevance to the conference or meeting goals. I have sat in as a participant in too many “team building events” that my workplace has put on with a motivational speaker who was, on his/her own, a great speaker with an interesting story…but left a lot of us feeling, “So what does any of this have to do with why we’re here / what we do?” The big questions should always be: “Why are my attendees coming to this meeting?” and “What will they get out of it personally / professionally?” If the answer is “I’m not sure”, then don’t have a speaker.

  3. Love this posting, Jeff. As the Immediate Past President of the National Speakers Association, I have been following the meetings industry and trends as well and agree with you completely.

    I can’t really argue about the “Speakers Treated as a Commodity” – because we ARE. Yes, we are all uniquely different in our own eyes, but in the eyes of a meeting planner? Unless the CEO specifically asked for you, we are not. So what does that mean for the pro-speaker-as-a-commodity? It’s not the topic. It has to be the EXPERIENCE that the meeting planner/decision maker has with you from the get-go through your website and social media efforts. They all must demonstrate how you are a joy to work with – in all aspects, not just fees.

    Speaking of social media, thought it was interesting that you didn’t mention the rise of social media – not only to corroborate your online reputation, but also the use social media to boost attendance and engagement. We are ALL still trying to figure this out, and the more we can help each other, the better.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      I totally agree that seeing speakers as a commodity is difficult and painful. As long as meeting planners are trying to fill slots and schedule speakers instead of facilitate meaningful conversations, this will be a problem. Thanks for reading and adding your insights and experiences as well.

      Yeah, some motivational speaker have nothing but cotton-candy fluff feel good stuff. As soon as it’s over, we all say, “What was that about again?” I like to use the phrase, “Is this decision in the best interest of my meeting participants?” That becomes a good guiding principle. Thanks for sharing your experience here too.

      It’s so unfortunate that speakers are treated as commodities. I really like how your challenging speakers to create an experience with meeting planners from the start with their websites and social media efforts. It really is about building relationships.

      And why didn’t I include social media as trend? I guess because I see it so established in many meetings and events. Interestingly, I facilitated a group of meeting professionals this past week that said social media for events and conferences was now established, tried and true and no longer a trend. I was floored that they thought that. They actually debated me on the topic too!

      Thanks for reading and commenting too Kristin! NSA is better because of your leadership too.

      I feel for all the speakers that are strategist, thought leaders that get people to think big picture. We’ve become such an instant society wanting the silver bullets that we want over-simplified solutions to complex situations. I submit that professional speakers should always try to provide a couple of take aways, even when they are spurring an audience to strategic thinking. Thanks for adding to the conversation too.

  4. Interesting post Jeff. Thanks for your insights on the trends.

    I speak primarily to small business audiences and they are definitely looking for solid information that they can implement right away. They are too busy to do the research on interesting concepts or theory. They just want the steps to success. And don’t try to motivate them. They are motivated because they are scared.


  5. Just because people might view us as commodities when they contact us to speak doesn’t mean that’s the way we have the engage in the relationships.

    Just as a designer helps me understand the value of their work in crafting my professional identity, so must we educate planners about the contributions we can make to their desired learning experience. When we ask questions they haven’t considered hopefully some learning will result, learning that will shape their future efforts with speakers.

    And we always have the ultimate, while financially challenging, option available to us: Thanks so much for thinking of me, but it doesn’t sound like the opportunity is really designed for the learning and experience I know I could bring to your event.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Can I get an amen for Jeffrey’s comments?!!! AMEN! I totally agree with you Jeffrey and that’s why I tried to word that trend carefully. It’s up to speakers to help the meeting professional understand the value they bring to the experience. And all speakers should take your advice seriously, tell the planner when it’s not going to be a good fit!

      Thanks for adding to the discussion here!

  6. I offer a contrarian viewpoint on one aspect; the trend of commoditizing speakers is at least a decade old. The recent economic downtown served to truly expose how relevant content is the only reason to invest in something as expensive as an off-site meeting. In addition, application and implementation of that content continues to be a second thought: how many conferences have you attended and then returned to your desk only to file the conference materials on a top shelf so you could return to your real work? Imagine the value in purposefully planning for follow up that requires implementation?

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