Meetings industry leaders met in Orlando on January 15 to begin the process of creating a messaging campaign to promote the value of meetings to the public and government.

The campaign will be the next phase of the initiative that launched with the release of the landmark study in 2011, The Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy, which reported the total direct spending associated with U.S. meeting activity in 2009 to be $263 billion.

Industry leaders met during the Professional Convention Management Association’s Convening Leaders conference, and at a town hall meeting the next day PCMA President and Chief Executive Officer Deborah Sexton reported that the plan is to craft bullet-point messages that succinctly communicate why meetings are so valuable to the economy, business, and society. The statements, she said, would create a unified message, one that all industry organizations could use on their materials and communications.

Leaders from all of the major meetings industry associations will get together periodically over the next few months to formulate the messages with the goal of releasing them by mid-year.

U.S. Travel’s Meetings Mean Business campaign and the economic impact study have been successful in raising awareness of the value of meetings, events, and incentive travel, following the financial meltdown of 2008 when meetings were vilified and cancelled, but this next step is crucial, says Sexton. The meetings industry needs to build on its momentum before something else happens and meetings are once again under attack, she says.

Advocacy was a major theme at Convening Leaders. The convention’s Learning Lounge included an area called Advocacy Central where Voices in Advocacy ran a program called, Do the Write Thing, which helped attendees write letters to their Congressional representatives urging them to support meetings. Voices in Advocacy, run by Roger Rickard of Revent LLC, then mailed the letters. Attendees could also sign a statement in support of the CIC’s Economic Significance of Meetings study, which will be circulated on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.