Government Planners Meet to Discuss Difficult Climate

The month of June saw two conferences take place that were aimed at meeting professionals who just might have the toughest road to navigate in this difficult economy: government meeting planners.

First up was the National Travel Forum, hosted for the first time by the National Business Travel Association's Government Travel Group. More than 1,100 government travel managers descended on the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta, June 2-4, to discuss ways to adapt to the needs of government travelers and their agencies, as well as the difficulties of managing fluctuating fees and surcharges for government travelers, the turmoil in the airline industry, and how to build world-class travel management systems as seen in the private sector.

One week later, the Society of Government Meeting Professionals held its annual education conference at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. Given the stress of working under rigid budgets and per-diem limits, a large number of the 837 attendees sat in on the sessions that addressed self-improvement topics, such as overcoming job stress and managing time better, according to Chris Middleton, SGMP's conference planner. "We're hearing that rising costs are forcing cutbacks to the point that [planners] have to make hard decisions about what aspects of their meetings they can eliminate to keep budgets intact," said Middleton." Clearly, they are feeling the stress."

In fact, SGMP itself was forced to act in response to the current economic climate. Several weeks before the conference, association leaders decided to shave one day off the originally four-day conference to save money for both the organization and attendees.

Originally published Aug. 11, 2008