Authenticity, Being Uncomfortable and Meetings

I loved these two quotes from Joe Maddon’s spring training opening press conference:

"The pertinent part of the authentic component is the fact that if you are in fact an authentic person, you're able to repeat what you've done in the past naturally,"

"I think if you remain somewhat uncomfortable, you'll continue to grow. You don't become stagnant. You don't become complacent, set in your ways. On every level, I want us to remain uncomfortable. I think that's a really positive word."

“Authenticity” and “Being Uncomfortable”.  I think there’s a lot in those two concepts that the event industry could learn.  So I spoke with my colleague Katie Callahan-Giobbi because she knows the event industry, she’s super smart, and I knew she would have some great reactions to the concepts of “Being Authentic” and “Being Uncomfortable”.  She did not disappoint.

Greg Werstler: Have you ever heard of this guy, Joe Maddon?

Katie Callahan-Giobbi:  Of course! As a life-long White Sox fan, even I know who Joe Maddon is. My favorite Joe Madden-ism is “try not to suck”. Or maybe its “don’t let the pressure exceed the pleasure”.

GW: Could you explain the Infield Fly rule?

KCG:  Probably not with any great degree of accuracy but I do know it has to do with fly balls in the infield and runners on base. Good enough?

GW: Yes.  It’s more than I could have explained. Joe brought up the theme of “Authenticity” in his opening comments at spring training.  He used the word to mean that you need to do what you do and not strive to be something you’re not.  How do you see Authenticity playing out in the event industry and in our events? 

KCG:  To me, “authenticity” speaks to your brand and your brand promise, regardless of your product or service. Joe’s right – there has to be alignment between what you say you’ll do and what you actually do. That applies to baseball and it applies to branding. In the world of meetings, this means your marketing/communications should articulate the unique value of the meeting experience and the actual experience must deliver on that promise. Once you agree with this premise, the question becomes…what do our attendees want? Chances are they want access to content and connections they can’t get anywhere else. That’s the secret to creating an “authentic” meeting experience. How do you know what your attendees want? Ask them. Use data to gain insights on their feedback. Once you have it, you can more effectively create, market, and deliver an authentic meeting for all.

GW:  I like that, being authentic means delivering on your promise!

Joe also brought up the theme of “being uncomfortable”.  He was talking about it in the way of never settling, always growing.  Do you see the event industry as an industry that embraces “being uncomfortable”?  Should we be more uncomfortable?  

KCG:  Being uncomfortable is an interesting concept. What’s comfortable for me may be very uncomfortable for you. We each have our own internal “comfort meter”, an internal gut-check whether we’re pushing the envelope enough, too far or not at all. For those who design, create and produce meetings, we need to assess, understand and respect the organizational disposition on risk. That is, know how far your key stakeholders are willing to push the envelope on your meeting. Some people talk about radical change but when the rubber meets the road, they really are not ready for such a drastic transformation. There is no right or wrong here; it is more important to be on the leading edge of driving change yet understand your organization’s culture. Incremental change, when done right, can still be very effective. 

Katie Callahan-Giobbi is the Executive Vice President of Minding Your Business, Inc.

A 25-year industry veteran, Katie Callahan-Giobbi helps organizations navigate change and develop strategies that drive business results. She is a lifelong student of the face-to-face industry and keeps her finger on the pulse of trends and issues that impact associations, corporations and DMOs. Katie is an experienced member of the MYB strategy team having worked with over 40 different associations and trade groups on meeting redesign, sales/marketing/communications assessments, strategic partnership and membership projects and strategic planning initiatives.

A strategic, leadership-driven, results-oriented hospitality sales and marketing professional and a skilled facilitator, Katie frequently speaks at industry events and is often called upon to comment on trends facing our industry.
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