I was just reading this post by Ann Oliveri on Association Zen about tourist buses in Washington, D.C. She talks about a system she thought was great, the red Circulator bus, which took people from Union Station, past the Convention Center and convention hotels, to Georgetown, for just a dollar. Then, she says,
- The same people who blocked a subway station in Georgetown thirty years ago to keep out "unwanted elements" had in recent years formed a BID--a Business Improvement District--a marketing entity to increase the number of visitors. In addition to clean streets, they started a shuttle system of blue buses to connect Georgetown to the closest Metro stations in Virginia and Foggy Bottom. No doubt to silence their affluent constituents, the tortured routes also wound through narrow streets, and out Wisconsin Avenue, as well as connecting M Street to the subway stations. Expensive, unreliable, and disconnected from the Metro system, it never really took off.
So what happens? Well-intentioned people merge my brilliant red bus with the badly conceived blue bus, expecting purple, I guess. The result, however, is that nasty mud color you get when Easter egg dying goes bad. Few of us ever set out to to dye eggs Goth hues, and no one intended to destroy my bus.
What they did was abandon their brand promise. The idea was to give visitors easy access to the places THEY wanted to go, not where someone else thought they should go.
What does a tourist bus route in D.C. have to do with meetings, other than the obvious for D.C. meeting attendees? Everything, I'd say. Think about it: How many times does a site get selected due to reasons that benefit someone other than the attendee? How many times are schedules arranged to make someone other than the attendee's life easier? How often do speakers get selected because they'll talk about what your organization thinks attendees should hear, which may not necessarily be what they actually want and/or need to hear? How often do you inadvertently, with good intentions, end up making it more difficult, rather than easier, for attendees to get what they want from your meeting?
A meeting should be, but all too often isn't entirely, about where attendees want/need to go, not where your organization's leader, staff, industry gurus, sponsors, or exhibitors think they should go. It's not a bad idea to regularly recheck your route to the information highway, just to make sure you're not detouring your attendees.