Guest Column: 3 Ways You Can Support the Event Industry Today

By Claire Harrington July 24, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT

Photo: Jacob Kepler for BizBash

Claire Harrington (@charrington_28) is the public relations manager for Social Tables, a provider of hospitality software that specializes in diagramming and guest management.

I remember when I sat my mother down and told her I wanted to be a professional event and meeting planner. I remember having to get a bachelor’s degree in Recreation, Sport, and Tourism Management, because it was the closest thing my school offered to event and meeting curriculum. I remember fudging my degree to be, “Recreation, Sport, and Tourism Event Management” on job applications. I remember feeling compelled to justify my occupation when I landed my first job as an event coordinator. I remember feeling like no one looked at me as a serious professional.

You know what else I remember?

I remember when Frost & Sullivan valued the global meetings and events industry at $565 billion.

I remember when Meetings Mean Business president David Peckinpaugh said, “Data from the Convention Industry Council points out that meetings support more jobs than the computer, trucking, broadcast, and telecommunications industries”—making the meetings industry the fourth largest employer in the country.

I remember when the Convention Industry Council’s Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy study reported that the meetings and convention industry generated $280 billion in direct spending. Of that, 54 percent ($150 billion) was attributed to meetings and production costs.

I remember when MPI’s 2014 Spring Meetings Outlook report found that 43 percent of event professionals predicted an increase in their budgets.

I remember when Skift’s trend report on the Future of Meetings in Hospitality was published, which outlined the steps our industry has taken to “reevaluate how it conducts business and rethink how it drives results during a period of drastic economic volatility and unprecedented changes in technology.”

I remember when the Special Event Corporate Event Forecast found that 52 percent of its survey respondents expected expenditures on corporate special events to increase in 2015.

We’re making the world take notice of our influence, our significance, our legitimacy. We sit at the intersection of every industry—and not in a small way. Frost and Sullivan found that the world’s largest companies—Forbes Global 2000—spent $396 billion on meetings and events in 2012 alone. We no longer need to defend our sense of purpose, but we can’t bathe in the light of this gratification. The fight isn’t over. There will be a continued need to prove our worth—a continued struggle to establish a permanent seat at the big kids table.

Here are three actionable ways every event and meeting professional can help our industry progress:

1. Make Noise
Those stats above? This post? Any of the reports cited? Push one or all of them out to your networks. Tout our accomplishments in big ways, on big platforms. Create social media posts, generate email campaigns, write your own article and circulate it. Be our industry’s mouthpiece.

2. Educate
Carol Krugman, PCMA’s 2013 Educator of the Year and an industry thought leader (she wrote Global Meetings & Exhibitions), is now the interim chair for the Department of Hospitality, Tourism & Events Management at the Metropolitan State University of Denver. She left her multimillion-dollar event and meeting business behind to become a teacher. To spread her knowledge, her expertise, and her vision to the students of today who will be the industry leaders of tomorrow.

Join the board of a local association. Volunteer in your community. Guest teach. Submit a speaker proposal. Use your knowledge to create a stronger foundation for the future.

3. Innovate
We are a creative industry that must continue pushing the boundaries of every aspect of meetings and events to remain forward thinking. Conceptualize new and creative ideas for catering, decor, and room sets. Consider the holes that need to be filled in technology. Improve current norms. Recreate traditional standards. Dream bigger.

What steps will you take to ensure that this industry, the one we each pour our hearts and souls into every single day, continues on an upward trajectory of success? What will you do that will influence the future leaders of our industry to say, “I remember”?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions in this article belong to the author, and do not necessarily represent those of BizBash.

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