Rita Kelly, Director of Administration, Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association, Minneapolis

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, the topic has not come up.

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?

The cutoff dates seem to get earlier. As far as booking on short timeframe, it all depends on how large of a group and the timing of other events in the area. I usually don’t have a problem as my larger events are on a set schedule and planned two years out.

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

Over the last several years, we reduced our main conferences by one day. It was a popular request of our attendees.

Is the attendance at your meetings shrinking or expanding? Why?

It’s been staying the same, although our last annual conference increased because we added in specialized training for governing board members.

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?

It was the same, but we went over budget.

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

It was increased 15%.

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

Always hope to increase, but reality says it will likely stay the same.

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 members are made up of municipal government. We definitely need to be cautious of not going over the top. Do not expect problems in 2018.

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?

We have not explored this option yet. We are afraid it will take away from the member experience of networking, which tends to be a bigger bonus to attendees for in-person conferences.

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 given sessions more time, which has given us fewer sessions. Three years ago we dropped our banquet entertainment because everyone was leaving and going to hospitality suites. People have thanked me for doing so. It got to be a long evening of dinner, awards and then entertainment. We saved the money and let our vendors entertain in their hospitality suites instead.

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

We had planned to use one at an outdoor event until we were told it was banned because we were too close to an airport. No plans to use one at a conference. Too disruptive.

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

I would like to, but not enough of our members have smartphones let alone tablets to view handouts on yet.

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

I have yet to run into an enforcement of the attrition clause. We only have four resorts large enough to hold our conference so we are considered “regular” business. They want to keep us happy and coming back.

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?

We have more requests from speakers for Internet access every meeting. I still have a few places that charge for it, but more and more just have it included.

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?

Depends on the venue and my options for other locations. The resorts I am usually able to negotiate with and get them to get closer pricing. The hotels I’ve been working with—[we] tend to be very close to—so there’s no need to negotiate.

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

We are finally on Facebook. We use Twitter and LinkedIn although not much of our member audience is on any of them. As the younger generation joins the ranks they are using it 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?

Hotel costs continue to get insanely expensive; $25 for a dozen cookies is crazy, especially when there’s nothing special about the cookies!

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?

We are finally starting to see some younger attendees.