The 20|20 Skills™ team is pleased to present its key findings from our recently analyzed survey conducted for the 9th Annual HSMAI’s Affordable Meetings® Mid-America Conference & Exposition at Chicago’s Navy Pier, April 1-2, 2009. This survey was a joint effort with J. Spargo & Associates and Jason Smith from HSMAI.
METHOD: HSMAI and J. Spargo & Associates launched an online survey asking conference attendees about their opinions and expectations related to the planner industry for 2009. A total of 189 attendees completed the survey. Data were independently analyzed by 20|20 Skills™.
MAJOR TAKEAWAY: The economy, in part, is motivating event planners to focus on software and best practices that promote efficiency in their operations and to seek out venues not necessarily with strong brand recognition but rather that offer a tremendous financial value to their clients and that emphasize customer service. This is consistent with recent research suggesting that guests gravitate and show loyalty to businesses with memorable “atmosphere.”
- The majority of event planners expect no more than ten meetings in this year, with most expecting between one and five. This anticipated number of meetings is comparable to last year.
- Over all, budgets for events have decreased, but the majority of respondents reported that this decrease is moderate (10% reduction at most). The major reasons cited for the budget decrease are the economic downturn followed by a decrease in the number of registrants.
- Following from the above, most respondents anticipate moderate event sizes — with most being between 100 and 1000 registrants, followed by events with less than 100 registrants.
- Top three areas of focus concerning suppliers are: general venues, promotional items and event planning software. Attendees want to connect with suppliers that bring a substantial value-add to their clients. This makes sense given the budget decreases and economic environment.
- The trend for software makes sense given that companies report increasing reliance on technology in their meeting management and marketing. Respondents also report such technologies make their job easier.
- Related to the issue technology, the majority of respondents report using some type of social networking service – most utilize LinkedIn followed by Facebook. Most users of LinkedIn utilize the service monthly, whereas Facebook users tend to utilize the service daily. In other words, Facebook users are more active. The rising social networking service Twitter is hardly used at this point, and respondents overwhelmingly stated that they do not use any other social networking sites other than these three. Most use social networking sites first and foremost for networking whereas the sites are used less for maintaining current relationships.
- Substantial changes from last year were noted concerning the top reasons planners selected a specific venue for an event. Price, Location and Size of Event Space were consistent factors in booking decisions, but these were each trumped this year by level of Customer Service. Also rated strongly were variables that impacted general guest experience and customer service: Room Cleanliness, Interior Design, Universal Design features, Check in-out Service and Off-Site Amenities (access to shopping, dining and entertainment). This is consistent with research showing that guests are most influenced by the “atmosphere” of the hotel/meeting place.
- Surprisingly, environmental issues like Eco-friendly Operations, Advancing Environmental Technology, Smart Building Design and Attractive Exterior Design were all rated relatively low for their influence on decision-making.
- Brand Recognition of venues was also relatively low in terms of impact on decision-making.