“If I could talk with every meeting planner in the world for just a second, I would say, listen, I know a big part of your calling is to create community and to inspire people to do better, to get more out of their potential.”
In the case of a meeting planner, that process in- volves reaching out to more than the people within their organization, right? Yes. Procter & Gamble is a great example of a company that has tried to move away from trying to have everything figured out and perfected up front [by staff], because that makes them extremely risk-averse. It stifles creativity, and Procter & Gam- ble wants to be an innovative company. So what do they do? They learned how to make prototypes. Today, when Procter & Gamble goes out to develop new ideas, they start with card- board and duct tape — and they go to the potential customer and say, “What do you think?” And they get the feedback from the potential user very early. What the senior executives at Procter & Gamble have found
is that when they share these prototypes with people early, two things happen: One, the user feels much more empowered to provide feedback and feels much more included in the creative process. And so that creates a lot of loyalty. And it also gets much-needed user feedback so that they are able to develop new pioneering ideas that are in line with user needs. The sec- ond thing they have learned is that internally [this process] has become very helpful in reducing emotional attachment that people have to their ideas, which can be another impediment to doing anything creative.
How should a planner position changes at a confer- ence so that participants are aware of them and can be part of the improvement process? I have seen people successfully handle this two ways. One is by
FROM THE BOOK: “Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin didn’t set out to create one of the fastest-growing startup compa- nies in history; they didn’t even start out seeking to revolutionize the way we search for information on the web. Their first goal, as collaborators on the Stanford Digital Library Project, was to solve a much smaller problem: how to prioritize library searches online.”
saying to people up front that this is an experiment — a little bet that we are making because we are trying to do something more innovative and creative and we realize it is not going to be perfect. We are looking for your help in developing this idea. The other word that I think is very valuable is to call something a “lab.” I think Google pioneered this idea with the Google Lab — a place where they put all their trial ideas. They go ahead and play with it, but it is just in a lab. “Beta” is another word that resonates with people, especially people in technol- ogy. Either of those terms can really help to frame the expecta- tions of the audience, which is a really important thing.
Do you attend any meetings on a regular basis? What do you look for when you accept either to attend or to speak at a conference? I pay attention to whether the group has a lot creative or inno- vative people supporting it. I am an extremely curious person, so [I will accept speaking engagements] as long as the audience is open to listening. There are some audiences who just look at me as entertainment and don’t really care about learning from