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September 23, 2009

Content rules and procurement reigns, says new event survey

Relevant and engaging content is key to successful events, while the influence of procurement is rising. These are two of the key messages from a new survey of 600 events buyers from corporates and associations, which also produced a number of other interesting findings.

With 60% of UK corporate and 54% of association buyers citing reduced budgets as their key concern for the next 12 months, it is no surprise that venue and supplier cancellation policies and terms and conditions were also revealed as a high priority to event planners by the British Meetings and Events Industry Survey (BMEIS). 

A summary of the findings of the survey, carried out by The Right Solution on behalf of a group of industry sponsors, were unveiled at Event UK at the NEC in Birmingham this week.
Light on the horizon
One surprising result of the survey was a slight increase in overall budget for the association sector, up by 0.5% in the last 12 months. This contrasts with a 1.9% reduction in event budgets in the corporate sector.
In an attempt to combat reduced budgets, the survey showed that procurement departments are increasingly involved in the buying process for conferences and events, with the association sector showing a 19% rise their influence, and 30% for corporates. 

In terms of the volume of events organised, a third of corporate buyers and 16% of associations saw a reduction in the number of events organised, while nearly 20% of both sectors anticipated an increase in the number of events organised over the next 12 months.
The survey also revealed a reduction in the average budgeted daily and 24-hour delegate rates. Delegate numbers overall are also down, with the average number at an association’s main annual conference just 289, compared with 357 in 2007, and regular corporate events seeing an average of 117 delegates, down from 180 in 2007.
Not surprisingly, spending budget wisely is a top priority, which means that ‘added value items’ are the preferred incentives for each sector, closely followed by discounts on multiple bookings.
External agents
The use of third party agents appears to be on the increase, with 21% of associations and 28% of corporate events being organised in this way.

Location, price and access remain the most important factors influencing venue selection, while ‘relevant content’ and ‘inspiring presentations’ are considered to be the prime factors contributing to successful events. Surprisingly, return on investment was cited by only 10% of associations and 22% of corporates as important in measuring event success.
In terms of location, the major cities and city centre hotels remain the destinations and venues of choice. London tops the list for both associations and corporates, with Birmingham and Manchester vying for second and third places.  Buyers in both sectors continue to use overseas destinations, with the Republic of Ireland, Germany and France the most popular.
“This first ever BMEIS has confirmed some of the industry’s fears over reductions in budgets, but it has also shown that there is optimism in some quarters, with a slight increase in association budgets and 20% of buyers anticipating an overall increase in the number of events organised next year,” said Sally Greenhill, managing director of The Right Solution.

“For venues, destinations and suppliers, the research provides invaluable insight into what buyers are looking for in these difficult economic conditions.”

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