This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Eventstant as a publication.
I have watched — with both sadness and a fair amount of vexation — the ongoing “muffin-gate” controversy-in-a-teapot. I didn’t mind when a few attention-seeking sensationalist bloggers twisted this misinterpretation by a government bean counter of a hotel invoice for their own political ends, but when I saw it being touted as fact by Bill O’Reilly on The Daily Show and then taken at face value by members of the Senate, it got to be a bit too much.
Never mind that it’s not true. For those who don't know, the Department of Justice released a report stating members having $16 muffins at a conference. It was later clarified that the bill was for a full continental breakfast plus tax, and instead of a detailed invoice it was charged just as “muffins.”
And never mind that it’s another example of harming an industry to make political points. Members of the press and elected officials, I have news for you:
Meetings aren’t just important: The entire economy is based on meetings.
Now let me just say, I have great respect for people who climb to a mountaintop and sit there by themselves and ponder the deep meaning of the universe. But no matter how much they get out of that experience, they're not going to make a sale. Sales come from meetings.
I also hate to mention that whenever Congress is in session. . . that’s a meeting. When you send your kid off to school or college, that’s a meeting. When the bank president and the local AFL-CIO president play golf and do a deal for the new shopping center that will employ hundreds of people to construct and staff, that’s a meeting. When people go out to dinner and support the local restaurant economy, that’s a meeting.
One could easily make the same all-too-fashionable, righteous, parsimony “muffin-gate” argument against all of these activities. One could claim that these meetings should not occur if they cost anyone any money. For example, why do we fly members of Congress in from all over on the taxpayer’s dime? And why send your kid to that Ivy League college when they could take the classes on Skype? We all know it’s a silly question because that in-person, face-to-face experience and those personal connections make things possible that can’t happen at a distance. The economy is based on sales, and sales happen at meetings.
Many people are under the impression that corporate gatherings are just tons of fun. While an effort is made to add fun at mealtimes, most corporate meetings are viciously hard work as attendees struggle to cope with massive amounts of training, at the same time working the room to make sales contacts. Meetings add value to individual workers. They expedite the sales process. They make us more competitive globally.
And while I'm on the subject of the value of meetings, the growth of our economy is highly dependent upon steady population growth. . . and no matter what the cost of the muffins, that oh so essential element of the future of our nation — requires meetings.