Speaker 1 00:00:04 Hi, and welcome to this episode of your window seat, where we at travel, Inc. Discuss the topics that you care about most in the ever-changing business travel industry, your host for today's topic trends and technology of meeting and incentive travel companies across the globe are hearing from their employees with a need to get back to some semblance of in-person gathering. They're expressing a lack of motivation and enthusiasm of not having that in-person experience, whether it be a conference sales meeting, or even training sessions as leaving the meeting with an emotional sense of inspiration, just doesn't always transfer through a video or hybrid environment for today's discussion. We are bringing the experts together to discuss the latest trends specifically in meeting and incentive, travel and learning more about new technology available that is bridging the gap of in-person hybrid and virtual meetings diving in with us today. Our travel Inc Marianne Hewitt, resident expert, and director of <inaudible> in-house group travel partners division and Alyssa, the gas Cobian chief executive officer of group eyes.
Speaker 2 00:01:06 And I'm pleased to be
Speaker 3 00:01:07 Here. Thank you, Joe. And I'm very excited to be here.
Speaker 1 00:01:11 Well, let's get started with setting the stage on the trends and how the mindset of meeting coordinators is evolving. Marianne. I know that you talked to event coordinators and meeting planners all the time. I mean, you're on the front lines. When you talk to them, are you seeing that there's a trend with the corporations and our clients that they want to encourage their people to return to in-person meetings and try and motivate the workforce, uh, as we kind of returned to a kind of a state of normalcy. Uh, and do you think that they're ready to really make an investment into getting back to normalcy?
Speaker 3 00:01:40 So I do actually, they're very excited. They want to get back to in-person meetings and incentive programs, not only to motivate the associates, but also for the customers to build the enthusiasm companies are not holding back with their budgets for these events that they're planning.
Speaker 1 00:01:57 That's excellent. Alyssa, as group eyes, as a technology company that offers a whole bunch of ways for companies to kind of adapt on the fly and evolve with the landscape as it changes. There are certain trends that maybe you've noticed from a technological standpoint. Are there things that have changed
Speaker 2 00:02:12 A lot has changed? It's very exciting times in the event technology industry, I see three categories in which the trends that are happening not only in north America, but globally are falling into the first is that travel managers are now inheriting the responsibility for their meeting programs. In many companies, it used to be two departments, siloed divisions without shared oversight. And now they're combining together and travel managers are in charge of many meetings programs. And this has been rumored for years. It's called the convergence of travel and meetings and it's actually happening. Another trend is system optimization for visibility. Some companies often use multiple solutions, maybe one for registration, one for venue sourcing, and yet another onsite, but companies are now demanding for a single source for their meetings programs. And the last one is the future of work. It's impacting every company. There's a new category of travelers that are returning to base, for example. So it's internal meetings, remote workforce. What that means is there's now more budget for these internal meetings to keep their employees happy, which I think goes into what Mary Ellen is saying about rewards and ROI.
Speaker 1 00:03:33 I know it travel incorporated. We have our folks come in from the distance and it's nice to have all of our teleworkers in one spot just to see an associate. It helps get you motivated and hyped for the next year moving forward. So I know that you mentioned the convergence, which I think is an excellent name for seeing everybody's roles come together. What responsibilities, I guess, are you seeing kind of go with that role?
Speaker 2 00:03:54 Absolutely. There are more and meeting planning has always been complex within a corporation. There's many more stakeholders that are following like security teams, obviously procurement teams, HR as well. So while there is no doubt that safety and security are now taking the primary role, which can include new categories, like consent to new policies, the requirement for contact tracing testing for vaccinations and making sure that everything is communicated to those attendees. Obviously picking safe venues, not only a physical venue in a destination, but also those destinations and things are changing every single day. Um, so the research and evaluation that used to be put into speakers and flowers on the table and what was going to be served at the buffet are absolutely now about very important human resources, safety, health, and contact tracing.
Speaker 3 00:04:51 And just to add to that, there's also ongoing changes with state and country requirements. There's things that you need to think about that you didn't have to before. There are certain countries when you travel that you must purchase insurance and examples, Costa Rica, and that's something you need to remember to add to your budget that you wouldn't necessarily have known or done in the past.
Speaker 1 00:05:13 That makes sense the world kind of being the way that it is. It's nice to know that you guys are kind of right on the forefront of keeping track of everything so that the program managers are also set up for success. I did recently read an interesting article that talked about purposeful meetings are either of you kind of seeing a, a shift in the way that clients plan their meetings so that there's tangible benefits beyond just motivation, maybe a more of a focus on a return of investment.
Speaker 3 00:05:40 Absolutely. It's not about a smaller budget, but the importance of motivation to the travelers and the clients finding a stronger demand to be in person. And we're here to help our clients simplify the process. I would agree a purposeful meeting is adequate for redefining. What a meeting is. One client said to us recently that their return on investment was 400% for an in-person meeting.
Speaker 2 00:06:06 I totally agree with you, Mary Ellen. There are times when meeting in person just has a much higher ROI. Um, there are many industries that rely on in-person meetings just to do their work such as healthcare, manufacturing, retail, et cetera. And when you're talking about these companies that are ready to bring their employees back to meeting in person, it's often because the employees are demanding it. And I love the term purposeful meetings. And I use it in my own terminology is it's a purposeful meeting. It is when meeting in person is just absolutely necessary. And this also has brought out a trend that there are types of events when you're bringing people together that weren't classified as a meeting in the past, but they have all of the same traits. So that's training, onboarding, recruiting, moving crews of travelers. So I like to think of it as every time you're moving a group of people. There's often purpose behind it. And many companies are seeing that now and encouraging it.
Speaker 1 00:07:08 Well, I'm not going to lie to you guys. I prefer in-person meetings, but I guess that's just because I like seeing people face-to-face and it's, I still always be able to talk and laugh with your coworkers and learn the same material. And it's, I find it more absorbing when you're in person, but I know that in the world that we live, things constantly change, and now there's all kinds of other options on the table. And one of those is definitely the hybrid meeting, which is, you know, that nice combination of in-person as well as virtual. What are you guys seeing as far as the technology and how venues and programs are responding to the switch to kind of a more hybrid format.
Speaker 2 00:07:45 This is a great topic. And there is a lot of hype about the utopia of a hybrid meeting, but amazingly there's not even an agreed upon definition in the industry of what a hybrid meeting is. The reality of hybrid meetings is that there are many challenges, and it's not as easy to pull off as just thinking, um, some are there in person and some are not. I also think there's a misconception in the industry that a hybrid meeting is going to be less expensive because you're not paying for the travel components for some of the attendees. I was surprised to see the evolution in pricing of hybrid meetings this year. And, um, it's much more expensive and it requires many more resources. I've heard a lot of companies that have just gone from virtual back to in-person because they cannot afford and do not have the resources to deliver a hybrid meeting.
Speaker 2 00:08:38 Don't get me wrong. I think they're great. And I think if you were properly prepared to pull it off, the ROI is off the charts, but some things you should think of is your meeting coordinator will definitely need to include a resource from your company's technology team to manage the needs of a hybrid meeting, no matter how tech savvy, we all think we are, there are just aspects that require integration and even control of letting us speaker in. And, um, that just the soft that a meeting planner was not prepared for in the past. There's also costs in addition to the technology, but related audio visual at the venue. And to be honest, most venues are not ready for a true hybrid environment, unless you're a convention, a conference center or meeting space like convene who have had this in place for years. Um, they're not prepared.
Speaker 1 00:09:31 Failure to prepare is a preparation for failure. Uh, so I'm guessing that that means that there's definitely an increase in like the budget or the spend. And I know that in the past that's always been a challenge. So I only imagine that that challenge has gotten even greater, especially when you have to pull in, like you said, the extra resources of technology, I'm guessing that there's other challenges that go along with that kind of trying to maintain a budget
Speaker 2 00:09:55 Budget is always a concern for every company. And, um, there are so many things that go into it. However, on kind of the positive angle of the budget, what we are seeing is that travel managers and procurement leaders have been able to uncover new pockets of budget out of different departments, whether it's HR or security because of the risk that is involved in planning a in-person meeting at this point in time more so in the last 18 months, there've been over 400 new, um, virtual and hybrid technology entrance into the market to support virtual meetings. And as they're a year old, maybe 18 months old, none of them have the mature processes for security and InfoSec requirements. So what we're seeing is that needs to be the first question asked is what are your security protocols and your data processing, and are you GDPR with your technology provider? And if you haven't been asking those questions, um, within your organization, I would encourage that you do because many companies have multiple systems siloed all throughout your company, and some of them could be risky. And I think that's a great place to start with a consolidation project
Speaker 1 00:11:16 That makes sense. Uh, you want to make sure that you have the right technology in place and it fits what you're trying to do. Mary Ellen, have you seen hybrid events kind of finding their way into the incentive travel space
Speaker 3 00:11:28 Or large skills incentive programs we have seen almost entirely the customers have decided to stay, uh, in-person 100%. We're not seeing a serious appetite once they've reviewed the options to have a hybrid environment. Um, I think the excitement of an incentive program needs to be an in person, and it's very difficult to do it either hybrid or virtual.
Speaker 2 00:11:53 So Mariel and I I'm completely agree with you with many companies deciding to be a hundred percent in person. Um, they're one of the areas which I didn't mention when we were talking about the risks of a hybrid or a virtual meeting is even, um, content. If you're going to be sharing content on a registration website, how is that password protected? And how was that private within your organization? There are some areas in which companies are used to sharing confidential information, like a product launch or a sales strategy. And they've typically done that. In-person not with, um, content that can be found by anyone. So info security extends not only beyond your tr your vendor, but also your internal practices. And one pitfall that we've seen so often is that companies are doing a virtual meeting or a hybrid meeting using their own tool like a zoom, but they don't know the licenses that are available. So maybe it's 50 people, but they invite 200 and 150 people can't even get in
Speaker 1 00:12:53 Hybrids do seem like they have kind of their own bag of worms to go with them. I know that I'm no expert in it, but I can just hear our security team in house talking to me right now about PPI and whether it's being secured over these, um, these systems that are in place for use during the meetings, which kind of brings us to our last area of focus, which is a purely virtual environment. So just that virtual video meeting, have you both kind of seen maybe a return to in-person versus virtual, or are you still seeing those virtual meetings getting planned for, you know, upcoming events like board meetings or training or anything that could be organized through a virtual setting? Uh, Mary Ellen
Speaker 3 00:13:35 Joel, I would say at this time, it's pretty well split down the middle. There certainly are companies that where their board and their executive meetings had, they still decided to stay in the virtual environment, but we are booking more and more retreats and board meetings, even international. For example, recently we did a program to Munich. What I have heard. It was a huge success. The attendees feel much more creative they're open-minded and involved when they're in person at the program versus virtual.
Speaker 1 00:14:09 So Alyssa, I know that technology is definitely evolving beyond that standard zoom. And I know that there's a lot of teams out there that are not yet ready for frequent in-person events. Are there some best practices or maybe your thoughts on what you would like to see continue with the fashion of this trend?
Speaker 2 00:14:25 Virtual is definitely here to stay and many companies were working virtually prior to this and many events always had a virtual component. It was often shown though, after an event and a live recording shared with the attendees that could not come. I think there's a category of events that virtual is really suited for. And those are the large events where you want to bring in 10, 20,000 people to see your content. Those are not frequent within a meeting or a corporation's day to day events. Um, so I think that's very interesting to distinguish what your outcome is. Is it really a marketing ROI or is it really for your internal team? We're also seeing some of our mutual clients, um, become more successful by moving events, like training into virtual meetings. And in that type of event, you know, zoom or GoTo webinar just doesn't have the complete functionality while it does the live streaming. It doesn't manage attendance content sessions. So we like to think of, um, companies needing a virtual hybrid in-person meeting technology to support their zoom or go to webinar.
Speaker 3 00:15:38 So as we kind of come to a close here, I know no one has a crystal ball and no one can predict the exact future. But, uh, is there anything that the two of you might suggest moving forward? Just things to have a focus on the event, coordinators have to be ready, um, to embrace, change, and approach each meeting with potential, for need, for flexibility. Things can always happen. You may have to change your dates. You may have to change your location. Some of the things that go on, especially when a program is, is traveling, you know, all of a sudden there's weather and we are here to help you through it at a moment's notice,
Speaker 2 00:16:15 Mary Ellen. I couldn't agree anymore about some of the things that you said there. One of those was real time information about where your travelers are. That would be another checklist that I would put in any technology that you're considering to, um, implement is ensure that it has real time information on your traveler status, because you're going to need to communicate with them. And I love that you said, be ready to embrace change. I think it's okay to be uncertain today and a year and a half ago. It wasn't. And so travel managers are proving their value and they're helping to mitigate unquantifiable risk and their role has been elevated. And so I would recommend finding allies within the company, whether it's security, HR, or executive team, as you work through protocols and decisions. I have had numerous conversations with travel managers that said in there, you know, a year and a half ago, it was hard to suggest or create change in an organization.
Speaker 2 00:17:19 But I think right now everybody is ready for change and wants to do things differently. And they understand why. So adoption for technology across the board has been helped with that. Um, the other day I was talking to somebody that said for 25 years, he's been trying to implement more policy and protocols into their meetings and events program, and he never got anywhere. And then the C-level came to him and said, you need to do it this week. So going back to my earlier trends, as you look at technology, start with how you're managing it, now, identify some new ways to optimize and avoid costs through single platforms and tech consolidation. And at group buys, we spend a lot of time just talking to companies and helping them guide them to find the most appropriate tool for their organization.
Speaker 1 00:18:10 Um, I know that I've already thrown in a couple outages out there, but a one of my other favorite ones is, you know, change is the only constant. So it's nice to know that in an ever-changing world, you guys are there to help out. You guys are a constant in Iraq. So, uh, trends in technology, there's certainly been a lot of change and changes, of course, a constant. So it means that there'll be more, uh, there's a strong desire from the workforce and the budgets from companies to support getting back to in-person meetings and incentive travel. Uh, I wanted to extend a special, thank you so much to our guests for today's episode, Marianne, Hewlett and Alyssa gasp Albion, uh, much like our travel coordinators. I couldn't have done it without you.
Speaker 3 00:18:48 Thank you, gentlemen. We appreciate you've given us the opportunity to
Speaker 2 00:18:52 Thanks, Joe. And thanks Mary Ellen, your insights were incredible. And for personally, for me, I love partnering with innovative travel management companies that are really looking out for their customer's best interests. And I see today's session as one more proof point of that
Speaker 1 00:19:09 From all of us here at travel, Inc. Thank you so much for joining us today to learn more about the trends in technology and the meetings and incentive space. If you'd like to learn more about us, visit us [email protected]
We appreciate your listening and as always, we appreciate your business.
Speaker 4 00:19:28 Thank you for joining us today on this episode of your window seat, to learn more about travel, Inc. You can find us on our [email protected]
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