Meeting Mentor Magazine

October 2019

Warning: More Pressure, Smaller Budgets and Higher Expectations

As we settle into 2019, you may have noticed your already tight budgets tightening, your already short deadlines shortening, and your need to create even more dynamic and engaging experiences growing. What’s not changing: hotels’ willingness to work with you to do more, and more fabulously, with less, and rising food and beverage (F&B) costs. If this sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone.

In fact, tight meeting deadlines, F&B challenges, and a lack of willingness to break out of ruts and try new things are among the top challenges cited by 150 meeting and hospitality professionals in a recent survey by Teneo Hospitality. While some of the challenges come from the outside, such as when hotel policy places limits on what planners can do to wow their participants, other issues arise on the planner side out of corporate cultures that are resistant to change.

Out-of-Balance Budgets
Shrinking budgets — or simply those that don’t grow at the same pace as meeting expenses — hit the top of the survey respondents’ lists. While rising F&B costs were in the lead, the need to be able to pay for technology that will engage today’s attendees, especially millennials and Gen Zs, also was a top concern. Citing flat or, in some cases, declining budgets, respondents said their budgets were being held hostage by corporate departments that just don’t understand what it costs to meet the needs and expectations on today’s attendees of more technology and more engaging and entertaining activities.

The report suggests planners talk with their host properties honestly and transparently about their needs and the realities of their budgets to meet those needs.

Too-Tight Timelines
Whether it’s planning for a pop-up meeting or trying to keep up with new technology that could be a game-changer, respondents felt a keen need for more time to develop strategic solutions — and a fervent wish to be able to reduce the amount of time they waste on unnecessary emails.
One small way to carve out some more time is to limit the number of requests for proposal they send out, and to share their deadlines for response with the hotels they are considering. According to the report, “If planners can share flexibility with dates early in the process, they will save time and the hotels can provide multiple options, which will likely have differences in pricing leading to greater value with the budget. Giving the hotel as much information as possible saves everyone time and can save on the budget.”

Climb Out of the Creativity Pit
While they may always encounter the “because we have always done it that way” mentality, both with internal stakeholders and hotel partners, planners would be well-advised to incorporate the latest tech tools their attendees already use every day, from social media to interactive apps, to make their meetings more engaging.

How can you use technology to build new and engaging experiences, even in a very familiar destination? Ask your hospitality partners what cool ideas they have used for other groups, from unique team-building activities to new ways to immerse attendees in the local destination that will further your meeting’s goals and objectives.

Cleaning the F&B Plate
Paleo, keto, pescatarian, vegan, halal, kosher, gluten-free … respondents indicated they saw no signs that the recent proliferation of dietary preferences and requirements would be slowing down anytime soon. To rein in costs, reduce waste and provide delectable meals, Teneo suggests working with banquet managers and chefs early on in the planning process — and being candid about the F&B budget. — Sue Pelletier

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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 2,500 corporations and associations through our 325 Associates globally. www.conferencedirect.com

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, the leading publication for senior meeting planners, is circulated to the clients, prospects and sales associates of ConferenceDirect, which books more than 3.87 million room nights. www.meetingmentormag.com

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