Meetings and Basketball Go Hand in Hand

Planners can defy gravity by taking a page from the basketball playbook.

Meetings and Basketball Go Hand in Hand

Have you ever watched a basketball game? Players sprint, duck, turn—the court is a blur of movement. Within seconds, a pair of sneakers leaves the court, an orange ball shoots upward, gravity then pulls the ball downward and the players sprint in a new direction. Were you mesmerized by the way the player appeared to float in the air?

All of us, not just basketball players, have the power to challenge the force that grounds us to the Earth and infringes progress. In the MICE industry, gravity and inertia go hand in hand. Without a strong opposing force, things stay the same. Basketball players know they must always keep the ball moving. Momentum is critical to score. Let’s take a deeper look at how planners can tackle gravity, maintain momentum and score. 

Moving in a New Direction

In an industry that services group travel and events, movement is ubiquitous. Trends emerge, people come and go and the needs of clients evolve. With so much to account for when designing a successful event, it is essential that industry professionals, like basketball players, move with intent to score. We must generate momentum. Otherwise, we risk being slowed by gravity (the status quo) and thwarted by inertia (stagnancy). The laws of physics tell us that the bigger an obstacle is, the greater the force required to build momentum. Consider the following examples:

1. Your client conducts its largest annual meeting at the same hotel year after year. The space is sufficient, the hotel is accessible and the coffee is lukewarm (caffeinated participants don’t seem to mind). One year, this client engages you to site a new city for this annual meeting. Choosing the same hotel brand would offer a reliable experience but selecting something new means that you have to defy gravity. The additional diligence entailed in sourcing a new option highlights the work involved in changing the status quo.

Your client maintains a consistent budget year after year for an annual conference. This year, supplier costs are higher than ever but your client does not shift its budget. You have at least two courses of action: (A) In the cost-cutting approach, you contract a lower category of guest rooms, serve appetizers and employ beverage tickets instead of offering a three-course meal and an open bar. You could also reduce the program by a day. (B) A more holistic approach questions whether a different location would offer similar quality and better pricing. Will working directly with suppliers instead of using an intermediary save costs?

There is risk involved when you don’t confront gravity. We may fear negative outcomes more if they result from new action than if they are results of inaction. But if you hit “copy and paste” every day, gravity wins and momentum slows.

Making a Pivot 

To score points, basketball players must follow a series of rules. Tactical maneuvers, like the “pivot,” are key for maintaining momentum. When you break it down, the pivot is a series of three movements. First, one foot is planted on the ground, next the head turns and bodyweight shifts in search of an opening, finally, the torso rotates. By pivoting, the player gains a new opportunity to score.

For those of us who find dribbling a challenge, the idea of simultaneously moving a ball and the body seems daunting. But consider that, as an event planner, you manage a wide variety of moving parts every day while constrained by a set of rules (a client’s budget, for example).

Service providers regularly face obstacles that could spoil momentum (e.g. a contacted hotel announces a huge renovation project that affects your event schedule). By asking relevant questions and negotiating with your suppliers you—like the basketball player—reveal a new opportunity to keep the ball moving. 

Play to Score

Watch closely while a basketball player prepares his/her body to shoot the ball toward the hoop. He/she places the ball on the fingertips, leans the torso back slightly, raises the ball above the shoulders and bends the knees. This position is carefully engineered to help the ball defy gravity. A rewind of this scenario reveals that an entire team of players moved collectively (remember that blur of motion?) using tactical maneuvers—like pivots, to drive the ball down the court to this spot where the player now stands ready to score.

The best teams understand exactly how to leverage their experiences and work together to avoid obstacles. A coach trains his/her team to assemble on the court in choreographed fashion to counter the opposing team’s defensive barriers. We call this a “play” but it’s really an action plan. An effective action play grants each player an opportunity to contribute to the team’s momentum in accordance with his/her unique set of skills. In other words, it helps each player add value to the team.

You and your company acquire knowledge through experience in the professional field. We call this knowledge data—it is our most valuable asset. Informed by our data, individuals and organizations utilize tactical maneuvers, like a pivot, to anticipate challenges or seek new opportunities, therefore becoming a force capable of overcoming the status quo. Event professionals create value by combining experience with an innovative evaluation of the client’s event requirements. 

Focus on Value

How many times have you seen a casual bystander wearing basketball shoes and thought to yourself, “that person must be a basketball player?” Probably never. We know that it takes more than a pair of basketball shoes to be an athlete. Like a trendy pair of shoes, a representation of value is never a substitute for actual value. 

Take a look at the Fyre Festival. It was promoted by supermodels, top advertising agencies and social influencers as an all-inclusive VIP luxury experience. Festival producers, disregarding the importance of leveraging data to create an action plan that could deliver results on par with participant expectations, dismantled the concept by way of cheese sandwiches and dilapidated tents.

Focus on adding real value by investing time and effort into understanding your clients, partners, and/or employees. What are their immediate and long-term needs? What is their budget? What socioeconomic forces will come into play in the future? What is your organization doing to stay on the leading edge of innovation? How are you defying gravity?