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

Angie Silberhorn: I believe the U.S. is due for a cyclical economic downturn or worse. In addition, we are also likely to reach a point in our natural business cycle where hotel room supply will again outpace demand in many destinations. But these are natural cycles that, at least in the association business, we’re equipped to manage if we’re not too reactionary. -- Angie Silberhorn, CMP, Conference Director, Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC), Oak Brook, Ill.

Stacy Wald: It is a seller’s market right now. A lot of people are having meetings. -- Stacy Wald, CMP, Director of Meeting Events, Data Trace Management Services, Towson, Md.

Gary Schirmacher:  I’m always optimistic that groups will book and people will attend. More hotels and more groups should mean that supply/demand still is tricky in our business. -- Gary Schirmacher, CMP, Senior Vice president, Industry Presence & Strategic Development, Experient, A Maritz Global events Company, Boulder, Colo.

Liz Whitney: I am optimistic that there will be more in-person meetings because of the improved economy and the realization that people need to meet face-to-face. Over the next few years I believe that in-person meetings will be sourced more often in second- and third-tier cities to keep costs down. -- Liz Whitney, WLP, International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA), Des Plaines, Ill.

Wendy Sutowski: I’m optimistic because face-to-face meetings will always be necessary and desired, but business and budgets will always take a priority so maybe we do not use the top-of-the-line locations, but the meeting still happens, albeit with a lower budget. -- Wendy Sutowski, CMP, Director of Events, The American College, King of Prussia, Pa.

Gina E. Allega: I am optimistic about the industry as a whole, growing. I'm less optimistic when it comes to space availability as it seems there is less and less each year. -- Gina E. Allega, CMP, Senior Program Manager, Meeting & Event Services North America, BCD Travel, Cleveland

Debbie Kopkau: Optimistic, since demand is there but negotiation is not happening for one-day event. If you are bringing in a full package with overnights and meeting room rental, then there is movement. I think we are going to see that things will flatten out soon and there will be more wiggle room to negotiate. -- Debbie Kopkau, Director of Certification, MBA, CAE, CMP, GMS, Michigan School Business Officials, Lansing, Mich.

Scott Shellman: I’m disappointed that the large chains have wielded their power over the professional planning community and cut our income for many programs by 30 percent. We have many programs that we book each year that don’t require much more than sourcing and contracting a hotel because of the size of the meeting. With those programs that don’t require our on-site services (and our ability to charge for those services) this commission cut has been a major hit to our revenue. Had the hotels had an incident that caused their revenues to permanently drop by 30 percent, they’d be frantic. While we’ll survive, it’s a hard pill to swallow. I think the chains could’ve handled the reduction much more gently, say by easing us into the 30 percent cut by reducing by 10 percent every 6-12 months, over an 18- 36-month period. I applaud the independents and chains like Omni Hotels, MGM and others who have continued to support the meeting planners by continuing to value the work we do, and the expense we undertake to get our clients to book their hotels. -- Scott Shellman, Principal, Framework Meetings and Destinations, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 

Geoffrey S. Duncan: Less. Virtual and robotic attendees are surging. Millennials are used to staying home or remote-attending options, and with less socialization in each generation, face-to-face meetings become less attractive. In the past it used to be exciting to travel and put a face with a voice or socially interact and network, but as more people text and tweet more, social interactions are becoming stressful and negative. People are now “dreading” having to meet people in person. A faceless chat box is preferred to human contact. -- Geoffrey S. Duncan, Director of Sales & Marketing, Radius Display Products, Dallas

Jack Molisani: More. As more and more crimes are being discovered in the Trump Administration and Democrats took back the house, there will be more checks on a president who seems to take joy in seeding fear and unpredictability. -- Jack Molisani, Executive Director, The LavaCon Conference, Long Beach, Calif.

Carl Lambrecht: Trump is president. This makes all feel more confident. -- Carl Lambrecht, General Manager, Laurel Industries, Highland Park, Ill.

Don Pietranczyck: I’m optimistic. I think the industry (and society in general) is craving the one-on-one/in-person experience provided by a meeting or tradeshow or what have you. -- Don Pietranczyk, Senior Manager, Experiences and Activations, New York City

Diana Bryant: I’m optimistic that people are more willing to invest in attending meetings and I’m more optimistic about the economy. I do wish venues would slow down on raising prices. If meetings are up, they will be making more, anyway. -- Diana Bryant, Director, Conferences & Meetings, TVPPA (Tennessee Valley Public Power Association), Chattanooga, Tenn.

Kay B. Clark: The same. I think people will continue to need to meet in person to accomplish their business. Whether it’s training sessions, education or sharing of best practices. These things will continue to be part of the budget. -- Kay B. Clark, CMP, Director, Meetings & Events, Material Handling Industry, Charlotte, N.C.

Samantha Vogel: More! I think planners are really starting to design the meetings of the future. Hotels and centers are also pushing the boundaries on what they are allowing you to do in their space in new creative and engaging ways. Between new design thinking and new technology catering to our industry, I think the industry is really excited about what’s on the horizon. The challenge will be the budget. I don’t see budgets increasing on the whole for planners. So we have to find creative ways to implement new designs and technology in ways that make an impact but don’t break the bank! -- Samantha Vogel, CMP, Sr. Manager, Meetings & Travel, GameStop, Inc., Dallas

Tracy Orpin: I am very optimistic. The industry has always been and ebb and flow it changes from a buyers' market to a sellers' market, and you realize that if you have been in the industry long enough. There is always need for face-to-face meetings. -- Tracy Orpin, CMP, IAAP, Kansas City, Mo.

Katie K Riggs: I would say we are due for at least a slight shift downward. This will mean being creative with money as there might be less resources to go around, but also a time to ramp up contracting. -- Katie K Riggs, CMP, CMM, CAE, HMCC, VP, Client & Conference Services, Raybourn Group Int., Indianapolis

KD O'Neal: I am in a wait-and-see mode due to the economic issues of wages, travel bans, trade tariffs, immigration etc. -- KD O'Neal, CMP MBA, Conference & Event Services Manager, University of Dallas, Irving, Texas

Jef Robinson: About the same, but in EMEA Brexit causes (possibly unnecessary) anxiety, the ongoing maturity of the industry is positive, ongoing consolidation can be seen as a negative, but in general, it all pretty much evens itself out. -- Jef Robinson, Global Category Manager–Travel & Meetings, Anonymous, London

Chere L Brooks: I anticipate the rates going up; my budget will only increase as long as my attendance increase. So I will continue to plan as far ahead as I can. -- Chere L Brooks, Learning Events Manager, Habitat for Humanity International, Atlanta

Leslie Zeck: A little less optimistic.Associations are no longer hiring senior meeting planners and travel is more individualized that in the past. People book where they want and when they want to go. We are increasingly being requested to book the best cities at the best time, but the members do not want to pay the high fees that are associated with that! -- Leslie Zeck, CMP, CMM, HMCC, Director of Meetings, International and American Associations for Dental Research, Alexandria, Va.

Megan Martin: Same optimism as a year ago. We are in a strong economy right now which I think will continue through most of 2019. Strong economies translate well for our industry. I think we will see a more balanced shift towards the sellers market. More inventory is coming online this year which gives to a more balanced negotiating environments for planners. -Megan Martin, CMP, MPA, Senior Meeting Manager, National Conference of State Legislatures, Denver