The preliminary results from Meeting Professionals International’s annual membership survey, FutureWatch 2009, are in—and all signs point to meetings taking a beating in the year ahead. The study, conducted in partnership with American Express, surveyed 2,740 meeting planners and industry suppliers at the end of 2008, and it focuses heavily on how the current economic crisis will continue to affect events through 2009.

While the full results from the study will not be released until early February, here are some highlights:

  • Meeting planners expect a 9 percent decrease in the number of meetings their organizations with hold this year, and a 3 percent decrease in staffing. Yet planners expect their individual workload will increase by 5 percent on average in 2009.
  • Suppliers also expect a 9 percent decrease in the number of meetings their companies will support, and a 4 percent decrease in staffing. They too will have to do more with less, reporting an anticipated 9 percent increase in the number of meetings they will personally have to plan, manage, or support in 2009.
  • Cancellations are seeing a dramatic uptick in 2009. In the second half of 2008, organizations canceled an average of 4.1 meetings each, or 8 percent of their total annual meetings. For 2009, organizations have already canceled an average of 3.4 meetings each, representing 7 percent of all scheduled meetings, at an average value of $200,000 per meeting.
  • As a percentage of companies’ overall budgets, meetings are expected to decrease by 6 percent in 2009 on average. This is a vast change from MPI’s 2008 study, in which respondents predicted their budgets would rise by 22.6 percent.
  • Fully 17 percent of corporate meeting planners expect budget cuts for meetings this year, while 12 percent of association planners and 10 percent of government planners expect to see their budgets cut in 2009.
  • Despite economic challenges, only a minority of meeting professionals—11 percent—expect to see an increase in the use of technology to access meetings and meeting content remotely.
  • U.S. planners reported they expect to see a 15 percent drop in attendance at association meetings in 2009, but they anticipate a 12 percent increase in corporate meeting attendance.
  • While “environmental concerns” ranked as the fifth-most-important challenge facing respondents in the FutureWatch survey published in January 2008, only one in 10 respondents to this year’s survey said they expect to see a continued trend toward environmentally friendly meetings.

To download a copy of the FutureWatch 2009 Executive Summary, click here. Complete results will be unveiled at MPI’s MeetDifferent conference, taking place February 7-10, 2009, in Atlanta.

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