Meetings Industry Insights February 2023

Empty Conference Room

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Molly Marsh Cropped Photo

Molly Marsh - AMR Management Services

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According to a recent statement from American Hotel & Lodging Association CEO Chip Rogers, 85 percent of their member properties are “somewhat or severely understaffed.” This certainly reflects the experience that the AMR Education and Events team has had in working with over 30 different hotels and event venues nationwide in the last six months. Hotels and venues are currently plagued with staffing shortages, supply chain interruptions, and inflation – which have also impacted cost and availability in food and beverage, audio visual, and transportation, all critical aspects of our events.

With every constraint comes an opportunity for creativity or innovation, and – since we anticipate these challenges continuing throughout 2023 – the partnership between AMR Management Services and our association clients is more important now than ever!  

What are we doing to adapt to these challenges?

  • Persistence in communication: With hotels and venues understaffed and turnover exceedingly high, there is often little to no consistency in the team that we’re working with at a particular venue. Details that were clearly communicated to one person at the hotel may not be communicated to the staff working with us on-site. We’re finding that each communication requires consistent follow-up and reminders to ensure that our event needs are taken care of.
  • Making no assumptions: Services that used to be industry standard – like refreshing a meeting room during a lunch break – are now only offered on request at many venues, due to reduced staff. From housekeeping to the hours for hotel dining and retail outlets, we’re checking those assumptions with our hotel partners and CVB contacts so that we can help our attendees prepare for the on-site experience.
  • Asking more (and better) questions: Costs continue to rise, even with service limitations, and so creative approaches are essential. Whether it’s digging in to determine if lunch-sized portions can be served at a reduced cost or changing up AV equipment to reduce the labor needed, we’re asking a lot more questions both of our volunteer leaders, and the vendors we work with so that we can find workable, cost-effective solutions.

What can associations do to ensure success?

  • Focus on (and budget for) what’s most important: Letting your goals guide decision making is the single-most important thing associations can do to be successful – now and always! If the goal of the event is to foster peer-to-peer learning for members, then a fancy gala dinner may not be necessary. In a recent survey released Knowland and Conference Direct, nearly 50% of planners are anticipating F&B prices to increase over 20% in 2023 (and the news isn’t much better for audio-visual, travel, and other expenses). All around, budgets are struggling to keep up. Focusing on the elements of the event that are most important to the association and your members will ensure the best possible experience at the most reasonable cost.
  • Be flexible: If a venue partner reaches out to say that a particular event set up or menu selection won’t work, be ready to flex and adapt. Be willing to entertain different ideas that may be outside the norm for the association, as they may create a better attendee experience than trying to do it the way it’s “always been done” without the right resources to support it.
  • Be clear and decisive: There are so many things that are out of the planning team’s control, that it’s super important to be clear and consistent on the things that you can control. Don’t assume that it’s possible to add a meal function a week before the event or to change a room set on-site. Even if it is possible, it’s likely to come at significant additional cost because the resources to support it are more costly and hard to come by.

If the constraints and challenges of the last three years have revealed anything, it’s the importance of our relationships and interpersonal connections. Coming together – in an attitude of true partnership – to tackle these constraints is the only way to succeed!

Molly Marsh Cropped Photo
Molly Marsh

Degrees and Credentials:
Certified Meeting Professional (CMP); Bachelor of Arts, Transylvania University

Association Management Professional Since:
2007

What inspires you about your work?
I have a passion for the world of professional associations and the essential support, resources and connections they provide for members. I am an adult learning and meeting design nerd –I am continually inspired by the chance to design face-to-face meetings and innovate content strategy with new techniques, technologies and ideas.

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