The business of getting to and from a meeting isn't the piece of cake it used to be. Recent case in point: For the January Professional Convention Management Association's annual meeting, my boss and I had to arrive at the airport on a Sunday morning two hours before our two-and-a-half-hour flight to Nashville took off. Our checked bags were searched, and we were both asked to take off our shoes, while Betsy was painstakingly wanded by a man who, frankly, gave us both the creeps.
OK, we know these things may be necessary. The point is, sooner or later your attendees are going to ask themselves: “Is this meeting worth the hassle?” A good way to guarantee an affirmative response is to create a meeting that taps into some “transformational energy.” What the heck is that?
I found out at the PCMA meeting when I attended a session called “Transformational Events,” led by Linda Higgison, CEO, TCI Companies Inc. She started the session by asking people to form small discussion groups and talk about an event that had somehow changed their lives. Most people, including myself, didn't relish the task, but 15 minutes later, as leaders from each group got up to describe various events, not a few people had tears in their eyes. One person talked about taking a medical meeting to Brazil and encountering the deep gratitude of the local doctors. Another described a youth rally in Rome where she and thousands of other people from around the world slept out in the rain and had to walk six miles the next day in the sweltering heat. “People were coming out of their houses to pour water on our heads. We felt like pilgrims.”
“Everyone wants to feel part of something bigger than themselves,” Linda reminds us in our cover story (page 36). For planners who can tap into that energy, the rewards are manifold, both professionally and personally. “If your meeting has emotional impact, it will have an economic impact,” she says. Not to say that education isn't important, that logistics don't count. But considering all that it takes to get people to meetings these days, giving attendees an emotional high is practically an imperative. In fact, it could be every planner's higher calling.