Today's Brainier Incentive Meetings

If you can, catch a story in Investor's Business Daily that perfectly narrates the migration of the mythical, luxurious business conference to today's more guarded, content-heavy gatherings that de-emphasize fun and games.

 [more]The piece talks about how many companies in the recent past -- even non-TARP recipients -- have substituted live events for teleconferences, out of fear of being criticized, and it quotes a figure from the US Travel Association that convention business in Las Vegas in 2009 tumbled by nearly half from the year earlier. (There's a paradox if there ever was one; there aren't too many places on earth you can get so much for so little.)

But what I love about this story is its redemption factor: how meetings have changed since the first great hullabaloo over events at so-called vacation destinations. For example, take incentive meetings. They're still going on, obviously, but many now include "more education components and interactive learning, more problem-solving and not the typical lectures," says Deborah Sexton, president of the Professional Convention Management Association, in the story. And I love her quote: Yes, many companies are avoiding five-star hotels in the Caribbean, but "sometimes you can't meet in a roadside motel."

Public criticism of corporate events was an alarm bell, and since then, we as an industry have moved on to value more strategic management of all types of meetings -- sales, incentive and external gatherings with clients.

"Companies had gotten complacent. These meetings are about business investments, not perks," says Maritz Travel's Chris Gaia, Vice President for Marketing, in the story.

Well said!

Kevin Iwamoto is vice president of enterprise strategy at StarCite. This post is syndicated from his blog, Strategic Meetings Management