By Jeff Beals
National associations are famous for holding big conventions each year. Some conventions are so big they attract tens of thousands of attendees.
As you might imagine, it takes a great deal of work to pull off one of these big events. Programs need to be planned, speakers booked, volunteers recruited, attendees encouraged to attend, logistics squared away…
One of the biggest decisions is where to have the event, and that is sometimes determined years in advance.
Cities love hosting conventions. They bring in out-of-town guests, who tend to be traveling on expense accounts and are looking to have some fun in addition to working. Localities want conventions so badly, they often throw financial incentives at the meeting planners in hopes of landing the business. In other words, the person planning the convention has their pick of cities and convention facilities.
When a meeting planner or a site selection consultant is looking for a venue for a convention or a major industry meeting, they consider a number of factors:
– Quality of the meeting facilities
– Nearby attractions
– Proximity of entertainment and restaurants
And then there’s the hotel. Planners prefer a hotel that is either big enough to host the event within it or is right next door to a major convention center. The hotel must be nice-looking, offer a range of amenities and have an adequate number of rooms. But there is one thing that is an absolute MUST in order for a convention hotel to make the cut: it has to have a very large, full-service bar.
Yep, that’s right. A great bar and lounge area in the convention hotel is generally considered a non-negotiable requirement. Why you ask? It’s not because convention attendees want to drink more on the road than they do at home (although they typically do). It’s because of something much more important – an age-old, primitive business practice known as networking.
Isn’t that interesting? Organizations spend large amounts of time and money making everything just right for a convention, yet one of the most important parts of the experience comes when attendees retire to the bar after the last general session and simply network – build ties and bonds with their colleagues from other cities, states or countries. They share ideas, refer business and counsel one another. Despite the many sophisticated and highly valuable things modern business meetings offer, much of the value that comes from the event occurs late in the evening in the crowded hotel lobby bar.
We business folks have become so sophisticated, yet we’re still hopelessly tied to our ancient tribal instincts. You know what? That’s okay. Actually, it’s more than okay; it’s great. People make business what it is. People make business interesting. People make business meaningful. People make business worthwhile.
No matter how sophisticated we become, nothing is as effective as in-person learning and one-on-one networking. Those companies and professionals that remember this tend to do better and sell more products and services.
Think about it…we have access to live webinars, DVD recordings, interactive, computer-based learning programs. Nevertheless, people still love to experience a great speaker in person. They still benefit from taking continuing education courses in a room full of people from a qualified person standing there in the flesh.
Think about it…we so many ways to deliver our marketing messages to clients via mass media, social media and sophisticated email campaigns. Nevertheless, salespersons still have to call prospects on the phone one at a time or show up at their offices to make a pitch.
It’s easy to say “no” to an advertisement, a tweet or a DVD you receive in the mail. It’s harder to say “no” when someone sits down with you, listens to your needs and wants and personally explains why their product or service will benefit you and your unique situation.
Enjoy the modern business world and all its technical conveniences. After all, this is a cool time to be a professional.
But don’t be misled and lulled to sleep by all the wondrous tools at your disposal. While those gizmos certainly help, you still have to reach out and shake hands if you want to make it big.
The next time you go to a convention, test this out. Enjoy the speakers, take notes at the break-out sessions, attend the awards banquet, but at about 10 p.m., stroll through the hotel lobby bar. Notice how many people from your convention are there. Join the conversation and build long-term collegial relationships that can enhance your success for years and years to come.
Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.
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