A special message in advance of Global Meetings Industry Day 2023

As we approach Global Meetings Industry Day 2023 on March 30, we’re going to talk a lot about the economic value of meetings. Facing renewed economic uncertainty, that’s an important message for any organization. But here’s another important message: Let’s advocate for the intrinsic value of meetings to connect and unite communities, beyond the immediate commercial aspect. By doing that, we can solidify the role of events in business regardless of the economic climate.  

ben erwin wearing white dress shirt and black blazer
Ben Erwin

The silver lining around the challenges of the bust and boom our industry experienced from the pandemic is that many of our stakeholders have now lived The Great Lesson: in the absence of the ability to meet, they discovered that nothing can replace the power of meeting in person.  

We felt it in the surge of events flooding back in 2022. We’re inspired by social organizations rallying communities through events that spread messages for a better future. We witness corporate CEOs prioritizing events to engage their teams as they wrestle with the impact of hybrid work. We see organizations increasing their budgets to overcome rising costs so they can continue to benefit from the power of meeting.

Read MoreMake Hybrid Events Worth Every Dollar for Virtual Attendees

All of it underscores a recognition that togetherness is an essential ingredient for success. To riff on the popular mantra from acclaimed author Glennon Doyle: Together, we can do hard things.  

The Essential Lesson

The beauty of The Great Lesson is that the role of the meeting professional is now even more important. If you can bring people together in ways that inspire collaboration and innovation, you can spark change in your organization, ultimately creating better businesses, better communities, and a better world.  

The magic is in how you bring people together to do that.  

My advice is to start with a deep understanding of the people involved and a clear picture of the outcomes you want those people to achieve. That’s a best practice of great leaders, and as it turns out, also a smart strategy for effective event design. 

As you work to leverage the power of events to propel change across your organization or community, here’s a bit more advice to consider:  

Always align to the organization’s greater goals. It happens all too often in business that people are doing great work, but sometimes missing the alignment to the bigger picture. Start by centering on the “why” of your organization (its purpose) and the priorities in pursuit of it. Think then about how event experiences can advance that purpose through alignment with the commercial objectives.

Get to know your audience on a deeper level. Great leaders know their audience, whether its customers, partners, board members or team members. Meeting planners, too, can use a high EQ and emotional intelligence to design successful events. Don’t know everyone’s sentiments? Ask. The best teams actively seek feedback.

Read MoreHow Meeting Profs Can Improve Event Engagement

Inspire, motivate and follow up. We have to earn their attendance, and then earn their attention. The challenge for leaders today is to create environments where people feel like they belong, that they have a clear picture of their goals and that they can contribute to something greater than themselves. As leaders, it’s our job to ensure our teams feel motivated and prepared to achieve ambitious goals.

Hold yourself and others accountable. Did the work even count if you cannot measure the outcomes against the expectation? The best leaders are looking to influence increments of change over time, and they hold themselves accountable to the process and the results. Build a plan to influence attitudes, beliefs, motivation, or perception and hold yourself, and your organization, accountable for positive change.

Realize it’s a journey, not a destination. Be prepared to interpret data and respond. The path to success is hardly ever a straight line. Embrace always being in pursuit of making things better by valuing candid communication, getting comfortable experimenting and nurturing change with strategy.

Meetings are essential to business because they drive human connection and inspire growth. The way to start the conversation with our stakeholders is to speak the language of strategy, lean into the powers of empathetic leadership, find win-win alignment and deliver measurements of change.  

We can keep the momentum of The Great Lesson going. Together, we can do hard things. 

Ben Erwin is president and CEO of Encore, a global event production and technology provider, and a current board member of American Hotel & Lodging Association.