From the Meetings Mean Business website:
One in eight Americans works in the travel industry. Meetings Mean Business is a grassroots campaign whose goal is to protect the millions of American jobs that depend on business meetings and events. Right now, events across the country are being canceled because of dangerous political rhetoric and media sensationalism that attempts to embarrass corporate America away from travel at the expense of working Americans. If our government is serious about recovering our economy and creating new jobs, we need a robust travel industry that supports the jobs of millions of hardworking Americans in hotels, restaurants and conference centers all around the country and empowers businesses who rely on travel for meetings, events and performance incentive programs to recover and grow.Bill Marriott has similar things to say about the economy and business meetings in his blog. A few select quotes:
In the past few weeks alone, we have had millions of dollars worth of meetings canceled, because companies fear how they will be perceived.
I also feel strongly that scaring companies, including those that have not received emergency government assistance, into eliminating travel from their normal course of business will hinder our economic recovery at a time when we need to do everything we can to stimulate our economy and create jobs.
It's a frustration of anyone dealing with corporate events. A lot of companies are cutting back on getting everyone together, and it's hard to blame them--what, with all the media pressure to do so.
Meetings Mean Business and Mr. Marriott are going at this turn of events from a jobs standpoint, but while I agree with and respect that viewpoint, the cancellation of corporate meetings is not just hurting jobs in the travel industry--it's hurting the corporations themselves.
These are uncertain times, to be sure. Employees of even large, seemingly bullet-proof, companies are worried about their longevity. While most are putting their noses to the grindstone and working even harder, it's hard to function at an effective rate when one is operating from a position of fear.
Now, more than ever, employees need guidance and direction. They need to know that the company has a strong vision, goals and--ultimately--a plan for better or worse. They need to hear a strong leader--the CEO, perhaps, or their management team--come forward and give them reassurance; even if that reassurance is in the form of, "Times are tough and here's what to expect."
Now, some would say that there are meeting alternatives, but this simply is not so. Webinars, memos, video conferencing--all are great and have their place, but are paltry substitutions for getting everyone together.
Having a meeting in a time of economic downturn and uncertainty:
- Reassures the workforce--taking them out of a place of fear so they can be more effective at their jobs.
- Increases morale and a sense of team--it's powerful to reconnect with peers and develop optimized working relationships.
- Gets everyone on the same page; communicating a clear state of the company, goals and visions for moving forward.
- Gets everyone moving in the same direction--calls employees to action.
- Shows that the company is not reactionary and displays a strong, united front.
...there are a million little ways to cut the budget in an event and still host it. In fact, some of the most effective events we've been to have been scaled-down, minimalist affairs. The important thing, right now, is a unifying message--and that means unifying a company's workforce.
And that, ultimately, means bringing them together. So don't cancel your meeting as a first reaction. Evaluate whether it's necessary (yes, probably even more so now), and take a critical look at where the money in the event is going.
Because when a company cancels its corporate meetings, it not only hurts jobs in the travel industry, but it also hurts the company.