Monday, March 23, 2009

Corporate Meetings, Professional Speakers (and other vendors), and The Economic Woes

Okay, I now know the world has gotten nutty.

A meeting planner for a company told me that they are canceling their annual sales conference for fear that the three day educational and motivational outing (at a resort) might end up in the press. While they are a profitable private company (with no government bailout funds), the executive team is worried about someone saying they are not playing it "smart" during the recession.

She said that the CEO was counseled by a consultant to avoid taking his team to a golf resort this year, as they have done annually for two decades, for fear that their competition would use it against them in the marketplace.


Now, since I was in negotiation to be the keynote speaker to kick off the company's event, I am obviously bummed out. Professional speakers, hotels, airlines, restaurants, etc... are all impacted by the success of the meeting / hospitality industry.

But more than my speaking fee, I am questioning what our world is coming to when such things such as an annual sales meeting can become a negative event for a private business that has positive cash flow.

One would think that everyone would be happy to see organizations celebrating success in the midst of all the gloomy news that the press reports (I believe there are many successful individuals and organizations all over the world who should be being highlighted in the press).

The following is from the website "Meetings Mean Business":

Value of Meetings

When business meetings and events are cancelled, it’s the hourly-wage workers – not corporate CEOs – who pay the highest price. Meetings, events and performance incentive travel in the United States are responsible for almost 15% of all domestic travel. Generating 1 million jobs and $27 billion in wages, meetings and events can provide a solution to our economic woes. Meetings and events support local communities and working families around the country – something we cannot afford to overlook as we rebuild our economy.

I realize that there are companies (AIG, investment banks, and others) who have taken government money who should be under scrutiny for how they spend money .... but to make the meeting industry the villain in this mess is just crazy.

On the up side, SXSW Interactive - the large conference I attended in Austin last week - had an increase in attendance this year that was up over 25%. We humans are social creatures, and while online social networking communities and teleseminars are nice... they DO NOT replace the face to face meeting. It is not the same.

Have A Great Day


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