20|20 Skills™ and Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) recently conducted an online survey that asked conference attendees about their views and expectations related to the planner industry for 2010. A total of 159 attendees completed the survey.
HSMAI’s Affordable Meetings® Mid-America is an exposition and conference addressing all aspects of technology as it relates to trade shows, meetings, and special events. Exhibitors represent hotels and resorts, university conference centers, unique meeting sites, convention and visitor bureaus, transportation companies, trade publications, software and audio/visual businesses, and other meeting and convention suppliers. HSMAI’s Affordable Meetings® is owned and presented by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International Americas region and managed by J. Spargo & Associates, Inc.
Conference attendees wanted practical information on how to navigate the turbulent economic waters. It is not surprising that the majority of surveyed event planners rely on technology to streamline business processes, event operations and foster marketing campaigns and networking. Site selection remains consistently motivated by overall value and specifically Size of the Meeting Space, Guest Room Cleanliness, Customer Service, Location of the Venue and lastly Price, ranked respectively by average ratings.
Timelines for booking events and the responsiveness of suppliers remains consistent with past years. It may seem counter-intuitive in light of the increased competitive nature of the market and industry, but interestingly the respondents indicated that formal credentials of suppliers are not significantly factors in their selection process. That said, for those that did care about credentials, well-known industry certifications were not cited any more often as informal credentials such as testimonials, clientele lists and proven knowledge of service and market.
The respondents were interested in the trend for pre-arranged conference meetings with vendors, and nine personal and operational incentives were identified that aim to increase the likelihood that these appointments will be kept. These are outlined below. Lastly, one trend that was not well received was the consolidation of sales forces from property-level representation to regional representation. The respondents overwhelmingly agreed that meetings booked through regional agents do not involve better execution, better service or increased levels of responsiveness on the agent’s part. The lack of significantly better outcomes is important to note, given that event planners are increasingly concerned with outcome metrics. Almost half the sample indicated an increased pressure to provide such metrics, and respondents identified three general outcomes as most meaningful: event satisfaction rates, attendance-repeat attendance rates and metrics related to net revenue.
Interestingly given the challenging economic climate, price was not the strongest driver in the site selection process. Specifically, the top five reasons planners selected specific venues for events were (in descending order by average rating):
- Size of the Meeting Space
- Guest Room Cleanliness
- Customer Service
- Location of the Venue
The survey respondents did not perceive any clear value to the trend for sales agents to move from property-level to a regional level representation. In particular, 67% of respondents indicated that regional sales agents are not more responsive than property agents, 78% indicated that meetings booked via regional agents are not better executed and 77% noted that regional sales agents do not provide better service.