Because I said so just isn’t going to cut it.

by Traci Browne

questionsChristina Stallings reached out to me today to get advice from a veteran in the trade show industry.  She is, as she calls it, a rookie.  What she really is an amazing up and comer in the events and meetings industry.  Someone to watch.  But it made me think, will answering her questions actually help me understand what it is I do even more.  I think it will.

My very best friend is from France and we met at work.  She was quite fluent in English but every now and then had trouble with some of our phrases.  During our commutes to work I would say something and she would ask, “what does that mean?”  I would be half way through my definition when I realized, I really did not know what that meant…not truely.  It was great to have her challenge my grasp of the English language…I learned a lot during those hour long drives just from her persistence to get an answer.  Think you know baseball, explain the rules to a foreigner who’s never seen the game and you’ll discover how ridiculous it really is.

Those who have been part of any industry for a long time are encouraged to share our knowledge and experience through mentoring.  But any mentor can tell you, they just might be the ones learning the most.  We tend to take things at face value whereas someone new will innocently ask, ‘but why?’  It’s when we really start to answer the why that we find we start to wonder, ‘but why?’ too.

Recently Maddie Grant has challenged my thinking about associations with her blog post  “On Two Dimensional Association Thinking”.  I’m president of the Business Marketing Association Philadelphia Chapter and she’s making me think really hard about why people should become a member of our chapter and association.  I’m not saying that I don’t think people should become a member after reading the post; I’m saying it’s making me come up with a legitimate answer instead of just listing a bunch of benefits.

I think that our elevator pitches we’ve worked so hard to craft and flow from within us every time someone asks us what we do may do us more harm than good.  What if someone were to ask us after we deliver our little speech, “Why?”  Wouldn’t that throw you for a loop.  But it would also be when the real conversation begins, the productive conversation.

I’m looking forward to working with Christina on her questions to me.  I’m going to force myself to really answer the unspoken why instead of just throwing out the same old industry answers…and then the real dialog will begin.

Here’s my challenge to myself this week.  With everything I do that seems to be the standard way of doing things I’m going to really challenge myself with the “why.”  I’m curious to see how many things I might find out could use changing or tweaking.  I’d love to hear back from you about what you think could stand some “why-ing”.

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