I constantly hear that meetings are more complex in nature than they used to be, and subsequently people are busier than they used to be. But is this really true?
Certainly meetings require greater technology to drive them, but does this make them harder to organise?

I remember when I started out in journalism 20 years ago now how different my working world was. When I typed up a story I passed it onto a sub editor who made the corrections and then he or she would push a button and the article would be printed out as one long column. This would then be cut up by the compositor out the back near the printing press and if there was any spill I would grab a big blue pen and reduce its size by taking out one or two words.
With headline writing you were taught that each letter had a certain size which helped you to judge exactly how many letters would fit the space you had.
Oh, and I was also trained in developing photographs in a darkroom. How different it all is now?

In the world of meeting planning, Ruth Lilian, who celebrates her 40th year as an operational PCO next year, remembers a time when she took delegate bookings over the telephone. Imagine having to manually write down 1000 or more people’s details to register them for a conference? And I wonder how they paid their registration fee? By cheque of course which required more paperwork.
In the “old days” Ruth worked on four conferences a year, with each one held in a different city. Her “technology” was carbon paper to make copies of important documents. She could rattle out a hand-written letter responding to delegate enquiries quickly and efficiently because she had to. There was no outsourcing of anything to anybody else. The buck stopped with her.

The “technology” at the conference was a white screen up the front of the room, a microphone of sorts, and a slide projector. That slide projector was packed full of slides for speakers to use in their presentations. Every slide had to be professionally made. All the slides had to be carefully labelled and checked that they weren’t upside down. Ruth probably did that too; probably in-between hand-making centrepieces for the gala dinner.
So what’s happened? Is a meeting more complex now than it’s ever been? Or is it something else? Perhaps Ruth has part of the answer: “I looked around my classroom where I was teaching this morning and I saw that technology was alive and well. Not only were there iPads, laptops and mobile phones, but the owners were all engaged with them. Students were uploading and downloading documents, they were making videos, and communicating with their teams via Facebook. How much more technology could they possibly have to get what they have to get done, and yet, something is always left out or forgotten?”

What Ruth believes, and what I also agree with, is that we are becoming so distracted by the technology that it’s controlling us and our time rather than the other way around. I welcome your feedback.



Gary Bender World Conference & Incentive Management • Ian Walsh G1 Productions • Linda Gaunt MEA • Annabel Norris Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre • Sharon Goldie MLC David Grant DG3 • Bryan Holliday ICMS Australasia Pty Ltd • Ruth Lilian L&R Contract Business Services • Ros McLeod arinex • Valerie Percival IBM Australia Limited • Elizabeth Rich Agenda Pty Ltd • Jeremy Garling Fourth Wall Events


Elizabeth Bindon-Bonney BT Create • Anna Guillan Hayman & Mulpha Hotels Australia • Suzanne Hart SHE • Peter Kinnane Off-Site Connections Event Management • David Hall David Hall & Associates • Sarah Markey-Hamm ICMS • Sarah Seddon Atlantic Group (V) • Anna Stewart Queensland Conventions & Incentives