A robust economy – high profile ad hungry business publications – over compensated but often bored captains of industry – a consultant glut – too many resort hotels and convention centers – an over abundance of old coaches – old athletes – even older former presidents – vice presidents – secretaries of state – ambassadors – current and former CEOs – congressman – senators have combined to create a burgeoning, recession proof industry – the big time seminar convention – symposium – conference.
How it works: Mike Ditka/Henry Kissinger (to name a couple) like to make $50,000 an hour motivational speeches. Captains of industry like to rub elbows with other captains, particularly at lavish resorts with world-class bars, restaurants, beaches and golf courses – all at shareholder expense. They love to rub elbows with guys like Ditka and Kissinger.
Magazines like Forbes/Fortune love to lavishly entertain the captains who buy their pricey ad space. Consulting firms fall all over themselves to donate their expertise at organizing meetings (often their only expertise) in joining forces with the likes of Forbes to put on get-together's with names like – “The Millennium and You” – “Global Marketing in the Internet Age” – “Step on Your Competitors Necks” (great opportunity for Ditka).
The consulting firm also liberally salts the speaker/moderator list with a number of their stars as one lucrative new project more than pays for their time.
Who wins? – the magazine – Ditka/Kissinger – the consultants – the attendees and their wives and/or paramours. Very little benefit accrues to businesses whose shareholders pay all the winners. Boards of directors urge their CEOs and senior executives to attend these functions, as most corporate directors have been attending them for decades.
When you receive an invitation from the likes of a Steve Forbes to attend a two-day symposium on Maui, on “Sex in Cyberspace” for a psaltery $7,500 plus air travel and incidental expenses, you are reminded of those who have already jumped on the bandwagon. To decline is tantamount to desertion in battle.
There is a fine line that separates the symposium from the trade show. Trade shows exist to bring buyers and sellers together, but often provide the perfect setting for a symposium/conference.
But no symposium ever deals with an issue that can be resolved and never answers any meaningful question. It follows the consultant’s golden rule of concluding every existing assignment with a new assignment.
I have a close friend who has made a small fortune capturing the parking lot business in several medium size Midwestern cities. He is forever attending parking lot conventions in exotic resorts around the world. It is extremely difficult to imagine what there is to say about parking lots that requires Henry Kissinger, let alone Mike Ditka, but when I find out I will share it with you in a subsequent edition of FROM THE STOOL.