This year has been plagued by a number of public issues that have questioned how meetings and events are planned.
As the year began, there was a fair amount of publicity around the drafted “sunshine rules,” implemented by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, that will require pharmaceutical and medical-device companies in the U.S. to disclose their transference of gifts and money (including trade-show and meeting expenses) to any physician.
Any company that unwittingly fails to provide the required information could face fines up to $10,000 per instance, and any violation done knowingly could cause penalties of up to $100,000 per instance.
Then in April, the U.S. General Services Administration lavish spending fiasco exploded in the media, causing the resignation of several officials and the cancellation of 35 future GSA conferences with a total of budget of almost $1-million.
The public outcry around the issue encouraged congress to launch an investigation of the “finder’s fee” that Location Solvers (the sourcing company that GSA planners used) received from M Resort and whether this meant that possible discounts were ignored by the GSA planners who managed the conference in question.
In the same month, the Canadian Minister of International Development, Bev Oda, publicly reimbursed the Canadian government the extra money that she spent when she bypassed the host hotel for a conference in London and stayed at the luxurious Savoy Hotel instead.
What do I see as the real impact and common theme in these issues?
First, regardless of the sector we work in or the business we manage, there is a need for all planners to provide solid advice about current industry practices and ethical issues.
Second, increased pressure to reduce expenditures will continue and planners must ensure all costs are reasonably justifiable.
Third, a demand by clients for transparency in all event business reconciliations (and probably more “open book” accounting for any third parties).
Fourth, all suppliers must recognize that they share in the responsibility of ensuring everyone in our industry is seen as open and ethical, and any secret deals endanger us all.
And finally, we need to be able to show (by requesting competitive bids and by intelligently questioning the quotes presented by suppliers) that there are legitimate costs to organizing and presenting events and business meetings and the desired results may require a substantial investment.
If all of us who work in meetings and events start acting like children who have been caught with a hand in the cookie jar, we will never be seen as the valuable professionals we are.