Your single most important activity as a planner is not in the job description: Keeping track of trends and adjusting your business to take advantage of the changes.

Here’s a look at what’s trending from six key industry players and some of the ways planners can stay ahead of the tide.

Christina Erickson, BCD Travel Meetings & Events

Christina Erickson, Senior Vice President, US Event Solutions
BCD Travel Meetings & Events

More so than ever, BCD Travel Meetings and Event Solutions is looking at events more strategically, according to Christina Erickson, who said all planners should do the same.

“Planners are having to elevate their business acumen because event success starts with understanding the business objectives,” she said. “Logistics and a well-run meeting where things are on time and in place are table stakes now—flawless logistics just gets you in the game. Success is designing an event or a meeting that is going to have impact because organizations are doing more with less. They have to optimize the investment they are making.”

Face-to-face meeting is part of a much larger strategy in an organization, according to Erickson, who said typically, planners are supporting a sales or marketing strategy, and that single event has a purpose with the organization. 

“We are asking key questions up-front,” she said. “What are the objectives and why do they exist? What behaviors are we trying to elicit or change within an audience?

"What kind of data is available, and what can we capture or measure along the way to ensure that we know whether our desired outcomes were successful or not?”

Erickson added that understanding the audience and doing some up-front diagnostics is important. 

“Where have there been some proven successes—where there might be key insights from past programs?” she said. “What is the audience makeup? We find our audiences are becoming more diverse, whether it is generational or different goals within an audience where companies are consolidating. It is understanding the audience and understanding the best way to communicate with that specific audience."

Erickson said BCD is also pushing hard on training, and one of its favorites is a new three-day immersive program at California State University, San Diego about designing events. 

“This Certified Event Designer, CED, course steps away from the traditional CMP credential, which most of our planners have,” she said. “Some of our team is doing it and even some of our clients.

"It’s about rounding out a planner’s expertise so they can ensure that the plan is on target and organized, and the logistics are in place while keeping that overarching strategy in mind."

As an organization looking for different approaches, BCD also has its team reading The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson for inspiration. 

“It is about stepping out of the same-old, same-old by looking at other industries and applying their best practices as an overlay to your industry,” Erickson said.

Tony Lorenz, AlliedPRA

Tony Lorenz, CMM,  Chief Executive Officer, AlliedPRA 

Consolidation, a natural outcome of any industry that has been fragmented, will be good for the meetings industry, according to Tony Lorenz.

“Industry consolidation is going to continue, not only in hotels but also in other parts of the event space,” he said. “Consolidation is going to be increasingly prevalent in hotels, agencies, ground transportation providers and related services, technology and every other sector, other than airlines which has already seen consolidation over the past several years.

"Some companies will possibly be owned by somebody else at some point in time as those events execute."

Meanwhile, Lorenz believes an increasing level of focus will be placed on very targeted meetings and events that match buyers and sellers, which will one day be the norm for market-facing events. 

“A lot gets done in one-to-one sessions between buyers and sellers, but matched encounters are much more valuable to both parties than walking around a tradeshow and hoping for the best,” he said. “Individuals with spend responsibility simply don’t have the time. And yet, face to face will never go away.

"Meeting professionals should be comfortable with those types of events, as matching between buyers and sellers through intelligent technology will be the norm in five years," he added.

Lorenz also sees select second-tier cities experiencing increased growth. 

“Those cities that maybe five or 10 years ago were not as noted as prime destinations are going to get a lot more attention going forward,” he said. “Cities like Nashville, Indianapolis, Louisville, Charlotte, Austin and others are growing impressively, and will continue to do so with the rest of the industry.

"In some cases, these cities will outpace industry growth.”

Nicole McCoy, Bishop McCann

Nicole McCoy, HMCC, Director, Global Sourcing, Bishop McCann

Bishop McCann has stepped up education on venues and contracts for its clients, particularly in light of recent hurricanes, according to Nicole McCoy.

“Knowing which of the Caribbean islands have been affected by hurricanes and which have not is important,” she said. “Some resorts and entire islands are out of business, some for a few weeks, some for a year or two.

"And there are islands like Aruba that were never affected, islands that are ready and open and welcoming visitors.” 

McCoy added that Bishop McCann has several hotel partners in Mexico that have moved renovations to accommodate groups that had to relocate from some of the islands. 

While before the hurricanes, McCann said you would just pick some islands and dates and see who has availability, nowadays, the biggest thing is having discussions with clients on the front end and brainstorming ideas, so that as clients are engaging with their leadership, they already known which islands and resorts are going to be the best options in the timeframe they are interested in. 

“That conversation has to be held before you even reach out to hotels because there are islands that don’t even come to mind that would be a great fit and haven’t been impacted by the hurricanes and the rebuilding,” she said. 

Meanwhile, clients and planners are paying a lot more attention to force majeure, what that means in practical terms and exactly what they are comfortable with, according to McCann.