A campaign is afoot to keep America meeting. More than 5,000 people have already signed an online petition at KeepAmericaMeeting.org, and many more signatures are needed to help raise awareness of the importance of corporate meetings. The petition is endorsed by a non-partisan coalition of industry leaders, meetings media and associations, and will be delivered by Keep America Moving (KAM) to Congress, the White House and executives of Fortune 200 companies.
“I think it’s really important that people look at this as an industry initiative that we want everyone to be a part of,” says Alison Jenks, vice president of marketing at TBA Global, the event marketing agency that partnered with the U.S. Travel Association and Event Marketing Institute to create KAM. “We hope that it might inspire someone to talk to their own organization, to get all the employees on board and get their vendors to support this.”
Jenks says the group was formed to be a voice for the meetings community, and wants to make certain things known. “[First] to show that meetings, events and incentive travel are essential for businesses to drive sales and deliver bottom-line results,” she says. “And secondly, to bring attention to the impact that meetings and events have on the U.S. economy.”
To reach their goal of one million supporters, the group is asking for everyone who signs the petition to enlist the help of others through social networking, e-mail blasts, and/or the promotion of Web site banners, buttons and logos available for download on the KAM site. “People have been asking, ‘what can we do?’” Jenks says. “This is the actionable, personal part.”
Hopes are, not only for the petition to help change the perception some companies have about canceling meetings being the right thing to do in this economy, but also to encourage fair media coverage. Jenks says they plan to reach out to the business press that has mostly presented lopsided views of the meetings and incentives market to the public. However, as industry awareness grows, so do concerns about a landscape without meetings; prompting many petitioners to add their thoughts along with their signatures.
“Meetings, events and incentive travel are smart, cost-effective ways to retain and develop employee talent that produce a higher ROI for businesses,” one petitioner from Iowa wrote. “Critics have mislabeled many meetings and events as unnecessary and forced businesses — those that have received federal government support and many that have not — to cancel planned and future activities. When businesses cancel productive meetings and events, the American worker and local communities are [the] unintended victims.”