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Mice Asia Net : July 2009
opinion a change of tack Vanessa Cali encore bt EncorE BT’s Vanessa cali says planners should add a dose of csr to keep business events stimulated. W ell it’s been doom and gloom for the start of 2009 and everywhere you turn there have been cut backs, salary caps, layoffs and something really new, talk of stimulating packages. Not surprisingly one of the first things to be placed on the chopping block is the business event - particularly the event in a disused warehouse transformed into Brazilian samba party; or the team building experience banging drums in unison together; not to mention the annual conference in a well known wine region, and the employee incentive trip on a tropical island. Whether this is right or wrong does not matter - this is the current state of play. Mainstream media outlets are baying for corporate blood so they can feed them to their hungry readers who are fed up with multimillion dollar pay packages and perceived perks, whilst ‘Main Street’ struggles with mortgages and the rising cost of breathing. Look at the headlines generated over a certain corporate ‘extravagant’ Christmas Party on Cockatoo Island. When the financial markets were starting to melt there was a photo of “The Millionaire Factory’s’ employees with ties loosened, bathed in a sea of red light, arms waving in the air to the sound of doof, doof on news.com.au. The caption accompanying the display was “Booze bash ... despite the downturn, X Bank has spent more than $500,000 on its staff Christmas party”. The week after the so called ‘booze bash’, 1000 employees were laid off. In the US the scrutiny is worse. The Chairman of the troubled US insurance giant was forced to write an open letter of apology to congress after it was reported in the media the company spent nearly half a million dollars at a luxury resort in California for an executive retreat for its top business partners, and this just after accepting US$85 million from the US Treasury Department as part of its bailout packages. 12 miceAsia.net Not much was reported on this in Australia but if part of your business is assisting corporations reward their staff with incentive trips to Australia then this statement in the Chairman’s letter would send chills into next year’s budget. “While this sort of gathering has been standard practice in our industry for many years and was planned many months before the Federal Reserve’s loan to AIG, we understand that our company is now facing very different challenges – and that we owe our employees and the American public new standards and approaches. Let me assure you that we are re-evaluating the costs of all aspects of our operations in light of the new circumstances in which we are all operating”. So what does the business events industry do? We could be more discreet certainly, but with the advent of mobile phone cameras and every media agency advertising the ‘text your photos to 0400’ it only takes one disgruntled employee, or guest for that matter, to release lions into the stadium, or the hotel ballroom as is mostly the case. But what if we as an industry could change perception? Take the focus away from the five star to a rewarding philanthropic experience. Incorporating an aspect of corporate social responsibility or ‘CSR’ for those down with the lingo, into your client’s next event, conference or incentive could help change the headlines from ‘Executive retreat’ to ‘Executives regenerate’... Imagine......employees spend half a day restoring the foreshores of Sydney Harbour before heading back to a sales meeting at the InterContinental, or spend a day clearing debris off a remote beach for turtle breeding in Darwin before that convention, or spend three days weighing echidnas and goannas on Kangaroo Island before sipping on a South Australian red! Makes great sense, and the results are an immediate return on investment.