FOR STARTERS, how about meetings themselves? Benchmark Hospitality, the Woodlands, Texas — based company that manages conference centers and resorts, says that meeting bookings are up about 50 percent over last year across its 28 properties in the United States and Japan.
Here are the top 10 meeting trends identified by Benchmark and its properties:
Companies have rethought wireless Internet technology because of privacy concerns. Requests for wired Internet access for meetings are on the rise. However, wireless technology is in demand for individual guests.
Many Benchmark properties are seeing more than 50 percent of their new business for 2005 originate though the Internet.
Groups of more than 100 guests are on the rise. While large meetings might have been broken into smaller regional gatherings in the past few years, with the economy rebounding, companies are seeking to re-energize teams by bringing everyone together.
This is especially so in Silicon Valley, Calif., and the Dulles corridor outside Washington, D.C.
Vegetarian options and interactive cooking choices are growing in popularity and demand as well.
Although the national news might suggest otherwise, security is not a huge concern for many of the groups using Benchmark properties. The exception is government-related meetings and meetings in city centers.
Experiential learning is the new term used to differentiate between groups getting together for some diversionary fun and true teambuilding exercises. Culinary teambuilding programs are hot all over the country.
More corporate guests are seeking a little spa intervention.
Although some firms have increased spending for on-site receptions, special events, and awards dinners, overall, purse strings remain taut.
E-mail blasts and direct e-sales to proprietary customer and prospects lists have become an extremely effective and cost-efficient means of building business.