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by Padraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua

PAGI and PADE 2Most readers of this blog know that Patrick and I are leaving MCI at the end of 2013 but staying in the Meetings Industry to work in the areas of strategy, destination marketing, training and advisory boards. As the two decade arc from Delaney Marketing to Ovation Global DMC approaches its end point, I was asked by Marketer extraordinaire, Ian Hemmingway, to provide my top  tips for newbies in the meetings industry. I immediately thought of Polonius’s advice to his son Laertes in Act 1 of Hamlet and have adapted his words for newbies in the meetings industry.

Listen twice as much as you speak

Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act …
Give every man thine ear, but few the voice

Polonius probably goes over-board by telling Laertes to be the brooding, inscrutable, silent type who takes everything in but gives nothing away. That might work for the Law but not for the Meetings Industry. However, there’s great wisdom in Polonius’ advice not to act on any unbalanced or irrational thought or and to listen more than you speak. My Mom used to say “God gave you two ears and only one mouth – listen twice as much as you speak”. GenYers bring energy, enthusiasm and boundless confidence to our industry and greatly enhance our workplaces accordingly. Sometimes, however, this innate confidence leads

Be careful whom you trust

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new hatched, unfledged courage

The Meetings Industry has more than its fair share of extroverts and, by and large, it’s easy to forge connections and “make friends”. Polonius makes an interesting distinction here between true friendship and air-kissing superficiality, a trademark within our industry. It’s all fine if you can tell the difference between the two but the shiny surfaces (“… new hatched, unfledged …”) can beguile to deceive. When you find those people in the Meetings Industry that you can trust – and, Thank God, I have found them – “grapple them unto your soul with hoops of steel”.

Choose your battles

… Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel; but being in,
Bear that th’opposed may beware of thee.

Quarrels are as much a part of the meetings industry as any other industry and Polonius nails it here by stating that conflict should be avoided, if at all possible. As a last resort, when it cannot be avoided, then you need to be crystal clear about your own position and ready to slug it out and win. Actually, both Machiavelli and Sun-tzu in The Prince and The Art of War make similar points – stay out of fights if you can but if you cannot, then be a fearless opponent, sure of your position.

Listen to criticism of yourself but don’t judge others

Take each man’s censure but reserve thy judgement

A lesson for life as well as business, judging others, in my experience, doesn’t lead you to a good place. Snap judgements about people are usually wrong and can cut you off from relationships that would otherwise have been enriching. Trade shows, where buyers and suppliers wear different colour-coded badges, are places where bad judgements are often made as stressed exhibitors fall into the trap of making badge contact rather than eye contact.

While not judging others you should be open to hearing their criticism of you or your work. Feedback is precious when taken in the right spirit and can help take you to the next level as a professional.

Dress to brand

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy
But not expressed in fancy; rich, not gaudy,
For the apparel oft proclaims the man

Your dress code should re-enforce your company and /or personal brand and, above all,  should be consistent. Polonius thinks it shouldn’t be over-the-top and maybe he’s right but if your brand is youthful, fun and in-your-face then maybe it’s OK to wear an orange suit (Kudos, Mr Holland!).

Learn to watch and measure the bottom line

Neither a borrower nor a lender be
For loan oft loses both itself and friend

Knowing how to managing money, for yourself and for your company, is crucial, although it may not be a personal strong point for you. Having initially stammered and stumbled in this area myself, I would strongly advise that you spend whatever time it takes to get comfortable with and around figures. Polonius advocates self-sufficiency which is sound advice overall as it recommends only spending what you’ve earned and not living beyond your means.

Be yourself

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man

Another statement that extends way beyond the limits of advice for business success, this oft quoted phrase sums up an entire philosophy of life. Here Polonius advises his son to live a coherent life, in accordance with his values and beliefs. I cannot think of any more fitting way of concluding these tips for newbies in the Meetings Industry: always remember who you are and where you come from and be kind to people on the way up because these are the people that you’ll meet on the way down too!

Here’s the full speech

 … Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new hatched, unfledged courage. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel; but being in,
Bear that th’opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thine ear, but few the voice;
Take each man’s censure but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy
But not expressed in fancy; rich, not gaudy,
For the apparel oft proclaims the man
… Neither a borrower nor a lender be
For loan oft loses both itself and friend
… This above all, to thine own self be true
And it must follow, s the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man”

Padraic Gilligan and Patrick Delaney own and manage SooolNua, a boutique marketing agency working with destinations and hotels on strategies for MICE.

DISCUSS...

One thought on “Lessons from Shakespeare for Meeting Industry Newbies

  1. Jeff Broudy says:

    Great summary, Padraic. One of my favorites is “don’t step over dimes to pick up nickels”. Too many times, people in our industry focus on the big shiny easy-to-understand things like rates while dismissing the basic nuts and bolts of making the program work seamlessly.

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