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Two Minutes with Michael Thompson, CMM

Talley’s new director of meeting and event services has a 25-year resume of bringing conferences to life, and will draw upon all of it to fulfill his role.

Michael Thompson, CMM, has joined association management company Talley Management Group as director of meeting and event services. He brings with him a long career of conference experience, including corporate-event planning at SAP America and conference management at the Association for Supply Chain Management. Most recently, he spent 12 years with the National Urban League, serving as vice president, event marketing.

MeetingsNet caught up with Thomas to ask about how his deep experience will help him address the latest challenges around meetings and events.

MeetingsNet: It’s not enough to just meet anymore—meeting-planning companies must sell engagement and return on experience. What is the most challenging part about delivering those results?
Michael Thompson: Attendees’ attention spans have shortened. Our 18 to 24 months of Zoom and Teams video calls have allowed us all to be multitaskers and easily distracted. As we build back face-to-face and even hybrid experiences, we need to realize these are not the same people who came in and sat down previously for events. However, the glass is half full: Many attendees are craving face-to-face experiences, especially the networking.

MeetingsNet: Five years from now, what won’t meeting managers be doing that they’re doing today?
Thompson: I think we are riding a wave of accelerated disruptors. Past disruptors included the move from pay phones to cell phones, and later, attendees carrying multiple devices and demanding Wi-Fi access. We have gone from having an “email lounge” with computers and printers and tucked away in a quiet room, to creating working and networking spaces front and center for attendees.

Going forward, our attendees will be demanding that we take a strong look at sustainability in all activities, especially promo items, food service, and bottled water. And we’ll rethink which meetings need to be in person; I think the practice of planning multiple face-to-face board meetings will go away, replaced with hybrid or virtual meetings.

MeetingsNet: Looking back over your career, what have you learned about attendees and their educational experiences at meetings that you didn’t know when you started in the business?
Thompson: Attendees have various learning styles, and planners should make content delivery as comfortable as possible for all of these styles. If you can, create ways for introverts to network without having to be “forward.” Here’s one: Have coffee cups printed with various interests (for example, a tech conference might have cups that say “artificial intelligence,” “NFTs,” “drones,” “sales and marketing,” and “strategy”) and allow attendees to select a cup that reflects their interests. This allows people to start chatting about their interests in a stress-free environment.

MeetingsNet: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Thompson: I have a seven-year-old son and a 92-year-old dad, making me the poster child of the “sandwich generation.” Almost daily, I have to remind my son to eat his vegetables, then I must call my dad to make sure he ate his dinner. I’m blessed to have both, and I have really gained a greater appreciation of the “circle of life.”

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