Some folks in the meeting industry worry that with all the advances being made in teleconferencing, telecommuting and telepathy, people will stop meeting in person.
Well, I’m here to tele-you, this is nonsense.
People are meeting more than they ever have before, in fact I’ve met people (at meetings, naturally) that are so busy going to meetings they don’t have time to attend other meetings. And when meetings are interfering with meetings, you’ve got to believe that we are in the right business.
Humankind has been meeting in the flesh since Adam and Eve (literally), and nothing is going to stop this trend. Like water buffaloes congregating around a waterhole, people are drawn to conferences like, well, I’ve already said it, water buffaloes to a waterhole. Why, even a national symposium titled “The Future of Teleconferencing” was held in person. Now what does that tell you?
Meetings will always be a vital source of inspiration, human contact and free tote bags. Moreover, conferences are often the only source of escape from people’s jobs and families. (Personally speaking, the only time I can truly be master of the T.V. remote, despite my maleness, is when I’m away at a conference, and the value of something like that is simply priceless). And how else can you expect to ratchet up your travel expense claims unless you jet off to Winnipeg now and then to say hello in person to Barney from Newfoundland?
Another reason we needn’t worry about a decline in the meetings business is that there has never been a greater diversity of groups meeting. A few years back, for example—and I’m not making this up—Brazil hosted a hobo conference (I bet they had awesome tote bags). But we don’t need to rely on just the hobo market, not when there’s the Southwest New Brunswick Chapter of the Association for Left-Handed Alpaca Farmers’ annual meeting, the Professional Air Miles Accumulators’ monthly meetings held in Yellowknife and, thankfully, the “Let’s-Get-Together-for-No-Good-Reason-At-All” committees found in many large organizations. In fact, according to one study I made up, a new association is formed every hour in this country (every hour and half in Newfoundland).
Despite the convenience of technology (for example, working in a toque and my wife’s underwear, as I am right now, is a huge bonus for me), trust me, when you work alone the way I do, you pine for those days out on the road meeting complete strangers at conferences (actually, some of my best friends are complete strangers). I know others feel the same way, in fact I’ve talked to people who feel so starved for human contact that they ship empty boxes to themselves just to see the courier guy—twice. How sad is that? Well, I for one would venture to say, “It’s pretty darn sad.”
Lastly, consider this: Without meetings, all those handheld PDA’s will go the way of the dinosaur and do you really think the technology companies will stand idly by and allow that to happen? Of course not. They’ll start inviting us for free to meetings just to make sure we have something to program into our Palm-pilots. And let’s no even mention the name tag industry. Well, okay, since I’ve gone and mentioned the name tag industry let’s talk about them. Do you really think the government will allow thousands of name tag makers to be thrown out onto the streets like yesterday’s trash? Of course not.
So have faith my fellow speakers, meeting planners and conference-groupies, the meeting business is alive and kicking and meeting and greeting and schmoozing and mingling and mixing things up like never before. To quote a truly great conference organizer I once met, “We have only just begun to meet!”
Now if you’ll excuse me, I must be off—I’ve got a meeting scheduled with my courier.
Michael Kerr is an international business speaker, very funny motivational speaker, business trainer and the author of six books including, The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank. www.mikekerr.com; email@example.com
Copyright Michael Kerr, 2006
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