Meetings Mean Business Coalition Breaks Through at IMEX America
A highlight of last week's IMEX America gathering was the commitment from Bill McDermott, chief executive of world leading software company SAP, to challenge his fellow chief executives to deploy meetings and business events at the core of their growth strategies.
In an interview following the launch of McDermott's new book Winners Dream, conducted by Kevin Olsen on behalf of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMBC), McDermott accepted Olsen's challenge to become a spokesperson for the industry and to persuade his fellow C-suite executives to use face-to-face events as primary tools for rallying customers and employees around business growth. McDermott cited the pageantry of a beautifully executed meeting or event as the vehicle for building a company, growing new markets and making a great business.
McDermott's commitment was a major breakthrough for the Coalition, one that left its co-chairs Larry Luteran (Hilton Worldwide) and David Peckinpaugh (Maritz Travel Company) both relieved and excited at such a high profile user being prepared to advocate results that business events can deliver. McDermott, for example, cited a $2-4 billion net new pipeline resulting directly from each of his own SAP "Sapphire" events. Coalition Leader Roger Dow of the U.S. Travel Association will likely take this message to Capitol Hill following recent cuts in government events and sequestration of government employee attendance at events in the wake of the GSA and IRS scandals over the past few years.
At the point of the crash in 2009, the U.S. meetings industry was powerless to defend itself against a vicious media assault when AIG senior executives, following a Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailout funded by U.S. taxpayers, were accused of squandering funds on an internal meeting in a luxury resort. (In fact, the meeting involved a small number of AIG executives connecting with a large number of global clients, requiring assurance that AIG remained above the financial waterline.)
Since the launch of the Coalition, numerous Economic Impact Studies from North America, Mexico and across Europe have been released (including the latest from Canada). These direct impact studies (in travel, hospitality, and direct employment) have been supported more recently by the "Beyond Tourism Benefits" currently being championed through the IMEX Politicians Forum, the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC), and led by Business Events Sydney. This latest research reflects economic development resulting from meetings beyond direct impacts in travel and hospitality – in trade, knowledge transfer, healthcare, inward investment and skills migration - as outputs of business events rather than just the direct travel and hospitality impacts.
IMEX America 2014 was when the baton for U.S. meetings advocacy finally transferred to Corporate America.