Meetings Matter: Celebrating the power of connection
This year’s Global Meetings Industry Day theme “Meetings Matter” will cast a spotlight on the economic and societal importance of face-to-face meetings – providing multi-layered benefits to people, businesses, and communities. The benefits of meetings range from tangible to intangible, benefiting local economies and businesses while simultaneously fuelling individual growth, long-lasting connections, and mutual respect.
Meetings are crucial for organizations as they facilitate effective communication and encourage teamwork. From board meetings to product launches, meetings streamline business operations and encourage commitment to achieving goals. Face-to-face meetings help to establish deeper relationships and facilitate the free-flowing exchange of ideas, leading to better decision-making and conflict resolution. They also create an inclusive environment that boosts employee engagement and personal growth. Revenue generated from meetings and events is critical for national and local economies and helps support employment, further cementing the value that meetings matter.
To mark this year’s Global Meetings Industry Day, we spoke with Event Travel Management’s (ETM) Tracey Edwards – Global Strategic Lead and General Manager of AU/NZ; Marla Everett – Director, Consulting Solutions, North America; Tami Reier – Senior VP and General Manager, North America; and Henrietta Balint – Executive Director, Global Commercial Services, Radius Meetings and Events, and asked them to share their experiences and insights on the unparalleled power of connection that face-to-face meetings can create, and the benefits it delivers for both the economy and society.
Economic importance of face-to-face meetings
There are just some things that can’t be achieved via technology, including social capital, which helps organizations achieve company goals, driving business growth through cooperation and collaboration – best achieved through in-person engagement. Further, not only do events boost cultural tourism and the local economy, but they also create new jobs as local professionals are hired to host the event and benefit service providers such as ground transportation, hoteliers, and entertainment and catering business owners.
Tracey Edwards: Sensory experiences sell the product story
“Face-to-face meetings can help build and strengthen relationships between individuals and businesses. This can be especially important for businesses that rely on networking and partnerships to grow and expand. Both networking and partnerships are a large part of conventions and are crucial to the economic growth of a city.
“Nothing beats the power of face-to-face meetings when it comes to connecting with people, be it to discuss closing a deal, showcasing a product, or simply bringing a team together. Having managed countless events with expo components, I’ve watched firsthand how seeing and feeling a product can make all the difference in selling its story.
“And it’s not just about business – after the past few years, the value of reconnecting with a company’s values, leadership team, and peers cannot be overstated. It’s about building relationships that engage team members and create a sense of belonging, both for new members and those who’ve been with the company for years. In a world where screens dominate, let’s not forget the magic that happens when we come together in person.”
Marla Everett: Getting behind common goals that give back
“For me, meeting someone in person just hits differently. There’s something about face-to-face communication that creates a deeper level of understanding and connection. This translates to more productive collaborations and partnerships, which ultimately leads to increased revenue and growth opportunities for everyone involved. When we connect with clients and industry peers in person, it leads to stronger relationships and more successful business interactions. Not only that, but it also means more business for local venues, caterers, and transportation services. All of this helps create jobs and generate revenue for the local community, and that’s something we can all get behind!”
Henrietta Balint: Understanding the meeting’s purpose
“As we speak with customers, it only further cements the importance of face-to-face meetings. What has become critical is that there is a genuine understanding of the meeting’s purpose to maximize value for the organization and those employees taking part. In addition to the personal connection and relationship building that occurs, there are also significant economic benefits that cannot be overlooked, such as the revenue generated and the creation of countless job opportunities for the local economy. These events provide opportunities for businesses to showcase their products and services, forge new partnerships, and explore new markets.
“The ability to read body language and build trust and rapport is invaluable when it comes to closing deals or negotiating partnerships. We also need to be aware of the changing workforce, where fewer people are in the office, and bringing people physically together in whatever format is more important than ever.”
Tami Reier: Free-flowing ideas and energy highs
“The economic impact of events and meetings cannot be overstated, as they provide an unmatched return on investment. Attendees spending money in the local area on hotels, transportation, food, and entertainment, along with businesses benefiting from increased brand exposure and new business opportunities, are just a few examples of the economic benefits.
“In my own experience, I have seen firsthand how in-person meetings have led to some of our greatest successes. When everyone is fully engaged and invested in the outcome, ideas flow freely, and the energy is at an all-time high. By bringing our unique voices to the conversation, we’re able to create something truly special and innovative. From education to product development, process improvement to future planning, there’s no limit to what we can achieve when we work together.”
The societal importance of face-to-face meetings
While virtual meetings may be convenient, they are proven to be much less effective in developing lasting relationships. Face-to-face meetings facilitate interpersonal connections, enhance communication skills, and promote social interaction. They foster a sense of community and belonging, which is essential for personal and professional growth.
Meetings provide an opportunity for individuals to learn from each other’s experiences and perspectives, leading to a more diverse and inclusive society. Additionally, they help build trust, reduce misunderstandings, and increase empathy towards others, creating a more cohesive and harmonious society.
Henrietta Balint: Creativity underpins the events industry
“I recently traveled to Mexico to meet with internal and customer teams, and we were able to accomplish far more in half a day in person than we had in several months of virtual discussions. In a global world, we must be aware that certain cultures and countries require in-person connections for true success. Similarly, our industry is synonymous with creativity – as a unique offering to our end users and ensuring those end users can be creative in their roles; this is difficult to achieve virtually.
“Even with the rise of the metaverse and truly amazing engaging virtual solutions, I don’t think anything will ever be able to replace the power of a personal connection, a handshake, a meal, or a powerful discussion with all of the benefits of human interaction.”
Marla Everett: Events that uplift and motivate
“As a member of a global industry organization, I’ve always cherished the connections I’ve made with industry peers. Before the pandemic, we took for granted that we’d have numerous opportunities to connect in places like Bangkok, Curacao, and Vancouver. These connections were always uplifting and motivating, like participating in the daily almsgiving in Bangkok. When we finally got to meet in person again, it was evident that despite being apart, we shared similar experiences. Reconnecting with my peers allowed us to process the emotional strain we all went through during the pandemic, discuss changes in the industry, and collaborate on how to move forward. The in-person connection and collaboration were so powerful that the conversations have stayed with me longer than any virtual meeting.”
Tami Reier: Creating rich and memorable experiences
“When attending meetings in person, we have the opportunity to connect with others over a meal or during a break in ways that just aren’t possible through a screen. There’s something special about being able to use all of our senses during a meeting that makes the experience so much more rich and memorable. Whether it’s the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, the sound of laughter and conversation, or the warmth of a handshake, every sensory detail contributes to a unique and meaningful experience that simply can’t be replicated online.”
Tracey Edwards: Reconnecting with people, places, and experiences
“Having attended hundreds of events throughout my career, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing the delight on people’s faces when they reconnect with peers, suppliers, partners, and customers. The information, ideas, and stories just flow in face-to-face meeting engagements; people discover more about one another, which helps to deepen business relationships and create long-lasting memories and connections – something that often is lost over email or virtual technology and further cements the message that meetings matter.”