Discomfort Yields Success

By Brian Palmer, CMM

Discomfort Yields Success Banner

Real learning, genuine change and significant progress usually involve some measure of unease. All sorts of situations pull us from a sense of comfort: new ideas, direction, people, schedules and processes. And just like the great teachers and lessons of our lives, these sorts of things often foster some of our greatest joys.

I make these rather obvious points because of an important disparity I’ve discerned in what people are looking to accomplish with their events.

Throughout my 35 years in the events industry, I’ve noted a steady march toward events with a clear purpose and set of objectives. To be certain, different events have different purposes, and sometimes they are  simply  to  reward, recognize and have a good time. Yet often contrary to the real reasons behind having an event, people speak in terms of comfort or wanting attendees to have a “wonderful” time.

It’s a mistake I see people at all levels making—succumbing to what I suspect is an instinctual desire to be hospitable, to see people you know enjoying themselves and to have people say it was a nice event.

Hospitality is certainly a component of our industry, but it should not be our primary driver. Genuine leaders are driven by learning, change, progress and achievement. They are also accepting of discomfort in business situations. An executive known for his masterful use of meetings suggested, “We want the food to be right, but someone exiting the ballroom a bit dazed is apt to lead to progress.”

The positive impact of an uncomfortable moment is rarely immediate. Plenty has been written, though, to support this notion and provide one with strong backing to make this argument.

A tool to manage around this instinct exists in the events industry literature about return on investment. I found the following questions in the book Proving the Value of Meetings  and  Events:  How  and  Why to measure ROI. Consider how they might alter a plan and result.

  • What emotions does your audience need to feel by attending this event?
  • What opinions do you need attendees to form during this meeting?
  • What do audiences need to do at the event in order to be motivated to act on the company’s objectives (pre-event, on site and post event)?

These questions or something similar ought to be among the disciplines used to conceive, plan and execute events.

The realities of the classroom are different than those for many events, but do consider the effects and outcomes of those great classes, teachers or other learning experiences you’ve experienced. Chances are they were not a walk in the…foyer.

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