Coauthored by Richard Harper and Michael Dominguez, co-chairs of Meetings Mean Business
In the U.S., most businesses are small businesses. Whether they employ 15 people or 115, they contribute to our national economy by creating jobs and driving economic growth. That’s why the Meetings Mean Business (MMB) coalition commissioned new research to understand whether they value face-to-face meetings, and if so, why.
Working with APCO Insight, an international opinion research firm, MMB surveyed 400 small business owners across 24 industries, including technology, retail, and professional services. Ninety-six percent of those surveyed said that meetings yield a return on investment. Among those who specialize in technology, that number was even higher, at 100 percent.
Below are some of the reasons they’ve found meetings to be so valuable, beyond traditional networking and professional development opportunities:
Three in four survey respondents believe that negotiating is best-done face-to-face. This is likely because they are able to engage in more meaningful conversations in-person than they are by phone, email or webcast. They are also able to speak more freely and are in a better position to pick up on non-verbal cues and facial expressions.
2. New business development
Most small business owners rely on face-to-face meetings to win new customers and close deals. If they’re anything like us, they find that sitting down one-on-one with colleagues and leaders across industries allows for instant collaboration and real-time decision-making.
In addition, using trade shows and exhibitions to unveil new products and build relationships offers opportunities for direct interaction that cannot be replicated online (even for those in the technology sector). Major industry conferences like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) are a testament to this. In 2016, CES attracted more than 170,000 attendees looking to introduce new offerings or purchase them.
3. Finding new hires
Most small business owners use face-to-face meetings for talent acquisition. Because many do not have the luxury of name recognition, they use career fairs and other in-person events to promote themselves and to differentiate their employee value proposition from that of other companies.
4. Supporting strong communities
Seven in ten small business owners use face-to-face meetings to engage with community members, while eight in ten use them to build partnerships. Because we know that hosting an event, convention or trade show stimulates a local economy by bringing in new visitors – who stay in area hotels, eat in neighborhood restaurants and shop in local stores – these results were especially great to see. So many small business owners contribute to this cycle of revenue generation by sending their best and brightest to meetings across the country – and the benefits extend far beyond a single event.
For example, SXSW brought in more than $317.2 million this year, including the money spent by business professionals and event partners on housing, restaurants, transportation and entertainment.
About the Authors
Michael Dominguez is co-chair of Meetings Mean Business as well as Senior Vice President and Chief Sales Officer for MGM Resorts International. He brings 25 years of experience to these positions and also serves as the Immediate Past Chairman on the International Board of Directors for Meeting Professionals International.
Richard Harper is the executive vice president at HelmsBriscoe, and co-chair of the Meetings Mean Business (MMB) coalition, a consortium of travel industry leaders dedicated to promoting the value of meetings, conferences, conventions, incentive travel, trade shows, and exhibitions.