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A more austere 'new normal' result of recession

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Mike Lyons is an events industry veteran who serves as exhibition director for the Americas Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition run by Reed Travel Exhibitions. He spoke to BtoB about the state of the industry. BtoB: How will the economy impact events over the next year? Mike Lyons: We are still coming out of this recession; it is not over. There is a great degree of optimism, but we are proceeding with caution. We are going to be on the upswing continuing out of the recession, but what has emerged out of the past four years has been a greater focus on return on investment, on value. We only have so much money in our budgets and can go to only so many events in a year. People have to make decisions on where to go. It's incumbent on everyone in the industry to look at the fact that we are living in a new normal and people are being more careful with their spending. People used to spend money on décor or fancy-gala awards. A lot of those things have been cut back. They're cutting back on meals. We're in a new normal environment and a lot of that is dictated by ROI. There are clearly a lot more negotiations going on. People are working to learn how to negotiate better hotel rates [and] food and beverage [rates]. If you can control the budget up front through better negotiation then you are getting a better return. You have to figure out how to have a good event with a reduced budget. BtoB: What will be the biggest trends for 2013? Lyons: Clearly we are all trying to design meetings better, and we have to make them as efficient as we can. We have to control costs and make [meetings] productive so everyone comes away with value—but the nature of meetings is not going to change. Some of the traditional destinations, the sun-and-fun destinations, are coming back. People are doing meetings on cruise ships, which are cost-effective. And social media will continue to infiltrate meetings. There are some technology tools that are being used. We are seeing more hybrid meetings: a combination of a live event plus streaming over the Internet. But the reason people come together in meetings and at trade shows is face-to-face interaction. Technology has been a huge asset for us—we haven't even scratched the surface—but years from now, people are still going to be traveling to meet each other.
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