Rumor has it that industry associations are considering a public relations campaign to promote the value of face-to-face meetings, hoping to counter meeting cancellations and attendance declines anticipated for 2002. I can think of at least three actions that would be far more effective in getting people to go to meetings:

1. Associations that can afford to should give registration price breaks and other inducements to the most vulnerable segments of their attendee and exhibitor markets. The Professional Convention Management Association recently moved in this direction with a $32,000 grant program, funded by PCMA’s Foundation, that would give each chapter $2,000 for financial assistance to members who would otherwise not be able to attend PCMA’s annual meeting in January. Many foundations, especially those in the meeting and hospitality industries, have grown flush with cash in the last five years, and a program like PCMA’s is a worthwhile way to spend some of that money—more valuable, I think, than another under-read white paper analyzing an industry issue.

2. Facilities in first-tier destinations need to dump price gouging tactics, such as charging $50 or more for a gallon of coffee, four-hour minimum fees for audiovisual equipment, and exhorbitant labor fees. These kinds of charges drive planners bananas and moderating them would go a long way to boosting meetings business.

3. Industry associations, such as PCMA, IAEM, ASAE, and CIC, as well as the National Business Travel Association, need to form a joint committee to recommend reforms for the airline industry, which is vital to the health of the meetings business, and which was in bad shape prior to the terrorist attacks. A focus of this committee’s efforts might be recomendations for putting teeth back in the Federal Aviation Authority, which has woefully underperformed as a regulatory agency that should be overseeing the safety, competitiveness, and efficiency of our nation’s airways.

We’ve just given the airline industry a $15 billion federal bailout. Let’s see some changes take place as a result.

What about you—what reforms can you suggest that will help drive more attendance at meetings in 2002? Do we need a Ronald McDonald to promote face-to-face meetings, or do we need a reformation?