Current Meeting Industry Trends According to Cvent's Pulse Survey

Current Meeting Industry Trends According to Cvent's Pulse Survey
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Episode description

A lot of time and effort goes into making sure the event runs smoothly, but what often gets overlooked is the guest experience outside the event. While you may have planned out the perfect menu, guest speakers, and venue, going the extra mile to ensure that your attendees have leisurely options outside of the event can help to make the experience a memorable one.

In this episode, Melinda Burdette, Senior Director of Events with Meeting Professionals International, and Jeffrey Howell, Director of Sales and Marketing at The Lodge Flying Horse, join the show to talk about the key takeaways from Cvent’s latest Pulse Survey. Listen as they share their insights on how to create a great guest experience. By planning your event in an area that has more to offer your attendees, you can increase attendance rates and make your guests feel good about attending. You’ll also learn how being proactive with lead times can help decrease hotel booking problems, and how working with your partners can both lower event quantity and improve event quality.

You can check out the latest PULSE Survey report here.

Show notes

  • How cost shifting can help maximize your budget
  • The importance of hosting your event at the right venue
  • Why building strong partnerships can create opportunities for events to run more smoothly

Things to listen for:

[00:49] Getting to know Melinda
[02:09] Getting to know Jeffrey
[06:23] Lead time trends
[10:14] The importance of the experience outside of the event
[17:44] Creating an effective budget
[22:52] Partnerships in event planning

Meet your host

Paulina Giusti, Senior Manager, Meetings & Events at Cvent
Rachel Andrews, Senior Director of Global Meetings & Events at Cvent

Meet your guest speakers

Melinda Burdette, Senior Director of Events at Meeting Professionals International
Jeffrey Howell, Director of Sales and Marketing at The Lodge Flying Horse

Episode Transcript

Great events create great brands, and it takes a village to put on an event that engages, excites and connects audiences to your brand. And we're that village. I'm Alyssa. I'm Paulina. And I'm Rachel. And you're listening to great events, the podcast for all people interested in events and marketing.

Paulina: Hello everyone. What's going on in the wide, wide world of events? My name is Paulina. Welcome to this week's great events podcast episode. I am excited today to welcome my co-host Rachel Andrews, and the two of us are welcoming guests from the industry. We are joined by Melinda Burdette, who's the Senior Director of Events with Meeting Professionals International. And we're also welcomed by Jeffrey Howell, director of Sales and Marketing at The Lodge Flying Horse. And before we start today's conversation, I'd just love for you two to introduce yourselves to our listeners and share a little bit about your experience in the meetings and events industry. And Melinda, excuse me. Why don't we start with you?

Melinda: Thank you Paulina. Hi gang. Melinda Burdette. She already said I was senior director of events for MPI. I’ve been in the industry for more years than I really want to tell anybody and hopefully I'm hiding all my gray hairs associated with that. I will tell you that if you had told me even 10 years ago, that I would be what our CEO calls the Head Chef of Chefs, meaning planning meetings for meeting and event planners. Rachel I know you can resemble this for Mark. I would've told you there's no way that I would be doing that, but I love the challenge of it. I love the idea that we bring new and scalable ideas or maybe just regenerate some old ideas for everyone to bring back to the surface. But yeah, any time MPI meets face-to-face on a global level, that's what we're here to do and execute the logistics for. So I've been in corporate, association, medical meetings, done a couple of weddings, so I've pretty much done it all. 

Paulina: Love that. Thank you so much. Jeffrey. Would you mind introducing yourself?

Jeffrey: Sure. Again, I'm Jeffrey Howell. I'm the director of sales and marketing at the beautiful Flying Horse Resort and Club in Northern Colorado Springs. I’m delighted. I've been here now for about eight years, since we started the lodge. I started my career out in Virginia, Northern Virginia area, working in restaurants. I started with the Clyde's Restaurant Group back in 1980, so, you know, you can do the math from there. But since then I've transitioned into hotels and then from catering to group room sales and group meeting sales, and it's just been a great ride and I really value the fact that I've had experience in so many different aspects of our industry and hospitality, and it helps me to sell better, sell more honest, and make sure that I'm taking care of not only clients, but our staff as well, and not oversell, but it's a beautiful place to live. I really have enjoyed being out here. I love, love, love what I do, and I'm probably Cvent’s biggest fan. So it's a great partnership and I think that may be the key word for today's discussion as a partnership.

Paulina: Love that. Rach, you have a new home away from home out in Colorado. Someone to visit 

Rachel:  Just a quick road trip. So beautiful down in the springs. I try to get there at least once or twice a year, so I recommend it. If you want to visit 

Jeffrey: and I just made your reservation, 

Rachel: well, thanks. I’ll see you soon

Paulina: Awesome. Well, so for today's conversation, we're going to chat about some of the key findings from the March April edition of the North Star Cvent Pulse Survey. And for those of our listeners who are unfamiliar with the Pulse survey, it's really a great partnership that Cvent has with North Star. We do this regularly throughout the course of the year, and in the latest edition we surveyed just about 440 event professionals in March and April. And the premise is to get a glimpse of planner sentiment, what are event professionals experiencing from anywhere from their sourcing practices to their event execution strategy? And what some of their top priorities are. And today we're going to just focus on three key findings and kind of chat through our unique perspectives as partners, within the industry. And yeah, with that I think we just, we kick it off with key finding number one, and that is shorter lead times and slow response rates from hotel, venue and venues create challenges for planners. And by the numbers, we're seeing about 53% booking or sourcing events less than one year out. The breakdown of that is 38% of respondents are looking to source and plan one to three months out, and 40% of responders are looking to book four to six months out and I can't help but think that there are some serious macroeconomics at play when it comes to these stats, right? People are a little more hesitant to book an advance, commit to some high attendance numbers or maybe higher food and beverage minimums. And so I think there's a lot of that sentiment that's probably driving these shorter lead times for probably the majority of us in the industry. However, Rachel and I, I feel like we're used to really short lead times just from the outset. And that's, I don't know what that's a reflection of, but you know, Jeffrey just kind of want to go to you first. Are you seeing much shorter lead times with the volume that you're seeing come through? Are there any kind of. I guess trends that you're seeing in terms of the RFPs that you're receiving, are they smaller meetings with shorter lead times or big meetings with shorter lead times, or both?

Jeffrey: It is a little bit of both. We're at 102 room luxury boutique, so my lead time typically has been short. Now we just increased our inventory from 48 rooms all the way up to 102. So now I'm seeing bigger groups and the bigger the groups are, the better the lead time for me. But I still do, the majority of my business are exec teams out of corporate offices up in Denver mostly. And I get anywhere from a week to, if I'm really lucky, six to eight weeks lead time on that. It's a spur of the moment, you know the decision is made based on those executives' schedules. So it kind of puts the pressure on, which is good news and bad news. It brings things to a close pretty quickly. Because you simply have to, and it also sets us up to become a better partner and to really aid through that planning process. All of my team has 20 to 30 years of experience. So we get what happens in every cycle. You know, like what we do is pretty cyclical and for five years it's a buyer's market, then a seller's market and lead times change. But the best thing that we can do from our chairs is to be as prepared to assist as possible. And I really think that's the key, regardless of the lead time right now, is just to become a really, really good partner with the source, whomever that might be, whether it's direct or through a third party. But yeah, the lead time can be a challenge. Honestly, though, it comes down to whether or not I have the space. If I have the space, great, let's, let's go. And if I don't, then I do my best to help that client find the appropriate place, whether it's a competitor here in town or in another city. But I think that earns a little loyalty and respect in the big picture as well. 

Paulina: Wow. I love that. All of the agility. It sounds like we're all having to be agile during these, these shorter lead times. Melinda, you're, you're shaking your head yes. This is resonating with you. 

Melinda: Yeah. I mean, when you're doing larger events like Cvent Connect or like, you know, MPI signature events that we do, your lead time obviously has to take that into consideration, right? So you're looking at typically for MPI standpoint, we look at usually around a five year lead time for our North American signature event, however, our European event typically gets a one year lead time, and then it kind of goes from there. We really, our sweet spot is a nine month lead time for things like board meetings, things that are probably 200 people or less. If it becomes over that, then obviously we want a year, a year plus in order to do that. Some of the specialty meetings that we do, like our Thought Leader Summit, which is really kind of handled more like an incentive trip. We usually try to get a year lead time associated with that. Sometimes that's just not possible with negotiation and things and budgeting, but from, from our standpoint is we have to budget for these things, the September, October prior to the year that you're actually going to conduct them. So we already know pretty much what we're going to be doing for that following calendar year. Now that doesn't mean that things don't creep up and we need to find a venue for like, possibly an all team get together or something like that, back at the mothership in Dallas. But, for us it's, it really is that one year, nine month or five years, which is kind of the sweet spot for MPI. 

Rachel: I think that's a great segue to go into key finding number two. So cost increases and lower attendee numbers may be driving convenience over experience, which is the key finding number two. So for us, that means increased demand for hotels and resorts. Out of the box type locations or out of the box type venues. We're seeing increased demand for proximity to event attendees, so that means more regional programs, things like that across the country. I know part of that finding was 48% are experiencing increased demand for hotels and resorts that can provide integrated meetings solutions with lodging services, which sounds a little bit like people want it all to be inclusive. They want it to be all at their fingertips all together. People are really still very cautious with their time and money. So that maybe lower attendee numbers is playing into those decision making factors. When they're going, they're looking at their location and saying, I really want to spend time out of the office doing XYZ. Is it close? Do I have the travel budget for it? Do I really want to go there? I think that those are all things that are factoring into planners paying attention to that, and I think it's no surprise that costs are increasing. I feel like that's a running theme just in all trend reports that we're seeing across the board and as event professionals we know that costs have gone up quite significantly in the last couple years just due to inflation. But it does sound a little bit like leisure. I feel like sweetening the deal for event professionals on the property level is also great, so any incentives or rates that you can give to the planners I'm sure are helping that. Jeffrey, I know you kind of spoke a little bit about this, but with your kind of resort amenities that you have at your property, I feel like you may have additional offerings you're seeing event professionals asking for beyond the traditional experiences, what have you kind of seen as far as that?

Jeffrey: I am getting a lot more requests for team building events and things to be outside. When you're in Colorado Springs, anytime from May through October, that's where you want to be. So, I'm really, really blessed in so many ways to be working here. There's a lot of advantages that we have, some just because of the amenities we offer with two golf courses and tennis and pickleball and basketball, and five pools and a spa and, and on and on. But we have a lot of beautiful outdoor venues to host dinners. I think one of the conveniences I have that I can offer is that we're a CMP house. So we package, whether it's a day meeting or a multi-day meeting, we package everything up to include all the appropriate items that you would need for a successful meeting, except for dinner. So every night dinner we play with, it's onsite, offsite, inside, outside. Buffet plated, it doesn't really matter. We have a great culinary staff and can offer some really, really fun dinner options here. Plus, I'm very, I've been in Colorado Springs now for 25 years, so it's safe to say in a town the size of this that you pretty much know everybody and you've developed partnerships so that you can confidently recommend offsite venues and activities that are hosted by people that you trust. And that's a big advantage. We've seen a huge need to cooperate and be flexible since Covid and I think that's, if this is the long run away from that, in the long run, that's been a huge advantage for us because when Covid hit, we just immediately were sympathetic and released everybody from their contracts with the hopes that they'd rebook. And I would say 90% of those groups are, have rebooked or in the process of rescheduling those meetings that were canceled and there's an appreciation and a trust that exchanges hands, during such a horrible time. Now again, we're able to help those less experienced planners, which there are more of now, people that have moved in both positions kind of quickly to support some high level exec meetings, and they don't have the experience that we do. So again, now we're set up to be real heroes. We can make that planning process as easy as possible, as clean as possible, stay within a budget. And then add just the right amount of funds so that they walk away, everybody's happy, and that's kind of our goal here. 

Rachel: I think those are the hooks you need. Paulina and I talk about this all the time. It's like the standard meetings that you host. It's great. It's another seminar that I sit at, an hour presentation and then, and then what? Like everyone else is offering other fun things to do during these programs. What are you offering me? Why am I taking time out of my day to come if I don't get a wine tasting or whatever the experience is. The outdoor fun things that you have at your property, Jeffrey and I know, Melinda, you're doing some cool leisure stuff right now, with WEC being at a resort in Mexico this year. I know we talked earlier, I think this year or last year about how, on one of our other podcasts, about how you've had to recraft your agenda, but it's a value add for attendees to come. Can you tell us a little bit about how you sourced it and then how you're kind of embracing that mentality? 

Melinda: Yeah, we sourced it just through, our internal supplier network for something that's as complex as WEC. We find that sourcing through our contacts and things like that are a little bit easier because of the nature of it. It is a partnership between your host destination and your venue, which are two MPI looks at those as two different things, so, It's not just the Barcelo Resort, uh, that we're going to in Quintana Roo, it is, Cancun, it is the Quintana Roo state. So those partnerships really define how we move forward from an MPI standpoint. And you're right, the leisure because our annual meeting is in June, it is huge for us, right? So we've got. We've got most people, I would say at this point, we've got the majority of our folks who have made their hotel reservations are bringing their families. So for us, we've had to look at finding a resort that can accommodate not only adults, but children as well. So the Barcelo campus has like six different experience opportunities as far as accommodations are concerned within the entire resort. Some are adults only. Some are geared more towards a larger families. So for us it was important that we look at that. Then obviously as we hear all the news that's happening in Mexico, obviously the safety of our attendees becomes very important, and that's important regardless of whether you were in Louisville, which we will be next year. They had some unfortunate events in Louisville here recently, so the idea of safety for your attendees should always be top of line as well. But yeah, that all inclusivity. For any folks who have done meetings that way, it really is a little bit of a cost shift, right? You're shifting the cost from your budget, from the event budget to really the attendee budget, right? Because if you have not negotiated fairly decent rates, which MPI has negotiated some really great rates for the all-inclusive, and you have to think about things differently when you're going to an all inclusive. So if the attendee is already paying for a meal, then I call it stupid money, right? Why would I spend stupid money to place a meal, right? Why would I pay stupid money to have an organized breakfast or an organized lunch when I've got thousands or hundreds of thousands of acres of different areas that they can go eat in existing outlets. So, it really is looking at your meeting differently, especially if you go into an all inclusive, and then how is it that you plan your meeting around? We all talk about going into a room and never coming out, from sun up to sundown. Well, how do you change what that looks like so that you give them a little bit more time in the morning to go have breakfast in an existing outlet, or you give them time in the middle of the day, especially if they're bringing families, to go have lunch together. And then you might stay a little bit later at the end of the day. But you have to look at it in a completely different light. And that's really kind of what we're experimenting. I mean, Jeffrey, I agree with you that it's all about transparency and relationships. So for us, we've been very transparent about what we have budget for, what we don't have budget for. And that's not just for the resort, but it's for all of the vendors. It's important that you're establishing that practice regardless of where you're going and just having those conversations because no one wants their meeting, the host obviously wants the meeting to be successful, the host venue, the host city, the attendee obviously needs a return on investment. Your sponsor needs a return on investment and your event planners need to keep their jobs right, so everybody's out for the greater good. So you might as well establish that partnership and that relationship to be transparent about how you can meet in the middle to execute what everybody is demanding. It doesn't matter whether it's leisure travel or business travel, but that experience, coefficient, right? That we're all trying to get to. How do you create an experience that is worth their money, time, and effort to attend? 

Paulina: I love that. We just to echo that similar sentiment, it's really around the sentiment of your attendees. Kind of like what we're talking about, the sentiment survey. Right. And similarly for our Connect Europe experience, we've been hosting at a property that's not considered, not Central London. And this is the first year that we're able to find availability and space in a central London location, and we're completely rethinking about the attendee experience because people are able to pop in for a couple hours. Maybe it's in the morning or the second half of their day. And so what does registration look like? Well, now we're doing daily registration options as opposed to one conference package. We're creating more blocks of downtime so that someone could pop over, take a zoom call, get through, an hour, 90 minutes worth of meetings, and then go back into a breakout session or a general session. So to your point, it's really about listening to the attendees, engaging with them, and designing the experience that's convenient, efficient and really mutually beneficial for everyone involved. So I think it's great to hear that I know Rachel is going to MPI WEC, so I can't wait to hear all about this unique experience, because I know it sounds really phenomenal. I think moving just right along to our final key finding here. We were laughing about this before we went live, but there really is this sort of planner optimism on the rise. However, too many meetings are better than no meetings at all. I feel like we have a spectrum of opinion on this call right now, so I'm going to kind of throw it out there to see who wants to respond to that. Is it really more meetings are better than no meetings at all? 

Melinda: Well, certainly from a planner perspective, it's job security, right? So I'm not sure that too many meetings are better than no meetings. But certainly the ability to have meetings, right? So, I think it's a mind shift. So it's the ability to actually have those face-to-face meetings that still some corporations associations have not done yet coming out of the pandemic. So I think there is some Covid, I don't know, call it Covid brain or Covid experience that people just are not quite up to backup to speed yet. Remember, we were all clicking on all gears and we might have had bigger teams at the time than possibly we do now, but we are all doing more with less at this point. And again, that goes back to what I said previously about relationships and transparency. How do you have, like Jeffrey's resort be your partner in executing this event and how is it that you can possibly work together? You know, you need to find where those efficiencies are and look to see how you can partner with them, whether it's with the resort, whether it's with your AV company, your registration company, whatever that happens to be, you need to look for those efficiencies. And by the way, if you're looking for something in the UK, our European event that we just had in Brighton was fabulous. I highly recommend heading down to Brighton to do a meeting as well.

Jeffrey: Do a brief aside because, I've been to a lot of trade shows and conferences in the last few years and there is nothing out there like WEC. I've never had more fun. I've never been more entertained and it has a great education component, but above all, it's a phenomenal network and how you pull that off and keep 5,000 people happy and smiling and maybe drunk. That it is exactly what, for my money, what I want to accomplish and what I want to enjoy.

It's a great thing. So my hat's off. I don't know how you and your team pull off those events especially hearing that in Europe, it's only a year out. That must be incredibly difficult. But my hat's off 

Melinda: Yeah, thanks Jeff. And  I'm curious to know, when was the last WEC you attended?

Jeffrey: Right before Covid, actually, the year before Covid hit and I travel a lot with my convention and visitor bureau and we have a blast and we have fun selling the destination as much as we do any particular property, and I think that really opens some more doors for you and a lot more ears when you're at a conference like that to start talking about Colorado Springs as destination before you sell. Well, what I consider to be the only resort in Colorado Springs at Flying Horse. But just it's a great partnership and that's what this is all about. I'm not sure that I could actually buy into, there's too many meetings. Too many meetings are when I have to turn them away. Aside from that, it's just the right amount and again, it puts us in a position to keep the staff busy. Staffing is an issue at a lot of properties being smaller and incredibly active in our community. I think that really, really makes a difference. We partnered with the workforce and with the schools. So we're lucky enough to, especially in our summer season, to be able to bring interns on, to bring school kids over, to work everything from the poolside to, we've got 1500 acres here that need to be groomed. So there's an awfully large outdoor staff in, grounds maintenance. Engineering the works. There's so many opportunities for us to offer jobs to people that we've been really aggressive about doing that. But it's just, for me, it's just great to see the meeting industry rebounding and whether it's short term or long term, it's a blessing for us and it just, you know, keeps us, like you said, job security for the planners on that side. I think it should be job security for maybe more than one person. But, I think we'll see that too, as the times get better, people will be able to hire and bring more people on and ease the stress on both sides.

Melinda: I definitely believe that, Jeffrey. I mean, just to give you a little bit of insight on what our staffing situation looks like, it's just myself and one other person on our events team within MPI. 

Paulina: Hats off.

Melinda: Yeah, I mean, it's not the funnest game in town on some days, right? But we've learned to figure out a way to execute against it. So, we do go out to those schools and we offer some internships for those hospitality students that are out there to kind of see behind the curtain, right? The magic that we do make happen, WEC and then, and then of course, volunteers, we lean on those hospitality schools as well to execute our events. So, It might look like a lot of minions that run around and help execute, associated with our large events, but there is a way that planners can outsource without costing them a lot of money. It's very easy for me to offer an intern, a hotel room and possibly reimburse their flights if I'm getting that amount of work out of them, especially if they're in the later years of college or graduate school or what have you. So I think it's the way that you look at it and there are plenty of, plenty of opportunities from a volunteer situation. I had a meeting professional during Covid who had lost her job and she said, I will pay my own way to come and work with you guys. And I was like, fabulous. Are you kidding me? Send me your resume and all your friends resumes as well. So where there's a will, there's a way, and I think we just have to look at it differently. I know certainly most corporations and organizations are going to be slow to backfill positions until they start seeing that consistency with the revenues coming in. Right. It's not just a one-off revenue bump that thinks that you can backfill positions. It's going to have to be that consistency. So you really do have to look at alternatives to how you can still get the help that you need, especially onsite, when you're being pulled in in a hundred different ways. 

Jeffrey: That's so true. And I also will mention that I think one of the biggest advantages that we've noticed, even though it wasn't the goal, right? Right away. But we've been able to build a bench. So I'm an old guy. I've only got so many years left, and I would feel really comfortable if we were able to find the key people that would replace me in the years ahead. And the same in our F&B team. In the culinary team. If we could start building a bench now and mentoring these people, I'm bringing them along five years, 10 years from now, we're going to have a great team of people who are loyal to the property and more respectful and appreciate the mentorship that they've been given. And I cannot believe you do all of that with two people. I'm embarrassed. Oh my goodness. 

Melinda: That's why partnerships are key. I mean, Stephen is just one of those tremendous partners that we lean on, certainly when we get to the onsite execution of things. But yeah, thank you. 

Rachel: Well, it's great to see that planner optimism is rising. I mean, if you look at the alternative that we went through the last couple years, of course people are happy now. It's just about creating those efficiencies like you guys talked about, like figuring out shortcuts and technology to use to help you do it quickly. 

Paulina: Awesome. Well, we are just about out of time for today, but I did want to give both of you a chance to just share any kind of parting words with our listeners. Share how our listeners can get in touch with you if they're wanting to volunteer at an upcoming MPI program. Or looking to book a beautiful resort in Colorado Springs. So if you guys want to just share your parting words and any perhaps advice as well. 

Melinda: Yeah, so you can reach me on LinkedIn. It's Melinda Burdette If you're not already connected with me or through the MPI portal, certainly follow and like, and share and all of those kinds of things. We have lots of things going on within MPI. As far as parting words or concerned for our planners that are out there, just be patient. Try to find calm in your day. I mean, Jeff, we talked about two people. I had to get up from my desk about two hours ago and just do a walkabout, right? Because it had just gotten to the point, it was like a Monday all over again. So you have to figure out those types of opportunities. And really, I think one of the things that really impressed upon me within Covid was, as a meeting professional, I want to control everything and the recognition of those things that I cannot control. You just need to let it go. You have to literally let those things go because they will sink you in your personal life and your professional life and in your mindset. So we need to be thinking about our mental health through all of this. So always take the time, walk away if you need to. Do, I call it a walkabout. I live kind of right across the street from the beach, so I just go outside and kind of take a little stroll and it really gets me back into the mindset of being able to plan these types of things with two people. So I think that's my biggest takeaway is just find that, center yourself and find that opportunity of things that are within your control. And then let go of those things that you cannot. 

Jeffrey: That's brilliant advice. Wow. Well, I think on our end, if there's a message involved, I think it would be respectful. Understand that there's so much pressure on the other side of that phone call or email, and I think the first priority is to get back to a lead as quickly as possible. I'm really proud and very conscious of the fact that I have an under two hour response time in Cvent, and that, honestly, that puts me ahead of the game right out of the gate because a compset at lead time is between seven and nine hours. So I've already had time to reestablish a relationship with that person, earn trust, see what it is, what I can provide, things that I can do that other resorts may or may not be able to. But understand that it's a game of communication and partnership and the sooner you develop that understanding and that comfort, then I think the better off you are and the more meetings you close. So again, just be respectful and, and work as hard for the client as you do for your team. 

Paulina: Wow. Love those parting words. Thank you both for joining us today. To our listeners. We hope you enjoyed our chat and gained some insightful takeaways. We will be sure to post the North Star meetings Pulse report to this episode. And as always, if you have any topics or suggested speakers that you'd like us to add to our 2023 season, please DM us on LinkedIn. Message us on Instagram or send us a note at greatevents@cvent.com. I'm Paulina and thank you so much for tuning into today's episode.