Taking the Fall
Today I learned of the latest government debacle: $4 shrimp on a catering menu resulting in “excessive and wasteful” spending at GSA’s 2010 Western Regions Conference. The date is April 3, 2012 or I might think this was an April Fool’s Day joke. I also learned that some people lost their jobs over this and the person in charge of the GSA resigned. Really? Due to $5 mini Monte Cristo sandwiches? Good thing I don’t work there or I could be en route to the unemployment office too.
My initial thought when reading about this was that these prices sounded about right, possibly even a little low for some of the areas in the country where we host meetings. I would love for coffee to be priced at $62/gallon everywhere I went. Crazy, I know…
Anyone who has spent time on the hotel side of our community understands the expense needed just to open the doors of a ballroom, much less set it to a client’s individual needs. Many people are still making the decision on where to hold a meeting based solely upon the sleeping room rate. This is a fine way to make a destination decision if all you are doing is putting heads in beds, but face to face meetings are so much more than that and require an entirely different host of needs and the resulting expenses. What if we all chose cell phones based on the initial cost of the phone and not how much it would cost us monthly? Don’t you want to know how many miles per gallon your potential vehicle is rated for before purchasing?
However, let’s not get hung up on F&B pricing, but instead try to look at the value of what attendees receive at a face to face meeting. Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has been around for more than fifty years and has been updated several times since the initial publication. In each iteration of this work, needs that are commonly accomplished at face to face meetings fall into nearly every category.
The original version:
- Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sleep, etc.
- Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc.
- Belongingness and Love needs – work group, family, affection, relationships, etc.
- Esteem needs – self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc.
- Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
The 1970’s version added two categories:
- Cognitive needs – knowledge, meaning, etc.
- Aesthetic needs – appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.
The 1990’s version added one:
- Transcendence needs – helping others to achieve self-actualization.
The human condition automatically comes with a need to be with other humans and to belong to something greater and/or to accomplish more than can be done alone. If you really look Maslow’s list, I question how much of this can be done on a conference call or via Skype, Facetime, WebEx, etc. Our community represents and directly supports 1.7 million jobs, $263 billion in spending, a $106 billion contribution to GDP, $60 billion in labor revenue, $14.3 billion in federal tax revenue and $11.3 billion in state and local tax revenue. This is just the meetings community, imagine the hospitality industry as a whole…
In the immediate post 9/11 world we were encouraged by the government to meet, travel and boldly go where we have all gone before. Today the government seems to be trying to tell us not to meet, not to spend money, and not to visit certain destinations. If you work for an association, the mixed messaging may not be a new element to you, but why are the government and media so excited about penalizing and vilifying meeting planners who order from a standard hotel catering menu?
How much taxpayer money was spent on this investigation into a meeting that took place in 2010?It only took me two minutes to pull up the current catering menus online and see that the pricing today is exactly as described in the article.
Perhaps some poor choices may have been made by the GSA, but we cannot be short-sighted and allow these highly inflamed and publicized incidents to frame the intrinsic value of meeting face to face and the contributions meetings make to drive all of our businesses forward.
As always, I would love to know your thoughts, so leave a comment below!