Leaving on a high note

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A big challenge for most, if not all, of the meetings I've gone to in recent years is the ending. We generally start off with a bang—someone with inside information on industry trends, or a motivational speaker of some kind, or a big production number—and work out way through the conference in a mix of sessions, hallway conversations, impromptu meetings after hours in the lobby bar, etc., etc.

But the end is always such a throwaway. For some reason, everyone is so focused on catching planes and getting home that we miss the chance to put the conference away right. I'm one of the biggest offenders, although I will stay to the bitter end of for a Malcolm Gladwell presentation, even while suffering the early pangs of what turned out to be a heck of a flu. But the energy just isn't there 98.6 percent of the time, and we all know it, so we all book as soon as we see an opening.

Not so with this year's Pharmaceutical Meeting Management Forum, which we co-sponsor with The Center for Business Intelligence (warning: I may be a touch biased). A big part of the reason why the energy carried through to the end? I blame this little lady (and I do mean little—she packs a lot of attitude into a small Australian package):

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This is productivity expert and author Neen James, and if you were at the Forum last week in Philadelphia, you probably met her. I know you heard her unique voice at some point. She was there at the opening reception, in the front row at general sessions, tweeting from breakouts, mingling on the show floor...the woman was everywhere, meeting everyone, and if the rest of the participants were like me, you kind of had to stick around to hear her final general session presentation on productivity.

We learned if we were planners, crammers, or slammers, night owls, early birds, or hummingbirds, and how to conquer the world in 15 minutes. We made pacts with each other to check in and make sure we're following through on commitments. It was nothing short of awesome, and left us feeling connected to each other, still a community, instead of already breaking off to rejoin our life outside of that community.

Then Christine Duffy, the conference chairwoman, picked up where Neen left off, leading a discussion of some of the key learning points people had at the conference. And while that's a great way to keep what we learned top of mind, it can get a little, well, dull, or at least overly earnest. Not this time.

Before it could begin to get bogged down, the fabulous troupe from Boston's Improv Asylum took over the stage to illustrate some of the points in their inimitable way. I took some iPhone videos of it, but you really can't hear what they're saying over our laughter so I won't bother to post them. But they kept the energy high right until we walked out the door, and even then I felt like I could go a few more rounds. And I definitely felt like I didn't want to wait a whole year before I could hang out with these people I'd just been sharing laughs and experiences with again.

The experience just brought it home to me how often we don't put as much thought into how we end our meetings as we do to everything that leads up to it. This was like a double hot fudge sundae after a great meal, when all too often we just get a mental toothpick.

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