Everyone knows the phenomenon - you go to the trade show or the big industry meeting, you get acquainted with a dozen or a hundred new contacts, you go home - and suddenly you realize that you have absolutely no real bond with the people you just "added" to your network. Was it John from Toledo who thought the new product line was going to turn his business around? No, that was Terry from Jonesville. Wait, Terry wasn't from Jonesville, Bob Jones was from…wait, was Bob Jones the one with the funky ties, or the one who always got a chicken salad sandwich at lunch? You have no idea, because you didn't really connect with these people - you met them, you duly memorized a couple of facts (maybe), you put them in your Smartphone or your contact list, but a genuine human connection? Nope.
This isn't a sign that you're a terrible human being or a bad networker. Superficial contacts are not organic to the way our brains process social interaction; someone we see only at a distance or fleetingly or intermittently might be marked by your brain's social networking software as a friend, but in reality they're just a slightly more interactive part of the landscape.
During times when budgets are tight and return on investment is at the top of everyone's list of goals, meeting planners are urged to be more 'strategic' and not to focus so much on 'tactics.' The origin of this seeming dicotomy is "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu, and when these ideas were codified more than 2,000 year ago, the focus wasn't on meetings and events. When these terms are used today in our industry, we all get the implication: strategy-good; tactics-whatever.
Strategy is important for the overall plan, for aligning goals, for creating meetings that meet organizational objectives. On the other hand, tactics in the meetings industry are often assumed to be mundane decisions about issues like rounds or squares. On the other hand, those of us in the industry know that tactics are critical to the success of any meeting and to driving the meeting strategy.
While a strategy is a carefully constructed plan to achieve corporate goals, tactics are necessary to execute strategy. Smart tactics. If tactics are not carefully implemented, the meeting can be a disaster and no amount of strategic thinking can save it. They are the tools that help build the strategy. There is no good vs. bad in the discussion of strategy vs. tactics, no matter what you might read in the business press. Tactics are too important to be described as a lesser endeavor. Strategy and tactics are interdependent to the success of any initiative, and especially meetings.
Elizabeth Zielinski says it well: "The best meetings probably lie somewhere between tactical and strategic, but with a strong command of both. The tactics have to be successfully designed and executed in order for the strategy to succeed, but the strategy is the guiding principle and common goal. In other words, there's no point announcing the next iPad to an audience of thousands if the giant screen behind the speaker isn't displaying the product, but there's also no point in having the screen without a product to show on it." To read more of her thoughts on this issue, click here: