How Planners Experienced Merriam-Webster’s Trending Words of 2017

A lot can be said about 2017. It was a year not only of consequential change, but also of radical response. No one was free from the ripple of this turbulence, especially meeting and event professionals. After all, they’re in the business of people.

So whether it was raising money for hurricane relief, participating in the women’s movement or becoming a security expert, corporate planners were definitely getting their feet wet.  But how can we get to the heart of our country’s 2017 experience? Semantics is one answer.

Since 2003, American dictionary-publishing company Merriam-Webster has compiled an annual list of the top 10 trending words. These are identified through an online poll, along with suggestions from website visitors. The end product is 10 terms that encompass much of the year’s action. Let’s ruminate on what some of these terms meant to the meetings and events industry this year, and consider how we can move toward a better 2018.

1. Feminism

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Merriam-Webster definition: the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes

The year kicked off with floods of pink protestors across the nation. The #MeToo movement is now one of the most recognizable signs of strength—especially since the silent-breakers graced the cover of Time magazine for the greatest influence this year. Webster reported that overall, searches for this term increased an astounding 70 percent this year.

What did this mean for meeting and event planners? Well for one, this was cause for celebration.  Despite women occupying  77.4 percent of roles in the industry, the female planner earns $40,546 on average, while the male earns $48,650. Not only were planners empowered, but more opportunities to donate, support and get involved surfaced. Additionally, harassment policies came to the forefront, prompting a long, overdue emphasis that allows everyone, from attendees to hoteliers, feel safe.

Planners can keep up the momentum. For one thing, a clearly defined policy against sexual harassment is a must. It’s also essential to take responsibility at events, follow up on any and all suspicions, and train your team.  Offer what you can, but always push to do more. This can mean anything from taking on a mentorship role to being cautious and discerning with your language.

2. Complicit

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Merriam-Webster definition: helping to commit a crime or do wrong in some way

3. Recuse

Merriam-Webster definition: to disqualify (oneself) as judge in a particular case; broadly: to remove (oneself) from participation to avoid a conflict of interest

4. Empathy

Merriam-Webster definition: the ability to share another person’s feeling

With a lot of social strife this year, matters of empathy often came into question. For instance, it was used as one of the #MeToo campaign goals. Another example is when Asghar Farhadi, Iranian director of the Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film, The Salesman, announced he wouldn’t travel to the United States in protest of the travel ban. He pleaded for empathy saying, “between us and others, [it’s] an empathy that we need today.”

Most of the year’s major events resulted in a need for empathy. Hurricanes, shootings, fires and sexual harassment made many of this year’s headlines grim. Yet, there was a silver lining. People began seeking and fostering compassion. After the horrific Las Vegas massacre, many reports highlighted the heroes. On a smaller scale, the surge of veganism demonstrated a call to kindness.

Moving forward, planners need to nurture this resurrected value. The little things matter, too. Standing up against gossip at an event and implementing new accommodations—whether they be disability, religious, dietary, gender, supporting nonprofits, or getting you and your team involved in CSR—are all significant accomplishments.

5. Dotard

Merriam-Webster definition of dotage: a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness

6. Syzygy

Merriam-Webster definition: the nearly straight line configuration of three celestial bodies (such as the sun, moon and earth during a solar or lunar eclipse) in a gravitational system.

7. Gyro

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Merriam-Webster definition: a sandwich, especially one with lamb and beef, tomato, onion and yogurt sauce on pita bread. Or, a member of a major international service club.

8. Federalism

Merriam-Webster definition: the distribution of power in an organization (such as a government) between a central authority and the constituent

9. Hurricane

Merriam-Webster definition: a tropical cyclone with winds of 74 miles per hour or greater that occurs especially in the western Atlantic; that is usually accompanied by rain, thunder and lightning; and that sometimes moves into temperate latitudes

Just to clarify, this isn’t because people are unsure of what “hurricane” means. Webster’s believes people searched the term for more detailed information rather than out of ignorance. Harvey, Irma and Maria were the vicious culprits of destruction. And the entire country closely followed as these storms raged on. Major evacuations impacted the tourism industry. Not to mention, tons of travel plans were cancelled or impacted.

Meeting and event planners needed to change plans and ultimately evaluate safety policies. They also sought out ways to participate in rebuilds. Tying back to empathy, planners realized they needed to do their part in supporting these urgent disasters. In terms of their attendees, back-up safety plans became more pressing matters.

Moving forward, planners can do a number of things. For one, remember recovery is still in the process, especially in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. The storm hasn’t exactly passed, so to speak, so sustain efforts. In addition, be prepared for next year’s season with evacuation plans, change clauses and other relevant precautions in place. Finally, keep the environment in mind. Make green practices a central part of your events and lifestyle.

10. Gaffe

Merriam-Webster definition: a noticeable mistake