Is There Such a Thing as Work-Life Balance?

Originally published on Meetings Focus Blog

For all the years I’ve had my business (34 this past June), I’ve never worked fewer than 6 days a week. Oh sure, I’ve taken vacation days and some sick days, but generally, I work.

I come from a family like that: my paternal grandfather worked for one company for more than 60 years, retired and then got another job. He died on his lunch hour from that one.

My maternal great-grandfather founded a retail and wholesale poultry company in which all of us worked at one time which meant, for me, school five days a week, working after school and on weekends most days when I didn’t have extracurricular activities or wasn’t at the library.

Some of my cousins, in their 70s, still work at least part time. I’m not bragging or suggesting this is the best way to live. It’s an “is” in my life and my family’s history.

When people talk about “work-life balance” I don’t really understand, though. I mean, I hear what they say and I am guessing they mean they want to make/take more time for friends, family, activities that are not work related, exercise, play.

But what if work has those elements and it provides what is desired in life?

I have written about being a life-long learner which allows me to explore ideas alone and with others. I teach which gives me great joy in helping others learn and though it’s classified as work, it’s more than that because I too learn when teaching.

So when I read this article about work-life balance with insight from George Mason University researcher, Beth Cabrera, I was pretty excited to see that at least in one person’s view, I wasn’t totally off base! Cabrera basically says that finding a work-life balance is impossible, but you can work to better align your time with your goals. Yes, this is more specifically about women because of the (usually) added responsibilities at home. Can it apply to everyone?

Oh and I know that saying about “when you die would you say you wanted more hours at work?” to which you’re supposed to say no. And then again, what if there is joy in what you do and so you would actually want more hours?

Is there such a thing as work-life balance for you? Is there something for which you strive?

If you had it, what would work-life balance look like? Will the future of work—especially for those who work at home or telecommute—provide more or less “balance”? Is it different for men and for women? Does it differ by age and where one is in life’s journey? What do you think?

Lifelong Learning: Everyone’s Responsibility!

Originally published Meetings Focus Blog

This is the last of three blogs addressing meetings industry education.

The first, “Industry Education: 1 of 3 steps to Improvement” addressed how we can improve education delivered at industry meetings; the second “Will Industry Associations Survive?” resulted in a lively discussion about alternatives to traditional industry associations.

In this, I hope to spur our industry to provide resources and methods to create and nourish lifelong learners because I’ve always described myself as a lifelong learner.

What that meant to me was:

  • Searching out or stumbling across and reading a variety of topics including those that may not be applicable to my work or life.
  • Observing the world around me and making connections to what I do or might do.
  • Listening to opinions and insights of many and taking that information in to use now or one day or maybe never—just learning.
  • Reading books and articles about disparate subjects.
  • Teaching others and learning from them.
  • Questioning everything.
  • And saying “tell me more” to delve deeper.

I wondered how lifelong learning was defined by others. It was cool to discover who coined the term and when (thanks, Wikipedia!). And then two other sources, the Lifelong Learning Counciland The University of Utah, gave me more insights into what lifelong learning is.

What’s puzzled me for years is why, when people achieve credentials (diplomas, degrees, certificates, certification, etc.), they often believe they are done learning. More, in this electronic age when access to information is literally at the fingertips of many—certainly of those reading this—why more people don’t want to learn all the time!

Look, I know time is a factor. I can get lost in links to more and more information, taking me away from “real work.” And I want to talk about what I’ve learned so I post on social media what I’ve read and hope others will join in a discussion which leads to more learning.

On long flights, I want, after reading, to stand up and lead a discussion (I fear it’s against the FAA rules!).

Our industry’s meetings, conferences and webinars—whether sponsored by CIC member associations or new organizations or for-profit companies providing education—could do so much more to foster lifelong learning. Though we know it’s a best practice, we don’t provide time and space for learners, after face-to-face sessions, to engage in discussing their questions about what they learned and how to apply that knowledge. Through various social media outlets we sometimes try to engage those who attended sessions in post-meeting discussions but these aren’t as successful as they could be with more nurturing of discussions.

We seem to think—and we definitely act—as if learning stops when one leaves a session or conference just as many think that once the degree is achieved, they are done with learning!

PCMA is doing one of the better jobs of encouraging learning by providing aggregated news in their daily News Junkie. Through Carolyn Clark’s crack of dawn efforts, links to news stories are offered in hopes we learn from those stories and dig deeper and take what we read to the discussion boards.

Here’s what some of us do and what the industry could require:

  1. Pre-reading lists in the description of each session: books, links to articles, journals online discussions.
  2. Provide at least three suggested additional resources of books, articles, etc. furnished by all speakers—main stage and workshops, webinars or other delivery methods.
  3. Make available space and time and encourage people to gather formally or informally to talk about what they just learned.
  4. Create an electronic, paper or physical board where people can post their suggested resources for more learning on a topic.
  5. In every journal, a list of on and off topic reading and listening and watching one can do to expand one’s horizons.

As individuals, we can start with these “Fifteen Steps to Cultivate Lifelong Learning.”

This Mark Twain quote in “Fifteen Steps”—“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education”—has been one of my mottos and a quote I use often in training.

No matter how much or how little formal learning we have, being a lifelong learner opens new avenues. Start now!

P.S. Don’t miss my related book review covering Daniel Pink’s “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.” An essential read for planners!

Will Industry Associations Survive?

Originally posted on Meeting Focus blog

I’ve been an MPI member since 1980 (although officially, 1981 – checks were processed slowly in the early days in Middletown!); a PCMA member since the ’80s; ditto ASAE.

I’ve been an active member in all of them, including serving as chapter president with the Potomac Chapter of MPI (PMPI), on the international board of MPI, and on and chairing many committees for all associations mentioned.

I’ve taught at more industry events for those organizations and others (SGMP, IACC, CMP Conclave, GBTA, HSMAI), and for-profit shows like Exhibitor, and at the University of Georgia and the University of North Carolina/Charlotte in their certificate programs, and more chapters of the many organizations than I can count – and I did in fact stop keeping a record of them.

I’ve been honored by MPI, PCMA, NSA, HSMAI, IACC, and I’m an inductee in the Convention Industry Council Hall of Leaders.

I’ve been an advocate for joining and being active in industry associations, believing strongly they were where we would learn the most from sessions and by example; where networking—that is, peer-to-peer contact and learning—would propel us and our careers forward.

I believed that our ability to volunteer gave us opportunities to do and create different things than our jobs might. In fact, I had said for years that MPI, my “mother ship” because it was the one organization I could join in 1980, helped me become who I am by providing opportunities for leadership and learning through doing.

And today, I’m not so sure.

In a recent blog post—the first in a series of three—I wrote about industry education (the third is on the way, I promise – I get sidetracked with interesting events that turn into blogs!). In the same post I mentioned that I think we’ve been let down by our associations. Worse? I think the for-profit community has hijacked what the industry associations can and used to do.

How? Hosted buyer programs. I saw photos from a recent one at which there was nothing creative being done in room sets. It was purely a money-making opportunity for the owner of the show. In fact, a colleague in attendance told me of a supplier who left because she didn’t want to pay $6,000 to have a few one-on-one appointments.

These events are killing industry associations by providing free education (even if it’s not advancing the industry and it’s only advancing the pockets of the show owners). Look at the industry associations and see if the planner membership is up or down.

Ask planners’ managers why they are happy having their staffs hosted (air, hotel and “registration,” because there isn’t any) versus shelling out more than $2,500 for someone to attend an industry association meeting.

I look at the “senior planner” that everyone wants to attract and how many of my friends and colleagues have dropped their memberships in the CIC member organizations. Worse, when they have stopped being members and written to say why, they have received no response.

We who couldn’t afford to attend the national and international meetings used to say we continued our memberships because we were active at the chapter level. It’s not so. Look at the numbers of those who attend chapter meetings versus the number of members they have.

Look, I want the industry associations to survive. They have a long history of fostering leaders. But who is doing what to help them survive and thrive? The same vendors who are on boards of those organizations are also supporting (by paying and attending) the hosted buyer events. And the industry associations are trying to compete with the for-profit hosted buyer events with their own, further demeaning the value of being a member.

More, our industry associations are doing little for our supplier/vendor members: in some cases, they pay higher dues and registration fees, which are used to financially support programs, but they are given no education for doing so.

Tell me I’m wrong, and when you do, tell me how this will all play out and who will make it happen? While you’re at it, tell me why in the hell we can’t create better meetings either within the industry associations or by the for-profit companies providing hosted buyer opportunities?

Creating Options for Learning Meetings

This article was originally published on Meeting Focus Blog.

In the first of three blog posts about industry education, I wrote about the ‘us-them’ conundrum regarding who pays for and attends educational events sponsored by industry associations or private companies and the harm I believe is being done to overall knowledge, professionalism and service for our industry.

In this, part two, I’ve written about content and delivery, as well as scheduling and timing. This is, by the way, all adaptable for your own meetings: the status quo the industry meetings exhibit is the same for many other types of meetings.

Status Quo 1: Schedules limit time for the pursuit of learning.

I’ve maintained for years that someone once decided meetings should look and be scheduled like the worst grammar or high school any of us attended, at least as witnessed by those of us not in the Millennial generation! (I hear things are changing in some schools. However, in the U.S. we are dealing with “teaching to the test” which involves little learning to think and avoids creating a desire for lifelong learning, to be addressed in part three.)

School began with arrival and home room (“general session”), then short breaks where we were maybe allowed to use restrooms. Then on to other classes (“workshops”/”breakouts”) and then lunch period, and repeat the same schedule in reverse in the afternoon.

We were over-programmed with little time for peer interaction (“networking” in today’s parlance) and even told not to talk with each other if it appeared to interfere with a teacher’s lesson plans, not unlike some speakers who disdain interaction even to ask questions.

There is little deviation from this meeting schedule. If there are breaks (check some meeting schedules: one session time ends and the next begins with nary a minute in between), in that 15 to maybe 30 minutes, we have to exit one room, use a restroom, maybe grab a beverage and get to another session.

Time to mingle? Talk with colleagues? Only if we decide to walk in late or skip other sessions.

Different Thinking:

  1. Start sessions on time regardless of how many people are in the room. Use the mantra I have borrowed from Open Space Technology: whoever shows up are the right people.
  2. Provide breaks of 30 to 45 minutes. It may mean scheduling fewer breakout sessions  to accommodate more time between sessions. By doing so, you will provide time for people to connect, converse and share ideas.
  3. Provide places for people to sit and talk outside session rooms. Be sure the seating is accessible and convenient: not too high or too low, easily grouped, placed to not interfere with sessions in progress, and designed to encourage people to congregate to talk.
  4. 45 to 60 minute sessions are the new norm. Is that amount of time adequate for all learners and trainers (aka speakers)? As both a trainer and a learner, sure, I can deliver and absorb something in that time, but my learning styles (Aural and Kinesthetic) need more.
  5. If the sessions, because of “new thinking,” must be shorter (than they were) provide opportunities for those who attend them for deeper dives in other places and times, including right after a short(er) session.

Status Quo 2: Big(ger) is better.

Why is it thought that the bigger the meeting, the better it is? Sure, there may be more people to walk through exhibits and perhaps a greater number of opinions offered. But bigger also means that those great peer-to-peer encounters happen less because people—housed in many hotels and spread out over a large convention center or even throughout a large convention hotel—rarely encounter each other.

Further, sessions have to be huge to accommodate all those in attendance. And imagine the introvert surrounded by thousands when a few or maybe “tens” are the comfort level.

Different Thinking:

Instead of budgeting only on numbers (attendance, income, number of exhibits), budget on effectiveness, the ever-discussed, seldom practiced ROI for meetings.

Conduct Q-storming™ exercises around the meeting “whys”: Why is the meeting is being held? Why do people attend? In what will they find value? What do we know about the needs of the individual audience members? Do the trainers/speakers and meeting goers prefer interactive sessions with fewer people?

How have we measured and what have we found out about the anticipated outcomes and the actual effectiveness of the entire meeting, including size? These questions and others will help to develop different thinking. Maybe we can meet with fewer people in smaller venues where learning can occur more comfortably.

Status Quo 3: Content and speakers and room sets, oh my!

Industry programs, including those of chapters, look pretty much alike. For the national and international meetings, main-stage speakers tend to be mainly male (and too often white) in a demographic that is heavily female and still trying to attract people of diverse backgrounds.

The content is ho-hum, or perhaps it’s the way it’s delivered in ordinary ways that don’t involve participants except for the (dreaded, by me and others) Q&A at the end … long after the questions occur and right before the too-short break in which everyone must dash leaving no time for conversation with speakers or other participants.

We are told the rooms must be set in theatre or schoolroom (or maybe “crescent rounds,” though why aren’t facilities using the crescent tables they use for F&B for meetings to take up less space?) When one industry organization tried theatre-in-the-round for breakouts, they heard speakers didn’t know how to use it … so they stopped!

Aren’t there some new and creative things we can do?

Different Thinking:

C’mon, industry! Read the blogs and the social media discussions to learn what is really on the minds of planners and suppliers in our industry.

Look at the demographics and see how many are new to the industry and how many are those of us who have been around a long time and would like some new topics and new delivery. Always include issues that impact all of us all the time: ethics, legalities (and not just hotel contracts!), sustainability (including labor issues), creating new learning environments and deliver those in ways that are more experiential.

I recently moderated and spoke at the Hospitality Design Exposition & Conference (HD Expo) with two meeting planner colleagues. We envisioned having a session next year where we set a room to be the perfect meeting room and create things in there.

Why not try this concept at one of our own industry meetings?

For years, I’ve recommended Dr. Paul Radde’s book, Seating Matters: State of the Art Seating Arrangements to groups and even more, to hotels and convention and conference centers to learn how to create more audience-centric seating. Paul’s designs are superb for all kinds of audiences—when there are deaf or hard of hearing audience members too—and allows audience members to see each other (increasing eye contact that leads to sparked conversation) and for better visual lines to speakers.

Oh, and you can fit more people in the room, in better ways. Go buy it (Disclaimer: I wrote the foreword for which I wasn’t paid nor am I paid when Paul sells his books).

Status Quo 4: Networking only. 

What’s with the trend in industry organization chapters for only hosting food-and-booze-style networking events? No one seems to mix things up!

Studies, including one done years ago by MPI’s Foundation about why people attend meetings, indicate a key reason to attend is to interact with peers, what we commonly refer to as networking. People don’t know how to network at least not any more.

Go to any meeting and at breaks, see everyone, heads down, involved only with their electronic devices! (Imagine if it had been that way in 1985 when Harrison Owen coined the term and practice of Open Space. It wouldn’t have happened.)

Even if we teach people how to network, our industry meetings set a very bad standard for what they continue to call networking events: alcohol, food, and way-too-loud music, and they also don’t show how networking can be better done in sessions.

Different Thinking: 

  1. There’s big business around the how to network. Colleague, Susan RoAne, aka “The Mingling Maven,” has written and spoken about how to do so for years. Susan Cain, of Quiet fame, addresses networking for introverts in her book and TED Talk.
  2. Teach how networking—valuable connections!—can happen in education sessions, in hallways and at breaks (see Open Space Technology), and anywhere two people find themselves … if they would just look up.
  3. Teach improvisation (Izzy Gesell is highly recommended) so people can learn how to converse. One can’t really network if conversation is problematic!
  4. Music is great and helps people feel at ease especially at the start of an event where there are fewer people and conversation may be awkward. Ear-splitting music is never appropriate for an event where we want people to talk. Turn it down!
  5. Booze may be expected and it may also contribute to people acting “looser” than they might ordinarily. Is it a requirement? I don’t know. It’s sure a risk factor. Rethink why and how to use food and drink to bring people together.
  6. Food can be a great way to meet others if the food is accessible and there is seating for those who can’t stand, and if we create conversation places during food-focused events.
  7. Add the phrase “peer-to-peer learning” to the industry lexicon. Create engagement opportunities (interactive problem solving for example) in sessions and teach people how to have conversations. We have lost the art of conversation now that we tweet and text. Maybe this will help.

We can create better industry gatherings and education that can serve as models for others’ meetings. What will you do to increase the options our industry offers?

Upcoming in part three of the education series, I will write about “lifelong learning“—its pursuit and attainment—and how the industry associations can advance and support this pursuit.

“Inclusive Hospitality” the issues of the ADA and beyond

In February 2015, Marlys Arnold and I, colleagues and friends for years, were at the same trade show, at which I also did a session on “Inclusive Hospitality” taking the issues of the ADA and going beyond. Marlys was curious to walk the trade show floor with me to see how accessible it was. (It wasn’t.) On our walk we met Lee Jacobia, an exhibitor, working the floor while sitting in his wheelchair. Marlys on foot and me on my (rental) scooter [have you ever traveled with a scooter? The airlines, not friendly to luggage, are far worse on these items. I prefer to rent when I travel and leave mine at home] spent time talking with Lee.

Lee, Marlys and I are not ADA experts. We are people who are either faced with mobility disabilities and/or those who care about ensuring access at meetings and shows and in venues. Listen, learn, and spend some time thinking about how accessible what you create is.

Thanks, Marlys, for doing this:

And this may help too:

Your tips for design and other methods of inclusion will be helpful added here.

Oh and it’s not just in the US. Use this for more information for international destinations:

A Proposal is NOT a Contract!

This article was originally published on Meeting Focus Blog.

Please note: this blog post is not a solicitation of services. Please do not write in the comments or to me directly about your company and/or the services you provide. This is strictly about how we still, in this industry, don’t know the difference between a proposal and a contract.

A client is in need of a company to provide on-site meeting services—bag stuffing, registration staffing, session badge-checking—at their upcoming annual meeting. They solicited proposals, received one of the two they solicited with no response from the other company, both of which were recommended by their convention hotel.* I solicited one other proposal from a company whose owner is active in the industry.

The proposals, like so many from AV companies, decorators, DMCs, and ground transportation providers, say little about well, anything, other than the companies themselves, and for one, the owner, and the other, the sales contact. The fluff is not as extensive as what I have seen in AV and decorator proposals that they, like in this case, call contracts. But there’s not the substance that is needed to ensure the expectations and conditions are in sync.

The prices—hourly rates and overall cost—are so different (one is 50% of the other) with neither providing justification for their pricing. In fact, the higher priced one doesn’t go as far as the other to provide the qualifications and screening of the personnel that will work the meeting.

Neither provides anything about:

  • Attire and how monitored.
  • Supervisor qualifications.
  • Whether the supervisor and other staff will be the same throughout or differ daily.
  • Last minute cancellations by any personnel provided by the company and substitutions.
  • Conditions for transportation, breaks, meals.
  • Alcohol and drug testing.
  • Bonding and insurance.
  • Force majeure conditions for individual staff and for the meeting and services.
  • Indemnification.

Without yet asking (that’s in process), I know I will be told what I’ve been told from transporation companies, DMCs, registration companies, and many other industry providers, including hotels about their contracts: “no one’s ever asked those questions” and “everyone signs” these documents! And I’ll wonder like I always do, who in the heck [it’s a professional publication!] isn’t asking and who is signing?

I’ve worked in this industry for more than 40 years. After questioning and teaching and learning, find we still do it the same way which is to say, incompletely. It’s a wonder there aren’t more lawsuits resulting from a lack of understanding of what the arrangements really are and what conditions apply. Why is our industry so sloppy and so willing to settle?

* When I emailed someone at the hotel to find out if there were other companies they recommended, I was told that the two my client contacted were the only ones they recommended and that, well, they really didn’t know much about them.

Ahem…I know you’re waiting for Part 2 of the industry education blog series…and it’s coming. It’s just that other interesting things keep happening!

What about those long head tables?

This article was originally published on Meeting Focus Blog.

I’ll get back to my blog series on “Industry Education” in a few days. For now, a short digression with highlights and questions from my viewing of the recent White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, held Saturday, April 25, 2015, at the Hilton Washington in DC.

No, I didn’t attend in person nor have I ever. Junkies for politics and news, my husband and I try to watch it every year, always on C-SPAN. Sure, listening to the roar of the crowd before the program begins might be boring but listening to inane comments on various broadcasts as theywatch and listen to the roar of the crowd is more annoying!

Before the program content—awarding of scholarships, recognition of retiring journalists, honoring journalists killed in the line of duty, encouraging those watching and in attendance to sign a petition to free Washington Post reporter, Jason Rezaian—was an interview with Steve Cowan, The Hilton Washington’s General Manager, who was gracious in his explanation of how and when their staff begins to prepare and how early (4:00 a.m.) on the day of the event many of the banquet staff arrive. Never did he mention what a pain this dinner (like so many of our own industry associations’ dinners) must be for the servers: so many people up and schmoozing in a room packed with more than 2,500 and servers trying to get through with trays.

And safety…well, you’ll see and wonder as I did, how in the hell anyone could have been evacuated easily? I had claustrophobia and would have been happy to be at a table in the “hinterlands” just for that!

Mr. Cowan’s comments resulted in a tweet from me, using #NerdProm (as it’s known “inside the Beltway” and for those other political and news junkies throughout the world), asking for praise for the hardworking staff of the Hilton. I hope they received it in addition to the $400,000+ payment noted for the dinner.

I’m curious of those who also watched and those who will now at least glimpse some of it on the recorded versions about these issues:

1. Why, still, long head tables for important people? The VIPs at the head table (President and Mrs. Obama, the WHCA President and other officers, and others) do need easy access to the lectern (OY! it was always called a “podium”) and security and easy in and out especially for the president and first lady. And yes, it means that they aren’t annoyed as frequently as those at the tables on the floor may be. It also looked like the space between each person at the table made eating and turning to talk awkward. And I’ve always wondered how it must feel to be watched by millions while eating. BizBash and others – what are the alternatives?

2. How can presentations of scholarships and awards be made without a parade? The table and podium on which it sat looked narrow. Those who were honored and who received scholarships—yes, I kvelled at the journalism students receiving scholarships and hoped that my friend and mentee, Arion Ford, would one day be among them—were paraded in a very narrow space between the backs of those at the headtable and the curtain behind.

The journalists who received awards  were seen in a great video explaining why and showing them in action. But then they had to walk the narrow space too.

3. If the president and the hired entertainer (this year for only the fourth time, a woman!) are the main attraction, how is the order determined? Just asking.

4. What is it that makes journalists and politicians and celebrity guests attending this dinner sit down and stay and listen when asked to do so when at our dinners (recalling PCMA’s Deborah Sexton “shushing” everyone!), people keep talking rudely? How can we translate this to what happens elsewhere?

5. And mainly, is this still the model for formal dinners? I thought we must have come up with better ways of doing it but this wasn’t an example.

Maybe Patti Shock, in her Meetings Focus webinar on June 24, will solve these and other event mysteries!

Industry Education: 1 of 3 Steps to Improvement

This article was originally published on Meeting Focus Blog.

In January, at PCMA’s Convening Leaders conference, and since, including, most recently, at ExhibitorLive, I’ve had too many conversations about what’s lacking in industry knowledge, professionalism and education to continue to ignore writing.

The conversations—with industry academics; with Boomer, Gen Xer and Millennial planners and suppliers; with “veterans” (often referred to as “senior planners”) and those newer to the industry or those with little formal training—all confirmed what I’ve seen and believed for a long time: our industry is not smart. Why? Because we keep doing the same things and … well, not getting results that will convince the general public that “meetings mean business.”

Oh sure, there are some minor changes in how education is contemplated and delivered. For those of us who are industry veterans, who have worked hard and continue to work at making changes, we see too few. We wonder if we’ll die having never really seen meetings change!

We can do better. Here, in the first of a three part blog, based on experience and recent experiences and conversations, and yes, using generalization, is what are seen as the problems and what we can do to improve.

Problem: Education Exclusion

We’re back to “us” and “them” education and membership practices.

1. To be a member of some industry associations is more expensive for suppliers.

2. Industry associations and the chapters rely on supplier dollars to underwrite education, education that often excludes suppliers [aka “business partners”].

3. Planners believe (surveys show and anecdotal conversations are said to reveal) that suppliers only attend education to “hit” on planners, to bring back leads for their companies.

4. Too few suppliers have been taught how to learn broadly and that learning together is a way to more business.

5. Planners, many of whom are responsible for education design at the chapter level, believe that suppliers are getting the “necessary education” from their employers. Even suppliers who achieve their CMP, in particular, don’t do deep dive learning on their own, or they aren’t exhibiting it.

6. Supplier education, provided by their employers, focuses on transactional skills and not deeper, life-long learning skills.

7. Suppliers are used to funding versus participating in education, and individual supplier companies are not often willing to pay extra for training outside their companies for their employees if they can’t see immediate results in sales figures.

8. Suppliers at shows with tradeshows are not encouraged to attend educational sessions or interact with planners in anything other than a social setting.

Solution Suggestions: Education Inclusion

In order to make changes, individually and collectively, we have to insist on changes:

1. Make professional membership equal. When MPI created a higher fee membership category, the brouhaha was loud.

2. Encourage activity by making it more affordable to join and attend programs. Years ago, I believed and said that if it were that important to a person to be a professional, he or she would find a way to finance membership and education. It took me a long time to see differently: if keeping a roof over one’s head and food on the table is weighed against membership or attendance at a meeting, something’s gotta give.

3. Chapters can hold more facilitated meetings where peer knowledge is used to educate. Train chapter members in facilitation techniques to be effective moderators. Establish “norms” or “ground rules” to ensure that no selling or marketing is allowed. Create inclusive settings and atmospheres.

4. Create more self-sustaining meetings. Sheesh, most of us who plan meetings have to build a budget that doesn’t rely heavily, or at all, on sponsorships!

5. Put a halt to hosted buyer programs that are more like pyramid schemes than anything I’ve seen the industry do! Think about it: if a CEO or manager sees that a planner can attend a meeting for free, without being a member of an industry association, why would she or he pay for a planner’s membership and attendance at an industry meeting? For suppliers (who are really just that and not the euphemistically named, in one industry association, “business partners”) hosted buyer programs are a huge cash outlay to provide freebies to planners and no education for themselves, and thus the long-term ROI is often minimal.

6. Teach industry professionals how and why to learn and to become/be active learners. Encourage ongoing learning and peer learning at and between face to face opportunities.

Next Up in Part 2: Content Development and Delivery.

Not Your Elevator Speech – Your Story!

This article was originally published on Meeting Focus Blog.

An article, an obituary, a cartoon and a class contributed to the thinking behind the creation of this blog. And more, to thinking about our individual stories.

The article: From The New Yorker, Mary Norris’ story “Holy Writ”, tells of her winding road to becoming the “Comma Queen” at that publication. The telling of her story and the story itself delighted me! (OY! Am I missing necessary commas?).

Her early life, her decisions, the chance encounters, her risks, and opportunities, are like many of ours. Perhaps the difference is that, in her story, she took advantage of the un-outlined chapter. Her moniker, too, made me think of my story and when Jim Trombino, president of the MPI Board when I served, gave me the moniker “Conscience of the Industry.”

I don’t remember why; I do know it stuck.

One obituary: Philip Levine, US Poet Laureate, 2011 to 2012, died recently. His story is so rich and not one that most consider to be that of a poet, is inspirational.

Others’ obituaries (and cities’ stories): I’ve read obituaries for as long as I can remember. They tell great stories about individuals and communities. When I travel, the local newspaper (if there still is one), in print, is preferred reading.

From a local paper’s stories, I get a feel for a city, learning what political and business decisions may impact the meetings my clients might book; from the obituaries, a picture of the community that I cannot get in any other way, emerges (With all due respect to DMOs, your stories would be made richer if they contained stories from and about the people of the communities you represent).

The cartoon: Colleague and friend Gary Jesch posted the following cartoon on his company’s Facebook page. I shared it and wrote that a) it provided the impetus to “unfriend” those who aren’t my “real life” (What is that any more?!) friends, and b) to remind my dearest friend and my husband that there are to be no straight rows for seating at my memorial service.

The class: On Feb. 21, 2015, I taught all day in the meetings and events certificate program at UNCC. Each person in the class had a different story that brought them there, like all who populate the diversity of our universe: the former teacher who now organizes events for a charter school and wants to do more; the reluctant law student who knew she wanted to do something more than law and learned in the class about hospitality law (watch her story change!); the person who works in a church and is responsible for the logistics of weddings and other events and wants to take it further; another whose background in training and facilitation is under-utilized.

The stories of those in the class made me think of the stories of industry colleagues who became friends like Arlene, the “Queen of Everything” for her knowledge of everything; Amy, who was a meeting professional, then worked for a DMC, and then became an award-winning health educator, ran for office, and now looks at how her story will continue; and friend and sometimes co-presenter, Niesa, whose story includes theatre, meeting creation, training, teaching, and now single parenthood.

My story is long, shared in bits and pieces with newer colleagues and students, and known more fully to people like my friend of more than 60 years, Kathy, or to my friend of less time but still great intensity, Paul, whose own story is amazing (journalism major, catering manager, newspaper book reviewer, teacher). My story still has chapters left to write and perhaps an additional moniker to earn.

What’s your story? Will you share it with us? Which paragraphs and chapters surprised you? Who gave you a moniker, why, and what? Just as you were inspired by others’ stories, your stories, told orally or written here, will inspire, inform, encourage, caution, others.

Share them, please.

Let’s Go to the Videotape! Verifying Someone’s Story

This article was originally published on Meeting Focus Blog.

If you are following the news, you have probably heard that NBC is fact-checking Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News regarding his telling, differently, a story when he was embedded. This post from Alan Bean, someone I trust when it comes to ethics and justice, though our religious beliefs differ, provides enlightenment about something referred to as “false memory.”

This is shared not to debate what Mr. Williams and others may have done. It is provided for the “false memory” references from Mr. Bean. It was brought to mind because of the many interviews I have conducted for clients with those they are considering for positions in their meetings departments and the stories I’ve heard that just didn’t ring true or entirely check out.

Sometimes it’s one’s role in saving millions of dollars on a meeting, or developing systems to enhance meeting operations, or negotiating “more than anyone else,” that caused me to question how much that person could have really done. When probed, one can learn that yes, the person had a role; however, the candidate was not the initiator nor more than someone with a bit of input.

It probably happens long before the interivew too, right? The resume with enhancements that would not pass a deeper check; the vitae that exalts one’s experiences and is never verified. So many shortcuts lead to hiring people or putting them on boards, etc., without delving deeper because we want to believe and they believe, with their “false memory,” that they are telling the truth.

In the situations Alan Bean cites, there are videotapes to review. And unless one’s life has been duly recorded (a la Defending Your Life) there is no way to know.

The percentage of those calling for Mr. Williams to be fired is remarkably high. What do you do, in hiring someone or checking the veracity of a supplier who tells you how fabulous their service is (even with examples that to that person are true), to verify?

And what do you do if you find out, later, after hiring or contracting someone that it just isn’t as they said… that in fact, ‘false memory’ may have been at work? Or if that person is a CMP, bound by the CMP Standards of Ethical Conduct? Or if you feel a need to enhance what you’ve done—do you stop to think about what you really did? Do we really need to be bigger-better-best all the time? Or can we be real?

If it matters…especially after reading what Alan Bean said and some of the information provided in the links, I still trust Brian Williams.