Here and Now, Celebrating 10 Years of MM&E: Part 2

September 8, 2011

Feature Anniversary

By Heather McNeill

In the summer issue of MM&E, we looked back 10 years
over the history of this magazine to see where we have been. We
revisited the landmark events that changed this industry, as well
as the technology and trends that altered the ways we interact
with our clients and our families. Now, in this second part of a
three-part series for our anniversary year, we are asking the next
logical question – where are we now?

For this part of the series, we asked three experts for their
opinions on the current state of meetings and events.
RickHughes, president and CEO of the Kansas City Convention &
Visitors Association; Dr. Jerry Cook, president of the Overland
Park Convention & Visitors Bureau; and John Nickel, president
and one of the owners of Switch: Liberate Your Brand, are well
suited to this task, having insiders’ perspectives on the issues.

Hughes has been president and CEO of the Kansas City
CVA since 2003, and prior to that, he held a similar position
at the Indianapolis Convention & Association for 11 years.
He has been in the hospitality industry for 18 years in various
marketing and sales positions at the individual hotel, regional
and corporate levels. Cook, whose background is in education,
worked in the private sector prior to becoming president of the
Overland Park CVB in 1996. Nickel’s company has about 110
employees in St. Louis and more than 1,000 employees across
the country. Switch produces business-to-business and businessto-
consumer programs, including sampling programs and eventbased
marketing, for clients such as Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola,
NCR, FedEx and Primerica.

These individuals’ comments, excerpted below, suggest that
our meetings and events may be leaner and less frequent, but we
also expect them to be more meaningful. In our conversations,
several examples came up of trends and innovations happening
within these leaders’ own companies and organizations. For
example, the Overland Park CVB is now offering a customizable
Smartphone application that allows users to easily access resources
about Overland Park such as restaurant guides, shopping locales,
maps and area attractions and facilities. Switch has developed
a popular offsite team building event, “Field Day,” which
some of its clients have also adopted to recognize and motivate
employees. Also in these conversations, these individuals stressed
the continued necessity of interpersonal relationships and faceto-
face meetings. They suggest that as an industry, we may be
changing, but change has always been a part of this business.
Our adaptability will prepare us for what lies ahead—which will
be the subject in the final part of this series.

 

MM&E: What current meeting and event trends are you noticing?

RH: Planners today are strongly scrutinizing the need for
meetings in the first place and then holding off the decision
to book until much later in the process. [There is] stronger
orientation to ROI [return on investment] on offense. Trade
show sizes have been condensed somewhat due to advances in
technology display. [There is] continued downward pressure on
pricing. Unfortunately, over the past couple of years meetings
have been ridiculously demonized by national politics. Good
news is the future of meetings is very bright, girded by the need
for people to meet face to face. One researcher recently was
quoted as saying, “We can worry about ‘virtual meetings’ when
we see ‘virtual honeymoons’ in vogue!”

JC: In the last 10 years, we have seen this change daily with
the dramatic change in technology. Ten years ago, we didn’t
know what Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, social marketing and
mobile applications marketing were—and I suspect that 10
years from now, there will be a whole range of applications that
we can’t even conceive of. We’re also seeing trends in booking
conventions more short term.

JN: Our customers are mostly publicly held and publicly
traded companies. Our customers are still reluctant to have any
appearance of inappropriate spending. The fact is there is a great
effort made by most companies to be sure that all spending for
meetings and events is entirely appropriate; therefore, gone are
fancy stage decorations, extravagant entertainment, and high
profile entertainment. Instead, we’re seeing more of a business
focus on lower-key meetings and events.

 

MM&E: How do you feel the types of events have changed over
the years with the economy?

RH: Frugality is definitely here to stay. Business meetings are
also mixed with a leisure objective.

JC: I do believe meeting planners are being sensitive to
financial and time constraints. They might have two or three
meetings a year instead of three or four, or a two-day meeting
instead of a three-day meeting. We see they are scaling back with
meeting size and scope.

JN: Recognition events are toned down somewhat. It used to
be, “No expense is too much for my top sales force,” but now
there is a kind of pride in finding a great value. Corporations are
really looking for value. They don’t want to be seen misspending
their shareholders’ money.”

 

MM&E: Have you found that booking times have changed?

RH: Meetings and conventions that were planned for five
years out a decade ago are now happening many times in the six
to18 month time frame!

JC: We find that business being booked short term, even three
or four months out is loosening up a little bit. The booking pace
is looking up for ’13, ’14, and ’15.

JN: The space is already booked by the time we are involved,
but I know from talking to clients that price is a factor. Venue
costs, what food and beverage might cost and local labor costs
are definitely an issue when clients book space.

 

MM&E: Are companies restricting attendees in an effort to save
money? For example, where it used to be the employee and a
spouse or guest was invited, are they now only including the
employee?

JC: Some of the large corporations that once invited a broad
base of their employees might now be inviting the store managers
only, or vice presidents…The size of the event, scope of the
event, and frequency of the event have scaled back. Hopefully,
we will see that changing.

JN: I don’t see companies restricting attendees much. Our
customers will always have a need to meet person to person.
They want to be sure that they are seen as creating meaningful
for their teams to learn about their products.

 

MM&E: What other current meeting and event issues and trends
should we be paying attention to?

RH: Still lingering concerns with what planners consider onerous
issues with contracts, such as attrition clauses and penalties. There is
high pressure for high value, whether it’s in the form of concessions,
lower rates, additional comped rooms, free travel.

JN: A lot of employees and members are questioning their
companies about waste. There is a lot of emphasis on greenability
and greenness. I thought this would be a trend when I heard
about it three or four years ago, but within the last year and a
half, it is becoming an important item.

There have been a lot of changes, but I think many of the elements
are the same. What hasn’t changed is the ability to understand
people is relationships and deliver to meet expectations.

JC: Meeting by computer is having an impact on meeting
planners. Now with this technology, you or I can go to our
computers and have a dozen webinar opportunities…mobile
applications, too. With my iPhone or iPad, I’m pretty mobile.
I can retrieve important information from anywhere. And QR
[Quick Response] codes [barcode technology that can be scanned
and decoded with a telephone camera] are another example that’s
emerged recently. I can open up Missouri Meetings & Events
and scan the QR code, and find out about a destination. Now we
have this ability to communicate about the destination.

Does this technology take the place of people is relationships?
No. I am an old-fashioned kind of guy, and I strongly believe
face-to-face communication is an important part of the sales
process, but we can’t overlook this technology, either. MM&E

(Heather McNeill is a contributor from Kansas City, Mo.)

THEN & NOW
The Lodge of Four Seasons
The International Pen Friend Program was introduced in the Parker Pen Pavilion at the
1964-65 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Park, Queens, NY. At the conclusion
of the fair, the Parker Pen Pavilion was dismantled, relocated and reassembled on
the grounds at The Lodge of Four Seasons at the Lake of the Ozarks. This is where it
became the oldest surviving legacy of the 1964-65 World’s Fair.

While at The Lodge, the pavilion was used for concert events by performers such as,
Frank Sinatra Jr., who appeared there in 1966. Later, the building was enclosed and
became corporate offices until it was replaced by the now existing Campana Hall
in 2002.

Today, Campana Hall is a 20,000-square-foot transformable facility that can seat up
to 1,600 people. It is commonly used for banquets, concerts, boat shows, lawn and
garden events, home improvement demonstrations, benefits and convention programs.

Cedar Creek Conference Center
In 1978, John C. and Joan Vatterott bought the land on which the Cedar Creek Conference
Center currently stands. Being the founder of Vatterott College, John’s original plan
was to expand the campuses of the college, but he instead came up with a different
strategy. He wanted to create a combination of meeting accommodations and family
oriented hospitality.

Today the Cedar Creek Conference Center in New Haven, MO, offers modern facilities
to fit your individual expectations. Spacious conference rooms with break areas are
designed specifically for informal discussions, committee lectures, or executive meetings. The meeting rooms are furnished with cozy
conference chairs and various meeting and audio/visual aids.

Center Creek Conference Center generously includes a complimentary primary meeting room with daily coffee service and use of
the 24-hour guest office center. A professional meeting staff is available for your convenience.

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
We have seen many changes and growth in the meeting and event industry over the last ten years. Check out just a few of the new
players to hit the scene!

2005
Just steps away from the new Busch stadium, the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark offers 40,000 square feet of space designed primarily
for meetings and banquet events. In addition to this, the hotel offers a new Ballpark Conference Center, designed as a multipurpose
conference space. It is a 4,530-square-foot facility that breaks up into 3 state-of-the-art meeting rooms. The capacious facilities at the
hotel can hold up to 1,500 guests in the Grand Ballroom. There are 670 total guest rooms available and the largest meeting room is
10,920 square feet.

This past July, the Hilton hotel added a 360 rooftop bar on the 26th floor, featuring an indoor/outdoor lounge area that overlooks Busch
Stadium, the Gateway Arch and the city skyline.

2009
On the shoreline of the Lake of the Ozarks lies Camden on the Lake Resort. The resort presents a generous and abundant amount of
space created specifically for corporate business meetings, group events, weddings and receptions.

Camden on the Lake’s state-of-the-art meeting and function space provides up to 16,000 square feet. The ballroom, which can be
divided into thirds, is approximately 6,600 square feet and can hold up to 500 people. A movie theater seating up to 48 guests is
also offered at the resort. The theater is laptop friendly and PowerPoint ready, and includes Surround Sound. Full-service, on-site catering
also is available.

About the author

The MEET® Family of Publications

The MEET® Family of Publications produces regional and national publications that keep corporate, association, medical, education, independent, and religious meeting and event planners informed about relevant industry suppliers, news, tech innovations, and resources that impact and influence how and where they plan their upcoming company function(s).