Tag Archives: Meetings Mean Business

Moving GMID, Meetings and Our Industry Forward

Originally published Meetings Today

Moving GMID, Meetings and Our Industry Forward

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].

What’s on Your Ballot?* VOTE Nov. 8 – Our Industry Matters!

Originally posted Meetings Today Blog

What's on Your Ballot?* VOTE Nov. 8 – Our Industry Matters!

What’s on Your Ballot?* VOTE Nov. 8 – Our Industry Matters!

“Within the last decade, the travel industry has experienced tremendous change and has been dealt various struggles and challenges. Many of these have played out in the political realm. As another election approaches, we all need to be informed as to where the candidates stand on issues important to our industry and how referendums on the ballot may affect us—whether positive or negative. This is also an important time to engage in the civic conversations. Members of our industry need to engage candidates before the election and inform them of the powerful economic impact and job creation our industry provides to thousands of communities throughout the U.S., and equally as important, the effects of various policy proposals. They need to know the travel industry constituency is one they cannot ignore.

Waiting until someone wins an election is often too late. Their priorities may already be set, their views already formed. I would encourage everyone to participate to the level they can starting with voting. Nothing is more important!”  ~~ Don Welsh, president and CEO, Destination Marketing Association, Intl. (DMAI).

My first vote was on my birthday during the 1968 Ohio Primary (It’s OK to do the math!). Before that, as a child, accompanying my parents when they voted, the magic of the voting booth—then a booth with a curtain and levers, something I miss—was a remarkable experience. In a family where, if you read my Sept. 26, 2016 blog you know news and reading were a daily part of our lives, politics and elections were always discussed.

Voting, my parents instilled in me, was the most sacred right we had which was especially stressed by my Dad (of blessed memory), who’d fought in WWII, and both parents fought block-busting and worked for civil rights. Knowing the issues and candidates was a subject of dinner and other conversations. Political conventions—when they were more than “made-for-TV” events—were looked forward to and watched well into many summer nights.

This year, the U.S. faces a contentious presidential election, the outcomes of which will impact our lives and our industry for years. I read and hear many people say they won’t vote at all because they don’t like either of the two major U.S. Parties’ candidates or the two third party candidates. More, I hear Millennials are not as concerned about voting. My friend and colleague, Charles Chan Massey said:

I’ve been registered to vote since I turned 18 and have never missed an election yet. This year more than ever it’s important to vote AND to elect progressive leadership at the national, state and local level. Politicians in conservative states (or in some cases, in states that are not necessarily conservative, but have been made so by voter suppression laws and gerrymandering of voting districts) have begun enacting laws that are beginning to directly impact the meetings and events industry. If we allow the pattern to continue who knows what will happen not only to our industry but to our very way of life? I for one don’t want to find out and encourage everyone to vote AND to vote for progressive candidates and issues.” ~~ Charles Chan Massey, founder and CEO, SYNAXIS Meetings & Events, Inc.

Not voting? To me it’s not an option. This letter, written in 1962 to President John F. Kennedy about voting rights, is indicative of why we should cherish and exercise our right to vote. For African Americans and women in this country, the right to vote was hard fought and though we thought it was won, there are still many states where voting rights are far from secure (Suggested: Google or other alerts for “voting rights” to become more aware of voting issues around the United States).

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’ Elections matter! I get frustrated and disappointed when I hear people say that they are not going to vote because they ‘don’t like either candidate.’ Throughout their young lives I’ve discussed with my five children the electoral process and reinforced that voting is not only a privilege, it is an obligation that we have as citizens of a free democratic state—a right that our forefathers gave us and many Americans have sacrificed to protect. And as important as the selection of our next president is, a general election has implications on so many other offices and propositions at the federal, state and local level that we need to educate ourselves on those issues and vote on them. I encourage you to exercise your right to vote and help shape the future of our great country.” ~~ Paul M. Van Deventer, president and CEO, Meeting Professionals International (MPI).

I’m with Paul on this; I hope you, readers, are too.

To prepare for writing this blog and newsletter, I began collecting “down ballot” (non-Presidential) issues that impact our industry. It’s not been an easy task! When I asked a number of industry associations if they collected ballot issues for the U.S., I got unequivocal “nos”—they did not have lists. That became (more) surprising when I learned that one CIC member, in particular, is working to influence an initiative in Seattle (I-124) about which you can read at the links in the second part of this October 2016 Friday With Joan newsletter.

I also solicited from a number of Convention Industry Council (CIC) member CEOs, and others who influence our industry, statements about why people should vote. My deep appreciation to those who provided the statements you can read interspersed throughout and at the end of this blog as well as that from Don Welsh, CEO of DMAI, with which this blog leads.

Consider that without exercising the right (and privilege) to vote—if you’ve not registered and missed 9/27/16 Voter Registration Daycheck here to see if your state or territory, or if you are an American living abroad, allows registration when you read this or same day as voting registration—you are missing an opportunity to influence the laws that impact you and our industry.

Our industry has been hit hard because of misperceptions about meetings (remember the “AIG effect”? “Muffingate”? The stress on government planners during the Congressional hearings? HB-2 in North Carolina and other like bills?). We can do more!

Throughout the years, the meetings industry has been vocal in its complaints about laws which make communities inhospitable. As members of the hospitality community, we have a duty to vote, to prevent the adoption of such laws and to ensure those who advocate them are not elected to positions of power. As an example, the State of North Carolina is now suffering the devastating economic consequences of its adoption of laws which would further discriminate against the LGBT community. In all of the many states in which similar legislation is being considered, and in the many states in which discrimination against members of the LGBT community – in employment, housing and access to service in restaurants and stores – remains legal, we must vote to make our voices heard. Little is changed by complaining. Everything can be changed by voting.”  ~~ Steve Rudner, managing partner of Rudner Law Offices, exclusively representing hotels and resorts.

Voting in national and local elections is one of the greatest responsibilities we have as citizens. SGMP’s hope for any election results is that there will be continued support and understanding of the importance of education and conferences in the government sector. We encourage members to be aware of legislative or ballot issues that may affect their meetings.” ~~ Michelle Milligan, CGMP, Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP) national president.

If you think that every vote doesn’t count, it does. Thanks to Mental Floss for this great information.

This year, each and every vote is essential. I think people acknowledge this on some level, but it’s hard to say whether that will make people actually get out and be part of the turnout we so desperately need to see. The way I see it, it’s not just about who will be the next president (although that is a really BIG deal!)  Our choice in November also has the power to impact many state and local decisions to follow. Among the ones that concern me is legislation that adversely impacts how people are treated in our own back yards. I am deeply and personally opposed to the creation of laws that permit or even give the appearance of tolerating discrimination. With my association “hat” on, these types of laws could also cause serious harm to our meetings and conventions business by creating an unwelcome environment for convention sponsors and attendees. I hope that people who support and are passionate about diversity and inclusion will use their votes this November in ways that not only move our country forward, but also encourage fair practices and discourage discrimination in any form.”  ~~ Susan Robertson, CAE, EVP, American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and president, ASAE Foundation, and CIC chair-elect**.

As a fourth-generation Washingtonian [the DC Washington], and one whose family had incredible debates about all political issues (any opinion was allowed), the importance of being informed and involved was always stressed in my family. In fact, my uncle ran for Congress a few years ago. 

My parents instilled a strong sense of citizenship and always stressed that we are responsible for our leaders and their results (or lack thereof). I received a degree in government and politics from the University of Maryland and interned for a political organization, then worked on Capitol Hill. I began my work in government relations and soon learned the value of organizations and the expertise they lend to our political process. We know that by being engaged, we can affect great outcomes and help design the future of our country. I am able to help my NACE members because of my government experience and am excited to see the work we accomplish within the Convention Industry Council as well.”  ~~  Bonnie Fedchock, CAE, executive director, National Association for Catering and Events – One Industry. One Association (NACE), and chair, Convention Industry Council**.

Here’s what you can do:

1. Register to vote if you’ve not done so, and ensure your co-workers, family and neighbors do too. Take our poll so we can see the power of the hospitality community.

2. Learn the issues and positions of local, state, and federal candidates. Share those issues in the comments section. If you are a voter from another country, in the comments to the blog add to the issues I’ve provided and tell us with what you are contending politically that could impact our industry (I hope everyone is keeping up with Brexit and the implications).

With thanks to colleague, friend, and former client, Karen Galdamez at COST, for this great resource to track tax and other ballot issues. Remember: where you hold meetings may not be where you vote and knowing—especially if you didn’t contract for a hotel or convention or conference center to tell you about increased taxes after a ballot or city council or state initiative—what you’ll pay is critical to your responsibility as a meeting professional (This does not let hoteliers and other suppliers off the hook! Let your clients know if there is an increase in taxes or service charges or other laws that could impact meetings).

Subscribe to the Business Journals for the cities in which you have contracted or are considering meetings. And get alerts for topics that include “hotel taxes,” “tourism taxes” and “infrastructure,” all of which impact our meetings.

3. Contact your member of Congress or a city council member or state legislator who might not know the value—financial and to the health and education of people—of meetings and our industry. On Meetings Mean Business’s Global Meetings Industry Day and at other times, do more than celebrate meetings. Reach out to the U.S. House of Representatives and US Sentate on important issues that affect the industry.

4. Share this newsletter and talk about the issues with co-workers, colleagues, family, neighbors and friends.

5. Vote on November 8. If you know someone who doesn’t have a way to get to the polls, offer to take them and then do so, or help them get an absentee ballot. If you have a meeting on November 8 or it’s a travel day, remind expected participants and exhibitors and sponsors to vote prior to leaving for your meeting. Consider having a viewing room on Election Night for those who want to be with others to watch.

6. Read these closing comments from our industry leaders and take them to heart. They’re voting. You should too.

The election cycle is essentially a series of face-to-face meetings and events that come down to one final in-person experience – casting your ballot. These national, state and local elections will influence regulation and/or legislation that could positively or negatively impact face-to face-meetings and our industry. As a representative of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition, we urge everyone to exercise their right to vote and be heard on November 8th. Because the most important moments and decisions are worth meeting about.” ~~ Michael Dominguez, CHSE, co-chair, Meetings Mean Business Coalition; SVP and chief sales officer, MGM RESORTS INTERNATIONAL.

As a member of the travel industry, you should vote to make your voice heard at the local and national level. The $2.1 trillion travel and tourism industry is truly bipartisan and positively affects every Congressional district in the United States. No matter who wins the White House this fall, one thing is certain: travel works for America. It’s why we will continue our work with policymakers at all levels to ensure that travel is secure, accessible and efficient.” – Roger Dow, president and CEO, U.S. Travel Association.

I encourage everyone to make sure their voice is heard when it comes to any type of election of ballot. I, too, believe that active participation in any democracy is an important right and responsibility that we all have. Thanks to you for continuing to ‘being a vocal conscious and advocate’ of the meetings and events industry.” ~~ Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, president & CEO, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI).

As the final countdown to Election Day is upon us, now is the time to take a stand and support candidates at all levels of government—city, state and federal—who will advocate on behalf of hoteliers. The stakes are higher than ever for the hotel and lodging industry as new legislative and regulatory opportunities and challenges continue to emerge. With one unified and powerful voice, we can define our industry and your involvement is critical to these efforts. We encourage all of you to get out the vote and support candidates who will make our industry stronger.” ~~ Vanessa Sinders, senior vice president, government affairs, American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA).

Our constitution gives us the right to participate in our destiny. Yet, bad officials are elected by those with best intentions, but don’t vote. If you want your voice to be heard, use your vote; it is one of your most powerful possessions.” ~~ Deborah Sexton, president & CEO, Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA).

*With apologies to Samuel L. Jackson and the company for whom he does commercials for the title of the blog.

**Susan Robertson and Bonnie Fedechok are not speaking on behalf of the Convention Industry Council. Their CIC positions are there for informational purposes only.

5 Meeting Functions Enhanced by Knowing What’s in the News

Stack of newspapers

We’re all busy. The news is often painful to read, watch and/or listen to, but our work is so impacted by what’s in the news and the potential consequences that if we are not paying attention, we are negligent in our duties. It’s all part of life-long learning*, which many, after they secure degrees or any letters after their names, forget.

Here are five areas of conducting meetings that are impacted by what’s in the news and why you should pay attention. In the comments, add yours and your sources—newspapers (print or digital), periodicals and other media go-tos (including social).

1. Destination Selection and Use: The greatest buzz (groan … I know!) is about the Zika virus, its origin, where and how it’s spreading, and what is being done to stop the spread of the virus. Airlines are issuing waivers to passengers and changing some employees’ schedules of those who are afraid of traveling to areas where Zika-carrying mosquitoes are prevalent. PCMA’s Convene had this to say about it.

Knowing what airlines are doing and the impact that may have on the accessibility of all destinations, especially second and third tier ones, matters to our selection and use of those destinations. Cleveland, that was for years a Continental hub and then a United hub, has cut back more nonstop flights to numerous destinations. One wonders what the impact will be on the Republican National Convention to be held in Cleveland this summer. Perhaps, if gas prices continue to be low(er), more will drive.

(I’m not saying don’t go; I’m saying be aware, informed, and plan for contingencies … whether they are health related or otherwise).

2. Site Selection: Will our choices narrow because of the mergers noted in No. 3 below? Will you have the information you need about labor contracts? What about the impact of fire safety if you hadn’t read about the fire and investigation of a hotel in Las Vegas? Or if you had not read my blog about safety, you might not have asked about the presence of AEDs or other safety features. You might not know that many hotels are considering eliminating in-room phones (you’ve noticed how there are fewer in rooms now, right?), which may be a safety hazard or are considering using robots versus people to serve.

3. Hotel ContractsIHG (InterContinental Hotels) merged with Kimpton; Fairmont and Raffles merged. From what these hotel CEOs say … there will be more. What is the impact on contracts in place of these mergers and those upcoming? Or future contracts? Are you aware of who owns the hotels (the buildings) and who manages them as well as the brand on the door?

What are you following to keep up with all that may change and the impact on your contracts and contract negotiations? (On April 27 and August 31, I’ll do webinars for Meetings Today—the first on site selection; the latter on contracts for accommodations. You can also find past webinars at that link). Clearly the industry press is covering these mergers just as they are with the airlines. (After UA and Continental, American and US Airways, who will be next?) Follow the business press too. I subscribe to the print editions of Bloomberg Businessweek and Fortune, local business journals for cities to which clients are considering or taking meetings, hotel-related reading, Crain’s for various cities, and more. You can read online or in print. Just read!

And then there was this that should be a concern for all planners, Starwood employees, and individual hotel owners about what Starwood’s new CEO says about the safety of most Starwood brands under a Marriott merger.

4. Meeting “Stoppage” and Individual Cancellation Plans and Policies: If, because of a pending snow storm or other weather issue, the airlines start to cancel flights days in advance (follow Joe Brancatelli, @joesentme, on Twitter) … or if because of the Zika virus people decide it is not safe to attend a meeting you’ve planned or one you plan to attend … or if, like in Cleveland, an airline pulls flights and it’s no longer easy to get to and from the destination without multiple plane changes, a person says “enough” and wants to cancel attendance, what are your policies? What’s in your contracts with venues and vendors about stopping the meeting?

Is it force majeure if a storm hasn’t hit and you cancel a meeting? What about Zika which reports say is spreading, but like SARS, may not actually impact the meeting? All the things that could impact a meeting being stopped—by the venue or by weather or by an individual who just doesn’t want to schlep more than she’d planned—are impacted by what’s in the news. To not pay attention means to be caught off-guard or to make assumptions and we know what that does!

5. Liabilities and Meeting Risk: What if you had been, as part of your job, responsible to send people on an incentive cruise and they’d been on this ship? What if you book a group into a Zika-infested area and someone needs, for reasons unrelated to Zika, a blood transfusion? What must you consider when updating your risk and emergency plan for each meeting? What in that destination or facility might cause harm for which you must plan?

I know that there are those who think I overthink it but here’s what I know: to under-thinking and under-planning puts people, the meeting sponsor, and you at risk. And if you’d like the table of contents to a risk plan, go to the “Resources” section of my website or email me at FridaywithJoan@aol.com for a copy.

Another thing you might also like: if you don’t read, you wouldn’t know about the wearable chair, which seems a perfect thing for exhibitors at tradeshows, or that two songs in popular use finally settled a copyright case (Hint: one is sung at least once a year to or by most of us).

And an asterisk to the title: learning from lots of different sources enhances your life. You are able to start and continue conversations with almost anyone, enabling lots of opportunities; you gain insights about your life and you continue your education.

*In the February 8-14 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, quoting Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel-winning economist at Columbia. “He says societies need to emphasize life-long learning not just school.”

When the Political Becomes the Practical, Part II

Originally published Meetings Today

It’s tough to separate the political from the professional whether in last week’s Friday With Joan blog post on professional development, the linked Q&A with Sekeno Aldred, Charles Massey and Jean Riley, or in this previous blog post “When the Political Becomes The Practical.”

While many are many speaking out—including these legal opinions—I look to our industry for a voice against what Donald Trump has said about restricting Muslims from entering the United States for any reason including as tourists. Can you imagine being a Muslim who works for a Trump property?

Or can you imagine being invited to attend a meeting at a Trump property … especially if you are a Muslim or someone thinks you are? Will activities or discussions of those attending your meetings have to be reported if this new law goes through?

Will we or will we not be as inclusive as the policies of all our industry associations say? Even The Washington Business Journal is asking the question about boycotting Trump properties, services and products with, to me, surprising results.

Where are the voices in our industry speaking out against hate? Even if it means using the “business case” as has been done to promote multiculturalism and diversity and inclusiveness.

 

Professional Involvement: What’s In It For You?

Originally published Meetings Today

I moved to D.C. in 1978 and in early 1979, discovered the newly formed chapter (Potomac) of Meeting Planners (now Professionals) International.

At my first meeting, while wall-hugging—such an Introvert, I was observing the scene!—(the late) Bill Myles introduced himself and immediately got me involved in a committee. From that initial involvement, I became active: serving on and chairing committees, then to the Chapter Board where I served as President twice, and then to serve our chapter as one of two representatives on the MPI International Board before being elected by petition to the re-tooled, smaller Board.

I had experiences, especially on what was then called the “Program Committee” planning education that, in my work to that point, I’d not done. I honed my leadership and speaking skills. And I made friends for life.

Since then, I’ve maintained memberships in, and served in many capacities for, MPI and its Foundation, PCMA, HSMAI, DMAI, GMIC, and ASAE. I’ve also been a contributor by writing for and presenting at the meetings of ESPA*, IACC and SGMP. I’ve paid personally for my memberships and involvement, never, in 37 years, calculating the outlay of time or money. It was the smart thing to do.

The reasons I joined and why I continue to be a member of a number of these organizations include wanting to:

  • Learn with and from peers through face to face, and now, social media, interaction.
  • Support the industry in which I work and the organizations that have honored me**.
  • Contribute to the industry and the growth of others.

There’s not been a year when I’ve not been involved; I’m not a good ‘check-book member’!

(If you’re attending ESPA, come to the session I’m moderating on Saturday. PCMA student? I’ll moderate a program for you the Sunday of PCMA).

From my memberships and, more from active engagement, I’ve gained experience and knowledge, friends, a support network, and clients, paid and pro-bono.

Today, opportunities for professional involvement abound:

  • Joining a CIC-affiliated membership organization like those noted above. Here, you can find a listing of and links to all the CIC member organizations (At those sites, you can explore history, membership qualifications, ethics standards and more).
  • Lurking or actively participating in what appear to be hundreds of industry social  media groups affiliated with the membership organizations and informal.
  • Joining one of the newer organizations like SPiN and AWE, neither of which is (yet?) a CIC member, and both of which are restricted to different categories of members. [Note: SPiN, in a bold and good move, has waived membership fees and charges to attend their educational offerings for 2016.]
  • Remaining “independent” and learn via opportunities like Meetings Today blogs and webinars, as well as reading in print and electronically.

Like a number of veteran—older? more years of experience?—colleagues, I’ve begun to question the financial commitment because of disappointment when industry associations, with winks and nods, work against their own codes or standards of ethics, when there are fewer opportunities for involvement; because of the dependence on supplier/vendor dollars; and when, as I’ve seen too often, long-time, active (and honored) members drop their membership and never receive any follow up.

In addition to many informal conversations, I asked three respected colleagues—all of whom I met because of our industry involvement at different stages of their careers—what they see as reasons to be members of industry associations and what they expect from that involvement and the associations themselves. Interviews with Sekeno Aldred, CMP, Charles Chan Massey, CMP, and Jean Riley, are part of this month’s Friday with Joan newsletter.

I want to know about you—planner, supplier, student or faculty: please respond to the poll and tell us more in the comments about why are you a member—or are not—of any of the CIC-member organizations. If you were a member—and I know many of you!—and are not now, what caused you to drop your membership? What would you advise for those new to the industry? Those at mid-career? To those “veteran industry” planners and suppliers (or as my friend, Charles Chan Massey refers to himself, “Supplanner”), about being part of an industry association?

Note that once you vote, you can view the poll results here.

*If you know an event service professional, also known as a CSM, encourage them to join ESPA. More, tell their GMs and corporate offices why we meeting planners want CSMs who are active and involved.

**Among the honors I’ve received are MPI International Planner of the Year; PCMA Teacher of the Year, PCMA Foundation honor for lifetime achievement as an educator; HSMAI Pacesetter Award and two from IACC (Mel Hosansky Award and Pyramid Award) all three for contributions to education. CIC inducted me into the CIC Hall of Leaders in 2004.

Funniest thing ever: When MPI honored me in 1990 or 1991, another industry professional came to me and said “Well, now you don’t have to volunteer any more since you’ve been honored.” Stunned, now as then, I said “I’ve never done it for the honors.”

Stand Up For OUR Industry!

I come from a history of grassroots activism: my parents were active in our neighborhood in the ’50s organizing against redlining and blockbusting. I listened closely to news and read newspapers and got involved, campaigning for presidential candidates on my playground!

Later, I was active in Y-Teens (through the YWCA), the Junior Human Rights Council, and Community Chest (now United Way) and other community organizing and grassroots efforts for wide-ranging causes, in my home town of Dayton, Ohio, on my college campus (Drake University) and then when I moved to D.C. in ’78, inspired by the late great Josephine Butler, an early proponent of D.C. statehood, active for our rights.

I was active in the civil rights movement and saw how individuals, alone and together, could make a huge difference if they’d just step up.

I’ve seen and always believed that one person—one vote—does make difference.

In our industry, I think we could do so much more to explain and influence those who hold office and make policies that impact our industry, directly and indirectly.

Sure, there are lobbyists constantly “on the Hill” (in D.C.) and in state capitols working for the hospitality industry. If you search, using “hospitality industry lobbyists” you’ll see the who and how many, almost all of whom are big companies that supply goods and services for our industry.

If there is so much influence and money expended on hospitality lobbying, why is it meetings are still questioned? And why do so many of my colleagues, especially on the meeting creation side, take a back seat? It’s not that we’ve never done anything! There was action years ago when New York City raised the hotel taxes to over 20% and we wanted it lower!

When ASCAP and BMI learned there were meetings and started fining those organizations that didn’t pay licensing fees (for people to listen to music at meetings and tradeshows), the industry associations banded together to negotiate flat fees (Thanks, Corbin Ball, for a great timeline).

I’m guessing there are newer planners who don’t know, and more senior planners who don’t remember, the brouhaha over music licensing.

I served on the CLC’s (now CIC’s) Board for MPI when this was a hot issue and remember sitting, on the return flight, next to one of the lawyers who’d spoken at our board meeting. I learned much more, though planners continued to fight the idea of paying for music to be heard.

Recent history gave us Muffingate (2011) and the uproar that erupted in local and national media criticizing what was spent on continental breakfasts. After that, the GSA-Vegas meetings “scandal” (2012) where I thought meeting professionals would be so outraged at what was done—apparent unethical behavior on the part of the meeting organizers and the hotel partners that colluded to meet the demands—and written that they’d use that angry passion to write to their local and national representatives and the media. Clearly too little was done to correct the images of meetings and our industry! Look what was written in April of this year, still criticizing meetings.

On July 10, 2013, Meetings Focus (now Meetings Today) published this blog—“Who speaks for our industry?”—that I thought might move people to action.

Meetings Mean Business was formed to provide a framework and tools for organizations and individuals to take action. MMB has been promoted at various at industry events and, I’ve been told, promoted the many toolkits (scroll down on its site) offered for advocacy by organizations and individuals.

The events held on 2014’s North American Meetings Industry Day (NAMID) are pictured here and there is information about what you can do in 2016 as the event expands to be Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID).

Good work and yet, here’s what we’re missing:

  • Images matter. What I see and what I remember pictured in photos from the various industry organizations’ NAMID events—people socializing and drinking—are exactly what has been criticized about meetings! I’m all for fun and yet, we have to show and be shown in situations in which work is being done not just drinking, being entertained and partying.
  • One day a year is not enough. We should mobilize those in our industry and those impacted by our industry the same way political and social justice movements do: one person at a time, engaging them in what’s needed and helping them make a difference for more.
  • Passion! Enthusing individuals in our industry the same way other movements (see my book review of “Frank” for other links) begin, thrive, and enthuse people to carry on individually.

So who speaks for our industry? We all do. We cannot depend on the CIC or each of the CIC member organizations to talk about meetings and the process of planning them, the value of holding them. We each have an obligation to understand our work’s complexity and to speak out.

Actions You Can Take:

  • Register to vote. If you missed it, this past week in the U.S. there were elections where issues that will impact our industry—related to taxes, anti-discrimination and others—were on ballots around the U.S. Yet voter turnout is consistently low outside of major elections.
  • Become informed about issues in your community and in the communities in which you’ll hold meetings. Subscribe to alerts about infrastructure, convention centers, hotels and all subjects impacting your meetings and the industry as a whole.
  • Be(come) Passionate! And keep informed about what you and I do. If you’re looking for an issue, here’s one on safety.
  • ACT by voting and writing about meetings, whether local, national or international, with words of common sense about both the dollar impact on communities (the main focus of MMB) and more so the impact on lives and productivity of those who attend, and do so before we have to react to another “scandal” about our industry. Proactive is better than reactive.
  • Remember that images matter: if you are part of an industry organization, check the images on the web pages and in print to ensure that what is seen is more than people drinking and partying and being entertained. Show learning and engagement … that can be sexy too!
  • Take the poll linked in today’s Friday With Joan (Question 1, Question 2) so we know more about what you care about. You can view the results for Question 1 and Question 2.
  • Read my interview with Roger Dow and Roger Rickard for more information about industry advocacy through MMB and other resources.

I know that my examples are U.S.-centric. This is where I live and where I do the majority of my work. I’ve tried to find examples from Europe, especially now during the refugee crisis, and was unable to find those of the industry working together to solve a serious problem that impacts many lives. I hope you’ll post examples of what’s been and is being done in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere around the globe.

If you’re reading this in another area of social media, please also post responses at the Meetings Today blog site so we can consolidate for greater impact and action.

Here are some recent blogs to help you think through issues impacting meetings and the hospitality industry:

And here’s some related Friday With Joan e-newsletter content to go with this post:

You can also view the 11.06.15 Friday With Joan newsletter in its original format.

Got comments? Add below or email me at FridaywithJoan@aol.com. If you’d like your comments posted anonymously, I’m glad to do so.

7 Predictions and 6 Resolutions for 2015

This article was originally published on Meeting Focus Blog.

When I began drafting this blog, I ran the idea by a colleague who has been a hotel CSM and sales manager—with a third party—and is now a director of meetings at a major medical association.

He laughed with me as I said, “Whatever I predict could have an opposite and equal prediction!”

And so it is.

Predictions

1. Hotel rates will go up in some markets and down in others.

2. Non-U.S. individuals and entities will continue to buy and own hotels which may cause more brouhaha (like it did when the Sultan of Brunei purchased the Plaza in New York) among some groups opposed to various entities or individuals owning hotels.

3. Hotel owners will demand even greater profit; some will continue to oppose an increase in the minimum U.S. wage.

4. The US Airways/American Airlines merger will be fully implemented in 2015; we’ll lose more lift for secondary and tertiary markets. That won’t be good for tourism, or for state or regional meetings.

5. Gas prices will stay down for a bit; airlines won’t lower ticket prices.

6. Most every meeting will still be set in straight rows—theatre or classroom—with some considering crescent rounds innovative. Few will be experiential even when the opportunity presents itself. The fear of change will continue.

7. Our industry, collectively, will think it’s smarter because of the use of technology; alas, it will remain the same unquestioning business it has been for too long.

My Professional Resolutions

1. I will continue reading and disseminating information via Twitter as @joaneisenstodt and for @meetingsfocus.

2. Even when a hotel puts forth a badly worded contract, I’ll maintain my calm and cool and realize it’s another training opportunity as we negotiate.

3. I’ll continue to promote Paul Radde’s book, Seating Matters to as many hoteliers and planners as I can, in an effort to help others realize the options in setting rooms for meetings. Insist hotel sales people and CSMs read it and practice different room setting.*

4. At any industry or other program in a hotel or public space, I’ll test the ADA capabilities and capacities and challenge the entities that are not in compliance or not accessible (Join me at ExhibitorLive in March to learn more about “Inclusive Hospitality”).

5. When I attend a program that is just not working for me, I’ll practice what I teach: the rule of “motion and responsibility” apply and I’ll leave.

6. I’ll promote—to legislators, family, friends, strangers—that what we do is critical to bring people together to explore, create, think, and act. Every “it’s not brain surgery or rocket science” comment will be challenged immediately with the facts. I’ll show ’em that meetings do mean business.

Your Professional Resolutions

Write a few. Think about why they are important to you and what you can do—what we all can do—to support change in each other and our industry. Grow in what you do by reading more and experimenting more with meetings. 2015: let’s make it a revolutionary year!

The Hot Seat with @JoanEisenstodt

Originally posted Greg Ruby’s Gems 4/30/14

This is, hopefully, the first in a series of regular posts at Greg Ruby’s Gems, where we get to know some of the characters and personalities that make up the meetings and events industry.  I am pleased that Joan Eisenstodt was willing to be our first victim, errr, subject for this series.  – GR

The name of Joan Eisenstodt is one of the most recognized in the world of meetings and events. The Chief Strategist of Eisenstodt Associates, Joan has been a familiar face at many educational conferences and has been a frequent contributor to industry periodicals and online communities. I had the honor of first meeting Joan in Seattle during the 2008 PCMA Convening Leaders conference, where she facilitated the Train the Trainer session I attended for those that wanted to be Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) study group leaders. I consider Joan to be the Grand Dame in our industry.

Now, onto the questions –

GR: How did you start in the meetings industry?

JE: Before I knew it was a profession, I arranged street fairs to raise money for polio in the ’50s. Then I organized things through Y-Teens in high school. I worked at an art museum arranging events. When I moved to DC in ’78, I didn’t know this was a profession – I had no name for what I did.  After not getting another job (volunteer coordinator/grassroots organizer) at a not-for-profit in DC, I volunteered there. The ED hired me in my first meetings job and from there, it took off. Over the years, I’ve learned my strengths and moved from ‘pure’ meeting planning to what I do now: consulting on contracts, meeting design, departmental staffing; training; facilitation.

GR: What is the last book you have read or are reading now?

A Tale for the Time of BeingJE:  I just finished a most marvelous book, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. It had a huge impact on me as I read it and still has. It’s a story about a story about a girl in Japan who had lived in the US and how her life is upended when her family moves back to Japan. It’s about her ancestors and about a journal she keeps and the woman who finds it. Or does she find it? The storytelling is beautiful. The great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun, spoke about so many issues that were contemporary. I find myself meditating “seeing” the great-grandmother. I sent it on to a friend with whom I hope to have many discussions when she’s completed reading.  Waiting to be read is Harlan Coben’s latest book. My tastes are eclectic!

GR: Coffee or tea?

BusboysJE: I love chai tea lattes made at Busboys & Poets at 5th & K in Washington, DC. And I’m thatspecific. I love coffee and just don’t drink it much now. And water .. a big glass of tap water with ice makes me very happy!

GR: What is the biggest issue facing the meetings industry today?

JE: Repetition.

Someone wrote to me the other night and asked how I felt about all the those, much younger than I, who are getting attention for things I’ve been saying for nearly 40 years about changing meetings’ formats, delivery, measurements. We don’t seem to change and the same issues keep resurfacing. HOW many times can we set a room straight theater before people wonder why they are uncomfortable? How many sessions that don’t match the description can be done? How many networking receptions with too-loud music keeping people from talking can be held?

BUT wait.. I have more than one:

Sustainability.

Whether one believes that the climate is changing, they have to see the drought that is devastating the US and the world. It is causing prices of all products to soar because they can’t be grown or sustained. It is causing people to die and more will. Yet, cities and properties and meetings say they care about ‘sustainability’ by which they mean “no handouts” to be green and they don’t look at the bigger implications of all the change. In all the discussions of sustainability, there is no talk about people – those who are not making a living wage, those who are being oppressed in their work, those whose jobs are in danger b/c hotels say they are “greening” by paying guests to not have their rooms cleaned while these same hotels/hotel companies lay off many in housekeeping.  When we have no workers or very under-appreciated and rewarded workers we will lose the hospitality of our industry.

GR: How do you unwind after work or an event?

MBTIPreferencesgreta garbo i want to be aloneJE: I’m an “I” on MBTI and so during an event or a day or a week of conducting training, I have to go to my room where I “vant to be alone” – have to be alone. It is how I re-energize. After a day of work, I watch news, read, play “words with friends”. Those all help me unwind.

GR: Favorite destination to attend an event?

JE: It used to be a favorite conference center in California until the owners and then management co. looked at profits more than people – long-serving people – and fired too many. I loved it for the ambience, the people, the food, the atmosphere.  I really hate attending events so it’s a tough question to answer.

GR: What is must see TV for you?

JEMSNBC and “All In With Chris Hayes” – he’s smart, interesting, lives and talks about his principles .. which appear to match mine. And anything on which Melissa Harris-Perry appears .. tho’ I confess to not getting up early to see her own show. My guilty TV watching but it’s not ‘must see’ is “Say Yes to the Dress” which I find is all about psychology.  It’s the only reality show I watch now. (Loved Queer Eye when it was new.) I miss smart shows like “The West Wing” and “M*A*S*H”.

Tho’ I’m of the generation that came of age when TVs were new, I stopped watching much. It’s all violence, inanity, and a strange reality.My Cat from Hell

My Cat From Hell” – which started again on 4/26 with a new season.

GR: If you could go back in time, you would want to see what?

JE: When I was 16, I desperately wanted to come to DC for the March on Washington. A friend’s church was coming and they required written permission from parents. My parents were worried and wouldn’t give permission. I was a ‘good girl’ and should’ve disobeyed. I went this past summer to the anniversary March and I went to programs to learn from those who’d been there. And I wish I’d been old enough or brave enough to leave home and go South to register voters in the ’60s.

And I’d like to go back to Russia and parts of Poland where my ancestors came from and experience the shtetl and see how my ancestors lived. I think it would have made my thinking so different or would have reinforced what I know and believe.

GR: Finish this sentence – Nobody knows this about me, but I……

JE: I was a guest on the Donahue Show, on a show hosted by Arlene Frances in NYC, a guest w/ Bill Bixby on a show in Chicago,.. all for the cause of parenthood-by-choice not by mandate.

TEMPO030715C2GR: Joan, thanks for participating on The Hot Seat!

JE: Thanks for asking! This was a good time to be introspective.

Upcycling Casinos, Hotels and Convention Centers

This article was originally published on Meeting Focus Blog.

In 2008, the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) convened the Global Summit on Social Responsibility, created for association professionals and business partners to talk about the UN Global Compact (that was signed by many organizations and companies, including Meeting Professionals International (MPI)), the future and our roles in it. The Global Compact’s Ten Principles is worth reading again if you did before; especially so if you haven’t.

It was a privilege to be invited to participate in these three intense days of face-to-face and virtual interaction, and it was exciting to focus on any number of issues within the 10 principles.

One issue that some of us wanted to discuss (that didn’t make the in-person cut) was what would happen to the hotel and convention center buildings in cities if a) hospitality business diminished and b) if the cities in which these buildings existed became somewhat or totally deserted.

As shopping malls around the U.S. have been abandoned, cities and suburbs have faced similar issues–what to do with large, empty, abandoned buildings. You can view more on this topic from a number of sources including Buzzfeed, DeadMalls.com, The Daily Mail and Mental Floss. And that just scratches the surface of content available.

I was reminded, again, of this issue after reading about the latest hit to Atlantic City and the questions about use of an empty casino. I hate that this is happening to Atlantic City–a place of childhood trips where, as a young Midwestern girl, I relished the visits to the East to see grandparents and enjoy the Jersey Shore.

Atlantic City is not the only place that has to deal with abandoned buildings. We will eventually see abandoned buildings once purposed for meetings and leisure throughout the U.S. as more virtual options allow groups to meet in different ways, including smaller satellite locations.

What will become of these buildings? When there is such a crisis in housing and places to grow food, when there are so many people unemployed in our industry [3,200 will lose jobs with the closing of Revel Casino], when services are needed for many people under one convenient roof, when we are upcycling clothing and other items, why isn’t our industry having big conversations about how to repurpose spaces now rather than waiting, like Revel did, until it’s too late?

There are ideas and realities now that are in place and are being put into place: repurposing an abandoned school; repurposing an abandoned Wal-Mart; repurposing of other big-box stores;repurposing for offices; repurposing into community services.

My dream: Find investors who want to turn an abandoned mall into a creative space to house meetings where the design is intentional, flexible, accessible, and simply just cool. As well as ones who will turn an abandoned hotel into a home for aging meeting professionals who still want to practice their craft or just want to live with others who were part of their earlier lives.

Let’s try to keep our industry healthy. While we do that, in the comments area of the blog and elsewhere, let’s use our experience and future-thinking about how to use these spaces differently when they are abandoned. And they will be when the newer, cooler, fancier place comes along, or perhaps more simply, when supply outweighs demand.

What sort of facility would you create from an abandoned casino or hotel? An abandoned convention center? What spaces would advance your city if its hotels or convention centers go away?