Meetings Today: What sorts of things, in a professional sense, worry you about the meetings industry or the responsibilities of meeting planners?

I remain concerned that with organizations continuing to maintain very lean staffing levels, individuals tasked with planning meetings who are newer to the profession often do not have superiors who can mentor and train them in best practices and industry ethics. In the long run, these deficiencies have a hard-dollar cost to all of us as venues have to compensate by increasing prices in order to boost their own staffing levels in support of groups.--Angie Silberhorn, CMP, Conference Director, Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC), Oak Brook, Ill.

The economy and the impact it has on travel and meetings is always a concern of mine. One economic issue can set this industry back considerably as it did in 2001, 2003 and 2008, 2009. Planners need to be more accountable for decision making on meeting location; many planners will have you think they are empowered to make quick decisions, while the truth is that they are not signing the contract or driving decisions at the senior leadership or board of director level.--Gary Schirmacher, CMP, Senior Vice president, Industry Presence & Strategic Development, Experient, A Maritz Global events Company, Boulder, Colo.


Not much worries me professionally. I follow best practices of the industry, rely on the meeting venue manager for assistance, and try to be open and flexible during the event while keeping calm.--Liz Whitney, WLP, International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA), Des Plaines, Ill.

It is of constant concern that the budgets of our clients as well as our own organization will affect the parameters for our meetings. We are finding quite a few virtual meetings and conference calls are replacing some face-to-face meetings and the need for a planner to be on-site to facilitate is also at risk. The desire to subcontract out meeting planning altogether is always of personal concern. As the primary meeting planner for our organization it is my goal to develop and deliver a value-add that a sub-contracted planner could never provide. Knowing the audience, their needs and their decided idiosyncrasies along with strict budget management are the areas I am able to influence to ensure that my position is secured.--Wendy Sutowski, CMP, Director of Events, The American College, King of Prussia, Pa.

It worries me that planners still don't get much respect from those outside of the industry. It's two things: 1.) Those we might work with look down on us and don't take our knowledge or experience seriously; 2.) Other people feel they can do the same job without experience or any understanding of the industry and like to call themselves "meeting planners" because they booked one dinner.--Gina E. Allega, CMP, Senior Program Manager, Meeting & Event Services North America, BCD Travel, Cleveland

That we sometimes get lazy and use the same facilities, same menus, etc., without thinking outside the box, which could give a better ROI.--Debbie Kopkau, Director of Certification, MBA, CAE, CMP, GMS, Michigan School Business Officials, Lansing, Mich.

I’m concerned that the group business is trending toward becoming more of a commodity. With the squeezing of professional meeting planners’ commissions and the growth and development of online-based meeting booking tools, the importance of supplier-planner relationships is diminishing, and technology and commoditization of groups is becoming more of a reality. The loss of hospitality-minded relationships could go the way of the dinosaur if the industry loses the value of personal relationships.--Scott Shellman, Principal, Framework Meetings and Destinations, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 

The rise of virtual meetings and the decline of travel budgets.--Geoffrey S. Duncan, Director of Sales & Marketing, Radius Display Products, Dallas

The unpredictability of government officials. Our 2016 conference was two weeks before the presidential election and attendance plummeted as companies enabled across-the-board spending freezes. “We’re waiting until November,” they said. “We’re waiting until November.” Or take the NCAA moving the championship events from North Carolina, citing their anti-gay-rights Law. I have added the following to all my contracts:

Force Majeure – The obligations set out in this contract will be inapplicable or suspended if their implementation becomes impossible, illegal, or commercially impracticable because of an event of force majeure such as flood, fire, earthquake, hurricane or other natural disaster, as well as war, threat of war, military acts, terrorism, threat of terrorism, acts of or actions of Federal, State, or Local Government, or other circumstances which are beyond the control of the parties such as riots, or any event the national media refers to as a “crisis” where 40% or more of the guests cannot or will not attend the conference. 

Considering past activities in North Carolina, Indiana, etc., Group reserves the right to cancel this contract without liability should state or local officials pass any laws that are discriminatory against any of Group’s attendees’ race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or country of origin.--Jack Molisani, Executive Director, The LavaCon Conference, Long Beach, Calif.

Having all factors coming on time to our meeting.--Carl Lambrecht, General Manager, Laurel Industries, Highland Park, Ill.

Personally, I think the biggest concern I have is that people in the industry are less interested in learning these days. Maybe it’s because they think they’ve figured it all out?  I don’t know.  One reason might be the educators for the industry. This is a multi-pronged issue. However, I’ll share two contributing points this problem:  legitimacy and “experts.”
Legitimacy: This is an issue that has plagued the meetings and events industries since its beginning. “Can you put together a quick meeting, just order some breakfast, etc.,” or, “Can you plan the ‘party’ for us?” These are requests that event professionals have made a career of doing successfully but some companies see as “something my secretary can do.”  The term secretary should give insight to that company’s POV on most things. However, whether a company uses the term “secretary” or “admin” or whatever, there is still the prevailing thought that “anyone can do it, it’s just a (fill in the blank).” The industry needs to continue to move forward to legitimize ourselves and prove our contributions to the bottom line so we can be recognized with our colleagues.

“Experts”: That term is purposely in quotes. I recently attended a [sponsor deleted] event in New York. I was excited to sit in on sessions, ready to learn and be inspired by “experts.” Unfortunately, this was not the case. I’d say half of the sessions I attended had speakers that offered anything new on subjects being presented. Granted, I have 25 years in the industry behind me, but I don’t think the same concepts that have been shared should be presented as “new.” These days the term “experts” is abused in every industry but that doesn’t make it right. We as event industry professionals need to be even that much more diligent when having someone present to our peers. We need to UP our game versus keep it status quo.--Don Pietranczyk, Senior Manager, Experiences and Activations, New York City

Managing costs. Prices are rising in every area--particularly F&B and service fees. Service fees are adding an astronomical amount to our total expenses.--Diana Bryant, Director, Conferences & Meetings, TVPPA (Tennessee Valley Public Power Association), Chattanooga, Tenn.

Emergency preparedness is a complicated issue. I do agree that planners have a general responsibility for safety, but I do not agree that planners are to be held liable for every possible circumstance safety at an event. Leaving your home is a risk; there are crazy people in the supermarket, mall or walking down the street.--Kay B. Clark, CMP, Director, Meetings & Events, Material Handling Industry, Charlotte, N.C.

Duty of Care. As planners, we all have an emergency plan on paper with protocols and procedures set out for any instance that might be in the realm of duty of care.  However, over the past few years, it’s become apparent that those plans can’t just be on paper.  You have to be able to translate that paper into real life when reality comes knocking.  Vegas was a wake up call for us all.  But are we really ready?--Samantha Vogel, CMP, Sr. Manager, Meetings & Travel, GameStop, Inc., Dallas

Safety of my attendees and staff.--Tracy Orpin, CMP, IAAP, Kansas City, Mo.

The list of duties and the knowledge required to manage all the key parts of meetings keeps growing and changing. Staying abreast of top issues while planning multiple logistics makes it hard to not miss a beat.--Katie K Riggs, CMP, CMM, CAE, HMCC, VP, Client & Conference Services, Raybourn Group Int., Indianapolis

The biggest concern is the meeting industry has an ever increasing list of external factors that meeting planners have to be mindful of: fair trade practices, sexual harassment issues, privacy policies, etc. This is on top of safety and risk management, travel barriers, green meetings, programming, weather, etc. It can be difficult to keep abreast of changes in policies and trends. I feel like I know just enough but I worry if this knowledge base is sufficient or effective.--KD O'Neal, CMP MBA, Conference & Event Services Manager, University of Dallas, Irving, Texas

Misunderstanding the relevance of T&C’s, not taking into account the importance of insurance cover (both ways), security requirements and as a general comment, the volume of different M&E solutions.--Jef Robinson, Global Category Manager–Travel & Meetings, Anonymous, London

We are concerned about valid scientists and presenters getting their visas denied to enter the USA and other countries with active travel bans. This restricts the exchange of valid scientific research and information.--Leslie Zeck, CMP, CMM, HMCC, Director of Meetings, International and American Associations for Dental Research, Alexandria, Va.

Security risks, cyber security more now then ever. I also worry about the continued growth of the meeting planner role. We have to wear a lot of hats and I worry about being able to continue to advance the career perception of the planner. We do so much more now than just logistical arrangements these days; we are strategic thinkers and need to be included in the strategic conversations that occur at the C suite level of our organizations.--Megan Martin, CMP, MPA, Senior Meeting Manager, National Conference of State Legislatures, Denver