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September 26, 2008

Research highlights a changing events industry

Events industry association Eventia has identified the three major trends and six additional patterns of event activity that are shaping the industry in 2008. The research is the result of a plenary session brainstorm at the association’s summer conference.

The top three issues were: nervous client booking behaviour; the growing influence of procurement practices; and increasing corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability awareness.


Times they are a changin': Eventia highlights what
the industry sees as its biggest cahllenges


Nervous client booking behaviour: A high proportion of delegates reported late event confirmations as well as short-notice cancellations among their clients. They also believed a general belt-tightening trend was in evidence – one indicator being an increase in four star hotel bookings, in preference to de luxe properties.

Not only are many clients looking to spend less, but some are concerned about perceptions of extravagance, even when budgets are unchanged.

As part of this general down-scaling, event formats are changing: there is growth in domestic business and reduction in overseas travel; and a move towards consolidation of events into fewer and larger, as well as shorter programmes closer to home.

The growing influence of procurement practices: More clients - irrespective of industry sector - are involving their procurement departments in agency selection and management. There were reports of the procurement process being extended to supplier selection, with some agencies now conferring preferred supplier status on selected partners.

The pitch process is becoming increasingly complex and unfocused. Clients are still inviting multiple agency pitches. Price negotiations are getting tougher, and there is an expectation for agencies to deliver the same level of quality at a lower budget. At the same time, corporates are pushing for more flexible cancellation terms.

Increasing CSR and sustainability awareness: More clients are expressing concerns about their carbon footprint and are asking to see agencies’ CSR policies as part of the credentials pitch. It’s becoming increasingly common for clients to request event proposals incorporating CSR elements and sustainable options, including carbon reduction and offset strategies.

Interest in carbon-considerate hotels and venues continues to grow, and the established trend away from long-distance travel is now being further reinforced by soaring fuel costs.

Other issues
The six additional issues were: broadening applications for web-based technology; continuing focus on Return on Investment (ROI); changes to the agency model; resourcing challenges and opportunities; increasing focus on event content and messaging; and regulatory implications.

Broadening applications for web-based technology: While some respondents praised the internet for facilitating pre-and post-event communication, others saw the increasing use of teleconferencing and virtual meetings as a threat to live events.

Continuing focus on Return on Investment (ROI): With a growing requirement for event planners to justify their expenditure, there is a sustained interest in ROI. But as yet, few corporates are prepared to invest in the necessary research and measurement tools that would evaluate event effectiveness.

Changes to the agency model: Mergers and acquisitions are polarising the industry into large agency groups and small owner-driven businesses. At the same time, advertising agencies are jumping on the ‘experiential’ bandwagon, and acquiring their own events offering.

Resourcing: While agencies are lamenting the shortage of quality staff, there is a trend for corporate clients to axe or reduce their in-house event teams, and then outsource the function to external agencies.

Event messaging and content:
There’s a growing emphasis on effective communication: from selecting locations that reflect the conference theme, to an increasing proportion of the budget being allocated to creative elements, and a call for greater delegate involvement in the event.

Regulatory implications: While some respondents felt that the implications of the new Corporate Manslaughter Act have been misunderstood, others admitted to adopting a more cautious approach to supplier selection, in the context of risk assessment and health and safety.

The research was made possible thanks to the use of delegate feedback systems and sessions run by Crystal Ineractive.

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