The year 2009 was a mixed blessing for the meetings industry: Even as the sector took hits from both the recession and negative press about the value of face-to-face events during a downturn, the crisis also planted the seed for Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMBC). Since then, the alliance has been devoted to demonstrating and promoting the value of meetings, events, and travel. Is the industry now better prepared for future storms as a result?
Mary Casey, senior vice president of sales for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, thinks so. “During the next downturn, I don’t think we’re going to see the rumor mill take over for us,” said Casey in “Meetings Industry Advocacy,” the latest video for The Intersection: Where Technology Meets Inspiration, presented by PCMA and PSAV.
Like her fellow hotel-industry panelists in the latest Intersection video, Casey praised the value of meetings-business research that emerged after the 2009 meltdown. “The impact that we actually had as an industry was never a story that was told, and a value that wasn’t really recognized,” Casey said.
One key tool for advocacy was National Meetings Day — this year, rebranded as Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID) — which takes place on April 14, with at least 76 GMID events planned around the world so far. Mike Fegley, PSAV’s group vice president, venue sales, and new MMBC member, weighed in on PSAV’s plans for the day — as well as the state of industry advocacy.
“I’ve personally been a meeting planner since 1996, when I planned my first big meeting for 600 people,” Fegley said in an interview. In 2009, he was working with Intercontinental Hotels. “I really understood the value of meetings back then, and I still understand what [meetings] mean to the company, what they mean to participants, how they drive your message, and their importance from a financial standpoint.”
Of course, seven years ago, that was a story that needed to be told and retold. “Our little mantra was ‘meetings matter,'” Fegley said, and they mattered to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars per year. “The value of meetings came to light, because so many jobs are supported by meetings, so many communities are supported by meetings. But what the industry needed was one single voice.”
Fegley thinks MMBC will be even more visible in the months ahead. “This year being an election year, you’re going to see a Meetings Means Business presence at both of the [political] conventions. We want a bigger voice with government leaders.”
On April 14, Fegley will head to a GMID rally in Austin, Texas — one of many of the official GMID events across the U.S. where PSAV will have a presence. “We’re going to ask team members to get involved,” he said. Working on 1.5 million events per year in 1,400 venues, “our whole company is directly tied to the meetings and events industry,” Fegley said. “We’re going to have a big presence.”
How can you keep the message going beyond April 14? Don’t be shy when it comes to advocacy — and consider joining MMBC. “People whose livelihood comes from the meetings industry need to join in, have a voice, support the cause, and get involved,” Fegley said. “When we’re trying to educate the public, we’re stronger when we are one voice and raising awareness of the industry. I’m always waving that flag.”
Tips from the Meetings Mean Business Coalition
1. Stay aware of advocacy efforts in order to defend and promote the value of the meetings industry.
2. Perfect your job description and its content within meetings and the travel industry as a whole.
3. Find ways of explaining to event attendees the value of contributing to the travel economy.
4. Consider anyone you interact with while working, especially when traveling, as someone who is benefiting from the travel business.
5. Get facts to impress your friends, family, colleagues and everyone you meet at meetingsmeanbusiness.com.
Want to earn CEUs? Watch the Intersection video at www.pcma.org/theintersection.