Meeting requirements for the year ahead

14 January 2013
Simon ThompsonAusterity measures have impacted every area of business, but none more so than procurement departments, which have been handed the task of reducing spend while maintaining quality. When it comes to meetings, conferences and events, many businesses were previously unaware of exactly how much they spent, with corporate ‘jollies’ making up a large percentage of this expenditure. The recession has forced businesses to scrutinise every penny spent and evaluate how that spend is perceived publicly. These conditions have changed buying trends in a number of ways. First, the return on investment from any form of event is rigorously analysed before being agreed and organisers are expected to negotiate hard to drive down costs to meet budgets, which are sometimes half their previous amount. We are also seeing a growing trend of organisers making initial enquiries, but leaving it as late as possible to confirm arrangements in the hope of securing a last minute bargain and minimise the risk of cancellation penalties. This makes things particularly challenging for venue bookers, who are left with a very short lead time to ensure contracts are signed and reservations secured in time. The responsibility of signing off such contracts has also been handed back to more senior business heads with finance control and this can often delay the process when more pressing issues take priority. While face-to-face meetings will never be redundant, online conferencing has enabled businesses to hold non-essential meetings via their computers, replacing some of the demand for hotel space. This means that demand for the type of event and venue has also evolved as companies have turned their attention to gaining value for money through more memorable experiences. More and more venue enquiries are now geared towards searching for team building venues that are ideal ice-breakers for educational, fun and motivational training purposes. The key to arranging any form of event on a budget is establishing basic needs, such as number of attendees, length of time, how much space is needed and if catering is required. After these essentials have been organised, everything else can be considered a bonus. Many hotels recognise the market will remain tough for the time being and they, too, are competing in their own arena as an increasing number of unconventional venues expand their boundaries to cater for corporate needs. This puts corporate consumers in the driving seat for taking advantage of seasonal discounts. Organisers seeking the best value for money should be gathering prices from at least three to five venues and enquiring about possible bespoke packages and early bird discounts – ‘last minute’ is not always the best way to secure a deal. ☛ Simon Thompson is director and co-founder at ConferencesGroup
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