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Why Conferences and Annual Meetings are NOT Evil

Thanks to the media vilifying a few apparently out-of-control jaunts by corporations who had to be bailed out, many companies are now reconsidering their own meetings and conventions. Meetings are being portrayed as frivolous expenditures when people are being let go.


If we keep buying into all the doom and gloom the media is generating, this recession will last forever. I find myself on the verge of panic until I actually compare the numbers and see that I’m ahead of last year. I read the projected worldwide unemployment figure and think I should make a “Will Speak for Food” sign and stand by the side of the road.

We have to get a grip. Here’s what I know:

1.)Sound business practices before the recession are still sound businesses practices. We weren’t holding meetings and conferences because we wanted to throw money away. We were holding them because they WORKED! Employees felt rewarded. Skills were updated and sharpened. New ideas and big deals were put together in the corridors between sessions. Conferences and meetings MADE US MONEY!

2.)We need these meetings more than ever. What message is sent to an already overworked and underpaid workforce when the annual recognition event is cancelled? How about these:

We’ve given up.

We didn’t fire you, yet.

Why train you? We’re probably going under.

Hold your regular event and you say:

We believe in you and our organization.

We pursue excellence.

We have not yet begun to fight.

3.)People need to come together. Most of the organizations I speak for only bring everyone together once a year. This is the only time they get to see all of their co-workers, the only time they hear from upper management. And you are going to do away with this??? We should probably be meeting MORE in these tough times not less. E-mail and the teleconference are not good enough. You want to motivate your troops – get in front of them in person. Bring them together. Technology is a great thing, but it can not replace face-to-face interaction. You want to save money or build a team?

4.)Conferences and company meetings provide things that are vital – information, training, reward & recognition, a sense of affiliation & belonging. If you cancel them, how will you provide these things? If you competitors continue to send their people to conferences and hold meetings, what will that mean for you in the long run?

5.)DO NOT PANIC! I have heard that one of the state governments I work with has cancelled all conferences through 2010. State conferences include training for school teachers and child nutritionists as well as police, fire and EMS workers. I don’t know about you, but I would like these people to have the most current information available. And why give up this early in the game on 2010? Why give up at all?

6.)Spend wisely. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be wise in your spending. You may re-examine what happens at these events and the per capita expense. But let these decisions be guided by your good judgment, not worry over media blather. For example, if you have always taken your people to a top resort, before you decide to meet in the CEO’s backyard, consider what that location means. Do your people regard the event as a major perk – and thus a benefit that you would be taking away? Some of the events where I speak are held in posh places and that is the ONLY time many of the attendees get to go to such a place. They feel special and honored and it increases their company loyalty. Getting them off site also encourages them to be more creative and to leave behind the daily distractions. Before you slash the budget, consider all the ramifications.

7.)You know best. You know your organization better than anyone in the media or any outsider. You know what works for your people and what doesn’t. Have faith in your knowledge and experience. If you lose good people or don’t get good results, think anyone will sing your praises because you saved some money?

8.)Would you rather have 15 poorly trained, unmotivated employees or 10 highly trained, fired up employees? I don’t think I need to say more.

Call FireStar – we’ll help get your people fired up! We’ll help you train them to see more and to take better care of your current customers. We have programs that will help them deal with stress and increased workloads. Don’t send the message that you’ve given up! Let us help you send the message “WE HAVE NOT YET BEGUN TO FIGHT!”

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