Most meetings are small meetings

small meeting 2328078954_a86f4d8f92_oMeetings industry publications seem to focus on “large” meetings. This is not surprising. Big meetings require big fancy venues, command big budgets, employ lots of meeting professionals, and can command high-price speakers and opulent spectacle. Though we don’t talk about it, being responsible for big meetings is implicitly higher-status than small meetings.

So I think it’s worth pointing out that, if you take a moment to check out hospitality data, it turns out that large meetings are the exception rather than the rule. For example, here are a couple of panelists at the August 2014 Hotel Data Conference quoted by Ed Watkins, Editor-At-Large of Hotel News Now, in this article:

“Faust [VP of Sales, Omni Hotels & Resorts] said the biggest change at Omni has been the growth of smaller meetings: 65% of the chain’s meeting business comes from groups that book 50 rooms or fewer at peak. At MGM Resorts, 80% of group business is 100 rooms or fewer at peak, and 62% is 50 rooms or fewer, Dominguez [Senior VP of Corporate Sales, MGM Resorts International] said.”

The Conferences That Work meeting format described in my 2009 book works well with meetings of up to a hundred people, (and I’ve shared ways to extend it to larger meetings in a free supplement, though you’ll need the book to fully understand the update.) But what hospitality data indicates is that for around 80% of the meetings held today, if you want a participant-driven and participation-rich conference, the book’s meeting design is all you’ll need.

Sure, we’ll always have large meetings for all kinds of reasons, and we’ll continue to enjoy the unique possibilities that big events can provide (despite some significant downsides). Just remember that the beautiful large meeting facilities prominently featured in meeting magazines may be what you and your clients lust after, but, most of the time, they aren’t what your clients actually need.

Photo attribution: Flickr user caribb

3 thoughts on “Most meetings are small meetings

  1. So true Adrian! And, of course, the obsession with “big” doesn’t apply only to meetings. The architecture projects that dominate the media are all “starchitect” led public edifices but most of us live in tiny spaces, by comparison. I suppose it’s the pareto principle once again. You’re doing a great job, however, at “reclaiming” the importance of smaller meetings both for their volume and frequency and for the additional creative scope they afford.

    1. Thanks Padraic. You’re right, “bigger” = “better” runs through our society (perhaps it’s a male thing?) And yet, for me, what is most delightful and ultimately has the most impact is the intimacy and directness of the small.

  2. Hi Adrian – couldn’t agree more! Big meetings and events play a huge role in the industry and are great aspirational benchmarks for many who work in events. However the importance – and prevalence – of small meetings and events are what really makes the industry tick. Eventbrite recognised this way back in 2006 when we built a platform specifically for helping longtail events sell tickets in the same way big events could (but without the expense). Fast forward to 2014 and while the industry and our platform continue to evolve, it’s still the longtail that powers us, and with $3bn in tickets sold, it’s clearly a winning strategy to not forget about the little guys!

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