Brian Grazer, Prince, Aruba and the Power of Speaking Face to Face

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Brian Grazer, the producer behind the films Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind and Splash among many others, tells a story in his new book Face to Face: The Art of Human Connection about meeting Prince. It was the second time—the first was brief—at a private concert he took his daughter Sage to in a small club in New York.

He didn't think Prince would remember him but he did. "I wanted to impress Sage, and, well, what could be more impressive than this?" he writes. "I wanted to hold Prince's attention, to prolong the moment a bit, so I held his gaze. It worked. 'What are you working on?' he asked." (It was the film The Da Vinci Code.)

That 10-minute conversation would never have taken place by email or online. But in person, it could. Prince responded by naming two religious books that he was reading. For Grazer, who I saw speak recently, the point was about making eye contact. But what also comes through from his talk and book is the power of meeting people in person.


SIPA puts a premium on organizing initiatives and events that bring members together. Coming up on Feb. 6-8, 2020, at the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort is the annual Owners and Publishers Retreat. Amazingly—based on previous sold-out years—there are still a couple spots open. This has always been one of SIPA's most popular events, and the major reason is the breakthroughs and takeaways that can be accomplished face-to-face. Click here for more information.

A pivotal component of the new SIPA Executive Councils is that, in addition to the many two-hour video conferences, members will meet once a year for an in-person roundtable, where they'll have a chance to air some of their big-picture strategic challenges and hear those of colleagues. (Read more here about joining an Executive Council.)

Other organizations are also taking more advantage of in-person meetings. Over the past year, reports Associations Now, Debbie Trueblood, executive director of the Illinois Park and Recreation Association, drove around Illinois in a "conversation tour" to celebrate IPRA's 75th anniversary—with a goal of 75 meetings and some rules. I love the idea of using a big anniversary to start a new initiative.

"Each meeting had to be at least five minutes and a two-way interaction in order to count," she said. "It also had to be a small meeting with only a few, usually one or two, people present. And I tried to meet with as many people as humanly possible."

Trueblood met with more than 130 IPRA members. "For me, this action was about going back to the basics, reinvigorating member recruitment, retention, and engagement," she says. "Getting out there, especially to the far corners of our membership, and talking to people face-to-face seemed like a great way to achieve this."

During this process, Trueblood also discovered a new audience—those who work at forest preserve agencies. "We learned that they were different from our other members and that we needed to change our game up to better serve them," Trueblood said. "In 2020, we're going to open a new forest preserve task force to give them a greater voice."

For Brian Grazer, hearing Prince's voice in a one-on-one conversation was pretty eye-opening. "The longer I could keep the conversation alive, I thought, the more memorable it would be for my daughter," he wrote. "So I gave Prince the only thing I had to offer at this point: my attention. I kept my eyes focused on his and, said, 'Tell me about the [religious books you mentioned].'"

Listening. Talking. Eye contact. Face-to-face. Can't beat it.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…