We recently had a chance to sit down and talk with Tami Reier, CMP, the director of Travel and Transport’s 60-employee events team, which is responsible for meetings, incentive travel and large group air movements. The Events sector offers services to both existing corporate clients as well as customers who solely wish to use these services, and the menu of offerings range from handling all of a client’s meeting needs from conception to completion for both international and domestic programs, to a la carte components for meeting planning needs.
Reier has more than 20 years in the industry on both the corporate and events side, so she is in an excellent position to share what’s going on at Travel and Transport and offer her insight on industry movement as a whole. Here’s what she had to say about meetings, strategic meetings management, incentive travel and technology:
The role of a meeting planner on the Events team is one of many hats, where no detail can be neglected. Reier explained that recently, it has been a seller’s market, so companies can benefit from a meeting planner with plenty of experience and the ability to leverage vendor relationships.
“We also have to be more creative, because although meeting spend in general is expected to increase slightly this year, the budgets for the meetings are flat while the number of meetings are increasing,” Reier said. “So we need to make sure that we are creative in the solutions we’re offering to be within [client] budgets while still achieving the goals and objectives of the program.”
Industry-wide, some big changes are occurring in meeting design:
“The traditional speaker with a podium and a PowerPoint behind them is no longer the norm- it’s changing, it’s evolving,” Reier told us. “It may be executives or subject matter experts on stage fielding questions from the audience. It’s less formal but still extremely informative, which tends to be more engaging for the audience.”
She also noted that companies looking to stretch their meeting budgets are choosing to break up their large conferences and instead hold regional meetings, which fuels cost-savings and also allows stakeholders to focus on regional issues.
As is the case across Travel and Transport and the industry as a whole, ever-changing technology has impacted the way people plan meetings. Reier said advanced technology is a necessity for successful meeting planners, but it also requires the need to balance relationships and other priorities.
For example, one of the biggest trends in the industry is the use of meeting apps, which display handouts, attendee lists, agendas and surveys, replacing the materials one would traditionally receive at a meeting or conference.
While technology provides refreshing flexibility, in that companies can offer virtual or hybrid meetings, Reier noted that many companies still appreciate the value of face-to-face meetings:
“It’s where you can really network and relate to people,” she explained. “There is definitely a place for virtual meetings; however, that face to face interaction is so important.”
Strategic meetings management (SMM)
Travel and Transport is currently focusing much time on their strategic meetings management (SMM) consulting arm “Because our clients want it, they definitely see the value in having a managed meetings program. Just as years ago companies moved to managed corporate travel, now they’re moving to managed meetings,” Reier explained.
On average, companies spend between one and three percent of total revenue on meetings. SMM is important because it fuels cost-savings, promotes risk mitigation and helps leverage spend.
“We’re really invested in that process so we can work with companies to consult them on how to improve their SMM program,” Reier concluded.
One of the most surprising industry trends is in incentive travel, which are trips designed to incentivize and motivate employees to bring value to an organization through improved or increased performance.
Incentive travel is growing significantly and Reier expects it to continue growing:
“Companies see the importance of [incentive trips], regardless of the economy because they benefit from increased sales, increased profit, increased productivity,” she said.
Another major trend is that rather than the standard Hawaii, Mexico and Caribbean destinations offered for incentive trips, more exotic locations are popping up, including Asia, Australia and South Africa, which is in part fueled by adventurous Generation X- and Y-ers and their preferences.