Be your own "Undercover Boss"

After reading this item about the next "Undercover Boss" being from the hotel industry, Joyce McKee over at the CEIR blog thought it'd be interesting to think about what a boss going undercover at a trade show might experience (as an attendee or as a booth staffer).

What I think would be even more interesting is to have the chief executive in charge of the facility work undercover on the loading docks, laying pipe and drape, etc. I'm sure s/he would learn some interesting lessons from the experience. It'd be hard to do on the meetings side, though. I imagine most association execs are fairly hands-on with their meetings, though if they're not, it could be an eye-opener to have them see what planning a meeting really entails, from site selection through evaluations. On the corporate side, it would be very cool to have meeting planning be one of the functions the CEO would do undercover, but somehow I don't think it will make the cut (here's hoping I'm wrong). But we have a good shot at meetings being a part of the season premier, since Choice Hotels does have a fairly robust meetings business. I know I'm going to watch, just in case, though I'm guessing it'll be more front desk, reservations, housekeeping, catering, than meetings per se.

But Joyce's main point is that we all should be our own undercover boss, in a way, and try to look at meetings from the attendee point of view instead of the planner perspective. It sounds obvious, but it's worth saying, I think, because, especially for those who've been doing it a for a while, it can be easy to think you know what they're experiencing. But maybe things have changed -- either in your attendees or your meeting -- and your meeting may be not quite coming across the way you think it is.

However, I'm not convinced that having the head of meeting planning go undercover is the way to go: Frankly, you might not be the best person to do it, since it can be easy to not really see something that you've looked at a thousand times before. I'm a big advocate of getting a secret shopper, or a hoard of students, or someone totally outside your field, to come in and experience what you're offering with fresh eyes and minds. That could be truly enlightening.

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