MPI Assails Commoditization, U.S.-Entry Rule Changes
Meeting planners must adapt to new business models that value the development of close partnerships within companies and with outside vendors to be considered a vital part of their organizations' long-term goals and not just a commodity, a new white paper from Meeting Professionals International concluded.
Separately, MPI joined with two other meetings industry associations to oppose the U.S. government's plan to tighten the documentation required to enter the country.
The fourth paper in a series from MPI's Global Corporate Circle of Excellence concludes that too many meeting planners focus on logistics and don't give enough consideration to answering strategic questions, such as how meetings drive business.
"As more and more organizations abandon traditional, linear business models in favor of a partnership model that emphasizes organizational matrices, meeting professionals must meet day-to-day expectations while learning new ways of doing business together," according to the paper, entitled, "Defining a Strategic Meetings Management Program: How Meetings Drive Business in Partnership-Focused Companies."
The paper recommends that meeting professionals develop a strategic meetings management program for a business community that itself is evolving to meet such new demands as greater accountability from regulators, reestablishment of trust in the aftermath of corporate scandals, consolidation and globalization.
The white paper, like others before it that are available on the MPI Web site, urged meetings professionals to emphasize how meetings can be used to stimulate business development.
"Ultimately, meetings serve as the vehicle for all company initiatives," the paper concludes. "As a result, meeting professionals working within successful strategic meetings management programs possess key 'seats at the table' to facilitate the ever-evolving partnership model, making them indispensable business partners." If meeting planners don't adapt, the paper warns, the industry risks becoming "a commodity that competes on price alone."
The paper says that meeting professionals who succeed in adapting to the new partnership business model will engage both a company's internal stakeholders and outside vendors to build intimate knowledge of a company's needs, which in turn will develop trust and generate positive experiences in the planning and execution of meetings.
The paper recommends following "five key steps" to ensure a client values the role of meetings in their business development. These steps include soliciting stakeholders' ideas and assistance, close review of that input, and utilization of any good ideas. Meeting professionals should create opportunities for stakeholders to support their meetings programs and showcase their involvement, the paper says.
Meeting professionals also should have a stable of preferred vendors that meet their clients' needs and hold down costs. Preferred vendors work best in such supplier categories as hotels, airlines and audiovisual providers, but the model also can be used for speaker bureaus, writers and photographers, and marketing and public relations firms.
"The strategic meetings management environment will inevitably influence what constitutes a mutually beneficial business relationship between a company and a vendor," the paper says. "Savvy suppliers will ultimately adjust to this new way of doing business and see a preferred-vendor agreement as an opportunity to continue and improve an existing relationship."
Groups Oppose Entry Policy
Separately, MPI joined the American Society of Association Executives & the Center for Association Leadership and the Professional Convention Management Association in urging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to give greater consideration to the potential impact on travel and tourism if travelers entering the United States from Mexico and Canada must begin presenting passports.
DHS and the U.S. State Department earlier this year announced the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which imposes more rigid documentation requirements to enter the United States from elsewhere in North America. It would require travelers, including U.S. citizens, to present a passport to enter the country, and perhaps eventually to provide biometric information. The policy goes into effect Dec. 31, 2006, for air and sea travel. It would apply to land border crossings from Mexico and Canada after Dec. 31, 2007.
Currently, travelers from Mexico and Canada can enter the United States with a valid, machine-readable driver's license and a birth certificate. The groups warned a more stringent passport policy would hurt travel. "While we certainly acknowledge the national security concerns at play in the development of the WHTI, travel and tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry placed at some risk if entry procedures at the U.S. borders are stiffened to the point where the deter visitors from Canada and Mexico," said ASAE President and CEO John Graham IV.
Some 34.5 million Canadians visited the United States in 2003, contributing $10.9 billion to the U.S. economy, according to estimates from the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, which tracks such data. Equivalent data for visitors from Mexico wasn't available.
DHS and the State Department later this year are expected to say how they may revise the proposal after collecting input during an initial round of public comments. The groups urged the U.S. government to consider such alternative documentation as driver's licenses with heightened security features for border crossings by citizens in the countries that neighbor the United States.
"PCMA believes the new proposed restrictions will adversely affect the meetings industry in the U.S. by making it increasingly difficult for potential attendees in Canada and Mexico to attend conventions in the United States and for U.S. citizens to plan and attend meetings and conventions in these countries," said Deborah Sexton, president and CEO of PCMA. "PCMA urges for a definition of 'other secure documents' and a uniform implementation date, regardless of arrival port, of Jan. 1, 2008."