Between associations pounding the drums in Washington,
advocacy experts spreading the word in forums near and far, andsocial media
offering diverse opinions on what’s right, wrong, what could and should
be done when it comes to elevating the stature of the meetings industry,
there’s only one thing for corporate meetings professionals to do to take the
issue beyond mere words: get a voice in the executive suite.
Some gaudy numbers have been attached to our industry to
confirm its relevance.
It was an inadvertent wake-up call
, initiated by a Wall
Street Journal commentary ripping the meetings industry to shreds. And you know
what? It woke us up!
After Holly Finn’s column referred to meetings as “Bordellos
for the Brain,” we got mad. But we maintained our cool – for the most part. The
outpouring of comments were heartening and on the money. My favorite was from
the Convention Industry Council’s Karen Kotowski who noted in her letter to the
that they chose not to print, “The
Thanks for reminding us what we’re up against and how far we
have to go.
In the days since reading Holly Finn’s cynical
and scathing assessment of the meetings and conventions industry in The Wall Street Journal,
my mood has changed from outrage to anger to frustration to hunger (it was
dinner time) to concern and then to excitement and exhilaration. Ms. Finn
basically tore apart our industry, painting us as a bunch of Good Time Charlies
who like to spend lavishly, party endlessly, and think, learn and network less
The principal of my daughter’s elementary school many years
ago went on and on at an assembly praising staff members and volunteer parents
for a variety of contributions. “I know we tend to thank a lot of people around
here and it’s taking a long time,” she said in a friendly, unapologetic
tone. “But that’s too bad!” She had an instant fan.
Leadership gurus preach the value and necessity of
appropriate praise as a cornerstone to generating intended results. Like
pistachio nuts, investments and extra golf balls, it’s one of those things you
can’t have enough of.
With elation, curiosity and confusion, I was notified that
my daughter had endorsed me for Advertising, Social Media Marketing and Events
’s Endorsement mechanism. It was awkward getting her stamp of
approval for professional prowess -- I could see perhaps Love and
Understanding, Financial Support and Always Being There.
I was unfamiliar with the feature at the time. Then I
started getting endorsements from people with whom I’ve worked, touting me in
areas that often drew their ire and criticism.
So there was Dad out of nowhere standing in our yard –
totally unexpected. Didn’t even see the car. He looks great, good shape, that
perpetual smile I was lucky to inherit, hair blowing gently in the wind as
early winter leaves take their final toss. When did he get the dog – so cute, and
frisky pulling at his leash? What a nice surprise.
Thing is, Dad died 51 years ago.
At a recent gathering of friends, we went around the room
answering the question of whom we would have dinner with if we could choose any
one person living or dead.
As I entered the dry cleaner this morning, my friend behind
the counter was serving another customer and, while doing so, told me to drop
my clothes on a side table. We’re pretty informal around here – I don’t need a ticket, and only now and then does he lose something. Rather than just leave
my clothes and run, I had to alert him to a special request on a torn sweater. But my
reply was cut off by the other customer being served, who looked me straight in
the eye and shouted, “Why don’t you shut up and wait your turn.
For a recent assignment, I had to make 50 to 100 cold calls
a week. That’s actual conversations. Here’s a composite of how I fared, using a
moderate degree of industry expertise, strategic phone sense, and charm:
15% - No interest, goodbye
21% - Polite no-thanks in seconds, not long enough to hear
15% - Will pass info on to someone else (who may or may not
work for the same company and who may or may not be born yet)
30% - Tolerant listening but minimal interest, inviting me
to send materials (no environmentalists, for sure)
This week I discovered the answer to life’s burning
question can be as close as your next lunch.
Okay, so I wasn’t asking what reality is, whether God
exists, or which candidate will carry Florida. I just wanted to know whether
corporate meeting planners hire independent meeting planners.
You’re disappointed, I can tell. But I’m not taking on God
in this post.
Humor me for a moment. Tell me you find it the least bit
interesting that the very morning an independent meeting planner says she
doesn’t want to waste time networking with corporate meeting planners because their companies
don't hire independents, a noteworthy corporate planner says at a luncheon that her company hires independent meeting planners.
Would you rather belong to a club of 800 with 20 percent
engaged members or a club of 200 with 100 percent passionate ones?
I thought about this at a recent gathering of Meeting
Greater New York’s Board of Directors. I am entering
my second term on the Board’s Executive Committee – first as VP of Marketing
and now as VP of Education. In both roles, my job is to help figure out how to
engage members, present chapter happenings in an interesting manner, and create
programs that will draw people from their computer screens into the real world of
networking and participation.