With the economy in a tailspin, cancellations and cutbacks are a fact of life at the moment in the meetings and incentives industry. But the news isn't all bad, and not all segments of the meetings industry are affected equally. The MeetingsNet magazines (Corporate Meetings & Incentives, Association Meetings, Financial & Insurance Meetings, Medical Meetings, and Religious Conference Manager) reached out to readers late last fall in a variety of online polls to find out how they're reacting to the hard times. Here's a sampling of the results.

Cancellations

While many meetings and incentives simply scale back in hard times, this economic downturn is causing a wave of cancellations. Here are the percentages of respondents who report canceling one or more meetings or incentives due to economic conditions:

Meetings

Corporate planners 56%
Financial/insurance planners 65%
Association planners 9%*
Religious planners 14%*

Incentives

Corporate planners 16%*
Financial/insurance planners 24%
*specifically for 2009

Going Virtual Instead

Webinars, teleconferencing, and conference calls are getting renewed attention as the economy forces meeting cutbacks. Here are the percentage of respondents from four meetings industry niches that said they plan to replace canceled or postponed meetings with some form of e-meeting:

Corporate planners 42%
Medical planners 54%
Association planners 38%
Religious planners 31%

How Will Meetings Change?

Many planners report adjustments to their meeting plans, including shorter trips and smaller groups, to deal with cutbacks:

Percentage who plan to shorten the length of the meeting

Corporate planners 52%
Financial and insurance planners 28%
Association planners 6%
Religious planners 21%

Percentage who plan to reduce the number of attendees

Corporate planners 48%
Financial and insurance planners 28%

Percentage who plan to choose more affordable destinations

Corporate planners 65%
Association planners 34%
Religious planners 42%

Source: All data is from MeetingsNet magazines' online reader polls conducted in late October and early November 2008, except those for financial and insurance planners where we used answers to a poll taken on-site an the Financial and Insurance Conference Planners annual meeting in November.

For more on how corporations plan to spend their incentive dollars in 2009, check out our Incentive Trends Survey starting on page 20.

EIM Layoffs

Faced with the cancellation of a large 2009 travel-reward program for a West Coast automotive client, Excellence in Motivation laid off 34 of its 250 employees in November.

According to Bob Miller, EIM president and CEO, these are the first-ever layoffs for the 15-year-old Dayton, Ohio-based provider of incentive and performance improvement services. (EIM is a member of this magazine's “CMI 25” list of the most influential meeting and incentive companies in North America.) “We had a late cancellation and had to make some adjustments to our cost structure,” he says. “There is no positive spin on that. We hate doing it.” The layoffs affected travel management professionals and support staff.

But while travel-reward programs are off, the company is seeing growth in its marketing and technology services divisions and is hiring in those areas. “Unfortunately, it's a skill-set mismatch,” says Miller of the company's inability to redeploy laid-off employees into the new roles.