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January 2017

Meeting Professionals Make Predictions for 2017

by Joan Eisenstodt

Planners look into the crystal ball for 2017...

To augment the Friday With Joan blog post and newsletter for Jan. 2017, I wanted to know what a diverse group of colleagues thought about the year ahead, so I reached out to several meetings industry professionals to get their opinions on how they think 2017 will shape up. Following are their responses.

Respondents:

Mitchell Beer, Curator, The Energy Mix, and President, Smarter Shift Inc., and former meeting industry professional and industry-watcher (Ottawa, Ontario).

Mitchell Biersner, M.T.A., CMP, DES, Meeting Planner, American Society of Radiologic Technologists (Albuquerque, N.M.).

William R. Host, Associate Professor, Hospitality & Tourism Management, Roosevelt University (Chicago).

Charles Richards III, Event Coordinator, Georgia World Congress Center (Atlanta).

Antwone Stigall, CMP, DES, President/Chief Events Officer, West Wing Events | Destination Management & Event Production (Memphis, Tenn.).

Shawna Suckow, CMP, Founder, SPIN – the Senior Planners Industry Network (St. Paul, Minn.).

Sharmagne Taylor, CMP, President, On-Site Partners, Inc. (Houston).

Q1. The world is in a great deal of flux. What is your hope for meetings/our broader hospitality industry for 2017?

Mitchell Beer: Meetings and hospitality depend on stability—a stable economy, where people can make plans for business or leisure travel; and a stable environment, where travel plans are less likely to be disrupted by weather or infrastructure disasters. Early decisions suggest that the new U.S. administration will stand for none of the above—that’s not a partisan statement, but an observation based on cabinet appointments announced through mid-December. At the federal level, meetings and hospitality business leaders will have to find the language, the mechanisms and the courage to articulate the opportunities the U.S. stands to lose if future policies are driven by ideology rather than economic and environmental common sense.

The state and local level is where meeting professionals will see both the opportunity and the urgent need to live the most important principles the industry says it stands for—diversity, inclusion, dialogue, understanding and bringing people together to find the things that unite them, rather than driving them apart (But living those principles will be about much more than just putting them in a press release).

Mitchell Biersner: I hope we don’t lose sight of doing what is right for our [association’s] members. It’s really as simple as that, but I hope that doesn’t get clouded while the flux settles.

William R. Host:

  1. That we understand what we do as planners really does change the world—that the meeting we planned for doctors or warehouse distributors, or whoever, provided the participants with the skills and knowledge that affect the lives of others.

  2. That the industry as a whole comes to appreciate hospitality beyond the bottom line of profit and comes to understand the ancient theological and philosophical premise of the hospitality mandate found throughout cultures of the world then and today.

  3. That the industry understands that “hospitality is not what we do to someone, it is what we do FOR someone” (Danny Meyers, Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business).

Charles Richards III: My hope for meetings moving into 2017 is that as an industry we don’t lose our identity as an industry. Meetings and conventions have been known for being diverse in many ways, from unique venue locations to even being select with destination meetings. Due to the current climate in our world, some factors have detoured groups from being creative with their meeting planning approach. Once upon a time, it was ideal for a group or company to take their group to different destinations for their specific conference or training session. Todays’ economic climate, political climate, and of course the adversity around the world, has thrown a major dart at the principles we once thought were automatic.

Antwone Stigall: With the world in a great deal of flux, my hope for the industry is regardless of what side of the fence we may live, that we can continue to come together to elevate and promote an industry that we all love. We have so much work do in terms of industry education and awareness that we cannot afford to be set back by personal opinions and differences.

Shawna Suckow: In light of all the negativity and divisiveness in our country since the election, I believe face-to-face meetings will continue to make a difference by bringing people together for dialogue and collaboration. When we understand each other, while we may disagree, it’s harder to hate.

Sharmagne Taylor: That we will embrace the talent, brilliance, innovation and heart of Millennials and develop this next generation of hospitality professionals. Our industry is focused on the Millennial consumer and should also create an environment that understands and nurtures the well-educated, analytical minds and creative skills these voices can bring to our operations.

Q1b. If you choose ... what are your hopes for the world for 2017?

Mitchell Beer: That countries of good will find pathways to carry on positive collaborations and partnerships, working with state and local governments from the U.S. wherever it’s realistic for those jurisdictions to help fill the gap left by the federal administration.

Mitchell Biersner: I hope we all take the opportunity to learn from and meet new people. Meetings and conferences are always a great opportunity to expand horizons personally and professionally. It’s been a long time since I’ve been an attendee at a national conference, and I always enjoy the personal connections—and reconnections—I make when I can attend while not being “on.” I think we all need to do more listening to understand and less listening to reply.

William R. Host: That the hungry are fed; the homeless, clothed; the oppressed, relieved; the down trodden, uplifted. That we see beyond ourselves and understand our place in the greater world.

Charles Richards III: My number one hope for the world in 2017 is that we gain UNITY. I feel over the past two years we’ve become a very dark and divided place. I’ve always looked at hospitality and tourism as the main source of unity amongst the world. My hope is that through our service and industry, we will be able to be the bridge that unites the world back to a much happier and peaceful place.

Antwone Stigall: One of my hopes for the world in 2017 is that since now we have exposed MORE of our challenges as a people and as a human race, we can take a serious look at these challenges and work TOGETHER to fix them. The world demands PERFECTION, but craves AUTHENTICITY. Let’s take an authentic approach to addressing these challenges and sate the craving. Demands always change.

Shawna Suckow: I’m extremely fearful of where our country is heading, and the entire world is watching. I hope the U.S. [and] world continues to move forward in addressing climate change, women’s rights and equal rights and respect across all cultures. I hope that people everywhere will continue to speak up and not blindly accept changes we don’t support.

Sharmagne Taylor: That we never look back ... no matter how divisive the political climate, that we remain committed to diversity, inclusion, tolerance and respect in our world.

Q2. What is your prediction for one area of meetings or hospitality for 2017?

Mitchell Beer: If the new [U.S.] administration triggers the next recession, meetings and hospitality will feel the effects, just as they did in 2008/2009.

Mitchell Biersner: For better or for worse, I see conferences and meetings organizers/sponsoring organizations using their site selections (or deselections) to make political statements. I believe the trend we saw in North Carolina following passage of HB2, what we’ve seen in Arizona and Indiana in previous years, will continue.

William R. Host: That sadly nothing will change. [And sadly, I’m with Bill on this one, despite what I tried to say optimistically in the blog.]

Charles Richards III: I anticipate the meetings and hospitality segment becoming more tech savvy. Many meetings and convention venues are already stepping up their tech support capabilities. Online streaming has now become a major must-have for many groups when selecting space and I anticipate we’ll get to a place where speakers will remote into multiple similar segment conventions to deliver one key address! Technology is booming to a place that is excelling the meetings and convention world to new heights!

Antwone Stigall: My prediction is that since we now know where we stand as PEOPLE; divided and ununited, we AS AN INDUSTRY will start to take a deeper and more strategic approach in how we diversify our leadership and become more inclusive in all areas of inclusivity.

Shawna Suckow: Audience engagement will continue to be a driving force. We need to embrace a new landscape where participants are no longer satisfied with sitting and listening, session after session. Without more strategic engagement inside the ballroom and beyond it, planners will see declining attendance and disenchanted participants.

Sharmagne Taylor: In the lodging sector, Airbnb and other similar concepts will continue to grow. Guests seek privacy, unique experiences and connectivity. Room blocks will need to account for this, particularly for larger meetings and international destinations just as Internet booking changed the game for rates and dates.

And finally, from Nancy J. Zavada, CMP, President and Founder of MeetGreen in Portland, Ore.:

“Ordinarily I would jump at the chance to predict what the future looks like for our industry. My crystal ball is foggy and my complete disagreement with Roger Dow [President and CEO, U.S. Travel Association], that [President-elect] Trump is the best thing for our industry, leaves me wondering. Sustainability experts are not sure how this change will play out in corporations and their events. Also in question are the social issues our industry was just starting to deal with. Even here in liberal Portland, Ore., the rise in hate crimes and intolerance is widespread. How will this impact our meetings?

Click here to access the 01.06.17 edition of the Friday With Joan newsletter.

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