Equity and Efficiency Are Keys to Stronger Global Meetings Business

Presenters shared actionable advice with planners and suppliers at Northstar’s SMU International in New York City.

President of the Black Travel Alliance Martinique Lewis (third from right) urged planners and suppliers to consider the needs of all attendees. Photo Credit: Ketara Gadahn for Studio Alani

The greatest — and arguably, the most diverse — city in the world was the setting for Northstar Meetings Group's 18th annual SMU International. The event showcased two critical themes — greater attention to inclusiveness and building business back better —  that are shaping the industry today.

The meeting brought together 235 hosted buyers who plan global events and incentives with international suppliers to the newly renovated New York Marriott Marquis. The three-day program included timely education, networking and of one-on-one appointments, all of which gave attendees face-to-face opportunities to renew relationships, meet new contacts and book international business as the world reopens for events.

One of the great advantages of meeting in the Big Apple is access to its world-class talent. On the morning dedicated to increasing planners' and suppliers' DEI&A (accessibility) awareness, te audience was treated to a moving performance by Joaquina Kalukango, star of the new Broadway musical Paradise Square, which celebrates an historic pub that welcomed poor Black and Irish New Yorkers.

Speaker Martinique Lewis, president of the Black Travel Alliance, told the audience how she's made it her life's mission to change the their business forever and advocate for those who are constantly overlooked. "And what does that mean?" she asked. "Is it only black people? Is it only white people? Is only women? Is it only Muslims? No, it's everybody who attends conferences."

Tired of being overlooked herself as a Black woman traveler, Lewis made it her mission and career to advocate for all travelers.  "We don't realize what somebody is going through because they don't look like us."

She urged planners to ask attendees what their needs and preferences are, so they can be accommodated and feel comfortable as any other delegate. And she shared her Diversity in Meeting Planning Score Card, based on one she created for the travel industry,  that planners can use to evaluate destinations,' venues' and suppliers' dedication to DEI&A practices in eight differnt areas to make informed decisions. Lewis' presentation, including the score card, can be downloaded here.

More Efficient Ways of Doing Business

Goodman Speakers sponsored global business consultant Lisa Bodell’s session, "The Great Reset: How to Reinvent Your Business.” Bodell, CEO of FutureThink, told participants, “We will look back on the past two years as one of the most positively transformative times… because we were forced to question our assumptions around how we do things. For many of us, it took a pandemic to realize how much of our time [at work and in life] is wasted on obligations and mundane tasks."

Bodell shared some of the best-in-class changes that companies such as HBO, Microsoft and Novartis have made post-pandemic. Among them: 

• Have employees or teams hand off their seemingly impossible tasks or objectives to coworkers or different departments for a day, to see if solutions can be found.

• Hold a hackathon, where colleagues share their closely guarded time-saving work hacks with each other.

• Institute an email policy of cutting the blather: Encourage writers to state what they need right up front, rather than burying the message in unnecessary preamble.

• Include a "no need to reply" line in emails to limit unnecessary clutter in inboxes. 

SMU International was supported by the following generous sponsors: NYC & Company, New York Marriott Marquis, Aventri, Club Med, Costa Rica Tourism Board, Discover Puerto Rico, Goodman Speakers, Meet in Ireland, Italian National Tourism Board, PC Nametag, ProColombia, Seiko Watch of America LLC, The Shackman Group New York and Visit Britain.

Northstar Meetings Group offers a full roster of events in 2022; please view our events page for details and registration information.