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Meetings EIO: Ethics, Influence and Outcomes

April 16, 2012

Today’s #eventtable tweetchat, moderated by the talented Jenise Fryatt, has left me thinking about what really matters in our industry and what really matters because of our industry. 

From the AIG effect to Muffin Gate (seriously, we’re calling it that!) to the more recent GSA event, it is becoming increasingly evident to me that we need to revisit what is really important in our industry. I believe that this comes down to a few basics the EIOs of meetings – Ethics, Influence and Outcomes.

  • Ethics: The examples above demonstrate that our industry is being held to a high ethical standard. We need to ensure that the way we conduct our meetings, and the way that we conduct the business of meetings is above all, ethical. This means being responsible with our spending and transparent in our business transactions.
  • Influence: There has been a bit of talk this week about influence in our industry and who has it. Let’s take this further and ask: how are we using it? In 2009, Meeting Professionals International (MPI) set a theme for its World Education Congress: When We Meet, We Change the World. Well, what if we don’t, or worse, what if we change it for the worse? Just because we have the potential to change the world doesn’t mean that we make use of this opportunity. Let’s think about what we need to do to harness the power that comes from a meeting and how we can direct it towards the type of influence that we need.
  • Outcomes: We need to focus on outcomes: what is the purpose of the meeting, how are we going to achieve it, and how are we going to measure our success. Are we providing the high quality education our stakeholders need? Are we creating environments that foster meaningful connections and spur innovation? What do we need to differently to get this done? We need to measure the results and be able to prove conclusively that meetings do make a positive difference. Fortunately, there is are lots of tools to help quantify this – including the work of by Jack Phillips and Terri Breining on ROI for Meetings and Events. Ultimately, without tangible outcomes from meetings, our industry is in bigger trouble than scrutiny on the price of muffins.

I think it’s time to get back to these basics.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. joaneisenstodt permalink
    April 16, 2012 4:40 pm

    Love the new acronym and think we need to use it often. (I’m going to post the link to this on a few ASAE groups to see what they think.)

    In the “yes, and” category — I agree with the need to focus on EIO, and disagree about what AIG, Muffingate and GSA have done to the perception of meetings. It’s not about ethics — it was and is about money and how it was (perceived to be) wasted on entertainment, hotel rooms, food, etc. If it were about ethics, the conversation would be very different: the intent of the meetings, the actions and principles of the parties (v. expendistures) would be discussed.

    Only because some of us are noodging are there ethics sessions at the national/international meetings in and around our industry. Even with the sessions (note: ethics has been the most requested topic on which I train for MPI and PCMA chapters) the practices continue: points dangled and awarded to individuals, gifts given and accepted, gifts requested, fixed drawings at trade shows and acceptance of prizes with no regard to whether they belong to the individual or to the company for whom that person works, and on it goes.

    In today’s #eventtable chat, the subject of influencers and ethics was raised tho’ not discussed in depth. We know influence can be “for bad” as easily as “for good” and yet ethics is rarely on the list of criteria for selecting “good” influencers.

    Even tho’ ASAE’s Ethics Committee (which I chair this year) labored (with love and passion) for 4 years to create the new Standards of Conduct (for the first time, encompassing all segments of ASAE’s membership – association personnel, biz partners, and consultants) approved last Aug. by ASAE’s Board, only a small percentage of members have read it. MPI and PCMA both have codes of conduct that are ignored by the majority. We’ll know soon enough of SGMP’s members followed their code of conduct.

    EIO – I’d like to see more emphasis placed on all 3 and especially on “E” — and hope your blog will encourage others to look again.


    • April 16, 2012 4:55 pm

      Wow – Thank you, Joan for such a thoughtful comment. You’re absolutely right that more attention to the ethics standards that already exist is needed. These standards should not just sit on a webpage, they should be referenced, discussed, and there should be accountability.

      I do think that the AIG / MuffinGate and GSA issues are, fundamentally about ethics, manifested in pricing and expenditures. The criticism seems to boil down to issues of right and wrong. The AIG Effect and GSA examples are further complicated by competing values that allow for organizations to rationalize spending money on “good things” like teambuilding and rewarding achievements. Ultimately though, if the spending is disproportionate, questions arise about the appropriateness. Determining these levels is tricky though as there are external factors that influence perceptions. For example, views about acceptable spending on incentive trips in 2007 vs 2009 were different in light of a broader economic context.

      Thanks again for sharing!

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