About 600 meeting planners took part in a Meetings Focus Trends survey that concentrated on what planners anticipated to be some of the forthcoming issues in 2014 and beyond. 

Below is a 40,000 foot view of the survey results and a few thoughts and ideas of ways to overcome some of these real-life event planning challenges.

Here are the questions and answers: 

What will be your biggest challenge when planning meetings in the coming year?  

41% said Increasing Costs

27% stated Lower Budget

15% replied Declining Attendance

There is no doubt that meetings are more expensive today due to rising hotel and food charges. With stagnant budgets and waning attendance, this can be the perfect storm to increase a planner's stress level. It is important to shop around for the best value, provide great content and garner more sponsorships for your meeting. 

How has the planning of your meetings changed in the past year?

30% said Increased Workload due to Reduced Staffing

24% stated No Change

24% replied More Complicated Contract Negotiations  

One way to reduce your workload is through the implementation of audiovisual rentals. Electronic registration can overtake manual reg. Audience Response rentals can replace paper surveys. Yes, there is a charge for this equipment, but with the right mix of sponsorships, attendee fees and stakeholder buy-in, you may actually save money! With regards to contract negotiations, strive for a win-win scenario. If you don't understand the contract, continue to ask questions until you have absolute clarity. 

What do you believe is the biggest threat to the meetings industry? 

52% said the Economy

12% stated the Perceived Value of Profession

11% replied Virtual Meetings

The good news is the economy is coming back and meetings are alive and well. With regards to the value of the profession, it is important when event planning that you have measurable goals, objectives and know why the meeting needs to take place. There are relevant reasons why virtual meetings make sense, so don't view them as a threat, but rather an opportunity to work harder at growing your face-to-face events. 

Of the following, what are your most important criteria for selecting a hotel? 

82% said Location

81% stated Rates

40% replied Free Wi-Fi

While I could not agree more that location and rates are very important to your meeting's success, free Wi-Fi can be problematic to most planners due to security and availability issues. Free Wi-Fi isn't really free; so it is best to explore all your event WiFi solutions in order to serve your attendees well. 

In the coming fiscal year, how do you expect your meetings and events budget to change? 

48% said Stay the Same

17% stated Decrease Up to 10%

14% replied Increase Up to 10% 

With most budgets staying the same or decreasing, analyze all your budget items very carefully to determine if they need to stay or go. Many budget items should be evaluated and negotiated year-to-year or meeting-to-meeting. Look at the total cost of the item, including expense, staff time, shipping, drayage and printing. 

For over 30 years, SmartSource Rentals has provided a unique range of rental products and services. Serving the trade show, professional conferences, and general technology markets, they are widely recognized for their breadth and depth of rental offerings and seamless systems integration.