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Scott McKain

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Why Seth Godin Is Sooooooo Wrong…

The large conference is not merely about the exchange of ideas

The University of North Carolina announced today, in a cost-cutting measure, all students, alumni, and fans will be prohibited from attending future games of the Tarheel basketball team.

“In today’s world, there’s no need for us to go to all of the trouble and expense of actually having the fans in the arena. They can watch our broadcast of the game on the web, Tweet their support of the team to their followers real-time as the contest is played, and share their emotion for the game with their friends on Facebook,” said University President Ober Lincoln.

In a somewhat related story, the Walt Disney Company revealed this afternoon they would no longer make movies – choosing instead to solely release their content via streaming video. “Everyone has a flat-panel television, and before long, we’ll all have iPads. Who needs to go to a theatre?” asked a senior executive.

Can you ever imagine these announcements? I can’t. It won’t happen.

And, it’s all for one simple reason – the need (perhaps better stated as the “requirement”) for significant human interaction.

The university’s basketball game isn’t just about the players on the court – it’s also about the spirit of the institution. If you think the only reason to have the game is the contest itself, you don’t know much about sports…or the benefits the college receives from it.

When it was first introduced, it was believed television was going to obliterate the film industry. Instead, people spend more money at the movie theatre than ever before. A film released just THIS YEAR – “Avatar” – became the biggest box office hit of all time.

Why? As someone who spent over a decade as a movie reviewer, I can tell you: We desire the shared experience with an audience. It’s not just about the size of the screen and the sound of the speakers – we crave the experience. “The Hangover” is much funnier in a packed theatre than watching home alone.

And, it’s why – as much as I respect him and agree with so many of his perspectives – Seth Godin is totally, completely wrong in his post saying “No More Big Events.”

The large conference is not merely about the exchange of ideas – although it can, and should, facilitate the process. It’s also about the importance of interaction with members of our tribe.

(And, every true meeting professional infuses a large sales conference with literally dozens of small, highly interactive, breakout sessions to facilitate rapport building, trial and error, and intense communication.)

If you are a sales professional – and sole representative of your company out making calls in west Texas, for example – you run into your competitor more than your colleagues. The people you SEE are either ones you are attempting to persuade or with whom you compete.

You NEED the opportunity on at least an annual basis to get together with the others on YOUR team…to share ideas with them…to be inspired and cheer as a group…to reconnect with like-minded professionals about the aspects that make OUR team important and distinct…and to advance your thinking about the efforts to move you and your organization forward.

For centuries, humans like you and me have been in possession of our respective religious texts providing – for many of us – a pathway to enlightenment and a guide for living. All along, we could have read the verses privately, and meditated with other individuals in small ways.

Instead, however, we built churches, synagogues, and mosques. We found the shared experience was a vital component to spiritual growth. In Christianity, perhaps the area of most explosive growth currently is in the mega-church – instead of a small congregation, places such as Willow Creek near Chicago with 23,000 worshippers per weekend.

I’m not attempting to suggest that big assemblies are the only method of connection! What I would strongly assert, however, is organizations choosing to eliminate the shared experience of group association in favor of “frequent, cheap communication” will soon find both their place in the market, and the connectivity of their team, diluted beyond repair.

While I’ve not hesitated to criticize United Airlines…here’s something they got exactly right. And, the message of this commercial continues to be true today…

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Scott McKain is a business leader, bestselling author, and Hall of Fame professional speaker.
Scott's latest book, "The Collapse of Distinction: Stand Out and Move Up While Your Competition Fails" reached the #1 spot on list of Customer Service Bestsellers! He is the author of two #1 additional business bestsellers ( & 800-CEO-READ): "What Customers REALLY Want" (currently available in trade paperback) and "ALL Business is Show Business."
He is the Co-founder and Principal of The Value Added Institute, a think-tank that examines the role of the customer experience in creating significant advances in the level of client loyalty, and has appeared on multiple occasions as a commentator and analyst on FOX News Channel. His platform presentations have run the gamut from the White House lawn with the President in the audience carried live on CNN and NBC's "Today" a remote outpost near the Amazon...all 50 states, seven Canadian provinces...and from Singapore to Sweden...Mexico to Morocco.
An inductee into the Professional Speakers Hall of Fame, he is also a member of "Speakers Roundtable" -- an elite, invitation-only group of twenty of the world's top business speakers.