BY LES SELBY, CMP CMM
I am sure you have heard of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition started by the US Travel Association in 2009 to help educate both the public and American legislators about the real economic value of meetings and events. The campaign is supported by MPI (Meetings Professionals International), PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association), SITE Global and almost 20 other associations and travel bureaus.
If you visit the campaign’s website (http://www.meetingsmeanbusiness.com/), there are a number of excellent resources available to any visitor who wants statistical information related to the economic impact of meetings.
The concept that our industry has to do more to promote the value of face-to-face events to the public is not a new one.
Over 10 years ago I was a member of the MPI Toronto Chapter planning committee for Meetings Industry Day where we partnered with the Toronto Board of Trade to present a program that was all about how meetings create business. In addition to identifying over 200 occupations in Toronto that were favourably impacted by meetings, we had speakers from several organizations including the Greater Toronto Airport Authority and Tourism Toronto who addressed how the region’s infrastructure investment was often tied to the influx of visitors who came to attend events.
Internationally, MPI has recently launched their Meetings Move Us Forward™ initiative to show how face-to-face events inspire collaboration and encourage relationships that can transform the world. MPI has developed print pieces and on-line banners as well as several articles that can be used to help our industry show the true value of events.
There are a number of great technologies that are being used to help encourage the sharing of information and can be used in place of some face-to-face events – especially when costs and travel time make in-person gatherings impractical.
Like many of you, I have participated in on-line training and virtual tradeshows. These are good ways to share some information, but I don’t believe that any technology can be used to build relationships the way face-to-face meetings do.
Ultimately, each of us in this industry needs to be an advocate for meetings, tradeshows, and incentive travel programs. We can’t simply expect people to prefer meetings – we need to be able to explain how the investment a company or individual makes in an event that brings people together will generate returns that far exceed those that could be gained by investing a similar amount in an on-line technical solution.
I know that we live in a “connected” age and none of us could do business without technology, but the power of personal relationships created when people met face-to-face allows companies to better empower their employees, build customer loyalty, and sell more product and services.
Let’s make sure people outside the meetings and incentive industry know the economic power of meetings too.
Les Selby is vice-president, Client Services with Event Spectrum Inc. He has been a corporate, independent and third-party event professional for over 20 years. Les has earned both his Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation and his Global Certification in Meeting Management (CMM). Inducted into Meeting & Incentive Travel Magazine’s Industry Hall of Fame in 2009, he is an active member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI). He served on the Toronto chapter’s Board of Directors for seven years and was the 2000-2001 chapter president. In 1997, Les was recognized as Planner of the Year by the MPI Toronto chapter, and he received that chapter’s President Award for 2009. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.