Menu

Technology is changing the way we work in the meetings industry

The meetings industry is embracing digitalisation as buyers and suppliers alike strive to reduce costs, maximise productivity whilst improving employee wellbeing.

Hotels and meeting venues are hampered by rising meeting and event acquisition costs, property and staff costs and competition from new venues. Meeting planners have to reconcile rising venue and travel costs with flat budgets therefore both groups are embracing technology-based solutions to meet these challenges.

The remote working revolution in the meetings industry is another contributory factor. 70 per cent of professionals work remotely at least one day a week. A virtual culture enhances employees’ work/life balance and virtual meetings technology is the glue that binds remote workers to their employers.

In 2018 Elon Musk famously instructed staff to walk out of unproductive meetings. While many companies simply reinforce basic meetings etiquette such as reducing meeting times and setting the agenda early, others have recognised how technology can drive meeting effectiveness from scheduling to delivery.

Over the last decade, the use of alternatives to face-to-face meetings has grown significantly. In the UK, an estimated 45 per cent of organisations now use virtual meetings technology.

87 per cent of businesses who use audio conference calls extensively prefer them to face-to-face, especially where distance is an issue.

Internal meetings space
Technology is also transforming the way that internal meetings space is managed. 40 per cent of employees waste three weeks every year searching for meetings space – yet just 36 per cent of internal space is utilised. Here too there are options in terms of available software, from off-the-shelf systems to the Microsoft Outlook calendar.

Small meetings
Arguably, technology’s greatest impact has been on smaller meetings. Traditionally, organisers either didn’t believe that meetings with under 100 attendees warranted the cost of technology, or they tended to be organised by people unfamiliar with available sourcing or management tools.

Today, cloud-based booking platforms enable hotels and venues to provide live meeting space inventory with transparent rates, real-time availability and A/V, food and drink options. Specialised online sourcing platforms offer meeting space inventory in artist studios, coworking lofts and other non-traditional venues, making it so much easier to source and book smaller, one-day meetings online.

Carl Law.

Carl Law.

The consolidation of travel, meetings, and events has grown by 62 per cent since 2015, further fuelling the digitalisation of meetings (according to GBTA/Cvent – Consolidation Two Years Later: Shifts, Trends, and Status Quo) and explaining why managing a meeting online is now as much part of everyday life as it has been in business travel for many years.

For the meeting planner, automated approval processes simplify traditional manual processes, whist the sharing of feedback across teams and locations is faster and easier. Critically, online sourcing enables live reporting and creates the visibility critical to effective budget control.

Strategic Meetings Management
Technology enables the Strategic Meetings Management (SMM) programmes deployed by an estimated 45 – 50 per cent of organisations across Europe. SMM has brought spend visibility and greater understanding of the impact of meetings on costs and employee wellbeing.

Technology has also made hidden costs visible. Dinner allowances, taxis and car parking can add up to 15 per cent of the total delegate trip cost. It allows the true impact of meeting size, location and timing to be understood, as the chart below shows.

Spend visibility also empowers the leveraging of ‘must have’ services such as WiFi, LCD/Plasma screens, flipcharts and mineral water into the negotiated rate.

That visibility also informs demand management, enabling planners to adopt a menu approach to meeting packages by comparing the cost of combining refreshments, equipment and room hire with the traditional cost of a Day Delegate Rate.

Conclusions
Although technology is the greater enabler of change in the meetings industry, the complexity is such that human support is essential. M&E technology may make delegates and planners’ lives easier, and deliver valuable data insights, but the outcome are proportionate to the knowledge and expertise of those who translate those insights into actions. Which is where we come in.

Arguably, the true value of meetings technology lies in the consistent strategies and policies that it enables.

Carl Law is a development manager at Capita Travel and Events