Sales Conference – A mere annual ritual?

In general Corporates do not show any innovation in organizing Annual Sales Conferences. At least the ones I am associated with have always gone through the process with a time tested formula without making any effort whatsoever to try out new ideas of organizing the same. No doubt they spend a lot of money and resources on the annual extravaganza but all that is done merely for the purpose of giving the employees their due – which is a paid holiday at best. Employees also have come to look upon these events as a perk rather than as an occasion to benefit from. I am not against having fun, but alas ,a balance between pleasure and business is definitely lacking in most of these celebrations. In this respect our company is no exception. Here is a brief account of how it went:

Last weekend was a mix of business and pleasure – probably more of pleasure and less of business. We had our annual Sales conference arranged in Udaipur – the famous Lake city. About 40 of us were huddled together in a historic Fort transformed into a 5-Star Hotel. We reached just in time for a Royal Lunch on Saturday, relaxed for a while and then went for a short pilgrimage to have Darshan of Srinathji and Eklingji. The place where we stayed for 3 days is known as ‘Devi Garh’ Fort. As we landed at the Fort and entered the main yard which is in fact a wonderful garden, we were taken by pleasant surprise by a shower of Rose petals from the terrace. Coming from a city like Mumbai where people are happy being businesslike and informal,this royal treatment must have been amusing to many of us.
Temple visits were prearranged to ensure that we didn’t get caught in the crowds and long queues for hours. We could get an entry straight into the ‘Sanctum Sanctorum’ through a side entrance meant for VIPs. However,once inside,the crowd was unbearable as usual and we barely escaped being crushed by the crowd. I suppose crowds are great equalizers as everyone gets the same treatment. For many of us the experience in Mumbai local trains must have come in handy.
In the night we had a great Rajasthani royal dinner served on Silver plates,which we thoroughly enjoyed.
The following day was essentially the day of the conference,which I will deal with at the end.
The evenings were celebrated with local artists giving performances. One evening we were treated with some nice ‘Qawwali’ music while on the second evening,we had some local folk dances depicting the story of Krishna with Gopis.(At least that is what I thought they were trying out based on the costume and expressions).
The 3rd day was essentially devoted to sightseeing – the Royal palaces,lakes etc and in the evening it was time to catch our flight back home.

The Fort area where we stayed is particularly enjoyable for people who love long walks. I had long walks in the mornings as well as evenings on all the days. The mornings presented a serene atmosphere accompanied by moderate chillness and gentle breeze , an ideal place for meditators.The skyline was superb with majestic mountains all around and the Sun rise from behind the mountains was a treat to watch.

Let me now come to the main business of the conference. We had presentation after presentation interspersed with some (not so serious)debates. There was a clear show of one-upmanship in the presentations. While the Marketing teams from various regions vied with each other, some manufacturing presentations also excelled in the art of exaggeration. But our CMD who generally keeps his own counsel, rarely got into any heated debates. He would generally play his cards close to his chest keeping everyone guessing!
What was missing in the conference then? One expects a great show of ideas from a gathering of people with such diverse backgrounds. Isn’t it a big opportunity to brainstorm on various issues affecting the current business? Isn’t it also an occasion to bounce ideas on future new business opportunities for the short term and the long term? I am sure all this can be done with some preparation by all participants. Instead,most of the participants simply chose to present past year’s data which was already known to many. Won’t it be good enough to merely circulate this data beforehand and allow only a brief discussion for an hour or so on the same? Rest of the conference should simply focus on the future.

Some time back I read a book titled, “Where Good ideas come from” by Steven Johnson. He has forcefully argued in this book that cities are very innovative by virtue of the fact that there is great exchange of ideas. In cities “ideas collide,emerge and recombine”. After all in a Sales conference aren’t we spending huge amount of money and taking trouble to gather people from so many cities? And having done so we don’t make any effort to harness ideas.

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Published in: on April 30, 2011 at 7:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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