Here’s the thing about professional meetings. They’re a good way to get people together for training, knowledge sharing, workplace relationship building, etc. If well managed, they are enjoyable to attend. Unless you simply hate meetings or continental breakfast buffets.
Frequently, business meetings are held at a hotel with meeting rooms, conference centers, or a similar venue. To keep the events short, meetings are typically run from first thing in the morning until the end of the work day. Often there are events in the evening for social connections and recognition of successes. The meeting formats don’t vary much. Speakers, roundtables, bottled beverages, catered light foods, bathroom breaks, phone calls to the office during the breaks (or somewhere, anywhere so a person either looks important or is avoiding awkward interactions with other attendees), and after-meeting visits to a hotel bar or neighboring club (which is often prefaced with the word “strip” but rarely with the word “dance”).
So this is the deal. Oftentimes, there is much discussion among the organizers of the event regarding where to hold the meeting. Several factors impact that decision. For the sake of this post, let’s assume we’re talking about a multi-state event like a trade association’s national conference or a corporate sales meeting. Some of the major factors in selecting the location include an easy in-and-out for most attendees (proximity to an airport, direct flights, minimized travel time), and cost. Amenities and event support aren’t so much of an issue — most meetings that involve just a couple hundred or fewer attendees can be supported by a hotel and its accompanying meeting rooms.
We actually don’t mind periodically getting away to business meetings. If the program is good, it will most likely include attendee education and group alignment, and, in spite of the awkwardness of business-related social events like a group dinner or cocktail mixer, a person’s well-played effort at these gatherings can lead to important professional connections. At a minimum, the casual post-meeting get-togethers are a great opportunity to mine information. Important competitor or industry intel typically surface. Additionally, every group has its gabbers and shameful but delicious gossip will always come out. That’s particularly true as the night progresses and the imbibing gathers steam. As non-drinkers, in the morning we actually will remember what was said the previous evening.
There is an unfortunate non-work related side effect of a meeting’s tightly managed efficiency, however. Many meetings take place in droll locations where interesting locales are far away or not easily accessible. But some are in places that are worth visiting for personal enlightenment and fun. For example, last year we had an event in Miami Beach. The meeting was held in an afternoon and finished in the morning of the following day. This allowed attendees to fly into Miami the morning of the first day and fly out in the afternoon of the next. We were pleased that we could be in and out so quickly. However, after wrapping up the meeting on the second day, we were left with about two hours before needing to scoot to the airport. We sat down in the hotel lobby and went over the details of the event, made a few phone calls, and bided our departure time. At one point, we wandered out to the patio that overlooked the beach. It sort of dawned on us that here we were in Miami but had planned nothing to take advantage of the fact that we had expense-paid airline tickets and hotel rooms. What were we thinking, for crying out loud?! We could have extended our trip by one day with minimal cost and afforded ourselves an opportunity to wander around, enjoy the weather, and maybe head out to Key West or something. Duh.We returned to Miami for another business meeting at the beginning of this year. We compressed our responsibilities for preparation of an exhibitor convention from a predicted two days down to one very long day, and that freed up our schedule to go to Key Largo for snorkeling and then back to Miami Beachfor some wandering around, a yummy dinner of Cuban food, and a vista of bikinis and the girls in them. The trip went from useful in its own right as a professional event to memorable with lots of satisfying results all around.
Anyway, we’ve made it an effort over the years to find time for site-seeing, attending sporting events, catching up with friends in the area, etc., and those have been the best trips. Correspondingly, we’ve visited several places that we are not likely to go on our own dime but that have worthy things to do, and we regret not taking advantage of the possibility. Of course, in most cases, extending a trip for another day isn’t practical or smiled upon by superiors, but with careful departure planning, there is often just enough time to do something interesting. Our brief trip to Chicago last week was an example of that. We didn’t get to do much, but we took the train from the Oak Brook (where the meeting took place) to downtime Chicago. We wandered around the The Loop and Grant Park areas for a couple of hours. It’s been a few years since we were last there and we had enough to see that it kept most of our conversations off business topics. It was a brief but nice break.
Ironically, we’re going to San Diego for the Comic-Con but because we only got tickets for Thursday and Sunday, we’re using time on Friday to go meet with prospective clients in the area. Hmm. We should look into getting some expenses paid for that.
Next up: Hygiene