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Scout Your Message Before Your Hotels

by Timsamoff

Even if you believe that everything from dating to contact with God can be managed on the computer, that ain’t quite true. Despite the push for technology in every operation–and despite our first endorsement of (still-sequence) video-conferencing (VC) in a 1983 book, you will want or need to meet face-to-face at times. The message itself will determine. Caution: Don’t believe the opinion-mantra, “It’s gotta be face-to-face.” It ‘don’t gotta be nuthin’ but proper. ‘Proper’ requires thought. Meeting settings must be proper for given messages. Meetings such as skill training are best done in small groups. Military ISD (our source) presents an algorithm for settings-selection.

Every meeting-support technique has strengths and weaknesses; and one of those choices will work better for your meeting than will any others. Selected options by purpose, not dart-throwing. For key tools (pro & con) that can be used to support your message, check a reprint of our ’70s article for basics; slight augmentation needed now. See the original article on our website: click ‘Recognition/Industry’; below Note: ‘AOM & Early Mag Articles’; see article from “Advertising & Sales Promotion” magazine (web p8 of 22pp).

Specifics there are valid unless noted here:

Re: Charts, drawing, chalk-/chem-boards: Verbatim, plus: Computer-aided visuals, now.

Re: Photographs: Verbatim, plus: Also computer-aided visuals, now.

Re: Books, booklets, outlines, tape recordings or disks: Verbatim, plus: Again, computer-aided visuals, now.

Re: Demonstrations and sociodramas (constructed plays, not believed):  Verbatim, plus: Less convincing if computerized.

Re: Role playing: Verbatim, plus: Valid only if live, not computerized.

[Quoted further]: All of the above tools [in the entire original article] have intrinsic value of either a permanent or intermittent nature. By contrast, visual aid equipments are enabling technologies but have no independent value whatsoever! Today’s purveyors have neglected to mention your non-technology options. [End reprint.]

Three significant points:

  1. The computer is extremely valuable, of course. However, the eye does not prefer, or distinguish between, the sources of usable graphics. Therefore, slides and printed materials are still valid.
  2. All graphics, no matter how simple or complex, must appeal to participants’ understanding of your message’s basic concept (right brain)…to interpret, as a further explanation of the spoken/written words. On-screen words (left-brain) are not legitimate visual ‘aids’ unless the words themselves are at issue. That’s rare. Color is not essential if the graphic itself is clear. (For multiple US military findings: ‘Recognition/Industry’ button, below Note; see “FirstTake” magazine (p13 of 48pp).
  3. In meetings/seminars/training, etc, eye cloys more quickly than ear. For long presentations of non-technical material, ear is the preferable recipient. Complex/technical stuff needs visual help.

Decide which of the article’s techniques best suits the purposes and requirements of your message; select the proper support materials and technologies; determine the proper setting for the message, purposes, and audience size. Proper settings might include hotel space.

Audience size is a factor. Don’t guess according to general crowd-control principles: Best size for the meeting purpose, time allotted, and optimum use of likely setting? Military ISD algorithms work well.

You can’t coach a roomful of people in any but a cursory way. Adequate? If not, how enhanced? Smaller break-out sessions suffice? Can/will managers supervise, back at offices? Enough authorities to run multiple break-outs? If not, don’t fake it! Choose: one central session or multiple regional repeats?

Every meeting-caller usually wants to reach everyone in his/her target audience simultaneously. Great, if simultaneity is a valid factor. Bad, if it causes unnecessarily-large convocations. Large meetings feed on their own size and thereby cause additional expenses.

Decades ago, American Express found about two-thirds! of the average corporate travel budget consumed by annual central sales meetings. Computers can change that somewhat: Significant savings are possible via Video Conferencing. Computer programs suffer drop-outs–just like schools or sleepers in central meetings. Also decades ago, “Sales & Marketing Management” magazine’s  ‘Survey of Selling Costs’ (annualized) found multiple regional sales meetings always to cost less than one central meeting.

Unless simultaneity is essential, hold regional meetings whenever possible. That’s more demanding of meeting-caller time, short-term, but it’s also less pressured: Local offices can usually handle most or all logistical needs.

Although computer software now allows collaboration among editors and other specialists, software enables only editorial ‘collectivizing.’ Expertise and authority are NOT created by collaboration–that’s round-table discussion from distant chairs. It does save time and travel.

Many meetings can be held in-house. Choose smaller regional facilities if you hope to avoid in-house interruptions. To manage any such meeting, embargo all phone calls, in or out. You might permit exceptions for the Chairman of the Board and CEO, but only if you value your job.

If you agree on anything with a hotel rep, get everything agreed in writing. All chains and most large facilities have an “in writing only” policy in case of disputes…common when any third party over-stays its allotted time and delays your set-up or scheduled session.

Selected reprints from “AOM” were Copyright either 1970-71, Crain Communications; or 1971-1973, “Sales Management” (later: “Sales & Marketing Management”) magazines.

For more information and a proved form for comparing criteria and selecting hotel facilities, see our website: www.meetingsCavalier.com. Click on ‘Business Writing’; then ‘Titles’ button. At book “Sales Meetings That Work,” click on ‘Chapter 18,’ complete segment. Dow Jones-Irwin’s “SMTW” cover shows under ‘Recognition/Industry’ button.

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About the Author

After 50 years in the meetings/corporate-training trades, Richard Cavalier is both knowledgeable and exhausted. Good meetings are tough to create and run! Active via hands-on experience in the field since 1960, he was writing for United Attractions, Chicago, when United created today's convention-business-program consulting function for two national-association clients, at their request because it didn’t exist. As a result, he has extensive knowledge of biz & banquets--the biggies for conventions. Subsequently, he worked in a major corporation's training department, a training consulting firm, and also independent consulting--thereby combining experiences with small, medium, and very large groups. From this broad experience, he wrote the meetings/conventions industry's (and world's) first how-to book for delivering control and safety of message via a proved system--his own. Three additional books cover related aspects of group communications: control of meeting-purpose. Meetings-callers endorse his ideas, as first established via his business-magazine columns. His contrarian ideas from the '70s are proving out again as business attitudes change because of failed meetings. Read more about this and other ‘firsts' at www.meetingsCavalier.com. For Qs and contact: richardrthr@yahoo.com. Methods and controversy aside, his mother believes he's the handsomest authority in the meetings field. That should count for something.
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