By now you've probably heard plenty about the need for the meetings industry to join together and educate our nation's leaders about the value of face-to-face meetings. It's a frequent topic of conversation here at PCMA, and across the meetings community.
As individuals and as an industry, we've made progress in driving home the many benefits of face-to-face collaboration. But there's much more work to be done.
In July, House legislation was introduced that calls for the Office of Management and Budget to develop a plan to use video conferencing to reduce federal travel expenses by 50 percent by 2017. The "Cut the Waste, Stay in Place Act of 2013" -- which at press time had not been called for a vote -- appears to imply that all meetings and travel are wasteful and ignores the value of face-to-face collaboration.
Yet despite the proposed legislation, there's evidence some members of Congress might be hearing us. Just a few months ago, three Representatives called for a full report on how current efforts to reduce travel spending by 30 percent (from 2010 levels) have affected federal agencies. That these Representatives recognize the potential negative business implications -- and want to press for more specific answers -- is a major step forward.
For its part, an independent study released shortly after from Rockport Analytics -- on behalf of the U.S. Travel Association -- found that government travel for meetings leads to greater productivity and efficiency. What's more, the report found that across-the-board cancellations offer short-term savings at much greater long-term costs. (To access the report, visit traveleffect.com.)
As an organization, PCMA is working on several fronts to advocate the value of face-to-face meetings on your behalf. We're providing financial support for an update to the economic impact study that was completed two years ago. We're continuing to work closely with other industry associations on a messaging campaign that will promote the value of face-to-face beyond the economic. And we're in the midst of planning a "big ideas" joint initiative of PCMA and the PCMA Education Foundation.
We also have been helping members contact their elected officials directly. With templates and sample talking points, you can personalize a letter to your legislators but PCMA handles all the logistics of getting them to the right place. If you haven't already reached out to your representatives, I encourage you to do so.
Admittedly, the challenge of breaking through to legislators about the many benefits of in-person education, idea exchanges, and relationship-building is not one that will be accomplished overnight. But it's much more viable when we all work together to make our voices heard. Stay tuned for more on this critical issue.