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Wake up! Here Are the 3 Biggest Threats to the Meetings Industry by @KristiCasey

If you're immersed in any activity, it's difficult to perceive the threats surrounding you. That's why food you eat in the car always ends up on your shirt and your most serious injuries occur when you're doing something as simple as stepping off a curb.

I totally understand why meeting and event planners don't see this industry's true threats. Technological advances are so sexy. The recession is so boring. The workload is so relentless. There are a million reasons why they're paying attention to something else.

But stop and think for a second. What really are the greatest threats to your job security? It's not robots. It's not hybrid or virtual event technology. It's supply and demand. As in: If demand is high and supply is scarce, prices will rise. Remember that from Economics 101?

Supply and demand

In case you haven't noticed, hotels aren't run like nonprofits. There's an unprecedented push from corporate headquarters to squeeze every last drop of revenue out of each hotel room and amenity. There's no new supply and increasing demand. If you walk in and demand your comp room per 50 or a flat 10 percent off, they're just going to move that cost around. So you need to update your negotiation skills or you're going to find you're outclassed by revenue managers. You'll find some tips about what you really can leverage here.

Then there's the cost of gas. When I got my first car in the 1990s, gas was $ .78 a gallon. Now I'm lucky if it's less than $4. Very few U.S. cities have useful public transportation options, and the cost of living has created urban sprawl and ungodly commutes as people have been forced to settle further out from city centers. You don't have to live in Los Angeles, New York or Atlanta to experience road rage. South Carolina, Iowa and Missouri get jammed up, too. It's becoming difficult to hold local events because of drive times and the cost of gas.

Did you know that Delta Airlines recently bought an oil refinery? That's because if the cost of oil continues to rise, it's going to put several airlines out of business. At the 2011 GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference, Prof. Ian Lee, Ph. D., of Carleton University warned that half of the 15 existing European carriers would go out of business by 2015 if the price of oil hit $100 a barrel; we'd only have 6 left if it hit $200 a barrel. Guess what? The cost of oil is projected to be $110 a barrel next year. American air carriers are no less vulnerable. How are you going to get people to events if you have half the airlift (at twice the cost)?

Quality of life

Gas and airlift aside, the persistent insecurity of the job market means that even if people could get to your event, they're afraid to leave the office. You might think you can avoid that conflict by holding events after work hours or on the weekends. But people who are stressed out don't want to spend any extra time on work; they want to pursue personal passions or be with their families at night and on the weekends. Does the value proposition of your event outweigh that desire?

Then there's the issue of sustainability. The American meetings and events industry is the second-most wasteful industry in the country. Efforts to reduce paper and recycle should be commended, but we need to realize that we're only scratching the surface of what needs to change. As Smarter Shift President Mitchell Beer would say, "What good is it to purchase all of your food from within a 100-mile radius of the venue if you're transporting people 5,000 miles to your event?" Speaker Tim Sanders has been warning meeting planners to rethink the way we organize and execute events since 2008. If you need ideas on how you can avoid being a casualty of what he calls the impending Responsibility Revolution, you should check out this recap of his MPI PEC-NA speech and think about attending the upcoming GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference April 7-10 in Chicago.

The way it's always been done

Finally, there's the matter of habit. The mind-numbing rituals you execute over and over again because you "don't have time" to examine what's not working anymore in your event planning process. I've got one simple piece of advice: Make the time. Why persist in doing things that no longer work? You know what the seven most expensive words in business are? "Because it's always been done that way."

"Event planners spend so much time making sure the menu's all right and loving putting together a list of three vendors to supply seat covers for the gala," Beer says. "But attendees won't remember the seat covers when they go home. They won't remember the food unless it's really bad. And if they do, they shouldn't let the CFO find out because if that happens, they'll never let them get away for a meeting agin." Content, he insists, is key and something far too few planners care about or understand how to program. But it goes beyond content. Here are four key factors that will influence any future meeting you plan.

You also can't ignore the fact that today's audiences demand interaction. If you aren't creating a community with every event, you're missing a vast opportunity to make a real difference (and save your marketing team a heck of a lot of work). Totally stumped for ideas? Check out these 14 tips attendees of a recent PYM LIVE came up with to engage people before, during and after the show.

What do you think? What threats to this industry do you see? And what are you doing about it? Let me know by commenting below or tweeting @PYMLive.

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