There's no question that strategic meeting management is no longer just the purview of a handful of Fortune 500 companies with large, centralized meeting departments. In Meeting Professionals International's 2007 FutureWatch survey, presented at its Professional Education Conference in New Orleans in January, more than half of respondents reported that they have a program in place to calculate total meeting spend. Of those who do not, half said they plan to put one in place in 2007.

The other business practice that has gone from cutting-edge to commonplace is the convergence of meeting departments and procurement practices: 64 percent of FutureWatch survey respondents said their purchasing departments are involved in hotel decisions to some extent, and 27 percent expect them to become even more involved in 2007. The good news is that the frustration that many meeting planners initially felt in dealing with procurement seems to have lessened. In fact, only 15 percent of respondents now view procurement as an obstacle, and 23 percent expect them to continue to become more knowledgeable about meetings and more helpful in the future.

MPI's fifth annual survey, conducted in partnership with American Express, received responses from 1,443 meeting professionals, including 441 “client-side planners,” 180 meeting management intermediaries, and 814 meeting suppliers. Here are some other results:

  • 44 percent of respondents say their company has a preferred-vendor program. (Thirty percent were not sure if they had one.)

  • About two out of three planners (60 percent) with a preferred-vendor program view it as successful, rating it a four or five on a scale of five.

  • Corporate planners expect the number of meetings they hold to grow by 7 percent in 2007 and their spend per meeting to grow by 4 percent.

  • 73 percent of respondents expect hotel rates to rise in 2007.

  • 71 percent of corporate planners organize meetings for offices in more than one country, and the globalization of the industry will continue to increase at a rapid pace, with a third of participants expecting their organization to be doing business in another country by the end of the year.

  • Of meetings that are outsourced, 69 percent are done so only on the logistics side; only 16 percent of respondents outsource the entire meeting planning function.

  • Planner respondents say meeting logistics technologies are the top tools they will be looking for in 2007. However, 30 percent of respondents believe adequate tools do not exist, and another 23 percent consider existing tools to be too expensive or inaccessible.

  • The next most-sought-after technology in 2007 will be attendee feedback tools, an area where only half of the respondents consider the tools to be affordable and available.