Kelly O'Neal, CMP, MBA, Conference & Event Services Manager, University of Dallas, Irving, Texas

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?

Security has become more of an issue. Our school has recently hired a law enforcement (armed) staff along with our campus safety officers. Once oriented to the school policies and procedures, the director of the Campus Police Department will be formulating a plan.

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?

No [to both questions].

Is the duration of your meetings either shrinking or expanding? Why?

Shrinking, for cost reductions. For instance, two nights instead of three to lower lodging expense; so meetings will start noon on day one and end noon on day three.

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?

[Budget stayed the same].

Do you expect your budget to increase or decrease in 2018?

Yes, specifically in labor expense that support[s] meetings.

Do you expect your attendance to increase or decrease in 2018?

No.

Are perception problems (meeting at luxurious properties, resort destinations, etc.) a great concern for your organization? Do you expect any perception problems in 2018?

No.

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?

No.

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?

Yes, as the length of meeting/conferences are reducing there is less downtime during the meetings. I find that I am asked to plan optional activities for pre- and post-meeting at the expense of the attendee.

Are you incorporating more, or less, activities into your agenda? If so, what types of activities are being added or cut?

Less social activities [are being incorporated] during the meeting timeframe, but moved to pre and post.

Have you offered, or do you think you will offer, a CSR (corporate social responsibility) component to your meetings?

Not applicable to the meetings I plan but the professional organization I belong to incorporates service/social responsibility into their educational conference. 

What are your thoughts on the use of drones at meetings? Have you considered this?

Clients have proposed it but it has not come into fruition. We are looking into a policy. 

Are sustainable (green) meetings something your organization has moved toward? If not, do you expect to implement more-sustainable meetings in the future?

Our campus has moved toward it but there is work to be done.

Are you finding that attrition clauses are being enforced more or less strictly recently? Can you share any comments/observations about this?

Attrition has not been an issue for us.

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?

N/A; our meetings are usually off-site from the hotel.

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?

Hotels have been willing to negotiate.

Are you using social networking websites for business purposes? If so, which ones and why?

Instagram for the visual aspect and ease of use.

Are you more optimistic, or less, about the meetings industry and the economy than a year ago? Why?

More optimistic; with regulations on corporations lessening I think this sector will spend more.

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?

The use of technology will continue to change the industry, but I believe there will always be a need to "meet,” "connect" and "engage" in meaningful ways, and that is how our industry will have impact. I think the economy will continue dictate the budget and attendance.

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?

I think life-stages of the attendee will be more important. The oldest millennial is nearing 40 and they (as well as those behind them) will experience life-stage events; so the trends are emerging (and will continue to) as this generation marry, have children, take care of parents, plan retirement, etc.