Several months ago I wrote an editorial about how the attendees at the Professional Convention Management Association's annual meeting this year simply could not get enough information about. Any session on the subject drew a bulging, questioning audience — you would never know it was a January meeting in Miami Beach.
As Conferon's Bruce Harris says in our cover story (page 40), these days the stakes are high when it comes to attrition. He advises planners to cut their room blocks by 15 percent rather than chance sky-high attrition damages in an uncertain economy.
I wouldn't argue with that strategy. Planners must think more like business managers than service providers when the risk of crippling attrition fees outweighs the possibility of attendee ire when there's not enough room at the inn. But a fundamental to consider is that if attendees find your meeting experience too troublesome, expensive, and unfulfilling, they won't be back.
Anyone who's flown in an airplane in the last five years knows that just getting to a meeting can be grueling. Then there's the relatively new experience of finding all sorts of unexpected charges tacked onto an already high hotel room rate. (See news story on page 11.) With conditions like these, if attendees find the content of the meeting less then compelling, why would they come back next year?
The care and feeding of the qualified attendee has always been the name of the game for smart meeting andorganizers. Attendees make the world go round: They draw the exhibitors, they pay the registration fees, and they drive convention/trade show revenues — and convention/trade show revenues are the biggest money-makers for most associations.
But it's a lot tougher than it used to be to keep an attendee happy and coming back year after year. As noted, there can be many reasons outside the planner's control for attendee dissatisfaction and attrition. Great programming and terrific networking opportunities are your best defense.