Chance to bring in strategic policies
The recession is giving the meetings industry "huge opportunities" to implement strategic meetings management, Andrew Latta, head of corporate event at Aviva, said.
He said procurement was taking more interest than ever in meetings. "Doors are opening because of what is happening and we can now get in there and have that conversation with them," he said.
Mr Latta was to speaking today (June 26) to about 150 delegates at a meetings management forum in London organised by Grass Roots.
He told buyers, agents and suppliers that he did not want to return to the old ways of spending. He said a strategic meetings management programme was still his aspiration.
"There is huge uncertainty but there is also growing confidence. Things are starting to change. There are huge opportunities for the corporate events sector.
"There is a hug desire for us to be more effective," Mr Latta said.
He said there would be pressure after the recession to go back to where they were and spend money. But he said he wanted to drive the agenda towards strategic event management.
He said the recession was continually forcing him to define the role of meetings in his organisation with options like virtual meetings coming into play.
He said he wanted to see logistics of meetings outsourced and the strategy kept in house.
"The procurement teams are starting to flex their muscles more than ever before. It is important that they don't drive me but that I use them to drive my strategy," he said.
Alastair Stewarts managing director of etc.venues, said prices in the industry were as low as they had been in 25 years.
"There was now an element of "Desperation Discounting" in the industry which was causing a lot of issues within venues, agents and corporate. It is undermining creditability at all levels," he said.
While demand was strong in the public sector, it was declining in the private sector and some of the smaller agencies "might be squeezed out."
"But we are also seeing a drop in service standards as staff are cut back. At the same time customers are becoming more demanding are their power increases," Mr Stewart said.
Mr Stewart said that his company had seen a drop in business of 11% between last December and February but it has risen by 3% in the months form March to May.
A colleague at an events company told him that his business fell 30% in the December-February period and by a further 22% in March to May.
He said the industry had also seen a move away from any event that looked like a "jolly" while hotels had stopped market themselves as "luxury" venues. This was now easing, said Mr Stewart.
But he told delegates: "This is an industry that is capable of rebounding very fast when it needs to."