Workplace blogs

Life-Long Learning in Meetings

Meeting planners and professional speakers must be committed. For life. To learning that is. Lifelong learning. Why? Because we are, of course, in the business of learning.

Also, because it sounds good. It sounds like something we should say. Like one of those beauty pageant  responses we are all prone to spout out from time to time, such as, “I think peace would be dog-and-books-33514622a neat idea,” “I like baby anythings,” or “I believe in unicorns.”

But seriously, we are in the business of encouraging others to learn, so would it not be hyper hypocritical for us to not practice what we speech?

It would be akin to a dental hygienist saying, “Flossing, schmossing.” Or a dentist saying, “Flossing, schmossing.” Or the receptionist at a dental office saying, “Flossing, schmossing.” Or, well, pretty much anyone in the dental-related field slamming flossing. Do you see my point? We all need to floss more than we do.

Also, we need to put ourselves in the seats of our clients and audiences. If we expect our clients to take time off work, travel to exotic places, stay in high-end resorts, eat expensive food, golf, go to casinos, win valuable door prizes, be entertained in the evenings, drink in the hotel lounge, get tote bags full of free stuff, and mix and mingle with other people, many of whom are single and darned attractive or married and a long way from home, shouldn’t we also be willing to make that sacrifice? Only get paid for it? Well?

And if we expect our clients to actually do what we pretend we do ourselves, shouldn’t part of that pretending extend to “learning” and “self-improvement” and using air quotes “appropriately”?

So short of putting it down on your business card, how does one become a member of the lifelong learning club?

For starters, it means listening more than you speak, which for meeting planners is easy—it’s part of their DNA. For speakers, not so much. I mean, it’s not like they’re hiring an hour-long keynote listener, am I right? But as a wise person once told me, “There’s a reason we have two ears and only one mouth.” (I can’t recall what that reason is just now, as I wasn’t listening at the time. In fact, I’m fairly certain I was speaking over top of them.)

The point is, there’s an ear buried inside every learner. Literally. I mean it’s right there. EAR. L-EAR-NER. So if you want to be a L-EAR-NER you have to EAR-N it with your EARs. (Good ahead and use that in your next presentation, it’s on me.)

In addition to listening with your ears and not your mouth, you also need to read. Lots. And not just the pictures.

You need to be reading everything you can get your grubby little hands on: newspapers, magazines, academic journals, best-selling books, not-so-best-selling books, tweets, blogs, billboards, milk cartons, cereal boxes, those annoying Ikea instructions, and pamphlets. Especially pamphlets. (I’m not sure why, other than I like the word ‘pamphlet’, perhaps because it evokes the image of a baby pamph.)

Finally, you need to not just be a planner or presenter of meetings, you need to be a regular meeter. (Or is that a meetee?) You know what I mean—someone who meets. Someone who actually goes to conventions, conferences and meetings. A goer. And not just for the food and sex, but with the intent of actually learning something.

Of course, it’s essential to maximize the amount of learning at these events, so be sure to bring along a notebook or recording device, comfortable shoes, a soft pillow, a map indicating all the tourist attractions within a 20-block radius, a fully loaded I-pod, good reading material (nothing too heavy,  John Grisham, Jacquie Collins, or a few pamphlets is preferable), discount coupons to any nearby Denny’s restaurants, as well as a blindfold and ear plugs, as some of the sessions can get extremely noisy and are often held in brightly lit meeting rooms.

Now I can assure you, that once you start down the path of lifelong learning by listening, reading and meeting more, not only will you become fully committed, the people around you will want to commit you as well.

Copyright Michael Kerr, 2011.

Michael Kerr is a passionate learner and author of the upcoming book, “Everything I Learned About Speaking I Learned by Listening to other Speakers and then Incorporating their Material Into My Presentations.”  He’s also an international, award-winning Hall of Fame speaker, trainer and the author of six books, including Putting Humor to Work and Inspiring Workplaces.  Reach him through and

Copyright © 2018, Michael Kerr. All rights reserved.
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