ANAHEIM -- The Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) debuted a new approach to convention experience here at its 2012 annual meeting that seeks to bring industry professionals together in a new way.
That new approach is called the ConneXion Zone, or what the association’s 2012 president Jennifer Borislow called a “meeting within a meeting.”
It is a new version of MDRT’s exhibit hall, Borislow said during her opening address at the annual meeting. But its goal is to do more that enable members to mix it up with exhibitors. The purpose is to foster member to member conversation and connections, in addition to hosting exhibitor booths.
The ConneXion Zone area is quite a bit different from the old format, which featured rows of booths for members to walk around and visit and included a Power Center where members could shop for various business items. The row-by-row approach is the same one used by most insurance industry associations for 20 or more years.
The new design still includes the MDRT Power Center, but unlike the previous exhibit hall, it includes a number of smaller zones, or pods with seating, where members can go for constant flow of conversation and content throughout the meeting.
In all, there will be 350 separate sessions held in the ConneXion Zone, said Borislow, who heads a 40-person firm in Methuen, Mass., and is a qualifier of both Court of the Table and Top of the Table.
A variety of zones
Exhibitors continue to have booths, but these are now gathered in groups of four, called exhibitor zones. These exhibitor zones are located at different spots around the floor and not far from several other zones—the ones for conversation and content.
The zones for conversation and content include “speaker zones,” which enable members to sample 15-minute previews of upcoming focus sessions. There are also “great conversations” areas, featuring legendary leaders in the business who are open to questions by members who stop by. There is a tech zone, as well, which is designed to help members get caught up on the latest technologies and which includes hands-on learning and demos.
Another zone, called the Big Ideas Theater, features a big screen showing conference buzz on Twitter, daily video recaps, and onstage interview with main platform and special session speakers.
The makeover of the traditional exhibit hall has been two years in the making, said Borislow. It provides another opportunity for members to connect with other members, and another chance for them to share best practices and sales ideas and to talk with speakers.
MDRT’s intent is to facilitate member to member connections throughout the year as well, she said. It is doing this not only through other meetings but also through its new MDRT Connect service. Launched 60 days ago, MDRT Connect is an online members’ network, she said. Members can use it to participate in online discussions with peers, ask questions and foster growth of the business.
In addition, the association continues to put a priority of its mentoring program, Borislow said, noting that it now has 2300 mentor teams. The program helps match mentors up with students and also provides resources and tools to help support those connections.
A number of other platform speakers at the Monday session addressed the importance of making connections from a variety of perspectives. For example, Dr. David Mainz of St. Louis, a speaker on living life to the fullest, said that social connectedness is among the characteristics common to centenarians. Even if the spouse and other loved ones has passed on, the people who live long lives tend to have a close personal friend or confidant. In fact, he said, “not having one is dangerous to health.”
Troy Hazard, a business consultant serving global companies, urged MDRT members to keep the conversation going by following up with members they meet at the annual. That is one way to keep the things learned at the meeting from fading away once returning to work. He urged them to talk at a deep level as well — to “have some serious, open, vulnerable connection” going on.
And Derek Mills, an MDRT member from West Midlands, England, told how he pulled himself up from 18 years of struggling in the industry to reading one-third MDRT qualification level, then Court of the Table and then top of the Table. He said he did this by learning to set standards, which are in the present moment, instead of goals, which are for the future.
Mills’ personal standards included not only health and fitness, but also relationships — “drop the bad company and keep the good company” — and focusing on career, family and time. That last standard led him to stop working 16-hour days, he said. It also led him to start having clients come to him instead of him going to them, and to keep Fridays free—so he could have more time with his family.
“If you do that, you will see changes, because you have changed,” Mills predicted.
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