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Meeting and Event Planners Face 2009 Challenge

January 15, 2009 By: George Dooley


In partnership with American Express, Meeting Professionals International (MPI) released the initial executive summary of FutureWatch 2009, a forward-looking survey of its worldwide membership revealing a 6 percent decline in meeting and event budgets. Over 2,700 participated in the global survey.

“After three strong years, the global meeting and event industry is coming to grips with a major paradigm shift and the FutureWatch data reveals how acute the expectations are for change,” said Bruce MacMillan, president and CEO of MPI. “Through initiatives like our Global Knowledge Plan, our objective is not only to ensure our members survive the shift, but also to find ways to thrive as the industry retrenches in an ebbing economic cycle.”

According to this year’s results, the meeting industry will sharpen its focus and streamline its activities when faced with a tough global market. The economic effect on the industry is not quite as severe as first anticipated. Meeting attendance, per meeting, is expected to increase by 3 percent in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) and 9 percent in Canada, but decline by 5 percent in the U.S., FutureWatch said.

Highlights from the preliminary FutureWatch study include:

*    In 2009, meeting and event budgets are expected to fall by 6 percent. Last year’s report predicted that budgets would rise 22.6 percent. In fact, 17 percent of corporate meeting planners and 12 percent of association meeting planners predict some level of budget reductions in the upcoming year. Nevertheless, government meeting planners generally expect fewer budget reductions, explaining that the private sector does not usually have an effect on the necessity of their meetings.
*    Planners and suppliers agree that an increase in creativity and innovation will be a necessary and invaluable tool in 2009. Planners and suppliers expect new (including currently unknown standards and practices), to emerge which will make the industry more efficient and effective for the long term. While client-side planners foresee a 9 percent drop in volume, independent meeting management professionals expect only a marginal reduction of 0.5 percent.
*    11 percent of meeting professionals expect an increase in the use of technology to access meetings and content remotely, in order to help lower overall costs. The technology which more professionals plan to use is “on-site” related.
*    Face-to-face meetings are still considered to have the highest ROI of all marketing tools. A greater significance is now being placed upon planners worldwide to provide the value of the proposed meetings and events. 74 percent of organizations holding meetings and events measure ROI. Additionally, the primary measure of ROI is the satisfaction of the meeting attendees.

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