For global hospitality companies, one of the biggest meeting trends happens to be the smallest.
As senior director of Hilton Meetings & Product Management for Hilton Worldwide
, Sherry Romello is constantly keeping track of meeting trends around the globe. One trend, in particular, that Romello has seen grow tremendously, has been the emergence of more smaller meetings.
"In today's hyper-connected world, meaningful, face-to-face interactions can have a lasting impact on the success of a business, organization or project," Romello tells SuccessfulMeetings.com. "We live at a time when relationships are of the utmost importance and organizations and companies are starting to see small meetings as a better way to foster them. It's much easier to connect with a small group of people rather than a room filled with hundreds."
Todd Sherstad, director of Marriott's Convention & Resort Network, also told SuccessfulMeetings.com: "We have seen an increase in lead volume in all meeting sizes this year, and we are seeing an increase in smaller meetings at our hotels that have the availability short term, as the lead time for these smaller meetings tends to arrive within a year."
Accommodating the needs of smaller meetings also requires a different sales strategy, says Romello. "Through our research and customer feedback, we know that most small meetings are booked less than 30 days out and, increasingly, less than 10 days out from the event date," she notes.
Nancy McHenry, vice president of group sales operations for Marriott, says, "At our Convention & Resort Network hotels, small meetings are critically important to us."
"We also see more diversity in the people booking these small meetings - administrative assistants, road warriors, project managers, etc. Because most small meetings require swift movement, we have to provide customers with easy options to choose from on short notice," Romello says.
"As an example, we created bundled packages with 'Meetings Simplified.' These bundles include the meeting room, Wi-Fi, flip charts and markers, and all-day non-alcoholic beverage service with some hotels also offering catering and A/V services as well - all in the effort of helping our customers book their small meetings quickly and efficiently," says Romello.
At Marriott, the company is introducing a new site, called MeetingsImagined.com, which will include "visual inspiration for ideation, planning and collaborating," explains McHenry. "This is a great tool for planners to get new ideas for their meetings."
Romello adds, "Small meetings are particularly important to us at Hilton because of our 'Connect' philosophy. We believe strongly in the power of personal connections, and these interactions are at the heart of smaller meetings. We are constantly evaluating our tools and offerings, like Meetings Simplified, to align with our philosophy and facilitate those human-to-human interactions for their event. With each event, we strive to create unforgettable experiences and have made it a point to do that across our global portfolio, realizing that no two events are the same."
Meetings Simplified is one of Hilton's premier meeting initiatives, designed to make the reservation process easier to use for planners.
"It provides a simple, bundled meeting solutions for a seamless reservation process," Romello explains. "With Meetings Simplified - a global, corporate-wide offering - Hilton meets the rising demand for customer access to space from anywhere. We're having success with Meetings Simplified across many of our brands and with many different customer types."
In particular, Romello notes, many of Hilton's corporate customers are using Meetings Simplified. "While corporate planning teams handle a bulk of the planning, there are many small meetings that are booked by administrative assistants and project managers. Meetings Simplified allows the corporate planning teams to share this new simplified way of booking small meetings with their colleagues to make it easier to understand pricing and contract terms while also speeding up the booking time," she says.
Other meeting trends that Romello, McHenry, and Sherstad see on the rise include wellness and sustainability.
"We're seeing wellness as an emerging trend that planners are paying particular attention to," Romello says. "As planners are creating their events, they are now identifying ways to elevate the physical and mental well-being of attendees so they can get the most out of the event. Planners can no longer just focus on the logistics of an event, but instead, must think holistically about the attendees. By approaching meetings holistically, planners can elevate the overall event experience for the attendees."
"Additionally, we are also seeing a focus on sustainable meetings continuing to grow," Romello notes. "Planners are looking to elevate events from merely being a meeting to being a meeting with purpose. From reducing energy consumption to creating less food-waste, planners are thinking about the impact their meetings have on more than just business objectives. At Hilton, we strive to lead the way in delivering responsible solutions that planners want, and are looking at more ways to make meetings with Hilton mindful with a focus on sustainability and wellness."
Marriott's McHenry and Sherstad are also seeing that spousal events for weekend association and/or incentive groups is key, and they say that "groups are slowly feeling comfortable with increasing budgets and adding extras back in that were cute because of the recession." And while budgets are slowly rising, meetings are becoming somewhat "less formal" and there's "less free time" and tighter agendas.