Planners in the United States expect all types of meetings to grow in attendance in 2019, noting an anticipated 1.24 percent increase in internal meetings. The smallest growth (more than 0.7 percent) is expected for conferences, trade shows, senior leadership meetings and board meetings. This is according to findings from American Express Global Business Travel’s Meetings & Events division (M&E) annual 2019 Global Meetings and Events Forecast.
“We’re actually seeing more training meetings,” says Yma Sherry, vice president of North America for M&E. “The economy is doing better, and as a result, corporations are hiring more people and have an increased need for training.” The unemployment rate in the United States dropped to 3.7 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and approximately 134,000 jobs were created last month. Internal team and training meetings account for 30 percent of North American meetings.
Although meetings aren’t expected to grow much in number of days per meeting, North Americans do anticipate meeting length to go up for product launches, incentives, customer advisory boards and senior leadership. Not much, if any, change in length is expected for conferences or tradeshows. Whenever feasible, it was found that North Americans prefer to meet in person.
Planners who participated in the survey were posed with a hypothetical question about how they’d spend extra money if their meeting budget were increased by 10 percent. The most common response was they’d put that money towards enhancing the experience.
“An optimal experience effectively primes the attendee to get the absolute most out of the meeting,” says Christine Lawson, SVP of sales for Loews Hotels & Co. “We partner both internally and with our customers to ensure we are providing the right environment that actually fuels the attendees’ mind, body and spirit so that the meeting objectives are met and that we have in return exceeded the customers’ expectations as well.”
Linda McNairy, vice president of global operations and shared services for American Express Meetings & Events, provides a smart tip to ensure attendees are maximizing the consumption of content through the experience of the event. She suggests that “the logistics around it have been facilitated in the most seamless way possible.”
Milton Rivera, M&E vice president of business development and summarized what planners can take away from the forecast. “With activity and investment growing, planners will need to rise to meet two key challenges,” he prophesies. “The first is to quantify the value they are providing to the organization. This doesn’t necessarily mean measuring ROI, but they will need to demonstrate they are delivering against the objectives of the meetings they are managing. Second, they need to engage an increasingly diverse set of attendees in their meetings and content. Meetings are dynamic, as are audiences. These are not easy challenges.”