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by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua

Sinek replaces Peters and Collins

These days Simon Sinek seems to have taken on the mantle previously worn by Tom Peters and Jim Collins as the most quoted author at  business conferences. Pursuing “excellence” and going “from good to great” have now been replaced by more profound and philosophical musings, as outlined in  Sinek’s best seller, Start with Why:

Any person or organisation can explain what they do; some can explain how they are different or better; but very few can articulate why. WHY is not about money or profit – those are results. WHY is the thing that inspires us and inspires those around us.

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 19.27.08This, I think, is a really good thing. Sinek’s model of The Golden Circle – 3 concentric circles labelled WHAT, HOW and WHY [with the WHY at the centre] – is a useful, holistic way of looking at our industry and ensuring we’re aware of, and pointed towards, our higher purpose. As meetings and events planners we are often more doers than dreamers. True, there’s a strong creative strain throughout everything we do but we tend to define ourselves more by flawless execution than fanciful creation. We’re more comfortable in the realm of the real and find it too indulgent to spend too much time on reflection.

Typically, we have a good understanding of what we do, viz, we help our clients to communicate effectively with internal and external audiences in and through the medium of live events (this could be a meeting, incentive travel experience, congress, exhibition or some other event). The indispensable word here is “live” – our core métier is convening real people, in real places, in real time. There’s a tangible, three dimensional element to what we do and, although many of us also do on-line and hybrid events, “live” is our sine qua non, our USP, our defining characteristic.


There’s a lot of discussion around the what of meetings these days in that we’re currently re-defining what a meeting is and exploring alternative ways of staging them. If, in the past, a meeting was simply defined as a group of people gathered in a room seated in accordance with a particular conventional configuration (theatre, classroom or cabaret style), now we’ve well and truly broken that mould by increasing the configurations (hollow square, fishbone. fish bowl etc) and totally disrupting the dynamic and delivery. We’ve invented Open Space, World Cafe and the UnConference and turned the traditional notion of a meeting on its head. In so doing, we’re being true to our métier or core, indispensable  competency – convening real people, in real places, in real time with the view to establishing effective channels of communication.


new approach to meetingsHow we do what we do, according to Sinek’s analysis, is not so universally or ubitiquosly understood in that many  organisations cannot articulate their USP and don’t know what makes them different. What makes us different as an entire industry, however, is easy to state: it’s our professionalism. Most people run meetings and events as an integral part of their daily lives – we arrange to gather with a group of friends in a nearby pub, parents organise birthday parties for their children, we stage surprise celebrations for work colleagues etc. – but only professional meeting and event planners do it for a living.

Thus our how is our professionalism and this, in turn, is made up of many layers. It probably starts with method and process, ie, we approach any meeting and event with an analytical template involving interrogation of aims, objectives, goals, desired outcomes etc. Our “solution”, then,  is selected from a wide spectrum of products that experience and expertise has brought us into contact with. We match desired outcomes with these proven solutions and then evaluate success against objectives. Our professionalism includes deep and wide knowledge of production, meeting formats, meeting technology, meeting content, speakers on one side and project management, supplier management, client management, budget management on the other.


According to Sinek’s analysis, however, this is still an incomplete picture as it doesn’t include the why and this is the most important consideration of them all. So, as an industry, we stage meetings and events to assist organisations with internal and external communications (what). We do this with robust professional rigour and seriousness (how). But why? Why do we do it? What’s our higher purpose? What’s makes our work thoroughly meaningful, satisfying and fulfilling? What keeps us in this industry when – undoubtedly – we could earn a lot more money plying our talents elsewhere?

The meaning of meetings: Connect | Learn | Celebrate

The answers are manifold but they’re all linked in some way with the fact that meetings, ultimately, involve bridge building, the most primordial, powerful and indeed beautiful of all human impulses. Bridge building is when I willingly forsake the comfort, familiarity and security of my own world and ask permission to walk into yours so we can connect, understand each other, build even more bridges together. Since time immemorial meetings have been facilitating connectivity between humans and helping us to build a better, more united world together. Any positive human achievement across any category you  choose  has happened because of bridge building, because people took the risk to meet together.

So we’re in the meetings industry because we want to foster connectivity between people – across different cultures, across different socio-economic groups, across different knowledge platforms. We’re also in the meetings industry because meetings encourage and facilitate education and learning – knowledge transfer, upskilling, vocational training, socialisation. We’re in the meetings industry, finally, because – as they say at global meetings company, MCI – “when people come together magic happens”. So meetings are also about celebrating, partying, delighting purely and simply in each other’s company.

So, by all means, let’s start with the why in the meetings industry. Why do we do it? Because we want to be part of an industry that about connection. education, celebration. This is the ultimate focus of our belief, these are the pillars of our industry.

Pádraic Gilligan is Managing Partner at SoolNua and with Patrick Delaney and Aoife McCrum works with destinations, hotels and venues on strategy, marketing and training for the MICE market.

I LOVE the image from Lynne Cazaly (see featured image above). Lynne is a professional speaker and visual moderator and you can find her here

(c) Copyright 2016 – Lynne Cazaly. Used with permission





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