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My Seth Andrew story — a thief who got caught

Seth Andrew
Seth Andrew stealing funds in November 2019 (photo obtained from bank surveillance footage by Melody Shen, Special Agent, Federal Bureau of Investigation)

This is the story of how I met a silver-tongued thief named Seth Andrew, and how he wreaked havoc on a host of lives in my community until the FBI caught him stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from charter schools he founded and a federal court sentenced him to jail.

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COVID, duty of care, and the meeting industry

COVID duty of care

Event professionals: it’s time to talk about COVID, duty of care, and the meeting industry. Actually, we should all have been talking about this for the last couple of years, but better late than never.

We’ve known since mid-2019 that COVID-19 spreads by airborne aerosol transmission. (Which makes me wonder why the GBAC STAR™ Facility Accreditation, with its emphasis on disinfection and cleaning surfaces and neglect of adequate ventilation, is still a thing.)

As I write this, the BA.5 Omicron variant is fueling the latest surge in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. The World Health Organization (WHO) just announced that COVID cases have tripled across Europe and hospitalizations have doubled. And “as Omicron rages on, scientists have no idea what comes next“.

The reality is we are still suffering a pandemic, currently dominated by the most contagious variant of COVID-19 yet: BA.5. The worst variant to date, BA.5 is four times more resistant to messenger RNA vaccines than earlier strains of omicron and is leading to significant increases in hospitalizations and ICU admissions.

As a result, WHO’s Emergency Committee has announced that Covid-19 remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern — its highest level of alert.

Meanwhile, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention reports that “Nearly one in five American adults who have had COVID-19 still have Long COVID“. And a U.S. Veterans Affairs study suggests that a second infection doubles the risk for death, blood clots, and lung damage, and increases the risk of hospitalization by three times, with every COVID reinfection increasing the risk for bad outcomes.

Yet the meeting industry seems to be abrogating its traditional responsibilities to keep attendees and staff safe.

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Stop networking at meetings

networking at meetingsIt’s time to stop networking at meetings. No, I’m not saying we should only listen to lectures at meetings. Rather, I’m going to explain why using the term “networking” for all occasions when attendees get to talk with one another subtly directs attention away from can be the most valuable outcome of well-designed meetings: connecting with others.

This post was inspired when Victoria Matey shared the following thought about networking at meetings:

Random thought.

We talk about virtual networking not working as if the in-person networking has been fixed.

I agree with Victoria’s observation, but think it’s important to consider a wider perspective. Here’s an expanded version of my brief comment on the ensuing LinkedIn conversation.

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What meeting planners who support women’s rights can do

meeting planners support women
The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade. 58% of U.S. women of reproductive age live in states hostile to abortion rights. Meanwhile, six out of 10 Americans — 61 percent — say they support abortion rights. What can meeting planners who support women’s rights do?

Here are two concrete suggestions for action:

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The real job of leadership

real job of leadershipWhat is the real job of leadership? Kevin Kelly provides this suggestion in this April 2022 post:

“When you lead, your real job is to create more leaders, not more followers.”
—Kevin Kelly, 103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known

(Kelly offers plenty of other great advice; check out the link!)

The real job of leadership — create more leaders!

My mentor Jerry Weinberg described organic leadership as leading the process rather than people. “Leading people requires that they relinquish control over their lives. Leading the process is responsive to people, giving them choices and leaving them in control”. Jerry’s resulting definition of leadership is “the process of creating an environment in which people become empowered.”

When you create empowered people who embrace their empowerment, you create leaders. That is the real job of leadership.

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