The sound of no one talking: Firms canceling conventions and conferences

More companies are meeting virtually since the recession and it is affecting meeting planners, speakers and conference centers. Hardest hit are the two meccas for conferences; Orlando and Las Vegas.
  • Las Vegas has seen 402 conventions and meetings canceled from October to mid-March at a cost of $166 million to the local economy, the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority reports. That doesn't include lost gambling revenue.
  • Orlando has had 114 meetings scheduled for this year canceled as of late last month. The Orlando Convention & Visitors Bureau says the local economy will lose $26 million from the cancellations, with about 146,000 room nights at hotels lost.
Other cities, like Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco have also suffered downturns as companies look to webinars, tele-seminars and other technology networking to achieve the same results. Even organizations that are doing very well are canceling events as they don't want to look spendthrift while billions of dollars are going into bailouts and rescues.
I know first hand all about the slowdown. As a speaker, trainer, and consultant, I usually give 50-70 programs a year around the U.S. and Canada. So far this year, I have given about 10.

Everyone says the same thing, "due to budget constraints, we are not having speakers this year." While I have had some interest in webinars, people still are reluctant to spend the money.

Am I worried? Yes and no. I always panic a bit when money isn't coming in. But I know it will turn around and there will be some pent up demand. Companies who canceled this year and likely to have an event next year. Those that had webinars will realize the magic of in-person networking and re-evaluate for next year.

My phone and calendar seem to be reaffirming these beliefs. The phone is ringing, but for next year. I have many dates on hold but they are for 2010. We will just eat macaroni and cheese until then.

Barbara Bartlein is the People Pro. For her FREE E-mail newsletter, and to book her to speak at your event, please visit The People Pro.
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