I am experiencing deja vu and I don’t like it one bit.
A few years ago, the meetings industry came under attack when government leaders mistakenly characterized underperforming companies spending frivolously on lavish meetings. Referred to as “the AIG effect,” it really devastated the meetings industry as all companies (not just underperforming ones!) were reluctant to even be perceived as frivolous. Many members of our industry (including the National Speakers Association) have worked to better educate these leaders, and we have recently seen an upturn in meetings and conventions business. Thank goodness
Most recently, continued outrage over excessive spending at a 2010 U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) conference in Las Vegas has produced a bill to cut government-sponsored travel and conference spending by 20 percent. If successful, this legislation could create another decline in an industry which is the eighth largest contributor to the gross domestic product in the United States.
This legislation will be a challenge to those who are hired to work in the government meetings sector, in addition to other client segments (associations, corporations, etc.) that want to avoid any perceived negativity connected with holding meetings. It’s the AIG effect all over again – but this time it has teeth to it. It’s not just a perception issue. These are real dollars being cut because one federal agency behaved out of line.
Although the legislation has passed through Congress, it has not yet been signed into law by President Obama. The proverbial ball is in his hands and I hope President Obama learned his lesson after his rather brash comments a few years ago nearly brought the Las Vegas meetings business to it’s knees.
Meetings are more important than ever. Yes, you can use virtual technologies in many cases, but relationships are created and sustained through face to face interactions. We have been operating in a budget-constrained environment since 2008 – and this legislation will defeat the moderate gains we have been seeing in the last year.
If you are also concerned about the potential impact that this legislation will have on the U.S. economy, please exercise your right to let your political representatives know:
1. Send a letter to your Congressman expressing your concerns about the proposed legislations. You can find your Congressman’s contact information at www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml.
2. Sign to American Society of Association Executive’s (ASAE) industry-wide petition to Congress. ASAE is collecting support before sending an open letter to Congress representing our industry. Go to www.asaecenter.org/Advocacy/fedsignon.cfm.
The industry’s message is simple: The gross mismanagement of any public trust should be dealt with immediately and stridently (which it has been). But, the across-the-board imposition restricting government employee attendance at conferences and events will further disrupt our nation’s recovering economy and send an unfavorable message about the value of meetings.
I think I need to update my reference to the “AIG effect” to be the “GSA effect”.