Inspiration by Osmosisby Rachel Globus | Published in December 2008 conference 2009 | From the Editor | Departments
Industry events promise you all sorts of things. Celebrated keynotes, endless networking, custom cocktails, undiscovered event hotspots, next-generation event products. And if the event is done well, it delivers all those things.
But the true value of joining with peers often lies in the things that weren’t promised.
I was reminded of that recently at an annual ISES Los Angeles event in which industry veterans lead discussions over dinner, this one at Trump National Golf Club in Palos Verdes, Calif.
Next to me at the table was Laurel Coote, whose Meetings That Give Back first caught my eye a year ago, when she explained a vision of corporate social responsibility (CSR) that went far beyond one-off “Build a Bike” activities: richly strategized programs designed to re-energize employees by making a lasting connection with needy communities.
That’s why I asked her to speak at our show, February’s Event Solutions and Catersource Conference & Tradeshow, and specifically to address the bottom-line results CSR programs can offer. With the economy trending the way it was, I said in July, nobody was going to put extra money into painting elementary schools without a good reason.
That was before bank busts, bailouts and AIG. Times are rough for CSR, I thought to myself as we sat together now, months later.
Tablemate Terry Singleton of CCP Events had told me in October that clients weren’t cancelling events, just reducing budgets. Tonight, she told me she’d just had a $25,000 holiday party cancelled.
Call it the AIG effect: Nobody wants to look like they’re wasting money on lavish affairs while profits are down and people are suffering.
Heather Henderson, also at our table, agreed. She manages Cisco Live, an annual conference attended by 10,000-plus Cisco customers and partners. In fact, she said, her department was explicitly encouraged to do CSR-type activities instead of holiday parties.
Now, I suddenly realized, is CSR’s moment. Companies want to celebrate. And far from being an unnecessary expenditure, CSR programs are the perfect way for companies to achieve goals that other events normally would. And you can be there to offer that solution.
I didn’t expect to leave the event that night with a CSR mini-revelation. But I did. And I spent time with some of the most talented and motivated event pros anywhere. It was inspiration by osmosis.
Indeed, we’ve created a space for just that at Conference ’09, with thousands of attendees to feed off of, over 150 seminars, an expo packed with new ideas and events showcasing the latest trends.
And those are just the things we’ve promised.