A couple of weeks before this issue, our Annual Technology Issue, was scheduled to go to press, I attended the Incentive Travel & Meeting Executives Show in Chicago. It was a well-timed step away from sitting at my computer writing about dot-coms and e-RFPs to walking the floor of an enormous, the ultimate in meeting and greeting. It was the difference between electronics, the head-spinning speed and efficiency of tools like e-mail and webcasting, and electricity, the buzz of thousands of people getting up close and personal for a few days.
You could see it everywhere in the aisles - hugs and handshakes, reunions and introductions. (OK, there were also people just cramming their bags with tchotchkes, but they were the exception.)
Two snapshots of my schedule:
Day one: I sat down with Marko Podkubovsek, president of Networld, to hear about a groundbreaking Beijing incentive program his company had recently arranged for a U.S. insurance company. As we began to talk, Brian Yin of Kingsway Incentives, thethat made all of the meeting's fantastic events happen in China, walked past our table. Marko called him over, and the three of us leisurely leafed through Brian's beautiful photo album of the trip. Speaking with them in person, watching their faces and their gestures, I caught the excitement of the trip in a way I never could have through an e-mail or a phone call.
Day two: Executives from Salesdriver.com, a company that lets you create incentive contests online, walked me through their Web site. Sure, I could have browsed the site on my own to get all the facts I needed. But I wouldn't have seen the traffic at the trade show booth, or gotten a feel for the company's leaders, or learned about the most recent insurance customers to sign on (or, for that matter, found out that the company's sales VP lives in my town).
Two weeks after this issue goes to press, I'll head to the Insurance Conference Planners Association Annual Meeting at The Broadmoor. By the time you read this, we'll all be back from a few days of sharing ideas, making new contacts, renewing relationships, and creating the electricity of being together.
How wired do meeting planners want to be? Very. But you'll still find them walking the floor at IT&ME and booking their flights to ICPA, because while technology facilitates all the business they do, relationships make it happen.