Can Congress kill the Meeting Industry?

March 5th, 2009

The recent downturn in the economy has hurt the meeting industry, but Congress is now attempting to kill the meeting industry. They put into law new guidelines for companies that receive TARP government bailout money for the types of meeting events they can have and outline maximum costs.

Getting a large group together to work together

“The proposed guidelines for TARP beneficiaries requires bailed-out companies to ensure that 1) conferences or events with costs exceeding $75,000 be supported by written business cases with specific purposes and positive returns on objective; 2) no more than 10 percent of incentive attendees be senior executives from host organizations; and 3) total annual expenses for meetings, events and incentive/recognition travel not exceed 15 percent of total sales and marketing spend.” ( from great article by Jessie States on details of this issue: MPI, Meeting Planners International web site)

It is goes without saying that in these difficult economic times it is prudent for every company to review their meeting event and conference budgets, but do we need an act from congress to tell them? Most of the Fortune 100 companies we now do business with have been scrutinizing and cutting back on their meeting and event budgets for years now by implementing new online meeting technologies and attempting to avoid costly travel and time away from the office.

The bigger issue in my opinion is congress has gone from ten years of deregulation of everything, to now attempting to regulate everything including things that they have no business sticking their noses in – like defining conference budgets. From what I see they should take a hard look at their own meeting and conference budgets.

An example of a typical congressional meetingFrom the few times I can stand to stomach watching a congressional session on CSPAN, I’d say they could sure use some of the now unemployed meeting planners I know to get their critical meetings on track with some effective meeting communication that will actually make their meeting sessions useful in moving our country forward and out of this economic disaster instead of the ill conceived, poorly planned, grand stand speech making that goes on daily and late into the night at these congressional sessions.

They are great at following all the rules in the bible of meeting etiquette “Robert’s Rules of Order” as they second motions and “yield 10 minutes of their time to the honorable senator from Kentucky”. It may look good and orderly to some, but to me their critically important meeting sessions that they are working on the future of the country (and world), are about as efficient and effective as a high school debate.

I have often thought during some of the most recent national disasters such as the 9/11 terror attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and other events that required fast planning, even faster organizing, and speedy execution, the government should have hired a few of the Meeting and Event companies I’m familiar with. They could have pulled together an army of meeting planners, event design and production experts that I have personally seen work day and night to meet impossible event deadlines – but ALWAYS come through and deliver results that moves people literally and figuratively in getting large groups to think differently than before the meeting began and most importantly getting large groups to be thinking together, working together on common goals and initiatives.

Bruce MacMillan, CA, president and CEO of MPI says it well “Meetings and events drive business results and are critical to rebuilding the economy. By restricting businesses from prudently using meetings and events as part of their business strategies, we are paralyzing them and inhibiting economic recovery.”

I believe successful, great companies build strong organizational foundations to grow and succeed with meeting events and communications that engage, inspire, and build common ground and goals. Maybe the new world will figure out how to do this with Twitter, Webex, and Facebook. But nothing will ever replace the power of a GOOD face to face meeting!

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