Originally published Meetings Focus.
Originally published Meetings Focus.
Original post Meetings Today Blog
“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.” – Rebecca West (1892 – 1983), author and journalist.
Each time I’ve asked women in our industry if they consider themselves feminists they hesitate. Not all of them—but enough and in different age cohorts that I think there is a fear of being a strong woman, showing you are a strong woman, and identifying as a feminist.
All my life I’ve known women who worked in and outside the home.
Women who work outside the home are known to work far more than men if their spouses or partners are male.
Let me digress briefly. Many of us are aware of the plight of women in situations far more dire than fighting for standing and pay equity in the workplace:
I know I’m addressing more of what are called “first world problems.”
Yes, I’d like to be able to fix the world for all people and in particular for women. I can only tackle so much while raising the consciousness of many.
So for the purpose of the March 2019 Friday With Joan newsletter, published the week before International Women’s Day, I start “at home” with the hospitality industry.
Which for our purposes here, also includes the meetings and event industry.
In 2018, more women were elected to the U.S. Congress and to U.S. State Houses than ever before. On March 8, just weeks before GMID, International Women’s Day will be observed.
Its theme for International Women’s Day in 2019 is #BalanceforBetter.
“Balance” meaning striving for a more “gender-balanced” world.
As we look at issues impacting women—including those in our industry, from sales and meeting professionals to those in catering, management and housekeeping roles—we recognize that if we fail to communicate why our positions, titles and pay matter, we will fall behind. This is a reality that has held true for all women.
Yes, even event planners, who are predominantly female and are given the authority to negotiate multimillion-dollar contracts and provide updates to boards of directors on the financial impact of meetings, must explain their worth or suffer the consequences.
An MPI blog post titled “Reinforcing A Sense of Belonging,” declared that the organization I call my “mothership” will now provide a “pipeline of women to lead MPI.”
This statement made me stop and think. I served on my MPI Chapter Board, as Chapter President, and on the International Board, when women including Marta Hayden, Beverly Kinkade and Anna Chabot were leading MPI. That’s quite the pipeline of women!
I was asked for input prior to MPI launching their first women’s leadership initiative, and I saw its demise. Which, based on the above blog post, held no discernable lasting power.
MPI, like most of the EIC member organizations, has not had a woman CEO in its history—though I know of women who applied.
Why is that the case in an industry where anecdotally there are a majority of women? What I’ve noted about MPI is not a knock on MPI—they are trying again.
It’s a question posed to an industry that we believe is populated mainly by women.
Why do we still hold so little visible power?
In compiling the results of its “A Sense of Belonging” study, MPI asked “In what ways are women treated differently than men at work?” The responses from women were as follows:
14% of respondents chose “Other.”
As one who grew up in a world where women fought for pay equity, I am painfully aware of and pay attention to what may hold us back. Is it the way we speak, the image we present and the images of us that are presented? We often apologize for saying something.
We’ll say “I just wanted to say” and negate whatever it is with “just.”
Should we applaud MPI and others for again focusing on women or be dismayed that again there is a focus on women in leadership when we didn’t make it stick before?
Doug Heath, MPI’s second executive director, heard me when I asked why MPI’s three representatives to the (then) CLC Board of Directors included no women though around me at MPI meetings I saw a majority of women in the audience. It wasn’t unusual—most of the delegates from the industry organization members were men.
Doug appointed me to be one of MPI’s three delegates knowing I would speak up strongly for MPI and what the industry needed.
And here’s what happened at my first meeting, an event that, though long ago, is in my head as if it were yesterday: I prepared for my first CLC Board meeting. I read my CLC board book and discussed the relevant issues with Doug and others in MPI’s leadership
Then I spoke up at the meeting.
At the first break, a man, not much older though considerably taller than I, patted me on the head and said “just wait until you’re older and more experienced. You’ll understand why…”
He was conveying this message: “don’t speak up ‘little lady’—know your place.”
This explains how women hesitate versus speaking their minds.
I did not equivocate in anything I said.
You too know how men often take credit for what women say or “translate” women’s words to their own. You’ve certainly witnessed it in interactions at meetings and events.
Case in point: I was co-presenting with a male colleague at an industry meeting and after each thing I said, he said “What Joan means is…” and then repeated what I’d said in his words. He swears he meant nothing by it and yet this happens to women all the time.
Then too, women are interrupted by men when speaking and we let it happen.
Here’s some advice from the above article to take to heart: “Women, if you are interrupted for any reason other than someone asking for clarification, say to the interrupter:
“’There are a few more essential points I need to make. Can you delay a moment while I do that?’” or ‘I know I will appreciate your feedback, but can you hold off until I’m done?’”
This may also come in handy when you’re negotiating for a pay raise.
Or while you’re in a negotiation with a buyer or seller.
Here’s what I hope, individually, you who identify as female, will do:
Those who identify as male, please:
For our industry:
Tell us more … about your experiences by completing the poll and commenting on the blog and within the comments on the second part of this newsletter.
What do you think can be done for women to gain equal footing at the least in an industry where we predominate but don’t get the pay and recognition we deserve?
And consider this: “Being a feminist is like being pregnant. You either are or you are not. You either believe in full equality of men and women or you do not.”
– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author, recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship (“Genius Award”) and author of “Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.”
Related Reading From the March 2019 Edition of Friday With Joan
Originally posted Meetings Today
If you were looking for a job or negotiating the conditions under which you’d work, of these, which would you not want?
As I finish the edits for this blog for the June 2018 edition of Friday With Joan, we wait to see if the Las Vegas hotel companies, including Caesars, MGM and others, will settle with the Culinary Workers Union whose contracts expire on May 31, 2018.
Editor’s Note: On June 1, a tentative agreement was reached with Caesars.
99% of those in the Culinary Union eligible to vote, voted to strike if their contracts were not renewed to include or expand upon many of the conditions noted above.
If they walk out, 50,000 workers who serve meeting-goers, business travelers, tourists and sports fans will not be on the job, and easily 100,000 people in the families of affected workers will be impacted. In addition to many of the items noted above, these workers also want to share in the profits of the hotels and casinos for whom they work and of the tax benefits afforded corporations from the new U.S. tax bill.
In fact, one need only look at the salaries of the casino CEOs in Nevada to see the discrepancy in what is being paid and wonder why the contracts have not easily been settled. In one article, one of those who voted to strike was quoted as saying:
“I don’t want to go on strike, but I will. The company is more profitable than ever because of the hard work we do, and I’m going to keep fighting to make sure we have a fair share of that success,” added MGM Resorts International guest room attendant Adela Montes de Oca.
My research causes me to wonder if planners do not want decent wages and working conditions, including safety from harassment, for our supplier partners.
Or do we not see as “partners” those who change our sheets, prepare and serve our food, wash the dishes, make the drinks, and do the work that enables meetings to happen?
I talked with a former hotel concierge who loved the job at which they’d worked for years, and who saw others being treated badly by management, owners and guests. In attempting to organize for better conditions, this person was penalized.
Thankfully, the now former concierge went on to do work that is helping others achieve protection in their jobs.
I talked with and read about many who faced hardships in the last strike in 1984 and who know that by voting to strike now could be endangering their livelihood.
Hockey fans wonder if the Vegas Golden Knights and the Washington Capitals [yes, I have a favorite!], all part of the players’ union, will cross picket lines, even informational picket lines, if a walkout occurs.
[Follow @meetingstoday on Twitter for updates on the strike].
Our industry overall (meetings and hospitality), and as reflected in some of the comments in the Q&A, has seemed anti-union, or at least anti-union for their meetings. I find it ironic that the overall industry, and some in particular, have not spoken in support of the Culinary Union workers. Some of the ironies I’ve noticed are noted below.
Irony 1: Some hotel brands have cut commissions for some third parties/independent planners who work on commissions about which I’ve written.
There are now at least two groups organizing, in essence, for collective bargaining for those third parties not affiliated with what have been called the “favored four,” the larger companies whose higher commissions will last a bit longer.
These two organizations have not yet spoken out in support of the Culinary Workers.
Irony 2: Industry associations say they are putting “teeth” into anti-sexual harassment policies. To the best of my knowledge, these organizations did not stand behind the Seattle initiative for “panic buttons” for hotel workers or sign on to the UNITE HERE-supported #HandsOffPantsOn ordinance in Chicago.
There has not been industry-wide support for this demand from the Culinary Workers Union to protect its members and others in the industry from being sexually harassed.
Irony 3: Our industry touts the contributions to the economy of tourism, travel and meetings but I’ve not seen support by industry associations for unions.
In particular, I have not seen support for the 50,000 people whose lives are made better and who can move toward financial stability who are part of the Culinary Workers Union.
Interestingly, studies show that Millennials are supportive of the labor movement. Maybe we have to wait for them to move into management for this to take hold.
Or, as with previous movements, it’s possible they just need to start voting.
Look, I know that UNITE HERE has angered planners and organizations because of the calls to planners and to organizations’ boards of directors encouraging some groups to not book properties or cities where the contracts with union labor are in dispute.
Like others, I have questioned the practice and wondered if it were the best way to reach out to planners and organizations.
I asked Levi Pine, Boycott Organizer from UNITE HERE, who though not an unbiased party, is someone who has given me reasons to trust him, how to explain this. This is a portion of his response, edited for length and clarity, and in some cases paraphrased.
“We always attempt to communicate with meeting planners first, by phone and email. When we do reach that person, we try to convey the seriousness of the labor dispute and make a follow-up plan with them about relocating their event.
“Sometimes it’s really hard to find out who the meeting planner is [suppliers will verify this], or hard to find accurate contact information.
“And, even if we can find the planner, often they try to cut off communication with us. Thus we have reached out to other organization staff or sometimes boards of directors.
“We know there are many who want to support workers, and even more who would be upset to arrive at their event and be faced with a labor dispute especially if a hotel or DMO had not informed the group, or the planner had not asked, in selecting the site and contracting, what labor issues were on the table.
“Groups have chosen to relocate their events to avoid a boycott. Some organizations look back on a decision to relocate as a real defining moment that demonstrates their integrity.
“When customers use that form of economic advocacy, it really does have a big impact. Boycotts have contributed to settling good union contracts that helped workers.”
[Joan’s note: oh the many gray areas of and the other discussions of boycotts for reasons of laws passed and commissions changed. We do need much more discussion].
“We suggest that groups incorporate the strongest protective language in event contracts to protect themselves and their events against the unforeseen.
“Our lawyers have written language that incorporates protections against various forms of a labor dispute, and that is available here.
“Meeting planners should [during site selection and after for groups booking far out] check the list of hotels and labor disputes at www.fairhotel.org. If you don’t find a property on the “FairHotel” list, a labor dispute is possible there. Planners can also call a FairHotel representative for the most current news on hotel labor disputes.
“Meeting planners can reach a representative at 773.383.5758.”
So yes, I’m pro-union. No one in my family of mostly self-employed people were, to the best of my knowledge, members of unions.
Maybe it was the Pete Seeger songs played or the general attitude about respect for all workers or the neighbors who were part of unions at the General Motors plants in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio, that made me aware of the importance of organized labor.
Maybe it’s because without the Labor Movement, children might still have to work, and hours would be far greater than 40 per week [yes, I know you work more than that—imagine if you had a union representing you to help you!], or the conditions under which those in the U.S. work would result in more Triangle Shirtwaist Fire disasters.
I’ve been self-employed for nearly 40 years and with my own company 37 as of Friday, June 1, 2018. I had to negotiate for salary and working conditions before I was self-employed, and for fees, expense reimbursements, specific work and conditions, since I became self-employed. Having an organization to support me and others might have resulted in a better standard of living and conditions for us.
So what do you do if the Culinary Workers in Las Vegas, or any other workers where you have a meeting booked, do walk out or if you learn that there may be a walkout or informational pickets taking place?
In 2011, this Meetings Today article explained what planners could do in the event of a strike. While some references may be dated, it still is relevant and important to consider.
Consider this too: Become a FairHotel Partner just as others are, and negotiate the Model Protective Language provided here into your contracts just as you are considering the language we’ve come to call the “ASAE Clause” regarding non-discrimination.
Take time to read the second part of the Friday With Joan Q&A—featuring one of the FairHotel Partners—to understand more.
I am grateful to those with UNITE HERE and with the Culinary Workers Union (Levi Pine, Jeremy Pollard, Rachel Gumpert and Bethany Khan) among those who first helped me research the #HandsOffPantsOn Ordinance in Chicago, and for the #MeToo blog here at MeetingsToday. I’d also like to thank Christine Busiek, CMP, of INMEX, for information.
I stand with you, Culinary Workers Union Local 226 (and those workers outside the union as well) in solidarity. I hope the contracts are settled and that your families—and our industry—will not suffer.
Following are links to the growing concern about technology and robots taking hospitality jobs. Planners, don’t assume your job is not at risk!
Already with the ability for automated site selection, why would our jobs entirely not be among the 6% that may be automated by 2021?
A Final Note From Joan: If you are someone who would like to be on my list of those to be considered for expressing opinions on a variety of Friday With Joan and Meetings Today Blog subjects, please email me at FridayWithJoan@aol.com with the subject line “Blog Interest” and in the body of the email, your expertise and issues about which you care about that relate to meetings and hospitality. Let’s get in touch!
Editor’s Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.
Related Reading From the June 2018 Edition of Friday With Joan
Originally published Meetings Today Blog
“Diversity fatigue is real,” said Greg DeShields, CEO of PHLDiversity.
And it’s true. People groan when they hear the words “diversity and inclusion.”
They’ve been through training at work, in their spiritual homes, in their communities. Yet, the fear of those “not like us” is great and the lessons learned are not sticking.
The following was posted to the Meetings Today Twitter account from a presentation on storytelling at the MPI Northern California Chapter’s Annual Conference & Exhibition:
“The story always came first. Without a great story, everything would unravel.” The quote is attributed to Matthew Luhn, who worked with Pixar on the Toy Story films and others.
Because the subject is not sexy—a bit like ethics or contingency planning, as I was once told by an industry association staff person—diversity and inclusion at meetings often gets overlooked or, perhaps even worse, we assume that it’s no longer an issue.
I began to write this blog post with the intention of identifying the many things you can do to ensure your meetings, conferences and events are more inclusive.
My initial advice included, but certainly is not limited to the following:
Possible additions to my list included the offering of printed handouts versus having everything web or cloud based because not everyone has a device capable of access.
We also know people learn better by writing than by “keyboarding.” And let’s not forget to ensure that images used in all levels and types of marketing are representative of different ethnicities, gender, attire, age and visible ability.
Then I thought: you know this. You get it.
You are a unique person who wants to be included versus excluded; you hate the pain you see in children and adults when they come to an event dressed differently than others because no one told them or showed them what was acceptable.
At some time in your life, you too were left out for being different. We all were.
I thought the examples shared by those I interviewed for the March 2018 edition of the Friday With Joan newsletter would help. And yet, only a few shared personal stories.
As noted earlier in this blog post, the “story comes first.”
Here are some of my own experiences that have instilled a desire to seek out and ensure inclusiveness and diversity in the world in which I live and work.
I am or was:
You can check calendars for dates to avoid so that you don’t meet over holidays and you can delve into why some religious holidays are more important than others.
You can learn by talking with people who aren’t like you—that includes those who are your members or customers or who want to and could be if they were just asked. You can talk with your HR departments and those who conduct diversity training like Jessica Pettitt and learn more about the importance of diversity and inclusion for all.
You can read what people are posting about the “math for women” conference that showcased a panel of four men and realize your marketing isn’t showing who you want to attract—you too hotels and cities!
You can read the U.S. Department of Justice website to understand your obligations to help people with disabilities attend and participate in your meeting and you can stop asking why you have to provide sign language Interpreters because they’re expensive.
You can read what Tracy Stuckrath has written about food and beverage and shared elsewhere in our industry. Or why meeting the needs of those who “claim to be vegan” really means they need to eat what they need to eat so they feel valued.
It’s pretty easy to understand why people want to be included in all the activities at your conferences and in your facilities. And why it hurts so much when people are not.
We need to be hospitable and welcoming in all that we do.
It all matters because we live in a global society and we all need to support each other, no matter how much we or others might think or say otherwise. It all matters. It just does.
Related Reading From the March 2018 Edition of Friday With Joan
I remember receiving a call years ago from someone important in our industry threatening me and my business if I were to dare speak of something about which I knew nothing about until the call. This person was threatening me based on an incident about which it was believed I’d spoken.
I remember the appointment with a new doctor whose exam of me seemed “not right” and the looks on the nurses’ faces but I didn’t know what to expect, so I said nothing. And I remember so many other incidents as do you—as someone who experienced them or as someone who was the perpetrator.
The current wave of accusations of sexual and other harassment in the workplace and at meetings are not new. This research paper from 1998, titled Sexual Harassment Issues in the Hospitality Industry by David Gilbert, Yvonne Guerrier and Jonathan Guy, may very well verify what the informal poll numbers, and, separately Meetings Today—through the January 2018 Friday With Joan newsletter poll—will find.
Yet we begin the new year where we left the old: discussing harassment and bullying with the daily breaking stories including this one—Companies Hit by Sex Misconduct Target the Dreaded Holiday Party—published at the end of the last year, from Bloomberg, about the impact on holiday parties amid fear of allegations of harassment, stating that if alcohol were limited, it would cut down on harassment.
And then there’s some of you who may have even considered, while planning “holiday” gatherings, whether to play “Baby It’s Cold Outside” in light of the #MeToo era, as discussed in this recent Washington Post article.
While alcohol and song lyrics may contribute to thoughts of harassment, they do not cause it. Power is what spurs people to harass others. I asked, among those in hospitality social media groups, for their stories.
These are (edited for length and to eliminate identifiers) some of the stories I received.
From a meeting planner: WOW! As I read [other articles] it is so reminiscent of what our team went through. The entire staff complained to the Board about our supervisor’s verbal abuse.
We were sent to what might be called “team therapy.” At the end of the session, the facilitator announced who the person—in attendance!—who caused the harassment was and about whom the complaint was made. The verbal abuse grew much worse. Jobs at my level were hard to find so I kept working even when others left.
I was finally fired with no reason given.
From a meeting vendor: I had a boss sexually harass me in front of several people at a job retreat at which there had been lots of drinking all day and I was clad only in a swimsuit. I was asked to sign a paper saying I would not discuss the incident.
I don’t think it was really a sexual thing with him. Much like [many of the more famous people accused], it was a power play. Hookers can be hired for sexual desires, but power is real the driver. They can do what they want to their employees.
After he did what he did to me, a co-worker sitting next to me said. “Don’t be mad. It is like a dog humping your leg.” I will never forget that comment. Like he does this to everyone and he is the boss. Like what they said about Charlie Rose.
“That is Charlie being Charlie.”
The other owner of the company came to my office, and closed the door and [asked], “How much money do you want to make this go away?” I told him I didn’t want money.
This company [then went] through my emails to try to find something on me and fired me. I then got a lawyer who said it was a moot point (to try to argue [against] this).
From a (now) third-party contractor: My first experience [with harassment] happened when I was very young and starting out in the industry. I was physically attacked on an elevator at a major convention hotel in the city I represented. The attacker was a prominent person with an association that was considering our city for their meeting. What was so shocking is after it happened was that my boss at the time required me to continue working with this group. I was young and naïve; I did as I was told.
I eventually left that job and returned to the same organization years later. This was all before computer records. The paper files of the incident were gone.
No actions were taken against the attacker.
From a third party: A couple years ago I was sexually harassed and because I’m an independent contractor, I was told there was nothing I could do legally even though I told the company to whom I contracted about it. The client was a big one and important to the company [for the revenue it produced]. The complaint resulted in the client leaving the company and because there was no contract with the client, there was nothing that could be done to support me or to bring in the revenue from which I’d also benefit.
After a few days of discussing what happened with my family and friends, a decision was made to inform [the harasser’s] supervisors. There was never a response from them; he continues to work there. I still enjoy working independently but having more support would be nice.
From a meeting planner: I unfortunately have a story to tell. Mine is slightly different: my boss harassed me in front of colleagues for being a nursing mother.
We were on site at our annual meeting and the boss made various comments regarding me nursing my child while at the meeting. Because of this, I no longer felt I could trust this person and was uncomfortable in other situations. I explained it to this person and nothing changed. I told HR and nothing happened. So I quit.
This issue of bullying touches on hot topics: breastfeeding, working mothers, mom-shaming. I’ve been trying to figure out how else I can share my story and help support other working mothers because our industry is unique with the amount of travel we have to do.
From a corporate planner: In a new job in a small company, one of the bosses, while we were alone in the office, asked me into his office. He asked me to sit on his knee. He said if I didn’t, he’d fire me. I didn’t [sit on his knee] and he did [fire me].
I was still new and needed the job and no, I didn’t take further action and wish I had.
From a planner: I was in a large North American city about to begin a two-day conference. The night before the start of the conference, as was the company’s practice, there was a private dinner for speakers. When the dinner concluded, I went to my room, did some work, and got ready for bed. The phone in my room rang. I answered to hear one of the speakers say he wanted to give me his presentation so that it was off his plate before the morning presentations. He asked me to come to his room. Not thinking this was deceitful, I groaned to myself because I had to get dressed respectfully. I slipped into my usual conference “uniform”—a business suit I’d worn for dinner—even putting on pantyhose. I knocked on the speaker’s door. I was greeted by this person holding an open bottle of wine covering his genitals and wearing nothing except a smile on his face.
He invited me in.
As I turned to quickly get back away, he shouted “if you don’t come in and ‘come across,’ I’m not speaking tomorrow.” Obviously I left, yelling back that I was going to tell my boss. I got to my room, quite shaken and eventually fell into a restless sleep.
The next day, I wasn’t as full of self-confidence as I hoped I looked. Once my boss got there, I explained the situation. He was obviously (imagine if he wasn’t?) on my side. We put a panel in place in case this speaker didn’t show. The speaker did show up but never apologized to me. He never spoke for the organization again.
If this were to happen today, I’d immediate advise security [of the incident that occurred] and ask them to keep an eye on my room. I’d complete an incident report for the hotel and for my employer.
I’d call a meeting very quickly with my boss and ensure security was around the event.
This marks the final story presented here sharing real examples of sexual harassment.
What constitutes harassment was a question on my mind when I traveled, in December, to visit a hospitalized family member. After “one of those days” of awful travel (via O’Hare International Airport, instead of my canceled non-stop flight), I arrived at the hospital, exhausted, during a snow storm, and walked slowly toward the entrance. The valet parking attendant offered a wheelchair. I readily agreed.
He put his hand on my shoulder, squeezed it, and said “You’ll be OK.” I was comforted and appreciative and only later thought “should I be? Is this a type of not asking if it were OK to touch me?” Really! In that setting, when I was in need of the comfort of touch, which is considered healing, I questioned it.
All because of the endless allegations of sexual harassment.
Despite statements from industry associations such as this one from MPI, shared by Meetings Today, and this article, from PCMA Convene, our industry has been remarkably quiet about these issues, until recently.
Update: Here’s another related article published by PCMA Convene.
And then there’s also this, from the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), a statement sent to me with permission to publish after I reached out to them on the issue: “The hotel and lodging industry has made the safety of both employees and guests a top priority. For this reason, our properties have in place safety standards, our employees receive comprehensive and ongoing trainings, and AHLA has partnered with nationally recognized non-profits and developed tailored trainings for the industry.
“As headlines over recent weeks have shown, no industry is immune to dealing with sexual harassment. Our industry has in place procedures and protocols for employees around reporting and prevention, and these are continuously reviewed and updated. As an industry, we will continue our work, day in and day out, with a focus on ensuring America’s hotels are secure places for all those who work and visit them.”
Sexual and other forms of harassment and bullying have been whispered about for as many years as I’ve been in this industry and from what I hear from those older than I, for much longer. More prevalent is sexual and other harassment in the broader hospitality industry of which meetings are a part.
It hadn’t escaped me when, in October, I interviewed Dr. Vivek H. Murthy—the immediate past U.S. Surgeon General—and wrote about the importance of creating welcoming environments at meetings to help curb the loneliness epidemic that clearly, those welcoming environments should be appropriate.
I think the stories I received from a variety of people are the tip of the iceberg. Like with politics, media, and entertainment, and with the publication of allegations against one DMO (aka CVB) CEO [for which we’ve not found updated information since this was published, outside of a refusal by participants of a closed door meeting to comment], one wonders if more allegations will come forth. Or will the fear of job loss, like what the women at Ford Motor Company experienced, keep people from speaking out?
What should happen next? Will your organization, if it hasn’t yet done so, create a code of enforceable conduct in the workplace and for meetings and conferences? Will you report or intervene when you see harassment happening to someone else?
If it happens to you, what will you do—especially if you know your job could be on the line and you can’t afford to lose it? Will there be a demand that such conduct will not be tolerated and if so, what would the consequences be? Will groups ask in their site and vendor selection RFPs about sexual harassment suits or allegations and their settlement and policies, and determine not to book meetings in potentially hostile environments? Will members, staff, or customers who act against policy be terminated?
I know that too few of us were aware of the lawsuit by employees of The Plaza in New York or the housekeeper at the resort in California, both of which were featured, with the women who spoke out, in Time magazine’s “Person of the Year 2017: The Silence Breakers” issue, even though we knew the actions of Dominique Strauss-Kahn and tut-tutted but there was no general outcry then as there is now for people who work in hotels or those of us who plan meeting or market and sell space and services.
Two colleagues, Ben Yalow and Sherry Marts, have offered examples of policies their organizations offer on handling bullying and harassment.
As I finished writing this blog, there are more important developments to note, in particular the @TIMESUPNOW movement because it says its aim is to help those who, like Ford’s line workers and hotel housekeepers, may not have the financial and other resources to support their reporting of abuses.
Read more on the Time’s Up movement in this article from NPR. This article from Harvard Business Review is about why harassment persists and how to stop it. This is about the impact on black women of harassment and reporting it. And this from the Washington Post’s Michelle Singletary about the fear of job loss in reporting harassment is insightful.
Even U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roberts said courts will examine protections against sexual harassment. There is much to consider when one decides the next steps.
Allegations without actions will change nothing. Read what Sherry Marts and Jessica Pettitt have to say in the January 2018 Friday With Joan sidebar.
Share your story below or if you’d prefer, I promise confidentiality, and I will, if you write to me at FridaywithJoan@aol.com, change any identifiers and post here for others to learn. If your employer or clients have policies to combat harassment in the workplace and especially at meetings or events, please, if permitted, share the links.
We can change the culture if we speak up and act.
Editors’ Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.
Original blog posted Meetings Today
Originally posted Meetings Today Blog
Vivek Murthy, MD, who served as the 19th U.S. Surgeon General, and someone whose life and work have made a great impression on me, wrote, in this Harvard Business Review article, about his family’s experience after Hurricane Andrew: “Looking today at so many other places around the world ravaged by disasters of all kinds, I think about how often tragedy brings us together—and how fleeting that connection often is. …
“There is good reason to be concerned about social connection in our current world. Loneliness is a growing health epidemic. We live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s. Today, over 40% of adults in America report feeling lonely, and research suggests that the real number may well be higher. Additionally, the number of people who report having a close confidante in their lives has been declining over the past few decades. In the workplace, many employees—and half of CEOs—report feeling lonely in their roles.
“During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness. The elderly man who came to our hospital every few weeks seeking relief from chronic pain was also looking for human connection: He was lonely. The middle-aged woman battling advanced HIV who had no one to call to inform that she was sick: She was lonely too. I found that loneliness was often in the background of clinical illness, contributing to disease and making it harder for patients to cope and heal.”
As I read Murthy’s article on “the loneliness epidemic,” my thoughts turned to meetings—conferences, seminars, conventions—some with a few people where it’s easier to feel lonely if one is new or has less in common with others, or is an “other” than the majority attending—an “outsider.” And then there are those large-scale meetings of hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands where you’ve come with colleagues you may or may not know well or with whom you may not feel comfortable around in a different setting. Or you may have only had a virtual connection to them—as many of us in the hospitality and meetings industry do when we attend a meeting—and you may still feel lonely.
I thought about the desire for connection during the first months of the MIMList (the first meetings industry virtual discussion group founded by Rod Marymor as part of the MIM – Meetings Industry Mall) that I moderated and how many wrote asking “Is anyone attending [fill in the blank name of an industry meeting] so we can all meet face to face?” All because no one likes being alone or lonely at a meeting or event.
Yes, there are many of us Introverts who “want to be alone” because that’s how we recharge, but we don’t want to feel lonely. Meetings are designed specifically for connections: years ago, MPI’s Foundation conducted ground-breaking studies about why people attend corporate and association meetings. The studies indicated that one of the main reasons people attended meetings was “networking” or as I came to call it, “peer to peer interaction and learning” (Sadly, the studies are out of print; I do have PDFs that we will get to you if requested—email me at FridayWithJoan@aol.com).
As I read Dr. Murthy’s comments and as I thought about my own experiences with organizations and at meetings, as a first-timer and as a “veteran,” I remembered:
What is the obligation for those in the hospitality industry (see definition a, definition b) to help people feel less lonely? How can meetings help alleviate the loneliness epidemic and contribute to better health, just as we’ve added healthier foods, yoga, fun runs, policies to combat sexual harassment and to ensure diversity and inclusion?
How do we do it? Here are some ideas.
1. Understand the roots of loneliness. Dr. Murthy in Harvard Business Review (HBR)wrote: “Loneliness is the subjective feeling of having inadequate social connections.”
He went on to say “Happy hours, coffee breaks, and team-building exercises are designed to build connections between colleagues, but do they really help people develop deep relationships? On average, we spend more waking hours with our coworkers than we do with our families. But do they know what we really care about? Do they understand our values? Do they share in our triumphs and pains? This isn’t just bad for our health; it’s also bad for business. Researchers for Gallup found that having strong social connections at work makes employees more likely to be engaged with their jobs and produce higher-quality work…”
“Connection can also help indirectly by enhancing self-esteem and self-efficacy while also shifting our experience toward positive emotions—all of which can buffer an individual during stressful situations and have positive effects on health. Indeed, studies have found that companies whose workers feel they have high-stress jobs have markedly higher health care expenditures than their counterparts with low-stress employees. … My experience has been that people bring the most to their work when they feel connected to the mission and the people around them.”
No kidding! Because of all those who invited me into conversation and allowed us to get to know each other as individuals as well as colleagues, I immersed myself in our hospitality industry. Where would I (or you) be today if someone hadn’t taken time to include you? And I’m sure we can all think of times where we weren’t included.
2. Create opportunities for deeper connections.
Dr. Murthy, as Surgeon General wrote about his work with staff, new to him and he to them: “To bring us closer, we developed “Inside Scoop,” an exercise in which team members were asked to share something about themselves through pictures for five minutes during weekly staff meetings. Presenting was an opportunity for each of us to share more of who we were; listening was an opportunity to recognize our colleagues in the way they wished to be seen. I share what my office did not as the antidote to loneliness but as proof that small steps can make a difference [emphasis by Joan]. And because small actions like this one are vital to improving our health and the health of our economy.”
I asked in a number of social media groups about how people felt as first-timers or if they felt lonely at meetings, especially if they were at a meeting at which they knew few, if any, others. The responses reflected the sense of isolation many felt, some believing that “first-timer” designations made them stand out and they were only approached by those who were told (often board members or executive staff) to do so.
This response, slightly edited, is from colleague and friend, Elizabeth Engel. In this narrative, she is describing who makes what efforts at meetings and events:
“My first time at a [association related to hospitality and meetings] event in 2000. I’d only been in the profession for a few years, and I didn’t know anyone outside the confines of my own association employer and the staff members of our three ‘sister’ associations.
“The conference was in the city in which I live and work, and being my first conference with this organization, I didn’t realize that I should clear my evening schedule for the receptions and parties that would take place in conjunction with the event.
“So I went to sessions, sat in the back of the room all by myself, didn’t really talk to anyone, and scurried off at the end of the educational program each day to keep my evening commitments. In short, I was the attendee with no friends.
“I did learn a lot, but I kind of missed the point of an in-person event: I didn’t expand my network at all.
“I didn’t attend another large association conference for another two years. [When I did return to this conference] I still didn’t really know anyone outside my (still the same) employer and (still the same) ‘sister’ associations.
“But in the interim, I’d learned two key things: keep my evenings free, and make the first move. I knew it was on me to create a better outcome, and I did. This time, I pushed myself outside my comfort zone to look for the other person in each room who didn’t seem to have any friends, go over to her, and ask her a question about herself, which is the easiest way for introverts [and others!] to get conversations with strangers going.
“That was the start of building the professional network that has sustained me for the past twenty years, through multiple job changes and launching my own business five years ago.”
3. “Make strengthening social connections a strategic priority in your organization” said Dr. Murthy, and to which I add, and in and at your meetings.
To what Elizabeth learned and did and what Dr. Murthy suggests and the MPI Foundation studies indicate, and what we know from our own experiences and observations, when our noses are in our electronic devices at meetings, peer to peer interaction and learning can’t easily happen. If we set participation examples and explain why we are doing so, we may be able to turn around the current usual behavior and help people create better connections that can lead to more involved members.
More involved members become informed and active participants in our professions, which leads to more commitment to buying and selling from those we know.
4. Change tradeshow interactions.
It’s not just the brief hello on the tradeshow floor for buyers to obtain tchotchkes or a chance to be entered into a drawing [oh … ethics, a discussion for yet another time!] or for sales and marketing professionals to get a name to add to the database. Deeper connections can be made with real conversations like one I had with colleague Marlys Arnold at ExhibitorLive with an exhibitor in a wheelchair about shows and the ADA.
As Dr. Murthy wrote we need to “Encourage coworkers [and in our world, meeting participants and tradeshow exhibitors] to reach out and help others—and accept help when it is offered.” Read on to the sidebar to the interview with Dr. Vivek Murthy to see more of what he has to say about how meetings can help people feel less lonely.
5. Encourage interactive education.
Many of us connect best when we are talking about meaningful ways to solve problems or sharing anecdotes about our latest success or problem.
We need to help “speakers” become, and treat them more like, trainers or facilitators to encourage interaction in sessions. We also need to encourage the use of appropriate seating outside session rooms where, during breaks or at times desired, people can share what they learned and make different connections over a shared raised eyebrow in a session. In both instances we have enabled learning and encouraged less loneliness.
What are your experiences and what have you observed at your meetings—or in your hotels and convention or conference centers—that have encouraged connections and less loneliness for travelers and meeting participants?
Our industry has an opportunity to help people feel less lonely and isolated. Maybe it was “bold” to suggest we can “cure” a health crisis but I think we can go a long way to alleviating it in one of aspect of society that touches many.
And so … On October 29, many of us observed the yahrzeit—anniversary death—of Rosie Ledesma-Bernaducci, a colleague and friend. Those of you who knew her and the circumstances of her death may believe as I do that loneliness contributed to her suicide. It’s that deep loneliness that though one has a smile on their face, and is well-connected and respected, masks a deeper sense of not being connected, truly connected, to others. To her, I dedicate this blog and newsletter in hopes that we can create better connections to solve the issue of loneliness in some way through meetings.
For those who would like to respond privately with a comment to be posted anonymously, please email me at FridayWithJoan@aol.com and I’ll post it for you.
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.
Click here to view additional content in the 09.01.17 Friday With Joan newsletter.
Shortly after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), I was an MPI delegate to the board of the Convention Liaison Council—the previous name of what is now the Convention Industry Council (CIC). Speakers were invited to address and inform the board about topical issues, such as music licensing and the ADA, that impacted our industry and each organization. Cricket Park, then deputy executive director of the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), and now, the Rev’d C.B. “Cricket” Park, rector, The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, Bethesda, Md., addressed us about the ADA and its impact on the meetings and hospitality industry.
Cricket was the only person to ever write a book and, for PCMA, a white paper, on the ADA and meetings. Alas, both are out of print.
Like many of you, I was blown away by what we hadn’t paid enough attention to and what we needed to learn and to implement in regard to the ADA. Not many years later, my company was responsible to help plan and execute a meeting conducted in the U.S. by the U.S. and Canadian governments on issues of accessibility around the world.
On a site visit with representatives of both governments, I observed how clueless the hotel salespersons were about the ADA and compliance and general accessibility issues. Illustrative of that: the clients were in the guest room bathrooms taking measurements and there the sales people were telling us about their turndown service and wonderful spa and pool, the latter two which were totally inaccessible for someone with a disability and had no materials or people to help those with hearing or sight needs.
To date, not all countries have disabilities acts. This blog and the accompanying newsletter specifically address laws in the United States. For those who are in or do meetings outside the U.S., these resources will help: U.S. State Department “International Disability Rights”; Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DRED); Disability Rights International; and International Disability Rights.
Alas, none of the above noted resources, unlike this from the U.S. Department of Justice, specifically address meetings. Reading further into this blog post and referencing the somewhat limited resources from our industry—thanks to Event Service Professionals Association (ESPA), formerly ACOM, for their work creating an accessibility toolkit—will help make our industry more accessible, in addition to asking participants what they need to fully participate and experiencing some of the obstacles they face firsthand.
That and common sense on the part of meeting professionals—planners, professional development designers and suppliers to our industry—can help guide us to better inclusion practices and simple adjustments.
I am not an expert on the ADA and all the components of helping to make meetings and facilities inclusive. Niesa Silzer and I, with assistance from Kristen McCosh (here’s a profile and a short bio) who is the Boston Mayor’s Commission for People with Disabilities, at a PCMA’s Convening Leaders in Boston in 2014, lead an experiential session in which attendees participated in several hands-on exercises. This will be somewhat replicated again, as they did a few years ago, at this year’s SGMP NEC on June 7, for more than discussion about disabilities and inclusive hospitality and meetings.
And why this is personal: I took my unassisted mobility for granted. Yes, I’d broken bones necessitating crutches, but somehow I managed. Even after back surgery, I was immobile for a bit but eventually regained my ability to walk and move about well.
Until I couldn’t.
The need for a mobility scooter came long after my knowledge of the ADA. By the time I needed assistance, I was already aware of and in tune with the extreme difficulty of being a person with a different ability or with a disability when traveling or even just getting around in my own city (Washington D.C.)! Others may not be.
These are ways to begin thinking and planning differently in order to have more inclusive meetings. They are by far not all you need to know or do and do not include sensory and other areas of disability. It’s up to you to do more research by starting with a list of questions for your meeting participants and hotel guests.
1. Conduct site inspections using a wheelchair or power chair or mobility scooter.
2. Conduct a site inspection wearing an eye patch or with cotton or ear plugs in your ears. NOTE: for safety, just like in commercials for cars with a professional driver winding down a mountain road where it tells you not try this at home, it is advised you not do this on your own.
3. Check guest rooms for accommodations.
4. Check meeting and public space for more inclusive features.
*I learned long after I wrote the foreword for the book—I was and am not compensated for the foreword I wrote or for “plugging” the book except to hear great things from people like Gail Hernandez who used seating from Paul’s book and how successful it was!—that Paul worked with Interpreters and the Deaf community on seating to ensure good sight lines.
5. Know what the Amendment to the ADA included.
6. Make no assumptions!
7. Prepare for everyone.
As you read the stories from D’Arcee Charington Neal, Shane Feldman, and Stacy Patnode Bassett in the accompanying April 2017 Friday With Joan Q&A sidebar, think about what you would have done in their situations and more, what you will do now to ensure others at your facilities and your meetings do not endure these types of incidents.
When a venue says they are “in compliance with the ADA” ask them how they know. Then take it the next step to see if they go beyond compliance to real inclusion.
When I read the print edition of Businessweek in which the three principals of Jüv Consulting were featured, I was intrigued by how they met and them in general. As a baby boomer who hears all the time from other boomers and Geneneration Yers about how lazy both millennials and Generation Z are, I wanted to learn more from these three—who are, as you will see in the responses below, in no way lazy—about their work.
If it had been possible to meet face to face and record the entire conversation, we’d have gone even deeper. I’ve asked them, time permitting and without asking them to consult for free, to respond to questions in the comment area of the related Friday With Joan blog so that perhaps we can enhance the conversation among generations. For now, see what they have to say about their generation and learn how it can impact the marketing and performance of meetings and hospitality industry providers. I am grateful to all three for their input.
Jüv Consulting’s founders:
Nick Jain: Chief Operating Officer
Ziad Ahmed: Chief Visionary Officer
Melinda Guo: Chief Executive Officer
Q1: In reading the Nov. 30, 2016, print edition of Businessweek, I was drawn to the article about the three of you and Jüv Consulting, and that you met at a Cornell University—known to those in the hospitality industry for their hotel school—camp for high school students intrigued me about the three of you, the structure of the “camp” and how my (hospitality/meetings) industry can make changes in marketing and structure.
Tell us about the format and structure of the camp, how it was conducted and what facilitated the three of you connecting. Was it what most of us think of as a “traditional camp” with an edge? Or did it look like a business meeting, which often looks like the worst high school setup, with rooms with chairs in rows?
What elements did it have that made it conducive to you beginning this process? Add your thoughts about the camp itself; things that readers who plan meetings could use to enhance how traditional meetings could be less traditional and more interactive, informative and push the desire to learn and move forward.
A1: The camp was Cornell University’s Summer College. Essentially, the essence of the camp is that it is an opportunity for high school students to take college courses on a college campus, thereby being able to experience a sense of college life. Therefore, the camp was run very similarly to the way college will feel in some ways (obviously with greater restrictions considering that we were just in high school). At the camp, Ziad (Ahmed) and Melinda (Guo) were in a business course, and I (Nick) was in a debate and rhetoric course.
We were all there at the same time, just in two different courses. Throughout the three weeks that we spent there we got to spend many hours considering topics within the business world (in the case of Ziad and Melinda) and how to appeal to various people (in my course), and overwhelmingly, we began to see many flaws in the way that the business world was attempting to market to teens across the world.
Cornell Summer College gave us a platform to discuss the issues of the business world, and after having done so we came to realize that many of these flaws were coming from adults trying to be teen experts.
We are something far simpler, yet far more profound—we are teens.
There is no other company out on the market that understands the teenage demographic in the authentic way that we do—real teenagers with real understandings for real solutions.
Q2: From this initial interaction came Jüv Consulting and Vine, “a pool of about 300 teens from various socioeconomic backgrounds around the world—a global focus group for hire.” Have hotel companies or CVBs or corporations or associations who create meetings and conventions, contacted you about how to appeal more broadly generationally? I ask because what I’ve seen is that hotels are bending over backwards to create what they believe are guest rooms and public spaces that appeal to millennials only and are not conducive to, well, aging boomers and to people with disabilities. If you’ve either worked with hotel companies or if you could entice them to work with you, what would be the start of the conversation?
A2: We haven’t yet had a client from the hospitality sector, but we would certainly be interested in exploring that. The tourism industry is constantly looking for ways to innovate to accommodate for the changing trends of their visitors, and [we] certainly think we could be useful in assisting with that.
It is important to note though that Generation Z are those born after 1996, so the oldest members of Generation Z are only 20 years old. This means that many members of Generation Z are in school or still living at home and do not yet stay at hotels with their own dollars or without their families. In a few years, as Generation Z emerges more into the workforce, hotel companies will certainly be more interested in our services, and I think we would start the conversation simply by saying, “If you’re interested in having our contemporaries be interested in your hotel, interacting with those contemporaries directly is probably a good place to start.”
Q3: Ziad: It was written that you were “devoted to a diversity nonprofit” you’d started. How has that informed, in addition to the varied pool of Vine participants, your work with clients? In the increasing diversity and more nationalism in the U.S. and around the world, what will that mean to marketing? What are some good examples of changing marketing to be inclusive of a diverse marketplace?
A3, with responses from Ziad: My work with Redefy informs pretty much everything that I do, and has certainly translated into my work with JÜV Consulting in a very real way.
Most obviously, my commitment to diversity is exemplified through the emphasis we have taken to have a team of consultants and a team on the Vine that reflects the diversity (of all sorts) that exists in the world. Beyond that, we are still actively recruiting consultants and Vine members from communities that are not adequately already represented on our team, and that is a massive priority for me as CVO (chief visionary officer).
Furthermore, my commitment to equality is also realized in how we attempt to create our company culture as we seek to cultivate a sense of belonging, understanding and purpose. In regards to marketing, it is certainly true that there is increased diversity and nationalism in the U.S., but what you will find is that those from Generation Z tend to embrace the narrative of diversity far more than that of nationalism.
Our generation (for the most part) loves advertisements that celebrate different identities, and there are countless examples of that whether it be having diverse actors in commercials: James Charles becoming a CoverGirl or hijabi models at New York Fashion Week (NYFW).
The future of marketing is certainly centered around uplifting marginalized people, and we definitely think that is a powerful tool that many companies/brands should consider to gain Generation Z interest.
Q4: Boomers and Xers, in particular, seem to be always angry at millennials and Gen Z, using so many stereotypes of what they perceive to fuel their anger. What do you think contributes to those stereotypes?
In what ways, in addition to hiring Jüv Consulting, can we all begin to break down the preconceptions for interaction in communities? At work? In marketing?
A4: [We] think a lot of what contributes to those stereotypes is just the fact that we have grown up to do our work and be successful in a different way than many members of older generation(s). A lot of boomers and Gen Xers see us as being easily distracted or unable to focus because of the fact that we have grown up multitasking and doing a million different things in a given day, but I think it is important to notice that part of who we are is being able to do many different activities, and pushing ourselves to do and be as much as we can.
Generation Z as a whole generally rejects the notion that you should be good at one thing and stick with that one thing and do it monotonously and continuously. Instead, members of our generation take a vastly different approach, and this can create many negative stereotypes surrounding our generation, but it goes back to the idea that the way we work and the way we perceive ourselves to be successful [varies from other generations].
Additionally, possibly one of the most common stereotypes is that we have extremely [short] attention spans, and quite frankly this can be true, but it is important to recognize that this goes back to the importance we place on efficiency. So many members of Generation Z are trying to do so much that we hate the feeling that we are wasting time. In this way, when we see an ad, we expect to be intrigued after the first few seconds.
Again, these stereotypes can often cause others to feel angry because they don’t necessarily understand the place that they are coming from.
Yes, we may lose attention easily, but no, that’s not because we don’t care about what’s going on around us. In fact it’s often quite the opposite, as we feel as though we aren’t bettering the world when we are wasting time.
Finally, we expect results and we expect perfection. In this way, we can often seem as though we need to be instantly gratified, but what is interesting is to think about the extent to which this is a bad thing.
In our drive and expectation for perfection, we often raise the level of efficacy in the work we do and the work of our peers, and therefore, before casting negative judgement on any of our tendencies, it is important to think about why we might have these certain characteristics, and what effect they actually have. Consider the notion that observations become harmful stereotypes when misconstrued meaning is attached to them.
Q5: The Bloomberg Businessweek article says “Those born after 1996 make up almost a quarter of the U.S. population and wield $44 billion in buying power.” That’s a huge audience for conventions, tourism and hotels. What’s your best advice, without giving away all your knowledge for free, to those in my industry to begin to change perceptions for this market?
A5: Potentially the most important piece of advice that we can give clients is the importance of social media. Having grown up using it, Generation Z essentially speaks it “fluently,” and it is vital for companies and brands to be able to do so as well in order to catch the attention of Generation Z and be able to effectively market to them.
As teens move away from more conventional forms of entertainment, the way brands market to Generation Z becomes more important and more nuanced. Marketing materials have to appeal to Generation Z’s social media standards and have to quickly engage the viewer if they even want to be seen. More specifically to hotels, it’s essential to note that Generation Z expects perfection. The majority of us (in the U.S. at least) have been brought up in a reality where a slight lag on a website is enough for us to be frustrated.
Furthermore, Generation Z does not have the same brand loyalty that generations before us have, and we are certainly willing to abandon brands to find the best product. Ultimately, we want things to feel authentic, genuine, welcoming and most importantly, not cringe-worthy, but my best advice to hotels seeking to pivot to market toward Generation Z is really the basis of this company—talk to us. We exist in a three-dimensional world and whether it be JÜV Consulting or your nephew twice-removed, talk to a member of Generation Z and get a pulse on the evolving complexities that make up the fabric of our generation.