Business before pleasure, image before facts . . .

Should Professional Conferences Be Held in Resorts?

Conrad Weisert
March 17, 2012

NOTE: This article may be reproduced and circulated freely, as long as the copyright credit is included.

Over a long span of years I've had many occasions:

In all three of those roles, I've noticed that it's a lot easier to justify travel expenses and time away from work for a meeting in Pittsburgh or St. Louis than for one in Aspen or Las Vegas.

That difference in perception has nothing to do with the cost or with how nice the destination is. Americans typically think of Pittsburgh and St. Louis, pleasant as they are, as no-nonsense business destinations, while they view Aspen as a resort and Las Vegas as a center of popular entertainment. A professional conference or a business meeting at a resort or entertainment location may be viewed by management, perhaps unfairly, as a wasteful boondoggle, especially when department budgets are tight.

The cost may even be lower in a popular vacation destination. Hotels in Las Vegas may offer our organization bargain room rates, expecting our people to patronize their gambling and entertainment venues. Resorts may offer bargains during their "off" season. Nevertheless the perception remains.

The perception is often stimulated by brochures from the host organization, specifically calling attention to the adjacent golf course or beach and to the big-name entertainers booked for the conference dates. They may explain that such promotional material is aimed at enticing spouses to accompany the participants, but the damage is done.

For the sake of their own reputation and to attract bona fide professionals, organizations should hold their meetings in business-oriented cities or on university campuses and avoid obvious "fun" venues whenever possible.

Clarification, May 2012

One reader was offended by my observation that organizations should try to attract "bona fide professionals" to their meetings. He felt I was insulting serious working people who do attend meetings in resort locations.

Not at all, but there's no doubt that some people who have little interest in the topic may be attracted to an event in a fun location. They get a nice paid vacation from work in an interesting place.

I once taught a two-week course at a site near many attractions. Two men from the same company registered at the beginning and were not seen again in class until the final session when they showed up to claim their certificate of completion! I didn't allow them to fill out a course evaluation.

Last modified May 9, 2012

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