Meeting Martin: What’s on the agenda, and other Confex thoughts

People who say they ‘don’t like surprises’ are usually dull. I have no doubt at all that if they went to a cash machine one day and discovered there were six more zeroes on the end of their balance they would be pleasantly surprised.

Conversely, of course, I am in no doubt that if they were to get back to their car to find it on bricks, or discovered a live tarantula in their porridge, that they would be equally surprised, but far less amused.

Read more Meeting Martin: Technology’s great, shame about the music.

As a rule, surprises vary. We do like to know what is in store, and if NatWest accidentally makes us all millionaires then that’s just lovely. However, when all is said and done, some form of agenda is crucial to the on-going quest of saving time.

I find it staggering that we live in an age whereby billions upon billions of dollars around the world are committed to saving the environment, be it through greener technology, more rainforest, or some other thing, and yet not one penny, cent or whatever the Bolivian denomination is, is put towards saving our time.

Time is the most valuable resource we have, and to have it wasted is surely one of life’s most underrated tragedies.

The other week I was invited along to a meeting where the delegation was asked a vague and non-descript question. No one said anything of any real note, and the subject soon changed to something else equally as mystifying.

Like a deer in the headlights, I was asked for my opinion on something, I forget what, to which my response was: “I have no knowledge of this subject.” I could very well have formulated some sort of buzzword-friendly contribution had I known in advance that the topic was to be discussed. But I didn’t, so I couldn’t.

No one in that meeting had any notes prepared because there was little clue as to what the meeting was about. The chair of the meeting seemed a little flummoxed at the lack of willing contributions, but what did they expect?

You can’t just invite people to a meeting on the other side of town and not give them some sort of agenda. If you do, then you have no one to blame but yourself for the wasted time when everyone turns up, looks at their feet, and says “Dunno, Sir”.

But is this lunacy confined to just meetings?

As most of you will be aware, next week is International Confex. It is my first one and I am told, and indeed the registration list seems to verify, that it is the biggest gathering of event professionals in the UK.

Grand, but how am I going to manage my time effectively?

I have, on my desk, 79 hectares of Post-It notes, towering high into the sky. They are filled with scribbles denoting people of interest, feature ideas, names of companies in attendance and so on and so on. The list of people who have said to me “we should catch up at Confex” is so long that if I rolled it out flat it would stretch from Paddington to Pontefract.

Not having a detailed timetable will infuriate me, and the mild OCD that I usually harbour for such things will quickly become an industrial bout.

Cunningly, though, I have hatched a plan. As it has been decided that I will spend the two days with The Video Guy I have, with help of the editors of CN’s sister titles, locked down a watertight schedule. My plan, and this is the best part, is to stick to it.

This does mean, sadly, that I won’t have time to say hello to the eleventy-million people who have expressed interest in dining with me. It is the price that must be paid for staying in control and coming away from the show with some – hopefully – quality content.

And that’s the thing: not just any old content, quality content. In order to achieve this then time must be committed and focus remain undeterred. Trying to take on too many things or attempting to meet too many people will tire you out. You’ll end up smelling like feet, your blood will be black with two sugars, and you won’t get much in the way of value out of it. If you are sending a team there to represent your company, then do you want them to be knackered and forgetful? Thought not, so get an agenda locked down.

All this “Go, go, go” and “I’ll be there in two minutes” malarkey essentially signifies that you are a chicken with no head, running around and not achieving very much at all.

My advice, then, is simple: arrange some sort of agenda. Do this and who knows, you might bump into me on one of my regimented coffee breaks. And that will be a lovely surprise.

Lucky you…

Martin Fullard

Martin Fullard is the Deputy Editor at Conference News. Formerly a web editor at a national newspaper in the Middle East and motoring journalist.

Martin Fullard


Martin Fullard

Martin Fullard is the Deputy Editor at Conference News. Formerly a web editor at a national newspaper in the Middle East and motoring journalist.

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