This year's top uses of the Internet differed from last year's in two important respects. The first is that our random sample included far fewer readers with trade shows, and consequently uses like virtual trade shows and exhibitor product locator, which scored in the top ten last year, did not make this year's list.
Moreover, we refined the question this year so that respondents indicated only how they currently use the Internet to manage events — last year we had asked how they currently used the Internet or planned to use it within the next 12 months. That important difference noted, the percentage of respondents this year that said they tap the Internet for destination and facility research dropped to 69 and 53 percent, respectively, from 83 and 80 last year. Is the drop attributable to different wording in the question? It's not possible to say. Even so, given that destination research topped the list both this year and last, it's safe to say that the Internet remains a critical information tool for our industry.
Interestingly, e-mail marketing climbed from sixth place last year to third place this year. In the last 16 months, new and improved event-marketing software has hit the market, and lots of ink has been spilled in the trades on the virtues of pre- and post-meeting electronic marketing to attendee and exhibitor groups — two developments that could help account for the jump.
Another noteworthy change: 14 percent of respondents this year said they do webconferencing/casting, compared to 36 percent indicating they do so or planned to do so last year. Has this Web option lost some of its glitter? Let's see what happens in the next survey. Webconferencing, one would think, would be more popular in a down economy.
Also of note: Use of electronic requests for proposals dropped from 57 percent of respondents last year to 35 percent this year. The different wording of the question this year, limited to current use only, may account for this drop. Also, the novelty of e-RFPs may have worn off a bit. Most respondents (53 percent, compared to 57 percent last year) remain uncertain about whether electronic RFPs provide a useful tool. Last year 41 percent of respondents said electronic RFPs were a useful tool, compared to 39 percent this year.
Of those using electronic RFPs, most had used ones provided by hotel chains. And despite streamlining modifications made by some of the major providers of online RFP services, respondents still felt there was room for improvement. Biggest peeves: not being able to paste existing documents onto the RFP site, which means re-keying a lot of information; timeliness or lack of responses; and fields that were too restrictive (i.e., not enough room to define needs).
The overwhelming majority of respondents continue to use traditional methods to collect registration information: 75 percent use a combination of fax, phone, and e-mail to collect this data. When responses were analyzed by size of meeting budgets and attendance, the results remained the same. Whether the meetings or budgets were large or small, most groups rely on snail mail, phone, fax, and e-mail.
Nonetheless, getting qualified attendees to register for an event is the name of the game, and the game has gotten a lot more sophisticated, thanks to the relatively recent development of a handful of versatile Web-based registration applications (also called application service providers). RegWeb, b-there, cvent.com, and see Uthere are some of the ASPs whose registration products allow you to do much more than simply capture registration information through Web-based registration forms. (See also “Tech Edge,” page 18.)
Using these types of applications, attendees sign up for events, indicate sessions and activities they want to participate in, and, if relevant, submit payment information for processing. That information can then be sliced and diced in a number of useful ways to help refine marketing programs; it also can be integrated with other association databases.
Our survey shows that although most respondents aren't currently able to do these kinds of things, they wish they could. Topping the wish list: being able to link the registration database with membership database, which has been a “Holy Grail” of associations for years. (See related article on page 50.)
The Bigger Picture
One of the recent trends among vendors offering Web-based programs for event management has been for them to form partnerships or affiliations with other vendors in order to provide a one-stop shopping experience for planners.
As the chart on page 56 indicates, the idea has not caught on with our sample of the market. (See “One Stop Shopping, Who Cares?” on page 55 for a look at why, and a chart of online vendors and their affiliates.)
Looking at trends on the association side, a consistent block of respondents this year (53 percent) and last (54 percent) indicated that their association has a strategic plan or policy regarding integrating the Web into the activities and goals of the association. It is perhaps surprising that this block hasn't grown, given the potential — as well as the hype — that continues to surround the Internet.
An interesting change: only 7 percent said the meetings/department was “very influential” in shaping their Internet strategy, compared to 22 percent last year. About the same percentage in the last two years said that their departments were “not influential at all.”
How has the Internet affected the jobs of association meeting and trade show managers? Planners are more productive, and more likely to be involved in marketing and developing online programs/applications, as well as Web-related affiliations for their organizations.
As last year, most respondents said “no” to the question “Do you think Web-based marketplaces and online education will erode participation in the in-person meetings of associations?” Fifty-nine percent replied “no” this year, compared to 57 percent last year. But 22 percent said “yes,” which is an 8 percent jump, indicating that there may be some erosion in the perception of the invulnerability of in-person meetings to electronic forms of competition.
Technology and Meetings: The Challenges
When asked what the single biggest challenge was in integrating technology into the management of meetings, the majority of responses fell into the following categories:
Members were not “technologically literate” or equipped; i.e., they don't have computers and/or access to the Web.
Integrating various software programs and databases (the aforementioned “Holy Grail” issue)
Keeping up with the pace of technological development in a cost-effective way; i.e., how do you make an investment today that won't be quickly outdated?
Money and training. As one respondent put it: “There's never enough of either for many not-for-profit groups.”
In April, Intertec Marketing Research e-mailed invitations to 3,996 AM subscribers selected on an Nth-name basis. Specifically targeted were subscribers indicating job title as CEO/Executive Director, Trade Show/Exhibit Director/Manager, or Meetings/Conventions Director/Manager. The sample was split evenly between those working for trade associations and those affiliated with professional organizations. Respondents were offered a chance to win one of five $100 gift certificates. The response rate was 9 percent, with 264 surveys being completed as a result of 2,995 deliverable e-mails.
Meetings 2000: How Sweet It Was
Our Internet usage survey included several questions on meeting performance in 2000.
As you can see, the majority of respondents experienced increases in attendance, expenditures, revenue, and budgets in 2000, continuing a seven-year trend (since we began tracking these numbers). The survey results were very comparable to last year's report on 1999 meetings and trade shows, with the biggest fluctuation being in those saying their budgets had increased: the 47 percent response for 2000 meetings was an 8 percent drop from 1999 meeting tabulations.
As we head into the sixth month of an economic downturn, any bets on what results we'll be reporting next year on 2001 attendance trends?
|Increased||Decreased||No change||N/A||No answer|
|Total 2000 Attendance||54%||25%||15%||3%||3%|
|2000 Meeting/Trade Show Expenditures||60%||20%||14%||3%||3%|
|2000 Meeting/Trade Show Revenues||52%||18%||18%||8%||4%|
|2000 Meeting/Trade Show Budgets||47%||12%||34%||3%||4%|
|*N/A means not applicable.|