by Sarah J.F. Braley | January 29, 2016

The International Association of Conference Centres surveyed its members to determine the trends that are influencing venue operators and meeting planners who use conference centers. IACC member centers with sleeping rooms generally offer pricing plans that include meeting rooms, guest rooms, all meals, continuous breaks and certain levels of technology. For nonresidential centers without guest rooms, the package includes meeting rooms, lunch, continuous breaks and technology. The survey, to which 378 members responded, showed 95 percent of IACC's facilities have been offering nontraditional packages for more than five years.

"Meeting planners not only prefer easy-to-manage delegate packages for their meetings, they also expect delegate packages to be creative and fit their specific meeting objectives," said Mark Cooper, CEO of the organization. "Venues that specialize in meetings also understand that planners need to be able to buy in transparent and easy-to-budget ways."

Other findings from the survey include: 

• Innovative packages are developed by venues and clients. The research showed two-thirds of delegate packages are drawn up by the managers at the venues, while a third of those surveyed said their planner clients have a direct hand in developing the package that work for them.

• 55 percent of the respondents reported that meeting planners want to tailor their packages to meet their needs. Of the packages offered that include guest room accommodations and meals, 56 percent of those surveyed said these packages are becoming more customized.

• 65 percent reported that planners are starting ask for extras in their packages, beyond the usual guest room, meeting room, F&B and tech. The top requests are for team-building, local cultural trips, coaching sessions and facilitation. Although many IACC venues offer free Wi-Fi, planners also are seeking high-bandwidth Wi-Fi to support collaborative technologies. The survey also indicated that the inclusion of services such as audience participation and meeting apps have potential for future packaged pricing. 

• The top adjustments planners make in a tailored package are nonstandard F&B items (76 percent), indoor team-building and meeting room configurations (70 percent each); outdoor team building placed fourth. Other components being used to customize packages are A/V, Wi-Fi and culinary team-building activities.

• Although flexible meeting packages -- where clients can build a package that fits their needs exactly -- have become widespread at IACC venues only since the economic downturn, all respondents said the concept is now business as usual.

IACC's members are small- and medium-sized centers purpose-built for meetings. All 378 certified centers in 21 countries conform to a global set of criteria and standards which can be viewed here.