The meetings industry contributes billions to the economy, creates jobs and drives economic growth, yet there are many who still don’t understand the value that meetings bring to society. We recently interviewed Roger Rickard, founder of Voices in Advocacy, about what meeting professionals can do to make their voices heard and turn their passion for face-to-face events into real action.
What are some of the major economic and political issues affecting the meetings industry right now?
Rickard: First and foremost, economic stability is always a key issue that can and often does have an effect on meetings’ size and scope, and it is playing a big part in this year’s crazy presidential race as candidates debate the haves vs. the have nots, the working class vs. millionaires and billionaires. Organizations often sit on the sidelines when there is uncertainty. Second, the United States has a crumbling infrastructure, which is becoming a campaign issue; roads, bridges and airports are in desperate need of repair. Why is this important? When you make travel difficult, people think twice about attending.
How does the political climate, especially during an election year, affect the meetings industry?
Rickard: I think there is always uncertainty during any major election cycle and as such could have an effect the closer we get to the finish. Note that political campaigns and political parties hold conventions, rallies, town halls … in other words, meetings and events. You also have trade organizations, unions and political action groups that have far more meetings and events in the run up to elections. I know of some trade groups that are holding meetings and events with the candidate they have endorsed in every city and town that the candidate visits.
How can meeting professionals get involved in advocating for the industry on a local and national level?
Rickard: Participate in industry advocacy events like Global Meetings Industry Day on April 14 and Global Exhibitions Day, which is June 9 in Washington, D.C. Start asking for more tangible action from industry leaders. Saying we are advocating and actually advocating are two different things. I believe we need more action. Advocate by supporting the events, education and activities of your local MPI chapter.
Why is it so important for meeting professionals to participate in events like Global Meetings Industry Day?
Rickard: It is your industry and you should be willing to advocate for its success. Industry success can be your success. Meetings professionals have influence if they choose to use it to connect the dots of why face-to-face meetings are important to their organizations and as such should do so.
What is the first step for meeting professionals who want to make sure they have a voice?
Rickard: Educate yourself on the business and social benefits of meetings. Be able to bring these benefits to the table when discussing the value of holding a meeting.
If you were to suggest the Top 3 things that a meeting professional can do today to advocate for the industry, what would those three things be?
Rickard: 1. Participate in any industry event that showcases the value of face-to-face meetings.
2. Learn general meetings industry talking points. For example: Face-to-face meetings build relationships the way technology can’t. They create a shared sense of mission and purpose while creating camaraderie that builds success.
3. Be informed on industry issues and be a resource for executives regarding meeting value.
Finally, I would be remiss in this election season not to add the last one — VOTE!
Sarah Sain is a senior content strategy & development manager with Naylor Association Solutions, working exclusively with society of association executive and meeting professional clients. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her as @ssain7 on Twitter.