The “Exec Ed” Contract – Why Spend the Time and Invest the Money?


Gregg Patterson, President

“Tribal Magic”

Continuing education is a “must do” for management professionals in this ever more competitive, dog-eat-dog world of business. Here in the States “big bucks” have, for years, been committed to executive education to keep business leaders sharp, honed, creative and primed to spank the competition. On this side of “The Pond,” ongoing executive education has been an a priori “must do” for a very, very long time.


Executive Education—that is, education delivered to working professionals— is expensive stuff since time is money and money is money. Times are hard, money is tight and “those who are paying” are looking more closely at the product delivered and the benefits received during the Exec Ed journey. The costs are known—time and money. But the “goods received” and the expectations of the attendee are often fuzzy, poorly defined, with a low “stick factor,” open to comment and criticism.

Companies who’ve routinely funded executive education in the past are starting to ask “What’s in it for US, the company that’s paying The Big Bucks for YOUR executive education?” Budgets are tight, owners want answers and simply saying “it’s a Must Do” isn’t enough anymore. Justification’s needed.

Those who’ve attended conferences, seminars and workshops explain that these events are the “drug of choice” for Managers and Wanna-Be-Managers needing a “Professional Management Fix”. They tell The Payers that these half day, full day and multi-day events are a gathering of the tribe, an energy boost, an “enlightener” and an “enlivener”, an all-consuming experience that needs no explanation or justification. For those who’ve experienced executive education and have drunk the EXEC ED Cool-aide, attending is that special.

But———-for owners and share-holders who are funding the journey, who hear about “touchie-feelie” break-out sessions, post seminar cocktail parties and exotic workshop locations, all this “conferencing stuff” sounds like a boondoggle, an all-expenses paid vacation to interesting places where “good times” trump “class time” every time.

Managers who attend—or want to attend—seminars, workshops and conferences need to answer questions raised by the skeptical, the unenlightened and the down-right hostile. Attendees need weapons to defend their “going” and their “spending”. They need a document that explains The Why and The What, something they can wave in the faces of the sneering and the cynical and proudly declare that conference is a “Must Do” for serious professionals.

Managers need a document that’s legally binding between The Consumers of Executive Education and The Givers of Executive Education, a written something that clearly states, in black and white, what a conference, a seminar or a workshop will deliver and what attendees must do to consume, digest and disgorge the insights being delivered.

They need—The EXEC ED Contract.

The EXEC ED Contract—Section I–Conference will Deliver

Managers need to identify what conference will deliver. They need to show the Whining and The Judgmental the “Guaranteed Deliverables” from the conference / seminar / workshop experience. Managers who “want to attend” and those who “did attend” need to beat their chests and tell The World that EXEC ED delivers The Goods for the dollars paid and the time invested. Here’s the “Giver’s” side of the EXEC ED Contract.

Section I—Article 1—We Will Re-Affirm “Your Why” and “The Why of Your Business”: This conference / seminar / workshop will identify and affirm The Why of your business; will confirm, restore and amplify your reasons for being In the Biz; and will fortify and inspire you as a business professional to go forth and do good in their pursuit of The Why.

Section I—Article 2—We Will Stimulate Your Curiosity: This Conference will make you curious about new stuff, old stuff and other stuff in the world of your business. We will provide interesting workshops, social experiences and classroom opportunities that will stimulate your curiosity about stuff you never thought you’d be interested in—and will accelerate your curiosity about stuff you already find interesting. We will make you curious about hardware and software, about The Poetry and The Machinery, about The Philosophical Why and The Practical How of your business.

Section I—Article 3—We Will Create Networking Opportunities: This conference / seminar / workshop will provide opportunities for “connecting and reflecting” with other industry professionals. We will provide “meet and greet” and “bump into others” opportunities, interactive “round tabling” experiences and facilitated discussions of interesting topics.

Section I—Article 4—We Will Provide “Education”: This conference / seminar / workshop will deliver “education” by providing insights into The Why (The Principles) and The How (The Practices) of Your Business and will do so formally in the classroom, semi-formally during the trade show and informally during hallway “debriefs.”

Section I—Article 5—We Will Provoke Personal and Professional Reflection: This conference / seminar / workshop will provide managers with the opportunity to “go deep” into their own personal and professional questions. We will encourage those questions and provide opportunities—both formal and informal—for managers to ask their peers and industry experts about The Big Issues that they’re confronting at the club and in the home.

Section I—Article 6—We Will Deliver The Buzz for The Business: This Conference will energize, stimulate and invigorate attendees. We will provide speakers and role models and inspirational videos that’ll recharge their batteries, buck up their spirits and give managers the lift they’ll need to attack the issues—both petty and profound—that threaten to beat ‘em up and beat ‘em down in the coming twelve months.

The EXEC ED Contract—Section II—Attendee Must Dos

Managers need to explain that they “ain’t passive” when Doing Conference. They’ve “signed” the contract and they’ve got responsibilities. They accept that they have to “do the reach”, grab the food and consume the meal that’s there to be eaten. Here’s the Attendee’s side of the EXEC ED Contract.

Section II—Article 1—I Will Be Curious: I will be curious about everything I see, hear and experience at this conference / seminar / workshop and will actively seek exposure to people, places, things and ideas within and outside of my “comfort zone”. I will express my “curiosity” by asking questions about The What, The Why, The How and The When of the people, places, things and ideas I’m exposed to.

Section II—Article 2—I Will Attend Workshops, Seminars and Lecture Sessions: I will have a listing of all workshops, seminars and lectures available each day and will fill my day completely with these educational and informational offerings.

Section II—Article 3—I Will Take Notes: Knowing that I can’t recall most of what I see and hear, I will take notes during every meeting I have with other professionals, during every encounter I have with places and things and during every workshop, seminar and lecture I attend.

Section II—Article 4—I Will Identify Interesting People: I will consciously and actively search for “interesting people”—attendees, speakers, administrators, exhibitors and random personalities—who I believe will “enlarge my personal and professional life” through great conversation about important issues, ideas or things.

Section II—Article 6—I Will Reach Out to and Engage Interesting People in Substantive Conversation: I will approach and initiate conversations with the interesting people I’ve identified. I will facilitate these conversations with questions, artful listening, personal comments and follow up questions that probe deeper into the substantive issues raised during the discussion.

Section II—Article 7—I Will Debrief Educational Insights, Personal Encounters and Experiences and will Record those Insights and Ideas: I will review the notes I’ve taken on people, places and ideas encountered, will digest those “summarizing ideas” and will record the distillate in my Idea Bank for future reference, review and use.

Section II—Article 8—I Will Act Once I’m Back: I will identify and prioritize those “ideas with utility” identified during the conference, will establish tactics needed to implement those ideas, will establish a schedule for making those ideas happen and will act to translate those ideas into action.

Gotta Do EXEC ED

Executive education “enlarges the journey.” It stimulates the curiosity “to seek”, opens the eyes “to see”, provides the tools “to do” and delivers The Buzz to “make stuff happen.”

Serious professionals “do” EXEC ED.

Serious professionals push EXEC ED “givers” to deliver The Goods.

Serious professionals accept their responsibilities as Attendees.

Serious professionals extol The Virtues of EXEC ED to the cynical, the skeptical and the dismissive.


Do Executive Education. Know why. Tell the world.

And enjoy the journey………..

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