Michael Dominguez With more than 25 years of experience and as senior vice president and chief sales officer at MGM Resorts International, Dominguez provides oversight for the company’s sales strategies in the convention, leisure and transient segments, including industry relations, diversity sales and MGM Resorts events. Prior to his position at MGM Resorts International, he served as vice president of global sales for Loews Hotels & Resorts, where he oversaw sales efforts for 18 luxury hotels in the U.S. and Canada.
Richard Harper As executive vice president at HelmsBriscoe, Harper draws on his 30 years of industry experience to ensure the company’s success in sales and grow its role in the meetings industry. Prior to his position at HelmsBriscoe, he served as executive vice president of sales and marketing for MGM Resorts International, where he led the company’s strategic sales initiatives for the meetings, transient business and leisure segments.
The Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMBC) was created in 2009 to showcase the incredible value that business meetings, travel and events bring to the U.S. economy. Its members span all facets of the face-to-face meetings and events industry, which have come together behind a common goal: providing the resources, tools and information to show the real impact the industry has on businesses, economies and communities.
Leading the coalition are two longtime industry advocates, Michael Dominguez, senior vice president and chief sales officer, MGM Resorts International, and Richard Harper, executive vice president, HelmsBriscoe. Both agree that 2015 has been a landmark year. The coalition grew its membership to more than 50 board members and supporters, while creating an infrastructure for proactive communication and advocacy. MMBC released two research reports — one examining the value of government meetings for federal workers and another analyzing how and why millennials value conferences and conventions. MMBC also led the first-ever North American Meetings Industry Day (NAMID) — a continent-wide day of advocacy that resulted in 88 events across the U.S., Canada and parts of Latin America, 3.2 million social media impressions and a trending hashtag on Twitter.
According to Dominguez and Harper, plans for 2016 are already well underway.
It’s been an exciting year for the Meetings Mean Business Coalition. What’s on the horizon for 2016?
Michael Dominguez: Building on the success of NAMID, we’ll host the first Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID) on April 14, 2016. We’ll work with the Convention Industry Council and partners across the globe to develop programming that reinforces the local impact of our global industry. To start, we’ll release a suite of new materials that helps industry advocates stage a rally, host an educational event, request an official meetings day proclamation and promote the value of our industry on social media. Keep an eye out for those during the next several weeks and go to www.meetingsmeanbusiness.com/GMID to learn more.
Richard Harper: A year ago, if you asked a room full of industry professionals, “Who’s familiar with MMBC?” less than a third of hands would go up. Ask that question today and almost every hand is raised high. This shows that we’re making inroads in the industry and are successfully getting our messages out. It also means that in 2016, we can pursue more opportunities to engage those outside of the industry, who can help validate our messages among decision-makers in business and government.
What industry trends are the ones to watch?
Michael Dominguez: Technology and meeting design are two that instantly come to mind, in part because they offer so many opportunities for growth. To understand these trends — and to learn more about the next generation of meeting attendees — MMBC partnered with Skift to issue a co-branded research report called “What Millennials Want in Meetings.” We found that millennials value face-to-face interaction as much as previous generations. Like most of us, they’re interested in developing external professional networks and engaging in real-world education.
“Technology is seen as a way to complement live engagement and network virtually, before and after a meeting occurs.” — Michael Dominguez
Because millennials make up the largest segment of our work force, they are a natural group to turn to for information about industry trends. For them, advancements in technology and meeting design make an experience exponentially more valuable. Technology is seen as a way to complement live engagement and network virtually, before and after a meeting occurs. It helps connect participants and sustain new relationships over time, whether through event apps, social media or online forums.
The move toward open-learning meeting spaces is equally as interesting. Now, meeting attendees can personalize their experiences and roam between casual “campfire” sessions rather than a series of presentations and panels. The result is more spontaneous and organic process for learning and development.
What issues do you expect to rise to the forefront?
Richard Harper: Because 2016 is an election year, nothing is off the table. In fact, the presidential campaign provides a proactive opportunity to highlight the industry’s value, using debates, town halls, retail politics, caucuses and conventions as proof points for the importance of face-to-face. Understanding that other issues may arise — in the media, political arena or corporate America — MMBC will continue to monitor for relevant news and legislation, remaining vigilant (and appropriately vocal) on issues that threaten the industry.
What’s being done to engage leaders from outside of the industry, particularly those in the business community?
Michael Dominguez: We’re asking business leaders, just as we’re asking industry professionals, to lend their voices and provide testimonials about the importance of the meetings industry. We want to know about the deals they’ve closed with a handshake, the motivating educational conference they’ve spoken at and the innovative idea that wouldn’t have been possible without bringing people together face-to-face. We want to know how investing in meetings and business travel for their employees has improved morale and facilitated professional development.
Personal stories and real-life examples help generate more interest and credibility in our work. We’re able to share them out, through earned and social media and, of course, the MMBC Sidebar blog. The blog launched in January 2015 and since then, has become a hub for personal stories, op-eds, industry trends and relevant news.
How can meeting planners play a larger role in advocating for the industry?
Richard Harper: They can join our campaign. One of the things I enjoy most about MMBC is that there are opportunities for everyone and anyone to become an industry advocate. For some planners that means hosting an advocacy event. For others it means amplifying MMBC messages on social media or downloading our app. For others still, it means sharing their industry value story with colleagues and clients. All they need to get started is to express interest at www.meetingsmeanbusiness.com/join. C&IT