“We learn a lot from our guests, often by observation in addition to their direct feedback,” says Ted Davis, Benchmark’s chief sales and marketing officer. “The speed of life and business is laser fast today, communication devices intrude constantly, and lifestyles have adjusted accordingly. This includes when in meeting environments. But we’ve also learned that moments of togetherness, where the pace slows a bit maybe over cocktails or dinner, are genuinely treasured and this is where successful relationships are forged and strengthened, lasting long after the conference comes to an end.”
Read on to discover Benchmark’s Top Meeting Trends for 2019.
1. Privacy is the #1Technology Requirement of Planners Today
Fast and reliable Wi-Fi is always a top priority for a meeting or event, but now it is a must that the connection also be secure. Privacy and security of information for conference guests is paramount to a successful event and planners need to ensure that each participant’s personal communications are safe.
2. Food for the Soul
Food has always brought people together by allowing them to engage with each other and savor the moment. Now, with a strong focus on wellness arising in 2019, guests want to enjoy food that is fresh, locally sourced and in-season. Dietary restrictions and preferences are changing everyday so chefs need to take note – especially with interactive, family-style dining becoming more popular this year.
3. Don’t Facebook me. Don’t Tweet Me
It’s not that professional meeting planners don’t like social media, they just prefer to communicate via email. And what they don’t like is being contacted for business through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Try to be respectful of personal time and personal accounts and stick to the tradition forms of communication. Also, don’t forget how time-effective a simple phone call can be or how a hand-written note can make a lasting impression.
4. Preference for Independents
Flexibility, customization, unscripted and authentic experiences all rank high as top priorities for planners these days. Independent properties excel in providing these types of experiences by creating memorable and highly productive meetings. Another bonus for planners? The fact that commissions are generally higher with these types of properties.
5. What Millennials Want from Meeting Venues
Millennials tend to focus on their devices and this has lend to a need for state of the art technology and multiple outlets and USB ports in every room, as well as privacy rooms for personal conversations, sensitive phone calls and personal needs. As far as the spaces they prefer goes, millennials want to switch it up when it comes to seating arrangements and meeting venues; non-traditional spaces lead to enhanced engagement. This also extends to their sleep arrangements with millennials enjoying sharing guest rooms, leading to fewer single room requests.
6. Curated Travel
Curated travel for groups – on or off property – is of very high importance in 2019. There is a need for employees to be trained but also diverse and unique experiences lead to that caliber of employee. Therefor, companies are urging their employees to get out of the hotel or meeting venue and into the local destination for broader experiences and fun activities such as a cabaret show or motorized scooter tour in town.
7. Millennials Team Build Differently
Culinary teambuilding gets more popular every year. Whether you’re in the kitchen with a chef learning about flavors, at the bar with a mixologist, in the dining room at a table or outside for a picnic, food brings groups together. In 2019 planners are now looking to add on to the experience with entertainment aspects. Try something like a lip sync battle, wildlife tour, live interactive dinner show, hiking excursions or go-cart races. These activities teach new life skills that can be used at the office and at home.
8. Cocktails, S’mores and Boats
Believe it or not, the most popular after-hours meetings group activity is gathering around an outdoor fire pit on property, kicking back and relaxing with colleagues over cocktails and s'mores. Don’t have a firepit? Substitute with any outdoor activity such as a relaxing sunset boat cruise or an outdoor movie night. The key thing for groups is relaxing together and getting to know their colleagues as people and not just as co-workers.
9. Quick Response and Pay Commissions Promptly
Communication is key, especially when it comes to responding to RFPs as quickly as possible. A request that is submitted in the morning should be responded to by early afternoon to win business. To gain en edge over the competition, go one step further and pay commissions as quickly as possible. Today, more meetings are being managed by third party planners, with accompanying commission demands, so make sure to respond swiftly and generously.
10. Work/Life Balance
Wellness is huge with professional meeting planners and in 2019 that’s manifesting as a focus on work/life balance. Planners believe a healthy mind and body helps enable productive participants so yoga, meditation and breathing classes for meeting breaks are in growing demand.