Operations

As Corporate Meetings Thrive, Planners Have Less Lead Time

LCT Staff
Posted on May 2, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the number of corporate meetings increasing, a strong economy and the continuance of a hotel and meeting space seller's market, meeting buyers continue to see lead times getting shorter.

According to a recent Meetings Monitor survey of 160 corporate meeting buyers, 53% said that they had one-to-three months to plan a meeting of fewer than 100 attendees. An additional 19.4% said they had only one-to-three weeks. In total, 77.5% of those surveyed said they had less than three months of lead time to plan small meetings.

"Within the corporate structure, it's always been a small window," said Joan Eisenstodt, chief strategist for Washington, D.C.-based meetings management firm Eisenstodt Associates LLC. "It's the culture of how corporations operate."

"The value of face-to-face meetings is increasingly being recognized," said Catherine Chaulet, senior vice president of events at chauffeured transportation firm BostonCoach. "The economy is healthy, certainly for financial companies, and we tend to see more meetings organized when the economy is good."

The window is shrinking in part because corporations are taking longer to approve budgets and are warier of booking venues too far in advance in case they have to cancel and face huge fees. The current seller's market also is contributing to the trend, as more hotels are using their upper hand in the situation to be choosier about the business that they take and are holding more firmly to their contractual agreements. "I think the hotel market is dictating some of what we have to do," said Eisenstodt.

There are several things that buyers can do to make sure short lead times can be used to their advantage. One is working with preferred vendors that will be more willing to negotiate and find space for a last-minute meeting. Rick Wakida, corporate travel manager for Foster City, Calif.-based Gilead Sciences, said his company has standardized agreement templates with preferred hotels that save time. "We're not starting from square one with an event that's going to be held locally," he said.

The results of the survey reflect the continuance of short lead times for meetings, and planners last year said that limited hotel and meeting space was compounding the problem. "It's the way we work today. Everything is very fast-paced, very last-minute," said BostonCoach's Chaulet.

Source: Business Travel News

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