Privacy is the leading technology requirement of meeting planners. But what are the sector’s top trends for the year ahead?

Global hospitality company, Benchmark, has announced the ‘Top Meeting Trends for 2019’ as observed by its diverse portfolio of properties. The US-based management company, operates 80 hotels, resorts, and conference centres within its Benchmark Resorts & Hotels, Gemstone Collection and etc. venues brands in locations coast to coast, off shore, and internationally.

“We learn a lot from our guests, often by observation in addition to their direct feedback,” explains its  chief sales and marketing officer, Ted Davis, on the publication of the insight. “The speed of life and business is laser fast today, communication devices intrude constantly, and lifestyles have adjusted accordingly. This includes when in meeting environments.”

We list Benchmark’s ten trends with commentary from the hospitality specialist, below:

Trend 1 – Privacy is the #1 technology requirement of planners today
“Yes, super-fast and reliable WiFi throughout a property is a must and every planner hammers hard at this in contract discussions as it can make or break a productive meeting. But it must be secure WiFi! Privacy and security of information for conference guests is paramount to planners. Not just the content.”

Trend 2 – Food for the soul
“Food brings people together, whether they know each other already or are just getting acquainted. It’s about engaging and savouring the moment… What they want in 2019 is food that is fresh and locally sourced, in-season when flavour is most robust, presented in small bites, and enjoyed interactively-family style.”

Trend 3 – Don’t Facebook me. Don’t Tweet me!
“It’s not that professional meetings planners aren’t sociable. They are. It’s just that email by far continues to be the most preferred method of communication-it’s their preferred choice! What’s new, though, is that they don’t want to be contacted for business by social media, period!”

Trend 4 – Preference for Independents
“Flexibility, customisation, authentic and unscripted experiences all rank high in the minds of planners today, as does the feeling that independent properties excel in providing these for groups needing to create memorable and highly productive meetings.”

Trend 5 – What millennials want from meeting venues
“State of the art technology, multiple plug-ins and USB ports for their myriad of devises in the meeting room, public spaces and in their guest room, entertaining and fun activities on property and outside, non-traditional seating and meeting arrangements to enhance engagement in meetings during the day – this is what millennials are demanding today.”

Trend 6 – Curated travel
“Curated travel for groups (and their spouses/partners) on or off property is of very high importance. Even corporate executive leadership is weighing in with a growing desire for a trained and diverse workforce, and at the same time their younger work force is valuing unique experiences.”

Trend 7 – Millennials team build differently
“Bringing groups together interactively and family-style as a culinary team is red hot. But planners are also looking for entertainment to be included in teambuilding so learning is not only instructive and flavourful but great fun to enhance learning.”

Trend 8 – Cocktails, s’mores and barges
“Believe it or not, the most popular after-hours meetings group scene is gathering around an outdoor fire pit on property, kicking back and relaxing with colleagues over cocktails and s’mores.”

Trend 9 – Speedy response and pay commissions promptly
“Lightning fast response to RFPs is essential to winning business with planners today. A request that comes in in the morning better be responded to by early afternoon or the venue may lose that business opportunity to a competitor… Respond swiftly and generously and win.”

Trend 10 – Work/Life balance
“Wellness is huge with professional meeting planners today. Diet and healthy menu planning remain an active focus in negotiations. But wellness today is so much more than a proper diet – it’s about work/life balance.”