Meeting Mentor Magazine

April 2021

Cover Story

Industry Takes Fast Action, Post-‘Muffingate,’
To Promote Value of Face-to-Face Meetings

Meetings and hospitality organizations that were caught flat-footed by the “AIG effect” in 2009 didn’t let any moss grow under their feet this past fall.

Outrage over “Muffingate” in September — when a governmental audit appeared to show a $16 muffin charge for a breakfast meeting at a hotel where a law enforcement conference was held — was finally resolved with a correction announcement a month later. The Department of Justice’s Inspector General revised its original report to note that the $16 actually represented the price of a full continental breakfast plus tax and gratuity for attendees.

The initial uproar kick-started a host of industry responses and actions designed to promote the value of face-to-face events and exhibitions. Convention Industry Council ( weighed in quickly on the report’s inaccuracy, noting that “the contracted breakfast compared very favorably to the prices paid by the United States Senate for services provided by its own caterer.”

The International Association of Exhibitions and Events ( announced in October that it would launch a public relations campaign to raise awareness about the value of exhibitions to business and commerce — the organization’s number-one strategic initiative. It chose public relations firm Edelman to promote real-life exhibition success stories to corporate decision-makers through print and digital media worldwide. IAEE already has raised more than $1 million from 65 members to fund the campaign, which will run at least three years, said Steven Hacker, CAE, FASAE, president. “There is enormous incentive for our members to participate,” he noted.

Also in October, the American Hotel & Lodging Association ( sent a letter to the director of the Office of Management and Budget, in response to a memorandum on excessive conference spending by federal agencies. AH&LA president/CEO Joseph McInerney defended the value of face-to-face interactions and emphasized that “downgrading or delaying governmental conferences would be shortsighted and…counterproductive.”

AH&LA followed that up in November with a letter to President Barack Obama immediately after he signed an executive order to promote efficient spending. “Any discouragement in face-to-face meetings would severely hurt not only the lodging industry, but the economy as a whole,” McInerney wrote. “Of the 1.8 million annual meetings that take place in the U.S., 1.3 million are classified as corporate or business. This generates 250 million room nights/overnight stays — a sizeable boost to the U.S. economy.” In an alert to members, AH&LA urged them to write to their members of Congress to oppose the executive order.

A Business Value of Meetings toolbox just introduced by Meeting Professionals International ( includes white papers that present solutions and examples successfully making the business case for meetings and events. Other tools (videos, podcasts, articles, tutorials, workbooks) will be added to help meeting professionals improve their skills in measuring return on investment for their stakeholders.

Meanwhile, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research’s 2011 Changing Environment for Exhibitions Study ( began releasing  separate fact sheets (ultimately a total of 10) with action tools organizers and exhibitors can use to promote the value of face-to-face events. According to CEIR, the top marketing objective for companies is to build or expand brand awareness; the top sales objective: existing customer relationship management/engagement. Four of 10 executives surveyed say they are participating in the same number of exhibitions today as they did several years ago; 60 percent will hold to current levels of the number of exhibitions, while 25 percent will increase the number of exhibitions. — Maxine Golding (Meeting Mentor Online cover photo courtesy International CES)

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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates.

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

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