The Wells Fargo Debacle..and how to get around it

Normally I talk about sponsorships and the power of events, but I have to digress a little bit this week because of the Wells Fargo Incentive trip debacle that will resonate within ALL aspects of events, INCLUDING marketing events and sponsorships. Now that the spotlight is on, every time there is a sponsorship, a meeting or an event, eyebrows will go up. So, if you think that because you are in the sponsorships arena, not the incentive arena this won’t effect you, guess again.

As a tax payer, I can’t help but be outraged. As a business person, was frustrated to be in the industry being used as a scapegoat for the larger problems for an industry and economic woes. After all, sponsoring and hosting events is an industry too, and it employs a lot of people.

While Well’s Fargo had no choice but to cancel their trip to Las Vegas, I wish they had just been smarter about the entire thing; there are things that they could have done to have a respectable incentive trip without being “over the top.” Besides the fact that “extravaganzas” will be déclassé for sometime to come, it really makes sense to be smarter about this now anyway. But that doesn’t mean that events have to be canceled. They have to be smarter. I know of HUNDREDS of fantastic performers and musicians who put on a fantastic show, that do not charge $500,000 to entertain. I know of THOUSANDS of unique, exciting activities in areas all over the country that charge less than $50 for people to participate in.

This will not kill the event or incentive industry. The power of events, ESPECIALLY B2b events, is undeniable and people are still attracted to them, computers and phones not withstanding, most of us prefer the company of human beings. And yes, once in awhile, we even like to get together with them to “talk shop”. But here’s the deal: there needs to be less James Taylor and more Boogie Knights. There needs to be less Dom and more Vueve. You understand what I am saying here?

Here’s a simple suggestion for all those organizations who would like to host incentive opportunities: have them around an industry tradeshow which you sponsor. Hosting clients and company leaders together has innate benefits, and throw in a little education, some inter-industry networking and you have a recipe for business success. Utilize your sponsorships to get more attendees and less signage. Furthermore, work with the tradeshow (who undoubtably has already negotiated favorable rates at area hotels) to obtain a really nice block of rooms for your VIPS. This is a win-win situation for everyone. The trade-shows will be happy to have movers and shakers at their events, and will happily work with you to bring a block of 100’s people from your company to their event. Sponsor events in conjunction with the tradeshow (can anyone say co-host with other sponsors?!) and then extend your stay a couple of days to do the “blow steam, fun activities” that are inherent in incentive trips. Don’t want to host your incentive trip around a work tradeshow? Ok – here is another idea – review your current sponsorship for hospitality opportunities and wrap some fun, incentive activities around things you are already sponsoring.

Make your marketing dollars communicate with your incentive dollars. Make your employee enhancement communicate with your incentive dollars and marketing dollars.

By all means, save some money, but don’t stop engaging with one another with the most effective tool out there, that’s insane.

While we are all at it, let’s start reaching out to our clients with new ways to do these things. Let’s get smart. Together.

I heard today that the event industry is starting to organize, what is exactly afoot I can’t say now. When it becomes official, I’ll let you know about that too.