Could success simply be a matter of being liked? Rohit Bhargava, author of Likeonomics (Wiley, 2012) thinks so.
Being liked, however, is not as easy as having someone click the “like” button on your Facebook page. It’s not even about “being nice,” according to Bhargava, who recently addressed a joint meeting of the New York chapter of Meeting Professionals International and the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International of New York.
There are five principles to Bhargava’s “likeonomics” – truth, relevance, unselfishness, simplicity and timing. (The initials spelling TRUST.)
In today’s low-trust environment, “being human” and “telling the truth” are essential.
“We are living through a marketing believability crisis.” Bhargava told the group. “Marketing is the enemy, and trust in organizations is at an all-time low.” As a result, “people are rediscovering the oldest form of influence – the personal connection.”
Bhargava, an executive at Ogilvy who is considered a master of social media, spoke with Travel Market Report about how being liked and fostering the human connection can make a world of difference in a meeting planner’s success.
How does your ‘likeonomics’ theory apply to meeting planning?
Bhargava: It all comes down to the reputation of the meeting. It’s like any brand’s reputation. I recently signed on to chair an event (Corporate Social Media Summit) because its reputation is so good. Only practitioners of the discipline participate on panels – no sponsors. That makes the meeting’s reputation solid. If vendors and sponsors recognize that the meeting has more legitimacy, they will get involved.
Where does your human connection idea fit in?
Bhargava: What makes for a successful meeting is not forgetting the personal part of the meeting. You need to allow people to network. A 15- to 30-minute coffee break may not be long enough for people to network. Avoid overscheduling by leaving in enough buffer between sessions. And you need to incentivize and motivate attendees to network by creating a framework that makes it easier for them to connect.
How can planners create that framework for connection?
Bhargava: When attendees register for a session, they can choose a topic. Then each table would have a sign noting the topic people sitting there would be focusing on. That way everybody knows they will be able to talk about something in which they have an interest. Even better would be to place official speakers at the appropriate tables.
You can’t create events for extroverts – you have to make sure everybody participates. Nor can you just dump people in a room and expect magic to happen.
You can facilitate connections even at a cocktail party. Ask them as they come into the reception what their interests are, find a way to group them in the room, and they’ll immediately have something to talk about. Forced contact works.
How can planners get on the likeability track?
Bhargava: They should figure out what it is they bring that is unique. I recently attended a medical conference that was totally focused on the employees. The employees gave the keynotes. It was really different and it worked. There was even an art gallery with paintings by the employees. The works were for sale with the proceeds going to charity.
As a speaker do you agree that keynote speakers should keep it short and sweet – that the attention span of attendees is decreasing?
Bhargava: I don’t agree. A keynote speech can be long. People just don’t want sucky keynotes. It’s not about the length; it’s about the speaker. And you can’t go by the influence or the title of the speaker. You have to go by the quality of the content and the delivery. A speaker has to be laser-focused on what people care about.
How important is maintaining engagement after a meeting?
Bhargava: Planners have to first decide if post-meeting engagement matters. If it does, then they should use the conference as a content-creation moment. They can set up a booth to interview attendees and continue to show those videos after the event. You can roll out content for six months after the event if it’s relevant.
Also, I’ve seen that the people who are creating the event are not invited to the event. They’re back in the office putting together the content, then capturing it for post-event use. Those people would love to be onsite and will work their butts off if they do come. It should be a priority to have them there.