Thanks to the mid-term elections, much of the country has spent fall 2018 enveloped in uncertainty. Despite the hazy political landscape, however, the meetings industry continues to thrive, according to Meeting Professionals International (MPI), which this week published the fall 2018 edition of its quarterly "Meetings Outlook" survey.
According to the survey, which identified 113 distinct trends in the meetings sector, 63 percent of meeting professionals reported favorable business conditions for the industry, which MPI expects to grow 2.6 percent over the next year.
The "healthy landscape" is allowing meeting professionals to be more creative and innovative with their events, according to MPI, which highlights as an example of innovation the February 2018 meeting of a Fortune 500 insurance company, whose event featured "blender bikes"; guests were invited to ride stationary bikes attached to pedal-powered blenders that made healthy smoothies for attendees when they rode them.
"The reason it's even possible is the meeting industry is in a state of extended growth," said Bill Voegeli, president of Association Insights, which conducts the research for Meetings Outlook on behalf of MPI. "The meeting and event industry is healthy and has been for quite some time. Any time we have years of health and growth, we see people are able to be more innovative in their meeting design. They have a healthier market. They aren't trying to squeeze everything into a single event."
The blender bikes -- which were intended to showcase the company's commitment to clean energy and sustainability -- also illustrate another trend, according to MPI: corporate social responsibility (CSR), which 41 percent of meeting professionals said is increasing at events.
Because planners no longer have to squeeze everything into a single event, meetings are becoming shorter and more frequent, according to MPI. Although 74 percent of meeting professionals said the duration of their meetings remains unchanged, 20 percent said their events are getting shorter and only 6 percent that they're getting longer. Likewise, 65 percent of meeting professionals said the frequency of their meetings is unchanged, but 25 percent said their meetings are more frequent and only 9 percent that they're less frequent. Meanwhile, 30 percent said the individual sessions at their meetings are getting shorter, while just 10 percent said they're getting longer.
Meetings also are becoming more niche: 58 percent of meeting planners said their events have become more niche, and just 5 percent that they've become more general.
Finally, events are getting larger: Over a third (35 percent) of meeting professionals told MPI that their events are becoming larger. And looking ahead, 61 percent and 56 percent of meeting planners project increased attendance at their live and virtual events, respectively. Attendance at the former is projected to grow 2.3 percent over the next year, while attendance at the latter is projected to grow 2.6 percent.
The full "Meetings Outlook" survey is available for download from MPI's website.