Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

Press Releases

January 14 2013

Convening Leaders, Defining Innovation

By Carolyn Clark

outside boxNo matter where you turn, meeting professionals see the same word: innovation. There’s an understandable reason why everyone’s talking and writing about it, too. The ability to turn on your imagination and introduce your attendees and exhibitors to something new is a crucial element of success.

However, Morten Hansen, professor, UC-Berkeley School of Information and author of Great By Choice, says that innovation does not automatically translate to the impact you want to make.

“To be a great innovator does not lead to greatness itself,” Hansen told attendees in the opening session at Convening Leaders 2013.

Make no mistake, though - - innovation is indeed essential. Many meetings are grounded in the dangerous we-did-it-this-way-last-year mentality. Whether you’re working to redesign your convention center to meet new technological demands or you’re aiming to revamp your annual meeting to facilitate more interactive education, a willingness to break up with what your organization has always done is a key ingredient of your continued success.

The How of Innovation

So if innovation doesn’t lead to great results, what does?

“It’s about how you innovate,” Hansen says.

For meeting professionals, that how is extremely important to remember when evaluating programs, developing new offerings and considering new technologies.

“Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes,” Deborah Sexton, president and CEO, PCMA, says. “You don’t have to completely reformat your meeting to deliver results. You can identify small, low-cost ways to reinvent certain elements of your experience.”

Set Your Targets

Rather than blow up everything you’re doing right now, Hansen’s address highlighted examples of organizations that have approached growth with a smart and strategic approach. For example, consider John Brown, the man responsible for leading medical device company Stryker to become one of the biggest forces in healthcare. When Brown took over the reigns as CEO, he set a goal of achieving a 20 percent annual growth rate.

While Brown penalized employees whose divisions were below 20 percent, he also wanted to ensure that the company did not grow too fast. He capped growth at 30 percent. Rather than aim for the biggest results possible, he aimed for manageable results to keep the company on the path for success.

The Importance of Experimentation

“Ideas are not in short supply,” Hansen says.

While you may have plenty of innovative thinkers within your organization, Hansen stresses the importance of fearing the possibility of failure with their creativity. Rather than simply embracing any idea that sounds good, it’s important to scrutinize those ideas and test them on a small scale before unveiling them to your entire audience.

For example, rather than assuming that all of your attendees will be excited about a new session track, try adding a few new courses one year to gauge their reaction with survey feedback. Instead of completely revamping your exhibit hall, ask your exhibitors what’s most likely to resonate with their companies.

“In a sense, you have to be your own editor,” Sexton says. “When you’re considering a new idea for your program, you must be willing to admit to yourself if it won’t work.”

Whether you’re on-site in Orlando or joining Convening Leaders via the hybrid experience, get ready for more perspectives on innovation in today’s industry over the next few days.

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