Meetings Market Survey
Let’s start by reviewing our short-term results: How has the industry progressed since last year? Slow growth is the best way to character- ize the results. Key performance indicators, such as 2016 attendance vs. 2015 attendance, show an increase, but at a lesser rate than last
year’s survey. Respondents, most of whom completed the
survey in the weeks leading up to the U.S. presidential election, during a time of political upheaval, were nonetheless
cautiously optimistic about how their events would fare this
year. Here are some topline results from this year’s survey
compared to last year’s:
› Size of 2016 convention/meeting budget vs. 2015
convention/meeting budget: + 1. 7 percent. In last year’s
survey: + 2. 9 percent.
› 2016 attendance vs. 2015 attendance: + 3. 6 percent.
In the 2015 survey: + 5. 3 percent.
› 2017 attendance vs. 2016 attendance (projected):
+ 4. 9 percent. In the 2015 survey: + 3. 3 percent.
› Number of 2016 exhibitors vs. 2015 exhibitors:
+ 4. 6 percent. In the 2015 survey: + 2. 7 percent.
› Number of 2017 exhibitors vs. 2016 exhibitors
(projected): + 1. 5 percent. In the 2015 survey: + 2. 3 percent.
› Overall 2016 meeting budget compared to 2015
meeting budget: + 1. 7 percent. In the 2015 survey:
+ 2. 9 percent.
28 percent expect to plan more meetings in 2017; only 3
percent expect to plan fewer meetings.
› Cutbacks — Despite the continued improving economy,
most meeting organizers are still being asked to cut back
on meeting expenses, and the majority ( 63 percent) have
been asked to focus on reducing F&B expenses.
› Expanding space — Respondents to this year’s survey
reported that their largest exhibition had 7, 100 more square
feet in 2016 compared to the 2015 survey results — about
half the jump in size we saw last year, but still reversing the
trend in prior years of declining exhibition space.
› Greater forethought — The average booking window for
large meetings is 2. 5 years, slightly more than in the 2015
survey; for small meetings, it’s 11 months, compared to 10
months in the 2015 survey.
› Technology trumps rentals — Respondents to this year’s
survey were most likely to outsource app development
and deployment ( 60 percent), event-supply rentals ( 58
percent), and housing ( 49 percent).
A DECADE OF DATA
Moving on to a broader analysis, on the following pages, you’ll
find 15 places where we’ve included annual Meetings Market
Survey results from 2007 (published in the March 2008 issue
of Convene) up to our present-day results from the survey
conducted in late 2016.
Some benchmarking metrics have not changed much in
10 years, but when juxtaposed with other data, inferences
can be drawn. For example, while the average annual conven-
tion/meeting budget has held steady at between $1.1 and $1.3
million (with the exception of 2008, when it hit $1.7 million),
the average overall organization budget has grown from $5.4
million in 2007 to $7 million today. That disparity helps to
explain why frustration over budgetary constraints came
up consistently in this year’s open-ended comments section
of the survey, as it has frequently in previous surveys. One
respondent said: “The convention budget continues to shrink
despite increasing membership numbers. We believe the
association is not very favorable to the convention since we
barely make a profit.”
Of course, technology has also left its mark on our industry
over the last decade. Event-supply rentals topped the list of
outsourced items in most surveys since 2007, except in 2014,
and again this year, when event-app development and deploy-
ment took the lead. And while we didn’t ask respondents if
they were considering webcasting their events — what’s now
more commonly referred to as virtual and hybrid events — in
2007, our survey results this year show that this remains a
largely untapped opportunity. Fewer than one in five respon-
dents reported that their largest event included a virtual or
hybrid component, and their use of virtual meetings and
events went up less than 0.3 percent from 2015 to 2016.
SUBJECT TO INTERPRETATION
Two of the most dramatic changes in the survey results over the
past 10 years prove a little more di;cult to interpret. For help, I
turned to Dave Lutz, CMP, managing director of Velvet Chain-
saw Consulting and Convene’s Forward Thinking columnist.
Budget vs. net square feet — In 2007, the average budget
with an exhibition was $2.5 million and the average exhibition hall was 98,800 net square feet. Fast-forward to 2016:
The average budget with an exhibition shrunk by $1 million
while the average exhibit size grew by 27 percent. Those
numbers would suggest the highly unlikely scenario of a drastically reduced per-square-foot rate for exhibitors in 2016.
Not possible: Not only have rates increased, Lutz said, but
expos are either flat or shrinking in size overall. The data, he
said, must be skewed by outlier responses; using the median
rather than the mean would yield a more accurate picture.
Sure enough, when using the median — 48,000 net square
feet — this picture makes more sense.
Average room pickup — The average room pickup in 2007
was 6,009; in 2016 it was 3,449. Yet the percentage of rooms