February 24, 2024

Meetings and events: Trends to watch

As live meetings and events return, Kari Wendel at CWT outlines the key trends to keep an eye on

As business travel and meetings continue to return, albeit in fits and spurts, it’s never been more important to have a centralised strategy and to understand the key trends shaping the return to live meetings and events.

With traveller/attendee health and safety in sharp focus, only a strong Strategic Meetings Management programme can give a company the visibility and control required to deliver on this goal.

The landscape of meetings and events may be forever changed and key trends are emerging including hybrid meetings, sustainability, Total Meetings Management, and the spike in joint travel and meeting strategies. 

Hybrid is here to stay

Without a doubt, the hybrid meeting will reign supreme for years to come. The last two years have taught us that we really can work virtually and accomplish key goals and objectives as we collaborate remotely, and that some meetings can be successfully delivered in virtual or hybrid format without undermining the impact.

This places increased pressure on sourcing activities as the meeting that was formerly a hundred person live event is transforming into a hundred person hybrid and there is no foundation for forecasting what percentage of the attendees will be willing and able to travel.

Benchmarking is critical now and will be for months to come to support accurately sourcing and contracting for these hybrid meetings.

Other realities of hybrid meetings are increased costs, broader reach, requisite content and format changes, etc. It’s a new day and hybrid is here to stay!

Driving sustainability

Additionally, the chatter about sustainability is now a roar and all parts of the supply chain are focused on doing their part to progress in this area. Meetings and events provide a unique vehicle for the achievement of key sustainability initiatives and its time has certainly come. 

Some customers have very specific targets and timing assigned to key goals and most are focused on KPI’s per event/meeting as a good first start. This is one area that crosses over from our work to personal lives and is going to remain a strong focus area for years to come.

Total Meetings Management on the rise

Beyond the immediate view, we will continue to see customers focus on Total Meetings Management where every type of meeting – from simple meeting to high-touch incentives – derives significant benefit from the SMM programme and strategies. No longer must we leave the larger, marketing-focused events and incentives off to the side as strategies are built and deployed.

Most customers are going to competitive bid with all meetings across the spectrum included in the opportunity – and several have seen rapid and unprecedented success. This modern approach to advancing SMM is a real and present opportunity.

Final fusion of travel and meetings

Lastly, we continue to see key signs that the merging of travel and meeting teams and strategies is growing stronger. The majority of the larger, global opportunities in 2021 were indeed travel and meeting RFP’s with a tightly-aligned customer team focused on joint successes.

The benefits to each customer are broad based and substantial – from an optimised traveller/attendee experience, increased buying power, improved data quality, lowered internal resource requirements, to the most critical comprehensive coverage of safety and security programs.

In an unprecedented time, keeping our eyes on these key trends that will shape the months and years to come is paramount to successfully riding this wave of the return of travel and meetings.

Kari Wendel is Global Vice President, Strategic Customers, for CWT Meetings & Events