Post authored by Mark Decker, Director of Government Events at Experient
Congressional hearings taking place this week in the House and Senate underscore the need for transparency and accountability in government spending on conferences and events. The GSA scandal that broke with the release of a scathing report on April 2nd is the latest thunder clap in a line of storms that make up the tense climate that we work in today. In the past year, we have seen two Executive Orders on efficient spending (one specific to conferences), the “muffingate” incident, and an OMB directive instructing all agencies that each conference must be approved at the Deputy Secretary level (ultimately answering to the Vice President). While the immediate impacts have been delays in the planning process and a reduction in conference budgets, the long term effect will open new space for Experient to demonstrate our value.
Managing accountable government spending is not new for our Government Events Team. Established in 2008, over the past three years we have realized numerous taxpayer savings under federal contracts by implementing innovations new to this market. Leveraging Experient buying power, we have negotiated favorable agreements with hotels, convention and visitors bureaus, audio/visual suppliers, and general contractors delivering hard and soft-dollar savings to the government and stretching budgets further than our competitors.
Keeping an eye on the “optics” of our clients’ events is a focus for our team. In response to the new guidance, we have implemented a number of changes including negotiations on food and beverage spending and removing conference commemorative and promotional items such as mugs, gadgets, and non-work-related items. On these and other issues, we have consulted with our clients to remind them of the perception issues and streamline budgets.
Experient is positioned well as a relative newcomer to federal contracting. We distinguish ourselves – not only as the premier government event specialists – but as a partner who can guide all phases of conference approval and justification as well. Over the past year, we have developed a core competency in the new conference approval process as it has evolved. Another service need in this market that we can fill is the measurement of return on investment for conferences and events. Luminosity, our proprietary tool that helps organizers validate the tangible and intangible impact of their events, can deliver exactly the kind of metrics that aid leadership in decision-making as they struggle to develop justification for spending on conference programs.
In the current climate, Experient can assure our government clients that we will execute their events flawlessly, deliver costs savings, and keep them off the front page of The Washington Post. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what every bureaucrat wants?