Given a list of 12 possible influences on meetings for 2009, U.S.-based planner respondents to Meeting Professionals International's new FutureWatch study predicted “virtual meetings” would have the greatest influence on meetings this year. Perhaps more predictably, “lower budgets” was ranked second, followed by “fewer face-to-face meetings.” Rounding out the top-six influences: more green meetings, fewer frills, and more in-house meetings.

FutureWatch 2009, conducted by MPI and American Express, surveyed 2,740 planners and suppliers from around the world at the end of 2008. Results were released at MPI's Meet Different conference in Atlanta in February. Other highlights: 17 percent of corporate meeting planners expect reductions in their 2009 budgets, while planners overall expect a 9 percent drop in the number of meetings their organizations will hold this year, along with a 3 percent decrease in staffing.

Although the survey was conducted back in November 2008, respondents already had canceled an average of 3.4 meetings scheduled for 2009 .

What's “in” with regard to meetings management, according to the survey: pre-meeting ROI projections. What's “out”: attendee gifts. (Read the full report at www.mpiweb.org.)

MeetDifferent also provided a stage for Christine Duffy, president and CEO of Maritz Travel, and Jonathan Howe, JD, president, senior partner, Howe & Hutton Ltd., chief legal counsel for MPI, to outline the meetings industry's response to the just-announced Treasury guidelines for recipients of Troubled Asset Relief Program funds. At a hastily called but packed session, Duffy explained that the Meeting, Event, and Incentive Coalition — which first galvanized in October 2008 — was issuing model meetings and incentives policy guidelines for companies receiving TARP funds. (For more on the coalition and the guidelines, see pages 7 and 9.)