In reaction to the U.S. Treasury Department’s new guidelines for companies receiving funds from its Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Meeting, Event, and Incentive Coalition has developed a model policy for approval of meetings, events, and incentive travel, as well as a representative list of legitimate business purposes for these events.
The Coalition includes representatives from the U.S. Travel Association, Meeting Professionals International, the National Business Travel Association, the Professional Convention Management Association, Site, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, and Destination Marketing Association International, as well as various industry corporations such as Maritz and Carlson.
Here are the Coalition’s documents:
Model Board Policy for Approval of Meetings, Events and Incentive/Recognition Travel
1. General policy statement: The CEO shall be responsible for implementing adequate controls to assure that meetings, events and incentive/recognition travel organized by the company serve legitimate business purposes and are cost justified.
2. All proposed meetings, events and incentive/recognition travel organized by the company must serve one or more specified legitimate business purposes (see representative listing attached). Each proposed meeting, event or incentive/recognition travel with a cost exceeding $75,000 must be supported by a written business case identifying a specific business purpose.
3. Total annual expenses for meetings, events and incentive/recognition travel shall not exceed 15 percent of the company’s total sales and marketing spend.
4. The amount spent for an employee performance incentive/recognition event shall not exceed two (2) percent of the total compensation of eligible participants or 10 percent of total award earners’ compensation.
5. The process for approving meetings, events and incentive/recognition travel, and the procedures for assuring adherence to this policy, will be subject to independent audit to confirm policy adherence.
6. At least 90 percent of incentive program attendees shall be other than senior executives (as defined by applicable Treasury Department guidelines) from the host organization.
7. Performance incentives shall not promote excessive or unnecessary risktaking or manipulation of financial results.
8. All internal meetings or events attended only by senior executives (as defined by applicable Treasury Department guidelines) and/or board members shall be devoted to specific business purposes, and participating senior executives shall be responsible for any expenses incurred for non-business related activities.
9. The CEO of the company shall certify to the board at least annually that the foregoing policies are being followed, and are sufficient to provide reasonable assurance that the company’s expenditures for such purposes are not excessive.
10. These policies shall be subject to modification only with board approval stating the specific business rationale for the change in policy.
Examples of Legitimate Business Purposes for Meetings, Events, Incentive/Recognition Travel
As with all business expenditures authorized in these challenging circumstances, all proposed expenditures for meetings, events and incentive/recognition travel should be made to strengthen the competitive position of the company in the marketplace and position the company for the creation of long-term value and growth. Below is a representative list of legitimate business purposes for meetings, events and incentive/recognition travel.
- Effective product launches to educate sales force, channel partners and customers.
- Sales conferences and employee meetings to align vision, strategy and tactics.
- Training and staff development meetings – learning environments conducive to adult learning and professional development, improving participants' skills at their trade and/or their familiarity with the company's products or services.
- Employee recognition programs to motivate and reward employees for achievement and productivity.
- Professional conferences that provide networking, education and best practice sharing across companies and industries.
- Performance incentives with clear rule structures that are designed to motivate and reward high performers for exceeding established goals that generate incremental revenue growth for their respective organizations and that are beyond the investment in the program.
- User conferences for customers utilizing the company's products or services to obtain feedback, build networks, provide product training and capture ideas for enhancements to the company's product offerings.
- Product development events designed to generate feedback for research and development purposes.
- Corporate-sponsored events that further charitable purposes.
- Trade shows and similar events that bring prospective buyers and sellers together.
- Strategic, business and financial planning and review meetings.
- Employee meetings as a result of company mergers and/or acquisitions for the purpose of alignment of products, brands and cultures.