When I decided to open a business that provides organizations the physical space to hold their corporate events, I had a tricky time selling my business plan to banks for a loan.  After all, my business will not manufacture the next greatest technology widget; nor will I create dozens of high-paying jobs.  And while there is a growing recognition within the business community that corporate events make a broader contribution to our community than modest economic benefits, the measures used by most to assess the value of corporate events still focus almost exclusively on economic development, specifically, tourism.

It’s all too rare that we are invited to sit at the table where knowledge-sharing and R&D are on the agenda. In my short time owning my corporate events space, I have assisted visionary leaders from all sectors of business and academia with the planning of their meeting, and I am reminded of why we should be championing for more frequent engagements.

“Business events are the lifeblood for knowledge creation and distribution, both of which are essential drivers of innovation.”

 Take the recent story about how Quest Diagnostics saw a 31% revenue growth in 2016 via the launch of a new suite of technology called Quanum.  Ultimately, this innovation — the first of their industry — provides a single web-based platform for patients, payers and providers to better analyze, connect and engage.  Quanum led to a nearly nine-figure revenue lift for Quest Diagnostics.  Their Chief Information Officer, Lidia Fonseca, was awarded the 2017 Forbes CIO Innovation Award.

Although Lidia’s team was responsible for developing the technology, interface occurred among multiple departments, including business development, product development, business analysis and customer service.  Each of these departments had to be present at the Innovation Table to discover, nurture and disseminate their objectives.

There are many definitions of innovation, however, the one I prefer as it relates to business is, ‘The process of translating an idea or an invention into a good or a service that creates value or for which customers will pay’ (Oxford Business Dictionary).  Such innovation can be either breakthrough, or, adaptive and adoptive.  Whether a business seeks to generate new forms of technology; promote sales efforts; develop its staff; extend its products or services — serious brainpower and talent, combined with an outlet for information exchange, are needed to contribute to elevated outcomes and innovation.

So where does innovation start?

Face-to-face business events provide opportunities for researchers, educators, leaders and experts to discuss and disseminate ideas.  Corporate meetings foster collaboration, enhance research development and provide forums for the sharing of outcomes… all of which are essential ingredients for innovating.

Human interaction, especially face-to-face interaction, drives innovation and inspiration.  And sometimes, accidental connections between leading thinkers of different topics or industries can unlock seemingly intractable challenges and insoluble puzzles!

In addition to the role of business events in helping organizations innovate, the knowledge delivered and contacts made at business events are also very important in helping to enhance individual and business performance.  Such improvements include personal development, sales leads, improved operating procedures and cost reduction, to name just a few.

We all know that people and organizations are capable of incredible things when they have the right tools.  Business events are the conduit to innovation which launch groundbreaking initiatives, or motivate the next generation of leadership, or discover business growth strategies — all of which contribute to a greater cause and will make our community a better place.  The meetings industry should rightly be thought of as a key component in the global knowledge economy, rather than as a branch of tourism.

For businesses to realize their true potential, there needs to be a commitment on the part of their leaders to innovate, which includes knowledge creation, strategy implementation, and performance improvement.

Invest in innovation!  Recognize that putting people together for a common purpose leads to progress, evolution, and, greatness!  If you’re ready to find the answer to, “What’s Next?”, organize a business event and learn the power of face-to-face interaction.