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It isn't always risky business

Posted on December 13, 2006

By Jeffrey Cufaude

Commenting on my first post this week, Sandy Biback noted that when she tries to get some of her clients to make changes in their meetings, they are risk-averse and more concerned with a little CYA.

Fair enough. I've been in similar situations. Too often when a participant in a meeting design session describes  a proposed change as potentially risky it is a discussion ender rather than a problem-solving starter.  That has to change.  All choices involve risk.  When someone reacts to a proposed change in a meeting as being somewhat risky, we might respond with the following:

"You know, it could be.  So what can we do to minimize the risks you perceive while still accruing the benefits of the proposed change?"


"Yep, there is some risk involve.  But the question we need to first answer is whether or not what we are considering has some really valuable benefits to offer if implemented successfully. If we agree that’s the case, then we can devote our attention to risk management considerations."

In addition, while brainstorming sessions generally focus on the risks associated with possible meeting enhancements, they don’t often explore the risks of doing nothing.  They fail to do so because those risks are occurring out of sight and as a result, are out of mind.  But while you and your colleagues are debating a proposed change for your meeting, remember that some of your desired attendees might be …

  • Building their own professional support networks and communities through one of the many social networking sites publicly available.
  • Using powerful search engines to locate experts and information they have identified as relevant to their work.
  • Talking to a few trusted friends about conferences (other than yours) that they have discovered as worth attending.
  • Culling through the better blogs and podcasts to quickly familiarize themselves with a wide range of ideas and perspectives on a topic your meeting program addresses in a far more narrow fashion.
  • Spending the $500-$1500 they might incur in total costs of attending your meeting in other ways that meet their learning needs: buying lunch for a different industry expert every month; forming a monthly book club; taking a course at a local college or university; hiring a tutor to learn a new technology.

While you do nothing, they do something.  And while what they are doing may not be the best bang for their buck, it may be more cost-effective than waiting for you to take a calculated risk. 

Yes, choosing to make changes in a meeting or conference may involve some risk, but choosing to not experiment at all maybe the riskiest choice of all.


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Gloria Nelson, CSEP

Well stated. While attending an HSMAI breakout session some four or so years ago, one of the presenters did a program on change...and stated 80% of all new ideas are shot down right out of the gate. "Building a better mousetrap" involves risk....and for those with courage to take those risks, they will always be the industry leaders vs. those who simply follow. In the book the "Tipping Point", we can relate those dynamics directly to this illustration written here and what we apply in the marketplace each and every day. It has to start with someone so why not let it start with each of us? It doesnt' mean we necessarily bite off big chunks, but maybe a toe in the water vs. a splash in the deep end of them pool may be a good place to start. When it comes to change or starting something new and different, I say, "Jump on in...the water is just fine"! Thanks for tweaking our brain this week!

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