Examples of meetings and events that are justifiable under the guidelines are:
· Product launches that educate the sales force, partners and customers
· Sales conferences and employee meetings to align vision, strategy and tactics
· Corporate sponsored events that benefit charities
Policies for approval are:
· Total annual expenses for meetings, events and incentive/recognition travel shall not exceed 15 percent of the company’s total sales and marketing budget
· When planning an incentive, no more than 10 percent of attendees should be senior executives
· All internal meetings or events attended only by senior executives and/or board members should be devoted to a specific business purpose and attendees should be responsible for all personal expenses
For more information on the complete guidelines, check out meetingsmeanbusiness.com.
Here’s what you can do to help ensure your meetings are free from negative scrutiny:
Tone it Down- In this economy, meetings and events that are overly lavish or extravagant are in poor taste and a poor use of a company’s resources. Look for ways to accomplish your goals in a more subdued manner while saving money and resources.
Substitute sedan cars for limos, or use greener forms of transportation when appropriate, such as bio-diesel coaches, or even hybrid vehicles for group transportation.
Instead of elaborate banquets or galas, consider lower profile receptions and dinners or more casual events.
Replace expensive gifts for attendees or speakers; consider more practical items relevant to your industry. I like to purchase donation certificates for speakers and VIPs to kiva.org which then allows them to choose an entrepreneur in a third-world country to make a small loan.
Let your exhibitors and sponsors know of your efforts and ask them to keep these in mind when planning giveaways, hospitalities, dine arounds, etc.
Give Back- Corporate social responsibility is more than a popular buzz word; it’s a new way to think about doing business.
Consider integrating activities that benefit the community in which you are holding your event, or a local charity. Build time in your schedule for volunteer work, perhaps replacing more traditional leisure activities such as golf and spa visits.
Consider making a monetary donation to a charity in lieu of what you might have spent on a social event. I once attended a very simple reception at a conference for meeting planners where a hotel corporation that was hosting the reception made a significant contribution to a children’s hospital to purchase neonatal incubators instead of spending on the typically lavish reception. There were actual machines on display along with photos of children treated by the hospital. No one minded one bit not having the free flowing martini bar or shrimp bar.
If you’re planning a teambuilding event, consider replacing the trip to the ropes course with a session building bikes for kids, computers for low income schools, or working to build or renovate buildings, schools, parks and homes in the community. The local convention and visitors bureau can connect you with organizations in your destination.
Consider purchasing carbon offsets to balance your meeting’s energy use.
At the very least, look for ways to share your leftover conference swag such as tote bags, portfolios with a local charity.
Publicize Your Efforts- With so much negative media attention focusing on what companies spends on lavish meetings; it’s important that you control the message when it comes to your meeting’s press coverage. Ask the hotel and destination CVB to provide you with statistics regarding the positive economic impact on the community that your meeting has. Wouldn’t it be great to see a reporter talking about the 25 housekeepers, 50 waiters, bellmen, etc. working this week as a direct result of your meeting at the property? Or an article that talks about the scores of cab drivers, waiters, shopkeepers, etc. benefitting by the dollars your meeting attendees spend in a destination. And if you are integrating charitable activities, ask the charity to assist you with getting positive coverage through their local contacts as well. It’s time that members of the meeting industry take back control of how meetings are perceived by the public.
When planning your next meeting, ask yourself, “How would this look on the front page of the local paper or the Wall Street Journal?” Make smart business decisions that work for your firm and promote the image that you want and you’ll easily weather this latest media storm.