Yep, here we are again. Another turn of the page as we start a new year. I don’t know about you, but we are pretty darn excited and very optimistic about what 2023 has in store. After a very disruptive past few years, this year is poised to be full of business as usual activity, so we thought it was only appropriate to set our intentions on the corporate meeting sector by sharing 2023 predictions.
While leisure travel experienced a significant rebound beginning in 2021 and was in full swing in 2022, the group and business travel sector has been slower to rebound. Yet industry experts predict that business meetings will return to 2019 levels in 2023 and 2024. But with some material changes to meetings of the past.
Here are some things corporate meeting planners can expect in the year ahead.
1. Uncertainty Continues – For Some Industries
While forecasting models are positive and booking patterns favorable, there is still some lingering uncertainty around the fate of business travel. Select industries, such as tech, are experiencing layoffs, and a looming recession may leave companies weary of spending on business travel and corporate meetings. Not to mention there remains the debate of the best ways to meet in person with so many workers being virtual. But companies are realizing the ever-increasing importance of bringing together virtual teams yet struggle with knowing the best way to do it.
2. Active vs. Passive Attendance
Gone are the days of filling a room with attendees all gathering to be spoken to by an agenda full of presenters. Meeting participants want to do more than just attend an event passively. They want to be active participants and do “things” at events. So instead of speakers coming in with well-curated presentations and the audience sitting back to listen, cutting-edge meeting planners are keeping topics more fluid and allowing their audiences to shape the content that is presented. They are the audience, after all, so we may as well let them influence what is discussed.
3. Events that Connect
With the dramatic increase of remote working these past few years, setting aside dedicated time to meet in person has never been more important. With more team members being home-based, impromptu talks around the water cooler are no longer happening, so in-person get-togethers have taken on a whole new importance.
And meeting planners face a unique challenge in balancing structured time to address essential conversations that will move the business forward while still allowing enough downtime to support connection amongst staff. This means planners may need to add an extra day to allow teams the opportunity to bond and connect and planning activities designed to bring people together. Think extended coffee breaks with lounge set-ups, afternoons doing team building, and dinners that don’t include a sit-down meal but instead have people moving around.
4. Built-In Networking Time
Data shows that the top reason people attend in-person events is the opportunity to network. And while planners would like to think networking happens organically, it often doesn’t. Networking is a skill all on its own, and not everyone knows how to maximize this time. Too many planners designate an evening cocktail reception as networking, but what about those guests that don’t drink?
Planners need to offer networking opportunities specifically designed to connect different types of attendees so true relationships can be made. Consider something interactive like a speed networking event where attendees share key pieces of information about themselves and their work.
5. Don’t Forget the Menus
The food you serve at an event is nearly as important as the event itself. Attendees are no longer interested in sitting down to a plated lunch. Often the food isn’t great -it’s pretty hard to make 200 plates of chicken appetizing - and it’s homogenous. Not to mention dietary restrictions make serving only two options unrealistic if you’re trying to appeal to a larger group. Attendees want to move around and be active (see #2) and have a decision about what they eat. Food trucks are the ideal solution for planners looking for ways to meet their attendees’ varying palates while being cost-effective and yummy!
As we business travel and corporate meetings continue their rebound, we need to adapt to those things that have changed over the past few years. Meeting planners have a tough job creating events that offer valuable content while bringing people together. Attendees’ expectations are higher than ever, but planners can create meaningful multi-dimensional events with these tips.