Report: Sustainability, Cybersecurity Are Planners' Top Venue-Sourcing Concerns

The latest edition of IACC's "Meeting Room of the Future" report shows continued attention on the environment and technology.

IACC's annual "Meeting Room of the Future" report explores how venues can remain relevant to future meeting professionals.

Meeting venues that want to continue winning group business must spend the next five years becoming more sustainable and more secure, IACC -- formerly the International Association of Conference Centres -- suggests in its newest Meeting Room of the Future report. The latest edition of this annual study was released this week at the Meeting Professionals International World Education Congress in Toronto.

Based on a survey of more than 250 meeting planners from five continents, the report seeks to understand how venues can evolve and adapt in order to remain relevant to meeting buyers. "Ethical operations and sustainable practices" will be one of the most important priorities for venues by 2024, according to 44 percent of meeting buyers surveyed, who cited food waste as their biggest sustainability gripe, with 62 percent of respondents indicating that they will consider in the future how prospective venues manage their unused food.

As for cybersecurity, 76 percent of planners said they're concerned about it with regard to implementing new technologies, while 27 percent said it will become a greater venue-sourcing priority in the next three to five years.

"Events are vulnerable to a variety of cyber attacks that can occur both prior to and during an event, so organizations will need to take a holistic approach to security that addresses each type of threat," said Matt Harvey, vice president of Internet services at event A/V company PSAV. "Event software developers, venues and WiFi operator partners will be faced with the escalating challenge of improving security without diminishing the ease of use, which will be key to the implementation of new digital technologies."

Speaking of technology, IACC also discovered a significant increase -- from just 8 percent in 2017 to 85 percent in 2019 -- in the number of meetings that are integrating new high-tech solutions like audience-participation apps, projection mapping and screen-sharing.

Meeting Room of the Future revealed a similarly dramatic jump in the importance of experiential meetings: The number of planners who say they have responsibility for creating "memorable meeting experiences" grew from 10 percent in 2017 to 85 percent in 2019.

"The rise in demand for experience-led meetings is being attributed to an influx of new generations both attending events and also planning them. Younger generations are providing a driving force for change to meeting formats, breakout sessions and team-building activities," reported IACC, which said meeting planners have at least one more demand that's worth noting: dietary requirements, which constitute planners' No. 1 priority in the area of food and beverage. Although 88 percent of meeting buyers said they have full confidence that their venues of choice will accommodate special requests in advance of an event, IACC said some think venues can do more "when it comes to ensuring serving staff are briefed on ingredients and potential allergens, labeling all ingredients for buffet spreads but also creating more exciting dishes for those who have dietary requirements."

Concluded IACC CEO Mark Cooper, "IACC is dedicated to setting the agenda for the meetings and events industry when it comes to giving venue operators insights and understanding into how they need to continue to adapt to deliver an outstanding experience for planners. This year's report reveals some interesting new trends and shows that trends that have emerged in recent years are continuing to grow. We are seeing more critical analysis of venues and practices before booking events and, especially, a real focus on sustainability and ethical operations. These are areas we expect to continue to develop over the coming years. I am interested to see how venues and companies address the concerns of meeting planners over the next year and what changes we will see in the 2020 report."

The 2019 Meeting Room of the Future report is available for download from IACC's website.