PCC President & CEO John McNichol offers insights for 2019
In 2019, I believe the meetings and convention industry will see an increased focus on evaluating and utilizing data in a way that allows venues and meeting planners to create a highly personalized attendee experience. This trend plays to one of our strengths at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. We have a strong ability to customize meetings and conventions given the broad range of flexible event and meeting space at our facility. The convention services team for the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau which works with our PCC team is adept at curating the environment clients want to create for their customers, both from a visual and experiential perspective.
At the Pennsylvania Convention Center, we work closely with our facility manager SMG to gain insight from our customers in advance of their events. That includes gaining a strong understanding of the demographics of a customer’s attendees, the pace and schedule of events, and what the meeting planner, attendees, and exhibitors are looking to achieve. The information we receive from our customers during the planning stage helps our team to guide meeting planners through the process with advice, innovative service options, and, hopefully, a keener sense of intuition to stay ahead of customer expectations. After a meeting concludes, we like to conduct follow up surveys and discussions with meeting planners to understand what worked best for them, as well as identify opportunities for improvement or future innovations that we can implement that will benefit new customers.
We recently worked with students from Temple University in reviewing market and social trends that affect our Center. One of the key takeaways, at least from my perspective, is that millennials are moving deeper into the role of meeting professionals. Priorities of those millennial meeting planners include the features of meeting facilities, staff friendliness, the quality and diversity of food and beverage options, and of course, profitability.
We also see a trend toward using more visual social media, such as pictures of farm to table menus and other amenities as ways to open communication and to convey information. We are seeing more creative design at convention centers and other meeting facilities. Standard room sets (like classroom style seating) are less appealing to attendees. There is an increased interest in utilizing break-out areas for patrons to socialize, conduct business, and network.
In addition, social media is driving organic interactions outside of traditional program constraints. Spontaneous subject “meet-ups” are gaining popularity, especially among millennials. Owning this digital space is becoming more of a priority for meeting planners. Venues need to recognize this trend and work with meeting planners to help facilitate and accommodate this new approach.