Meetings

Should You Hold Holiday-Free Meetings and Events?

By / Dec 7, 2012 (Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock)

Research shows that only one-third of the days in a year are holiday-free. Does your association need a formal policy about whether to hold meetings and events over national, international, and religious holidays?

We’re smack-dab in the middle of the busy holiday season. And with all the joys also come the pains. (And, no, the pains I’m referring to here aren’t your expanding waistlines due to extra goodies around the office or the stress caused by holiday travel.) In this case, it’s the pains that meeting planners deal with as they try to schedule meetings and events that don’t conflict with national or religious holidays.

Just how difficult can this be? Very. Michael Segalla, a professor of management at HEC Paris, who’s done research in the area of meetings scheduling, published an article in Harvard Business Review that showed worldwide only one-third of the days in a year are holiday-free.

41 percent of meeting planners say they have booked meetings that coincided with federal or state holidays.

To make scheduling easier, Segalla worked with Carlson Wagonlit Travel to develop 78 BizDays, a mobile app released earlier this week that helps planners find the most convenient day and time to schedule an international call, video conference, event, or meeting. “Scheduling an international meeting, face to face or by conference call, is challenging in today’s global environment,” said Professor Segalla in a press release. “I found very few common working days available for a meeting after accounting for all typical national and religious holidays observed around the world.”

U.S. meeting planners agree, according to a survey of 342 planners conducted by Meetings & Conventions magazine over the summer. While 86 percent do consult a typical U.S. calendar before booking a meeting and 38 percent do check dates against religious calendars, 41 percent said they have booked meetings that coincided with federal or state holidays, and another 27 percent have held meetings that overlapped religious holidays. Their top reasons for doing so: Limited availability of space and dates, holiday was not observed by attendees, unaware of the holiday before booking, and more favorable rates/concessions.

And in a discussion on ASAE’s Collaborate earlier this year, one ASAE member asked about holding a meeting over Halloween to avoid having it overlap with Jewish holidays that occur during other times in October. Some respondents did say they received complaints when they had held a meeting over Halloween, and others said it depends on your audience, suggesting surveying a group of likely attendees to see if they would mind.

So what can (or should) associations do?

While some organizations put more weight on religious holidays (e.g., Passover, Christmas) than national ones (e.g., Veterans Day, Election Day), I wonder if such a policy would send the right message to members and attendees or limit potential audiences your organization may not even be aware of.

What kind of policies do you have or have your seen around avoiding scheduling meetings and events over holidays? Or what advice do you have for meeting planners who have to deal with this?

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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