The Why and How of Federal Event Attendance

Market Connections recently conducted a survey to understand how federal decisions makers view and use events as part of their professional development and daily work. The survey included input from technology decision-makers across defense and civilian agencies and aimed to find out how they make decisions about what events to attend and what they expect when they are there.

The survey found that the topic is the main driver for event attendance with 85% citing that as the key reason they decide whether to attend an event. Price and location also play a big role in the decision to attend an event or not. Interestingly, while the topic is important, who delivers that topic is not as critical. Keynote speakers did not rank high on the list of deciding factors. Similarly, while event planners may push the opportunity for networking, that is a "nice to have" for attendees rather than a reason to spend time and money attending an event.

With the topic being so key to attendance, the survey looked at what people are interested in learning about at events. Cybersecurity was the number one topic of interest in the survey. This mirrors what we see in terms of events on our site; cybersecurity typically has the most events listed year after year. The other topics in the top five were cloud services, digital government, AI/Machine Learning, and budget/cost control/fiscal management. Continue reading

Watching the Taxpayer DIME

One area getting bipartisan support in Congress is the oversight of federal spending on travel. Two recently introduced bills look to curb ethics violations in terms of travel spending.

It's been over seven years since Congress looked this closely at federal travel following the excessive costs associated with a GSA conference in Las Vegas. This renewed look is in response to the high profile travel scandals of senior administration officials including Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke, former Veterans Affairs Department Secretary David Shulkin, and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Scott Pruitt.

The 2019 Taxpayers Don't Incur Meaningless Expenses (Taxpayers DIME) Act would require federal agencies to report to Congress each quarter on the travel of any senior official on government aircraft. Bill sponsor, Rep. Tom O'Halleran said, "We must hold our government leaders to the highest standards, and with so many high-profile ethics violations in the past years, it is clear we have failed to do that. No matter who controls Congress or the White House, we have to hold everyone accountable."

Another bill looks beyond senior officials, ensuring that all federal employees traveling are spending taxpayer dollars at facilities that have proven to have ethical practices. It specifically encourages employees to stay in hotels that have taken action to reduce human trafficking on their premises. To do this, GSA would create a list of hotels that have taken proven steps to train their workforce to recognize and report human trafficking.

So what does this mean for event planners and attendees?

When planning events, keep in mind that government attendees will have to abide by these rules and keep the locations easily accessible by commercial travel options. Look at policies of hotels and venues around how they educate staff on human trafficking (and other social issues) and choose those that have defined plans and programs in place. For attendees, it's more important than ever to fully investigate and vet travel plans and expenses to ensure that there are no violations, or even perceived violations, of ethical standards.

Let us know your thoughts on this pending legislation and how you ensure compliance with federal travel regulations. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind, Healthy Conference

Winter is cold and flu season, but it is also prime conference time. This reality sent us looking for tips on how to stay healthy when you are in a confined space with 100 to 1000 of your newest friends. We've pulled together this quick list as a resource for us all.

  • Hand washing and sanitizer - It goes without saying you should frequently wash your hands or at the very least use hand sanitizer. Event planners should consider making hand sanitizer dispensers readily available. Small versions that fit in your pocket should be on your attendee checklist of event must-haves, right below business cards.[Tweet "Tips for staying healthy when attending events. #GovEventsBlog"]
  • Walk - Get outside for fresh air if you can. If not, take laps around the convention center or hotel to get your blood moving and keep you from the prolonged exposure to germs you would get sitting at lobby chairs and tables. You can even schedule meetings while taking your walk. If you are flying to your meeting, health professionals suggest walking the plane aisle once every hour to promote better circulation.
  • Eat well - Eat foods with high nutritional value, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Event planners should look at their menus to make sure these are available to attendees and also consider adding teas and other drinks with Echinacea, ginseng, vitamin C, and probiotics to help bolster the immune system.
  • Pace yourself - Events and conference are notoriously draining--all day sessions followed by all night parties and networking. While it's tempting to try to do it all, make sure you are pacing yourself and listening to your body. Getting quality sleep helps tremendously in your ability to fight off illness.[Tweet "While it's tempting to try to do it all, make sure you are pacing yourself. #GovEventsBlog"]
  • Wear your glasses - If you are flying or even taking a train to your event, switch out your contacts for glasses. With contacts, eyes dry out more easily and that creates a more hospitable breeding ground for germs. Glasses also make it less likely that you will touch your eyes, transferring germs that way.

[Tweet "Winter is cold and flu season, but it is also prime conference time. #GovEventsBlog"]We'd love to hear your tips for combining professional development with immunity development. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Trump’s Impact on the Travel Industry

From time to time GovEvents will come across information we feel our members and audience would benefit from. Here's something we wanted to share:

It would be an understatement to say that change is in the air. Last week Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. While the Trump administration begins to take action, businesses are hopeful that he will keep their industries in mind.

The travel industry is a major player in the U.S. economy, contributing more than $148 billion in tax revenue and more than 15 million jobs. Without it, every U.S. household would pay an extra $1,192 in taxes per year. Tax revenue, job creation and related services are all partially contingent on the travel industry. Therefore, the future of U.S. travel is a pressing concern right now. Continue reading

Are You REAL ID Compliant?

With travel restrictions and budgets opening up, more and more people are taking to the skies again to attend trainings and conferences. But, did you know that even after you've gotten the needed approvals to travel you may soon be grounded due to new identification requirements for domestic flights?

REAL ID was passed by Congress in 2005. It sets standards for the "issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses." This means that federal agencies can refuse to accept forms of identification that do not meet the standards. For travelers this means that the TSA can refuse drivers licenses that do not meet the REAL ID standards and in turn keep people from boarding a flight.[Tweet "In the future, TSA can refuse drivers licenses that don't meet REAL ID standards. #GovEventsBlog"] TSA will not begin enforcing use of REAL ID compliant identification until January 2018 so for now all drivers licenses still allow you to board an airplane.

Today, 23 states are compliant with the REAL ID Act (to find out the status of your state, click here). 27 non-complaint states have been granted extensions to meet the law requirements which means people holding an ID from one of those states may continue to use their driver's license even after the enforcement of the act begins in 2018. Another six states are non compliant and do not have an extension as of now. Residents of those states will need to use an alternate form of identification when the act goes into effect for air travel in 2018.

Passports, passport cards, Global Entry card, U.S. military ID, airline or airport-issued ID, and federally recognized tribal-issued photo ID are all REAL ID compliant identifications and can be used in the place of a drivers license.[Tweet "Passports, passport cards, U.S. military ID are all REAL ID compliant. #GovEventsBlog"] But even presenting one of these IDs may be difficult for some. As this article points out, The State Department is now required to deny a passport or turn down the renewal of a passport to a seriously delinquent taxpayer (defined as "an unpaid, legally enforceable federal tax liability" greater than $50,000, including interest and penalties).

So with all of this in mind, here are the dates to be aware of for changes to ID requirements at airports:

January 22, 2018 -- Airline passengers will need to show a REAL ID compliant form of identification to board a plane. Currently, 23 states issue drivers licenses that are REAL ID compliant, making them valid forms of ID. Citizens who live in a state that was granted an extension can continue to use a non-REAL ID driver's license. Citizens of states that do not have compliant IDs and have not been granted an extension will need to show an alternative form of acceptable, REAL ID compliant identification for domestic air travel to board their flight.

October 1, 2020 -- Every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant form of identification whether that is a state-issued drivers license or another, accepted ID form, for domestic air travel.

[Tweet "The REAL ID Act also applies to IDs being accepted to enter federal facilities. #GovEventsBlog"]The REAL ID Act extends beyond air travel and also applies to IDs being accepted to enter many federal facilities - many of these facilities may host events and trainings.

As you are planning out your training needs for the coming years (using, of course), keep the status of your identification in mind and plan accordingly.