May 5, 2020

Business Of Meetings Podcast with Eric Rozenberg

We’re delighted to be talking with a true icon in our industry!  David Peckinpaugh, President, and CEO of Maritz Global Events is our guest for today’s podcast. Taking good care of each other first has always been David’s mantra throughout everything he has done. You’re going to enjoy all the insights that he will be sharing on the show today!

David’s career is synonymous with big brands. He has had many different roles throughout it, and he has also given a lot back through his role in the Meetings Mean Business Coalition, the US Travel Association, and the former Chair of the PCMA Foundation.

The power of culture in purpose-driven companies

David has worked for many different companies, not all of which have been purpose-driven or focused on culture, and many of which have been singly focused on the financial bottom line.

When it comes to culture, David gives credit to Bruce Harris. (Bruce was the founder of Conferon, which became Experient, and is now part of Maritz Global Events.) Bruce brought a human, purpose-driven culture focus forward, and he has been David’s mentor throughout his entire career. Bruce was the one who found and then introduced David to the idea of first taking care of each other, a path that David has been following ever since.

The crisis that we are currently experiencing has created a different opportunity and a different challenge for both companies and cultures. This is the time when cultures are tested, and when they come to life because it’s easy when times are good and the real tests come when times are tough.

First taking care of each other

First taking care of each other is a four-stakeholder model in David’s company’s definition. At Maritz, they have four stakeholders – their people, their clients, their business partners, and the communities in which they live, serve, and do business all around the globe. The stakeholder model is at the forefront of every decision that they make, and it’s part of their process as they make their decisions and execute their design plans.

Leading with the power of culture

The power of culture is something that David has always led with, no matter which role he has been in. It’s easy to attract people into an organization. The challenge, however, comes in keeping people in an organization, and David has come to see that that’s one of the great things that culture does. Culture also attracts and retains customers and partners, and it takes care of the communities in which one is operating.

Ensuring that the front-line people embody the culture

A culture has to be authentic and it has to come from the leaders of the organization. Culture also needs to be owned.

The foundation of culture is trust, so it’s important to be good to your word, keep your promises, remain transparent, admit to your mistakes, and allow your team to help you lead.

David’s company has a very well-defined culture with a purposed journey and core values. A grass-roots effort, which involved eighteen different culture sessions with people across the company, helped them craft their core values and their cultural journey. Another thing that David’s company does is to put their belief statements down on paper and then they use constant repetition.

At every Town Hall meeting that David has with a company, or at their company meetings, he will usually go through their core values, their journey, their belief journey, their purpose journey, and their belief statements. This will also be done at any of their internal or industry events. And, at some point in their internal meetings, they will also cover it.

Bringing culture to life

Each month, David hosts a birthday lunch at his St. Louis office as a way to sit down, have some fun conversations, and celebrate everyone’s birthday for that month.

David’s company culture infuses itself in everything that they do and how they behave. It talks about how they have moved away from annual employee reviews and created in its place a system that they call Aspirational Coaching. Aspirational Coaching is a cultural amplification of how the company wants to interact with its people. And, ultimately, their people platform is unleashing human potential.

The key is that the company culture has to be part of your DNA.

Communication and priorities during times of crisis

The current crisis that we are all facing is unprecedented, so it’s important to ensure that your business is positioned for the recovery that will come.

Very early on, David’s company created some critical touch-points for certain factors:

  • To monitor what’s going on with the current crisis, they have a daily advisory group that meets each morning. They put out an email every day to inform everyone of what they have observed.
  • They have created a business impact team. And they have been having both an internally focused and a client-focused meeting twice a week, since day one of the crisis, to analyze the internal impact of the crisis on the company, and to meet their clients’ needs and keep abreast with what’s going on with them. This has had a huge impact on all of their clients.
  • They had a benefits task force that was trying to focus on ways to take good care of their people during this time. Their well-being leaders created well-being tools and resources for their people, to help manage and cope with the stress of having to stay at home.
  • Every Friday for the last six weeks, David has held an all-company meeting to share news, both good and bad, and resources.
  • Having an emergency and business continuity plan in place and ready to be activated was a huge benefit.
  • They have created a website where all their Covid-19 related materials are kept and updated many times each day.
  • They have created an email box for dealing with any questions.

Balancing his needs while working from home

David has found that maintaining his routine is very helpful.

He tries to keep all his internal meetings between 9 am and 3 pm and to limit the number of meetings that happen in that window.

David has created a space to do physical workouts at home.

Will online ever replace face-to-face relationships?

Maritz Global Events has a big behavioral science practice. They have a Chief Behavioral Officer and a robust team that focuses on human behavior and understanding neuroscience.

People are social and hungry for social connectivity, so David doesn’t think that things will change that much in the long-term. He thinks that people and his industry are both very resilient. From the trends that he’s been monitoring, he predicts that we will see some activity resumed, possibly from as early as August, and certainly from September.

David thinks that virtual will be the focus for the short-term. And there will probably be a new definition of safety, going forward. But, as people, we will always choose to gather.

The power of face-to-face 

David feels that we need to learn from the past. When we went through the financial crisis in 2008-2009, face-to-face meetings were canceled. The data collected from the financial studies that were done after that clearly showed that face-to-face meetings were the best investment that a company can make.

So, some things will change and others will need to be tweaked but a dollar will still be best spent on investing in face-to-face events.


Maritz Global Events – David Peckinpaugh

David on LinkedIn

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About the author 

Eric Rozenberg

For two decades, Eric Rozenberg has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and produced conferences in more than 50 countries across diverse industries. His focus is creating meetings that are not only breathtakingly memorable but which bring corporate strategies to life and amplify team motivation/performance.

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