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Wall Street Wake-Up Call - The Sequel

It was an inadvertent   wake-up call, initiated by a Wall Street Journal commentary ripping the meetings industry to shreds. And you know what? It woke us up!


After Holly Finn’s column referred to meetings as “Bordellos for the Brain,” we got mad. But we maintained our cool – for the most part. The outpouring of comments were heartening and on the money. My favorite was from the Convention Industry Council’s Karen Kotowski who noted in   her letter to the WSJ   that they chose not to print, “The editors of The Wall Street Journal host invitation-only conferences throughout the year with the world’s most influential and powerful leaders. Their own publication recognizes the value of bringing together leaders, face-to-face to discuss and provide solutions to pressing problems.”


Thanks to everyone who weighed in on the issue of speaking up for our industry and preaching the value of face-to-face meetings. But comments, of course, are just comments. We mustn’t stop here. Check out this random compilation of what was said over the last two weeks by industry professionals, and help spread the word:

“With 1.7 million of us who are part of the meetings industry, one would think we could get the message out to the world. The problem is that outside of the planners, hoteliers, and DMOs, too few of us who contribute to making this industry spectacular sing the praises of the business. We need to all be loud and proud to be part of this important industry.”

–Thom Singer, NYP Speakers

“We need to extend the dialogue to the kind of business leaders who read the Wall Street Journal. But it's not about how many folks we employ or how much spending we generate. We're in the performance improvement business. The real value proposition of meetings and events is how much better off someone or some organization is as a result of meeting face-to-face. The answer to the question, 'What's the business value of your meeting?' can easily be answered. What's most interesting to me is why more meeting professionals or other stakeholders don't even bother.”

–John Nawn, The Perfect Meeting

“We needed to be reminded how important our role as meeting professionals is to business in general. I have been a planner 30+ years and many people think we are party planners. I'm proud to be part of this amazing industry and to be considered one of the best jobs! We need to say it often and loud how important meetings are and our roles we play in those meetings.”

–Vanessa Kane, CMP, CMM, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States


“We need to constantly promote the value of what we provide. If we do not, we risk being seen as simply a commodity throwaway service.”

–Richter Elser, industry operations professional


“The only way our industry will survive as part of this continued negative press is by continuing to respond with meetings that showcase the positives of our industry and then educating the public how we have taken these past experiences and used them in order to service them better.”

–Charlotte Davis, CMP, Event Source Professionals

“What our industry needs is a good kick in the pants. The time for advice has passed; now is the time to engage everyone you have contact with about the power of face to face. Advocacy means doing what you say! Roger Rickard and Roger Dow know what we mean. So make the effort to get off of your duff and be an advocate for our industry.”

–Chris Meyer, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority


“Are we in the business of creating jobs and generating tax revenue? We are in the business of advancing society, whether through performance improvement in business, or engagement and education. We create the stories that advance society. We must be able to answer that our face-to-face meeting helps someone, some organization, some cause, or some industry.”

–Roger Rickard, advocacy expert


“For those of us who have been at this for a while, this is a familiar battle and obviously one that we have not yet conquered. We are making progress but need to continue to make it a priority.”

–Rebecca Coons, Nalu Creative


“This unfortunate perception remains. But as an industry we are sometimes guilty of not making the very best of meetings. Meetings are likely one of the few occasions where an organization has their best people or best clients captively in attendance. We need to take advantage of and capture that diverse experience and knowledge, and put it to use beyond the event itself. We should see events not just as a ‘kick-off’ at the beginning of, or a ‘celebration/reward’ at the end of a business strategy, but more a fundamental piece of the ongoing execution of that strategy. Meetings have the capability to generate more and better focused results in three days than a costly six-month exercise with a management consultant. That’s when business leaders will take notice and value the wisdom of their crowd.”

–Simon Bryan, Lumi Mobile


“Building relationships is a primary reason for a meeting. Networking within your company, industry, profession, community, etc. is vital to creating shared visions and the strategies and results that spring from those visions. So for someone to claim that meetings are boondoggles shows a lack of understanding, not only of the role of meetings, but in the biological make-up of humans as social animals.”

–Michael Humphrey, American Program Bureau


“The industry as a whole has to be stronger in advocating for meetings as a way to achieve - measurably - certain business objectives. But I would imagine there are lots of individual planners who aren't going to have the capacity nor the analytical approach to implement an ROI or objectives-driven approach. The huge challenge for meetings in this context, though, is that marketing is becoming more and more digital, with all the analytics capabilities that go along with that. So essentially the meetings category is competing with other marketing choices that are going to be better at quantifying ROI. I'm not sure if it's reasonable to expect every individual planner to become a strategist - in fact, I'm sure it's not. It may, however, be reasonable to make sure planners can at least speak the language of marketing. That's also going to be helpful in marketing their own businesses, and in understanding the motivations of sponsors/exhibitors.”

--Meredith Low, Meredith Low Consulting


“From my experience, planners are extremely overworked, frazzled, and focused on logistics. They know ROI is important but who has time? Bringing in consultants is one option, but I don't think they're in a strategic enough position to build the case, and maybe don't even understand how to build the case. Unless higher-level marketing and sales managers get involved, I think ROI will continue to be a topic all of us say should be measured but never effectively will be.”

–Eva Montgomery, The Content Strategy Group


“That's why it's imperative for meeting planners to show meeting results and prove ROI beyond meeting evaluations (did you like the speaker, did you like the food, did you like the venue). Many planners know what they need to do to make a meeting happen, but we need to do a better job as an industry demonstrating why we hold a meeting in the first place and how that meeting drives better business decisions. We need to educate our community that we must prove the results of the meeting -- what was discussed, what challenges where uncovered, what solutions were discovered, what is the path forward. These are powerful questions often missed at meetings. There are ways to provide tangible, reportable proof of success.”

–Susan Abrams, IML Worldwide


“I think the planners understand everything Jim points out about the dangers of just being good at what they are good at -- and are comfortable with that. The challenge for the industry/community is to figure out how to spot, groom and support those that want to take it to the next level. There is a place between the CEO and the meeting planner for the strategist. As a community we just have to keep educating the planners that this move needs to happen and teaching those that want to make the leap how to get there. So my thought is: is the time ripe to create a new job -- something not called Meeting Professional -- that blends the marketing, financial, ROI and meetings world into one. So where does this new person come from? I'm sure there are planners dying to make the leap up, but I think the masses want to be planners. So how do we move into this new world?”

--Sharon Fisher, Play with a Purpose

"81 percent of communication is non-verbal, so just think about the amount of lost ideas, innovation, and collaboration never created if we only met virtually."

--Janet Sperstad, CMP, Madison Area Technical College

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