The current situation and investigation of the GSA’s Las Vegas event has many people up in arms about the investment that companies, associations, and governmental agencies make on hosting business meetings. People who question the purpose and power of business meetings are rattling the cage and making noise just as they did after “Muffin-Gate” in 2011 (the over hyped and twisted story that a DOJ paid $16 per muffin at a meeting coffee break). But there is more to meetings than the costs to produce a meaningful conference.
While it can sound expensive, the realities of hosting events do cost money. Hotels, meals, transportation, professional speakers, entertainment, and other necessary items have associated bills. But when a meeting becomes a “happening” there is value created. Looking at pieces of the puzzle separately can cause some to misinterpret the real power that happens when people gather together. Throughout history man has collected in groups to share the best ideas, learn, grow, entertain, have fun, and get inspired for the future.
Of course there are those who abuse the system, make poor spending decisions, and waste money. I am not condoning bad behavior. Meetings are not something you just “do”… as you need trained professionals to help you organize or you will fall prey to all sorts of mistakes. Too many jump in thinking “how hard can it be?” and wing-it in their planning. A conference has so many parts that you should never expect the right results without the proper planning and experience.
Some people think that the meetings industry is dead. I spoke to one person recently who said she never goes to business meetings, and thus was convinced that conferences were dying. NOT TRUE. Many business meetings are growing and new conferences spring up daily around the world. The meetings industry is a multi-billion dollar business that employs over 1.7 million people in the United States.
The problem with all the discussion about meetings is there is not a clear understanding of the purpose of business gatherings. If you talk to different people you will get different answers. Some think meetings exits to educate. Others to entertain. Networking opportunities are regularly cited as a reason to attend. There are those that believe meetings a perk, while just as many view them as an obligation. Associations can acquire much of their income from conferences and at the same time other companies and agencies have them as expenses.
Every meeting that is planned can have different purposes (even meetings that are put on by the same organization).
Since there is not a single purpose for business meetings there will always be controversy as people tend to only look at things the way they want to see them. Those who want to see meetings as expensive can make that argument, but if you have ever been to a conference where you made a connection that changed the direction of your career, or learned something that inspired you to achieve more… then you know why there will always be business meetings.
All opportunities come from people, and bringing groups together is a way to create more opportunities.
I believe meetings exist for many of reasons, but too often even the organizers cannot tell you the clear purpose. Working to appeal to a variety of people can leave an event too vanilla to become spectacular to anyone. If you cannot clearly articulate the reason to host the meeting, why can you expect attendees to understand the purpose?
Knowing the answer to “why” will make the event better for everyone!
What was the last meeting you attended and why was it great? (or why was it blah?).