Originally published Meetings Today
***“The first step in the evolution of ethics is a sense of solidarity with other human beings.”
– Albert Schweitzer, theologian, organist, writer, humanitarian, philosopher and physician.
Before we get to the subject of this blog and the Sept. 2017 edition of Friday With Joan, there are some pressing issues to address: Hurricane Harvey and the flooding and other damage to Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast, and now Louisiana.
Articles like this one from The Atlantic explain what many of us intuited: that often those most impacted by disaster are those who were already in need.
Many organizations and individuals are helping. I was particularly interested in who among the hospitality industry was helping those who work in restaurants, hotels and other venues, especially the help for hourly workers who depend on tips and who may have lost everything—home, clothing, documents, transportation—and need help.
Thanks to friend and colleague, Paul Arrigo, CDME, President & CEO of Visit Baton Rouge, for the information that the Louisiana Restaurant Association (2700 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, LA 70802) is coordinating with the Texas Restaurant Association to collect cash/checks, generic gift cards—for places like Home Depot, Lowes, Wal-Mart, etc.—for those in the restaurant industry that were impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
Many thanks to FEMA for this guide on how to volunteer and donate responsibly.
Meetings Today also put together this article with a list of charitable links.
And please, email me at FridayWithJoan@aol.com or message in the comments of others who are specifically helping our industry’s colleagues.***
Now on to the Friday With Joan topic for September!
Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers and Nexters in Your Workplace, co-authored by Ron Zemke, was first published in 1999. I must have read about it and more from Ron (who, sadly, died in 2004) in one of many publications. I had the privilege of co-presenting with Ron at the meeting formerly known as “Springtime in the Park” in a session entitled “It’s Not Your Grandfather’s Meeting”*!
It was after that, at a Nevada Governor’s Conference on Tourism, where we both presented on different topics, that I first met Ann Fishman and heard her talk about generational issues.
As a boomer—the “why can’t we all just get along” generation, part of the center of the universe for so long—learning about the issues that impact us from the generations into which we are born fascinated me. In Friday With Joan, I’ve written previously about generations and about meeting design. The number of articles and blogs about learning, generations and the focus just in our industry about millennials and hotels’ focus on them as customers could consume our reading for months on end.
In recent years, I’ve facilitated sessions at ExhibitorLive entitled “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along” about generational issues. I chose that topic because I was so tired of what I believe are the mistaken beliefs about other generations and, in particular, about millennials (“they don’t have a work ethic,” “they’re job switchers”—as if that’s a bad thing!—“they’re self-centered” which is what we boomers heard about us, and more). I wanted to facilitate conversations among generations since we’re in this together.
Here we are, as many as five or six generations in the workplace (according to Bruce Tulgan of Rainmaker Thinking) and as guests at hotels, and participants in meetings. Here we are with the many influencers (watch live or later on-demand the Meetings Today Webinar “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? Working and Meeting Multigenerationally” on Sept. 20 to see more of those influencers) and opinions and beliefs and needs on how we work, who we are, and how we meet and what we expect out of meetings. And our role is to create experiences for everyone that satisfies their expectations and needs.
“Impossible?” Maybe. Challenging in designing meetings? Certainly!
The factors we need to consider are great and greater than just generational issues: learning styles and preferences, applying what we’ve learned from research about brains and how people learn and behave, professional rank (senior managers, CEOs, administrative assistants, etc.), abilities, and the desire to cram into a few days far too much information to process while allowing time for people to experience what we hope will help them learn and interact.
There’s no denying that for each meeting on which I’ve been involved in the design, content, delivery and logistics, and for those I’ve attended and will attend in the future, change is needed—it’s about more than one’s generational cohort.
I don’t have simple answers for how to make meetings work for all generations. I am informed by what I read, observe and watch. Recently, two particular segments on PBS NewsHour were indications of what we need now and will need for future events. Both were indicative of experiential learning that many first learned about from The Experience Economy, by B. Joseph Pine II and James Gilmore, first out in 1998, and since updated.
The earlier story was about preschool children and their outdoor learning and then there was this one about the billion oyster project in New York City.
Of course I thought about how so much meeting space and so many meetings are indoors, underground and in rooms without windows. Will that do for a future generation? If this is how students are learning today, will meetings and facilities designed and used now be useful for the future?
Then there was this, also from PBS NewsHour, about making “brick-and-mortar” shopping relevant, which hit me as just what meetings need right now! (Because some of you won’t watch or read, I’ve captured a few of the comments from the segment that struck me as relevant to meetings for multi-generations as they are to shopping). When I saw what the Hudson’s Bay Company was doing; what STORY—Rachel Shechtman I thought you were brilliant in describing merchandising as content and community—did, and the idea of “experience per square foot” I wondered why, on our tradeshow floors, isn’t there more of an experience versus just people handing out brochures?
RACHEL SHECHTMAN, Founder, STORY: If a magazine tells stories by writing articles, and taking pictures, we tell stories through merchandise and events**. And then, magazines have advertisers, and we have sponsors.
[In the broadcast, Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, said, 20 years ago, that the strip mall was most endangered “because that’s no fun.” Sound like meetings you attend? And “fun” is of course a matter of degree and can be simply experiential learning].
GERALD STORCH, CEO, Hudson’s Bay Company [Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue]: How do we give the customer that extra reason, beyond simply consummating a transaction to buy some merchandise to come to a store. … Think of [it] as an amusement park for an adult, a reason to come to experience something new and different.**
PAUL SOLMAN, PBS reporter: Hudson’s Bay CEO Storch met us at The Wellery. You can buy stuff here, or get a manicure, practice your golf swing, work out, sample dry salt therapy to improve lung function.
As I listened, I envisioned a tradeshow and a meeting with a multitude of different experiences and creative designs. For a tradeshow, fewer row after row of the same kinds of booth, or of meeting rooms all set the same and delivery the same way it’s always been. As I looked at the customers in the PBS story about reinvigorating retail shopping, I observed: different generations experiencing what they want in new ways, creating a desire to return!
To see what others thought, I asked five industry colleagues to respond to questionsbased on their generation, the meetings or teaching they do, and their personal preferences for meetings. What patterns in what they’ve said and in the stories from PBS NewsHour do you see on which you can build a meeting? In the similarities and differences that are generation-specific, what strikes you? Of those you serve—as customers in your hotels or conference center or city, at your meetings, in your membership or who buy products from your company—what can you apply?
Please add your thoughts in the comments section. I’ve asked those who responded to the sidebar questions to also, when they can, respond to what the others said since this is the first time they’ll have read all the responses.
And this: it is impossible not to acknowledge Charlottesville, the death of Heather Heyer, and the aftermath. If those at your meetings are not having these conversations, perhaps we should ensure they do, facilitated, so that instead of rancor we find common ground.
There’s been much written about the millennial generation as “the one” that will help the world get along because it was thought that they, more than other generations in the U.S. especially, lived in a multicultural, multi-racial, ethnic, gender- and gender identity diverse world. It was thought that they were the key to our future.
It appears not to be so from what we’ve read and seen.
But just as I, at 12, believed that if I could only sit down with Nikita Khrushchev (who so looked like my dear Russian maternal grandfather, now of blessed memory), in a meeting, that we could make peace, that I believe that meetings, well-facilitated, welcoming, designed for inclusion, can be a conduit to more cohesive communities.
When I saw what my niece, a teacher in North Charleston, S.C., wrote about these two men and later heard them, side by side, talk about coming together, I thought perhaps there was hope and that the meetings industry will help facilitate it all—generational and other conversations to create better communities.
Idealistic? You betcha.
*That’s if memory serves me … it may have had a slightly different title but was close to this. The presentation was on a floppy disc, long gone. **Emphasis is the blog author’s.
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