I’ve expounded on this topic in various ways throughout the last year of blogging but there’s really no shortage of my opinion on this matter nor are my ardent words likely to go away any time soon.
I fully understand the general public’s concern over wasteful government spending particularly as it relates to conferences. Almost two years ago, everyone cried foul when they thought they’d caught AIG spending truckloads of money on another silly sales conference in Arizona. And, in the case of the $16 Muffin about which I blogged just two weeks ago, once again the Washington Post test fails – the general public’s impression is that the government is spending money wastefully. And perception becomes reality.I’d like to offer an absolutely inane example of what wasteful government spending really looks like – and how it came to be because perception is becoming reality. A very special and dear account of mine, a government agency, is planning a rather large event in Las Vegas before the end of this year. Las Vegas was not their first choice location for this meeting however it has grown readily over the course of the last few years, and given their desire to host the meeting entirely in one hotel without the use of a convention center, the national options are rather limited. As an advocate for Las Vegas, it is objectively and universally considered to have some of the best conference space in the world and what’s more, because of the downturn in the economy, it’s also one of the most economical places to hold a conference. That said, it took an inordinate amount of vetting to get this program approved for Las Vegas, in about eight months ago. About two weeks ago, my client was approached by one of their keynote speakers who suggested he could not, in fact, be a keynote speaker if the conference was in Las Vegas. Or more accurately – he would not travel to Las Vegas to be this conference’s keynote speaker. I wonder if Senator Harry Reid would be interested to know that a government employee, whose salary is in part subsidized by residents of the fine state of Nevada, has refused to visit that state because of perception issues. This speed bump caused my client to inquire what the possibility would be to move the conference instead to Washington, DC.
Put aside the fact that there is no way one could book a conference of this size in Washington with just a few months notice – a few years would surely be needed – but in order to do so, the group would face a cancellation fee approaching $1 million and would obligate their attendees to spend the Washington DC federal per diem for guest rooms – $226, versus the Las Vegas per diem for guest rooms – $99.
As a taxpayer, I’m appalled even at the suggestion of wasting that kind of money on moving a conference rather than accept the incredible deal that exists for them in Las Vegas. All this because politicians think they’re saying the right thing when they say, “Government conferences are wasteful” and to stay out of locations which appear like fun versus business.
If you’re doing business the right way, my personal mantra is that fun can be had anywhere. And it should be. Keep those conferences in Las Vegas and other places where the savings are tangible and I’ll remain a happy and quiet little taxpayer.