The Importance of Meeting IN PERSON

May 28th, 2009

I could not say it any better than this video by Empire Force Events. “MEET: Life Happens” The video was sent to me by Jaclyn Bernstein. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, all fun and exciting communicaiton tools if used right, but nothing beats an in-person meeting.


Meetings are NOT the problem

April 22nd, 2009

I recently attended the annual conference of the NY chapter of the Meeting Professionals International. It was an excellent meeting to say the least, as it should be a premier event since it is produced by some of the best meeting planners in the industry.

Meetings are part of the solution

The first sign that this was a good event is that every meeting at the conference seemed to have full attendance. In this economically challenged world this alone is a big achievement. Of course every meeting evolved to a discussion about the economy even if it was not supposed to be the primary focus of the meeting – although in many cases the economy was the target topic.

The meeting industry is under siege since the day of the now famous AIG Meeting fiasco. Obama has taken a leading role in making comments about companies accepting tax payer TARP money and not using it for “FUN” business trips . . .  “You can’t take a trip to Las Vegas or down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers’ dime”.

Many companies have since canceled many meaningful, important meetings, even if they have not accepted TARP money – to be sure they do not appear to be wasting money on meetings. And some companies have just used it as an excuse to cut meeting and event budgets.

The President’s, along with some high profile senator’s comments have wrongly given the public perception via the negative media mania of the day,  that ALL business meetings are fun and games and a big waste of money. Yes, there are some business meetings that are strictly fun and games, they are called Incentive Meetings. These trips are usually for top company revenue producers, or employees that met big goals or achieved great things for the company. But this is small percentage of meetings and events.

And then there is often a “fun” activity at many meetings and events to give incentives to employees to attend the meeting, because often meetings are NOT fun, but hard, challenging, stressful work! Meetings are big business, because so much BUSINESS gets done at meetings.

I love technology, but nothing can replace the power of a face to face meeting or a good handshake!

A thought that occured to me at the end of this conference having spent a day listening to and meeting with some of the best professional meeting planners, organizers and meeting facilitors in the business, maybe the world . . . Obama should hire an army of Meeting Professionals and put them to work at bringing the Government’s meetings into the 21st century. . . . and maybe then we’d end this financial crisis and move the country forward on other important issues at the pace of today’s digital world.

It’s great to see Obama have the first Presidential Webinar with the public participating in a live in-person audience and via the web. Let’s see him encourage MORE effective MEETINGS that produce results. Maybe he should start at home with the improvement of Senate and Congressional meetings. I know a few good professional meetings planners that he can hire that can turn those ineffective, time wasting, tax dollar supported meetings into efficiently run, effective meetings that will actually produce some results!



Can Congress kill the Meeting Industry?

March 5th, 2009

The recent downturn in the economy has hurt the meeting industry, but Congress is now attempting to kill the meeting industry. They put into law new guidelines for companies that receive TARP government bailout money for the types of meeting events they can have and outline maximum costs.

Getting a large group together to work together

“The proposed guidelines for TARP beneficiaries requires bailed-out companies to ensure that 1) conferences or events with costs exceeding $75,000 be supported by written business cases with specific purposes and positive returns on objective; 2) no more than 10 percent of incentive attendees be senior executives from host organizations; and 3) total annual expenses for meetings, events and incentive/recognition travel not exceed 15 percent of total sales and marketing spend.” ( from great article by Jessie States on details of this issue: MPI, Meeting Planners International web site)

It is goes without saying that in these difficult economic times it is prudent for every company to review their meeting event and conference budgets, but do we need an act from congress to tell them? Most of the Fortune 100 companies we now do business with have been scrutinizing and cutting back on their meeting and event budgets for years now by implementing new online meeting technologies and attempting to avoid costly travel and time away from the office.

The bigger issue in my opinion is congress has gone from ten years of deregulation of everything, to now attempting to regulate everything including things that they have no business sticking their noses in – like defining conference budgets. From what I see they should take a hard look at their own meeting and conference budgets.

An example of a typical congressional meetingFrom the few times I can stand to stomach watching a congressional session on CSPAN, I’d say they could sure use some of the now unemployed meeting planners I know to get their critical meetings on track with some effective meeting communication that will actually make their meeting sessions useful in moving our country forward and out of this economic disaster instead of the ill conceived, poorly planned, grand stand speech making that goes on daily and late into the night at these congressional sessions.

They are great at following all the rules in the bible of meeting etiquette “Robert’s Rules of Order” as they second motions and “yield 10 minutes of their time to the honorable senator from Kentucky”. It may look good and orderly to some, but to me their critically important meeting sessions that they are working on the future of the country (and world), are about as efficient and effective as a high school debate.

I have often thought during some of the most recent national disasters such as the 9/11 terror attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and other events that required fast planning, even faster organizing, and speedy execution, the government should have hired a few of the Meeting and Event companies I’m familiar with. They could have pulled together an army of meeting planners, event design and production experts that I have personally seen work day and night to meet impossible event deadlines – but ALWAYS come through and deliver results that moves people literally and figuratively in getting large groups to think differently than before the meeting began and most importantly getting large groups to be thinking together, working together on common goals and initiatives.

Bruce MacMillan, CA, president and CEO of MPI says it well “Meetings and events drive business results and are critical to rebuilding the economy. By restricting businesses from prudently using meetings and events as part of their business strategies, we are paralyzing them and inhibiting economic recovery.”

I believe successful, great companies build strong organizational foundations to grow and succeed with meeting events and communications that engage, inspire, and build common ground and goals. Maybe the new world will figure out how to do this with Twitter, Webex, and Facebook. But nothing will ever replace the power of a GOOD face to face meeting!


Obama Speaks to Applause Meter

February 25th, 2009

Let’s pass a new law against the childish, partisan applause meter during joint congressional speeches!

He has four years to prove if he is going to be a good president, but it is clear to me that Obama is one of the best speakers of our time. I thought he had another great speech last night to a joint session of Congress. This is not to say I agree or disagree with the content, although an excellent delivery of tough economic policy plans may make them easier to understand, paying higher taxes is never easy to accept.

Photo from NYTimes - http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/obamas-speech-52-million-plus-tv-viewers/As a meeting professional what I really object to is the POOR audience performance.  I find it very disappointing to watch these events and the childish like reactions of the senate and congressional members. Can someone PLEASE tell these highly compensated government officials to GROW UP! The non-stop bi-partisan applause meter is old and tired. Seeing House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi sitting on the podium grinning, and leading over the top applause with every bi-partisan win – with an in your face, we won, we rule applause is not what I want to see from my government leaders. Seeing the now minority party sit with their angry, glum looks while the majority party stands, grins, shouts and applauds wildly for their “wins” is just showing the country how our leaders continue to be greedy, selfish, and divisive rather then the cohesive group we need  NOW more than ever to work together to solve the nations and world problems. As Obama said in his speech, at this point it does not help to assign blame, but look at what went wrong, how it went wrong, fix it, and make it work better for the future.

And if they are going to applause wildly for anything, let it be about something they actually did accomplish, not about some law they passed that may or may not accomplish anything.

Joe Biden or someone, PLEASE tell the congressional, and senate leaders to behave like respectful adults at the next joint session, at least put on an act like they can work together to solve our enormous challenges ahead of us rather than root and holler like they are watching a football game or televised Survivors Council meeting vote.

If you have a connection to the white house please pass this message on.

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Photo from NYTimes Article  http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/obamas-speech-52-million-plus-tv-viewers/


The Biggest Meeting of All Time

January 20th, 2009

Obama Meeting OneI expect President Obama’s Inauguration to be one of the biggest meetings of all time. Millions of people gathered in Washington and 100’s of millions watched it on TV, the Internet and listened on radio. The Obama inauguration has been over two years in the planning and eight years overdue. It will be a meeting that will hopefully be the beginning of a new era in history and put our country on a more positive course.

We will switch from a US past President who had lead meetings and the country with his own political party’s agenda and based important decisions on information from politically connected cronies and on “his gut”.  We now move to a new U.S. President who says he will lead the country based on the people’s agenda and make important decisions based on careful analysis after meeting with smart, intelligent experts. Obama will be one of the great speakers of our time and from my professional opinion, knows how to lead a GREAT meeting.

I’m sure there will be a zillion blogs about this day and incredible event, so I’ll keep this short. I hope and pray that this monumental meeting event is the start of better times for all.


Obama leadership style NYT

January 20th, 2009

aides described Mr. Obama’s decision making as crisp and efficient. When he sits down for meetings, they said, “he starts by framing questions he wants answered, then gives each person a chance to talk, while also engaging them. At the end, he typically sums up what he has learned and where he is leaning.”

Sent from Cell 917-270-0814


Precious Meeting Time

January 19th, 2009

Do you treat your meeting time as “precious”?  Do your colleagues value your time? Or do they waste hours and hours in useless, boring meetings? There was a good article in “The New York Times” yesterday: “Meetings Are a Matter of Precious Time” by Reid Hastie. He says that “it is certain that every organization has too many meetings, and far too many poorly designed ones.”

I was surprised he did not do any PowerPoint bashing. Maybe he would agree that it is not about PowerPoint wasting meeting time, it’s about BAD PowerPoint caused by people not taking the time to plan and prepare for their meeting. Bad PowerPoint just becomes a symptom of “poor  meeting design” that he writes about.

I believe there is a correlation between a meeting with great support visuals and great meetings. A presenter with well designed PowerPoint slides usually means the presenter made the effort to plan and prepare for the meeting. No visuals or ‘last minute looking slides” usually means an unprepared presenter. Yes, it does take time and effort to design good support slides as it takes time to design and produce a good meeting.

Often the development of good slides incorporates the process of developing a plan for a successful meeting. Creating good slides becomes a big challenge when it is the first time the presenter has really thought about the meeting objectives and the critical messages that need to be communicated to make the meeting successful.

Even if you don’t have time to create PowerPoint slides, at the vey least, create a brief agenda that outlines your meeting objective and plan. Maybe if as Hastie points out in his article that companies today have to stop allowing employees to waste so much time in “poorly designed” meetings, and maybe better meetings will result in a more profitable future.


A Pocket sized Projector?

January 9th, 2009

For a PowerPoint guy, this has to be the coolest gadget of the year, a projector that fits in my pocket. It’s a little bigger than my Treo cell phone. I had read about its anticipated arrival months ago and as soon as they were shipping I ordered one to test. (I bought the 3M MPro110 from the 3M store for $349.) No more lugging around our “portable projector” which is about the size of a small lunch box.

A projector you can hold in your hand

When the package arrived, I dropped everything to play with this new toy. I hooked it up to my micro video camera, turned the lights off and played movies on the ceiling of my office. AMAZING! What fun. I could not wait until I was next in a client’s office to pull out this tiny projector from my pocket and show their PPT slides on their wall (or ceiling) instead of my laptop screen.

But, cool as it is, practical it is not. After further testing, it was fairly easy to connect it to my Thinkpad Laptop. The image is fairly clear, but 7 lumens is not very bright. It may be OK for watching a fun movie with your kids on the ceiling or an excellent way to show some family photos directly from your digital camera, but not for a business presentation. Even the cheapest portable projectors these days have at least 1000 Lumens. It has been years since the last time I’ve been to a presentation where they had to turn the lights off. With 7 lumens, you have to turn the lights off and shut the blinds.

I still think it is one of the coolest presentation gadgets to arrive in the past few years, but I’d wait until version two or three and a micro projector with more lumens before carrying one around in my already full pockets.

You can check out a more extensive review of micro projectors by my favorite gadget reviewer, the New York Times David Pogue’s mini projector blog post and review at: “The New World of Pocket Projectors”


Slides vs Back of a Napkin

December 7th, 2008

The Back of the Napkin Book by Dan RoamI just finished reading Dan Roam’s “The Back of the Napkin” a book about solving problems and selling ideas with pictures drawn on the back of a napkin. Dan makes a great case for the power of using visual thinking to solve problems and sell ideas. I agree with almost all of his concepts related to thinking visual can lead to faster and better solutions. It’s a fast read with lots of pictures of course. The back of a napkin and/or white board can be a great tool to assist in the visual thinking process.

But, I believed the electronic slide (PowerPoint) is a MUCH better business communication tool than the back of a napkin can ever be. Yes, it may take  a little longer to learn than drawing with a felt tip marker and white napkin, but it is infinitely more powerful with it’s ability to create fast, effective support visuals. Using the back of a napkin is a great tool for developing visuals of ideas that in the end will be more effectively edited, modified, and finally communicated with a good PowerPoint deck than a few napkins or a drawing on a white board. Read the rest of this entry »


Wow, It’s Not Easy Being a Presenter

November 5th, 2008

Marshall Speaking at Small Biz Tech Summit 2008I had the honor and pleasure to be a speaker at the Small Biz Summit 2008. It was a great opportunity to be on the other end of the slides. It’s been awhile since I was a speaker and not the speaker support person or on the speaker support team. I was speaking on a panel on how to transform your business. The panel presented 40 tips in 40 minutes. I had 10 minutes for my 10 tips.

I had ten plus weeks to prepare. I started thinking about it maybe ten weeks ago, but didn’t dive into it seriously until maybe 10 days ago. We were supposed to have the slides finalized and to the event producer 14 days ago. I’m so used to most of eSlide’s clients giving us slides for their presentation the day before they present, I thought 14 days in advance was silly. But it wasn’t.

Read the rest of this entry »