Right now, while many companies are postponing or canceling their meetings outright, others are using them to help those most affected by the September 11 tragedies. And some companies are actually moving to venues in New York to lend support and show they care.
One such organization is Meeting Professionals International, which announced that it was relocating its MPI Foundation Meeting, originally scheduled to be held in Boston, to the New York Hilton and Towers October 26-27.
“We made the decision to relocate about 10 days after [the attacks],” said MPI President/CEO Edwin L. Griffin Jr. “The reason for the relocation was to show our support for the New York City meetings industry, and the hotels and the airlines that serve the city.”
Griffin said that the meeting schedule was revised to include an October 26 industry summit, featuring representatives of several associations involved in the meeting industry. “We felt we needed such a forum to address the impact of the September 11 attacks and subsequent events on the industry, and to stimulate a renewed affirmation to move ahead with business opportunities.”
As of press time in mid-October, software giant Microsoft was moving ahead with its scheduled October 25 kickoff of the new Windows XP operating system in Times Square and Rockefeller Center, complete with a free concert and an appearance by Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates.
“Mayor Giuliani has said that he wants New York open for business, and we're responding to that call,” says Gates, “There is simply no city like New York, and there are no people like New Yorkers. While the city is forever changed, we want this event to help remind the world that New York still represents strength and determination.”
Also immediately after the September 11 attacks, Microsoft joined with AOL Time Warner, Yahoo!, eBay, Amazon.com, and Cisco Systems to form the American Liberty Partnership, an Internet-industry initiative that is using the online medium to connect people who want to help with the organizations that need that help the most. Visitors to Microsoft's Web site, www. microsoft.com, can link to various organizations' sites to make donations. As CMI went to press in mid-October, more than $102 million had been donated to the relief effort through this partnership.
For the Families
A smaller, but no less dedicated effort to help was initiated by AmComm, a Lexington, Ky. — based company that owns the SpeechTEK Exposition and Educational Conference, a large speech-technology event held every year in New York. At press time, this year's SpeechTEK event was readying to host more than 2,000 attendees at the New York Hilton & Towers.
But merely going ahead with the conference was not enough, says John Kelly, AmComm founder and president. Kelly said NYC&Co., the city's convention and visitors bureau, contacted him a day or two after the September 11 terrorist attacks. After verifying that the SpeechTEK Exposition would go on as planned, Kelly offered his company's help.
“We asked if there was a fund we could contribute to, and they told us about the Twin Towers Fund,” he says.
As a result, Kelly has decided to donate some of the proceeds of the show to the relief effort — even though the terrorist attacks have negatively affected projected attendance for the event.
“We'll fall short of the 3,000attendees and 500 paid conference attendees that we'd hoped for,” he says. “But look — we have no problems as an organization compared with what the victims' families have been going through. Our message is that we have a lot of concern for what this tragedy has done to all the families.
“We went ahead with the event for two reasons,” Kelly explains. “First, it simply was the right thing to do. Second, our conference is vital to the speech communications industry — especially the applications having to do with security.”
In addition to committing some of the Exposition's proceedings to the relief effort, Kelly says the event's networking reception was scaled down to a less elaborate event — and that the difference in cost between the originally planned reception and the scaled-down version is being donated. Also, SpeechTEK's Web site (www. speechtek.com), which is shared by Speech Technology magazine, another AmComm enterprise, now urges visitors to contribute to the Twin Towers Fund and directs them to links where they can make donations and obtain information about other ways to help.
Won't Be Scared Away
Olive NYC Inc., a destination management/event-planning firm that is based in New York, reports that it has received confirmation that one of its European clients is keeping to its scheduled December event in New York. All 650 attendees are flying in from various European countries.
Olive NYC President Joanna Ripley says the client easily could have canceled the New York trip and met in a more central location in Europe, or linked up by satellite to conduct the meeting. She said the client decided to hold the scheduled meeting “as a message to other visiting companies that they will not be scared away.”
A New Kind of Holiday Cheer
Companies across the country that had not scheduled meetings in New York have also chipped in. The Austin Co., a Cleveland-based architectural and engineering firm, has made it an annual tradition to send boxes of candy to valued customers. This year, however, funds that would have gone to the purchase of candy are being donated to the American Red Cross — and news of the revised holiday cheer will be included in corporate holiday cards that will be sent to each employee.
Another example of corporate support can be found at Primedia, CMI's parent company. Before the September 11 attacks, the company had decided to forgo the traditional end-of-the-year holiday employee parties in favor of giving American Express gift certificates to employees. Since the attacks, many employees have requested that the company donate the amount of their gift certificates to the relief effort in New York instead.
Meanwhile, at Primedia's New York offices, employees initiated a grassroots effort to help out financially — and the company is matching every employee donation up to $50,000. By mid-October, employees had made $118,000 in donations, with the company donating a like amount.
RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS
Never before has the world been witness to the true heart of New York: its people. It is New Yorkers that make New York City strong — and will continue to. During those fateful days in September, here is how the meeting and hospitality industries reached out:
David Emil, owner of Windows on the World, and Michael Lomonaco, the restaurant's executive chef, have established the Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund to help families of all members of the food and beverage industry who were lost in the tragedy. Donations can be sent to: Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund, c/o David Berdon & Co. LLP, 415 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y., 10017.
Jaclyn Bernstein, Robert Hulsmeyer, and Kevin White of Empire Force Events spent the first three days after the disaster in a rented van delivering water, food, and other requested supplies donated from neighborhood businesses to the emergency camps downtown.
TriBeCa Grill chef Don Pintabona worked with other top New York chefs, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Daniel Boulud, Charlie Palmer, and Gray Kunz, to provide food for emergency workers, 500 meals at a time.
The four W Hotels in New York are offering the use of their event spaces (when available) for a minimal cost to companies directly affected by the World Trade Center attacks, or for benefits related to the disaster. The boutique-style chain is waiving the normal room rental rates, and charging only a fee to cover labor, food and beverage, taxes, and other fees.
For all future events thatBriggs Red Carpet Associates had booked for clients at Windows on the World, the company is donating the deposit those companies had already paid to the Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund, and returning the same amount to clients out of the company's own funds.
BiZBash.com is creating a public relations outreach campaign for the city, including a cooperative advertisement from major event and meeting venues in New York, as well as hotels, restaurants, and conference centers. The campaign will also include various incentives for booking business, such as reduced group rates for travel from airlines, low-cost tickets to Broadway shows, reduced costs at restaurants, and more. For more information, contact David Adler at (646) 638-3602 or by e-mail at email@example.com
HOTELS BIG AND SMALL PITCH IN
Six Continents Hotels, whose brands include Inter-Continental Hotels and Resorts and Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts, has donated $1 million to be split between the American Red Cross and September 11th Fund. Meanwhile, the Hotel Lawrence (formerly the Paramount Hotel) in Dallas is donating $5 for every group guest who stays at the hotel through December 31 to the American Red Cross, through its “Operation Rooms for Red Cross” program. Meeting planners are required to request participation when booking group reservations, and the program does not apply to previously booked business.