Impact Publications : MICEBTN_66
MICEBTN - MARCH-MAY 2017 • Page 15 A ‘no alcohol’ MICE rule would cut binge drinking and save money, say Perth duo TWO professional Perth executives have called for an end to free alcohol at conferences, arguing it should be paid for by delegates to discourage binge drinking. They also suggest alcohol should not be ‘an assumed component of the conference experience’ and by cutting it out, conference costs could fall. Professor Simone Pettigrew (Curtin University) and Terry Seven (Cancer Council WA) had their article ‘We Need To Talk About Alcohol’ published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. However, a MICEBTN phone survey found little support for the idea and in some cases, counter-arguments sup- porting alcohol at the ‘social’ events within meetings. Barry Neame, chief executive of the Professional Con- ference Organisers Association said in conference evalu- ations and planning, one of the most important features is the ability of delegates to network, collaborate and build relationships. “This is almost always achieved at functions where del- egates can renew acquaintances, meet new people and develop networks,” said Neame. “It is usual for these functions to have food and drink to complement the interactivity of delegates. “In over 25 years in the Conference and Events Indus- try, I have not experienced any binge drinking at functions I have attended.” Andrew Hiebl, chief executive of Association of Aus- tralian Convention Bureaux (AACB) said: “The concept of an alcohol-free event is not new, but it is driven by the participants and the event type, not mandated by rules or regulation. “In my experience, business events are attended by professionals in professional environments and there is no evidence of consumption issues such as binge drinking. “Australia’s professional venues and their staff are required by law (state-based) to follow strict ‘responsible service of alcohol’ rules to prevent consumption issues.” Robyn Radomski, director of Wellington-based PCO Conference Works said delegate binge drinking was not an issue at its conferences. “There will always be someone with a ‘free food, free alcohol’ mentality, but it is extremely rare. Delegates and event attendees are at conferences to up-skill and net- work with colleagues - their time is valuable.” The careless and selfish actions of one or two indi- viduals should not result in restrictions on alcohol to all conference delegates, she suggested. Alison Petrie, managing director of Australian PCO Encanta Event Management believes the business events industry is a long way from adopting an alcohol-free code. “We don’t see any evidence of binge drinking. Most receptions last for an hour or two at most and service of alcohol is responsible and always accompanied by food, often substantial food. At gala events such as a closing conference dinner or awards dinner, the ven- ues manage the service of alcohol. I cannot remember when I last saw a delegate rolling drunk or passed out,” she said. “I don’t agree with (the idea of) making conference attendees pay for their own drinks in order to limit their drinking. Whether you like it or not, alcohol is expected at every business social event and to start manipulating people’s drinking habits seems out of the conference organising committee’s remit. I am not saying it cannot happen, and it would be interesting to canvass opinion on this, but I believe it would meet with a fair bit of resistance. Taking alcohol out of the budget to minimise expense is another reason alto- gether and could have traction. It depends on how it’s pitched to the end user and buyer – the conference delegate. “We have managed social events where there has been soft drink served only for cultural reasons and that is perfectly acceptable,” added Petrie. Meetings Events Australia (MEA) and the Exhibition and Events Association of Australia (EEAA) were con- tacted for comment, but declined. * The risk of binge drinking today is minimised by the way venues serve alcohol, with many opting for table-service top-ups by the glass rather than leaving bottles on tables. All venues in Australia have a Respon- sible Service of Alcohol (RSA) policy which is self-regu- lated and legislated by each State and Territory.