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Short Term Meetings

Survey IDs Eye-Opening Stats About Short-Term Meetings

Ask a lodging industry expert the definition of a “short-term meeting” and they’ll likely cite anything booked within 90 days of the meeting taking place. Ask 150 meeting planners and they’ll say 13 days, according to a recent survey that, for the first time ever, examined what many see as a booking trend that isn’t ending anytime soon.

In a survey commissioned by technology startup Zentila (http://www.zentila.com ) and conducted by the Y Partnership, a pool of 150 corporate meeting planners were asked to comment on their current booking activity. The results were eye-opening. Planners reported that on average, they booked 15 off-site meetings in the last 12 months with an average booking window of only about 36 days.

When asked what booking window would constitute a “short-term” meeting, they said 13 days. How long did it take them to find a facility for this meeting? Fifty-three percent said two to three days, while 33 percent said more than four days.

“These numbers are telling and represent a fundamental shift in the meetings industry from a more planned and budgeted meetings strategy to an ad-hoc, off-budget strategy. The number of short-term meetings is a far greater percentage of overall meeting demand than we ever expected,” said Mike Mason, ZEO/founder of Zentila, a new hospitality technology company. “Meeting planners—both professional and non-professional—are being asked to do more with fewer resources and less time. Unfortunately, the process of booking a meeting has generally remained the same. The current list of new technology has had an incremental effect, but hasn’t hit the major points of pain; the constant back and forth that occurs between the planner, hotel, or third party.” What obstacles exist inside this window? The number one challenge indicated by survey participants was “finding the right type of hotel or meeting space,” followed by a close second of “catering cost.”

“Some interesting findings began to emerge when we drilled down on this data and asked questions about how planners are addressing these obstacles,” Mason said. “And what all this amounts to is that planners play by a different set of rules when the time frame is constricted.”

The following are a few highlights:
• Relationships are important…to a point. Ninety-seven percent cited that they are more willing to be flexible about their short-term meeting space options, which includes about half of the planners who said they were actually open to trying an unknown facility.
• Upscale properties are the short-term meeting go-to’s. Seventy-two percent of planners will only consider upscale and luxury hotels for their short-term meetings, according to the survey. And those who can’t find what they need are three times more likely to upgrade vs. downgrade their hotel choice.
• Shorter lead time equals planner empowerment. The survey found that most planners (68 percent) have permission to sign off on their short-term meeting contracts without management approval.
• The need for speed sometimes trumps the need to meet. Almost 20 percent of planners said that if they can’t find the facility they need in time, they will either cancel the meeting or host it in their own facility.

So what does it all mean? “The amount of pressure on meeting planners to perform these days is unprecedented,” said Mason, a 25 year veteran of the hospitality industry. “This data is eye-opening on many levels, but most critical to us are the very specific needs planners have identified once they enter this short-term zone.”
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