Behind the Scenes

What Drives Us?

Meeting planners and magazine editors — we have a pretty noble shared goal.

I recently took another look at one of the 20 most-watched TED Talks, “How Great Leaders Inspire Actions,” because I had just read about an event marketer who credits this video with making the biggest impact on her career.

If you haven’t already seen Simon Sinek’s TED Talk from 2009, you might want to set aside 20 minutes to watch it.

Without giving too much away, Sinek’s main message is that we usually focus on the what and how of our jobs and the organizations we belong to rather than the why. For example, my team and I could explain our roles by saying that we publish educational content for meeting professionals (the what) in print and online (the how).

As a meeting professional, you could say that you organize events for your stakeholders (the what) through a
careful and complex planning process (the how).

But Sinek says that in order to make an emotional connection with our audience and to be exceptional at what we do, we need to — as the title of his 2011 book puts it — Start With Why: What’s our mission? What drives us to get to the what part of what we do?

When you distill it down, we magazine editors share the same why as the meetings industry. We believe that face-to-face events have the power to move business, science, medicine, and society forward. I seem to circle back to that theme a lot in this column, but it’s what informs our content and, like you, motivates us to spend so much time staring intently at our screens, pounding away at our keyboards, and on the road, traveling the world.

The meetings industry also includes destination marketers, and increasingly, they are reading from the same script. Three years ago, Senior Editor Barbara Palmer wrote a cover story about how destinations were successfully attracting meeting groups that aligned with their intellectual assets (e.g., a city with a medical university/laboratory/research hub hosting health-care meetings, or a region with a strong high-tech sector attracting tech-minded attendees). That approach has only gained a stronger foothold in the past three years, and the “knowledge economy” has become part of the meetings industry’s vernacular.

Barbara revisits that topic in this month’s cover story), providing recent case-study examples of how collaboration between meeting participants and companies, universities, research facilities, and the like at host destinations can be mutually beneficial. As meetings gain local subject-matter-expert speakers and site-visit opportunities that help advance attendees’ field of study, they in turn can help further progress at those institutions, leaving behind a lasting legacy.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.