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(Cedar Grove, NJ) Need the recipe for a high-stress meeting? First, gather an assembly of naturally competitive executives. Put them in a stuffy meeting room for two days, give five feedings of "typical conference cuisine," and an evening with an extended cocktail hour. Add a tense atmosphere, a couple dozen voice-mail messages for each attendee, a dash of sales-quota pressure, and a few glaring personality differences. Voilà - the makings of a disaster are at hand!

If this scenario sounds all too familiar, it's because far too many meetings follow this exact formula.

But put those same executives in an environment that offers them a unique challenge-one in which the only way to "win" is to work together-and watch the barriers to cooperation fall by the wayside!

That's the idea behind Summit Management Services' newest Interactive Conference Event, the Transcontinental Success Express. In just minutes, participants shift from their passive, meeting attendee roles into an exciting, "let's get it done together" environment.

"Our events generate a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm, because team members readily develop an intense sense of pride in their physical accomplishments," says Joe Lipman, Summit's president. "And as with all our programs, we simply watch participants do what comes naturally outside of a rigid corporate framework. In a relatively short period of time, participants come together, meet each other, and develop lasting bonds which long outlive the duration of the event."

Faced with defined tasks and time pressures, participants quickly discover they must organize themselves into working units if they are to succeed. Summit's facilitators create custom scripts focused on specific meeting themes, as requested by conference organizers.

To win the Success Express Challenge, participants are divided into two (or more) groups, each of which acquires its own corporate identity. In turn, these larger groups are divided into smaller entities. Each sub-group must design, build and create a marketing campaign for an element of its corporation's passenger train, which must be capable of carrying team members and cargo along a "test track."

Working with limited but identical supplies, teams must elect leaders to coordinate their efforts. Groups otherwise be working without direction create cohesive and creative marketing programs. As the excitement builds, order grows out of chaos. And as with all Summit Interactive Corporate Events, the highlight is the Big Race, which never fails to generate pulse-pounding enthusiasm.

"Summit's events are designed to entertain and challenge all participants, without giving anyone an advantage based on age, sex, or even their status level within the company," according to lead facilitator Rob Lipman, who produced more than 50 events in 1997. "It's a lot more difficult to complete one of our programs than it might appear at first glance. Because of the time pressures, teamwork plays an important role, even though we hardly ever mention the word. Groups intuitively work together because they understand individual efforts are likely to result in failure," he continued.

Indeed, one of Summit's stated goals is to demonstrate the value of teamwork without boring lectures, speeches, or obvious ploys. But the savvy manager can also learn a great deal about managerial talent, simply by observing interaction among the teams.

Keeping energy levels high is a task ably handled by Summit's program coordinators, who encourage creativity and innovation. Yet when all seems lost, the facilitators gently guide participants in the right direction, ensuring no team is left behind.

Angie Griffin, Summit's staff psychologist, observes that participants generally learn more about their own strengths and weaknesses through their own observations, rather than from outside "experts" analyzing their behavior. Large scale Interactive Events can be supplemented with classroom type "breakout" sessions, designed to foster communication skills between corporate employees. Key issues such as decision-making theory, responsibility avoidance, and persona relationship building are explored through these sessions, each tailored to the needs of the client.

Summit will also coordinate world class speakers and moderators, who direct their remarks to integrate the theme of a particular meeting. "Flexibility is the key to a successful event," continued Lipman, who stressed that his team will produce theme breakfasts, luncheons, or even specially designed breaks interspersed among other meeting functions.

Indeed, Summit's staff has surprised conference participants by requiring them to prepare their own dinners at the "Night of a Thousand Pastas," where surprised guests are invited to display their culinary skills after shopping in an Italian Marketplace set up in a hotel dining hall. Other Summit events include Chili Cook-Offs, the Rrrickety-Raft Regatta, and their extremely popular PVC Road Rallaye.

Summit Management can host an Interactive Corporate Event at virtually any destination, indoors or out, year-round. Program costs are competitive with those of a typical golf outing, and can be held as morning, afternoon, or evening events, depending upon the client's requirements.

For more information, please contact Marty Beery at 1 (800) 835-9767 extension 10.


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