Meetings are where the work gets done.

By Stephanie Clifton, Director of Meetings/Incentives, Acendas Travel

The dirty little secret is that as much as people say they detest meetings; the truth is a well-designed and well-run meeting is productive with both short and long-term results as a byproduct.

A few weeks ago, Acendas Travel hosted 50-plus travel professionals for an annual corporate travel symposium featuring Acendas Travel clients, travel providers, travel industry consultants and staff. Many of those individuals managed or helped to coordinate meetings and incentive trip activities for their companies. The discussion was interesting, and not surprisingly, focused on key trends and issues as participants were developing plans and budgets for 2019.

Here is what came from those discussions:

Meetings Are Not Going Away: Attendees said they did not see a decrease in meetings. The need to bring together sales teams, remote workers, merged company employees, etc., is vital to enhance communications, develop strategy, build relationships, etc. This prognostication is supported by a Business Travel News report indicating a 5 percent increase in the demand for meeting space in 2019.

Incentive Travel is on the Rise: Incentive travel is also growing because it is viewed as a positive tool to strengthen the company culture according to a study published by the Incentive Research Foundation. Sales and profitability are still the top reasons to sponsor these activities, but “building better relationships between employees and management” ranks as the second-most valuable factor. “Elevated employee morale and management” and “better relationship building between employees” ranked among the top five reasons for conducting such events.” As a result, 54 percent of incentive trip buyers saw an increase in 2018 budgets, with a per person incentive expense of $4,000 — $1,000 more than 2016.

Space is at a Premium: Finding meeting space is a growing challenge, especially at the “big-box” hotels. If professionals are having trouble getting space, imagine how difficult it will be for staff who are not trained or do not primarily handle such functions. The result is these activities are moving to luxury properties — and that means expenses are likely to increase. Hotel sleeping room rates are projected to climb 3.7 percent in 2019.

Real-Time Results: The term “simple meeting” is no longer an oxymoron. Even the most basic events used to require numerous phone calls, emails and the associated delays. With hotel sourcing technologies, planners can now go online and request rooms, space and services without the hassle or delay. According to Business Travel News, the lead time for booking small meetings is 30-plus days, and 75-plus for larger ones.

There is little doubt that despite leadership support for meeting and incentive activities, there will also be pressure for solid returns and a keen attention to the bottom line. That means meeting planning professionals will be a valuable resource to companies in achieving those objectives. The data shows that companies with high-quality meeting programs save 22 percent on personnel hours and 19 percent on hotel room rates.

It is understandable that companies look to save money by not enlisting the resources of a professional planning company. However, the data shows that in regards to meetings, being penny wise can wind up being pound foolish — and fall short of achieving objectives.