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  • Paige Nathan

Top Challenges Meeting Planners Need to Plan For

We started the year focused on 2023 predictions for the corporate meeting and event world. And while experts agree business travel, and meetings in particular, are returning, there are always challenges planners need to be aware of and plan for. The most successful meeting planners are prepared to handle the unexpected. Because if you've ever hosted a business meeting or event, the one thing you can always expect is the unexpected.


The SFT team has compiled a list of some of the top challenges planners can expect to potentially face and simple solutions that can ease the pain.


1. Staff and Service Levels

The pandemic forced many industries to reduce staff and service levels, but few industries were hit harder than hospitality, including hotels, restaurants, and airlines. And while demand has returned, many of those who were laid off have left the industry altogether, leaving employers struggling to find and train suitable replacements.


The Solution = Plan ahead and manage expectations. Planners need to be extra organized to reduce/eliminate last-minute changes because telling a hotel the day of your meeting you need a coffee break or have an additional 20 people for lunch might be a request they can't handle.



Also, consider supplementing the services of a hotel or meeting facility with outside vendors to reduce the burden on them. Planning a big lunch with a group who have varied tastes? Then book a couple of food trucks. Chances are your guests will love the change in scenery and appreciate the food options. And the extra hour not spent serving lunch to your team allows the hotel staff to refresh or turn your meeting room for the afternoon session.


2. Start Planning Early

Everything is busier lately, and finding availability is a challenge. That includes booking hotel rooms and meeting space at your favorite hotel or securing your favorite local caterer to serve your attendees onsite. And if you need to order special supplies or swag for your meeting, expect it to take much longer to receive your items.


The Solution = Planners need to start earlier. Often leadership gives the go-ahead as to when the event will be and what the budget is but planners should be reminding them (often!) that the sooner they book, the more options they will have. Planners should also have backup plans for all major areas of their event in case they experience delays. And don’t forget to be flexible.




3. Budgets

2022 saw a significant increase in the price of pretty much everything. And there’s lots of chatter of a recession on the horizon. Many executives see meetings as a luxury when it comes to running a business but with so many team members remote these days, they are in fact fundamental to achieving business goals.


The Solution = Be smart about the money you spend on your event and ensure it brings value to the bottom line by achieving key business objectives. Don't spend on fluff items that don't have an ROI. Instead, invest in networking events that allow team members to connect and collaborate, training sessions that uplevel team members, and valuable speakers who can motivate teams and bring a new dimension to their work.


Also, review your agenda to ensure every activity contributes to the bottom line. Can the number of meeting days be reduced? Can regional meetings achieve the same goal without spending as much on travel? Can portions of the event be done virtually?


And remember to consider ways to reduce spending on specific parts of your event. For example, food trucks are a cost-effective way to deliver exceptional meals at a reduced cost compared to hotels.


· The average food truck will cost $15-$25 per person, depending on menu items and the truck's popularity.

· Compare this to buffet-style catering at a hotel or banquet facility, which will run $20-$50 per person, with dinners costing more.

· Or traditional plated catering starts at $50 per guest and can go to $120 or higher.

4. Travel Disruptions

Remember what we said earlier about everything being busier? Yep. That sure can cause a problem when it comes to getting team members to the meeting destination. This goes far beyond the recent airline disruptions we've seen with downed computer systems (a la Southwest, FAA…). This includes the significant increase in demand for travel (air especially), overbooked flights, lost luggage, and long security lines causing people to miss flights. And let's not forget the horrendous wait times for passports.


The Solution = Be mindful of where you book your meeting. While a remote location may sound awesome for your next Executive Retreat, locales that require connecting flights to reach should be avoided. Instead, select destinations close to major airports with a significant number of flights daily to serve your attendees. And encourage your guests to travel with carry-on luggage instead of checking their bags.


What do you do if, despite all your efforts, a key participant can't get to the meeting? Thankfully, virtual is now considered an accepted solution, so talk with your venue about possibly needing a big screen on the stage for missing speakers or a virtual connection in the meeting room as a fill-in for the absent CFO.

We're excited about this year and the return of business. While there have been significant changes to the hospitality industry these past few years, with a bit of education and some thoughtful planning ahead of time, meetings can resume, and planners can once again be the unsung hero of the event.


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