Back in June 2009, a Business Barometer survey conducted by Meeting Professionals International revealed that one in four respondents believed business conditions at the time were worse than the previous year.

That may be when the industry hit bottom.

Results since then have grown slowly but steadily more positive. The MPI Business Barometer, sponsored by the MPI Foundation and American Express, was created in April 2008. Every two months, MPI surveys its Industry Advisory Panel, a select group of senior-level meeting professionals from among its 24,500 worldwide members, and asks a short series of questions related to the economy and their professional outlook.

In February 2010, 43 percent of respondents called current conditions more “favorable” as compared to the prior year, while 31 percent called current conditions more “negative” as compared to the prior year. These results marked the first time since June 2009 that the “favorable” responses surpassed the “negative” responses.

Now, the April 2010 results have pushed the favorable rating higher yet, with 58 percent of respondents seeing current conditions as better than one year ago and 25 percent seeing them as worse. Asked to look a “few months” ahead, 64 percent of respondents consider the outlook “favorable,” while only 17 percent consider the outlook “negative.”

The employment situation has steadily improved as well. In October 2009, 32 percent of respondents said their organizations were reducing full-time employees; that’s down to 22 percent in the April survey. There’s only a slight increase in organizations hiring full-time employees (14 percent now, up from 11 percent then); however, the new survey showed a significant increase in the hiring of contractors (33 percent, up from 23 percent in October 2009).

Corporate Meetings: Half Full or Half Empty?
Asked which client segment of their organizations’ meetings-related business had seen the greatest increase in activity as compared to one year ago, 41 percent said “domestic corporate.” At the same time, however, asked which client segment had seen the greatest decrease in activity compared to one year ago, another 41 percent also said “domestic corporate.”

An increase in domestic association meeting business was reported by 27 percent of respondents, international corporate meeting business by 11 percent, international association by 8 percent, and government by 6 percent.

After domestic corporate, the next greatest decrease was seen in international corporate meetings (22 percent of respondents), followed by domestic association (14 percent), international association (5 percent), and government (2 percent).

Other results:

  • Attendance—37 percent of respondents reported an increase in meeting attendance as compared to one year ago; 24 percent said it was flat, and 39 percent reported a decrease.
  • Spending—28 percent of respondents reported an increase in meeting spending, 26 percent said it was flat, and 46 percent reported a decrease.
  • Trends—the top trend identified by respondents as affecting the meeting industry during the next six months is shorter lead times.

In the April 2010 survey, 65 percent of respondents identified themselves meeting industry planners and 35 percent as suppliers.