by Sarah J.F. Braley | September 12, 2019

How do your meeting costs compare with averages across the industry? How much are meeting planners spending on hotels? How many calculate the return on investment for their events? These are among the insights revealed in M&C's third biennial Meeting Spend Survey.

Conducted online this summer, with input from our friends at MeetingJobs.com, the results were garnered from 136 respondents, 41 percent of whom were corporate meeting planners and 24 percent association planners. Among highlights from this year's research:


 The number of respondents with annual budgets of $1 million or more is up 1 percentage point to 39 percent compared to 2017. The average yearly expenditure for our sample is $1,552,640, a 5 percent increase over M&C's 2017 Meeting Spend Survey.

 For 2020, most expect their meeting budgets to increase (50 percent) or remain the same (40 percent).

 Food costs still are the main expenditure for events, as planners allocate more money for food and beverage (34 percent of a meeting's cost) than for lodging (23 percent).

 The average cost per attendee rose by 12 percent in the current report, when compared with two years ago (an average of $1,117 in 2017 vs. $1,252 this year).

 Planners are very hands-on in determining their annual budgets, as 27 percent establish the figures themselves, and another 47 percent are "very involved" in setting the budget, the same results as in 2017's survey.

On the following pages, the charts offer a broader picture of our respondents' meeting spend.

What percentage of your total 2018 meeting expenditures was allocated for each of the following?

  • 34% F&B
  • 23% Hotels
  • 12% A/V    
  • 8%  Air
  • 8%  Speakers
  • 5%  Miscellaneous
  • 4%  Ground
  • 3%  Décor
  • 2%  Third party

Average Budget

  • 7%  Less than $25,000
  • 3%  $25,000-$49,999
  • 8%  $50,000-$99,999
  • 16% $100,000-$249,999
  • 10% $250,000-$499,999
  • 10% $500,000-$749,999
  • 6%  $750,000-$999,999
  • 17% $1 million-$2 million
  • 11% $2 million-$4,999,999
  • 12% $5 million+

Overall average budget = $1,552,640

How involved are you in setting the overall, annual event budget?

  • 27% I do it myself
  • 47% Very involved
  • 17% Somewhat involved
  • 7%  Not very involved
  • 2%  Not involved at all

Average Expenditure Per Attendee

  • 17% Less than $500
  • 11% $500-$749
  • 14% $750-$999
  • 16% $1,000-$1,249
  • 7%  $1,250-$1,499
  • 20% $1,500-$2,000
  • 15% More than $2,000

Overall average expenditure per attendee= $1,252

Average Hotel Room Rate

  • 2%  Less than $100
  • 15% $100-$149
  • 36% $150-$199
  • 25% $200-$249
  • 14% $250-$299
  • 7%  $300-$399
  • 1%  $400 or more

Average rate = $207

If you expect your 2020 budget to increase:

By How Much?  

  • 31% Less than 5%
  • 47% 5%-9%
  • 19% 10%-25%
  • 3%  More than 25%

For Which Reasons?

  • 68% Increased costs
  • 46% More attendees
  • 29% More meetings
  • 12% Less negotiating power
  • 9%  Other

If your 2020 budget will decrease:

By How Much?

  • 31% Less than 5%
  • 46% 5%-9%
  • 15% 10%-25%
  • 8%  More than 25%

For What Reasons?

  • 69% Organizational cutbacks
  • 38% Fewer meetings
  • 8%  Fewer attendees
  • 8%  More negotiating power
  • 23% Other

How did your event budget change from 2018 to 2019?

  • 40% Increased
  • 17% Decreased
  • 43% Remained the same

How will your budget change from 2019 to 2020?

  • 50% Increase
  • 10% Decrease
  • 40% Remain the same

How will the number of meetings your company holds change in 2020?

  • 31% Increase
  • 60% Remain the same
  • 9%  Decrease

How often to your events meet their budget?

  • 27% Always
  • 63% Usually
  • 9%  Sometimes
  • 1%  Never

Do you calculate ROI?

  • 28% Yes for all meetings
  • 38% Yes for some meetings
  • 34% No

Do you monitor negotiated savings? 

  • 51% Yes for all meetings
  • 32% Yes for some meetings
  • 17% No

In your site-selection decisions, how important are the following costs?

Hotel

  • 86% Very important
  • 12% Somewhat important
  • 2%  Not important

Airfare

  • 28% Very important
  • 48% Somewhat important
  • 24% Not important

Food & Beverage

  • 78% Very important
  • 20% Somewhat important
  • 2%  Not important

Ground Transportation

  • 15% Very important
  • 45% Somewhat important
  • 40% Not important

For which of the following meeting elements do you typically negotiate costs?

  • 92% Guest rooms
  • 91% Meeting space
  • 82% F&B
  • 71% A/V                 
  • 61% WiFi
  • 43% Entertainment
  • 43% Speakers
  • 35% Décor
  • 34% Ground transportation
  • 25% Destination management services
  • 13% Airfare
  • 3%  Other