You've probably caught on by now that Southwest Airlines' Leaders are strong believers in open communication. Our Leaders share information with Employees in a variety of ways, including: a monthly Employee magazine (LUVLines); our CEO, Gary Kelly's weekly phone newsline update; and our daily online newsletter (Today@SWA). In addition, the Company hosts its own annual version of the "State of the Union" address...our event is called Message to the Field. Herb delivered the very first Message in October of 1985, and we've had them every year since. These days, the Message to the Field events take place at the beginning of each year in several cities across the country.
The past couple of years, we've held Messages in Chicago, Baltimore, Orlando, Phoenix, Oakland, and Dallas. Depending on the city, attendance ranges from 500 - 3,000 people (with PHX and DAL being the largest). Cities are strategically chosen with the hope that Southwest Employees across the nation will be able to easily travel a short distance to a Message near the city in which they live and work. We secure group rates at local hotels for Employees who travel from other locations and need to stay overnight; we negotiate discounted rates for rental cars for Employees who prefer to drive; and we also provide free shuttle service between the airport and the Message venue before and after each event.
Several months before each Message, our Team researches venues in each city and determines which one best suits our needs. Once we determine that a particular venue meets all of our requirements, we work with our General Counsel Department to secure contracts. Some other pre-Message work includes finding contractors who can handle all of our audio/visual needs at each Message; securing a sign language interpreter for each city; and arranging security to patrol parking lots the evening of each event.
Once the cities, dates, and venues are confirmed, we publish all of this information for our Employees so they can determine which Message they would like to attend. Our talented Graphic Design and Creative Services Team also designs posters advertising the Messages, which we send to each airport, Maintenance Base, Flight Operations Domicile, Inflight Base, Provisioning Office, Reservations Center, Marketing Office, and People Department throughout the Southwest system.
The day of each event, we visit the venue and setup registration tables where Employees will checkin upon arriving. Each Employee attending the Message completes a brief registration form, which will be included in the drawing for prizes at the end of the Message. We also set up tables for various Employee vendors who want to sell merchandise (usually T-shirts, go figure) to Employees before and after the event.
It's show time! Typically, the emcee (our President and fellow blogger, Colleen Barrett) starts each Message by welcoming the crowd and, by measure of applause, taking roll call. It is common for certain work groups or Teams from a specific location to wear matching T-shirts for group camaraderie and easy identification. After roll call, a video highlighting major events and accomplishments from the previous year is shown, setting the tone of the Message. Our Employee Communications Team works endless hours taping these videos, and each year their creativity is unmatched.
Gary then makes his entrance. He delivers his "Message," which typically recaps the highlights of the previous year and addresses goals for the upcoming year. Don't be fooled...this "finance guy" is always enlightening, inspirational, and motivating. After his remarks, Gary opens the floor to all Employees, who are encouraged to ask him and Colleen any questions that their inquiring minds want to know.
As with every Southwest event, at the end of each Message, we have a drawing for fabulous prizes...hotel stays; airline tickets; SWA merchandise; etc. One lucky winner from each Message will even win a trip to Seattle to pick up a brand-new 737 from Boeing (see Sunny's post "Can We Bottle That Smell?").
The 2007 Message to the Field will be no exception...this is one event our Employees won't want to miss.