What this world needs is more conferences. Ok…not really.
In Washington, and probably most places, one of the easiest conversation starters is complaining about going to too many conferences and receptions. It’s second only to talking about the weather.
At Meridian, we actually think there are not enough opportunities for people to engage in dialogue that actually solves problems. In fact, we think that perhaps people just go too many conferences and receptions that aren’t very useful.
Personally, I think Meridian has built a solid reputation for being the best in the events business because we intimately understand that people don’t want to be “stuck in a room” – they want to be brought together. Every Meridian event is centered on thoughtful content, meaningful dialogue, and networking. And the secret “Meridian Sauce” – being creative in selecting who our audience. Chances are, you’re going to meet someone at a Meridian event you’ve never met before – and that person will be interesting and relevant to you (of course, having 3000 emerging leaders from around the world in residence each year helps that too).
I’m writing this blog on a plane from Johannesburg, where we just finished 2.5 days with the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative’s (YALI) Reunion “seminar”. 65 hand selected alumni from all parts of Africa came together to talk about their next steps in private and social entrepreneurship growth. While the panels we designed were great (of course), the most fascinating part of the seminar was watching the group come together within minutes of the opening session. In their breaks, receptions, and free time, these leaders formed a cohort that will expand their networks exponentially. As individuals, they are growing enterprises in their communities. Together, they are raising the potential for an entire continent. Africa is changing, and they are the ones who are changing it. The world need more of these kinds of conferences.
When Meridian convenes in Washington, we use the same principles. Our main property does really well when 30-60 people are together in a room. And when they break, they wander around our gardens and patios, talk, network, learn… and that’s what makes us unique. Small, incredibly diverse groups with free time to think and talk, and a venue which is designed to foster collaboration.
Our Global Leadership Summit with the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center, while much bigger in size, replicates the themes and structure of everyday convening. Content-wise, the Summits are designed to talk about big issues in a way leaders in all sectors can relate to. It’s meant to attract people from all industries and backgrounds to come together to talk about universal issues of global leadership and to develop solutions to the complex problems facing countries around the world. The summits always include an Ambassador’s dialogue to give the government perspective, several CEO spotlights to give the corporate side, and panels with philanthropic/civil society leaders. Our goal is to get Washington’s most diverse crowd in one room, focus on positive ways of global engagement, and, give them lots of opportunities to mingle, network, and get to know each other. This “taste” of Meridian is coming up on October 18th and promises to be another great way to see the work we do every day.
So, the next time you’re making small talk at a bad reception with the same person you’ve seen at the past 10 events, take a stand. Just say “I’m bored as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Then call Meridian.