Thursday, October 09, 2008

Strategic Value for Corporate Meetings

Everyone is scrambling about on how to respond to the current financial crisis. Nearly everyone you talk with has some trepidation about how the situation will effect their industry and them personally. People are nervous, but the sun still rises and there is work to be done. Business is not grinding to a halt, and most companies I know are buckling down and pushing forward into the storm.

But with this forward motion also comes some contemplative assessments of how they spend their money over the next several quarters.

Think about corporate meetings. We often imagine the multi-million dollar a year meeting industry in the United States as only encompassing the large industry conferences and other mega-sized meetings that populate the halls of grand hotels and convention centers. However, business meetings cover the spectrum from the gigantic to the more intimate internal planning sessions for small and mid-sized companies.

Even in tough economic climates, the show must go on. I speak regularly people who are planning their company's end of year meeting or Q1 kick off, and they are still excited to be hosting their company gathering, but in many cases they are under tighter cost controls than they have had in the past.

Business leaders are looking to measure the strategic value that their conference is bringing to their team.... And they are seeking ways to curb some of the traditional costs (without harming the overall power of the event). Companies are looking to hire speakers who are willing to work with them to align their message directly with their 2009 action plans. Some are shortening their meetings to less days, and asking the outside presenters to commit to more personal interaction and participation.

I am finding meeting planners do not want to hire just anyone (no matter how good they are on stage), but instead they are seeking speakers whose personalities are in synch with the company. Much more time is being invested upfront to interview and understand the core soul of the presentation.

I am being asked to join the conference attendees for their meals and happy hours, and also participate in breakout sessions after my presentation where I can facilitate directly with their employees - assisting their focus more directly on the the nuts and bolts of cultivating their professional relationships. This means coaching personally with those who want to go deeper with creating their networks.

I am happy to do this, as I find that my message is better received when I do get the chance to network directly with the audience.

Some companies are asking their vendors or VARs to help them facilitate their meetings, inviting them to sponsor the cost of meals, golf outings, spa treatments (Hello!!! - should have had a vendor cover that $400,000 expense last week!) or paying the speaker's fees (cool with me, I don't care who writes the check!!!). For their sponsorship the vendor / VAR is granted access directly to the company and all the employees at the meeting.

Corporate meetings are expensive, but they are still a valuable tool for educating, motivating and creating stronger bonds with employees. While the world is going digital, we are still human beings, and no webcast or teleseminar will ever be able to create the same experience as live interaction.

While companies will be cutting costs of meetings, they will still be holding meetings in 2009.

The smart ones are seeking input from their staff to discover what has been worthwhile at past events (and what has been a waste of time). They are looking for employees to recommend speakers that they have personally seen in action (I have two events this fall where the lead came from someone inside their company who saw me speak at another conference).

Additionally, it is a good idea for meeting planners to spend some time talking with speakers to discover what they are finding successful at other meetings where they are on the stage. A good speaker is more than just an orator who will entertain your troops then fly home. Instead the best are seasoned professionals who can be a trusted advisor to help you establish the best practices for your meeting.

In tough economic times when every dollar counts, you want to use every tool available to ensure the strategic value for your meeting.

Have A Great Day.


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