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MeetingPackage.com Podcast: the Evolution of the Meeting Industry

Welcome to our first MeetingPackage.com podcast of the year. In this episode, we will talk with Lenita Pihl-Salminen, Director Meeting Sales at Scandic Hotels, giving us some insights into the meeting industry, and the upcoming trends.

On the menu for this episode, we will talk about:

  • Influence of digital solutions
  • New expectations of attendees
  • Importance of meeting packages
  • New meeting opportunities at Scandic

 

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The evolution of the meeting industry

The meeting industry is constantly changing and adapting to the new needs of meeting bookers and meeting attendees. Nowadays, corporate clients appreciate more and more already on-site, good technical features and easily reachable locations. 

Furthermore, the demand from international organizations to organise meetings in Helsinki is increasing, bringing more delegates from Europe, Scandinavian countries, the USA as well as Asia. Helsinki, Lapland and other Nordic countries are an interesting destination for international meeting organisers due to the easy access, the modern public transportation network and due to their exotic appeal. 

Meeting organisers simply want to experience something new, and Helsinki and Lapland seem to tick all the boxes!

 

According to Lenita, these are the five key points that meeting attendees value the most:

  • Everything regarding the meeting needs to be very secure (before, during and after the event)
  • The opportunity to arrange everything in one single place
  • At the venue, the feeling of being taken care of is essential
  • To get to energy and inspiration from the meetings and events team
  • the level of engagement during an event: find the right environment to build a network

Creating an unforgettable event for the attendees, and having a real impact are the key goals for meeting venues.

 

The influence of digitalisation in the meeting industry

Nowadays, more and more digital tools are set in place to reach out to the delegates and allow venues to take care of the delegates before, during and after the event. The digitalisation will facilitate the meeting process for meeting bookers and attendees alike. For meeting bookers, the digitalisation will give them the chance to start engaging with attendees already before the event: start collecting data, views and opinions and share content. For meeting attendees, this will bring down the level of stress since they will already have the necessary information.

Another example on how digital tools are affecting the industry, meeting organisers can suggest using certain hashtags and interact in different ways, using several social media platforms during meetings since most attendees use mobile devices (smartphones, tablets and laptops) during the meetings.

Regarding the way technology affects the way people book their meetings, it is shown that 70 % of people who are looking at meeting venues online are ready to book their meeting. This number suggests that web pages need to give clients THAT first good impression, allowing visitors to get a clear overview of the venue and meeting opportunities, get virtual tours and allow them to plan their event. Technologies are becoming an important part of the operations, but the personal contact remains number one.

Other important factors to take into consideration are the ability to book meetings online and offer on-line chat functions.

 

Upcoming trends

According to recent surveys, even though we spend over 30 % of our working time in meetings, 97 % of managers think that the meeting culture is crucial to a company’s success. The meeting culture is being more and more discussed, how to make it more cost-effective and how to implement digital solutions in order to hold effective meetings. 

According to MeetingPacakge.com as well as Scandic, people are looking more and more for unique venues such as restaurants, villas or other unique venues. This change in customer behaviour has already been present for quite some time and shows that meeting attendees want to choose meeting venues they will remember, and find impactful venues. At the end of the day, meeting attendees want to go home with an unforgettable experience. For venues, it is crucial to adapt to the company’s unique feelings to offer the best possible service.

To get this unforgettable “wow factor”, meeting organisers choose first a hotel for their meeting, representing the brand value of the company, and then look at the unique experience opportunities venues offer.

 

The importance of Meeting Packages

Meeting packages have always been in vogue and are cost effective. When asking the question: “How have they involved?”, meeting bookers are looking more and more for tailored made packages for every single event. Meeting venues need to be more flexible than ever if they want to be a real game changer. 

During the years, there have also been noticeable changes for meeting packages: the food culture has changed over the years. Meeting venues offer nowadays larger catering options including healthy lunches, different styles of service, and cater for various dietary restrictions.

These days, the meeting also continues over food. Attendees want to network once they leave the meeting room. Serving food in a different way, closer to the meeting room or inside the room will make networking more effective. To follow these trends, the Meetings and Sales team at Scandic offers different packages to provide a tailored solution that fits the customer’s needs.

Scandic Tampere.jpg
Illustration thanks to Scandic Hotels

Meetings and Events at Scandic

To be ahead of the game, Scandic launched their new meeting concept last year: training of 5000 meeting advisors in the art of creating effective meetings in the Nordic countries.

This new concept is all about seeing the customer, to add extra value beyond the location and meeting venue itself. Scandic is also looking to offer a more tailored and structured service for an even smoother outcome of their events. Not only the hotel will provide a more tailored service, but also more technical and networking solutions will be available.

Restel acquisition

Since Scandic announced the acquisition of Restel's hotel operations last June, the number of hotels within the Scandic family rose from 28 hotels to 70 hotels in Finland, offering 31 different destinations. This acquisition will give the opportunity to provide a broader meeting portfolio and expand Scandic’s offering for Finland thanks to the ongoing rebranding process.

The acquisition will make Scandic the leading hotel company in Finland.

When talking about meeting opportunities, there is an increase of 310 meeting rooms, providing a total of 25000sqm of meeting space to be added on top of the already existing meeting space. Among the newcomers, the Helsinki Avia Congress, located close to Vantaa Airport, will offer the largest meeting space, accommodating up to 650 delegates at once.

 

The Future of Meetings

How will meetings look like in about 20 years? According to Lenita, we will still have meetings; people will still need to meet in person and venues will provide even better technical features and digital solutions for their clients.

Also, virtual reality will be more and more part of events and will be more sophisticated, enabling further interaction with delegates. It will also be easier to attend virtual meetings, share content and links with attendees.

In addition to virtual reality, meeting applications will be an essential tool for successful meetings: attendees will share content, images, games and live polls, etc. Meeting organisers will use social media and data analytics to measure the customer behaviour before, during and after the event to be able to offer the best and a better personalised service for every event. Meetings are getting more and more online.

 

Storytelling time

Finally, we asked Lenita, which was one of the most memorable events in her career.

Well, after pondering for a few seconds, she said that all the meetings have their unique requirements, and Scandic has learned to adapt quickly to every type of event. On a personal level, working with large international meeting bookers who have been all over the world and who then decide to choose Helsinki as a meeting destination has been very interesting.

She particularly remembered one event: back in 2003, a large international congress was supposed to be held in Panama City, Panama, but because of the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic, meeting organisers wanted to change location and opted for Helsinki. Even with a significant amount of stress and a very short lead time left, with three months between the first contact point to the event itself, the outcome of the event was a real success thanks to a professional team and close cooperation between all the hotels and organisers involved. 

 

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