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Mice Net : October 2008
technology very rude rude, story by Ray shaw suffer the consequences. I want to take that concept a little further. When Samuel B Morse invented the telegraph in 1844 the first message he sent was “What hath God wrought”? I don’t think Morse appreciated the prophetic impact of his words 164 years later in relation to our “on demand”, internet driven, culture where most have an insatiable craving for instant gratification. Interestingly, these words are now most often quoted when referring to Armageddon, used with fear or horror more than reverence. Perhaps we’re just cynical about what technology has wrought or perhaps Morse should have simply added – “Please respond immediately”. Add to this the fact that our tech savvy Gen Y don’t live by the same rules as Baby Boomers. They don’t want to be ruled by a TV schedule so they download their favourite TV shows (illegally) and watch them when they want to. They are not dictated to by shopping hours so they buy on-line, 24x7 (and don’t care that an integral part of retail therapy includes a lovely cup of Java at your favourite mall). Gen Y demand what they want, when they want it, and continually search for things to make life easier, more efficient and personal. So how does this manifest itself in the meetings industry? Rudely, most unfortunately. I had a venue email me a “draft” contract with an ultimatum that it needed to be signed within 24 hours or the space would not be held. I had a delegate complain because his email had not been answered within 24 hours (this was day two and let’s not overlook the fact that it had been acknowledged and was a complex request that relied on outside suppliers to get back to us). I had a potential client ask that “you respond to our request for a quote within 72 hours” but forgot that this time period included a weekend or that that I may have other commitments to equally persuasive deadlines. None of the above were life threatening and none required an instant response – it has just become normal to expect it. A decade or two ago we would have received a letter (usually written several days beforehand), carefully considered and drafted a hand written or I 22 mice.net Ray Shaw continueS his rant on “hyper-connectivity”. n my August column I wrote of a new form of hypochondriac – hyper-connected. This refers to people who absolutely, positively must be “connected” 24x7 via a handful of different devices or dictated response, given it to a secretary to type up, corrected it, re-typed it and posted it back. The process could have taken a week or two but that was okay because it was normal. If we needed a more timely response we would pick up the phone or send a telegram. In 1887 Lord Acton said (paraphrased) “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Just because we can use instant communication (power) does not mean we need instant responses (corruption). The desire for an instant response is usually purely arbitrary – how fast can someone act on the information sometimes thoughtlessly demanded. Okay, maybe I am miffed that I get messages on my phone and email 24/7. Maybe as I get older (and wiser) I want to actually have some leisure time, a weekend off perhaps, or get away for a holiday without saying “I am on mobile”. The meetings industry has become a time junky. Technology has forced us to compress complex processes into a shorter time period and in doing so it has stripped away the ultimate maxim in client service – “under promise and over deliver”. I find myself being asked to do things in shorter and shorter times and I find myself resenting that because it is hard to do my best under increasingly arbitrary deadlines. The cure, they say, is time management. But those who are good time managers (now called work processors), simply get loaded with more to do. The cure I say is to see this instant gratification for what it is and deny it. When I get asked how long it takes I now add a suitable margin to my answer – knowing full well that I will be asked to compromise and if not, perhaps I will have the time to do a better job. What if we started a campaign to legitimise that answering emails within say, seven days was as instant as you are going to get? The whole world would breathe a sigh of relief. I have looked carefully at this ludicrous instant gratification and its impact on the exceptionally hard working people in our industry and wonder if we should not try to implement some industry-wide policies to slow down and give us back our sanity. Sure we must always remember that the “client is king” but if we don’t try we will never know. Implement flexible work hours – who mandated that the working day is 8.30am to 5pm? You should be able to work an eight hour