The annual conversation with our editorial advisory board, made up of industry pros from around the state, is always candid and thoughtful and provides a look at what is happening in the trenches. Discussion pingponged back and forth between protecting creative capital placed in proposals and finding employees willing to work the hours necessary. The group concluded that corporate, social, food and beverage, and technology gatherings are happening in force while the oil and gas sector is scaling back. 

Year in Review

“It’s busy, the first quarter was sold out. We are off to a great start.” —Jillian Livingston, Eclectic Hive

“Thursday through Sunday have been the focus nights of many events. We are seeing more on off days, even a Monday morning wedding.” —Patty Moser, Blue Eyes Consulting

“We are training executives to book ahead to get dates they want.” —Amy Drotar, Polycom, Inc.

“We are training clients that the days of getting whenever you want are gone. We are having a major event on a Wednesday night because that is what was available.” —Anne O’Neill, OES Management

“There are a lot of Sunday night checkins, hotels are incentivizing.” —Tracey Rath, ConferenceDirect

“Room nights on the books are up 4 percent globally. This is being led by group bookings versus business and leisure.” —Barb Taylor Carpender, Taylored Alliances

“Speakers bureaus are having record years; the market is good for speakers.” —Scott Friedman, Scott Friedman & Associates

Experience Factor

“Attendees want an experience, especially if they are flying across the world. You have to show how something is going to give value, and experience is key to that.” —Amy Drotar

“We are seeing big budgets, various levels of how to engage the audience and desire to give them something they have never seen before. People are eating up any idea that is unique and interactive.” —Patty Moser

“It’s all about the experience—incorporating yoga, mountain biking and more—to get attendees out of the meeting room. Having happy hour out by a fire pit and incorporating why we live or meet in Colorado. Fifteen years ago that was unheard of.” —Deb Brannon, Altitude Events

“It is an ongoing trend of not separating the experience of a social activity from the learning. It is a chance to reflect while the learning is taking place and not just content, content, content. Millennials want something they can’t access on a device sitting at home. They want interaction and technology at events.” —Dean Savoca, Savoca Performance Group

“We are seeing start-up companies— where employees don’t work all together in an office—spend more on events to bond. On the incentive side, European clients are excited to camp in the mountains in tipis versus staying in five-star hotels. They are excited about rustic and unique.” —Deana Mitchell, Realize Planning

Incentive Trips

“Our incentive budgets have gone down a lot, but the bonding experience is what is important, not the high-priced wines, and the trip may be to Hawaii and not South Africa.” —Amy Drotar

“Companies will spend the money, but we have to explain it a lot more.” —Deana Mitchell

“For a client with global locations, we pick destinations based on where offices are located. Budgets are not bigger, but we’ve gotten creative with how we spend. There is more team-building, and we function around whatever culture we are in. People go away understanding the office there better.” —Tracey Rath

“Twelve years ago, the world was our oyster for incentive trips. Now it’s about giving back, helping an orphanage, bringing supplies, etc.” —Deb Brannon

“We schedule CSR activities during our incentive trips such as getting down and dirty building a library or school. These are always highly rated, and employees find themselves on a level playing field with the president, VPs, etc. Different people take on leadership roles. Attendees don’t want it totally planned for them, they want a say in it like buying the books and signing the front of the books. Ask the GM of a hotel to ask staff if they have local CSR ideas.” —Amy Drotar

Staffing

“People don’t want to work the hours needed. The younger generation wants to pick their hours and shifts and if they want to work or not. It is a constant battle to find people to work a private event.” —Wendy Klein, Rialto Café/Concept Restaurants Inc.

“Millennials are much better time managers than I have been in my life. I am used to working 80 to 100 hours a week. Younger employees meet their deadlines, but if I ask them to work a day not on their schedule and it isn’t far enough in advance, they won’t do it.” —Deana Mitchell

“Work is almost an experience for them, it’s not just the money. People want something to own and run with.” —Amy Drotar

“I asked my staff what motivated them and it’s not money but a sense of purpose, contributing and the setting. They want to connect with others in the company. Money is a perk, but it doesn’t keep them with the company.” —Jillian Livingston

“In Colorado, we work to live not live to work.” —Dean Savoca

“People want to be part of something bigger, have autonomy and be there to help if needed.” —Claire Repass, Inspirato

Trends

“Groups are having multiple events such as an all-day meeting, preview of a movie and a cocktail hour. Meetings also are becoming interactive; during breaks they are looking at exhibits to have interaction and shared experiences. I’ve always been a big believer in that. Nostalgia, anything that takes you back is big.” —Danny Findley, DSC

“If you have something related to Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware, mark your prices up! Anything nostalgic and retro is popular.” —Patty Moser

“The biggest trend in photography is cell phones. Lots more people have access to devices and are taking photos. For corporate photography, clients are less interested in quality but instead want it fast with shared social media. The bar has been lowered regarding expectations for an acceptable photograph.” —Kevin Becker, Allée Photography

“Meeting planners are looking for pre-videos, and the quality doesn’t have to be as good. The expectation is lower.” —Dean Savoca

“Trends are becoming our biggest enemy. Something is hot for six months and in a blink of an eye it shifts. Corporate clients are sending us their Pinterest boards now. It sets an unrealistic expectation for what they want. It is good to get their aesthetic and their vision, and our job is to figure out what speaks to them.” —Jillian Livingston

“On the corporate side over the past few years, people are more open to mixing styles and themes. Five years ago, my stakeholders wouldn’t have considered repurposed wood, shiny, etc.” —Angela Coleman, KPMG LLP

“The primary reason I was hired by Inspirato was to move from planning events because you should to having an analytical and ROI side to events.” —Claire Repass 

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