Two-thirds of international association meetings are organized by national members from the host country, while far fewer are run by in-house staff or third-party professional congress organizers, according to the 2013 Union of International Associations Meetings Survey.  

The survey by Brussels-based UAI is based on responses from individuals representing about 830 international associations based all over the world. The survey was sent out to all international organizations listed in the UIA’s Yearbook of International Organizations that have meetings. The Yearbook lists around 66,000 non-government and intergovernmental associations from 300 countries that have international membership.

Here is a snapshot of the respondents’ meeting preferences and challenges.

Meetings are Locally Run

The bulk of international association meetings are planned by national members from the host country. About 21 percent are run by association staff without a professional meeting department, while 19 percent are managed by an in-house meeting planning department. Further, 15 percent are run by a local PCO in the host city, while another 10 percent of organizations retain a core PCO to manage all their meetings wherever they are held. (Percentages for this and all questions are based on multiple responses.)

Site Selection Decisions  

There is no predominant theme when it comes to who is doing the site selection. About 38 percent of respondents said the decision is made by meeting committees or councils, while 29 percent said the decision rests with the association executive. Roughly 26 percent indicated that site selection is done by a general assembly.

Informal Bid Packages

Only 15 percent send out an official bid manual; 45 percent send something less formal, like a list of rules or guidelines. Approximately 18 percent don’t use either bid manuals or guidelines. And 16 percent said the bid requirements are contained in the association statutes or bylaws.

When Do They Meet?

The preferred months for international association meetings are September and October. About 38 percent of respondents said their largest meeting is held in those months, while 29 percent reported those meetings are held in May or June. Some 22 percent of responding organizations hold their largest meeting in July or August, while 14 percent meet in March or April and 14 percent in November or December. Further, 12 percent said it varies and 5 percent said January or February.

Also, 45 percent hold a major international meeting annually, while 22 percent hold it biennially (every two years), 11 percent triennially, and 7 percent quadrennially.  About 12 percent have two major meetings per year.

Most Don’t Practice CSR or Green Meetings

About half of respondents said the concept of social responsibility does not play a role at their meeting while 30 percent said it does and 21 percent said they were not sure. Also, 55 percent don’t incorporate green measures into their meetings while 35 percent do and 10 percent didn’t know.

Virtual Meetings

Two-thirds of respondents have no online or virtual component to their meetings, while 16 percent offer online streaming of content and 13 percent have archived video content available on demand.

Europe is the Hub

Slightly more than half of respondents said their largest meeting is held in Europe, while 34 percent said the meeting rotates around the world. About 12 percent hold it in North America, 11 percent in Asia, 6 percent in Africa, and 5 percent in South America.

Some 36 percent of respondents said the destination is picked on a case-by-case basis, while 20 percent said it rotates based on preferences or meeting guidelines. Further, 16 percent said it rotates on the same continent, while 14 percent said it moves between continents. Approximately 7 percent said it’s held in the same place every time.

Choice of Venue

Forty-four percent of respondents indicated that the preferred facility for their largest meeting is a conference or congress/convention center. About 34 percent said a hotel is the preferred venue and 33 percent said their organizations prefer university settings. About 19 percent said they don’t have a preference or that venue selection varies based on need.

Exhibition Space

About 38 percent of respondents said they do not have an exhibition tied to their largest meeting, while 24 percent they do, but not every year/meeting. About 38 percent do not. Approximately 10 percent of respondents said their largest meeting uses up to 500 square meters of space, while 3 percent uses up to 1,000 square meters, 4 percent between 1,000 and 5,000 square meters, and 1 percent over 5,000 square meters. Further, 15 percent said the amount of space uses varies from year-to-year and 15 percent did not know how much space they used.

Also, 80 percent of respondents said they did not know what hosted-buyer events are while 12 percent are familiar with the concept but have not used it. About 7 percent have held hosted-buyer events.

Fewer Than 500 Attendees

Nearly three-quarters of associations polled said their largest meeting attracts fewer than 500 delegates (not including accompanying guests). About 56 percent reported fewer than 250 delegates. Approximately 10 percent draw between 500 and 1,000, and around 14 percent attract over 1,000.

Cancellations and Other Challenges

Roughly 5 percent have canceled, 13 percent have rescheduled, and 12 percent have relocated meetings in the past three years. Also, 19 percent have held meetings despite reduced attendance and 9 percent have replaced face-to-face meetings with teleconferences or online meetings. About 18 percent said these changes have occurred because of economic conditions, while 14 percent said because of logistical or financial problems. Two percent said it was due to war or terrorism.

Biggest Concern About Global Economy

Fifty-four percent said their biggest concern about the global economy is reduced attendance, while 53 percent said lack of funding via reduced numbers of sponsors or exhibitors. Approximately 42 percent said travel-related issues, such as visa problems, budget cuts, or increasing travel costs. Also, 32 percent cite transportation costs as a concern.

For more information, visit the UIA Web site