The Intersection

Meetings Mean Business Coalition Rallies the Industry

When the recession hit a few years back, the meetings industry was “caught off guard,” says Richard Harper, executive vice president of HelmsBriscoe.

Face-to-face meetings were seen as an expense that could be eliminated, and as an industry, “we didn’t have spokespeople, we didn’t have data, we didn’t have research. We didn’t have anything to arm ourselves about what was happening.”

While the recession was terrible “for so many reasons,” Harper says, it was “probably the best thing that could have happened to our industry [because] it unified us. And it has been a rallying cry ever since.”

That rallying cry took the form of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMBC), established by the U.S. Travel Association in 2009 to promote the impact the industry has on the economy as a whole. Harper discusses how the MMBC — of which HelmsBriscoe is a member — was conceived in this month’s video for The Intersection: Where Technology Meets Inspiration series, presented by PCMA and PSAV Presentation Services. He’s joined by two other MMBC members: Michael Massari, senior vice president of meetings and events for Las Vegas Meetings by Harrahs, and Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority.

In terms of economic impact, “one in eight U.S. residents are employed in the travel business or a related industry,” Massari says in the video. And when it comes to achieving business objectives, meetings connect stakeholders and are key to creating personal connections, Massari said in an interview with Convene. “If you have to have a yes, go see someone,” he said. “The information you have access to face-to-face is better than the information you’ll get via email or phone.”

Massari has seen firsthand how companies drive positive business outcomes via meetings. “During the downturn, there were lots of companies that drastically cut back their meetings spend, the number of meetings and who attended — and there were even some companies that eliminated them altogether,” he told Convene. “I think what those folks [at those companies] would tell you is that they won’t ever do that again.”

In addition to improving business outcomes, the meetings and events industry fuels economic development and creates jobs within communities — both in the day-to-day business of hosting groups and when cities invest in their convention infrastructure. Nashville is a prime example of the latter. The city debuted a new convention center last year, and has broken its record for room-nights booked three years running now.

“We used our new convention center as our own stimulus package during the recession,” Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation, which is an MMBC member, told Convene. “We moved forward at a time when a lot of cities and states were paralyzed. We created construction jobs and cast a spotlight on the city.”

Every Meeting Counts

Making the meetings industry a stronger economic engine and business driver starts by helping attendees get the most out of their event experience. This month’s MMBC panel offers these tips for planners to share with their attendees:

1. Know your goal before entering the conference, whether it’s to make a new business connection or learn a tactic to immediately implement.

2. Share the results of your meeting experience back at the office and on social media.

3. Talk to everyone you see — the concierge, waiters, hotel guests. You never know where your next connection will come from.

4. Be prepared for the conversations that happen as you’re walking through the hall or out of a session.

And for meeting professionals themselves: Download the Meetings Mean Business app to keep up with happenings across the industry at

Kate Mulcrone

Kate Mulcrone is digital editor of Convene.