42% of corporate meeting and event planners expect to see their budgets rise in the next year.

This, according to Convene’s annual survey of corporate meeting and event planners. This year’s survey also found that the quality and design of event spaces nearly matches price as the most important consideration in venue selection.

“This data backs up trends we’ve seen in the event and meeting space for years now: planners crave quality venues that offer a better experience for their attendees, and companies are allocating the resources needed to achieve this,” says Brian McGuire, Chief Operating Officer at Convene.

Read on for more insights from our annual event planner survey.

 

Participants

Participants for this survey were sourced from several opt-in email lists of people with an interest in event and meeting planning. A total of 280 responses were collected. For the purposes of this report, only respondents who reported that at least 50% of their job function involves event and meeting planning and that the majority of events they planned were corporate in nature were included in the results. This slimmed the total pool of respondents down to 167 people.

 

Results

 

Meeting planners are expecting to have more money to spend 

42% of event planners surveyed expect their budgets to increase this year. Another 44% expect it to stay the same, while only 8% are bracing for a decrease. 7% of corporate event planners were unsure what would happen to their budgets this year.

 

 

Design of spaces ranks just below price in importance for event planners

It’s not exactly surprising that price is the primary factor in venue selection for corporate event planners, but what’s most surprising is the next two driving factors (and how close they came to dethroning price).

Design of event space was the second most important factor for corporate event planners when selecting venues. This was closely followed by food and beverage came in 3rd. This would seem to indicate that the quality of a space is paramount for corporate planners. That, combined with rising budgets, could point to an arms race amongst venues to offer the highest quality service and amenities.

Which items did planners seem to care about the least? Venue loyalty programs and “white-box” capability.

 

 

Attendee experiences matter—but planners are still a bit tepid on them

 When asked how important attendee experiences (such as photo booths, entertainment, or interactive areas) are to their events, 35% of planners reported them as either “very” or “extremely” important. Another 27% rated experiences as moderately important, while 38% ranked attendee experiences as either minimally important or not important at all. The results made a nearly perfect bell curve, so it’s hard to see a strong trend here, other than to point out that a certain section of the event planning market feels strongly about experiences at events—but an equal number is less enthused.

 

 

Experience budgets aren’t necessarily growing though

57% of planners say their experience budgets will remain the same this year, but 30% of planners surveyed do expect an experience budget increase. Only 6% foresee a drop in event experience budgets.

 

 

Major metro areas still leading the event/meeting industry

We have to tread lightly when looking into the data collected on where planners will be hosting events in the next year, as participant location was not collected or controlled for. However, it’s worth looking at the emerging trends.

Unsurprisingly, the major metro areas in the United States led the way, with New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and Southern California (including Los Angeles and San Diego) getting the most responses. Behind these traditional big markets however, there was a strong push for more “destination” type of cities with warmer climates and strong entertainment industries—places like Las Vegas, Orlando, Miami, Arizona, and Austin.

 

 

Conferences and summits lead the way

When it comes to what type of corporate meetings and events professionals are planning, conferences and summits lead the way. 83% of corporate event planners report that they’re involved in these types of events. Next came corporate networking, receptions, and holidays parties with 64%, followed by executive off-sites, retreats, and board meetings, then trades hows.

The least cited event types were charity functions (23%), new product launches (21%), and town halls (12%).

 

 

Local expertise is still a big need 

Planning events outside of your hometown provides its own set of challenges, and a widely heard wish from event planners was the need for local expertise to offer guidance on vendors, entertainment, and dining options for attendees.

When asked what resources and tools they wish they had when planning out-of-town events, planners asked for things like “director(ies) and reviews of reputable local vendors; local production partners,” “a list of venues and restaurants that have group meeting spaces,” and “local assistants who know the area.” 29% of responses to this question invoked a need for some sort of local level guidance for venues and dining in the form of experts or directories.

14% of respondents mentioned the need for greater access to information through CVBs or DMCs (one city’s CVB got special recognition for the level of service they offer—great work, Nashville!).

Another frequent request? Better information online about venues, including virtual tours, downloadable floor plans, and accurate photographs.

 

 

Event planners are getting creative with interactive experiences 

We asked event planners to share a memorable interactive experience they either planned or witnessed at another event to see what some of the most creative planners are doing to wow participants.

Food and drink was always a popular choice, with participants citing things like tequila tastings, cocktail classes, and tea- and pasta-making classes. Hi-tech experiences were also frequently mentioned, including an interactive robot that wandered a convention center offering candy and conversation, as well as lots of VR-experiences.

Photo booths remain popular, but with more bells and whistles every year. Several participants mentioned vintage style photo booths with Polaroid cameras or other nostalgic props, and one participant mentioned an “interactive roaming photo booth.”

A personal favorite of mine though was an option that mixed corporate social responsibility with team building and fun: “A law firm’s partner meeting offered the chance for attendees to race against each other to build a bike the quickest. The bikes were donated to charity.”

“A law firm’s partner meeting offered the chance for attendees to race against each other to build a bike the quickest. The bikes were donated to charity. This merged CSR with team building and fun!”

“A nostalgic Photo Booth and Photography at the Meet The Press Anniversary”

“Private event for Pixar where we used our Interactive roaming photo booth to instantly push branded photos to guests as well as to screens, printers, and remote offices.”

 

Download the Survey Brief

We’ve packaged all the survey insights into a convenient one-page brief, available for download below.