Corporate meeting planners are expecting 3.6 percent more meetings and 11.7 percent more participants in 2010 versus 2009, according to the Meeting Professionals International FutureWatch study, released Monday. Sponsored by American Express, the survey of 356 corporate and 967 overall meeting planners demonstrated more optimism than respondents showed a year earlier, according to authors of a report summarizing the results.
"For 2010, some economic confidence has returned, and, while budget cuts are still a leading issue, meeting and event professionals' focus on organizational resources and levels of job responsibility shows that the reality of coping in a new economy has begun to sink in," according to the report. "The majority of planners predict budget cuts, more stringent budget controls, improved operating efficiencies, slight staff reductions, closer attention to value and ROI and/or a general orientation toward doing more with less in the coming year.
"For the year ahead, a broad range of respondents agreed that industry conditions will begin to improve in the second half of 2010, or in 2011, with 41 percent of suppliers and 28 percent of planners predicting gradual industry growth in 2010. Meeting and event planners anticipate a 2.8 percent increase in meetings held and a 4.5 percent increase in attendance over the next year."
Job challenges including budget cuts, "doing more with less" and "not enough support staff" largely displaced last year's concerns about the worsening economy and declining attendance. One-third of corporate planners indicated budget cuts were a challenge, while one in five cited "doing more with less" and 14 percent each indicated a lack of staff and an excess of responsibility.
Corporate planners expected to be asked to manage 25 percent more events, according to FutureWatch, but spend 2.8 percent less, on average. "This suggests that the industry is on track for renewed growth, but that meetings will be simpler and more streamlined than they have been in the past," the authors wrote.
Trends toward increasingly local meetingsand a growing need to measure return on investment also were expected to continue. Other market characteristics anticipated for 2010 include "competitive pricing," "value and quality" as opposed to "frills," an increasing focus on corporate social responsibility and an "enthusiastic market" for such technologies as in-meeting Internet access and remote conferencing.