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WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY!

dollar-signUnless you have been at some remote location the past two weeks, you probably have heard or read about Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) bill to prohibit all TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program) recipients from holding any meetings and events. Sen. Kerry’s proposal reflects a sentiment in Washington, and for that matter much of the country, that business meetings and events are nothing more than frivolous corporate junkets where behavior and expense know no bounds. While there are plenty of examples of excess, you and I know from personal experience that the vast majority of the business meetings and events do have business purpose and provide a real return on the Company’s investment (ROI). Correct? Well……we know they have business purpose but ROI? Do we have to bring up that ROI thing again? We have been kicking around the application of ROI to meetings and events for decades and there is no easy answer.

The business community has another perception as evidenced in the CFO.com March 3, 2009 article Conferences in the Crosshairs. In this article former National Business Travel Association Chairman Kevin Iwamoto states “I don’t think the meetings industry has been really effective in defining in a dollars-and-cents way what the value of meetings is”. You may have heard the quote (author unknown), “you cannot plough a field by turning it over in your mind.” If there was ever a better time for the meeting and event industry to take a leadership role by applying the ROI concepts we have been debating for years it’s NOW! The economic woes in the global economy present an outstanding opportunity for our industry to gain recognition and respect in corporate offices around the world and make a contribution to the economy’s sustained productivity by helping define the legitimacy of business meetings and events using ROI. After all, applying the concepts seem a little less intimidating than living the rest of our professional meeting career in the virtual world.

There is plenty of guidance including our own professional association, Meeting Professional International, as well as other organizations and individuals. I have provided some source material to assist you in developing your analysis.

Title – Proving The Value of Meetings & Events How & Why to Measure ROI
Author – Jack J. Phillips, Monica Myhill, and James B. McDonough

Title – Return on Investment in Meetings and Events
Author – Jack J. Phillips/M. Theresa Breining

Presentation – ROI Simplified Jack J. Phillips, Ph.D
2008 MPI World Education Congress

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When Excess Is A Good Thing

One key element in planning green meetings is to minimize waste. Obviously the first way to attain this goal is to not create it in the first place. But no matter how careful the planning, inevitably there are leftovers. Instead of throwing catered food away, consider donating it to your local food bank.

The mission of your local food bank is to provide food and services, create stability and further self-reliance for people in crisis. Every year in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Freestore Food Bank serves over 160,000 low-income people. Approximately 28,500 different people receive assistance in any given week. The services of The Food Bank extend beyond Cincinnati, reaching people in 20 counties of Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. The Food Bank’s assistance reaches 450 agencies throughout the Tri-state including soup kitchens and food pantries.

To dispel general myths regarding those that are served, please consider the following statistics:
57% of those served have at least a high school diploma
34% of those served are under the age of 18
40% live in the suburbs
30% live in a household with at least one working family member

Jamie Rosskopf, Resource Development Manager for the Cincinnati Free Store Food Bank, recently stated that the Prepared & Perishables Program at the Food Bank is currently expanding its efforts. What can your business do to help?

There often seems to be unspoken assumption that business and environmentalism do not mix. The business world is known for its showy displays of excess, but this should not be the case when planning your next business meeting. Now more than ever, it is important to plan your event in an environmentally friendly manner.

Rosskopf explains the guidelines for donations. “Only food that has not been set up for consumption is accepted. If businesses could notify us 24-48 hours prior to the their event we would appreciate it. We can usually pick up your donation within one day of your event.”

Food Donors are protected by the “Good Samaritan Act” of 1996, which prevents people or organizations to be held liable for their donations. Ask your recipient organization or attorney for details.

Hunger is a social issue that affects the entire community. In a constant struggle with an ever-rising poverty level, the community food bank is known as the place to go for help. In Cincinnati, the Freestore Food Bank is one of the Tri-state’s most highly respected and effective human services organizations.

Little changes can have a huge impact! Set an example! Donate leftover food from conferences and events to your local food bank. It not only reduces waste but it is an important aspect of our social responsibility.

Food Pantries Shortage

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Is Your Brand Green?

Welcome to our initial post to EDI’s blog, “Brand Builder”. We hope this page will stimulate thought and discussion regarding the building of your brand through inspiring meetings and events, (i.e. event marketing). According to “EventView 2008″, a survey of 1,000 senior marketing and sales executives from North America, Europe and Asia Pacific, Event Marketing provides the greatest return on investment among the various marketing elements (i.e. print advertising, broadcast advertising, sales promotions, public relations, web marketing, direct mail). In her book, The Event Marketing Handbook, Allison Saget states …”event marketing provides the forum to continue to build and deepen relationships with customers, prospects, partners, analysts, press, and fellow employees from around the world. This one-on-one forum allows your company to penetrate the market, build consistent brand recognition, solicit input and feedback, demo products, as well as educate and build awareness among your desired target audience.” In the coming weeks Brand Builder will introduce a variety of branded meeting and event topics including being green, virtual, and experiential, the latter being an evolved form of event marketing. We will share with you our experiences and how the brand benefited from the event or meeting strategy adopted. Hopefully this dialogue will be a benefit in your next brand building application.

Our immediate focus is green events and how “going green” can not only establish a platform for environmental responsibility but create significant economic benefits and, from an event marketing perspective, create a competitive advantage for your brand. Producing green meetings and events creates good public relations. Green events raise satisfaction levels among attendees. Minimizing the event’s ecological isyourbrandgreenpicfootprint gets people excited about your brand. Corporations around the world are adopting new green initiatives as evidenced by General Electric’s Chair and CEO, Jeffrey Immelt who stated “It is no longer a zero sum game – things that are good for the environment are also good for business. General Electric is embarking on this initiative not because it is trendy or moral, but because it will accelerate economic growth.”

The economic benefits can be significant. For example, in the case of meetings and events, use electronic technology to reduce paper use. Create a website to disseminate event information and facilitate registration. Utilize email to promote the event. Distribute handout information using USB flash drives. If you feel it necessary to distribute printed material utilize double sided sheets to cut waste. These steps can potentially represent savings in the thousands of dollars. You don’t have to start with a 100% conservation program but instead start small and build on each success. Every effort toward sustainability has an impact.

As a member of the Green Meetings Industry Council and it’s 2009 Annual Conference planning committee I will share with you in the coming weeks innovative green meeting and event practices that will assist you in establishing a sustainability program that will reap long range environmental, economic and competitive benefits.

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