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  • Writer's picturePaige Nathan

Challenges Faced by Today’s Corporate Meeting Planners

As we head into August, that generally means two things (scorching temperatures aside):

1. Parents are gearing up to send their kids back to school (hooray!)

2. Corporate meeting planners are busy planning fall events

This past June, we attended MPl’s World Education Congress in San Francisco, and it was the perfect opportunity to reconnect with key members and discuss the current challenges of the meetings and event industry. When we got home, we followed up with MPI Georgia’s Current and Past Presidents, Melissa Legaux, CMP and Allyson Wagner, CMP, to delve a little further into the future of meeting planning. In addition to their work with MPI, Legaux serves as the Director of Tradeshow Sales for Cobb Travel & Tourism and Wagner is the Associate Director, Meetings & Events for Destination South Meetings Events.

MPI’s motto is, “when we meet, we change the world.” And that seems to be the consensus amongst many planners whose clients and guests prefer to meet in person. While hybrid meetings helped bridge the gap during uncertain times and provided an option for those not comfortable gathering in person, both Legaux and Wagner believe that hybrid meetings will no longer be a primary focus of organizations and their event planners.  

As Wagner cited, “Our clients are currently not opting to include hybrid options for meeting attendance because of the cost and logistics involved. Most don’t realize that planning and managing a hybrid event is actually planning and managing TWO events happening at the same time. Although I believe virtual events will remain an option for some meetings.”

What are the top concerns plaguing meeting planners lately?

Hotel staffing is at the top of many lists. According to Wagner, “staffing at hotels, venues, and restaurants is affecting service levels. As a planner, this is one of the first conversations I have with all venues and vendors and then set expectations with the client so that they can communicate out to attendees around things like no housekeeping service during a hotel stay, earlier closing times for restaurants and limited hours for outlets inside hotels such as bars.”

Legaux added, “unknown challenges within the meetings industry include staffing and accessibility to goods and services.”

Reduced staffing and supply-chain issues have been felt everywhere, from restaurants to banquet facilities to hotels and beyond. Finding alternative suppliers who can supplement a hotel or event facility’s existing staff is one workaround that can help maintain service levels and guest expectations. Think of using an outside caterer for meals so the event staff can focus on running a

flawless meeting.

What do our MPI experts cite as the three biggest changes of the past 12 months?

Wagner’s top three list includes:

1. Return to in person

2. Compressed lead times

3. Lack of availability because everyone is making up for two years of NOT meeting

Hybrid is increasingly being seen as a temporary solution to the problems of the recent past. Still, the desire to meet in person has put tremendous pressure on planners and facilities alike. Event facilities, including hotels, are busier than ever and are forced to meet the increased demand with reduced staff. Booking windows have shortened, so planners with longer lead times may find

greater options in regard to locations and vendors.

And Legaux is focused on:

1. Learning to do more with less

2. Flexibility during uncertainty 

3. Setting realistic expectations 

Everyone is trying to find ways to do more with less everywhere you go these days. And this brings about a lot of uncertainty and last-minute pivots to respond to unexpected changes. Savvy planners need to have plans A, B, and C because they know not only to expect the unexpected but that it will likely happen (think last-minute cancellations due to COVID variants.)

Outsourcing portions of an event to 3rd party vendors, including important details such as catering, allows planners to deliver the same great experience with fewer internal resources.

Today’s corporate meeting planners are facing new challenges, including shorter booking windows, reduced venue staffing, and increased expectations with fewer resources. Yet, smart planners are delegating key tasks to third-party vendors to ensure all the details are handled flawlessly. This includes turning over the catering responsibilities to event experts like Simply Food Trucks who handle all the details while delivering menus guests love!

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