On Thursday, April 6, event professionals around the world will commemorate the second Global Meetings Industry Day. More than 70 events are planned in nearly two dozen countries, with most taking place in the United States and Canada but others scheduled in faraway spots like Zambia, New Zealand, and Croatia. The global day of advocacy is spearheaded by Meetings Mean Business, a United States-based coalition with more than 50 members focused on showcasing the value of business meetings, trade shows, incentive travel, exhibitions, conferences, and conventions.
Organizers hope the activities taking place around the world on Global Meetings Industry Day will capture the attention of those outside the industry, particularly political leaders who may be faced with topics that affect the ability of people to gather face to face such as President Trump’s travel ban.
“If you look at the positive side of some of those recent issues, it has raised the profile and the importance of our industry … that without free flow of travel, without effective ability to move people to get them together face to face, we hamper the ability to have live events and therefore you impact the economy and you impact that innovations … those events can deliver,” says Paul Van Deventer, president and C.E.O. of Meeting Professionals International and co-chair of Meetings Mean Business. “If you can raise awareness of what this industry does … maybe the legislators will think differently about bills they want to put forward and may think twice before they do them.” According to the coalition, the meeting and event industry contributes about $280 billion annually to the economy in the United States.
Last year was the first year organizers broadened the event beyond North America to be a global day of advocacy. The 2016 activities generated more than 40 million hits on social media and an increase in traffic on the Meetings Mean Business website, particularly from countries outside the United States. Organizers say in the current political climate, the collaborative events that take place on April 6 can be very valuable in communicating a positive message about the industry. “From a Meetings Mean Business standpoint, we are all about making sure that … safety and security are paramount, to this country and to this industry,“ says Nan Marchand Beauvois, vice president of the U.S. Travel Association, which created the coalition in 2009. “But also … perhaps Global Meetings Industry Day can help establish the fact that we are a welcoming and open country … as is in the American DNA.”
Events scheduled on April 6 range from a daylong educational event hosted by Tampa Bay’s M.P.I. chapter and a news conference in Panama where elected officials will discuss the impact of meetings on the region to various social and networking events. Meetings Mean Business provides ideas, talking points, statistics, and templates but does not dictate what takes place at the events. “We think that’s the best way to structure it, because it’s such a diverse industry,” Marchand Beauvois says. “One cool thing we’ve noticed in the U.S.—a few years ago they may have done it with one chapter of a trade association and the C.V.B. and a hotel. But we have some cities now that have really made this a collaborative event, and they have up to 11 or 12 organizations participating. That’s the beauty of letting people do what’s best for them to showcase the importance of the industry.”
Among the items the coalition will be working on in the coming months is the creation of a dashboard that will show the impact of the meetings industry in specific congressional districts across the country.