Meetings Industry Crisis

2/13/2009 9:19:42 AM
By PSN Staff

Meetings Industry Crisis
Big companies are running scared from business meetings that involve travel to popular meeting destinations. The Events Industry seems to be hurt more by this trend than the economic downturn itself. The media has taken aim at federal bailout recipients in the financial services, banking and insurance industries and lambasted them for executive travel. Granted, some of these executives seem to be insensitive dolts. Scheduling luxury travel right now as an executive perk – even if a meeting is involved – is simply bad form. Unfortunately for those of us in the meetings business, this criticism of pointless junkets has transferred to plain ‘ol business meetings and incentive trips.

At the center of this controversy is a well-publicized series of Wells Fargo events in Las Vegas that have since been canceled. These were employee recognition events that like most incentive trips – include a fair amount of meeting time. Wells Fargo chose the Wynn Resort and Mandalay Bay as the locations. These are top of the line Vegas hotels, but in 2009 I bet you would pay less to stay at the Wynn than a Residence Inn in Kansas City. Wells Fargo has tried to defend its position by placing a full-page ad in the NY Times. [see image file] Everyone from Jon Stewart, The Daily Show to meeting industry advocates, lambasted this letter for missing the point. We do not need meetings to feed the “little people” that clean rooms and bus tables. We need meetings to do business.  In spite of Wells Fargo’s ineffective attempt to defend their need to meet, industry pundits from across the spectrum have taken stock and are responding:

Tom Brown is a commentator for Bank Stocks Today. His column made some great points in defense of corporations that meet effectively.

Bruce MacMillian, President and CEO of Meeting Professionals International blogged on the MPI website. 

My good friend Floyd Dillman, Event Engineering, Chicago has single-handedly informed thousands of contacts about this issue and provided some compelling calls to action via email:
“Is there an acceptable level of government and media meddling in our industry? Are we OK with all of our clients coming under the microscope for whatever decisions they might make to engage our services in pursuit of greater sales and productivity? And what about the loss of jobs in our industry every time the media chooses to lynch a client?"

Examples:
http://apnews.myway.com/article/20090203/D964CPCG1.html
http://abcnews.go.com/Business/Economy/wireStory?id=6796649

"We can no longer sit on the sidelines because this has not happened to us yet. A carefully coordinated industry response must be crafted to both defend those companies who choose to hold conferences and incentive events, and to support the large and diverse segments of the economy who depend on the business travel and meeting businesses for their livelihood."

The impact of these cancellations and others like it is a result of this media frenzy that has severely hurt a lot of people you know. It will reach all of us sooner than you think. I encourage you to blog, post, and otherwise defend our livelihoods from these uninformed attacks. You can start by signing this online petition: http://www.keepamericameeting.org/
I also look forward to hearing about your creative efforts to raise awareness with end-clients.

Tom Stimson CTS
The Stimson Group
tom@trstimson.com
Subscribe to Tom’s monthly business newsletter at:
http://www.trstimson.com/files/NewsLetter.html

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