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Eventful News: New IACC Report, A Playbook for Inclusivity, & More

With the release of the IACC’s 2019 Meeting Room of the Future Report, planners have the opportunity to compare three years of feedback in regards to what the industry needs from venues. Sure, there’s some change year over year, but the biggest change isn’t in the elements needed from venues.

Instead, it’s in the importance that planners are placing on the more holistic and purposeful elements that have come to dictate event success over the past five years. All five of this week’s stories paint a small picture of that very idea.

Stay up to date with five must-read event news updates from the past week.

1. IACC Releases 2019 Meeting Room of the Future Report (IACC)

TLDR

The IACC released its annual and much-anticipated 2019 Meeting Room of the Future report this week. We’ve rounded up some of the key findings from the survey, now in its third year:

  • A majority of industry professionals believe that access to interactive technology will be the most important venue element over the next five years.
  • 85% of respondents believed that experience creation is more important now than it was just five years ago.
  • The portion of planners who report holding events at major branded hotels has dropped 15% since just 2017.
  • Access to outdoor venues, flexible meeting spaces, collaborative technology, and high-quality internet continue to grow in importance.
  • Planners want venues to offer healthier F&B options, more flexibility in meal times, and more vegan/vegetarian options.

“The 2019 study could be encapsulated into one general theme, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same.’ Changes and advancements in technology, needs and motivations of incoming generations with tighter budgets across the industry continue to directly influence the objectives and goals, as well as how they are achieved.” -IACC

What does it mean for planners?

All of these highlights map back to one overarching theme: Attendee expectations are growing in regards to unique, personalized, and more purposeful experiences.

  • Interactive technology is growing in importance because attendees want to engage with content on a more personal and immersive level.
  • Planners are straying from the traditional hotel setting because nontraditional venues make for a more unique experience.  
  • Flexible meeting spaces serve as a tabula rasa that allow planners to create unique experiences aligned with the overall meeting theme or purpose.
  • Healthier F&B makes for a more holistic experience that takes attendee wellbeing into account.

More so than ever, planners need collaboration from venues in bringing these elements to fruition. To find the right venues, planners need to determine their ideal outcomes for each piece of the event and ask themselves whether it’s possible with the venue partner in question.

What’s next?

With most venues a step behind attendee expectations, the question becomes which venues can adapt and offer the must-haves that were once nice-to-haves. In this regard, the biggest question seems to be at the level of chain hotels. Will smart investments allow hotels to keep the lion’s share of group business? Or will the call for “unique” continue to drive planners toward alternative venues?

Further Reading: 5 Meeting Industry Trends That Are Changing the Face of Events

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2. San Francisco Cybersecurity Conference Makes a Push for Inclusivity (MeetingsNet)

TLDR

One year ago, the RSA Conference — a San Francisco cybersecurity conference with 40,000+ attendees — released a preliminary list of keynote speakers that sparked tremendous backlash. Why? Because the list only included one female speaker. And while the final list for 2018 ended up being 25% female, the conference vowed to make changes and help move the heavily male cybersecurity industry forward.

For the 2019 conference, RSA kept that promise by upping the percentage of female speakers to 46%. But they didn’t stop there. Organizers also made improvements that included gender neutral bathrooms, a more inclusive code of conduct, a safe walk program, and more.

In the cybersecurity industry, only 11 percent of roles are filled by women. We ended up actually having 25 percent female keynote speakers in 2018, but that number is low, and it should be much higher.” -Linda Gray Martin, RSA Chief of Operations

What does it mean for planners?

More so than ever, attendees expect events to meet heightened standards of corporate responsibility. Thus, the less focus events put on inclusivity and diversity, the greater the chance of backlash and bad publicity. For planners, that means looking at the event to make sure everyone is represented and respected.

The RSA Conference’s efforts showcase ways that other events can move in the right direction. But at the heart, they showcase the need for large-scale events to exhibit self-awareness.

What’s next?

These moves by the RSA Conference illustrate some tactics events can utilize to move in the right direction, but they’re just a start. As expectations continue to grow, so will scrutiny. Planners need to look at each piece of their events under the inclusivity microscope to create spaces that are truly and equally welcoming for all.  The goal needs to be about more than just meeting standards for those efforts to feel authentic.

3. Cvent Releases List of Top Meeting Hotels (Cvent)

TLDR

Cvent has released its list of top meeting hotels around the world, listing five newcomers to the U.S. top ten. Of those newcomers, Austin and Nashville hotels make up three of the five. In total, the two cities now host five out of the top ten meeting hotels in the country.

“The hotels featured on this year’s lists are elevating their group business strategy through innovative digital marketing and quick and complete online responses to RFPs – which is exactly what event professionals want.” -Chris McAndrews, VP of Marketing, Cvent Hospitality Cloud

What does it mean for planners?

The most interesting story here is actually between the lines. Austin and Nashville are both traditionally considered midsize cities, and their domination of the top ten points to their growing popularity as meeting destinations. However, that surge in popularity is a microcosm of a larger trend: the growing appeal of midsize cities as potential meeting destinations.

On the attendee side, there’s a push for more unique destinations and experiences. Meanwhile, planners are looking to midsize cities for elements like lower costs and eager, helpful CVBs — both of which allow events to allocate more resources toward creating the actual experience.

What’s next?

For cities such as Nashville and Austin, further growth seems imminent. More suppliers will hone in on these smaller cities as opportunities, while the cities themselves continue to invest in infrastructure, and, all the while, attendees continue to push for one-of-a-kind experiences. It’s an equation that promises more viable destination options on the table for organizers of events at virtually any scale.

Further Reading: Are First-Tier Cities Still the Best Choices for Meeting Destinations?

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4. Therapy Dogs Help Attendees Paws for a Break (Meetings Today)

TLDR

MPI’s World Education Congress 2019 wrapped up in Toronto yesterday, where the four-day event unfolded with a little help from some furry friends. At the “Paws for a Break” booth, sponsored by the Visit Norfolk CVB, some adorable dogs offered attendees much-needed “unplug time,” breaking up back-to-back sessions with wagging tails and belly rubs.

“The CVB started opening puppy booths at events about eight years ago. The therapy dog booths were a clever way to introduce attendees to the city… They quickly found the puppy booths to be a welcome break for meeting-goers who are often booked back-to-back at big conventions like WEC.” -Danielle LeBreck, Meetings Today

What does it mean for planners?

While the puppy booth concept isn’t unique to WEC, it’s a pleasant reminder that content is just one facet of the attendee experience. Sometimes, the most memorable or enjoyable elements are the small, creative touches or the ancillary elements that appeal to wellbeing. For attendees of WEC, the puppy booth brought both to the table.

Planners and exhibitors alike should ask how they’re adding value to the experience outside of sessions. Given the information overload that attendees already face at a multi-day event, adding that value could just be a deep breath (and a little puppy breath too).

What’s next?

As the saturation of our daily lives by digital information and technology continues, we’ll have even less time to unplug, and more stimulation than we can process. Whether it’s goat yoga at Montreal’s C2 conference, a puppy booth at WEC, or just a simple crafting station, there’s a growing benefit to giving attendees an escape. More often than not, that means providing an alternative to the digital stimulation that shapes modern life.

Further Reading: 7 Wellness Events That Make for Happy & Healthy Attendees

5. Gym Chains Want to Expand Beyond Fitness (Skift)

TLDR

Saying your friend “lives at the gym” used to be a joke, but that’s all shifting as major fitness chains are making a play to become lifestyle companies. In fact, the well-known chain Equinox plans to open the doors to its first hotel this month. Meanwhile, Life Time Fitness has already expanded into coworking spaces, and plans to launch “wellness residences” in three major U.S. cities in 2020.

As the wellness movement gains momentum, it’s smart for fitness-focused companies to broaden their appeal and become fully fledged lifestyle businesses. Doing so means they can capitalize on more than just one segment of the wellness pie.” -Leslie Barrie, Skift Wellness

What does it mean for planners?

In the now, these moves by fitness companies reflect two truths that planners are all too familiar with. The first is that wellness is deeply intertwined with attendee happiness. The second is that successful offerings no longer stay in one lane, but add benefit across many facets of life — from cognitive health and learning to nutrition, meditation, and entertainment.

What’s next?

While the lifestyle-focused strategies of gyms may not have an immediate impact for planners, the bigger question is how the phenomenon will evolve. With coworking spaces in their portfolios, could venues be next for gym chains? Will gym-sponsored hotels give planners more ways to keep attendees satisfied outside of the presentation room?

Published June 20, 2019

Come back to our blog next Thursday for another roundup of the most important event news of the week!

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