IT’S TIME TO FACE THE FACTS: Meetings are essential to Iowa. They also matter deeply to those who visit us to attend.

One of the most powerful tools at the disposal of leaders in government and business – the “it” factor that can move the needle, spark innovation, or close a deal – is ensuring that employees, constituents, and colleagues are participating in face-to-face meetings and events.

Bringing attention to this critical business function is why Global Meetings Industry Day – celebrated on March 30 – is incredibly meaningful. Meetings and events drive local economies and businesses while simultaneously powering other industries, spurring new ideas, forming deeper business connections, and fueling individual professional growth.

In 2022, there was nearly $100 billion in meeting and events-related travel spending nationwide, which supported 600,000 American jobs. The spending meetings bring has a ripple effect across our regional economy. When people attend a meeting or conference in Iowa, they also stay in area hotels, eat in restaurants, utilize local transportation, and shop at local businesses.

Beyond the broader economic impact, meetings bring numerous intangible benefits – things you won’t always see on a spreadsheet but are critical to sustained business success.

First, the strongest business relationships are forged through face-to-face interactions. While virtual meetings may be convenient, data shows that they are much less effective in developing lasting relationships. According to a study from Forbes Insights, face-to-face requests are 34 times more effective than emailed ones. Workers who came of age during the peak of the remote office ascent need these experiences to expand their professional networks, learn new skills and generate growth opportunities for themselves and their employers.

As humans, we are built for face-to-face communication and the environment that professional meetings provide. The subtle gesture or verbal cue can convey more about one’s interest in a product, proposal, or idea than any lengthy email or virtual exchange. Government and business leaders – and Iowa – stand to gain so much from hosting in-person meetings.

Fiscal Year 2023 has had a strong focus of meeting recruitment for Iowa Travel Industry Partners (iTIP). The organization partnered with the Iowa Tourism Office (Iowa Economic Development Authority) to attend national trade shows that help put Iowa top of mind for meeting planners. The two shows attended this fiscal year allowed for iTIP to participate in 32 one-on-one appointments with planners. These appointments allow for an opportunity to begin building a relationship with the planner, so the next time they need a meeting spot they will think of Iowa and all that the state has to offer.

Iowa is positioned well to attract meeting planners due to the affordability of the state’s economy as well as the new “Meet In Iowa” incentive program administered by the Iowa Restaurant Association. In 2022, this program assisted over 80 events, which added over 4,500 hotel room nights to Iowa’s lodging properties. To qualify for the program events must add a pre and/or post tourism event to the meeting schedule to encourage the overnight stays. The incentive isn’t just for organizations housed in Iowa. In 2022, 19 out-of-state groups received assistance from the program. If the meeting takes place in Iowa, the event qualifies.

iTIP is working to attract meetings that range in size. Iowa’s small rural communities really do have the ability to host events as small as 20 – 30 guests. Many of these meeting events are also looking to experience the unique charm the host community has to offer.

THE EVIDENCE IS CLEAR: Meetings matter to Iowa. In 2023, let’s get down to business.


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