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2015 State of the Industry Report

By M+E Staff

What happens when you get 15 experts from around the state together at blanc in Denver and discuss the state of the meetings and events industry for an afternoon? Thoughtful conversation, idea sharing, camara- derie and some aha moments, along with a candid discussion about impacts of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, were all highlights from Colorado Meetings + Events Editorial Advisory Board meeting this spring.

Year in Review

We had our best year ever in 2014, growing 65 percent. We took our staff to Mexico as a thank you for not quitting! There is lots of short-term booking. Folks are starting to spend a little more and want to make events better, and 2015 looks good. —Ingrid Nagy, Catering by Design

Same with linens. A few years ago, people spent $600 to $800 on linens; now, it is over $1,000. We had our best year yet. Clients are renting less chair covers but more linens. —Tamara Wilkinson, Chair Covers & Linens

There are now incredible chairs to rent in Denver, so people aren’t getting chair covers. —Leslie Heins, Affair with Flair

Our income hasn’t gone down, but chairs have changed our market. —Tamara Wilkinson

People are including more things, instead of just a couple things, for their events as well as more production. Corporate is making sure they are getting their message out. —Danny Findley

We are doing a lot of video mapping. We have a deejay with an apparatus that goes behind him that can be programmed. —Leslie Heins

Budgets are back for corporate. The engagement part of it is huge, which is changing the structure of how meetings are run. They are to the point, not a bunch of talking heads, and shorter. Companies are booking A-list speakers and celebrity speakers. I am seeing a huge difference from four years ago. —Glenn Thayer, Thayer Productions

Demand is back in general for peak dates, and people are willing to pay for it. Demand is back to pre-2008 levels. —Chris Romer, Vail Valley Partnership 

We are seeing higher minimums from hotels. —Leslie Heins

There also are less concessions than you saw five years ago. —Chris Romer

There are no concessions. —Leslie Heins

We are busier than I ever thought possible. Organizations are low-staffed, so they have to farm out meetings and events. I find we’re not getting the bargains and deals we used to; it’s always small groups with me, so we’re always the underdog. —Anne O’Neill, OES Management

There is a lot more blended learning, virtual programs and live streaming as the quality is now good enough. —Scott Friedman, Friedman & Associates

Occupancy rates have been going up and up. Last year was a record year for hotels, but clients are still thinking it’s 2009. People are shopping, shopping and waiting for a great deal; they sit on the fence until it gets closer to when the meeting is going to happen. The words for 2015 are “not available.” Planners have to be more flexible with their dates and what cities they want to go to. —Bill Light, Associated Luxury Hotels International

Sector Update

Construction and building trades are bouncing back big time. —Anne O’Neill

From October through January, it was more construction companies. In the past it was more oil. —Tamara Wilkinson

Technology is still moving. Depends on what sector you are in and if you are the tool or app of the day. Start-ups may do big things after the first round of venture capital. If the tech company has been around a long time, they are doing more. It is all very calculated and ROI-based. —Glenn Thayer

There are a lot more audits and internal review for corporate. —Amy Drotar, Polycom

A lot of tech companies are coming out of a time of watching budgets and are now saying, “Make it fun.” —Carol Porter, Aero Events

There is an uptick to incentive programs, but it’s not quite where it was. On the corporate side, Vail is seeing a lot of auto. We had a huge BMW program last year, and Audi this April. These are big programs with lots of moving parts. One of the auto ones was an incentive trip. —Chris Romer

We are getting a lot of calls for venues for television and marketing of products like a product launch. —Patty Moser, Blue Eyes Consulting

A recent MPI report says government meetings will continue to be on the decline. —Scott Friedman

Technology & Social Media

People are wanting mobile apps. We did one for a wedding and now have a nonprofit looking at it. —Leslie Heins

If you are doing a custom app, have it for your organization, not just a one-off for a silent auction for example. Have separate plug-ins. I love audience engagement. People can post to Twitter and a Facebook page all within one app. —Glenn Thayer

PCMA now has just one app, instead of a different one for each conference. —Anne O’Neill

We created our own mobile app for scavenger hunts, so people can do it themselves. It’s good for small groups with small budgets. We just sell the apps, and the client can do scavenger hunts all over the state with or without QR codes. —Dawn Abbott, Fun Productions

Everyone is sourcing their creativity through Pinterest instead of creating own look and feel. They see this thing that can cost millions to recreate and have $5,000. —Jillian Livingston

One speaker at a conference said, “If it is on Pinterest, then someone else has already done it.” —Leslie Heins

Pinterest helps people convey their vision, and then you can customize it. —Deana Mitchell

We have so many venues that do weddings. We can do a greater service to clients by having a Pinterest board to show what Denver vendors can do. —Patty Moser

Creating Experiences

There is a lot more spend and a lot more people being allowed to have meetings. It is still all short-term with the expectation of getting 2009 rates. It also is about the experiences. —Amy Drotar

I was pretty much an in-house planner at ViaWest. There were four pillars: we wanted it to be an investment in our people, impactful, fun but applicable to the workplace, and measurable learning objectives. It was about engagement and not just talking heads. —Carol Porter

At an event in Seattle, they had dessert wars. You tasted everyone’s creations and voted. —Scott Friedman

People tend to do the same traditional things, but what is really popping up is the adventure courses. It’s light adventure so any- one can do it, like the old ropes course with a new twist. —Chris Romer

We are doing CSR events like building a library for a small community or working with a boys and girls club for our high-end incentives. Then you get to know people in the community, and it’s different people than the executives stepping up as leaders, such as read- ing books in Spanish to kids. —Amy Drotar

Lots of people can get behind a community. International Children’s Day did piñatas, danced and more at a community center on an incentive trip to Mexico. A core value of ViaWest is community, and it was one of the most talked about things on the trip. —Carol Porter

Challenges of the Day

Marijuana. We had a client who requested edibles. —Danny Findley

There is a company that does just edible events. —Carol Porter

We had a bride who wanted edibles in guest bags. People don’t understand that if they take it out of the state, it is a federal offense. —Leslie Heins

We won’t touch it. —Ingrid Nagy

We also had someone who wanted it in guest bags. It is still a federal offense. —Anne O’Neill

We listed 15 reasons why not. It’s a liability. —Leslie Heins

It is still against my company’s policy. —Amy Drotar

Many ski areas are on federal land, so marijuana is illegal there. We also have a housing crisis in the mountains; when you don’t have housing you don’t have employees. —Deana Mitchell

Housing is a statewide issue, in Denver, too. —Chris Romer

Finding employees is a huge challenge when they can do other things for a certain rate and there is a shortage of housing. There are so many options for employees. —Dawn Abbott

Twenty-somethings don’t want to work very hard. You have to pay your dues like we did and move on. —Leslie Heins

I teach at Metro State University of Denver and heard a young man saying, “I’m going to be very selective and not take anything under $50,000.” There are very unrealistic expectations. This is a very nuts-and-bolts business, and there might be a glass of wine at the end of the night. The expectation of this industry is it looks glamorous. —Anne O’Neill

Like stand in high heels and point. —Danny Findley

The brass tacks is that this is a hard busi- ness. —Leslie Heins

They sign on, and then a month later say they didn’t know how hard it would be. Our biggest headache is the labor pool. —Jillian Livingston

TV and media make it look great. At the core, we are a business. My grandkids think my job is the best, and I always bring cool things back. I’ve been in the coolest cities in the world and have never seen them. It looks different than it is. —Anne O’Neill

On The Apprentice, the last thing they usually have to do is event planning! —Patty Moser