I’m speaking at the MPI Northern California Chapter’s Annual Meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19th in San Francisco on this topic. Come join us!
The fundamental function of a meeting professional must evolve. Otherwise, today’s meeting planners will go the way of the dinosaurs, and the cause of death will be roughly equivalent—a failure to adapt to climate change. The corporate environment for meeting planners is undergoing a sea change. There’s a “New Norm” coming, and it’s radically different than your knowledge, skills, and capabilities today.
If you continue to look at your job and career path in the ways you always have, you are planning to fail. Your work has been essentially end-to-end project management of specific events. With an enormous amount of attention to detail, you deal with thousands of details that will execute your superiors’ visions of specific events.
By its inherent nature, this work pulls you in many different directions, with an enormous amount of input from internal customers. Whether it’s the CEO who says “we’re launching a new strategy” and looks to you for the kick-off event, or the VP who charges you with getting the global sales team together—or both—plus more–meeting professionals are expected to drive all kinds of activities on behalf of others. It can be a thankless job, where the worst days see small problems swell to huge issues and the best days come when nothing goes wrong (for which few are ever recognized much less thanked).
But that “normal” is itself in decline. You have been asked to do more with less, and you rose to the challenge. They cut your budget in half and you still put on events; you still performed all the functions you were responsible for. So your superiors come to you saying, “You’ve done a fantastic job. Let’s keep going!” You find your resources cut further. Your competence and capability hasn’t attracted attention, much less professional opportunity. Instead it’s driving a climate change that demands you do ever more with ever less.
Your Personal Brand and the #NewNorm
It’s time to recognize a “New Norm.” The new environment in the evolution of this profession is all about how you, as a meeting professional, get the attention of your leaders, influence their thinking; and create a call to action in senior management that can begin to transform your role from a tactical “doer” to a strategic organizational asset.
In the #NewNorm, strategic relationships within your organization as well as across your industry, matters more than ever. “Push” marketing is dead; the fire hose of the hyperconnected age killed it. There is so much noise in the meeting professional space that you and your individual brand is drowned out. What you do and how you do it is undeniably important, but no one notices it—they notice the results you are able to produce. More than ever, it is your strategic relationships that elevate your brand above the noise.
In the #NewNorm, executives are less excited about your MPI credentials, your educational background, or your professional pedigree. What gets their attention is your ability to engage and influence others; to generate results by really understanding, internalizing and applying key components of their vision. Events are not an end in themselves, but a means to a strategic result. You’ve been instrumental in creating results from events. What are you doing to elevate your brand above the company’s internal noise?
Strategic Plan: Focus on Outcomes, not Inputs
Personal strategic planning matters more than ever before. For the meeting professional, whether you are searching internally for a high-profile role in the next amazing event or you want to explore another job within the profession, you can’t get there without a strategic plan that lays out a new approach, one focused on outcomes instead of inputs.
I’ve seen meeting professionals place much to much emphasis on inputs, such as the menu for the dinner and the room temperature for the keynote. The details are important, but they’re not outcomes. If you’re all about booking the convention center five years in advance, getting the hotels and flights and the catering contracts in place, you’re missing the fundamental opportunities to create results from your events.
People gather for two reasons: content and community. In the #NewNorm of meeting professionals, content and community are what generate outcomes; content and community have to drive planning. For your own career advancement—or even survival—you need to develop your personal strategic plan for shifting the lens of meeting planning in your personal approach and your corporate culture from details—inputs—to outcomes.
I submit that by developing the strategic relationship skills to leverage the connections you have, you can achieve transformation in your career arc—and survive the climate change that is making dinosaurs of some meeting professionals. I have coached a meeting professional client over several years, who was able to migrate from Meeting Planner to Vice President of Customer Experiences to more recently, Senior Vice President of Marketing, rising on her organization’s growing awareness of how meetings function to drive market awareness of their brand.
Dinosaurs were well adapted to the world as it once was. Then the climate changed too rapidly for them to adapt, or so the dominant theory goes. What are you doing to evolve, in time to thrive in the #NewNorm?
- Meeting planners cannot continue to do “business as usual,” because with every cycle they are being asked to do more with less.
- In the #NewNorm, connections matter, because connections are how you elevate your individual brand above the company noise.
- To thrive in the #NewNorm, plan to evolve toward a focus on outcomes, not inputs.