Several years ago, while working in a hotel sales office, I had a colleague who would remind everyone taking business trips to “make good decisions.” We joked about this because, too often, we saw industry friends and colleagues damage their reputations and sometimes even lose their jobs over bad decisions made when traveling.
I have long been concerned about the ability of meeting and hospitality professionals to elevate the perception of our work. Our business is fun, but it’s still business. According to the Convention Industry Council, meetings generate $263 billion in annual spending and support 1.7 million jobs. As industry partners, we, as suppliers, owe it to the planning community to help dispel the myth of the “party” planner. We all know there is much more to conference planning than throwing a party, yet we tend to focus on social events as convention highlights.
What’s wrong with enjoying a drink with a client? Nothing, when we remember that these clients and our friendships with them should be valued. We should appreciate them enough to know we are hurting everyone’s credibility with bad behavior and decisions. It isn’t enjoyable to hear that industry friends and colleagues didn’t make it to a morning session. Did they miss out on sitting with their following big account?
Educational sessions are educational, but they are also great networking opportunities. In 20 years in the industry, I have yet to attend an academic session where I did not meet someone new. Sometimes they are planners, and sometimes they are fellow suppliers. Networking is a critical component of our work because the person sitting next to you could be a new client, could recommend a new client, could interview you for a job one day, or could become a friend.
Our conduct is about more than just us individually. When traveling, I represent myself, my company, and my community. It’s essential to make connections, have fun, and make good decisions.