by Loren G. Edelstein | June 26, 2018
Budgets, quality control and the growing prevalence of dietary demands are among the major concerns of the nation's meeting planners, according to Teneo Hospiality Group, which represents more than 300 luxury hotels and destination management companies. The findings were determined by a survey of meeting planner clients from a range of industries, including banking, pharmaceuticals, technology, associations and travel management.
 
Rapid expansion of technology has generated new and more complex issues as well as rising prices, noted Teneo President Mike Schugt. "Concerns about technology costs and reliability led the list of trends, and planners expressed unease with their ability to protect meeting content."
 
In dealing with these issues, planners must be able to trust their suppliers, said Schugt. "Our planners stressed the need for honesty, accuracy and rapid response as a major requirement for effective planning."
 

Following is a summary of planner's key concerns.

WiFi
Effective, high-speed WiFi is the most critical aspect of today's meetings, bringing together phones, tablets, laptops, messaging services, A/V, lighting and an array of special applications designed for each meeting. But planners are frustrated by high prices, increasing labor costs, lack of flexibility, difficulties in negotiations and, in some cases, a lack of options in hiring providers.
 
A/V
Linking WiFi to A/V is increasingly problematic, with stories of breakdowns in coordination that have impacted presentations and events. Controlling costs and ensuring technical quality are a challenge for both venues and planners. Venues must provide top-of-the-line technical services, keep abreast of advances and ensure their equipment is operated by a highly trained staff, either in-house or outsourced. In order to negotiate effectively, planners need to become more familiar with terminology and the specific needs of exhibitors, vendors and attendees.
 
Plug-in power sources
As devices proliferate, travelers are faced with the problem of recharging everything from phones and tablets to laptops and other portable electronic devices. The demand has rapidly outpaced available charging options, leaving airlines and railways scrambling to add charging stations at airport gates and aboard trains. Hotels and conference centers are equally challenged. It is no longer enough to have power sources in guest rooms and meeting spaces, and existing outlets cannot always accommodate the number of devices guests take with them. Today's travelers want to be plugged in at all times and everywhere in the conference venue. That includes lobbies, bars, dining rooms, gyms and lounges.
 
Diet, diversity and liability
Few elements of meeting planning have expanded more rapidly and caused more concern than the demand for special dishes at meetings. Where once planners offered a few options, such as Kosher or vegetarian, today's menus are flooded with choices that span gluten-free, lactose-intolerant, Halal, pescatarian, and infinite varieties of vegan and vegetarian. As the attendee base becomes more ethnically diverse, dietary requirements are predicted to increase.
 
Consistency of service
Even in an age of highly standardized big brands, consistency of service remains an issue. As one respondent noted, it is possible to book the same meeting at the same hotel brand in two different cities and find notable discrepancies in cost, facilities, services and staff competence. This may be due to several factors, including the inability of owners to make necessary renovations or invest in new technology and training.
 
Security of data
As technology expands, so do the opportunities to steal information and compromise a company's data or an individual's personal information. Security problems can range from thefts of mobile devices, which can result in a major loss of information if an attendee has downloaded any of the meeting content, to a full-blown hacker attack.
 
These are all valid concerns and complex problems that require realistic and long-term solutions, according to Schugt. "Right now, the hospitality industry is at its zenith, with demand exceeding supply. In a seller's market, planners must cope with a range of issues from explosive changes in technology and rising costs to changing demographics and increasing regulation on a national and global level."
 
Schugt added, "Whatever economic factors are involved, the conference and hotel industries have the same goals. These issues will be with us for the foreseeable future, and we should unite to solve them."