As an editor, I get to see the meeting industry from its many angles. I thought I would share the view from here of the economic slowdown — in just the past week.
On Monday, I spoke with a top exec at a Boston-based recruiting firm with primarily tech accounts. The company was scheduled to take its annual incentive trip to Puerta Vallarta. Cancelled. It wasn't about the cost of the trip, he told me, but the time away from the phones and the customers, and what that might cost the firm in new business.
On Tuesday's mimlist (the Meeting Industry Mall's online discussion group at www.mim.com), a CMP from a financial company told everyone: “The economy isn't dictating how many meetings we have, but it is definitely dictating where our meetings will be held and what the scale/scope will be. We've downgraded our incentive-type meetings and I'm under more pressure than ever to deliver more for less.”
As I edited our lead news article for the month, I saw that sales reps from the Millennium in New York and the Argent in San Francisco estimate that they have lost 20 percent of their group business (see page 12). Of course, there will be a rebound — possibly as soon as the end of the year. Already Pricewaterhouse Coopers is predicting a booming 2002 for the hospitality industry, and in the same news article, John Fox of PKF Consulting tells us, “Business is slower than it was last year, but the sky is not falling.”
But as companies analyze the bottom line every quarter, meetings — and meeting department positions — remain highly vulnerable. Almost as if to prove this point, I received the most ironic news of all, from Laura Goodrich, CMM, manager of client programs for SCT Global Energy and the subject of this month's Corporate Cases article (see page 45). Goodrich recently won the meeting industry's top honor, MPI's Global Paragon Award — only to find herself laid off.
And it's only Wednesday.
For more on how the economy is affecting the meeting industry, see next month's cover story, where we discuss the role meetings can play in communicating layoffs and in uniting the survivors. And for a full special report on the downturn in corporate meetings, don't miss our August issue.