Recognizing the need to obtain solid data showing the importance of in-person meetings to government workers, Meetings Mean Business recently conducted a survey of them—and got exactly what it wanted.
The survey, which was conducted among 100 employees representing 35 federal agencies, shows that they regard face-to-face interaction at meetings, conferences and events as vital for them to successfully do their jobs.
Ninety-eight percent of those surveyed said that in-person meetings are important for advancing their agency’s mission and 98 percent said that face-to-face interactions with colleagues, peers, partners and vendors improves their ability to work effectively. And two in three say that collaborating and innovating is best done face to face.
“Face-to-face meetings are the best way to establish personal connections and drive positive outcomes,” says David Peckinpaugh, president of Maritz Travel Company and co-chair of Meetings Mean Business. “These results clearly show that federal government employees feel the same way.”
During the past few years, however, restrictions have been placed on travel for governmental meetings due to criticisms that many of them are excessive and waste taxpayers’ money. Peckinpaugh agrees that there have been instances of abuse, but asserts that they have been isolated cases.
In response to the criticisms, Meetings Mean Business—a coalition of meetings businesses and organizations—was created in 2009 by the U.S. Travel Association to showcase the value that business meetings, conferences and events bring to the U.S. economy.
The new survey is particularly significant because it addresses one of the main obstacles to achieving this goal.
“Politicians like to see data, and this survey helps them understand how federal employees feel about in-person meetings,” says Bill Dalbec, deputy managing director for APCO Insight, which collaborated with Meetings Mean Business to conduct the poll. “The survey helps them go from having only anecdotal information to putting a number on the impact of face-to-face meetings on policies.”
Peckinpaugh acknowledges that virtual meetings and teleconferences can be valuable in some cases, “but they’re not effective substitutes for face-to-face meetings,” he says.
He feels that by disseminating the survey results on the Meetings Mean Business website (meetingsmeanbusiness.com) and in presentations at events, they will play a major role in illustrating the importance of in-person meetings to federal employees—and subsequently loosen restrictions on travel and provide more funding for governmental meetings.
“This gives us more in our arsenal, particularly for the naysayers on Capitol Hill,” he says. “This is a long slow fight, and we need support from Capitol Hill.