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Budget pressures created by ‘do more with less’ mentality

Meetings and event activity continue to increase faster than budgets, finds the latest study from AMEX (American Express Global Business Travel).

The report, based on 15 in-depth interviews with marketing event owners in Europe and the United States, found that ad hoc events which involve quick turnarounds, often have no set budget, with timings one of the hardest challenges.

“The product team will come to me and want to do an event to launch a new feature set, for example,” a US-based marketing executive said. “We’ll be 10 weeks out from the launch date, so even though they’ll want to be splashy and creative, and may even have a little leeway in terms of budget, by the time we get the basics of the event in place, there’s not a lot of time to be really innovative.”

The drive for highly personalised experiences continues, with event marketers anticipating greater use of this model in the future. According to the AMEX report, creating attendee personas such as the ‘tech-savvy worker’ or the ‘knowledge-seeker’ utilised to personalise the event content, is proving successful.

“We call every single buyer we want to invite to the event. They spend half a million Euros on a single piece of our equipment – we call them. We know who’s coming. We know what they want out of the meeting. We know what they like to do in the evenings,” said a marketing executive based in Europe.

“Our meeting budgets may be small compared to other firms, but we have 70 per cent to 80 per cent come back the next time we invite them.”

Dealing with the unknown – from the weather to air travel, venues and vendors – are the most stressful topics to deal with. Top of the list is no-shows of attendees. The best-planned event can be sabotaged by attendance that is significantly lower, or higher than anticipated.

According to a marketing executive based in Europe: “We had an event last year – we expected 200 people and rented a large venue. Maybe we didn’t give people enough time to plan to attend, maybe we didn’t market the event enough. We had a much smaller number show up. We couldn’t get out of the contract with the venue. It would have looked embarrassingly sparse in the space. Luckily, they were able to find a way to curtain off a big section of the room. From now on we will only work with venues that already have the ability to subdivide the space.”

Expanding the reach of the event is crucial, with live streaming technology earmarked as a future necessity, although there was some doubt over whether the technology was reliable enough.

A survey respondent noted: “One thing we would love to have is more flexibility to have people attending remotely. I know you can stream presentations online, but I’m not just talking about video. I’d hope that in the future, technology enables us to have people really experience and participate in the event remotely. Video and conference calls aren’t even reliable today, in 2019, for a single meeting, much less an event with multiple tracks. I don’t know what the solution is, but I know we aren’t there yet.”