What meeting planners who support women’s rights can do

meeting planners support women
The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade. 58% of U.S. women of reproductive age live in states hostile to abortion rights. Meanwhile, six out of 10 Americans — 61 percent — say they support abortion rights. What can meeting planners who support women’s rights do?

Here are two concrete suggestions for action:

  1. Refuse to source venues in states with anti-abortion laws.
  2. Include clauses in future contracts that allow for cancellation if subsequent legislation in the event’s jurisdiction is in conflict with a client’s mission.

You won’t be alone in taking this action. According to a recent survey by Northstar Meetings Group:

“Forty-three percent of the 281 planner respondents to NMG’s Flash Survey fielded from May 13 to May 17 said state-by-state abortion laws will impact their organizations’ site-selection decisions. Of those planners, more than 80 percent say they will favor states that allow abortion, with 54 percent reporting they “will not meet in states with anti-abortion laws.”

1. Refuse to source venues in states with anti-abortion laws

Many meeting planners have considerable influence on venue selection. If you’re one of them, you can support a woman’s right to bodily autonomy by refusing to source venues in states with anti-abortion laws. These laws are changing as some states rush to make abortion illegal. A good resource for current state policies is the Guttmacher Institute. The map below shows abortion policies and access as I write this; click on it to view the current status.

meeting planners support women
US state abortion policies and access as of 6/22/22. Click on graphic to see current map.

Some argue that doing this will change nothing and will only hurt destinations in such states. I disagree. There are plenty of examples of successful boycotts. In the current situation, where the lives and health of about 300,000 U.S. women per year are threatened, in my opinion it’s immoral to do nothing.

2. Include anti-discrimination clauses in future contracts

An excellent article by Northstar Meeting Group provides examples of anti-discrimination clauses in contracts. These can allow clients to cancel contracts when the legal situation in the venue’s jurisdiction changes between the time that the contract is signed and the event takes place. The article’s survey reports that 72% of planners are considering adding such clauses to their contracts going forward.

From Northstar Meeting Group May 13, 2022 survey.

Some say that venues in anti-abortion states will resist or refuse such changes. Even if that is the case, bringing up the issue makes such businesses aware that there is a cost to doing business in an anti-abortion environment. Many of the successful boycott examples I referenced above were aided by the support of businesses concerned about or experiencing the effect of local protests.

Meeting planners: support women’s rights!

State sanctions that force pregnant women to give birth regardless of circumstances are barbaric. We don’t force someone to donate a kidney to save the life of another person. We don’t even force the giving of an organ at the time of the donor’s death to save the life of another person. Anti-abortion laws, on the other hand, remove women’s bodily autonomy, inflicting risks and suffering without a woman’s consent. And the consequences are life-altering for the woman, to say the least.

As Robert Reich put it:

Avoiding doing business in states with anti-abortion laws is a small but important way meeting planners can support women’s rights.

Venue ventilation for COVID-19

venue ventilation COVID-19 Attention, meeting planners! Safe meeting venue ventilation for COVID-19 is critical. As we start thinking about returning to in-person events, it’s crucial to check that venues are upgrading their HVAC systems to handle potentially virus-infused air.

There has been little public discussion on this important topic. In this post, I’ll explain why questions about venues’ HVAC safety should be at the top of your site visit checklist.

Before we start, I need to make clear I’m not an HVAC engineer. My (perhaps) relevant background is an ancient Ph.D. in high-energy particle physics, and two years spent exploring ventilation systems—specifically air-to-air heat exchangers—when I owned a solar manufacturing company in the 1980s.


Since the pandemic began, the science on COVID-19 transmission has evolved rapidly. Because early theories turned out to be inaccurate, current preventative measures are frequently misdirected. So I’ve included a short history of theories of COVID-19 transmission that shed light on the reasons we’ve underestimated the importance of ventilation in creating safe environments for indoor events.

Next, I’ve outlined what current research indicates venues and properties should be doing.

Finally, I’ve aired my concerns about how well venues and properties are responding to the safety concerns I’ve introduced.

Read the rest of this entry »

The two must-do steps to hire the best professional help

hire best professional help When you need professional help, how do you hire the best professional help?

Countless experts — accountants, plumbers, doctors, lawyers, and meeting planners — will take your money in exchange for advice or services. So, when it’s time to minimize your taxes, modernize the bathroom, diagnose that stabbing stomach pain, draft a complex contract, or organize multiple regional conferences — in short, get help with something you can’t do yourself — how do you choose great help?

It isn’t easy. If it was, we wouldn’t hear horror stories about accountants who can’t file a correct tax return, builders who make costly (and hilarious) mistakes, serious cases of medical malpractice, million dollar errors made by attorneys, and mistakes that meeting planners continue to make.

Why it’s hard to hire the best professional help

You need a new kitchen sink. How can you determine whether someone who says they’re a plumber really knows what they’re doing?

There’s a simple reason why it’s tricky to pick great professionals. If you need help, obviously you lack crucial knowledge or experience. So when you seek help, you don’t know if someone who claims to be able to help really can!

Don’t despair! Here are the two essential steps to take to hire the best professional help.

Ask for and check references

Everyone knows that you should ask for references for a professional who’s going to do work for you. Unfortunately, knowing you should do something doesn’t mean you will actually do it. How often do you ask for references from a professional you’re planning to hire? Do you ask a potential builder? An accountant? A doctor? In my experience, I am rarely asked for references.

In addition, many people ask for references but don’t check them! You may think professionals will only give you the names of people who are satisfied with their services. While that’s usually true, talking to references will invariably turn up useful information. For example, you may discover that a plumber does good work but doesn’t finish in a timely fashion. Or an attorney writes competent contracts but his drafts need to be carefully checked to make sure that changes you request are actually incorporated. It’s common to hear information from a reference that immediately makes you decide not to employ the professional.

So getting and checking references before hiring is an essential step if you want to minimize unpleasant surprises. These days, crowd-vetted online sites like Angie’s List and houzz provide a helpful starting place, but you can’t beat talking directly to clients of professionals you’re considering.

See if they’ll say, “I don’t know”

My mother had an unusual set of medical symptoms. Unfortunately, she picked a doctor who was unable to admit that he didn’t know what was wrong with her. Instead, he told her that she had multiple sclerosis, which caused her much emotional upset. Years went by without the relapses or progressions normal to her illness. But she refused to believe that his diagnosis was wrong. Finally I called him up and confronted him, and he admitted that she did not have the disease. Years of suffering could have been avoided if we had ascertained at the outset that he was incapable of admitting that he didn’t have all the answers.

Checking to see if a professional will say they don’t know when they actually don’t is an important hiring step that is rarely performed. Interview the professional and ask them questions about the work you want them to do. Listen carefully to how they respond to your questions. You are looking for them to show that they know the limits of their abilities, and that they are willing to share their limits with you.

If necessary, ask whether they can do something that is a little outside their stated expertise and listen carefully to how they respond. If you hear an unwillingness to admit that they are not able to fulfill your request, you are receiving an important warning. Ignore it at your peril!

Choosing professionals who are aware of and clear and honest about their own limits ensures not only that they can actually do the work you need, but also that they will let you know when they are unequipped to handle any that problems. These are the people you want to work for you.

One more thing

Know your own limitations, and make sure you ask for help when you can’t solve a problem by yourself!

That’s it!

Faithfully execute these two simple steps when choosing professionals and you’ll avoid the common problems that occur when obtaining help with life’s challenges. These must-do steps have made it possible for me to hire the best professional help for years. I hope they help you too.

Venues on notice: meeting planners are demanding flexible meeting space!

flexible meeting space Two-thirds of meeting planners now rank flexible meeting space as a top priority when choosing a venue, according to Destination Hotels’ fourth annual State of the Meetings Industry survey.

“Among the nearly 68 percent of respondents who said that flexible meeting spaces rated an 8, 9 or 10 in importance when choosing a meeting site, two factors are driving this need. First, the objective of in-person meetings is to deliver information and insight at a level that tech-based meetings cannot; second, today’s attendees require variety in their learning environment to remain stimulated, attentive and receptive to information and different perspectives.”
—The fourth annual State of the Meetings Industry survey (October 2015), conducted by Destination Hotels

In 2011, at a webinar I gave for the International Association of Conference Centres I recommended that venues develop and feature flexible meeting space, to prepare for the growth of Conference 2.0 formats. Four years have passed, and meeting planners are now demanding these spaces.

Venues, are you ready?

Image of Apple Campus II floor plan courtesy of Office Snapshots