Originally published Meetings Today
May 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of my first vote in a U.S. and local election in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio, to date, the proudest day of my life!
I had gone to the polls with one or both of my parents during many elections, “practiced” voting with my school classes in the old voting booths with curtains, and was fortunate to live in a household that, regardless of how little income there was, ensured we read newspapers and watched the news daily. I was educated and ready to vote!
Since that first vote, I have not missed voting in any election regardless of where I lived. And even now, as a nearly 40-year resident of the District of Columbia (where we have taxation without voting representation), I continue to be informed and involved.
And I always vote.
Helping to educate and engage with others is the main purpose of this blog and my monthly Friday With Joan newsletter that includes additional relevant content.
Thus, I was pleased to recently be invited to participate as a speaker for the Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID) event in Chicago, Industry Exchange or iX.
As I perused other GMID 2018 programs listed on the Meetings Mean Business (MMB) website, I was surprised to see how many were purely celebratory—or as I refer to them “boozing and schmoozing”—exactly the behaviors the U.S. Congress and the media have called out critically and that have caused curtailment of meetings or participation therein.
One event did bill itself as a way to learn advocacy, though when asked, it was … boozing and schmoozing in a great venue, where I was told, the advocacy part would be to meet others in and outside of the meetings industry. Doesn’t sound like advocacy to me.
I’m grateful to report that Chicago’s event, planned by a savvy committee (thank you all!), with advice from John Nawn of The Perfect Meeting, gave me confidence the Industry Exchange would be educational as well as celebratory right from the start.
I was also confident that the topics and other speakers and I would be able to provide substance allowing those in attendance to go forth and advocate.
My topic for discussion at the Industry Exchange was #MeToo in meetings and hospitality.
To prepare, I researched online, read and then talked at length with both the Chicago Clerk’s Office and with UniteHere.
UniteHere was the union representing, in this case, Chicago’s hotel housekeepers. As a result of their advocacy, and unlike in Seattle where the hotel community fought policies and procuring panic buttons for housekeepers, Chicago was in full support.
I am indebted to both the Chicago Clerk’s Office and UniteHere for all they did to make housekeepers safe by passing the “HandsOffPantsOn” ordinance and by celebrating with this cake for “No Harveys in Chicago.”
That’s in addition to the information they shared at length with me.
Look, all who work in hospitality need celebrations! We’re all overworked and many are undercompensated. We hear all the time “anyone can do this—it’s not brain surgery or rocket science,” to which I say (well, it’s a family publication so instead of what the students at March for Our Lives said, I say) “WRONG!”
What we do—what housekeepers do, what restaurant workers do, what sales and convention service people do—is often as complex as brain surgery: we are responsible for the health, safety, education and lives of tens of thousands.
We deserve to participate in celebrations and in education.
We deserve to be informed, to register to vote and to vote.
My improvisation training tells me to say “yes, and” (thanks, Izzy Gesell!) versus “Yes but” so: “Yes, we need to celebrate meetings and what they bring and we need to do more than booze and schmooze. We need to educate others on the issues impacting our world and the impact all of those issues have on meetings, travel and tourism.
We need to help register people to vote, and we need to encourage voting [See my interview with Roger Rickard for more on that].
We also need to find a way to highlight and work to educate, especially on September 25, 2018, National Voter Registration Day.
We are facing huge changes in our world, few if any that do not or will not impact meetings and hospitality. Some of the many changes include:
- Automation which may eliminate once entry-level jobs (front desk jobs, for example).
- Declining U.S. and world infrastructure impacting where and how and how safely we conduct meetings.
- Rising food and beverage prices sometimes attributed to drought or other climate conditions, sometimes to increased labor costs.
- Increasing hotel and tourism taxes to fund projects in cities in which we meet.
- Sexual harassment for which panic buttons and other areas of safety for workers will be needed; and far more.
Nancy Zavada and others have done so much to highlight sustainability.
Sandy Biback is working tirelessly on issues of human trafficking.
(Here’s updated information from NBC 4 Washington on a lawsuit aimed at hotels, their owners and shareholders because of trafficking).
Around the world, everyone is waiting to see what the U.S. Supreme Court says about travel bans or restrictions that have impacted meetings, especially for those inbound to the U.S. who have been held up at borders and in airports.
Another state has passed, and more are considering, laws restricting the rights of LGBTQ people, which for some will be a reason to curtail travel there, for others, a reason to flock to that state. Regardless, it has an impact.
Immigration and refugee status around the world will impact the service economy, more about which a future Friday With Joan will explore. And certainly Brexit has been called out for the problems it will cause in Europe for the service economy.
Meetings Mean Business states the following:
“Meetings Mean Business is an industry-wide coalition to showcase the undeniable value that business meetings, trade shows, incentive travel, exhibitions, conferences and conventions bring to people, businesses and communities. By rallying industry advocates, working with stakeholders, conducting original research, engaging with outside voices and more, the coalition brings the industry together to emphasize its importance.
“Comprised of over 60 members, the coalition unites the meetings industry with one strong and powerful voice.”
After rereading this statement, I thought how obvious it was to me that GMID events should showcase the importance of what happens at meetings—the education that leads to better job performance; the tradeshows that result in sales; the research presented that leads to medical and scientific breakthroughs—versus the alcohol and food consumed.
I wonder if GMID 2019 will have a focus on voter registration, education on the issues, and voting. Just as one of the amazing students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School said at the Washington, D.C. “March for Our Lives” rally, let’s also make REV (Register, Educate, Vote) part of GMID and our industry.
C’mon MMB and EIC and each member organization and company of those coalitions: every year is an election year so don’t say we’ll consider stressing voter registration more in an election year! Let’s highlight the issues that impact meetings at all the chapter programs of each industry association and let’s do it year-round.
And for all the independent organizations holding events or those with websites or social media pages, highlight registering to vote and voting all the time.
Footnote: In addition to coming from a family of news consumers and voters, the next-next generation is actively promoting voting. I present my cousin Joel Moss Levinson’s efforts in his community of Yellow Springs, Ohio, where he and spouse are raising two children to be active participants in their community by example. See the video below [or on Facebook].