Last week we talked about the challenges presented by budgets, short lead times and ever-changing technology. This week we’re looking at variables caused by the world’s economies and increasing regulation from the government. These concerns come straight from meeting professionals. Domestic planners were polled on LinkedIn, international planners via MPI’s June 2012 Business Barometer.
Unfortunately, there’s not much that meeting and event planners can do to keep the Euro from collapsing or prevent a double-dip U.S. recession. But they can prepare to be their own best advocates by focusing intensely on the strategic planning of events. Namely, making sure that meetings and events are fulfilling a business objective and that they can defend the price and purpose of every element they will use.
Pharmaceutical meeting planners have had extensive experience in being transparent and accountable, whether they have voluntarily followed industry-sanctioned guidelines or because they operated in a state like Massachusetts, which has strict laws about physician meetings, gifts and education. That’s why the meetings industry hasn’t voiced much concern about federal Sunshine Act restrictions going into effect in 2013.
But meeting professionals are anxious about the ripple effects of the GSA scandal. Earlier this year, the U.S. General Services Administration debated whether to lower existing 2012 per diem rates, which dictate how much money government planners (or attendees) can spend per day on meals and lodging. Fortunately for cities like Orlando, which host multiple government events, that did not come to pass. But more than 35 meetings and events were canceled and attendance at government meetings is down.
“Government meetings have really been impacted by the bad behavior of the GSA,” said one MPI Business Barometer respondent. The fear meeting professionals expressed is that the U.S. government won’t stop with regulating government meetings and will start to try to influence private sector behavior. The Obama administration did set a precedent in 2009, when it dictated what TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) recipients could and could not do. Those guidelines, paired with media scrutiny and apprehension about the economy, cost the industry an estimated $2.5 billion in revenue for host destinations and $781 million in room revenue as meetings were canceled or postponed in 2009-10.
It’s quite possible that the government may decide that it should create industrywide regulations. Many companies are holding their breath, figuratively speaking, until after the U.S. election, fearing a depression that may not have anything to do with which political party is in power. In short, meeting professionals face a very murky future.
There are some things you can do to prepare yourself:
- Educate yourself about what the meetings industry means to the American economy. Read PYM’s Meetings Mean Business series, for example, which started in 2005.
- Keep abreast of what people in the industry are doing to advocate for what you do. US Travel is one of the meeting industry’s biggest advocates in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere. You can find white papers and news on their website. PYM also has a collection of news, information and articles about advocacy.
- Finally, be more strategic. Even if you don’t have a certification, you can still employ best practices, work ethically and effectively, and be transparent. PYM’s new series Meeting the Standard covers many of these issues. At the top of each article, you’ll see which Meeting and Business Event Competency Standard it illustrates. These standards (called the MBECS) are the basis for the Certified Meeting Planner certification, earned through the Convention Industry Council.