Advocacy: You and I Will Make the Difference

As I share these thoughts on Meetings Advcacy, it’s hard to believe that half of 2015 is behind us. How did this happen? This is a time of year where we reflect on our successes and learnings from the past. What worked well and what can we improve upon for the remainder of this year? I would imagine that, as many of us give thought to our personal goals and resolutions for 2015, that they most likely included eat healthier, slow down, establish normal working hours and enhance our personal and professional relationships.

I wonder how many of us gave thought to setting a goal for ourselves that included making a difference in our meetings industry, making it just a bit better. Or, as I prefer to say it, as meetings advocacy.

How many of you would agree with me that advocacy and to advocate are powerful words?

There are several definitions for advocacy that quite simply articulate my message. They include: Advocacy is active support of an idea or cause…  Advocacy is the act of pleading for, supporting with a strong recommendation…  Advocacy is a person who pleads for a goal or propounds an idea…

With all of these in mind, I ask the question: How can each of us make a difference in our meetings industry? It’s very simple. We need to speak up!

Advocacy is not political, it’s personal.

Some might think that meetings advocacy is a political frame of mind. I’m not so sure of this. I believe that advocacy begins where we live and work. Like anything we embark on, it begins with that first step. Perhaps we can make a difference right here where we work; where we interact with our employers, clients, and local industry partners. While thoughts of jetting off to Sacramento or Washington, DC to carry signage and make noise sounds exciting, we must be realistic with what we can individually do. It all begins with you and me. It all begins right here in Southern California with our day-to-day dealings.

I reached out to respected members of our industry for their thoughts on meetings advocacy. Interestingly, many shared the same views. All agreed that meetings mean business. Our industry creates jobs, drives economic growth, and contributes greatly to the U.S. GDP.

If we collectively step up and advocate for our industry, what incredible successes we can bring forth? Begin at Step #1 and work your way up the advocacy ladder. In time, with teamwork and the dissemination of our shared successes, we’ll make a difference for everyone within our great career field:

How can each of us make a difference in our meetings industry?
It’s very simple. We need to speak up!

1.

First and foremost, clearly understand your role in our industry. Have an up-to-date job description. Be smart with your social media. Read, read and read more. Educate yourself on everything happening in our industry.  Don’t put those hard-copy magazines aside. Take them home and actually read the articles when time allows. If you have questions or if you disagree, reach out to the author or editor and share your thoughts. Be visible and question thoughts and ideas that you believe should be enhanced. Schedule appointments with key thought leaders within your organizations that touch government relations; human resources, investor relations and marketing. Understand these internal partners and ensure that they understand your valuable role.

2.

 Document. Take notes. Capture pictures. Listen.
Be aware of your surroundings. Approach your daily work life with the mantra that everything
today can and should be better tomorrow. Don’t ever settle or accept that the present that is before you is somehow okay. It’s not. It really isn’t.

3.

 Track successes. Be mindful of all the small and large win-wins that you bring to your organization and clients. Let your voice be heard. Email and write smart. Carefully pen your thoughts and observations.  Watch for inappropriate actions and defend those with a faint voice.
When you witness inappropriate behavior – poor management skills, unacceptable communications and those who are wrongly accused, be their advocate and let your voice and words be heard and read. Let management know what you and your team do for your organization.  Celebrate certifications, designations and the existence of your field.

4.

Contact your local community and state officials. If you do not know who they are, it’s time to collect their data. Check their websites and calendar their upcoming town hall meetings. Understand what their priorities are. Research what, if anything, they are doing to enhance local tourism and the meetings industry. Send your officials a communication. Introduce yourself. Let them know what you do for the local meetings and hospitality industry. Put yourself out there. There are committees, councils and task forces where you could make a difference. Share with your elected officials any and all information about MPI. Be our advocate.

5.

Teach and speak. Embrace our industry and understand what is happening in our own community. Be knowledgeable about employment trends, wages and area taxes. Are we working in a community that business wishes to bring their meetings and events to?  How does the infrastructure support our industry – local airports, traffic and light rail systems?  Housing is either smart or unmanageable for the hard-working people who make this industry run.

6.

Expand Your Network. Many of us are long-time MPI members. There are numerous industry associations that touch what we do — association, catering, marketing and sales functions just to name a few. Attend and if do-able, belong to fellow organizations. Don’t just attend. BRING YOUR VOICE to their gatherings. Set a goal for promoting recognition and understanding of what we do. The legislature cannot and will not help us if we are not clear in the value that we bring to the workplace and local economies.

7.

Listen and speak up. Don’t sit quietly when you hear something you disagree with. Bullying does not just happen on the school ground. It happens right here – every single day where we live, work and function in this industry.

8.

Think ahead. The year 2000 seems like it was just a few months ago.  Since we are quickly approaching 2016, let’s think about our future and a legacy we can leave behind for the newest generation of meeting professionals. Like many, I have but a few more years before retirement.  My goal is to help make things better for everyone following behind me. Let’s advocate for equal pay for men and women.  Wages must be fair and appropriate for the communities that our workers live and work in.  The work place must be accepting, diverse and 100% welcoming of everyone who serves on that team. Employers should be fair, protect our personal rights and understand that individuals
are unique and deserve respect.

The meetings industry is an honorable and hard-working career path. We must speak up and share our voices so that our industry continues to be recognized and valued for generations to come.

You and I will make the difference with our fundamental Meetings Advocacy. Take small steps and, walking together, we will make enormous strides.

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