Why Face-to-Face Meetings Matter for U.S. Government Agencies
A new survey by the national coalition Meetings Mean Business sheds new light on the need for government employees to attend meetings and events, and on the value these attendees (and their agencies) see from business travel.
The survey was conducted among 100 federal employees who organize, attend or influence meetings and travel as part of their jobs. A full 98 percent of those surveyed said that in-person meetings are important for advancing their agency’s mission, while 92 percent said that engaging with colleagues, peers, partners and vendors face-to-face improves their ability to work effectively.
“Face-to-face meetings are vital for conducting government business in the most effective and efficient way possible,” David Peckinpaugh, president of Maritz Travel Company and co-chair of Meetings Mean Business, said in a statement. “The survey results show that sitting down and interacting with others one-on-one provides real-time productivity and continuous opportunities for engagement.”
The Value of Meetings
Peckinpaugh had “no doubt” that when government agency representatives “sit around a table or in a research symposium or participate in a training event, face-to-face interaction is only way they can develop personal connections and drive positive business outcomes.” Furthermore, four in five federal workers say that they have attended an in-person event that would not have resulted in the same level of success if conducted remotely.”
Government meetings and travel provide positive value to taxpayers by increasing efficiency and productivity, he continued, adding that meetings enable “successful information sharing, employee training and development, taxpayer services as well as collaboration with other agencies and private-sector partners.” Conventions and conferences are “critical education platforms, developing advanced skills and enabling workforce training.”
“Government-wide, travel and in-person meetings facilitate rapid information sharing, cross-agency collaboration, professional development and private-sector partnerships,” Michael Dominguez, senior vice president of corporate sales for MGM Resorts International and co-chair of Meetings Mean Business, added noting that it is “important for agencies to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and be able to distinguish legitimate meetings and travel activities from isolated instances of abuse we have seen in the past.”
In-person meetings more effectively capture the attention of participants and develop the type of camaraderie that positions an agency for success. They serve as a platform for education and training, through conventions and conferences that focus on skill-building and workforce development.
By the Numbers
At a time when many government agencies are limited by tight budgets and numerous travel restrictions, 84 percent of federal workers agree that America’s future innovation and competitiveness require engagement, collaboration and learning with those inside and outside of government. The overwhelming majority of federal workers experience increased value from in-person meetings as opposed to remote ones, noting that face-to-face interaction offers a superior learning environment for training, continuing education and networking. When asked more specifically about the value of in-person meetings, two in three federal employees say that collaborating and innovating is best done face-to-face. Eight in ten agree that in-person training is better for meeting and engaging with the “right people.”
There is also an economic benefit to government travel, Peckinpaugh added. “Communities and government at all levels benefit from the tax revenue generated by meetings and events. Millions of jobs are supported by the meetings industry...The industry is an economic engine, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, generating billions of dollars in revenue and supporting communities across the country. In 2012 alone, the industry generated $280.4 billion in direct spending, supported 1.8 million jobs and contributed $28.1 billion in state and local taxes”
A recent study from Rockport Analytics also suggested that government travel for meetings leads to improved efficiency, and that canceling events—as the GSA did for its annual Expo two years in a row following the 2012 scandal—can ultimately cost an agency more in the end. “It is really important for federal employees to be good stewards of taxpayer money,” Peckinpaugh said, emphasizing that preventing abuse of those funds is also an important factor. “The vast majority of attendees are there for skill development, training and furthering the work of their agency. It’s important to highlight that government meetings serve a purpose: They benefit employees, but also the constituents.” For the science and technology fields, meetings are an important part of the scientific process, and are a focal point for a strong exchange of ideas. Anything that prevents or restricts government travel can affect the efficiency of the FDA, the NSA, any agency tasked with security or defense measures and many others.