It’s Wait and See for Meeting Planners

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For now, for many, it’s wait and see.

A just-released survey of 295 meeting planners from Prevue’s audience found that many are adopting a wait-and-see attitude about postponements and cancellations.

“Wait and see” appears to be the prevailing strategy for many organizations, according to a just-released survey of 295 meeting planners who follow Prevue in print and online.

About half of respondents (52%) said they have postponed fewer than 10% of their meetings to date. Even associations appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach, with 67% saying they have postponed fewer than 10% of their meetings so far.

Meeting Planners On Hold

“We have two conferences each year,” said Dawn Pettus, CTP, vice president of events at the National Tour Association. “We had to cancel one in March and our other is set for November. We have postponed our registration open date, but not the show itself. And, it’s really too soon to tell if we’ll move it to a virtual show or not.”

For now, she said, “We’re keeping a close eye on everything and will make a decision mid-summer about the fall conference.”

One thing is certain: So far, canceling is far less common than postponing, according to the survey results. Just 19% of the respondents said they have canceled all their meetings to date.

For Doug Wheeler, principal, Summit Performance Group, it’s a mixed bag. “Many of our clients are still in a holding/wait-and-see pattern. I would anticipate that things will start moving again in the next two to three weeks.” He also has had several programs rebook in the late fall and several cancel.

“We also have several clients who have asked us to research incentives in the first quarter, 2021, and we are working on those projects right now.”

On the incentive side of the business, 71% of respondents who plan incentive travel have moved some or all their 2020 trips. A majority—66%—are moving them to 2021. Just one quarter of respondents who plan incentive travel have changed the destinations for those incentive trips. (New destinations they listed included Cayman Islands, Canada, Maui, Bahamas, Banff, Hawaii, Napa and San Diego.)

Kate Landers, president of Incentive Travel Source, reported that all of her clients have moved their incentive trips to 2021. “They are essentially inviting the 2020 award recipients to the 2021 trip. Since the 2021 trips were already contracted, we were able to make addendum’s to those contracts adding room nights to accommodate the additional guests.” That means a change in destination for the 2020 winners.

Virtual Fills the Gap

Of the respondents who are moving some meetings to virtual, 60% said that applies to just a fraction—fewer than 10%—of their meetings. Only 5% said they are moving 100% of their meetings to virtual.

The type of meeting dictates the ability to easily move it to a virtual setting. Leslie Zeck, CMP, CMM, HMCC, director of meetings at the International & American Associations for Dental Research, was forced to cancel her association’s General Session & Exhibition scheduled in March in Washington, DC. It was expected to draw more than 6,000 attendees from around the world to present scientific research and to celebrate the association’s centennial.

Since then, she has turned to WebEx to hold two virtual Council Meetings. “We had multiple speakers from around the world, slide presentations and more than 100 participants on each call, with the ability to ask questions. It worked very well for standard information—more like a conference call than a virtual meeting,” she said.

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Barbara Scofidio is Editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In her 30 years in the industry, she has become known for her passion around greening meetings, growing awareness of human trafficking and promoting CSR activities as part of business events. She is currently a member of SITE's Women IN Leadership committee and the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee. She was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of SITE for 30 years, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. Before joining Prevue in 2014, she served as Editor of Corporate Meetings & Incentives (MeetingsNet) for more than 20 years. She has a BA in Literature/Rhetoric from Binghamton University. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.