Meet and Greet

IN THIS DAY AND AGE, face-to-face is old hat. Isn’t it silly to travel across the country to a conference when you can just catch a couple of tutorials online?

“That’s what one would think, but that’s not true,” says Chuck Martin, chairman and CEO of NFI Research, a research and consulting firm in New Hampshire. In a recent nationwide survey of 2,000 senior executives and managers, NFI found that the majority of respondents cited conferences and seminars as their top choice for learning how to do their jobs better — in terms of receiving both practical tips (74.4%) and inspiration (47.7%). Respondents also cited other sources of guidance such as networking, personal relationships, books, industry experts, peers, family, and friends, but ranked these factors differently based on whether they provided inspiration or practical techniques. Conferences and seminars, however, placed at the top of both categories of information.

A BEAUTIFUL MIND “Conferences are the number one place where senior executives and managers get the most motivation and inspiration,” Martin says. “This is especially true for operations people. They’re charged with keeping the trains running on time. They have their heads down a lot. You don’t have the time to recalibrate yourself if you’re going a hundred miles an hour and executing all the time.”

It’s the getting out of the office that does the trick, according to Martin. The true value of a conference, he says, is the “hallway conversation” that generates ideas from outside one’s own regular orbit: If you stay within your familiar little coterie, you risk boredom and stagnation. “Most companies learn from people who work at other companies and other industries.”

Comments that respondents added to the survey bear this out. One executive noted that the “quiet time” arising from attending external events gives the mind space to think clearly and creatively. “It can then draw upon past knowledge and experience without being cluttered with day-to-day business drama.”


Top Motivators
Conferences/seminars 47.7%
Books 40.9%
Networking/Interpersonal relations 38.1%
Family 37.5%
Personal experience 35.2%
Source: NFI Research
Note: Based on a survey of 2,000+ executives

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