The Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMBC) is distinctly American in its origins—formed in 2009, during the recession, to advocate for the business-events industry in the face of perceived attacks by U.S. government officials. Eight years later, the recession is over and a new administration has moved into the White House, but MMBC is still going strong, and not just in the United States.
At a press conference at PCMA Convening Leaders 2017 in Austin last month, MMBC announced that it has developed a licensing agreement to allow other countries to create similar initiatives under its brand. Along with MMBC’s Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID) program, which debuted last year, the licensing agreement reﬂects the organization’s growing awareness that business-events professionals face the same challenges and opportunities all over the world. Convene talked to MMBC co-chair Richard Harper, executive vice president of HelmsBriscoe, right after Convening Leaders.
How did this international licensing agreement come about?
Over the last couple years, especially with the creation of Global Meetings Industry Day, we’ve gotten numerous phone calls and emails saying, “We want to be part of this. How can we be part of this?” It wasn’t just speciﬁc to participating in GMID, it was speciﬁc to the work that the coalition has done in terms of industry messaging. While their challenges may be different in each of their respective countries, the overall premise of encouraging more and more organizations to meet face-to-face, the beneﬁts of meeting face-to-face, and the economic impact that it has in their respective countries is very consistent and aligned.
We felt that if we really do this right, there’s no reason why we can’t have a universal Meetings Mean Business vehicle or messaging across the globe. I think that’s just a natural evolution of the coalition. We’re very excited about it. Once they’ve got that messaging and the logo and whatnot from us, then they can take that and customize their messaging in a way that will resonate with their individual stakeholders.
So it doesn’t mean forming an MMBC chapter in another country. It’s more that a preexisting group in that country would use the MMBC brand?
Yes, it’s a branding message. They may choose to create their own coalition in their respective countries, as we have. They may choose to create a chapter-type movement in their countries. But the purpose of what we’re talking about is really a branding and overall messaging that we’ve ﬁne-tuned over the last few years that they feel will have the impact in their respective countries.
Why is now the right time to take Meetings Mean Business global?
I see it as a natural evolution of the coalition and the work that we’ve done. I see it as an opportunity to bring more and more countries together as globalization becomes more mainstream. Why not the meetings industry? When you look at other industries, there’s very similar issues and similar struggles and similar needs to engage all stakeholders about the power of face-to-face, and I strongly believe that they’re going to beneﬁt from the work that’s been done here domestically in the U.S.
All of this has really been on-demand. They’ve come to us, they’ve seen the work that’s been done. This isn’t MMB going out and saying, “Hey, we want to get you into this thing.” It’s them saying, “How do we participate and how do we play?” It’s certainly our responsibility to make sure that hap-pens for the good of the industry.
What types of organizations have been approaching you?
It’s been tourism organizations at a country level. We’ve got probably half a dozen countries right now that we’re in conversation with, and we welcome everyone. This is designed to be a very inclusive brand opportunity.
Global Meetings Industry Day 2017 is on April 6. What do you expect this year?
Last year, not every event was registered through our site, but we were extremely pleased and overwhelmed by having 115 events in 30 different countries. I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t expand upon that signiﬁcantly this year.
Were you surprised at the interest when GMID debuted last year?
I won’t speak on behalf of everybody, but I was surprised and humbled and thrilled and excited and all the emotions that go along with something like that. It was fun to see the social media hit. It was fun to be trending on Twitter. Our industry has never been that mainstream. I’ve been doing it for a long time, and this stuff, it’s exciting. I think everybody’s going to want to do what they did last year and take it up a notch, and I think we’re going to get more unique participants in this. And hopefully, we get more synergy amongst all the industry associations, where PCMA, ASAE, MPI all do a joint event that day. If we can get more of that kind of collaboration and combine talents, I think that would be fantastic.
Is the ultimate goal for Meetings Mean Business itself to go out of business? Does success mean you no longer have to make the case for meetings?
That’s a great question. I don’t think our work is ever going to be done. I think if we can incrementally grow the meetings economy every year, that that’s our bellwether, that’s our report card. If for some reason the industry starts to dwindle and you see the market shift, or less and less people getting together face-to-face—then we’ve failed. The fact of the matter is, the meetings economy right now has never been healthier. The worst thing that we can do is take our eye off the ball, because there’s so many people we have yet to touch, so many people we have yet to educate on the value of face-to-face meetings and what it means to their organizations, what it means for their communities.
I’d love to say that if we do ever-thing right we go out of business, but I don’t think we’ll ever get there. The people sitting around the table in this coalition know this is not a one-trick pony. This is a very long-term, sustain-able, measurable effort to really grow the meetings industry and, hopefully, at the same time elevate the profession, because the more and more we expose the value of face-to-face meetings, what goes into them, the economics behind them, the ROI behind them—it ultimately elevates the overall profession itself. There is a ton of intrinsic beneﬁt for all of us in the industry when that happens.