Meetings Really do Mean Business

I just returned from a week long meeting for a large consumer products company and I must confess – It felt really good to be meeting again. From my side, it was a long week with lots of last minute updates, changes and revisions and late night rehearsals. But this was nothing compared to the presenters and attendees and really illustrated the important role meetings play in business.
In this current economic environment, business meetings have taken quite a beating in the media and in Washington and there are still some critics who argue that live meetings are an needless extravagance and could easily be handled by cheaper alternatives such as conference calls and video conferencing.
While there may be occasions when these alternatives can be used there is really nothing that can take the place of the live interaction of meetings. This simple fact quickly became apparent last week.

The meeting I produced, was being held to familiarize the companies sales force with recent events and to outline their new responsibilities going forward. The company was facing a number of challenges and it was important that everyone get up to speed quickly.

The company had recently acquired two other companies who produced complimentary products, which it needed to integrate into it's product line. In addition, they were launching seven new products based on the recent acquisitions. These new products while similar, represented a completely new customer and direction for the company. Also beginning in 2010 their business would be regulated by a different federal agency with totally new guidelines; ones which required that most of their products be relabeled, rebranded or renamed and their advertising and marketing programs be changed. In short, just a few changes to the status quo.

Given the size of their sales force and the need to get all the information into everyones hands at the same time, several options were considered, but it was decided that the only effective alternative was for everyone to meet in person.

And that they did. For three full days, up to 10 hours each day the sales force was either being briefed on all the changes or working in breakouts on strategies to implement them. This was truly a business meeting. During the entire time, no one set foot outside the hotel. No spa appointments, no golf outings, no scenic cruises for this group. Even the evening recreation was brought in, as each evening we flipped the ballroom to allow the entertainment company to set up various table and computer games, pool tables, air hockey tables, Wii stations or a band. Yet, even during the evenings recreation, groups of sales teams could be seen huddled around their notebooks, discussing plans and ideas in between activities, snacks or drinks.

As a result, at the end of the week, the sales force left not demoralized or overwhelmed by the seeminly daunting task facing them. Instead they left with a renewed optimism, excitement and enthusiasm, ready to accept the challenge of spearheading the changes, reinforced by the time spent coming together, combining their ideas, sharing their experiences and forging a team with a common goal. Based on what I saw, I believe they can acheive their objectives.

Meetings are an integral and powerful part of the engine driving the nations economy. The sooner that engine gets running again, the sooner our country's enormous potential can harnessed to once again propel us forward.

A recent study by Oxford Economics and sponsored in part by the Destination and Travel Foundation found that meetings really do contribute to a company's bottom line and that every $1.00 spent on a business meeting results in $12.50 in increased revenue and $3.80 in new profits. Judging from what I saw last week, this statistic does not surprise me in the least.

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