6 Key Challenges Facing Business Events Professionals

February 15, 2024
People clapping at a business event.

Business events continue to be vital for communities around the world. They fill hotel rooms of course, but they also introduce prospective talent and investors to communities in which they might thrive.

But sales professionals in destination organizations are starting to hit a wall. What’s worked for the past 25 years to increase RFPs and win bids is no longer the winning formula for success. And now we’re faced with a generation of dinosaurs who are evolving too slowly to have the impact they must to play a leading role in their local communities.

1. Meeting Planners Are Retiring At Breakneck Speeds

Meeting planner retirements have hit record highs. Unfortunately, too few young people are stepping up into the industry. A major reason is that the pay is low compared to other industries.  

I often hear DMO professionals say they can’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to jump head-first into this industry. After all, you get to travel the world! Yet, while young, underpaid talent may get to enjoy the perks of travel, those travel perks don’t pay their student loans. Unless you are one of the lucky few to leave university without debt, does the perk of travel actually matter anymore?

With too little fresh talent to fill the retirement void, the remaining meeting planners are stretched too thin. So DMOs are finding that their proverbial rolodex is shrinking and they aren’t sure how to connect with less young talent entering the profession.

2. Meeting Sales Professionals Prefer Everything In-Person — and Meeting Planners Don’t!

Old school business events professionals want to travel because that’s the fun part of their job. Planners in North America, however, aren’t as keen to devote their precious time to meeting face to face, except at a trade show where they can maximize their time. 

The result? DMOs traverse the USA on sales missions, spend a significant amount of money for hotels, meals, and travel expenses, and then face the stark reality that planners are mostly unavailable. Taking a digital-first approach to connecting with planners is the obvious solution — if business events professionals are willing.

3. Meeting Sales Professionals Are Slow to Embrace The Digital Evolutions Planners Prefer

Digital marketing and sales are siloed. On one side, digital marketers don’t understand what meeting planners want. Meanwhile, sales people complain that digital marketing chips away at their travel opportunities, effectively eroding their interest in the industry.

The result? Business events professionals are missing a key opportunity by not dialing up their LinkedIn marketing strategy — and automating more aggressive marketing via digital means. Yes, it means less travel, but it also means better results and a stronger return on a DMO’s marketing investment.

4. Media Platforms: Own Them

Major media platforms like Questex and Northstar are all focused on an integrated pay to play model for marketing, trade shows, and editorial. If your investment into them isn’t significant, the sad reality is that your partnerships really aren’t effective with these platforms. 

As we’ve seen time and again, while your DMO’s CEO might push you to “go it alone,” if you do, you’ll be missing a vital connection to the meeting planners who matter. These platforms really do reach planners and they do drive leads. You just have to be willing to invest in a program that is integrated, and lead focused. This isn’t an ad buy — and shouldn’t be led by your marketing team — it’s a sales push that should be negotiated by your sales team, whose end goal is to drive more meeting RFPs.

5. IMEX is Expensive: Is it REALLY Where You Need to Be?

IMEX America is the most important show in the United States. It also happens to be nearly prohibitively expensive for many destinations around the world. If it eats up your entire budget just to be there and show your destination’s face, this poses an enormous problem. 

Without any budget left for follow-up and lead chasing, destinations have to ask if it’s really worth the investment in the first place. Weighing return on investment for this mega event is key, and some destinations may be better off skipping it altogether.

6. Cvent Needs More Attention or More Competition…

The most important tactic you can invest in is Cvent. Third party planners absolutely must use Cvent. If business events professionals don’t have access to the platform, don’t nurture leads, and don’t aggressively follow up, then they will never have an impact on any business deals. 

DMOs need to make this option available to their sales staff and give business events professionals the training they need to maximize its potential. Until Groups360 gains more traction, you need to be on Cvent. Enough said.

Yes, these six challenges are key pain points facing business events professionals working for destinations. Understanding them, first and foremost, is a key step to learning how to build better connections between destinations and the meeting planners you hope to attract. The brave will take action. The rest will retire.

Business events professionals looking to overcome some of these challenges, listen up. DCI has more than sixty years of experience working to enhance destinations in the meeting industry. Get in touch with Karyl Leigh Barnes at [email protected] to learn how you can tap into the agency’s insight on current trends.

Written by

Pamela Laite

Director, Business Events