Do you think most people can be trusted? It’s a simple question, yet the answer will greatly affect the way you work. I have gotten to see how it affects the way someone organizes events.
First, let me share three examples from my life as an event host/emcee:
- When an event planning agency sends me an e-mail asking if I can send them an offer for hosting a conference, they usually only tell me the date and hours of the event. I then ask them what the company they’re organizing it for is, and they are surprised. Many times they won’t even tell me what industry they operate in, and who the attendees are going to be. Knowing so little makes it very hard and honestly, frustrating, to prepare an offer. There are industries that I’m very familiar with and that I’m interested in, but also those that I have little knowledge of. In the latter case I’ve much more work to do to prepare before an event. There are also companies I’d rather not work for – e.g., those who help the Russian government or curb the freedom of speech— and so knowing the information beforehand helps me make the right decision.
- As an event host, I always want to introduce the speakers in a way that makes them feel really welcome. I research and choose information that highlights their professional achievements while also making them relatable in the eyes of the audience. Many times, I go the extra mile to scroll through their LinkedIn activity, and sometimes I also suggest a pre-interview. That means I meet them online and gather all the information about their achievements, but I also want to bring out why they are doing the work they do and why it matters to them. Sadly, it’s happened many times, especially with corporate clients, that organized wanted to have 100% control over what I was going to say about their employees. There was no talk of compromise. They would insist that I only read the information that their marketing team shared in the official papers. What I then ended up with would be some generalities and run-of-the-mill sentences such as: “He’s knowledgeable at managing key projects both domestically and internationally” or “No one else but she is able to turn problems into challenges and then she faces them with great ability.”
- Many corporate event organizers are afraid of their employees. Imagine this: you invite 1000 of your people to a conference to make sure everybody is on the same page. Yet you don’t want your managers and directors to be faced with any questions from the audience! I mean: what’s the goal of the conference, after all? To make all of the C-level executives look sharp? Or to make sure everybody is equally well informed? I hate to say many companies treat knowledge as a secret, as if it was a key to some forbidden world. It is as if they couldn’t let anyone in except the high-level executives. It’s a shame when instead of creating a space of meaningful exchange of knowledge, ideas and conversations, the main goal of a conference becomes to be a place for the marketing director to boast about his successes, and only present the “safe” or “approved” information in his or her highly-scripted presentation.
These experiences led me to wonder if such practices were a Polish thing or an international thing?
I found this wonderful research program called World Values Survey. They’ve been surveying people around the world for 40 years. One of the questions they’d ask is: Can most people be trusted?
I was not-so-surprised to learn that Poland, my country, had a really low score. Only 22% of surveyed people believed that people could generally be trusted! On the other hand, in neighboring Germany, trust was higher at 42%. China beat Germany with a trust score of 62.6%, while Sweden stayed in first position with 63.7% supporting the belief that people could generally be trusted.