APR 2012

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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2012 Sneak Peek Directory Subscribe Advertise Contact COVER STOR Y biggest concerns about the "debacle" is that it "gives every- one else in the meetings and events industry a bad name. There are events, probably 1 percent, that could be consid- ered to be over-the-top. But let's think of the other 99 per- cent of meetings and events, including those surrounding incentives. Most budgets are carefully planned and respon- sible, with good content, using the best way to deliver the message and thus a budget that is appropriate." Charles Sadler, CGMP, CHSP, CHSC, executive director/ CEO of the Society of Government Meeting Professionals also posted this response to SGMP's website: The findings in the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Inspector General's report regarding GSA's 2010 Western Regions Conference (WRC) is disturbing for any- one who understands the government meeting planning process and certainly for any American citizen. But this apparent instance of excessive spending is newsworthy in part because it's unusual. Decades of experience demon- strate that the vast majority of government conferences are productive and cost effective. Government travel plays a significant role in the U.S. economy as a whole and no one will want to endure the economic hardship individuals and businesses would experience if leaders take the knee jerk approach and drastically reduce or shutdown government meetings and travel. The federal government maintains strict rules regarding spending and ethics when it comes to travel and, as in this case, when those rules are broken those responsible should be held accountable. The entire government meetings industry should not be judged on this one grossly "over the top" executed event. It clearly demonstrates the importance of agencies having a profes- sional meeting planner versed in the proper processes of solicitation, contract awards and event execution, as re- quired by government policy, the procurement process and ethical conduct standards. GSA's black eye for this 2010 WRC meeting will be SGMP members' and leaders' golden opportunity to advo- cate for the training and certification of government plan- ners. This acknowledgement of the importance of providing education and resources for meeting planning is the first step toward ensuring that government policy and best prac- tices for efficient, cost effective meetings are the standard— starting with the career government employee and continuing all the way up to the appointee who may head a federal agency.■ —Marlane Bundock My Advice For Planners After The GSA Conference Scandal By Retired Government Meeting Planner Sherry Hilley The recent scandal regarding the GSAʼs 2010 West- ern Regions Conference held in Las Vegas should trigger all event planners, as well as suppliers, to take a deep breath, follow the rules and above all exercise common sense! As a retired meeting planner for a government agency, I know how important it is to have trans- parency when it comes to meetings and events. And not just with the money spent, but with the type of activities that are held. Hilley So how can you make sure something like this doesnʼt happen to you? Here are my best suggestions: For government planners, get to know your agencyʼs Acquisition Center, and network with them. Be sure to include everything required in your solicitation to execute your event. Write down each requirement (room size, tables, chairs, audio/visual, food and refreshments) that you will need to complete the task. Keep in mind that many suppliers now offer packages where the price of the banquet room will include items such as audio/visual. Donʼt be afraid to ask or negotiate your requirements if you are dealing directly with the supplier. Plan the event as if you were writing the check. It is easy to spend someone elseʼs money frivolously but if it is your own, your conservative side will definitely come out. Is it the food or the content that brings the attendee to your event? Agencies may pay for meals or "light refreshments" for their employees if these are neces- sary to achieve the objectives of a training program or an official conference. Build your event schedule around the standard 8 to 5 timeframe. Many suppliers offer per diem rates with a complimentary breakfast, and will negotiate an unlimited supply of coffee/tea/sodas for your event. Federal health officials recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, like brisk walking, every day, so choose "lunch on your own." Attendees come to your event to not only learn, but to network. Show that you are invested in mak- ing their experience a success by giving them ample time to network and share their interests with other attendees. Eliminate mementos and trinkets. How many pens, bags, koozies can one col- lect? Travelers are packing less and going with carry on…donʼt contribute to their overstuffed luggage. Concentrate on providing material that will enhance their job performance when they go back to their agency. Event planning can be a daunting task, but it can also be a lot of fun! Much of the art of social and personal life is about knowing which rules to follow. Familiarize yourself with Executive Order 13589 on Promoting Efficient Spend- ing as well as your agencyʼs regulations when planning your next event. Ask questions, network with other planners for advice, and use your common sense. Bottom line is….if you have to ask yourself if it is the right thing to do, then it is likely wrong.■ www.con v APRIL 2012 ConventionSouth 11

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