In August of last year, I had the opportunity to attend a session presented by Jeff Hurt entitled Meetings With Impact. In this presentation, he laid out the reality of a VUCA world. By that, we live in a world of nonstop Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. When I heard this, it resonated with me unlike anything had in a long time. Its application to the work of those in the meeting industry is paramount and is a lens of reality I choose to look through moving forward.
“Oh, By the Way”
I like to have things set, so I have a margin for what I refer to as the “oh, by the way” factor during the final week leading up to an
event. In our VUCA world the “oh, by the way” factor happens at a greater scale and even extends into the onsite experience simply because we are collectively stretched too thin. A call for deeper strategy needs to come into play.
This need for a deeper strategy was demonstrated during my largest event of 2015, a fashion show where 1,320 people attended.
I oversaw the registration area which is the first interaction guests have attending the event. The client gave me a list of everyone
who needed to have backstage access and I prepared badges for that list. I gave the client the badges prior to registration opening, not knowing that many of the people with that access would come to the registration area first versus check-in just outside the ballroom. As this played out numerous times, a call on the radio to one of the committee members asking them to be a resource at registration helped mitigate the situation and provided a better experience for those that arrived with clearance for backstage.
What is Possible in the Moment
Navigating higher demands can cause, at times, stress levels to increase and bring about frustration. We have a choice to get angry
and upset or we can take a breath and dig into what we know is possible in the moment. This played out at a conference I was running for a client in October. It was the 10th anniversary of the conference and had the largest attendance to date with more tabletop exhibitors than ever before. The exhibitors arrived early the first morning of registration and we had maps to help them find their tables. I hadn’t placed signs on the tables as I ran out of time and thought the maps with numbers would be sufficient. The reality is that they weren’t and I didn’t have the number signs as a backup. The client team pitched in and hand-wrote the numbers on blank paper, putting them on the tables as setup was happening. While I felt embarrassed that a veteran like me missed that additional item, the partnership with the client to get it handled showed true.
“What Needs to Happen to Get This Done?”
In this VUCA world, people are looking for answers and often need things quicker more than ever before. People can come to us
with something that isn’t done, but is really a hand outstretched for help versus something they’re dumping in our laps to fix. In that same session with Jeff Hurt, I learned about the simple focus, question, and mindset of “What needs to happen to get this done?” It may sound like it’s absent of feeling and heart, but in reality, it’s focused and is that hand outstretched back to grab hold of the one in need. Problem solving runs the gamut, and we are faced with varying degrees of it every day in this industry. How we respond is always key and how we partner for success holds the answer and end result together.
There were times last year when I misfired and either didn’t get something done or did something incorrectly. Misfired moments are something I don’t like to face and neither do many in this industry who are perfectionists. Those missteps though are truly teachable moments and even more so when you own up to them with a face-to-face interaction with the client. At times, I’ve had to eat humble pie for an oversight. Yet, I’ve seen grace on the other end as I was transparent and presented a solution and road to recovery for the matter. That same process plays out when the client or partner comes to you with something missed in the process. Taking a pause, knowing the reality of the VUCA world we live in, and hearing that phrase “What needs to happen to get this done?” helps us work towards resolve.
We are all human and we all have good days and bad days. We all have things as people who are passionate about our work in this
industry that we want to see happen amazingly. The VUCA world impacts things daily in new and fresh ways. I know for myself that I want to press into that reality and see how I can continue to learn and grow.
Sean brings more than 17 years of experience in planning trade shows, conferences, and events, some with attendance as high as 15,000 people. Sean is committed to ongoing involvement and professional development within the meeting industry. He has been involved with MPI MN since 2001, serving five years on the Education Committee, three years on the Strategic Alliances committee, and two years on the Emerging Leaders committee. He served on the Board of Directors as the Director and VP of Finance from May 2008 – May 2010. He is active within SPIN and GEL.
Sean earned his CMP credential in 2008. In 2006 Sean was named “Planner of the Year” by MPI MN and has been quoted in several local and national level trade publications as an expert in the meetings industry. He is a self-published author as of March 2013 with his book The Journey to Now and maintains a blog. He graduated with a degree in technical theater and a minor in communications from Luther College in 1994.