The Motivation Show 2006–Business Solutions That Motivate People

By Staff Report

Sep. 27, 2006

Event: The Motivation Show 2006–Business Solutions That Motivate People
Date: September 26-28, 2006, McCormick Place South, Chicago

What: The Motivation Show touts itself as “the world’s largest exhibition of motivational products and services.” It features nearly 2,000 exhibitors of incentive and recognition programs, promotional and branded products, gift cards, and motivational destinations and attractions. In addition, the show has a number of educational seminars and paid workshops on how to create more effective, measurable programs to get the most out of relationships with customers, channel partners, salespeople, employees, vendors and shareholders.

Conference info: For more about the Motivation Show, go

Conference Notes, Day 2–Wednesday September 27, 2006

Dr. Bob on motivating and incentives: Dr. Bob Nelson, author of a number of books on motivating workers including “1001 Ways to Reward Employees,” had two well-attended seminars on the second day of the Motivation Show. Nelson, who is frequently quoted in Workforce Management, had one session on recognizing and motivating employees, and another on the hows and whys of rewards.

Employees, he says, leave a job primarily because they don’t feel recognized for what they are doing. Nelson gave numerous examples of the power of recognition (formally, informally and day to day) and said that “recognition can’t be optional”–it must be ongoing, consistent, spontaneous and sincere.

If you ever get a chance to hear Bob Nelson at a conference or seminar, do it. He has an important message that more managers and leaders need to hear.

Sessions I wish I could have attended: One of the frustrations of this show is that the seminars are scheduled four or five at a time. This means you have to pick one even though there may be another one that looks equally promising.

Here are a few of the ones I wish I could have attended:

  • “The Effects of Employee Satisfaction on Company Financial Performance”

  • “Attracting, Motivating and Keeping the Most Loyal, Productive and Talented People”

  • “The Secret Language of Influence”

  • “The Future of HR Management”

  • “The Economics & Advantage of Employee Engagement”

    –John Hollon

Conference notes, Day 1–Tuesday, September 26, 2006

First-timer shock: First-timers to the Motivation Show (like me) get a little bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of vendors in the exhibit hall touting gift cards, food goodies, and all manner of motivational gifts for companies to give to employees doing a good job. All of them are giving out free samples, drinks, food or goodies of some kind, but it is far less frenzied than, say, the mad scramble for swag at SHRM’s annual conference.

The show organizers say there are at least 1,800 exhibitors in the main hall, and a good third of those are from travel destinations–Hawaii, Mexico, Jamaica, Aruba–travel packagers, hotels, convention bureaus and trade councils, airlines, cruise lines and destination management companies. Which makes you wonder: Who is getting sent to all of these places? I can count the number of people I’ve known who have gotten a reward trip on the fingers of one hand, but clearly, a lot of people must be getting a lot of trips somewhere. And, some of the places touting themselves here are headscratchers. For instance, the Zagreb Tourist Board? I’m sure Croatia is lovely, but as an incentive gift for an employee doing a good job? I’m guessing that Aruba would be a little more motivational.

One other thing: At first glance, one would think that this show is just about hawking incentive goodies, but the hidden secret of the Motivation Show is that there are a number of free seminars going on and many of them seem informative and compelling. For example, “The Effects of Employee Satisfaction on Company Financial Performance” and “Driving Performance Through People” are pretty meaty topics for a show like this, and from the number of people I saw in the seminar sessions, many of them were well-attended.

Employee engagement, again: You can’t go to any workforce-related conference anymore without getting bombarded by talk about how to drive more employee engagement, and Mike Ryan of the Madison Performance Group put on two different sessions dealing with this topic. The one I attended (“The Role Employee Engagement Plays in Driving Adoption and Utilization of New Business Practices”) was focused on the role more highly engaged employees can play in driving change.

Ryan admitted that employee engagement was “the flavor of the year” and being talked to death at conferences, but he made a compelling case for why it is important, showing that the intangible value in most American businesses was 85 percent in 2005, up from 30 percent in 1930. This intangible value, he noted, is primarily the human capital in a business, and more engaged human capital increases the intangible value.

He also defined employee engagement a little better than I’ve heard in the past, saying it is defined by two key principles:

  1. That the employee believe what they do is appreciated by the business or organization.

  2. That the employee believes in the mission and values of the organization, and more importantly, embraces them.

In other words, “It’s not just about hands, but it’s about heart and mind,” Ryan said. “It’s about mind-set, and engaged employee thinks a lot more about the common good of the company. They think more like a CEO.”

So long, baby boomers: The best-attended seminar of Day 1 was on “Rewards & Recognition: Solutions That Work,” presented by Razor Sufeman and Jason Fisher, CEO and director of marketing, respectively, at This was clearly a hot topic with a good three times more people than at any other seminar.

The focus of the presentation, however, was only on Gen X and Gen Y employees and how to motivate and reward them. If you wanted to find out how to motivate a baby boomer or older worker, well, tough luck. The presenters clearly felt that there’s no reason to try to motivate boomers, which was a little disconcerting if you’re in that age group. It’s hard to tell if this was a sign of the times and things to come, or just an odd blip in a conference schedule, but these guys from were clearly tone deaf when it came to talking about strategies to motivate the entire workforce.
–John Hollon


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