Experts offer tips and ideas for meeting professionals
As the year slowly comes to a close, many financial and insurance meeting planners may be thinking about what they should be keeping on their radar. Smart Meetings sat down with experts Cathy Diem, director of sales for financial and insurance accounts at Hilton Worldwide, Katrina Kent, CMP, CMM vice president of Meetings Management and Event Strategy (MMES) team at Liberty Mutual Insurance and Jennifer C. Squeglia, CMP, Independent Contractor at RLC Events, to get the inside scoop.
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Download Research: 2023 FICP Industry and Perception Study
Moving Into 2024
Out of all the trends that have risen in 2023, our experts pointed to a few that will definitely be making their way into 2024.
“There’s definitely more emphasis on wellness, sustainability and inclusivity,” said Jennifer Squeglia, “I think there’s great energy in our industry right now. It’s busy and I think people are roaring back. As crazy as it can be, I think it’s wonderful to know that we’re here and that all our attendees are appreciating being in person more than ever before.”
Did 2023 reignite the Golden Age of Travel? Cathy Diem believes so. She also credited the Las Vegas IMEX event for invigorating the industry, “It’s great to be able to feed off that energy of the crowds at these events, and to grow and strengthen the partnerships now that we’re back.”
Katrina Kent offered a more introspective take on the past year, stating, “I think we’re all still figuring it out when it comes to on-site events versus off-site events and the big come back from the pandemic. The question is what happens next?”
“I think we’re all still figuring it out when it comes to on-site events versus off-site events and the big come back from the pandemic. The question is what happens next?”
– Katrina Kent, CMP, CMM, vice president of Meetings Management and Event Strategy at Liberty Mutual Insurance
Read More: Unlocking the Secrets of a Corporate Planner
Developing Team Time and Culture
As many offices still utilize a hybrid working arrangement, inter-office interactions among colleagues can be few and far between.
“It’s hard to build a culture when you’ve got people working in their living rooms or their home offices,” Squeglia continued, citing her reason for why she’s seeing more business meetings among companies. “I do think I’m seeing an increase in bringing people together, not just for content, but team building and networking.”
Planners should also be aware of the needs of attendees while preparing their future events, “Attendees have become more protective of their time and have high expectations for that time when they commit to being away from home,” Diem said. “They want interaction, not lectures, they want more white space. They want to feel as though they have a role in choosing their own meetings journey. They’re less of a captive audience and more of a savvy travel consumer.”
“I think there’s great energy in our industry right now. It’s busy and I think people are roaring back. As crazy as it can be, I think it’s wonderful to know that we’re here and that all our attendees are appreciating being in person more than ever before.”
– Jennifer C. Squeglia, CMP, Independent Contractor at RLC Events
On-Site v. Off-Site
To host your event on or off-site? That is the question planners could be asking themselves. Ultimately it depends on where you want to put your money. On the one hand, Squeglia stated that F&B would be less expensive for the on-site choice. However, AV has gone up in price since the pandemic. Hotels that have features like that built-in may be a more cost-effective method.
According to the data gathered a part of the 2023 FICP Industry and Perception Study, 47.1% of meeting professionals are planning 26 or more in-person events and 34.3% of hospitality partners are expecting that many events.
For 2024, the data shows that the majority of events planners are aiming to host 6-25 in-person events.
Lead Times and Developing Partnerships
More data from the study showed a continuation of shorter lead times. 21.6% are actively planning with less than 6 months out, 52.9% with 6-12 months out, 15.7% with 13-18 months out and 9.8% more than 18 months out.
“This entire year and last year there’s so much in flux on the insurance side, it’s really a dynamic time. We have to get really creative and we’re depending on our partnerships. The value of the partnership, between the hospitality side and the planning side, makes all the difference in these situations,” Kent said. “We’re trying to fill those holes and get good deals at the same time. Having data to make those decisions in our back pocket at all times has been really helpful.”
Standing Behind Sustainability
The focus on sustainability starts at the RFP level. “Climate change is something that’s affecting all of us, it’s affecting our programs. It’s affecting the dollars and cents that go into things. There are a whole host of considerations when we’re choosing the destination and the venue but we really have to prepare for everything in new ways because it all intersects together and climate and sustainability are really at the heart of that,” Kent said.
Diem agreed and said she has seen more sustainability concerns at the RFP level. “I’ve got one company that’s about to launch a survey to all previously contracted venues with simple ESG questions as they start to identify venues that’ll help them in the future.”
“It’s great to be able to feed off that energy of the crowds at these events, and to grow and strengthen the partnerships now that we’re back.”
– Cathy Diem, director of sales for financial and insurance accounts at Hilton Worldwide.
Lower Budgets, Higher Costs
Further data from the FICP study showed a jump in limited budgets at 69.4% with an increase in budgets sitting at 10.2%. Meanwhile, hospitality partners are enacting increasing costs across the board from staffing, room rates, F&B, AV costs and ancillary charges.
In working with venues to find possible areas of cost saving, planners can look at creating a menu of the day or sharing menus and AV with other groups that are also hosting at your venue. It may also be beneficial to share budget ranges with your hospitality partner up-front.
Meeting planners may also want to consider alternative cities that may offer better financial options.
Exchange Over Entertainment
Finally, the FICP study showed a 47.1% increase in networking and relationship building, 41.2% growth in collaboration and culture building, 19.6% growth in innovation and 15.7% increase in education and training but with a decrease in pure hospitality or entertainment at 23.5%.
“If [attendees are] going to be investing their time and their energy to be there together, there’s an expectation that they want to be connected to something. It needs to mean more than it used to,” Kent said.