Angie Silberhorn, CMP, Conference Director, Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC), Oak Brook, Ill.
Do you find that security has become much more of an issue for your meetings? Do you have a security plan for your meetings, and if not, are you discussing or planning to implement one?
No [to both questions].
Do you find that your booking window (the time between starting the process of researching and booking a meeting and the actual event) is increasing or shrinking? Are you finding it harder to book rooms/meeting space in a short timeframe at hotels and other meeting facilities?
[Our booking window is] increasing due to the timeline needed to find the available space necessary for our meeting. Venues are filling up sooner than in the past.
Is the duration of your meetings either shrinking or expanding? Why?
Neither. Staying the same.
Is the attendance at your meetings shrinking or expanding? Why?
Our attendance has been pretty flat for the past three years. We’re working very hard to increase it.
Did you have a smaller or larger budget to work with last year? If so, how much do you estimate it was decreased or increased?
About the same.
Do you expect your budget to increase or decrease in 2018?
About the same.
Do you expect your attendance to increase or decrease in 2018?
Hoping for a 10+% increase.
Are perception problems (meeting at luxurious properties, resort destinations, etc.) a great concern for your organization? Do you expect any perception problems in 2018?
Yes. Our attendees expect affordability and cannot get approval to attend meetings in luxurious properties.
Are you exploring the possibility, or have you already held, a “hybrid” meeting (meetings that combine live events with an Internet/digital component)? If so, what are your observations?
Are you finding that you are scheduling more meeting sessions per day, and if so, is it at the expense of entertainment or events that are more social in nature?
We have historically been very heavy in educational sessions (10 concurrent sessions for 900 attendees).
Have you offered, or do you think you will offer, a CSR (corporate social responsibility) component to your meetings?
No. Have considered it, but don’t have the staff bandwidth or revenue to support it.
What are your thoughts on the use of drones at meetings? Have you considered this?
We would like to have exhibitors who sell drone technology to our industry demoing their products in our exhibit hall, but venue rules and liability issues prevent us from pursuing them aggressively.
Are sustainable (green) meetings something your organization has moved toward? If not, do you expect to implement more-sustainable meetings in the future?
Are you finding that attrition clauses are being enforced more or less strictly recently? Can you share any comments/observations about this?
Yes, being enforced more strictly. In the past, I expected that I could negotiate down or away any minor attrition penalties. Now it’s expected that we’ll just pay them or build a credit into a future (rebooking) contract at best.
How important is Internet bandwidth to your programs (i.e., Wi-Fi), and do you think hotels are being more or less flexible with their Internet bandwidth pricing? Any tips to share with your fellow planners to get free or discounted Wi-Fi for your meetings?
It’s only moderately important to our group. Only about 25% of our attendees use the Wi-Fi when we offer it. They’re well-traveled and are used to using their own cellular/data options.
Do you find that you had less leverage on room rates during the last year? What are hotels and facilities telling you when you negotiate?
Yes, hotels have gotten very aggressive with group room rates. In the last three years I’ve found them having to undercut the group rates with lower transient rates because when they got inside of six months, they couldn’t fill their remaining rooms at the higher rates. This is a hot button issue with me and it has to stop!
Are you using social networking websites for business purposes? If so, which ones and why?
Our organization uses LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. I personally only use LinkedIn for business purposes.
Are you more optimistic, or less, about the meetings industry and the economy than a year ago? Why?
I expect the economy will take a downturn in either 2018 or 2019—the pendulum always swings back…
How do you think 2018 will shape up for the meetings industry? Where do you see costs (hotel, restaurant, venue prices, etc.) going? Do you think your budget and/or attendance will increase or decrease? Why?
I expect hotel room supply to catch up with demand about the same time the overall economy begins to take a downturn, so we’ll move out of the sellers’ market and into a more reasonable or even buyers’ market.
What other trends are you seeing in the meetings world, such as changing attendee demographics (i.e., Millennials), or any other trends that are impacting your programs?
Competition for attendees among similar events is probably our biggest challenge. As a small, nonprofit, professional association, we’re competing for attendees with for-profit organizations producing competing events.