Government Connections - Fall 2012 - (Page 17)

Demonstrate the Value of Your Meeting By Mark A. Decker THE GENERAL SERVICES Administration Inspector General (GSA IG) report on the 2010 Western Region Conference was a thunder clap in a line of storms that make up the tense climate for government meetings today. In the past year we have seen two executive orders on efficient spending (one specific to conferences), the “Muffingate” report and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memos directing agencies to get conference approval at the deputy secretary level — and a waiver from the secretary for those conferences where more than $500,000 is required. While the immediate impacts include delays in the planning process, reduction in conference budgets (particularly food and beverage) and short-term cancellations, the long-term effects have really yet to be seen. No one wants to eliminate meetings that actually produce demonstrable results. In the worst case scenario, arbitrary cancellations, curtailments and failures in conference approvals will continue over a prolonged period of time. In that case, all Americans lose because government needs effective meetings to achieve results. To pull conferences off the chopping, government meeting professionals must be able to clearly articulate the mission-critical objectives that are achieved directly through the execution of successful meetings. Because every meeting needs a clear objective that is in alignment with the larger agency’s goals, the first question I ask when I speak with my government counterparts is, “What is the objective of the event?” This goal must become paramount in every step of the planning process— the continual refrain should be, “How does this advance the objective of the meeting?” Equally important is writing objectives in a strategic and measurable way. We must understand the extent to which each objective can be achieved through available data collection methods (e.g., surveys, interviews, focus groups, etc). Measurement and data are the keys to improving your meeting and demonstrating its value. Showing a return on objective will ensure your conference approval packet does not get placed in the “eliminating waste” file. Applying the ROI Methodology™ to meetings is not new. Corporate America has been applying these principles for many years. Now, more than ever, the American people are calling for the same kind of transparency and accountability from government that shareholders have demanded from the companies in which they invest. It may soon be the time for government meetings to apply these same strategies and techniques. Up to this point, conference measurement and evaluation in the government sector has focused on raw data (attendance benchmarks, budgets), or feedback of participants regarding the meeting or presenter. The time has come for us to consider taking our evaluation of meetings to a higher level of accountability where meeting organizers would be asked to demonstrate with scientific validity that new learning is taking place, that behaviors are changing in day-to-day operations, and that agency objectives are being met. The vast majorities of government meetings are cost-effective and deliver results. The GSA IG report has shown us, first and foremost, that agencies must have meeting professionals and suppliers who are ethical and who follow guidelines for procurement. But the underlying message of the subsequent fallout is that each meeting must fulfill an objective that is in line with the mission of the agency. We must also support the mission in an economical and cost-effective way. The bottom line in today’s climate is this: meeting organizers must show that an event hits the mark and have the data to back it up. Without a strategic and deliberate plan to measure return on objectives, maintaining funding could continue to be an uphill battle. 17

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Government Connections - Fall 2012

President’s Letter
Editor’s Letter
Going Places
Dieting on a Per Diem
Plan Green
Education Edge
Demonstrate the Value of Your Meeting
Good to Know
Supplier Strategy
That’s Technology
Conference Connection
Freeze of Per Diem Rates is not a Hotel Freeze out for Government Business
Membership News
Travel Tips & Trends
Continuing Education Now Includes New ADA Rules
SGMP Nation
Advertisers’ Index
The Meeting Minute

Government Connections - Fall 2012