Hot off the completion of the data gathering phase of the MPI Foundation's Canadian Economic Impact Study, one thing I can unequivocally say about Canadian meeting and event professionals, both planners and suppliers, is that they seem to be suffering from time starvation and overwork.
Based on my own experience I had a hunch time was becoming a scarcer resource, but talking to hundreds of meeting planners and meeting venue managers confirmed it. This has been in the making for some time, and it is seriously affecting how we market and sell everything, from events to hotels.
Let's first examine why this may be:
We're Creating More Information
Google CEO Eric Schmidt was reported as saying that, "Between the birth of the world and 2003, there were five exabytes of information created. We [now] create five exabytes every two days. See why it's so painful to operate in information markets?" I'm not sure how much information even one exabyte represents, but from the company whose mission it is to catalogue ALL of the world's information, I take it it's a LOT.
To give but a small indication: the World Wide Web circa 1993 had 130 websites; in 2012, whoishostingthis.com reported there were 634 million websites. And according to Bowker, a leading American bibliographic firm, the number of books published also is growing, thanks to the explosive growth of self-publishing.
Whether it's online or in print, humankind is producing more information than ever, and there is no sign this will slow down any time soon.
We're Accessing That Information Through More Channels
In a presentation at BizBash Elevate New York in July 2013, social media expert and professional speaker Gary Vaynerchuk asked event professionals attending his session how many of them watched TV with their smartphone nearby so they could answer emails or texts. About 3/4 of the room's hands went up. Then he asked how many watched TV with their phone AND a tablet or laptop; almost 1/2 the hands were raised!
At first I thought these people were "over the top", but then my own daughter pointed out that this is exactly what I did when we were catching our favourite reality show together: I was watching, tweeting about the show, all while trying to finish work...
And I'm not the only one becoming more like my teenager. According to techcrunch.com, "the number of mobile-connected devices [exceeded] the number of people on earth by the end of 2012. By 2016, there will be 1.4 mobile devices per capita." Not only is there more information, but now we're accessing it from multiple sources and multiple devices.
We Have More Consumption Choices
With the internet smaller companies and retailers can compete with the giants. And the giants have expanded their buying options to the online world too. All this translates into more choice.
Most consumers welcome having more options on what and how they buy. But there is a dark side to this added flexibility. Adrian C. Ott, author of The 24-Hour Customer, explains, "[In the U.S.] time use studies have shown that the amount of time spent purchasing goods and services has remained relatively constant since the 1960s. Viewed together the increase in the number available products, coupled with a relatively static time spent buying, presents a considerable challenge for executives. Ultimately, more and more goods and services are attempting to push through a small window of time."
...And So We Have the Paradox of Choice
In his 2004 book The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, American psychologist Barry Schwartz actually argued that too much choice actually creates anxiety for most people. And what happens when we're anxious and we lack time? We shut things out.
Adrian Ott asserts, "Businesses are stuck trying to get through to consumers that are actively avoiding them, or to consumers who are so over-saturated with marketing messages in media that they can't hear or see even the content that would interest."
So what are marketers to do when confronted with the mounting hurdles to getting buyers’ attention? How should meetings industry suppliers – hotels, DMOs, AV companies, DMCs, etc. – strive to engage meeting professionals in new business relationships?
We'll be exploring this very question over the next month in this blog. Join the conversation by posting a question or comment!