Over the last three weeks, Washington has been busy with the government sequester, GSA's Meetings Management Program, and Senate Amendment 67. All these initiatives will have some impact on travel and the meetings industry. Below is a summary of each initiative, what impact it will have, plus how corporate meeting planners can create a strategy and have a voice in the process.
Failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to reach agreement on $1.2 trillion in cuts to federal spending has triggered automatic cuts known as sequestration. Those cuts went into effect March 1, 2013 after Congress and the President failed to reach agreement on a plan to stop them.
Agencies are now going to more carefully scrutinize the need for travel and sometimes denying travel in favor of a webinar or no training at all. Attendees can expect airline flight delays and longer lines at security checkpoints due to this measure.
Roger Dow, President and CEO at Travel Industry Association aptly put the impact of the cuts this way, "Travel has the very potential of becoming the face of the March 1 sequester cuts." Karen Kotowski, Chief Executive Officer at Convention Industry Council added, " Saving money at the cost of employee education and professional development
is not really a cost savings at all and can end up hindering an organization's growth and competitiveness in the long run."
While travel is going to be hard to justify, it will not be impossible. Here are four ways to help federal employees justify the expense: 1) Make certain your agenda is filled with great content
and fantastic speakers at the right price point. 2) Have a flyer and email template on your website available to attendees to tailor and send to their boss and senior management outlining the benefits of the conference and justifying the expense. 3) Rather than holding one large conference, consider hosting a series of regional meetings
. 4) Look into alternative modes of transportation that will not cause potential delays such as, car, bus, train and subway.
GSA's MEETINGS MANAGEMENT PROGRAM (MMP)
General Service Administration (GSA) is looking into MMP for itself which is meant to save money, mitigate risk and improve the meeting experience overall. If you recall, the GSA came under attack for a 2010 report detailing excess spending on a conference they held in Las Vegas. The negative publicity caused them to cancel many meetings and conferences.
According to MPI research, less than 5% of all meetings are measured for business value. Jessie States from MPI said, "The next time taxpayers question a GSA event's necessity, the agency will have the facts it needs to present a business case."
The meetings industry, whether governmental, association
or corporate should always be looking for ways to measure business value. Setting concrete goals and objectives is a start, but surveying attendees with wireless Audience Response Systems
during the conference and then taking action based on the feedback is the best way to continue to add value and enhance your conference.
SENATE AMENDMENT 67
This amendment would limit federal agencies from sending no more than 25 employees to any domestic meeting, whether it be governmental or private. PCMA and ASAE are urging members to contact their Senators and remind them that public-private collaboration works best when there is a face-to-face exchange of knowledge and ideas.
Contact your respective Senator and first convey the value of face-to-face meetings to the US economy
and then share with your governmental official the reasons you oppose Coburn Amendment #67. If possible, try to schedule a face-to-face meeting.