To the Point

Making Our Voices Heard: Much-Needed Advocacy for the Meetings Industry

Educating our nation's leaders on the value of face-to-face meetings is an ongoing process.

By now you’ve probably heard plenty about the need for our industry to join together and educate our nation’s leaders about the value of face-to-face meetings. It’s a frequent topic of conversation here at PCMA and across the meetings community.

As individuals and as an industry, we’ve made progress in driving home the many benefits of face-to-face collaboration. But there’s much more work to be done.

In July, legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that calls for the Office of Management and Budget to develop a plan to use videoconferencing to reduce federal travel expenses by 50 percent by 2017. The “Cut the Waste, Stay in Place Act of 2013” — which as of press time had not been called for a vote — implies that all meetings and travel are wasteful and ignores the value of face-to-face collaboration.

Yet, despite the proposed legislation, there’s evidence some members of Congress might be hearing us. Just a few months ago, three House members called for a full report on how current efforts to reduce travel spending by 30 percent (from 2010 levels) have affected federal agencies. That these legislators recognize the potential negative business implications — and want to press for more specific answers — is a major step forward.

An independent study recently released from Rockport Analytics, on behalf of the U.S. Travel Association, found that government travel for meetings leads to greater productivity and efficiency. What’s more, the report found that across-the-board cancellations offer short-term savings at much greater long-term costs.

As an organization, PCMA is working on several fronts to advocate the value of face-to-face meetings on your behalf. We’re providing financial support for an update to the economic impact study that was completed two years ago. We’re continuing to work closely with other industry associations on a messaging campaign that will promote the value of face-to-face beyond its benefits to the economy.

We also have been helping our members contact their elected officials directly. With templates and sample talking points, you can personalize letters to your legislators while PCMA handles all the logistics of getting them to the right place. If you haven’t already reached out to your representatives, I encourage you to do so.

Admittedly, the challenge of breaking through to legislators about the many benefits of in-person education, idea exchanges, and relationship building is not one that will be accomplished overnight. But it’s closer to being within our reach when we all work together to make our voices heard. Stay tuned for more on this critical issue.

Deborah Sexton

Deborah Sexton is president and CEO of PCMA.