Meetings Mean Business Coalition Taking Message Worldwide

he Meetings Mean Business panel at the 2014 AIBTM trade show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando

The Meetings Mean Business panel at the 2014 AIBTM trade show at the Orange County
Convention Center in Orlando. Photo via


Meetings Mean Business is going global.

In addition to continuing its campaign to get out the message about the economic value of face-to-face meetings, the coalition of meetings and travel industry organizations and groups hopes to take that message worldwide.

“Every dollar spent on meetings in the United States returns $9.50,” said Larry Luteran, Hilton Worldwide‘s senior vice president of group sales and industry relations and co-chairman of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition, at a panel this morning at the AIBTM conference in Orlando. He also told the audience that “we in the industry must become disciples” to spread the word.

The Meetings Mean Business panel discussed these initiatives and updated the audience on the coalition’s activities and progress since the beginning of this year. In the past months, Meetings Mean Business has focused on the industry acting and being seen as one, with one voice, as opposed to the various segments and multiple voices that were present before.

AIBTM Exhibition Director Michael Lyons

AIBTM Exhibition Director Michael Lyons

To that end, MMB has developed a toolkit to help its constituents understand the campaign issues and goals, and be consistent in communications with others. “The toolkit is a ‘hymnbook’ that can be disseminated throughout the industry to allow us to talk intelligently in our own communities and in our organizations about the power and value of meetings,” said Michael Lyons, AIBTM exhibition director, who organized today’s panel. The toolkit includes helpful talking points, social media content and a one-page fact sheet with the topline messages: Face-t0-face meetings create personal connections, positive business outcomes and build strong communities.

The coalition also created an app for quick access to the toolkit and materials, including data points, editorial content and the latest industry news.

Today’s panel included Luteran; Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association president and CEO; John Graham, American Society for Association Executives president and CEO; Kevin Hinton, Site Global chief of staff officer; David DuBois, International Association of Events & Exhibitions president  and CEO; Deborah Sexton, Professional Convention Management Association president and CEO; and Paul Van Deventer, Meeting Professionals International president and CEO.

The Meetings Mean Business campaign was launched in 2009 in response to the firestorm following insurance giant AIG spending $440,000 on a luxury retreat for its brokers—during the Great Recession and right after receiving an $85 billion government bailout. But as the recession receded, the coalition did as well. The re-launch in January was an attempt to be more proactive and further strengthen the message through coalition numbers, lobbying efforts and funded activities (Meetings Mean Business raised $500,000 from its members and retained APCO Worldwide, a D.C.-based public relations agency).

Now, the coalition says it will be working with groups and organizations in countries outside the United States who are grappling with similar issues.

“Face-to-face meetings aren’t going anywhere,” said Lyons. “Regardless of technology and all the changes that the industry is going through, there is need for all of us to get together face to face, to sit down and do business and network, to build relationships. This is the cornerstone, the foundation of doing business. You can’t do it with technology—you can’t establish that rapport and relationship.”

—Katharine Fong