You can take a horse to water…

Expert Opinion
You can take a horse to water…

Jonathan Bradshaw highlights the human factor and raises the future possibility of attendee training in this guest blog.


It was April 2005 when the thought first hit me.

I was in Hall 8 of Messe Frankfurt, walking down one of the aisles of IMEX – the international trade show I was working for at the time. It was 3pm and the noise was incredible; everywhere I looked people were interacting: discussing, debating, gesticulating, negotiating, smiling, sharing, influencing and convincing and it was then, as I surveyed this sea of human connectivity, I realised the dichotomy of the meetings and events industry: while its objective was to create experiences that facilitated face-to-face interaction for professionals in other industries, the industry was itself powered by the ability of its members to connect, interact and communicate effectively at the myriad of international trade events on offer.

Put simply, I realised that the success of the exhibitors in Frankfurt was not wholly based on the quality of the products or services they were promoting – but instead on the people skills of the staff these businesses had sent to Frankfurt to promote them.

Looking back, there is no doubt my experience on that sunny spring day almost 14 years ago led me to the professional situation I find myself in today – working with a small team of organisational psychologists, speaking and training within businesses internationally on the behavioural science powering world-class people skills. It’s a subject we call Meetology® and one that has a huge impact on ‘My World’ and, if you open your eyes to it, you’ll find it powers how you enjoy, and indeed perform in, your world, too.

Let me illustrate my point:

I could tell you about the time last year when our Head of Research, Associate Professor Dr Paul Redford and I were flying to Rome to deliver some training. Upon check-in at the airport, we got into a great chat with the airline representative – a fact which I believe was directly related to the upgrade we then both unexpectedly received. 

I could tell you about the friendly conversation I had with a fellow passenger in a café at London’s Heathrow Airport a few months ago. Of course, how could I know that Andrew was a Harvard Business School Senior Teaching Fellow and someone who has since been a great help in advising me on how to run the business.

Or, finally, I could tell you about the time, just a few weeks ago, when awful weather led me to being stuck overnight in Dallas airport. The rapport I built with a hotel representative led to her offering me a room in an onsite property, while others whom I saw losing their cool with her ended up in a hotel over 10 miles away.

We humans are built to interact and the fact we are social creatures is a powerful argument for the events industry to use, because what you deliver facilitates an important human need.

However, could you help your attendees even more? In an industry seemingly obsessed with ROI, I wonder how long it will be before event organisers offer people skills training to their attendees too. Perhaps the defining factor of the most successful events of the future will be that they arm those attending with the behavioural skills to better connect, interact and communicate – after all it is human interaction that powers the success of every business event your industry delivers.

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