As companies continue to reevaluate upcoming recognition programs in light of public perception issues engendered by media coverage of these programs, we hear frequent media reports about canceled incentive conferences. But while companies are closely evaluating every aspect of their meetings spend, not all are canceling, according to a recent survey conducted by LIMRA International, a research and marketing association of life insurance and financial services companies with roughly 800 members worldwide.
The survey, conducted by e-mail in mid-December to a mix of publicly held and mutual companies in the U.S. and Canada, drew responses from 57 financial services and insurance companies that have producer recognition conferences. Fully 66 percent reported that they had not canceled or made significant changes to their 2009 conferences. Of those that made significant changes to their ’09 programs, only 11 percent canceled. Another 21 percent made changes—the most common were reducing overall budgets, reducing the number of home office attendees and/or guest attendees, and eliminating a planned activity.
Projections for 2010 are cautiously optimistic. Although 47 percent of respondents say that they have discussed changing or canceling recognition conferences, only five have actually canceled, with most considering various ways to “stretch every dollar we can,” according to one respondent. “It is not surprising that most of [the comments made about 2010 meetings] relate to budget constraints and being very watchful with every dollar being spent on conferences,” said the LIMRA report. “However, most companies will be holding a conference as they balance the need to reward the field for superior results in a very difficult sales environment against company demands to reduce or control operating expenses.”