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Meeting Martin

Meeting Martin: change killed my milkman

What simple meetings paraphernalia would you miss if it were to go? Think hard. So much is taken for granted, and yet so often people are looking to ‘develop’ and ‘improve’ things. It is often change for change’s sake.

Let us cast our minds back to the days of the milkman. You would place a couple of empty bottles on your doorstep each evening and when you awoke the milk fairy would have left a couple of ice-cold pints of the good stuff in their place.

Today, though, we have gone back in time. Here at CN Towers the squabbling over whose turn it is to buy the milk often causes scenes of passive aggression that even knife-twisting Tories would find hard to stomach. People who haven’t popped to the shop for a week or two are vilified; others have taken to stockpiling their own milk and scooting off to the kitchen under cover of darkness. It’s chaos.

The idea that a man in a blue coat and a three-wheeled electric golf-cart could deliver such a thing at 6am each morning seems like the fevered dream of a madman; an idea of the future. But we have left this better way of living behind us; we’ve gone backwards. We get everything delivered these days, apart from milk. Alas, the concept is confined to the history books.

It’s the same with Concorde. It is not in mankind’s nature to go backwards but from 1976 to 2003 we could get to New York in little over three hours. Today, it’s more than twice that. The conventional plane is just not as good.

Circling back to our industry for a fleeting moment, I meet with a great many people who are looking to ‘change the face of meetings’. While it’s endearing to see such enthusiasm, one must ask to what end? When are you mucking about with things just for the sake of change?

One example is the faithful PowerPoint presentation. When a speaker is delivering a sermon, he or she will need visual aids, and for the life of me I can’t think of anything that can do the job better than PowerPoint. Oh you can have rubbish presentations, but that’s not the point. For better or for worse you have to show people information, so how else can it be done?

I met one gentleman recently who spins plates for a living, and he told me a lot of his work comes from conferences. Madness, I thought. His bit is quite simple: when a speaker is talking about something, the plate spinner stands behind them spinning plates, and each plate represents something… I switched off at this point, but it sounded like an awful brouhaha, and certainly far more inconvenient than PowerPoint.

I’m sure there are many ways to deliver content effectively, but I’d bet my last farthing the simplest is best.

This is where event technology makers need to concentrate. We are more than happy to see new apps launched and any technology that speeds up the process of getting people registered and seated should be welcomed with open arms. But I sometimes wonder what more is needed.

A recent conversation I shared with an events professional yielded talk about the possibility of speakers being done away with altogether. Riiiight. Change for change’s sake? If the results are anything like what followed the demise of the milkman, I urge caution.