The online survey, conducted November 3-10, asked seven questions and allowed respondents to give specifics on how they plan to cut costs and attract more attendees.
This response is representative: “We are doing everything we can to make our meetings affordable and useful. If we offer what people want and need, we will attract attendees. If we are having meetings just because we have always had them, and do them in the ways we have always done them, we are not practicing good stewardship, or taking into account the economic impact these meetings have on attendees.”
Expectations for 2009 attendance are mixed. At one end of the spectrum, 13 percent of respondents believe attendance at their meetings will decrease by more than 10 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, 9 percent of the planners say they are expecting attendance to increase in 2009.
When compared to other sectors of the meetings market, religious planners are more optimistic.
In a similar survey conducted by, 72 percent of respondents expected attendance to decrease by 5 percent or more in 2009. Only 27 percent of those responding in the religious survey believe they are facing that level of attendance losses. Of the AM survey participants, only 13 percent expect no effects on 2009 attendance; 25 percent in the religious survey do not expect negative effects on attendance.
1. If you have held scheduled meetings since the financial crisis began in September, or if you plan to hold any before the end of 2008, what best describes your attendance compared to past performance?
|48.2%||Attendance the same|
|8.9%||Attendance down by 0-5 percent|
|7.1%||Attendance down by 6-10 percent|
|21.4%||Attendance down by more than 10 percent|
|8.9%||The economy caused my religious organization to cancel meeting(s).|
2. Do you believe that the recent economic crisis will negatively affect your 2009 meetings by any of the following?
|31.2%||Reducing attendance as much as 5 percent|
|15.6%||Reducing attendance 6-10 percent|
|13%||Reducing attendance more than 10 percent|
|20.8%||Causing my religious organization to shorten the meeting|
|14.3%||Causing my religious organization to cancel meeting(s)|
|24.7%||I don't anticipate any negative effects on my 2009 meetings.|
3. Do you believe that the recent economic crisis will positively affect your 2009 meetings by any of the following? (9 percent of survey participants answered this question):
|57.1%||Increasing attendance as much as 5 percent|
|14.3%||Increasing attendance by 6-10 percent|
|28.6%||Increasing attendance more than 10 percent|
Reason why you anticipate a positive effect:
- Increased number of churches participating in our program;
- The need exists for our meetings;
- More costly events will not be attended, and our events will be in the financial range of members; and/or
- Families may choose to attend a conference as opposed to an expensive vacation.
4. If you have experienced lower attendance than anticipated at meetings this fall, or if you anticipate a shortfall in 2009 because of the economic downturn, did/willpenalties come into play?
|5.5%||Yes, we will have to pay attrition penalties for our fall 2008 conference(s).|
|4.1%||We owed attrition for our fall 2008 meeting(s) but were able to negotiate it down or eliminate it.|
|34.2%||No, we did not experience an attrition penalty for fall 2008 meeting(s).|
|17.8%||Yes, we anticipate attrition issues for our 2009 meeting(s).|
|38.4%||No, we do not anticipate attrition issues for our 2009 meeting(s).|
|17.8%||Not applicable: No shortfall occurred/is anticipated.|
5. If you anticipate negative effects on your 2009 meetings, how do you plan to mitigate them?
|31.7%||Cut services and/or programs that we typically offer|
|27%||Negotiate lower F&B minimums|
|3.2%||Try to invokeclause to mitigate attendance shortfall|
|58.7%||Increase efforts to attract attendees|
6. Looking at your meetings overall, which of the following options are you considering to cut meeting costs?
|30.6%||Eliminate some small meetings|
|30.6%||Replace some live meetings with virtual meetings or conference calls|
|43.1%||Change to a more affordable destination/facility|
|19.4%||Do not plan to make any changes to cut costs|
Please explain the changes that you are considering.
- Negotiate a cheaper facility;
- Replace some small meetings with virtual meetings and conference calls;
- Piggyback small meetings with larger meetings in the same location;
- Keep registration costs the same;
- Provide fewer food-and-beverage functions, eliminating some previously included meals and other extras;
- Meet longer once a year versus meeting twice a year;
- Assess the total program and eliminate programming that is not attended by a minimal number of participants;
- Eliminate breakouts;
- Use more “in house” workshop leaders and/or speakers to help keep costs down;
- Use second- and third-tier cities only;
- Seek out more sponsors/donors;
- Use universities, colleges; and/or
- Cut down on bringing in out-of-town keynote speakers.
What Strategies Do You Plan to Use to Increase Attendance at Your 2009 Meeting(s)?
- Promote more aggressively;
- Offer group-volume discounts and honor districts with highest attendance;
- Communicate with organization members by electronic methods;
- Negotiate lower hotel rates;
- Use word-of-mouth /social networking: Ask people to invite friends attend;
- Increase advertisement and reduce cost of other line items in our budget and shift the savings to meeting costs;
- Decrease registration fees;
- Have more, smaller meetings closer to members;
- Survey attendees and identify their needs, rather than forcing them to fit into our program;
- Add a concert night;
- Go into areas where the organization meetings have not been recently;
- Use more regional events; and/or
- Select cities that are a direct flight for most of the members.