Are changes to meeting budgets creating havoc for you? If so, you're not alone. “Changing budgets” is the No. 1 in-house trend for all categories of respondents to FutureWatch, the recently released annual membership survey from Meeting Professionals International. The study parsed responses from 1,643 meeting professionals by job — corporate planners, association planners, independent planners, and suppliers — and found that budget changes rank first in every group.

Workloads are the second-ranked in-house issue for corporate and independent planners, while shifting organizational goals and strategies ranks No. 2 for suppliers and association planners.

MPI also asked about external challenges. In an about-face from 2007, when the effect of terrorism and war on travel was respondents' biggest issue, the economy is now top of mind. As a whole, respondents' top three external trends are, in order, “economic downturn and recession,” “cost of oil and gas,” and “inflation/rising costs.” The effect of terrorism and war on travel now ranks 10th.

This year, two new trends that did not make MPI's 2007 list held the fourth and fifth spots: “increased access to online information” and “environmental concerns.”

Breaking down these external trends by job reveals some interesting differences among MPI's constituencies. For both corporate planners and independents, technology advances outranked economic issues as the No. 1 trend; association planners rank technology advances and increased access to information online as No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. Suppliers, which made up 44 percent of the respondents, were most uniformly concerned about the economy.

MPI's far-reaching FutureWatch report also delves into meeting budgets for 2007 and 2008; use of and opinions on various meeting technologies (see chart); the use and management of webcasts; how planners and suppliers view customer loyalty strategies (see chart); the involvement of the procurement department in meetings; and much more.