The new standard for meetings and conferences
If oil is $130 a barrel and if security adds two or three hours to a trip and if people are doing more and more business with those far afield...
and if we need to bring together more people from more places when we get together...
and if the alternatives, like video conferencing or threaded online conversations continue to get better and better, then...
I think the standard for a great meeting or a terrific conference has changed.
In other words, "I flew all the way here for this?" is going to be far more common than it used to be.
If you think a great conference is one where the presenters read a script while showing the audience bullet points, you're wrong. Or if you leave little time for attendees to engage with others, or worse, if you don't provide the levers to make it more likely that others will engage with each other, you're wrong as well.
Here's what someone expects if they come to see you on an in-person sales call: that you'll be prepared, focused, enthusiastic and willing to engage honestly about the next steps. If you can't do that, don't have the meeting.
Here's what a speaker owes an audience that travels to engage in person: more than they could get by just reading the transcript.
And here's what a conference organizer owes the attendees: surprise, juxtaposition, drama, engagement, souvenirs and just possibly, excitement.
I'm on a roll here, so let me add one more new standard:
If you're a knowledge worker, your boss shouldn't make you come to the (expensive) office every day unless there's something there that makes it worth your trip. She needs to provide you with resources or interactions or energy you can't find at home or at Starbucks. And if she does invite you in, don't bother showing up if you're just going to sit quietly.
I've worked in three companies that had lots of people and lots of cubes, and I spent the entire day walking around. I figured that was my job. The days where I sat down and did what looked like work were my least effective days. It's hard for me to see why you'd bother having someone come all the way to an office just to sit in a cube and type.
The new rule seems to be that if you're going to spend the time and the money to see someone face to face, be in their face. Interact or stay home!