Nearly 200 planners and hospitality partners made the beautiful drive from Salt Lake City up into the Wasatch Range to arrive the Montage Deer Valley, the three-year-old mountainside resort that hosted this year’s Financial & Insurance Conference Planners Education Forum June 12–14.
At the opening general session, FICP Chair Kelli Livers, CMP, director, travel and administrative services, Forethought Financial Group, welcomed the crowd, citing FICP’s accomplishments in 2012. The list is long and begins with growth to record membership, a trend that is continuing into 2013. Total membership now stands at 639 planners. The growth isthe result of several factors: small, local events called FICP Connects that are designed tointroduce prospective members to the networking and educational benefits of membership; the time and effort of a dedicated membership committee; and a corporate departmentincentive program that allows additional planners from the same company to join at a reduced rate.
Another major investment was in the redesign of the FICP Web site, incorporating The Network, an online community where meeting planners and hospitality partnerscreate profiles and interact with each other in discussion groups.
Now that membership is going gangbusters, of course, new questions arise: How will the association maintain its uniqueness, intimacy, and value to members and HPers as it grows? “Our growth will ensure the diversity and viability of FICP,” Livers said, noting that members from financial-only firms have greatly increased their presence, now representing more than one-quarter of members.
Livers and FICP Executive Director Steve Bova, who took the stage next, emphasized that the association’s strategy will be guided by the FICP board of directors and Hospitality Partner Advisory Committee as well as by regular input and feedback from members. This input comes organically at events and in committees; in addition, Bova explained, “periodically we dive deeper to get data to drive decisions.” To that end, a member needs assessment survey was conducted in May and focus groups will be conducted in the near future.
Diverse Speakers Share Insights
The 2013 Education Forum was highlighted by four keynote speakers presenting on diverse topics—a valuable showcase for planner members faced with having to hire professional speakers for their own programs. Tying everything together was emcee, funnyman, and all-around good guy James Cunningham, host of the Cooking Channel show “Eat St.”
Probably most widely relevant was Juliet Funt’s talk on her trademarked idea of “white space.” After you read this article, take a few minutes to do nothing but think. Sounds crazy, right? When Funt described white space as “that time in your day for which you have no plans,” laughter ensued. Time where you can just think deeply is “a counterintuitive necessity,” she continued. “It’s not even a tool; it’s an element, like oxygen.”
But it’s increasingly rare today, for many reasons, among them our unconscious mimicking of others. To illustrate the point, Funt showed a clip from her famous father Allen Funt’s famous TV show, “Candid Camera.” An unsuspecting person gets on an elevator. Three other people (“Candid Camera” staffers) enter one by one, and all three stand facing the back of the elevator. Gradually, the innocent bystander shifts so that he, too, is facing the back. They even got one elevator rider to face the back, take off his hat, and put the hat back on, as he copied those around him.
In our business lives, we mimic people who respond instantly to e-mail, who send late-night e-mails, who bring work home. It becomes the norm, the expected.
So how do we reclaim some white space for ourselves? Funt breaks it down into two broad categories: redistributing effort and redistributing excellence. Look at your to-do list. Is there something you can eliminate or delegate, maybe a habit, such as all that time on Facebook? In the work world, you can redistribute effort just by rethinking e-mail and meetings (not the ones you plan! The ones you’re attending in your office; this goes for conference calls too).
• The biggest problem with e-mail is the expectation of an immediate response. The solution: work with your team to create a reasonable response time.
• Create times when you check e-mail. “Think of it as an e-mail diet,” she said. You can check at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and at two “snacks” per day at times you choose.
• Become a ninja master of the subject line to increase the productivity of each e-mail you send.
• Try to plan one meeting-free day per week
As for redistributing excellence, Funt said, “we can’t have an enormous level of excellence for everything. Save it for the places where it belongs.”
Finally, she pointed out that white space doesn’t have to come in long stretches. “Think of it as a glass of water on your desk, and you take little sips throughout the day,” she said—before and after a meeting, for example, or in the car (turn off your radio and your phone).
Finances, Branding, Achievement
Opening keynoter Jean Chatzky, financial editor for the “Today” show, has written eight books to help people manage their finances. She reviewed the qualities of those who are financially successful. They are resilient, happier, and more optimistic. Chatzky noted that she wasn’t saying money makes people happier, but that happier people are more successful. And she also cited research showing that those who said they are totally happy (10 on a scale of 1 to 10) were not as successful as those who put their happiness at 8 on the scale. “The eights are good at planning, they engage in competition, and they are able to change their behavior,” she said.
Ken Schmidt, former communications strategist for the Harley Davidson Motor Co., talked about goals for branding: impressing people to the point that they sing your praises.
Chris Waddell, who was paralyzed from the waist down after a skiing accident in college, lives by the guiding principle that “it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens.” Things are always changing, he said, so “embrace the fluid part of life.” Waddell recounted his incredible journey up Mt. Kilimanjaro on a Mars-rover-type vehicle that he moved excruciatingly slowly up the mountain by turning a hand crank over and over. (They estimated it had taken roughly 528,000 turns of the crank.) Waddell, who undertook the challenge for the sake of the 1.1 billion people in the world with physical disabilities, learned his greatest lesson on the mountainside when the group encountered a 100-foot boulder field that he couldn’t possibly cross in his vehicle. Initially, because that meant he would not have climbed the mountain unassisted, he felt as if he had totally failed. Then his friend and guide said simply, “No one climbs a mountain alone,” and Waddell’s perspective changed.