. Meetings Trends for 2018 | Successful Meetings

Meetings Trends for 2018

Rising costs and heightened focus on security will drive planner behavior in 2018

Meeting Trends 2018 opener

What trends can planners expect to see in the year ahead? What challenges and opportunities are on the horizon? To help get some answers to these questions, Successful Meetings drew on the findings of our own research as well as data and insights from a number of industry organizations, getting a clearer picture of what's on the horizon for 2018 -- and what planners should be doing to make the most of it.

First, the good news. In Successful Meetings' survey of planners about 2018 meeting trends, respondents said they expect to see more meetings rather than fewer, with 17 percent of respondents expecting to see more sales meetings (compared to 4 percent who expect fewer), 18 percent expecting to hold more consumer/marketing events (with 10 percent expecting fewer), and 30 percent expecting more training meetings (while 5 percent expect fewer).

"When we look to 2018, we are seeing continued growth and investment in meetings and events and the recognition that meetings and events drive growth for business, it drives sales and marketing, it drives learning and training, as well as a connection with customers and prospects," says Issa Jouaneh, senior vice president and general manager of American Express Meetings & Events.

AmEx M&E's "2018 Global Meetings and Events Forecast," which draws on the responses of more than 600 meetings and events professionals from around the globe, anticipates meeting sizes to grow about 1.8 percent in North America. "Despite a number of disruptions, whether it's weather, manmade, or terrorism-related issues, we've seen meetings and events continue to grow and the level of investments both from buyers and sellers continue to increase," adds Jouaneh.


Budgeting & Benchmarking
But while growth seems likely, across the board, industry watchers are expecting budgets to tighten and prices to rise in 2018. Hoteliers responding to AmEx M&E expect to see the cost per attendee to increase between 0.8 and 2.2 percent. Carlson Wagonlit Travel's "Meetings & Events Future Trends" report projects that hotel prices will rise 3.7 percent, and expects to see a push from suppliers to move corporate buyers to more dynamic rate pricing.

Beau Ballin,
CWT Meetings & Events
Beau Ballin, CWT Meetings & Events

"Hotel occupancy rates are at record high numbers," says Beau Ballin, senior director of business development for CWT Meetings & Events. "However, sharing-economy lodging options may keep average daily rates flat."

He suggests advance planning and avoiding last-minute registration in order to drive cost savings, and adds that planners should look for multiyear agreements within a family of properties to drive long-term savings and receive greater concessions.

More broadly, Ballin urges planners to focus on cost savings and cost elimination (among the suggestions he makes: eco-friendly actions such as replacing water bottles and eliminating paper forms and badges).

The most popular cost-cutting measures respondents to Successful Meetings cited were reducing food and beverage budget (55 percent of planners), offering fewer optional activities (30 percent), and avoiding resort or beach destinations (27 percent). A majority of respondents (52 percent) expect to see the seller's market continue through 2018, with just 10 percent anticipating a turn to a buyer's market. Additionally, "providing quality meetings on limited budgets" was cited by 59 percent as a top issue for running effective meetings in 2018, followed by "proving ROI for meetings" (54 percent), and "negotiating with suppliers" (42 percent).

"You're seeing budgets only increase marginally year-on-year, but at the same time the expectation for that investment -- whether that be the number of meetings or attendees -- continues to increase," says Jouaneh. "You're seeing the desire to do more with that investment, coupled with more discipline in how corporations are managing that investment and the processes that they've implemented the last number of years in terms of approvals, justifications of meetings and events, and the processes they've built around meetings and events spend."

To help with this, AmEx M&E's forecast includes an entire section about benchmarking and the growing role it will play. Jouaneh expects this discussion to present an opportunity to put greater focus on getting the most value from an event, drilling down to a meeting's objectives and "managing meetings and events almost as an investment portfolio," as he puts it.

"In order to continue delivering on business objectives, meeting professionals will need to have candid and transparent conversations with all of their partners and vendors, who can and will help them to design experiences that both meet budget and drive value," says Jessie States, CMM, manager of professional development for Meeting Professionals International (MPI), whose "Meetings Outlook" for Fall 2017 projects that air travel costs will grow by 3.8 percent, room rates will increase 3.6 percent, and catering costs will go up 3.4 percent. "Ensuring that providers truly understand the goals and objectives of every event so that they can help meeting professionals make sound design and financial choices will enable organizations to continue to positively impact their businesses despite nominal increasing -- or flat budgets."


Security & Safety
With the seemingly nonstop onslaught of natural disasters and manmade attacks, there is one area that has dominated the conversation when it comes to planning meetings and events: security and safety.

As MPI puts it in its Forecast: "Given the seemingly constant stream of headlines about Atlantic hurricanes, earthquakes in Mexico, forest fires in the West -- as well as news of terrorist attacks, protests beset by violence, mass shootings like the one at an outdoor concert that killed 58 people in Las Vegas, and tensions with North Korea -- many meeting professionals are bringing more emphasis to 'meeting defense,' or protecting their meeting."

According to States, the only areas planners are consistently seeing their budgets increase is in new line items for safety and security. Indeed, 55 percent of those responding to Successful Meetings' survey stated that managing safety and security risks will be key in 2018.

It's clear there is room for improvement. MPI's "Meetings Outlook" finds that fewer than half of planners have specific plans in place for various security or safety issues -- 46 percent have plans for natural disasters, 45 percent for active shooters, and just 31 percent for cyberattacks.

"Meeting professionals must treat their safety and security plans as living documents that change based not only on destination and venue, but on event type, content, speakers, audience makeup and size, stakeholders, media coverage, and likely threats," says States.

"Recent events in North America and Europe have raised the profile of some threat types -- active shooters, vehicular violence, stampedes, protests -- and meeting professionals, if they have not already done so, will be adding these to the list of threats they prepare for."

BCD Meetings & Events also spotlighted event security as a major trend for 2018 in its inaugural "What's Trending" report, created in conjunction with its sister company, Advito.

BCD Meetings & Events' Cat Butler
believes tailoring an event to attendees'
needs will only grow more important
BCD Meetings & Events' Cat Butler believes tailoring an event to attendees' needs will only grow more important

"Over the last few years we have seen an increase in the requests to have physical security at venues and event spaces across the world," says Cat Butler, director, event solutions, event program management for BCD Meetings & Events. "More recently, we are seeing clients prefer to have guests go through a security area on arrival, have their bags checked, and for the uniformed security guides to be visible."

She acknowledges that this preference is about perception, and that it's going to become increasingly important to strike the right balance between creating a feeling of safety without creating unnecessary anxiety.  

"We expect, as this subject comes even more to the forefront of planning a program, companies will start to share documentation with their security teams on what activities are taking place," adds Butler. "Their security personnel will start attending site inspections. It would be a great shift if the assigned event management agencies have better and more open communication during pre-planning and on site with security."


Tools & Technology
As with every year recently, new and improved technology is expected to have a growing influence in the planning and execution of events. Keeping up with the evolution of meetings technology was the most important issue for running effective meetings in 2018, cited by 65 percent of planners responding to Successful Meetings' survey.

CWT's report highlights data analytics as "one of the fastest-growing trends" due to the greater ease with which apps, iBeacons, RFID badging, and other tools are allowing for both the gathering and the actionable analysis of attendee information. It also spotlights artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and chatbots as top advances to watch.

But Ballin cautions that just because they are the coolest new things, planners must keep the emphasis on how tech tools serve an event's goals.

"Planners need to shift their focus from what is trendy to how the technology enhances the delivery of content, enhances the attendee experience, and drives cost savings," says Ballin. "Once a planner understands the desired outcome or attendee behavior, then the value proposition of the technology is easier to justify and budget for."

Meeting apps are an area AmEx M&E spotlights in its report, pointing to app adoption growth as one of the most significant tech developments of the last year, and one likely to grow -- in attendee management, in registration, and in furthering post-event contact. Of particular note, according to Jouaneh, is the level of engagement attendees are showing in their use of these tools.

"It has been much higher than anyone anticipated in terms of the interactions, content that's shared, and insights that are gained from attendees interacting with mobile apps," says Jouaneh. "We're seeing engagement of more than 150 interactions per attendee."

According to Successful Meetings' findings, the top priorities driving technology use at meetings are choosing tech that will be most useful at meetings (cited by 62 percent of planners), effectively integrating technology into meetings (53 percent), and getting enough Wi-Fi bandwidth to meet attendee needs (48 percent).

States stresses that technology use will be driven in part by the growing demand for more experiential, interactive events.

"One-way delivery of information and content at events is dead, and meeting professionals will focus on the technologies that help people engage, and find answers and solutions to their own unique challenges," says States. "Look for technologies that bring people together in new and unique ways, as well as those that provide artificial-intelligence-based translation services, curate individual experiences, make recommendations, and help users customize their experiences."

The leveraging of technology to enhance the event experience is happening on the property level as well.

"For years the meetings industry has been shifting toward a more digital experience. Our properties see this continuing," says Bree Brostko, managing director of Kindred Resorts & Hotels, which last month released its own meetings trend forecast, drawing on input from its 63 properties, at the beginning of last month. "From digital signage to digital document libraries, the attendee carrying around stacks of paper is a thing of the past. And, of course, meeting apps allow all relevant meeting info to be available at the touch of a button -- and, most importantly, updatable by planners in real time."

MPI's "Forecast" found that virtual attendance figures are expected to grow 2.6 percent in the coming year, compared to 0.9 percent increase in live event attendance. More than one-third of planners (34 percent) responding to Successful Meetings expect that the number of virtual meetings will increase this year (compared to just 2 percent who expect it to decrease), while 21 percent expect their number of hybrid meetings to grow (compared to 3 percent who expect it to drop).

Of course, this growth in technology and data gathering will put a greater focus on the need for data security, a point cited by BCD..

"We believe there will be a shift in attitudes around cybersecurity based on mandated compliance and the human factor," says Arnold Lagos, senior director of global security and compliance for BCD Meetings & Events. "Awareness around the protection of data will continue to evolve rapidly, not only by regulations and news of prominent organizations being breached, but also the continued education of employees."

He expects to see changes in process continue to occur over the course of the next several years to address regulations and shifts in data retention practices -- especially surrounding personal data. Lagos emphasizes that planners will increasingly be expected to be aware of systems that are collecting personal data.


Experience & Engagement
While memorable, unusual venues and activities are nothing new for events, this has been supercharged in recent years and is almost certain to grow in 2018. CWT's report says, "There are no rules anymore" when it comes to room setup and space design, pointing to the use of castles, museums, or car manufacturing plants to hold gatherings.

"The desire is to create a memorable experience in an unexpected venue," says Ballin. "Planners are forgoing the ballroom and convention center to take advantage of what the destination has to offer, including open-air spaces, rooftops, unique lounges, and industrial warehouses. Also, planners can leverage technology to livestream the event to build excitement and anticipation."

CWT cites a number of unconventional venues that planners can consider: San Francisco's Exploratorium "public laboratory," China's sky-high Shanghai Tower, or London's former newspaper factory The Printworks, to name a few. According to Ballin, the key factor driving this is presentation styles, which he says aren't always best suited to a classroom setup

"Also, the ability to leverage built-in décor in a theater, bar, or showcase venue as opposed to shouldering the costs of seating, staging, lighting, pipe and drape, and A/V required in a traditional ballroom, is a major driver for the change in meeting venues," Ballin adds.

Brostko says that Kindred's properties report attendees eager to break out of the traditional event space.

"We are seeing attendees wanting to be part of the location, and not sequestered; they want to participate in their meeting but still enjoy the vibe of the property as well as the locale they're in for their meeting," she says. "Planners should consider utilizing nontraditional spaces for breakouts such as areas by the pool, common seating areas, or the property's restaurant. I always think using available outdoor space for breakouts or white spaces is a great way to infuse something different."

Butler recommends taking a step back, and taking a fresh look at the audience for each event and each year, asking questions such as, "Is it the same people attending each year? Has the age/generation/nationalities of your attendees changed? Is your budget different? Is it a destination which is coming back into fashion where you get more bang for your bucks?"

"Changing this seemingly small and simple pre-planning step with these questions and focus will determine -- and often change -- your approach to engagement," says Butler. "The makeup of your audience is anything but small and simple; realizing this will drive your success."



Questions or comments? Email [email protected]



This article appears in the January 2018 issue of Successful Meetings.
The Trends Shaping F&B in 2018
Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants releases its fourth annual "Culinary & Cocktails Trend Forecast"


Strange new spices, Nordic-inspired dishes, and Instagram-worthy cocktail presentation are among the trends event planners can expect to see in food and beverage this coming year. Those are among the predictions laid out in the "Culinary & Cocktails Trend Forecast" from Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. Drawing on the input of the chefs, sommeliers, general managers, and bartenders at the brand's more than 80 restaurants, bars, and lounges across 37 cities in the U.S. as well as properties in Europe and the Caribbean, the forecast lays out a handful of trends that planners may want to incorporate into their own gatherings.

According to Kimpton's chefs, plant-based proteins like beet burgers and tempeh are even appealing to meat eaters, with 31 percent of those surveyed expecting vegan and spreads such as sunflower butter or cashew cream cheese to get increasingly popular.

New spices, such as the Middle Eastern za'atar (blending flavors from thyme to sumac) as well as the French interpretation of Indian curry known as Vadouvan, and the Cambodian pepper Kampot, can all be expected to become more familiar to diners.

Scandinavian and Nordic influences are likely to grow, according to Kimpton's culinary team, with ingredients such as bramble shrub, dill, rhubarb, and aquavit making their way into cocktails. Colorful produce like carrots, cabbage, and beets, as well as more exotic berries such as juniper and lingonberries will be more popular -- not to mention dishes such as beet-cured salmon or pan-seared arctic char.

Another growing trend only likely to accelerate is the focus on the visual presentation of a dish -- not just for the person eating it, but for all his or her followers on social media who will see it. A majority of Kimpton chefs said their 2018 menu planning will include consideration of "full sensory dishes that treat diners to socially shareable moments," ensuring that meals are not just delicious, but look great on Instagram.

The brand is encouraging people to watch for these trends, taking photos when they see them at a restaurant or cocktail bar, and tagging it with #CCTrends. For further details on the trends and where diners and drinkers can spot them, visit kimptonhotels.com/CCTrends.

The chefs also anticipated a revisiting of classic dishes, with new takes on fine-dining staples such as French onion soup, pork chops, and steak tartare. Sometimes, predicting the future means looking back into the past.


Tools & Technology
As with every year recently, new and improved technology is expected to have a growing influence in the planning and execution of events. Keeping up with the evolution of meetings technology was the most important issue for running effective meetings in 2018, cited by 65 percent of planners responding to Successful Meetings' survey.

CWT's report highlights data analytics as "one of the fastest-growing trends" due to the greater ease with which apps, iBeacons, RFID badging, and other tools are allowing for both the gathering and the actionable analysis of attendee information. It also spotlights artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and chatbots as top advances to watch.

But Ballin cautions that just because they are the coolest new things, planners must keep the emphasis on how tech tools serve an event's goals.

"Planners need to shift their focus from what is trendy to how the technology enhances the delivery of content, enhances the attendee experience, and drives cost savings," says Ballin. "Once a planner understands the desired outcome or attendee behavior, then the value proposition of the technology is easier to justify and budget for."

Meeting apps are an area AmEx M&E spotlights in its report, pointing to app adoption growth as one of the most significant tech developments of the last year, and one likely to grow -- in attendee management, in registration, and in furthering post-event contact. Of particular note, according to Jouaneh, is the level of engagement attendees are showing in their use of these tools.

"It has been much higher than anyone anticipated in terms of the interactions, content that's shared, and insights that are gained from attendees interacting with mobile apps," says Jouaneh. "We're seeing engagement of more than 150 interactions per attendee."

According to Successful Meetings' findings, the top priorities driving technology use at meetings are choosing tech that will be most useful at meetings (cited by 62 percent of planners), effectively integrating technology into meetings (53 percent), and getting enough Wi-Fi bandwidth to meet attendee needs (48 percent).

States stresses that technology use will be driven in part by the growing demand for more experiential, interactive events.

"One-way delivery of information and content at events is dead, and meeting professionals will focus on the technologies that help people engage, and find answers and solutions to their own unique challenges," says States. "Look for technologies that bring people together in new and unique ways, as well as those that provide artificial-intelligence-based translation services, curate individual experiences, make recommendations, and help users customize their experiences."

The leveraging of technology to enhance the event experience is happening on the property level as well.

"For years the meetings industry has been shifting toward a more digital experience. Our properties see this continuing," says Bree Brostko, managing director of Kindred Resorts & Hotels, which last month released its own meetings trend forecast, drawing on input from its 63 properties, at the beginning of last month. "From digital signage to digital document libraries, the attendee carrying around stacks of paper is a thing of the past. And, of course, meeting apps allow all relevant meeting info to be available at the touch of a button -- and, most importantly, updatable by planners in real time."

MPI's "Forecast" found that virtual attendance figures are expected to grow 2.6 percent in the coming year, compared to 0.9 percent increase in live event attendance. More than one-third of planners (34 percent) responding to Successful Meetings expect that the number of virtual meetings will increase this year (compared to just 2 percent who expect it to decrease), while 21 percent expect their number of hybrid meetings to grow (compared to 3 percent who expect it to drop).

Of course, this growth in technology and data gathering will put a greater focus on the need for data security, a point cited by BCD..

"We believe there will be a shift in attitudes around cybersecurity based on mandated compliance and the human factor," says Arnold Lagos, senior director of global security and compliance for BCD Meetings & Events. "Awareness around the protection of data will continue to evolve rapidly, not only by regulations and news of prominent organizations being breached, but also the continued education of employees."

He expects to see changes in process continue to occur over the course of the next several years to address regulations and shifts in data retention practices -- especially surrounding personal data. Lagos emphasizes that planners will increasingly be expected to be aware of systems that are collecting personal data.


Experience & Engagement
While memorable, unusual venues and activities are nothing new for events, this has been supercharged in recent years and is almost certain to grow in 2018. CWT's report says, "There are no rules anymore" when it comes to room setup and space design, pointing to the use of castles, museums, or car manufacturing plants to hold gatherings.

"The desire is to create a memorable experience in an unexpected venue," says Ballin. "Planners are forgoing the ballroom and convention center to take advantage of what the destination has to offer, including open-air spaces, rooftops, unique lounges, and industrial warehouses. Also, planners can leverage technology to livestream the event to build excitement and anticipation."

CWT cites a number of unconventional venues that planners can consider: San Francisco's Exploratorium "public laboratory," China's sky-high Shanghai Tower, or London's former newspaper factory The Printworks, to name a few. According to Ballin, the key factor driving this is presentation styles, which he says aren't always best suited to a classroom setup

"Also, the ability to leverage built-in décor in a theater, bar, or showcase venue as opposed to shouldering the costs of seating, staging, lighting, pipe and drape, and A/V required in a traditional ballroom, is a major driver for the change in meeting venues," Ballin adds.

Brostko says that Kindred's properties report attendees eager to break out of the traditional event space.

"We are seeing attendees wanting to be part of the location, and not sequestered; they want to participate in their meeting but still enjoy the vibe of the property as well as the locale they're in for their meeting," she says. "Planners should consider utilizing nontraditional spaces for breakouts such as areas by the pool, common seating areas, or the property's restaurant. I always think using available outdoor space for breakouts or white spaces is a great way to infuse something different."

Butler recommends taking a step back, and taking a fresh look at the audience for each event and each year, asking questions such as, "Is it the same people attending each year? Has the age/generation/nationalities of your attendees changed? Is your budget different? Is it a destination which is coming back into fashion where you get more bang for your bucks?"

"Changing this seemingly small and simple pre-planning step with these questions and focus will determine -- and often change -- your approach to engagement," says Butler. "The makeup of your audience is anything but small and simple; realizing this will drive your success."



Questions or comments? Email [email protected]



This article appears in the January 2018 issue of Successful Meetings.