Anyone else feel like the meetings and events industry is having a moment? Navigating this new normal for our industry has been challenging but above all else, it has been changing. We are implementing programs for our customers that - pre-pandemic - would have been lower priority on the list of enhancements. Things like virtual and hybrid strategies. Not just hosting one or two virtual meetings but creating a common-sense solution within a client’s greater meetings program that bring engagement opportunities beyond face-to-face experiences. We are also seeing increased demand for solutions and strategies that finally zero in on the evasive “small/simple meetings” unicorn scenario.
Before the pandemic you could probably find dozens of examples of comprehensive meetings and events programs that outline a process or strategy for small and simple meetings. Today we are seeing hundreds more ready to not just have the conversation but implement a strategy and tool to harness all the magic of rapid technological development during the pandemic. DIY or self-service tools that can be operated through multiple devices now make finding meeting space anywhere, a breeze. More importantly, the tools are more powerful than ever and are becoming a differentiator in strategic venue sourcing programs.
Our customers are finding that they have had to pivot within their organization due to fewer people coming into the office. Pre-pandemic, in NYC for example, more than 95% of the workforce worked in person at their office, according to research by The City. Today that number sits at 30%. That is a huge decline and is forcing companies to think differently about procuring meeting space – whether it be for an internal team meeting for a few hours or a multi-day customer session, finding a venue in a location that meets the needs of the new office worker and their customers and clients, is changing.
How to adapt your sourcing strategy to changing behavior
Meetings are now happening closer to workers’ and their customers’ homes and it’s not just their day-to-day work location that has changed. We are seeing overall meeting behaviors change. The average number of attendees for smaller meetings has decreased 42% from 19 in 2019 to 11 in 2022 according to venue booking Meeting Package. Additionally, lead time has decreased 41% from 43 to 20 days. These numbers create a common- sense case to make sure that your strategic sourcing program is ready to support and capture those growing requests.
This means that not only will strategic sourcing programs need a sound strategy to help navigate meeting owners to services that align with their needs - but they will also need that DIY tool which makes booking those meetings simple. If they have a small meeting that doesn’t require complex sourcing and has low financial risk, there should be an easy solution for that meeting owner to get the space they need without jumping through a lot of hoops and it keeps them compliant. The holy grail for planners.
With diverse locations, technology, and budgets, finding the right tool needs careful consideration. It’s got to be mobile, reliable and enable direct booking for quick transactions. It should also be flexible, and implementation should not create turmoil within. Cost for some tools can be sizeable so do your homework my friends.
The ability to capture the smaller meetings activity through a DIY sourcing tool reveals critical information about spend that can provide incremental savings and increased leverage from meetings you otherwise wouldn’t see. This is the unicorn all sourcing programs are looking for! It allows procurement and travel managers to capture the activity and spend for those meetings without dedicating precious internal resources to source or solve for the procurement of them. And let’s face it, resources are more precious than ever so it’s important that whatever strategy is in place - it maximizes resources, not drains them.
Change is a constant
It’s safe to say that we are all riding the wave of discovery as the meetings and events landscape continues to change. Our ability to change with it will be the key to not just surviving but winning. Winning means bringing programs forward despite the current environment and taking advantage of the moment that this industry is having. Winning means finally bringing the unicorn that is a small meetings solution to your program and make it a reality that starts paying your program back instantly with visibility, savings, and most importantly, addresses the new normal that workers are facing today.
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