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How meetings & events programs can navigate a volatile planning environment

September 22, 2022


By Liz Quinton
Senior Director, Global Event Management & Meeting Planning, CWT Meetings & Events

The events industry is booming after the pandemic hiatus. This resurgence comes with challenges for the industry as agencies and suppliers struggle to keep up with client demand. During the pandemic, many staff at all levels were let go, agencies folded or people left the industry altogether. From hospitality staff to baggage handlers, not one area of travel and events was unaffected. The biggest challenge facing agencies right now is rebuilding teams and attracting the right talent.

Client budgets will be more expensive. According to the CWT GBTA Global Business Travel Forecast 2023, the cost-per-attendee for meetings and events this year is expected to be around 25 % higher than in 2019, and it’s forecast to rise an additional 7 % next year.

In a people-based industry, attracting talent comes at a higher cost, meaning client rates will increase as part of the event planning process. Prices are likely to continue rising in 2023. If you are able to plan ahead, it is recommended that services are booked well in advance to try and lock in pricing. The clear message here is that clients need to think about planning and booking their future events further in advance than they have ever done before.

Lead times

Being prepared and having as long a lead time as possible allows for better availability and room for negotiation on supplier rates. Our meetings & events specialists will be able to provide more options for your meeting. For this to happen we recommend booking at least 3 months in advance for a low complexity event and at least 6 months for a complex event.

Short lead times on higher complexity events may be challenging. Large venue space will be extremely limited and dates/days of the week may have to be flexible to accommodate your event.  AV/Production and niche technology companies providing staff to set up your event and provide services for virtual and hybrid meetings could also be challenging to find. Supply chains are fully booked for months.


High demand for meetings & events together with soaring inflation rates have raised budgets for meetings and events worldwide. There is a talent shortage and staff costs have increased across the entire industry. Here we share some ideas to consider to ensure your event budget is manageable:

  • Be specific with attendee numbers and what event space is actually needed. Now more than ever, ensuring your numbers add up truly matters.  Determining exact space needed rather than estimates can result in stable budgeting. Your event wastage including food & beverage and giveaways will be minimal as you are only ordering in what you need.
  • Limit your suppliers. Being a customer of choice and having less suppliers that you work with will enable preferential rates and prioritisation.
  • Consider a virtual or hybrid meeting. This will save cost on travel, accommodation and F&B for attendees that do not need to attend live. It is also a sustainable option and allows you to reach more attendees for less.  If you need to book flights, do so well in advance to save money and book group space which is often cheaper and more flexible than individual tickets.
  • Maximize the use of M&E technology and mandate the use of meeting management tools. For example, having a robust attendee registration solution in place could reduce your planning time and build excitement from attendees. We also recommend using a self-booking tool like CWT easy meetings to booking your venues, and allowing your own staff to book meeting space and food & beverage.

Cancellation clauses

Ensure that you read the small print!  While COVID restrictions are loosening, in some parts of the world, testing and last minute restrictions may still apply. You may need to reconsider your plans at short notice.  In addition, check that your venue has a flexible COVID cancellation clause in place, allowing you to negotiate terms and allow postponement in case of disruption.

Attendee wellbeing

Staff may not be so willing to travel post COVID, so do strongly consider their wellbeing. Alternatives such as virtual & hybrid events and holding meetings in locations which are easy for attendees to get to are key. Attendees may also wish to arrive earlier and leave later at their own expense, allowing them more time for relaxation and airport delays.

Food and beverage

Inflation has soared not only on venues and air travel but on food & beverage, in some cases up to 120% more.

While it is hard in the current environment to reduce menu choices due to the long list of attendee dietary requirements, consider other options such as self-service food stations or packed lunch options.

For global and regional insight into cost-per-attendee for meetings & events, and 2023 travel and events trends, download the CWT GBTA Global Business Travel Forecast 2023.


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