We’ve looked at how today’s challenge is to return to the relationship model if we indeed want conferences to not only survive, but thrive. Relationships are far less personal today for a variety of reasons of which technology is probably the largest. As technology has evolved, its integration in society has caused personal relationships to suffer. We are not as mannerly a society as we used to be. We’re far more involved in multi-tasking today and far more impatient. We spend much less time interacting with people and as a result, our people skills have weakened. As the millennial generation grows in the workplace, our industry faces a major dilemma: how can we teach the importance of investing in and developing the fundamental relationships they will need for success? Today, we’re losing many of our industry caretakers who have practiced this relationship model due to retirement or semi-retirement. This loss creates a big gap in the experience for the planner. It can be much less personal because the passion and caring doesn’t seem to exist and the desire to know whom you are working with has disappeared in favour of the “analytics” of technology. We have become robotic and less human and yet, we all need each other to ensure our success. Somehow we need to shift attention from phones, computers and tablets to the planner, their peers and ultimately, our delegates.
As a result, it’s interesting how marketing today is all about the ‘brand’. The ‘brand’ has replaced the relationship but it still embodies the same qualities; further proof that we still need each other and are looking for fulfillment. We identify with a brand because we hope it will deliver the qualities and expectations that would normally be delivered by people. Connection to a brand often seems as close to a relationship as the younger generation will get. We need to identify with something that allows us to reflect our personalities but in reality, it does not partner with us. The brand needs to be a part of it but we still need relationships with others to make it work. A ‘brand’ doesn’t stand in the trenches with us and sweat out the long hours to produce an exceptional product. That can only be done by people. So, therein lies the rub. Once again, we need to get back to the relationship; the one that you can rely on to have your back, to help you to solve your challenges and to share in the accolades when the plan comes together. That’s when you can step back and say “I think that went well, don’t you?”, and all of the team shares in that success. That’s a relationship working at its best. Each person has their role, but each component is made that much easier because you trust the people you are working alongside. And let’s face it; we all want the experience to be enjoyable which will in turn create the desire to return to the process and the people, again and again.