The Convention Industry Council and some of its organization members have partnered to launch two industry initiatives aimed at improving the image of meetings in the media and at government and policymaking levels.

The first initiative is a messaging campaign created by YPartnership of Orlando using “FACE TIME. It Matters,” as its slogan. It is “a unique grassroots effort to promote public awareness of the benefits of face-to-face meetings,” said Peter C. Yesawich, chairman and CEO of Ypartnership, in a virtual press conference held Tuesday afternoon. Yesawich introduced the phrase and the logo for the campaign, which is intended to be used among all of CIC’s 34 member organizations and their members to spread the word about the importance of face-to-face interaction in business. It will be rolled out in the first quarter of 2010.

The second, longer-term project is the launch of a “major study on the economic significance of the meetings and events industry,” said Gregg Talley, chief strategy officer for the CIC. When the AIG effect took hold in late 2008, resulting in hundreds of cancellations of meetings and incentive programs for 2009, “we realized that we didn’t have enough quality research” to combat the public’s negative perception of meetings, said Deborah Sexton, president of the Professional Convention Management Association, a major funder of both initiatives. She is the current chairwoman of the CIC board.

Consulting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers, New York, was hired this fall to conduct the study, which will measure annual meetings, incentives, and exhibition spend; the number and size of meetings; and their economic impact on local economies in the U.S. PwC expects to release final results in October 2010. The study will use a similar approach to the one used in the groundbreaking economic contribution study of Canadian meetings and events from 2006, sponsored by Meeting Professionals International Foundation Canada, said Bruce MacMillan, president and CEO of MPI, at the press conference.

The study will measure meetings and events according to the definitional guidelines set by the U.N. World Tourism Organization by surveying six stakeholder groups involved in meetings, including corporations, associations, delegates, exhibitors, venue management, and destination marketing organizations, said Robert V. Canton, director and U.S. practice leader, sports and tourism practice, PwC.

Among the study’s goals:

  • Develop common data and language that all stakeholders can use when discussing the meetings and events segment of the travel and tourism industry;
  • Provide data that can be used at the local, state, regional, and national levels to articulate the economic drivers that meetings and events represent;
  • Provide a basis for ongoing benchmarking and trend analysis;
  • Leverage data into a broader discussion of the value of face-to-face events;
  • Influence government agencies to alter the system of “national accounts” to better track a Meetings/Events Activity Expansion Area within the Tourism Satellite Account and elsewhere as appropriate (as defined by the UNWTO); and
  • Extend the effort of UNWTO to track meeting and event activity, thereby influencing UNWTO, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

In addition, the study will reference the U.S. Travel Association’s Travel Economic Impact Model data. U.S. Travel’s research team will act as project manager for the study, and CIC will be the contract administrator.

Funders for the economic significance study are U.S. Travel, PCMA, the American Society of Association Executives, Destination Travel Foundation (Destination Management Association International’s foundation), Meeting Professionals International, International Special Events Society, American Hotel and Lodging Association, Site (Society of Incentive and Travel Executives), and Association of Destination Management Executives.

FACE TIME. It Matters

The messaging initiative, which was developed by YPartnership through focus groups and in-depth interviews with some of the industry’s leading executives as well as attendees, revealed that

  • face-to-face meetings build trust and relationships,
  • education and training are more effective in a live setting,
  • live meetings actually save time and money,
  • live meetings result in a more effective exchange of ideas, and
  • face-to-face meetings provide the human connection that powers business.

That initiative is being funded by ASAE, PCMA, MPI, DMAI, ISES, International Association of Exhibitions and Events, Site, and the Center for Exhibition Industry Research.