Meetings Today LIVE! West wrapped May 2, 2018, at the new Park MGM, and meetings planners in attendance not only gave rave reviews about the host hotel, off-site venues and experiences, several shared some of the issues that are top of mind for them during our one-on-one sessions.

Safety and security, attendee wellness, legal issues, attrition, hotel mergers, the sellers’ market, fees and, yes, even decor, are among the things keeping planners up these days—and nights.

Planner No. 1: Teresa Krist, Cardinal Health
Top Concerns: Event Security and Legal Issues

For Teresa Krist, manager of meetings and events for Cardinal Health, Dallas, safety and legal issues are of utmost concern.

“The whole political atmosphere makes you very nervous,” Krist said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. And with random shootings, more info is needed to make people feel comfortable and safe.”

Krist has been in the industry for more than 30 years. Her company specializes in pharmaceutical, marketing and interaction summits.

“We’re very strict on Sunshine requirements, and our compliance team is on-site,” she said. “I’m always concerned with what the Sunshine requirements are. New Jersey just changed theirs. It’s down from $25 to $15. It’s a hot topic in New Jersey, and they’re trying to get it repealed.”

Planner No. 2: Dennis Hamilton, Hamilton Meetings & Incentives
Top Concern: Negotiating in a Sellers' Market and Fees

For Dennis Hamilton, of Hamilton Meetings & Incentives in East Lansing, Michigan, the sellers’ market is increasingly tough to tackle.

“I’m looking at programs that are two and three years out, and I do 85 to 250 room nights,” he said. “Hotels are unwilling to negotiate with you because they’re waiting for the client that is a sellout of the property.

"I give them flexibility to fit me into a certain window and they’re unwilling to negotiate—especially larger properties, and my clients are high-end," he added.

Hamilton said the other issue is resort and other fees associated with a meeting.

“The corporate client doesn’t benefit from going to the pool or getting towels, so they want to negotiate out of resort fees,” he said. “I have clients who refuse to pay them.

"They’ve even gone out and bought their staff their own Wi-Fi, which can save a ton of money."

Hamilton added that with many hotels now implementing large markups for audiovisual companies such as PSAV and Encore, he tries to start negotiating at 30 percent to 40 percent less. If that doesn't work, he often purchases the equipment himself and hires a local audiovisual company.

"Sometimes it's cheaper for me to buy a screen and a projector, send them to the hotel, hire a local company, and just leave the equipment there," he said. 

Planner No. 3: Evelyn Hall, Credit Union of Texas 
Top Concerns: Attendee Wellness and Safety at Meetings and Events

Evelyn Hall, executive assistant to the president/CEO at Credit Union of Texas in Dallas, said safety is a huge issue nowadays.

“Once you get your attendees there, you just feel responsible,” she said. “You want to get them back home safely as well.”

Her attendees are retired teachers and retired superintendents, so health is a major concern for Hall as well.

“I try to give them that total experience of calm meetings, leaving with fresh ideas and like a home away from home,” she said. “Wellness plays a very big part now. I’ve experienced MGM StayWell Meetings, and that is exactly what I’m looking for. The food is so nutritious, the air is purified, and the lighting is circadian.

"It brings energy to the meeting and to the attendees," Hall added.

Planner No. 4: Daryl Ehrentreu, PRESENT E-Learning Systems
Top Concern: Attrition and Contracts

Daryl Ehrentreu, senior director, meetings management, for PRESENT E-Learning Systems in Boca Raton, Fla., said her biggest concern is attrition and how to deal with it in contracts.

“I lost $70,000 last year,” she said. “We renegotiated with Aria in Vegas for this year, and we’ve had to go off the Strip to the M to compensate for it.”

Ehrentreu’s company plans meetings of between 250 and 1,000 in New Jersey, Chicago, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and one of her issues is the meeting space to rooms ratio in Las Vegas and how to deal with it.

“We use a lot of meeting space but not a lot of rooms, so the room block doesn’t justify the space,” Ehrentreu said.

Planner No. 4: Gary Goosman, ACCSES
Top Concern: The Marriott-Starwood Merger

For Gary Goosman, director of operations for ACCSES in Washington, D.C., the Marriott-Starwood merger has been a big concern.

“Marriott has not always been easy to do business with, and Starwood has bent over backwards for us, so I’m concerned the Marriott attitude will transfer over,” he said, adding that he hasn’t seen that happen yet. “We get treated very well by SPG points, and Marriott hasn’t announced how that will roll over yet.”

Planner No. 5: Josephine Dancel, NeoLife International
Top Concern: The Decor Vendor / Nonresponse

Josephine Dancel, events manager, North America for NeoLife International, based in Fremont, California, enjoys planning all the North America corporate events for the international nutritional supplement company—from trainings to retreats, incentives and conventions.

Her biggest concern?

“My decor vendor,” she quipped. “I haven’t heard back, and the event is in July.”

Dancel aims to keep up with the trends, especially when it comes to decor and setup, and always be open to new ideas while attending events.

“I strive to make sure all my vendors are on point,” she said. “The opening reception here at Park MGM was wonderful with the cool couches in the middle and the food stations around the room. I am considering doing a throwback event, so I got great ideas from the furniture setup.”

Whether it’s the hottest room setup, the coolest new wellness initiative or ways to deal with safety and security, Meetings Today LIVE! is a place where planners and suppliers can voice concerns, brainstorm ideas, network and ultimately come away with fresh perspectives and new industry acquaintances.

Additional Reading

To learn more about our other 2018 Meetings Today LIVE! events, go to: www.meetingstoday.com/Live.

Click here to check out image highlights from Meetings Today LIVE! West 2018 in Las Vegas.