Stand Up For OUR Industry!

I come from a history of grassroots activism: my parents were active in our neighborhood in the ’50s organizing against redlining and blockbusting. I listened closely to news and read newspapers and got involved, campaigning for presidential candidates on my playground!

Later, I was active in Y-Teens (through the YWCA), the Junior Human Rights Council, and Community Chest (now United Way) and other community organizing and grassroots efforts for wide-ranging causes, in my home town of Dayton, Ohio, on my college campus (Drake University) and then when I moved to D.C. in ’78, inspired by the late great Josephine Butler, an early proponent of D.C. statehood, active for our rights.

I was active in the civil rights movement and saw how individuals, alone and together, could make a huge difference if they’d just step up.

I’ve seen and always believed that one person—one vote—does make difference.

In our industry, I think we could do so much more to explain and influence those who hold office and make policies that impact our industry, directly and indirectly.

Sure, there are lobbyists constantly “on the Hill” (in D.C.) and in state capitols working for the hospitality industry. If you search, using “hospitality industry lobbyists” you’ll see the who and how many, almost all of whom are big companies that supply goods and services for our industry.

If there is so much influence and money expended on hospitality lobbying, why is it meetings are still questioned? And why do so many of my colleagues, especially on the meeting creation side, take a back seat? It’s not that we’ve never done anything! There was action years ago when New York City raised the hotel taxes to over 20% and we wanted it lower!

When ASCAP and BMI learned there were meetings and started fining those organizations that didn’t pay licensing fees (for people to listen to music at meetings and tradeshows), the industry associations banded together to negotiate flat fees (Thanks, Corbin Ball, for a great timeline).

I’m guessing there are newer planners who don’t know, and more senior planners who don’t remember, the brouhaha over music licensing.

I served on the CLC’s (now CIC’s) Board for MPI when this was a hot issue and remember sitting, on the return flight, next to one of the lawyers who’d spoken at our board meeting. I learned much more, though planners continued to fight the idea of paying for music to be heard.

Recent history gave us Muffingate (2011) and the uproar that erupted in local and national media criticizing what was spent on continental breakfasts. After that, the GSA-Vegas meetings “scandal” (2012) where I thought meeting professionals would be so outraged at what was done—apparent unethical behavior on the part of the meeting organizers and the hotel partners that colluded to meet the demands—and written that they’d use that angry passion to write to their local and national representatives and the media. Clearly too little was done to correct the images of meetings and our industry! Look what was written in April of this year, still criticizing meetings.

On July 10, 2013, Meetings Focus (now Meetings Today) published this blog—"Who speaks for our industry?"—that I thought might move people to action. 

Meetings Mean Business was formed to provide a framework and tools for organizations and individuals to take action. MMB has been promoted at various at industry events and, I’ve been told, promoted the many toolkits (scroll down on its site) offered for advocacy by organizations and individuals.  

The events held on 2014’s North American Meetings Industry Day (NAMID) are pictured here and there is information about what you can do in 2016 as the event expands to be Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID).

Good work and yet, here’s what we’re missing:

  • Images matter. What I see and what I remember pictured in photos from the various industry organizations’ NAMID events—people socializing and drinking—are exactly what has been criticized about meetings! I’m all for fun and yet, we have to show and be shown in situations in which work is being done not just drinking, being entertained and partying.
  • One day a year is not enough. We should mobilize those in our industry and those impacted by our industry the same way political and social justice movements do: one person at a time, engaging them in what’s needed and helping them make a difference for more.
  • Passion! Enthusing individuals in our industry the same way other movements (see my book review of “Frank” for other links) begin, thrive, and enthuse people to carry on individually.

So who speaks for our industry? We all do. We cannot depend on the CIC or each of the CIC member organizations to talk about meetings and the process of planning them, the value of holding them. We each have an obligation to understand our work’s complexity and to speak out.

Actions You Can Take:

  • Register to vote. If you missed it, this past week in the U.S. there were elections where issues that will impact our industry—related to taxes, anti-discrimination and others—were on ballots around the U.S. Yet voter turnout is consistently low outside of major elections.
  • Become informed about issues in your community and in the communities in which you’ll hold meetings. Subscribe to alerts about infrastructure, convention centers, hotels and all subjects impacting your meetings and the industry as a whole.
  • Be(come) Passionate! And keep informed about what you and I do. If you’re looking for an issue, here’s one on safety.  
  • ACT by voting and writing about meetings, whether local, national or international, with words of common sense about both the dollar impact on communities (the main focus of MMB) and more so the impact on lives and productivity of those who attend, and do so before we have to react to another “scandal” about our industry. Proactive is better than reactive.
  • Remember that images matter: if you are part of an industry organization, check the images on the web pages and in print to ensure that what is seen is more than people drinking and partying and being entertained. Show learning and engagement … that can be sexy too!
  • Take the poll linked in today’s Friday With Joan (Question 1, Question 2) so we know more about what you care about. You can view the results for Question 1 and Question 2.
  • Read my interview with Roger Dow and Roger Rickard for more information about industry advocacy through MMB and other resources.

I know that my examples are U.S.-centric. This is where I live and where I do the majority of my work. I’ve tried to find examples from Europe, especially now during the refugee crisis, and was unable to find those of the industry working together to solve a serious problem that impacts many lives. I hope you’ll post examples of what’s been and is being done in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere around the globe. 

If you’re reading this in another area of social media, please also post responses at the Meetings Today blog site so we can consolidate for greater impact and action.

Here are some recent blogs to help you think through issues impacting meetings and the hospitality industry:

And here's some related Friday With Joan e-newsletter content to go with this post:

You can also view the 11.06.15 Friday With Joan newsletter in its original format.

Got comments? Add below or email me at FridaywithJoan@aol.com. If you'd like your comments posted anonymously, I'm glad to do so.

Like all my blogs and additional content, the views expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.

Posted by Joan L. Eisenstodt

Follow Joan on Twitter: @joaneisenstodt

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