There's been a lot of talk in the media lately about the meetings industry. Critics say that executives are mis-spending money, and Senator John Kerry has even proposed an all-out ban on meetings for companies who received bailout funds. But these opponents are being myopic in their stance. All the media attention has certainly made an impact; Smart Meetings reports that just over half of meeting planners' decisions have been influenced by the backlash, and 21% have cancelled meetings because of all the negative attention. In a Smart Meetings article discussing this new trend, "Strategic Meetings Management Program: A Solution in Challenging Economic Times," the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association in D.C., Roger Dow, said "Portraying all meetings as junkets or worse is crushing the industry."
Meetings and events generate about $1 billion in spending each year, and 15% of travelers are making the trip because of meetings. The long-term effects of this negativity towards meetings could include hotels and venues closing, resulting in even more unemployed people. This has sparked the meetings and hotel industry to fight back against the criticism, including efforts like Keep America Meeting, which is an online petition citing the importance of meetings and their value.
Meetings continue to be a very valuable tool for companies. There are many legitimate reasons to host a meeting: product development and launches, trade shows, sales and professional conferences, training and staff development, and more. With the advent of technology like web conferencing and online meetings, some people are reluctant to invest in a "live" meeting. But face-to-face contact is becoming more and more rare, and nothing can take its place when you're meeting with investors and clients. It shows a personal touch that is disappearing in our time, and that personal touch could be the difference between a new business relationship -- or another dead end.
Let's all remember not to get caught up in the media hype over meetings. It's a legitimate industry that keeps people employed and generates revenue, something our nation cannot afford to tamper with at the moment. I urge you to sign the Keep America Meeting petition and voice your opinions.