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Justifying Industry Association Meetings

The flyer arrives in the mail advising the business owner or senior managers that their industry association is hosting an industry meeting. The meeting topics include, among others, management skills, industry standards, government regulations, economic forecasts, information technology advances and election of association officers.
There’s nothing sacred or secret about the flyer, and it likely is seen and read by employees other than the owner or senior executives. As they read it, they’ll have no problems with the topics, but when they see where the meeting will be held, they may well feel a bit put out because, more likely than not, the meeting will be held in a well-known city or resort.

In difficult times such as these, it’s easy for employees to view attending such a meeting as merely a cover for the boss to have a company-paid vacation in a special setting. However, based on my own experience both as a CEO and, more lately, as a speaker and seminar leader at such meetings, their thinking misses the mark by a wide margin.

In this day and age of rapid advances in industry practices, information technology, new laws and mandates, challenging management issues and so on, it is critical and imperative that the owner or senior management keep abreast of these issues and learn how best to deal with them in order to support the company’s operations and future success.

This means paying careful attention to the keynote speakers, attending breakout seminars on issues salient to the company, participating in key committee meetings, learning from one’s peers, sharing information and techniques with other attendees, meeting with industry vendors to learn of new products and systems and electing qualified and competent officers for the association.

These assemblies, speeches, seminars, committee meetings and board of directors meetings often go on well into the evening. In addition, if there’s an exhibit area, many hours are spent—and should be spent—traipsing through the exhibit hall looking for a product, system or service that can help the company.

Let’s not pretend that there’s only meetings and drudgery at these gatherings; of course not. There are opportunities for various entertaining and fun things to do whether it’s golf, tennis, some sightseeing or other activities. However, in almost every case, these “fun” things are done not with family and close friends, but rather with business people active in, or associated with, the industry. It’s called networking, and it too is an important and vital effort. You never know where the next great idea will come from or when an important contact will be made. Many times this occurs by the random connections made at these events.

Finally, to answer the question some are asking: Why hold these meetings in major cities or at big resorts? For sound business and logistical reasons, namely, ease of access, quality facilities with well trained and professional staff, well equipped meeting rooms with first rate technology as well as time and opportunity for industry networking.

L. Douglas Mault is president of Executive Advisory Institute, Portland, Ore. The website is; he can be reached at (888) 428.3331.

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