The British Meetings and Events Industry Survey 2015/16 provides a comprehensive picture of the meetings industry for the last twelve months from the organisers’ point of view, including buyers from the not for profit and corporate sectors. Third party organisers are intentionally not included so that double counting of volume and value is avoided. The results of this year’s survey are compared with last year’s to provide an up to date picture of what is happening in the market.

The results reflect a changing economic cycle where tight budget control by both sectors is reducing the volume of events and numbers of participants. However, the movement for more to measure return on investment and save time is also driving effectiveness and quality remains a priority as well as better cost management.  This is demonstrated by the corporate sector’s willingness to return to luxury venues and moving events abroad. It suggests organisers will be even tougher negotiators in the future. Suppliers in the UK meetings industry will need to ensure they stay ahead of new technology, maintain service levels and focus on the important factors to individual clients even when business is booked at very short notice. Increased use of digital communication such as webinars and content being available online could further reduce demand if the experience at venues does not justify the costs involved.

The average number of events per organiser is 28 for associations and 33 for corporates. The volume of association[1] events reduced by 40% over the last twelve months while the volume of corporate events reduced by 25%. This is the lowest volume figure since 2012, an indication that many organisations have become more discriminating about the meetings they hold. This is most probably due to budget pressures but also technology does appear to be affecting the market with webinars, video conferencing and online content replacing some face to face meetings. However, 31% of associations and 34% of corporates said they will organise more events in the year ahead. It will be interesting to see in 12 months time whether that optimism materialises.

Annual conferences are most popular with both sectors, although management meetings are equally popular with corporates. Many associations also organise AGMs and corporates organise many training events and presentations/communication events.

Numbers of attendees are  significantly down at associations’ main annual conference with 398 compare to 434 last year yet remain the same at 137 (136) for other events. Corporates also had lower numbers of attendees at their annual event at 288 (down from 317) yet up to 112 from 90 at other events. The need to communicate quickly may be increasing attendee numbers at meetings held throughout the year.

Duration of events saw little change with up to 80% of both sectors saying it stayed the same (averaging around 1.5 days). 28% of the associations and 33% of corporate events are residential.

Average lead times are 7.5 months for associations and 6.4 months for corporates. But 59% of corporates are organising events within a 6 month lead time.

Annual budgets for both sectors reduced to an average of £202, 049 (previously £214,560) for corporates and £140,718 (£233,393) for associations, probably accounting for or driving the reduction in volume of events. The anticipated change in budgets for the next 12 months is up just 1.1% for associations and 1.3% for corporates. This seems unlikely to stretch to cover the increased volume they are predicting.

Average budgeted daily delegate rates are down to £47.83 from £52.02 for associations yet up to £57.17 from £55.39 for corporates. 24 hour delegate rates are little used by associations but when they do, they average £136.36. For corporates the average is £159.40, up from £139.07. (All inc VAT).

The top ten UK destinations by percentage of respondents remain very similar to last year. London, Birmingham and Manchester are top followed by Edinburgh and Glasgow who have swopped places from last year. In addition to the 24 prompted destinations, associations had used a further 73 other destinations and corporates over 40, with many in the accessible areas of the Midlands and South East/Home Counties. Ambassadors and university academics, infrastructure, access, the appeal of destinations and where attendees are coming from are all influencing the destination decisions.

Although it is clearly very competitive for destinations, 48% of associations and 44% of corporates said they use destinations that are known to them. Over 50% of corporates and 47% of associations said the destination is their choice in conjunction with colleagues. Third party suppliers select it for just 15.5% of corporates and 9% of associations.  12% of associations admit that subvention or financial incentives influence their decision.

Significantly for destinations and venues in the UK, 54% of corporates had held events outside the UK in the last twelve months, up from 44%. The percentage for associations reduced to 22% from 26%. Asia was more influential for both corporates and associations, possibly due to trade relations or the focus for their field or industry and possibly due to targets for increasing member relations for associations. Germany was the top European country for both sectors while  37% of corporates had held events in the Americas (noticeably USA).

City centre hotels remain the most used venues by both sectors with dedicated conference centres next most popular for associations. Luxury venues are next most popular for corporates, perhaps surprisingly, bearing in mind the increasing influence of compliance in certain industry sectors and their budget constraints.

Added value items within the rates remain the most popular incentives for 69% of corporates and 57% of associations, followed by discounts on multiple bookings for over 30% of each sector.

Access, location, price and capacity of conference facilities are the top influencing factors on venue and destination choice for corporates although availability is prioritised ahead of capacity for associations. Quality of service is more important for corporates whereas quality of conference facilities is a higher priority for associations.

Service levels were rated more highly than previous years by both sectors, as was staff understanding of conference organiser and delegate needs (perhaps explaining why they return to previously used venues and destinations).  The lowest rated factor for both sectors is venues’ understanding of new meeting techniques and technology. As these are being widely used to assist with organisation, this suggests it is proving frustrating to organisers that venues are not always knowledgeable about their implementation.

On average 24% of association events (up from 21%) and 29% (30%) of corporate events are planned with third party assistance. In addition 34.6% of associations and 43.5% of corporates use freelancers or outsource aspects of event planning, a slight increase on previous years. Outsourcing certain aspects of event organisation while retaining overall control seems more popular to using third parties for all aspects.

Social media and new technologies are being widely used to help with organisation of events by both sectors with 43% of associations using them to increase attendance and up to 46% saying social media and making content available online after the meeting improves audience engagement. For corporates 62% use social media to communicate before/during and after their meetings and up to 30% say new technologies are improving audience engagement. 34% are using video conferencing while 21% of corporates and 15% of associations are using apps to provide delegate information.

Relevant content for the audience’s daily work and life with inspiring and original sessions/ presentations are the overriding factors contributing to successful events, cited by up to 47% of each sector. Celebrity keynote presenters were only important for 7%. The quality of venue was deemed important by up to 26% of each sector, less important when compared with the actual content of the meeting 57.9% of associations, up significantly from 28% last year, and 48.7% of corporates, up from 36% last year, measure return on investment (ROI) from events.  This underlines the importantce of content and getting return from diminishing budgets is more of a priority. The increased need to demonstrate ROI may also explain the reduced volume of events.

The single most important factor affecting associations’ events currently is costs/budgets/prices. For corporates time constraints are most important followed by costs and budgets. Although satisfaction levels with venues are high, many comments were made relating to costs and service levels as challenges when dealing with venues and suppliers.

Up to 39% of each sector read Meetings and Incentive Travel and up to 35% read Conference and Incentive Travel. Only 17.5% said they do not read meetings industry print media. However this increases to up to 32% of each sector who said they do not refer to meetings industry websites. Meetpie.com is most used by corporates and eventmagazine.co.uk by associations.

Similarly up to 50% of corporates and 38% of associations said they do not refer to digital venue finding sources. The most popular is venuefinder.com which is used by up to 17% of each sector.

Up to 48% said they do not attend meetings industry trade shows with lack of time cited as the reason why they do not attend . International Confex was attended by 18% of corporates and 6% of associations.  The Meetings Show was attended by up to 11% of each sector.

 

Summary of key results per sector Associations sector Corporate sector
Mean number of events per organiser 28 (47) 33 (44)
Percentage expecting to organise more events in next 12 months 31 (27) 34 (30)
Percentage residential events 28 (28) 33 (36)
Average number of delegates

At MAIN annual event

At other events

 

398 (434)

137 (136)

 

288 (317)

112 (90)

Average lead times 7.5 months 6.4 months
Average budgeted daily delegate rate £47.83 (£52.02) £57.17 (£55.39)
Average budgeted 24 hour delegate rate £136.36 (£117.11) £159.40 (£139.07
Average annual budget for events £140,718 (£233,393) £192,442 (£214,560)
Percentage change in budget anticipated next 12 months +1.1% +1.3%
Preferred venues City centre hotels
Preferred venue incentive Added value items
Percentage of events with third party assistance 24 (21) 29 (30)
Technology most used to help with event organisation Social media
Most used social media Twitter
Issue causing most dissatisfaction Lack of understanding of new technologies
Most popular printed media Meetings and Incentive Travel
Most popular digital media Eventmagazine.co.uk Meetpie.com
Most used digital venue finding source Venuefinder.com
Most attended trade show The Meetings Show International Confex
Most used UK cities London, Birmingham, Manchester,

Edinburgh, Glasgow

Percentage that had held events outside the UK 21.8% 54.2%
Most popular European country (outside UK) Germany
Issue most improving audience engagement Social media
Percentage measuring ROI for events 58 (28) 49 (36)
Issue most contributing to successful events Relevant content to daily life
Single most important factor currently affecting events Costs/budgets Time (lack of)
Challenges in dealing with suppliers Costs and service
Average age of organiser respondents 35.4 years 36.5 years
Average salary of respondents £34,786 £44,55

[1] All not for profit sector events are referred to as associations throughout this report.

To get a copy of the full report see www.meetpie.com/bmeis

 

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