Ideas to Read and Pass Along

Kevin & Jackie Freiberg

Meetings Fuel Accountability


conferenceSensational press coverage and threats of federal regulation are creating a paralyzing environment where companies around the globe are canceling meetings and events—some for legitimate business purposes, some because they are afraid of public scrutiny.

Critics have mislabeled many meetings and events as unnecessary and frivolous – causing companies that have received federal government support and many more that haven’t – to cancel their future meetings.

Meetings & Conventions Magazine did a survey, and here’s what they found: 52% of respondents said that the mass media BACKLASH against meetings has influenced their companies’ decisions to NOT hold events.

With only 20% of the hotel market reporting, meeting and event cancellations exceeded $220 million for the period, January 1-February 28, 2009. No region of the country is immune to the economic impact of canceled meetings, events, and incentive programs.

Who Pays The Price?

All of us.

In America alone, business travel creates 2.4 million jobs, $240 billion in spending, and $39 billion in tax revenue.

Meetings and events account for nearly 15% of all domestic travel, drive $101 billion in spending, generate 1 million jobs, and create $16 billion in tax revenue.

Without the 1 million jobs generated by meeting and event travel, the unemployment rate in the U.S. would jump from 7.6% to 8.2%.

According to U.S. Labor Department data, the U.S. Travel Association reported a loss of nearly 200,000 travel-related jobs in 2008 and predicts a loss of an additional 247,000 travel-generated jobs in 2009.

As meetings and events decline, local communities – nearly all of who are dependent on visitor taxes – struggle to pay for essential services such as education, public safety, and social services.

What’s The Value of Meetings? Why Should We Reverse This Trend?

Well, first I think you have to ask, what drives employee MOTIVATION and ENGAGEMENT?

  • Work that matters—exciting, challenging, meaningful work
  • A chance to stretch, grow, learn, and develop—build my portfolio of skills
  • An opportunity to work with great leaders and great colleagues

Here’s the deal. Meetings address ALL THREE of these critical needs:

1. Work That Matters:

When people meet face-to-face, they generate ideas and share knowledge that drives future business growth. When people get together, they have an opportunity to identify critical problems and high-leverage opportunities that will make a difference. When we truly understand the challenges the CO is facing—and the strategies we can employ to address these challenges—we are better equipped to dig in and play an active role in finding solutions.

2. Better Equipped Employees:

When people get together in seminars, panel discussions, round table discussions, and breakout sessions designed to increase their knowledge and skills; they grow. An employee who is constantly learning and constantly bringing something new to the game adds value. Let’s face it; we are not paying our people for what they did yesterday. When we stop bringing something new to the game, the game is OVER!

The recipients of incentive travel programs are typically hardworking, middle-class employees who have earned trips for their exceptional performance. Take this away, and you run the risk of torpedoing MORALE, JOB SATISFACTION, INGENUITY, PRODUCTIVITY, and ENGAGEMENT—the very things that will get us out of the economic crisis we’re in!

And don’t forget, there has been a tidal wave of research proving that companies with highly engaged employees make two to three times more money than companies with average employee engagement. And ENGAGEMENT is the result of people coming together!

3. Collaboration and Cooperation:

When people meet face-to-face, they build rapport, learn more about each other, and form emotional connections that in turn build trust. The result? Higher levels of commitment and collaboration between departments and across business units. The benefit? Cycle time and cost reduction, higher levels of creativity and innovation, better teamwork, a seamless approach to serving the customer, and people who are more passionate and productive.

Show me a team that is firing on all cylinders and achieves extraordinary performance, and I’ll show you a group of people who know each other and have deep, deep relationships. That doesn’t just happen—it happens when people get together, look each other in the eye, read the emotions on each other’s faces, laugh, argue, and create a bond.

There’s another reason that meetings are critical:

4. Strengthen Customer Relationships:

People buy from people. Who in their right mind is going to argue against the importance of RELATIONSHIPS to the success of business! Who wouldn’t argue that people are your most significant point of differentiation?

Meetings, events, and incentives are essential tools for companies to strengthen business relationships with customers. I said that when people meet face-to-face, they build rapport and form emotional connections that in turn build trust. This is certainly true of customer relationships as well.

Members of Congress apparently see it the same way when they meet at their annual retreats at resorts outside Washington, DC.

According to a recent survey of Fortune 1,000 Chief Marketing Officers, meetings and events that bring employees together with customers and prospects provide the highest return on investment of any marketing channel.

A recent survey by the Kellogg School of Management found that 82% of top executives believe that travel is important to achieving their business objectives. Moreover, one-third of executives (31%) think that cuts to travel budgets will have a negative impact on the company’s bottom line.

Now Let’s Be Clear:

Do companies that receive bailout money have an obligation to operate in a transparent and accountable fashion? Yes.

Do we all have an obligation to make our meetings better by making them more relevant and more targeted to the challenges we face? Yes.

Do we all need to make sure we get a ROI from bringing people together? Yes.

But let’s not knee-jerk to the propensity of the press to sensationalize meetings as a frivolous boondoggle associated with corporate greed by generalizing the mistakes of a few.

Right now, more than ever, people need to connect…

  • to quell their fears and find hope
  • to find out what others are doing to lead up in a down economy
  • to move FORWARD by finding solutions that work!

GREAT meetings create powerful MOMENTUM! Those who understand this—AND HAVE THE GUTS TO ACT—have a HUGE opportunity to leap ahead of HESISTANT competitors.

So, when is your next meeting?

(All statistics are from from