Creating an interruption-proof space

November 12th, 2018 @

please do not disturb

In computer science, an interruption is a signal to a computing device that halts the execution of a program in progress so that some other action can proceed. In electrical engineering, an interruption comes in the form of a circuit that conveys a signal that stops the execution of a running program.

In everyday life, an interruption is a break in the action and is derived from the Latin words inter, which is to go between, and ruptus, which is to break off. Hence, an interruption can be described as something that comes between entities and separates them, such as you and the task you’re attempting to complete! Curiously, ruptus is related to the word rupture, which in biology is defined as a tearing apart of tissue; in politics, a breach of the peace; or in everyday affairs, a state of being broken apart.

Interruptions impede productivity

For meeting professionals seeking to be highly productive, interruptions represent a “breaking apart” of their ability to stay focused and strive for completion of the task at hand. In many work environments today—the traditional office as well as in mobile settings—each one of us is prone to too many interruptions to approach our potential level of productivity. Why? We are subjected to more potential interruptions than any previous workforce since homo erectus emerged from caves.

superheroUnprecedented challenges call for unprecedented solutions. It is not enough to turn your cell phone ringer or vibrator off. It is insufficient to believe that merely closing your office door will safeguard you from intruders. It is folly to believe that tomorrow is somehow going to be better than today if we don’t take a certain number of measures that guarantee we can work for 30, 60, or 90 minutes undisturbed when we need to.

RELATED STORY: 8 signs that your work-life balance is looking good

Many years ago, I met with the CEO of the Planning Research Corporation in his office on the top floor of a building on K Street in Washington, D.C. From this vantage point, he was able to look out of large picture windows in three directions, including to the west for dozens of miles into Virginia. His office, the foyer leading into it, the receptionist’s area prior to that, the hallway leading to that and the entire floor were notably quieter than any of the floors under it. Like so many other top executives, he knew the importance of being able to marinade in his own thoughts.

The quiet to reflect

Those reaching the top rungs of organizations and who aspire to high achievement, instinctively understand the importance of safeguarding their environment. They understand the value of being able to reflect upon the challenges before them, to utilize the full measure of their cerebral capabilities and craft a plan or devise a solution to meet that challenge.

In our own lives and careers, sometimes we don’t have the choice of working on a quiet floor with barriers surrounding our work space that ensure the quiet we need to concentrate on the challenges before us. We do, however, have options regardless of our working environment that can increase the probability we will have vital stretches throughout the day and the week, where we are free of disturbances and can safely predict that interruptions will not take us off course.

Most meeting professional, sometime throughout the week, have the opportunity to take command of their immediate environment through a variety of procedures that are well known but unfortunately not put into practice as often as one might wish.

RELATED STORY: Overlooked smart tools for productivity

Interruption-proof your environment

In my book Breathing Space, I offer some suggestions for safeguarding your working environment and minimizing interruptions.

  • Surround yourself with everything you need to fully engage in the change process, which also might involve assembling resources, people and space, as well as ensuring that you have a quiet environment free of distractions.
  • Give yourself the hours or days you need to read, study and absorb what is occurring, and to make decisions about how you’ll apply new ways of doing things and new technology to your career and firm.
  • Go “cold turkey,” although this is not recommended for most people. Suspend whatever else you’re doing and engage in whatever it takes to incorporate a new way of doing things. This is enhanced by ensuring that you’ll have no disturbances, bringing in outside experts and assembling any other resources you need to succeed.

As the AllState commercial used to say, “Life comes at you fast.” In the future, today will seem like an era of peace and tranquility. Life will come at us ever-faster as our technology and mobile devices connect us with more and more people, and information sources around the world. We have to establish effective habits and procedures to buttress ourselves against what we know is coming: more information, more communication, more to sift through, more to learn and more to respond to.

RELATED STORY: 21 ways to gauge your work-life balance

Our work week and our lives are finite. We can only cram in so much information in a given period of time. The ability to understand and absorb what we need to, and keep at bay all the extraneous information that competes for our attention is a skill which must be developed, honed and refined now. It won’t get any easier later.

The sooner we recognize that our interruption-based society is here to stay, at least for now, the sooner we can embrace and securely put into place those measures that will ensure that we can be at our best for today and for the long run.

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Category : Blog and Industry News

High achievement at any age

October 15th, 2018 @

whats next

Suppose you thought of departing your current organization to start your own company. Or, you want to develop some news skills, but it will take considerable time and effort to do. In case you’ve already passed a certain age and are thinking, “I have this big dream, but I’m too old,” take heart. Even if you’re in your thirties, forties or fifties, mile-high achievement could still be in store for you—even if you’re past 60, 70 or 80.

Across the board, meeting professionals are living longer than their counterparts of just one generation ago. In particular, you are likely to live longer than you think you will. There’s no telling what you’re capable of two, three or four decades hence. The legendary Grandma Moses became famous as a painter in her seventies and eighties and was still creating notable works of art past age 100.

RELATED STORY: Understand your own professional development

When Ronald Reagan was re-elected as U.S. president in 1984, he was already 73 years old, and he left office when he was 77. Someday, an octogenarian—someone in his/her 80s—will be president of the United States.

In Reagan’s career, he spent 25 years in the motion picture and entertainment business before entering politics. Challengers frequently belabored his show biz background, yet, because of his longevity, his political career was often longer and more distinguished that that of his challengers. He had simply lived more years, and hence, had done more things.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, now 85, is a beacon of senior service to America, and hailed as a hero in many sectors of society. We could all cite many others.

For my second career…

Perhaps you’ll remain within the meeting industry or end up in some new venture that is largely unrelated. In Age Wave, Dr.Ken Dychtwald explains how it’s likely that you’ll have several careers within a lifetime—for you this could be in and out of talent development—with some careers totally unrelated to each other. After all, if you graduate college at age 22, you can work for 15 or 18 years in one industry, not even hit your forties, work 25 years in another industry, and even get your pension, and still work another 12 to 15 in another profession and only be in your 70s.

As average lifespans extend beyond 80 and 90, and the health and well-being of the typical career professional continues on at an advanced age, it’s not unrealistic to assume that you might achieve some spectacular goal in some arena of your life that is not even a consideration at this moment.

RELATED STORY: PYM Professional Development Guide

The seeds have been planted

Many people believe that the seeds of what you might be doing 20 or 40 years from now are already in formation, if only at the cellular level! When I took the course “Technologies for Creating,” designed by Robert Fritz, author of The Path of Least Resistance, I encountered one of the most powerful affirmations of my life to this point. Imagine, Fritz encourages, that everything that you’ve ever done is preparation for what’s coming next…

training coachingAll the successes, all the failures, all the things that went well, all the things that went up in flames and all of your experiences and learning might well be applied, or at least drawn upon, for the highest good, for what is coming in your life.

With that perspective, you’ve incurred no down time. Whatever roles you’ve taken on in your organization, whatever projects you’ve handled, all if it adds up to no wasted efforts. Your career up until now and your life has been a laboratory of sorts, helping you to prepare for some grand good the likes of which might still not be clear to you.

As the philosophers say, the pattern of the universe (or, more specifically for your purposes, the pattern of your career and life) is right there, visible in everything you do. You have only to recognize how to work with your strengths and limitations, aptitudes and blind spots so as to transcend yourself.

You can boldly go where you’ve never gone before and eventually set and reach goals that in an earlier time might have seemed beyond your essence, yet on some level, were within you all along.

RELATED STORY: Conferences to grow your thought leadership

Exploration 101

If you’ve been swayed a bit by some of the points in this article, here are suggestions for things you can do in anticipation of a longer life and a more diverse career path.

  1. Undertake some exploratory reading via books, magazines and online articles about the path, and field of endeavor that, for whatever reason, has lingered in the back of your mind. You’re merely exploring, so there is no right or wrong direction. What you learn is all grist, or not, for a future mill.
  2. Talk to people in alternative fields to gain first-hand accounts of what it’s like to be a bee keeper, bank loan officer, forest ranger or what have you. There’s nothing like hearing from those in the know.
  3. Take a sabbatical if your current employment position allows for it, and actually spend time in the potential future job/trade/endeavor. You might decide that you don’t like it or that it’s worth keeping in mind for the future.
  4. Talk to your spouse or partner about your potential aspirations. Who knows, maybe you’ll garner strong support!

The post High achievement at any age appeared first on Plan Your Meetings @ Meeting Professionals International.

Category : Blog and Industry News

Questions speakers should ask planners

February 21st, 2018 @

Over the years, from various sources I have collected questions that many meeting professionals would welcome hearing from speakers, either those whom they have booked or with whom they are considering booking.

Ask
(CC) Michael Newman

While meeting professionals certainly could develop these FAQs in advance, in can be much more comforting to encounter speakers who have the wherewithal to ask.

Here are questions that I would like speakers to ask planners. (And if the speakers aren’t asking you these questions, you’d do well to broach these topics.)

  1. Explain the goals and objectives of your meeting or conference. Do these goals and objectives support your organization’s mission?
  2. Can you describe the audience. Age range? Newbies? Veterans? Spouses or guests? Distance traveled? What is the percentage of men versus women?
  3. What else occurs at this meeting? What takes place right before and after my program? How has the audience reacted previously?
  4. How much time should my part of the program take?
  5. Are there networking opportunities for audience members?
  6. Is your audience responsive to interactive sessions? Can you cite previous examples of such interactive sessions?
  7. Are there any words or issues to avoid?
  8. What are the key measurements of success for this program? Do you employ ROI measures overall and individually per session?

The post Questions speakers should ask planners appeared first on Plan Your Meetings @ Meeting Professionals International.

Category : Blog and Industry News

Sleep, rejuvenate and travel safely

February 2nd, 2018 @

sleeping koala“Mirror, mirror on the wall, why do some otherwise high-achieving meeting professionals feel that they can miss sleep without penalty? Or, if they acknowledge the penalties, why do they nevertheless proceed?”

When several high achievers were asked this, the response that occurred most frequently went something like this: “By working longer or harder now and perhaps getting less sleep, the potential payoffs can be greater.”

In other words, some professionals knowingly sleep less as part of a calculated plot to become prosperous younger or sooner. Paradoxically, the most successful people I know tend to have regular, sufficient sleep patterns. Whether they retire early or late, they get ample sleep daily and weekly to keep themselves vibrant and moving forward.

Now and then, you read about some ultra-high achiever who only sleeps an average of four or five hours a night. As such, you have to remember that:

  1. Most articles about people contain considerable fabrication.
  2. Even if it’s true that these people can sleep four or five hours per night on average, that does not necessarily apply to you.
  3. Unless a longitudinal study of their sleep patterns is undertaken, no one knows the long-term effects. Maybe this person will develop some acute disorder. Who can say?
  4. Your need for sleep differs from others. There is no value in comparing yourself to those who sleep more or less than you.

Your quest is to get the amount of sleep you need to feel and be at your best.

Driving and dozing

You’re a danger to yourself when you try to function with consistently too little sleep. You’re a danger to society when you operate a vehicle with too little sleep. There are simply too many transportation mishaps today that are a direct result of someone being tired at the wheel. Dr. Martin Moore-Ede, in his now-hard-to-find book, The 24-Hour Society, points to numerous transportation mishaps that can be traced directly back to insufficient sleep.

What’s worse, Moore-Ede found that vast numbers of people in society engage in micro-sleep, which is a form of trying to compensate for under-sleeping. Micro-sleep is a five-to-10-second episode where your brain is effectively asleep while you are otherwise up and about.

As hard as it is to fathom, parents transporting their children might engage in micro-sleep. School bus drivers with forty children in tow may be engaging in micro-sleep. Train conductors responsible for hundreds of passengers and millions of dollars of equipment engage in micro-sleep. Truck drivers traversing hundreds of miles carrying hazardous waste materials engage in micro-sleep.

Some people mistakenly believe that the act of driving is sleep inducing, but studies show that is an erroneous belief. Dr. Allen Pack, director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania, says, “You’re sleepy to begin with and the task unmasks the tendency to sleepiness.” So, if you’re in a nice big car with cruise control on an open road, you might think that’s conducive to sleep. However, if you weren’t sleepy to begin with, you wouldn’t nod off.

Generally speaking, the two major factors contributing to drowsiness include the following.

  1. How long you’ve been awake. – If you got up at 5 a.m., then by 7 p.m., your 14th hour of wakefulness, you could be a candidate for drowsy sleep. Also, if you consistently get too little sleep, and have been driving a long time during a day, you’re more susceptible to nodding off at the wheel.
  2. Driving at night. – More than half of the crashes on the part of drowsy drivers occurred between midnight and 7:00 a.m. Thus, independent of how long you’ve been awake, driving during the wee hours is inherently treacherous.

Add in chronic under-sleeping on a consistent basis, and you have a recipe for disaster.

The numbers could be far worse

The incidence of drowsy driver crashes, whether attributable to the factors discussed above or not, could be highly understated. Since many drowsy-driver crashes only involve the driver, most go unreported. Or, in the case of fatal accidents, many accidents are misdiagnosed. Legions of over-stressed, highly fatigued people could by dying at the wheel.

While auto manufacturers hunt for driver warning systems that will reduce the number of such accidents, and even if your car is so equipped or equipped in the future, it’s no excuse for you to ever get behind the wheel if you even suspect your level of fatigue will impair your driving ability.

If you need to get around and about, and can’t do much about completely overcoming your fatigue right now, then please consider the following:

  • Use public transportation as often as possible.
  • Become part of a ride-share system, and at least be well rested when it’s your turn to drive.
  • Avoid taking any long trips, where the probability of a mishap increases markedly.
  • For short trips, consider a taxi, bike or walking.

Your life and the life of others is important. Planning meetings is challenging. Don’t let your fatigue put you in a situation where you are a danger to yourself and others.

Featured image (CC) C. SCHULZY

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Category : Blog and Industry News

Strengthening attendee ROI with take-home education aids

December 18th, 2017 @

Here is a conundrum, to which, perhaps, you have an answer: Meeting professionals often go to extraordinary lengths and sometimes pay huge sums of money to ensure a well-run and effective conference. Yet, in most sessions the information provided is quickly forgotten. Participants attend, leave and soon cannot recall much if not all of what they were exposed to.

business books
(CC) UBC Library

I’ve made 960+ presentations and attended at least an equal number. In that time, I’ve received a book or audio program from the speaker perhaps 30 times (less than 4 percent of the meetings I’ve attended). Following a worthwhile speech or presentation, such books and audio products are valuable to me. I do tend to review them, keep them and reflect upon what I learned.

So, which speakers’ presentation and information have the greatest impact upon me—those who only offer handouts or who employ some type of take home learning aid?

An investment with legs

If you are paying a small fortune for the conferences you arrange, to ensure that my message or any other speaker’s message has optimal, if not lasting, impact, I encourage you to acquire books or audio products from speakers. This represents far more than a dollar transaction that benefits speakers, it is an investment in your people.

Rather than have a speaker sell “from the platform,” which I don’t enjoy and you probably loathe, the supporting materials can be negotiated in advance of the presentation. My 34-year experience confirms that audience members are thrilled to receive an autographed book or audio product from a speaker, and that the meeting planner who arranges such distribution is considered a forward-thinker.

Such learning tools usually don’t cost more than standard giveaways such as t-shirts, mugs, notebooks or tote bags and can have much more residual value. The pre-speech announcement of such gifts can generate goodwill and greater attendance. Participants often keep the book or audio for years, sometimes displaying them in the office, or storing them in their personal home library.

Enhanced learning, all around

When a substantial learning tool is given, attendees can relax and take fewer notes. The entire session, from start to finish, invariably proceeds on a higher note. At the conclusion of the meeting, the book or audio product is one of the treasures that participants look forward to bringing back with them.

Because you’re buying in quantities, the price per learning aid can drop significantly. Over many years, I’ve had clients large and small, take advantage of this opportunity, and I know other speakers who have witnessed the same. To the best of my knowledge it has been a win-win-win situation (meeting planner, speaker, audience participants) all the way!

The post Strengthening attendee ROI with take-home education aids appeared first on Plan Your Meetings @ Meeting Professionals International.

Category : Blog and Industry News

All-too-common reasons speakers mess up

November 13th, 2017 @

While this article is directed at speakers, meeting professionals can sneak a peek to better understand the preparation undertaken by effective speakers. From this, planners can learn to better ascertain the suitability of a specific speaker—and even do some advance prep to ensure things run smoothly.

There are many ways to successfully deliver a presentation and even more ways to fail at it. Here are common mistakes that speakers make—professional speakers included—each of which have to do with a lack of adequate preparation.

Not understanding the assignment

Before ever leaving your own office, it is critical to understand why you have been scheduled to speak to this group at this time. Such understanding necessitates that you read about the organization, get information about the audience’s current challenges and hot buttons and learn what the meeting planner has in mind for the presentation. Five-minute conversations over the phone don’t tend to supply you with all you need to know in that area.

If you’re a celebrity speaker, you are brought in so that attendees can go home and say, “I saw so and so.” It barely matters what you speak about as long as you are semi-coherent and don’t offend the group. From the rest of us, however, the people in the seats desire to hear things that directly relate to the professional and personal challenges they face. Or, they want to hear about issues of universal importance, i.e. affecting their communities, state, nation or the planet.

The only way to come armed with the proper information about the scenario and setting is to spend at least an hour researching the group and the situation.

Failing to know your audience

Beyond understanding the setting and why you are invited to speak, knowing the audience is itself an art and a science.

  • Who are they?
  • What is their age range?
  • What is their educational background?
  • How long have they been with the organization?
  • What is this particular meeting designed to do?
mistakes
(CC) PHINEAS JONES

Probe even further. How far have they come? Do they know each other or are they assembling for the first time? What will they hear before and after the presentation? What did they hear last year or at a similar meeting? How would they like to feel and what would they like to “get” as a result of your presentation—when they leave the room, how will they be changed?

As you can quickly surmise, the answers to these questions are not ones that you can intuit. You have to ask the meeting professional who hired you, the movers and shakers who will be in attendance and other key operatives of the organization. This usually requires an email request, sometimes reviewing the questions by phone since your contacts will be very busy.

Unless you find answers to these types of questions, and there isn’t much more that you could know, don’t accept the presentation. Without this information, your presentation may hit the mark if you are incredibly lucky, but chances are that you will simply dance around the periphery of what you need to do and say to be successful. If it’s a one-time presentation and you don’t intend to do much more speaking, you’ll probably be able to get away with this. If you want to speak professionally, however, there is no effective substitute for knowing the audience.

Not arriving with sufficient clearance time

Whether your presentation is across the world, across the country or across town, increase your probability of success by arriving in plenty of time. This may require coming in the night before you’re scheduled to present.

When you arrive early, you gain a considerable advantage which can often be the make-or-break factor in the success of your presentation. You get to settle in, calm down, check out the facilities, walk the room, talk to people, check out equipment and arrange things. In doing so, you give yourself the edge over the speaker who arrives “just in time.”

These days, with affordable mobile technology, you can be productive all day long wherever you are, so arrive early!

The post All-too-common reasons speakers mess up appeared first on Plan Your Meetings @ Meeting Professionals International.

Category : Blog and Industry News

All-too-common reasons speakers mess up

November 13th, 2017 @

While this article is directed at speakers, meeting professionals can sneak a peek to better understand the preparation undertaken by effective speakers. From this, planners can learn to better ascertain the suitability of a specific speaker—and even do some advance prep to ensure things run smoothly.

There are many ways to successfully deliver a presentation and even more ways to fail at it. Here are common mistakes that speakers make—professional speakers included—each of which have to do with a lack of adequate preparation.

Not understanding the assignment

Before ever leaving your own office, it is critical to understand why you have been scheduled to speak to this group at this time. Such understanding necessitates that you read about the organization, get information about the audience’s current challenges and hot buttons and learn what the meeting planner has in mind for the presentation. Five-minute conversations over the phone don’t tend to supply you with all you need to know in that area.

If you’re a celebrity speaker, you are brought in so that attendees can go home and say, “I saw so and so.” It barely matters what you speak about as long as you are semi-coherent and don’t offend the group. From the rest of us, however, the people in the seats desire to hear things that directly relate to the professional and personal challenges they face. Or, they want to hear about issues of universal importance, i.e. affecting their communities, state, nation or the planet.

The only way to come armed with the proper information about the scenario and setting is to spend at least an hour researching the group and the situation.

Failing to know your audience

Beyond understanding the setting and why you are invited to speak, knowing the audience is itself an art and a science.

  • Who are they?
  • What is their age range?
  • What is their educational background?
  • How long have they been with the organization?
  • What is this particular meeting designed to do?
mistakes
(CC) PHINEAS JONES

Probe even further. How far have they come? Do they know each other or are they assembling for the first time? What will they hear before and after the presentation? What did they hear last year or at a similar meeting? How would they like to feel and what would they like to “get” as a result of your presentation—when they leave the room, how will they be changed?

As you can quickly surmise, the answers to these questions are not ones that you can intuit. You have to ask the meeting professional who hired you, the movers and shakers who will be in attendance and other key operatives of the organization. This usually requires an email request, sometimes reviewing the questions by phone since your contacts will be very busy.

Unless you find answers to these types of questions, and there isn’t much more that you could know, don’t accept the presentation. Without this information, your presentation may hit the mark if you are incredibly lucky, but chances are that you will simply dance around the periphery of what you need to do and say to be successful. If it’s a one-time presentation and you don’t intend to do much more speaking, you’ll probably be able to get away with this. If you want to speak professionally, however, there is no effective substitute for knowing the audience.

Not arriving with sufficient clearance time

Whether your presentation is across the world, across the country or across town, increase your probability of success by arriving in plenty of time. This may require coming in the night before you’re scheduled to present.

When you arrive early, you gain a considerable advantage which can often be the make-or-break factor in the success of your presentation. You get to settle in, calm down, check out the facilities, walk the room, talk to people, check out equipment and arrange things. In doing so, you give yourself the edge over the speaker who arrives “just in time.”

These days, with affordable mobile technology, you can be productive all day long wherever you are, so arrive early!

The post All-too-common reasons speakers mess up appeared first on Plan Your Meetings @ Meeting Professionals International.

Category : Blog and Industry News

Working with a good meeting planner versus not: A speaker’s perspective

October 2nd, 2017 @

After 960 presentations at conferences and conventions, I have a fairly good idea of what type of meeting planner is a good client and best to work with.

1. A good client completes my pre-speech survey.

A less-than-good client, even after asking them a couple times, does not get around to completing my pre-speech survey. So I ask if we can cover the Qs during a phone call, and that usually works.

2. A good client has accurately gauged their audience’s needs, but this is something you generally come to realize on site, and afterward.

A less-than-good client offers clues if they have insufficiently gauged audience needs, including not being consistent in what they tell you about the group, or seeking to micro-manage your presentation in the pre-speech stage.

3. A good client does not over-schedule their attendees.

overwhelmed
(CC) monsieur paradis

A less-than-good client over-schedules their attendees, which is evident in the pre-conference schedule or flyer that they’ve posted. If you’re presenting early in the conference, fine. Presenting later, in a too-packed conference, could mean that the audience is in extreme over-drive by the time you say word one.

4. A good client allows me free reign with handouts.

A less-than-good client micro-manages the handouts, which might be evident in the weeks leading up to the engagement, but possibly might only be apparent once on site. Please square up the disposition of the handouts long before you step on the plane.

5. A good client, related to No. 3 above, offers a good flyer and good write-up.

A less-than-good client offers a poor flyer and/or poor write-up, which you can discern via this year’s or even last year’s conference announcement and supporting literature. There is not much you can do here, but forewarned is better than nothing.

6. A good client arranges the meeting room as I’ve requested, or tells me in advance why this cannot be done.

A less-than-good client ignores the room arrangement request. So you have two options, 1) strive for a solid two-way understanding in advance of how you need the room to be set up, and confirm this early, or 2) arrive extra early in case a major room re-assembly is needed.

The post Working with a good meeting planner versus not: A speaker’s perspective appeared first on Plan Your Meetings @ Meeting Professionals International.

Category : Blog and Industry News

Dear conference attendee…

September 12th, 2017 @

Dear Conference Attendee,

This is a letter I’ve wanted to write to you, but never have gotten around to doing. Now that I’ve written it, I might not send it. I’m not very visible to you for most of the year; you only see me at the annual meeting and perhaps a couple of quarterly meetings. I’m a meeting professional with your trade association, working year-round to ensure that your time and monetary investment in being a member pays off for you.

I don’t know if you realize it, but preparation for some meetings such as the annual convention actually begins more than a year in advance. I undertake dozens of activities to assure a successful meeting, including visiting potential sites, walking the halls and inspecting the actual facilities, even going up to the rooms—all to ensure your satisfaction when you actually stay there for three or four days. I may also speak with the hotel or convention hall catering division, their audiovisual staff and security division. I work behind the scenes with airlines, shuttle services and so forth.

Making the numbers work

Hand in hand with the site selection is the big job of number crunching. How many registrants will we need and at what price, to hold the meeting at a particular site? What kind of discounts can we offer for early registration? How about spouses, staff, kids, directors, vendors? If all the numbers work, how shall we promote the event? We have to tie it to this year’s theme, and make all the flyers, brochures, registration forms and other supporting materials part of a unified effort. It will take several rounds of mailing to ensure that we have enough early registrations so we don’t have to dip into other funds.

(CC) JOHN SCHULTZ
(CC) JOHN SCHULTZ

Of course, we can’t just plan a meeting, without having events. In some instances, I contact dozens of speakers just to retain the few that will be right for our intended program. Then I have to consider entertainment, spouses programs, children’s activities, receptions, farewells and a host of coffee breaks, tours, parties and other events that require careful planning—although when you’re attending them, I want them to come off so smoothly that you think hardly any planning went into it.

Then there’s the final banquet. Planning that in itself is a gargantuan effort. Will we go formal or semi-formal? Will there be favors on the table? Will there be a dais? Will we get an outside, renowned speaker? Will there be a band, will there be dancing, will there be cordials, will there be a cash bar, will there be a late-night coffee house? The number of options and challenges are almost endless.

The conference schedule

For each activity, each session, each keynote, I have to calculate how many of the total registrants will be in attendance. Should we have morning sessions at 8:00, 8:30 or 9:00? Should they last 60 minutes, 75 or 90? How about break times? How many sessions will we have each day? How many sessions in the afternoon? Should sessions be repeated so people don’t feel frustrated because they have to choose one over another? What about audio and video recording? How should the recordings be priced? What about copyright issues?

As you can see by now, I’m involved and concerned with several hundred distinct issues—and we haven’t even gotten to mailing out registration kits, let alone receiving them, handling the hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of phone calls or handling the event itself.

I’ve wanted to explain all of this to you in detail for so long, but there never seems to be the time. When you call throughout the year it’s usually with a question—which I’m only too happy to answer if I can—then you and I have other things to get back to. When I see you at the annual meeting or some of the quarterly meetings, our respective agendas are full. We’re all busy people and explaining everything I need to do to make the meeting successful is not of primary importance at those times.

Sometimes I just want to shout, “Please appreciate me,” or “Please write me nice notes when things go well,” in addition to letting me know when things don’t go so well. Please acknowledge me for the hundreds of things I do long before the event ever comes to fruition.

Still more work

And the conference follow-up—it’s as rigorous as anything else! When the convention is over you get back on the plane or in your car and head home. I still have many, many tasks to fulfill. I have requests, and maybe orders, to fulfill. There are items to box up and ship back. There’s dispensing of checks to vendors, service providers, speakers, rental companies and the meeting facility. There are notes to be typed up and reports to be written, updates to be made, membership categories to be modified, next year’s convention plans to be altered—it just doesn’t end. I haven’t imparted all this to you although I’ve wanted to, for oh, so long.

Well, I guess I don’t have the wherewithal to send this letter—I knew that before I started. I’ll just leave it parked here on my desktop and turn back to one of the 200 other important tasks that demand my ever-present attention.

Very truly yours,
Your Meeting Professional

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