Meetings Serve To Create Emotional Connections

The lines were out the door and down the hall at one session of the Meeting Professionals International World Education Conference in Orlando recently, the largest annual gathering of meeting planners. Many planners were shut out of the session which was titled, "Smart Phones = Smarter Meetings." It was run by James Spellos, a meetings technology guru who is founder and president of a consultancy called Meeting U.

The keynote speaker at the same conference was Simon Sinek, author of the book Start With Why. He used a single piece of white paper and a Sharpie in his presentation in which he said, "We need social interaction, which is becoming a rarity. All this technology that is trying to replace meetings like this but nothing can. Why do 20,000 bloggers meet in Las Vegas every year for Blogworld when they could just as well meet online?"

Meeting planners are faced with a situation where they have a huge stake in maintaining the idea that people getting together physically is as important as ever. At the same time, they are impelled to use all the high-tech tools available to both: 1) generate interest in and make it easy for people to go to meetings; and 2) make it easier for meeting attendees to get the most out of meetings.



"The magic doesn't happen in this room with me speaking," said Sinek; "it happens when we take a break and you get coffee and talk to each other."

What does that mean for vendors reaching out to meeting planners, hotels in particular? Because we're talking abut a massive business here, and one that can mean repeat annual business involving significant numbers of high spenders, it's crucial for hotels to deliver the right message in addition to piggybacking onto any technological innovations.

Perhaps it's a good idea to go back to Sinek's message for ideas about developing solid relationships with planners.

The most important aspect of anybody's job, according to Sinek, is to start with the "why" of what they are doing, not the "how" or the "what." While most organizations talk about the "what" (the price and features of a product or service), customers pay attention to underlying values to form emotional connections. His example: When Martin Luther King, Jr. drew an audience of 250,000 to the Mall in Washington D.C., there were no emails to announce the speech. Sinek said, "And by the way, he gave the 'I Have A Dream' speech, not the 'I Have A Plan' speech."

Sinek said companies like Harley Davidson are successful because they focus on the "why" of what they do rather than how they build motorcycles or how fast their motorcycles run. "Why do people put Harley Davidson logos on their sleeves and not Procter & Gamble logos?" asked Sinek. "It's because we like companies whose people believe in something."

Meeting planners most definitely believe in something. They are passionate about what they do and about the almost spiritual importance of getting people together. While meetings remain very much a business built on personal relationships, marketers can reach out to planners with messages that extend beyond price, square footage and availability.

Rather than -- or in addition to -- the ubiquitous discounted Meeting Planners Special, how about: "We want you to be in the same room as you. We hope it's a room in our hotel."

2 comments about "Meetings Serve To Create Emotional Connections".
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  1. Ruth Barrett from, August 15, 2011 at 11:35 a.m.

    "Meeting planners are faced with a situation where they have a huge stake in maintaining the idea that people getting together physically is as important as ever." And, they are faced with a situation where the carbon footprint and costs of air travel are clearly putting emphasis on people working together but not necessarily, anymore, having to be together physically. Hybrid meetings and use of video recordings and interviews from the event for post conference education and awareness using the Web, especially when the message is around sustainability, is where the huge stake is if you look at the situation from the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. Decentralizing meetings to local and regional is where you see many national and international meetings going today so maybe its time for meeting planners to re-evaluate where the huge stake really is, move it to being passionate about sustainability so as to avoid the trade-off of spiritual over environmental or profits over people and planet.

  2. Jeff Bach from Quietwater Media, August 15, 2011 at 12:44 p.m.

    I went and dug up that TEDx talk from Sinek. I found it quite interesting. As with so many thought provoking topics though, the initial topic is merely the kernel around which numerous outer layers can be found.

    In short, I thought the comments left on the TED site immediately below Simon Sinek's 18 min video presentation were as compelling as the video.

    It is a good presentation of a good topic, I listened to the full 18 minutes, which I rarely ever do........but those comments really make things interesting........

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