Going into 2013, economic uncertainty in the U.S.
remains the biggest concern of top corporate executives who
oversee or approve corporate meetings.
According to the C-suite executives, presidents, and vice
presidents among our readers who responded to the final
Industry Pulse survey of the year,
uncertainty about the American economy nudged out low budgets
as the external factor with the greatest impact on their
ability to effectively execute their organizations' meeting
"I am simply putting off everything that I can until I have a
clearer picture of my employment costs and anticipated demand,"
says one respondent, who cited uncertainty as the biggest
outside impediment to the firm's meetings strategy.
A meetings consultant who also cited economic uncertainty says,
"I am trying to stay the course and do more with less." Her
plan for dealing with it was to "continue to elevate the
business value of meetings for the organization."
What to Do?
Tightening budgets was one common response. Stephane Davis,
accounting business manager at CS Financial Services, says the
rising cost of hotels, gasoline, and airfares and associated
fees has "impacted our decision-making for our organization's
outside meetings." Her firm, she adds, is "securing more
favorable agreements with hotels and travel services to help
lower overall costs for our meetings" to advance its meetings
objectives by the end of the first quarter of 2013.
Other responses included: "Keep the same priorities before
management and insist that face-to-face meetings and training
are necessary to maintain the proper strategic direction," and
"look for more local meetings that do not require air travel
and hotel stays."
Interestingly, sales meetings were not the top priority.
Instead, 27.3 percent of respondents called "consumer or
marketing events" and "training meetings" the most
mission-critical part of their organizations' meeting and event
strategies. Sales meetings followed in third place with 22.7
Pessimism and Politics
The top executives who responded to the
December survey have grown far more pessimistic. In our
September survey, less than 17 percent of the respondents
predicted business conditions would be worse in the fourth
quarter of 2012. In the December survey, looking ahead to the
first quarter of 2013, the number of respondents who felt
business conditions were getting worse had more than doubled,
to 38.6 percent.
According to one respondent, "Meetings and incentives and board
meetings are all being scaled back, even if it's a detriment to
the company. With such a lack of leadership, they can't see
that saving a few dollars now greatly reduces their profit
level in the future."
Politics were a huge external factor impeding firms' meetings
strategies. A dozen of the survey's 44 respondents blamed
politics, with half placing the blame squarely on President
Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, and the rest spreading
it equally among politicians in general. (The survey ran from
Oct. 12 to Nov. 2, before the presidential election.)
In fact, after U.S. economic uncertainty, low budgets, and
global economic uncertainty, the external factor with the
greatest impact on companies' abilities to effectively execute
their meetings strategies was "loss of confidence in our
political leadership," which came in well ahead of either a
Democratic or Republican victory.
"There is nothing we can do about it until the politicians fix
their sorry state of affairs," said one respondent.