The quarterly Meetings Outlook from Meeting Professionals International is a regular snapshot of industry sentiment, challenges, and forecasts for the near future of events. In the just-released Summer 2016 edition, respondents are focused on issues driving up costs, including the seller’s market, food prices, and attendees’ dietary needs.

Interestingly, two strategies emerged for the seller’s market challenge. One planner interviewed said she helps her clients’ negotiating leverage by advising them to book way ahead—as in, booking multi-year deals with the same property.

On the other hand, waiting until the last minute can work too, especially if a planner scouts out more than one property with availability and gets them competing with each other. (Of course, it’s availability that’s the challenge these days.)

Other suggestions for seller’s market success are streamlining concessions to no more than a handful of your most pressing needs and ensuring your rooms-to-space ratio is attractive to the hotel you’re trying to book.

Is Your Meeting the Right Fit?
The Outlook report also points out that the seller’s market has made hotels choosier. Bill Voegeli, president of Association Insights, the firm that conducts MPI’s quarterly survey, says hotels are “becoming more sophisticated in their target market definition, and doing a better job of tracking their target market customers.” If that’s not you, you’ll be looking elsewhere.

Still, Voegeli sees the trend as ultimately positive for both sides. “It bodes very well for the industry long term, because the hotels and venues are taking time to better define and understand whom they want to work with and better understand whom they serve best.”

Continued Attendance Strength
Although the number of respondents projecting an increase in live meeting attendance is down 12 percent from a year ago and the percentage of respondents expected a decrease in attendance nearly doubled, there’s still a small uptick in attendance expected overall. In the most recent survey, exactly half of respondents see increases on the way, while 34 percent expect flat attendance numbers, and 16 percent project a decrease (nine percent projected decreases in last summer’s outlook).

Meanwhile the responses regarding virtual attendance are similar to the results from one year ago: 55 percent expect virtual attendance to increase (57 percent in 2015), 42 percent expect it to remain the same (39 percent in 2015), and 3 percent expect a decrease (4 percent in 2015).

And nearly two-thirds of respondents predict favorable business conditions in the year ahead. Read the full report at the MPI website.