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March 26, 2019

Teneo Research: Top 5 Challenges for Meeting Planners in 2019

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Budgets, time, technology, creativity and the growing complexity of food and beverage are the top five challenges meeting planners will face this year, according to new research from Teneo Hospitality Group. The group representation firm surveyed 150 meeting planners and hoteliers on the top challenges they expect to face this year -- many of which turned out to be internal to their own organizations. 

1. Budgets. Inadequate budgets were the top challenge cited by all survey participants. Planners noted that costs are rising, especially with respect to food and beverage, but budgets have not increased comparably. In fact, despite the strong economy, some planners reported budget cuts. 

Suggested Solution: Teneo said that the fundamental way planners can achieve their budget is to be transparent and in open communication with a property. Though the tendency may be to play one’s cards close to the vest, transparency from the beginning of negotiations is key to effective planning and keeping costs in check. While many planners feel they must keep back some of their budgetary concerns until further on in the planning process, an honest and comprehensive view of the meetings objectives and resources will enable hoteliers to present a realistic budget.

2. Lack of Time. Virtually all respondents cited lack of time as a challenge, according to Teneo, including the time to keep up with fast-moving tech developments. As a result, many attendees are ahead of planners and hotels in their own use of technology. Most significantly, respondents worried that the overwhelming details of day-to-day work left little time for long-term, strategic planning. The top time-waster, however, was too many unnecessary emails. 

Suggested Solution: Teneo said that hotels are often inundated with leads and may not always be able to reply in 24 hours. Planners are encouraged to indicate their timeline for response up front so hotels and resorts can offer a higher quality of response. For planners, they can then gather their lead responses all at one time and be assured that the quality of response is going to be higher if a little more time is allocated to the properties of interest. Planners that source more than six or seven hotels per lead and in multiple cities will tend to be taken less seriously by a hotel. So planners can save time and drive up quality of response by reducing the number of hotel sources they contact.

3. Keeping Up With Technology. Respondents also noted that staying current and knowledgeable of technology’s impact on meeting productivity can be daunting, particularly given that Millennial attendees may be ahead in their technical knowledge. Even leadership within select organizations don’t always seem to grasp how technology is revolutionizing the meetings experience today, Teneo said.

Suggested Solution: Teneo said that staying current and out front with technological progress is critical to the successful outcome of every meeting, conference or social gathering. Yes, some long-term practices are still prized such as white boards and LCD players. But engaging with attendee devices puts the meeting’s learning literally in the hands of conferees in a way that resonates within a generation who grew up on texting, social media posts, interactive apps and more. These are the tools they use for their everyday living, and should be the tools they can expect to use within meetings important to their and their employer’s success.

4. Lack of Creativity. Respondents noted a lack of creativity in the industry as big hotel brands often have corporate policies that may place limits on pushing the boundaries of creating the ultimate meeting experiences for planners. 

Suggested Solution: Teneo suggests partnering with a hotel or resort that creatively works with planners and groups to construct a meeting itinerary customized to a specific group and set of meeting objectives. Independent and small brand properties, by the very nature of their independence, have proven to be expert in creatively discovering and helping plan for achieving meeting goals of professional planners and groups, doing so with out-of-the-box thinking, highly unique group initiatives, and far from run-of-the-mill teambuilding programming. Private destination management companies can also be an important resource, and Teneo suggests partnering with them to help make a city or destination come alive for meeting guests by maximizing local resources and attractions in a way that is meaningful to the group.

5. Increasing Complexity and Rising Costs of Food and Beverage. As the population becomes more diverse, food preferences and dietary requirements have become more complicated, according to the survey. Growing awareness of wellness and sustainability issues add to a mix that could become more problematic and costlier. Paleo, keto, pescatarian, vegan and religious dietary requests are among the newest trends in conference dining in 2019. Respondents also called for better management of food ordering to keep costs down and eliminate waste.

Suggested Solution: Teneo says that this is an area where independent and small-brand hotels can get ultra-creative for the planner as they are in a more entrepreneurial and creative mode, less restricted by big-brand requirements and constraints. They can typically offer a more creative product with reduced costs. By working with chefs and banquet managers from these properties at the beginning of the planning process and being candid about budget constraints, it’s possible to obtain serious savings on food and beverage while achieving maximum creativity.

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