By Steven A. Jacobs, CMP, reallygreatmeetings.com
Technology will never replace the need for meetings or the need for people being involved in the meeting management process. The evolution of technologies available for the meeting management process has created the need for “smarter”, more savvy people engaged in the meeting management process. For those of you, like me, who get upset when the website you are on has the slightest delay, remember how far we have advanced in the past three decades.
Our role as meeting managers is to effectively communicate and implement a strategy to a virtual team which communicates key objectives to an audience via the vehicle of a program or an event. That role hasn’t changed, but the tools available to us have improved dramatically. Telephone calls, typewriters, and carbon paper have been replaced by instant email communication, sophisticated word processing, and online database tools. Our role has not changed. It just got more complicated. Much of the detail is mechanized, but well-seasoned professionals must oversee and control the process to ensure the end result is in line with core organizational objectives.
Davidow and Malone’s best-selling book, The Virtual Corporation, outlined how virtual teams were the wave of the future, and that wave has crashed across this nation over the past decade and a half. As I read that book in 1993 and leaped from the mother ship of a brick and mortar huge corporation to create a virtual team that centered around exceeding customer expectations; technology and the pace of change sped-up even faster. Davidow and Malone looked into the future while we, like so many others, lived the future moment by moment. Technological changes allowed for the advent of collaboration on projects to achieve objectives in real-time with virtual teams from around the globe. The guy in the neighboring state, or country across the ocean, now became your cube-mate. No corner office or commute time needed. We achieved more with less.
In this not-so-new-anymore millennium, do these same tools that make virtual teams possible threaten meetings and events? During this age, are meetings irrelevant? Why meet face-to-face when we maintain up-to-the-minute constant and effective communication in real-time, all the time? Organizations simply cannot achieve the transformations they are looking for and stay competitive without a team of people focused around core objectives. Teleconference, online video conferencing, email, blogs, or tweets are tools used to implement a strategy that accomplishes a core objective. But is that all you need? If your objective is to increase sales of a specific product, introduce a new product or service, educate staff, or move people to commit to a mission, developing a strategy that includes face-to-face meetings is critical to your success.
The need to meet and the use of meetings and events as a critical tool to shape corporate culture and exceed critical core organizational objectives will never go away. Some U.S. politicians who in early 2009 spoke as if meetings are evil or at best a waste of time and money for corporate America continue to meet personally with people around the globe and employ special events and face-to-face meetings as the critical component of their strategy to accomplish their objectives. It is more important now than ever to have your team focused and centered on your mission. That cannot be accomplished through reading or even hearing. That can only happen when, after reading and hearing, we come together and interact to understand tone and nuance through community and the fellowship of others.
Somehow through the years, we have come full circle. To quote Bacon from an inscription on the walls of the Library of Congress: “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing, an exact man”. Today, just as then, conferences and meetings make a person well-equipped to face the challenges of tomorrow. Or as Solomon wrote: “As Iron sharpens Iron, so one person sharpens another.” Socrates wrote, “There is only one good, namely, knowledge; and only one evil, namely ignorance.” To build a strategy without using the most effective tool to achieve your objective is foolish. Meetings work! That’s why they have been around for centuries and will continue into the next millennium.