Monday, December 19, 2016

On Losing Lilly

Life is not fair, or reasonable and much of it makes no sense. Saturday we lost Lilly, this bright, creative, Viking warrior artist. It is unimaginable, and unbearable. A perfect day on the bright, crisp winter ocean with her father, a dinner with family friends and Norse poetry, one minute painting her brother's Christmas picture, the next, gone. With no clear reasons yet why she was taken suddenly, today I will tell you about Lilly and her family while we wait; for answers, and for the daily things to happen that will fill the yawning chasm of time and space she used to fill so completely.

I have known Zella, my sister-friend since I was 17, Richard since I was 19 and Lilly and her wonderful brother Morgun always. From the colic to the giggles, to playing with slugs (hey they are creatures too) on Bowen Island to a fascination with the Aquarium and all things living, Lilly deeply lived with a connection to land and sea, and the peace and sustenance both could offer. To forage, she forged her own knives. To fish, she crafted her own lines. To live, she followed her own path. Not one always easy for a parent, the labels applied could include "train kid" when she spent two years traversing North America with her rescue puppy Vader; she lived many places where she was known to reclaim unused yards and turn them into gardens with shared bounty; a sailor living on her own boat and navigating the islands of the west coast, finding artists' communities to call home, collecting friends at every stage of her journey.

Lilly never understood "stuff" beyond having the basics you need to live. For her this included paints and sketch books, a mandolin, enough clothes to stay warm, and enough food to survive without waste. Never afraid of hard work she has wrestled mistletoe at nurseries, farmed on land and in the sea, milled grains to make bread, crafted traditional Easter loaves complete with tiny bread birds and has filled all our homes with stunning artwork. Most recently she was working with Richard, learning welding from this master, and sorting through the boxes of memories that make a home with her mother, shared laughter and meals, walks and puppies, and time to reconnect. A painter, sculptor, sewer, gardener, gatherer, jewelry maker, she was always collecting interesting pieces of nature - treasures from the sea, greens and mushrooms, beach glass, rocks, bones, wood - to make into something beautifully unexpected or delicious. 

With our kids we have spent nearly every New Year's Eve in Sechelt, which means every year we have had Nicholas's birthday here, and almost every birthday cake of his life Lilly has crafted. The unique stockings we, and quite a few other friends use each Christmas were created by her and as I sit quietly in the early dawn there are some on this mantel now. The art she has been creating since she was a small child is on every wall, and the decorations she put up this year to welcome the season surround us.

Any parent with children of a certain age (teenagers) knows the feeling of your child arriving home and leaving a trail of their stuff from door to destination, and the mild annoyance they have taken over your space so completely making it their own as you pick up this and that, tidying and perhaps, muttering about the "mess". To think that Lilly will never again come in the front door and leave this trail that so clearly states, "I am home and here to stay for as long as it's convenient for me" is unfathomable.

There is nobody who lived life more completely as their own, on their own terms and always without harm to others. There are many lessons in this for the rest of us if we choose to take them. Always respectful of individuals and animals, bending the rules that didn't clearly make sense and creating a life that made sense for her, this was our Lilly.

Take care Lilly, we know you are watching over us, probably knitting something with your namesake grandmother right now while you cook up your next adventure.

Monday, October 24, 2016

IMEX16 Full of Nice Memories


When you go to your boss with a conference program in hand, you sell your attendance based on the content available which you promise to return to your organization with, bringing new tools and ideas to your work and your team.

For participation in an exhibition you are selling the possibilities of sales, at the show and in the future as the supplier. As the planner we like to attend because when we meet people face to face in dedicated B2B meetings we have the opportunity to exchange real information and to build trust in those who would deliver the event in our selected destinations and venues.

Why you return a second, third or in the case of IMEX a sixth time it is because of the connections you make. Through hosted and planned meetings to serendipitous aisle-way meet-ups to the many evening events that take place, both hosted and buy-in (often supporting a variety of initiatives), the people you meet and the conversations you have will always bring a new perspective. 

It is also a friendly event, and this is important because most of us have some level of introspectiveness, some anxiety of meeting new people and some level of effort required to maintain momentum over a multi-day event of meeting new people, and when there is a friendliness inherent in the overall event - it makes it easier. This may sound trite, but it is not, and requires a conscious effort in the planning and community building which happens year-round. Don't underestimate "nice" - the world could use more of it!

It is a place of connecting
  1. In-session actionable learning with both general sessions and sector - specific sessions including corporate, association, future leaders, sustainability, and faculty (to name a few!) which is relevant, current and can be applied when you return.
  2. To destinations that understand meetings and incentives and can speak intelligently about how theirs fits your needs - and with 157 destinations on the floor this is truly the place to find where you could take your events.
  3. To the latest trends in all areas with knowledge gained in the Inspiration Hub, the Playroom, in group meetings in the various booths, in tours conducted to experience event technology and innovation, and even the fabulous meditation room. By seeing what is being shown and how it is being shown in ways that are useful to your clients we all take away new, actionable ideas.
  4. To sustainable thinking, the list of initiatives keeps growing and many of these ideas can be easily implemented at any event.
  5. To global thought leaders across all sectors. In the pictures above there are meeting planners, event producers, company owners, faculty, event tech leaders, sustainability experts, and those working in sales, procurement, venue management, hybrid events and creating learning environments. In all cases these are people I can turn to when I need key information on any subject related to our industry, and really these are just a few of the people I connected with over the course of IMEX16!
  6. To leaders and their successes. The Convention Industry Council Hall of Leaders and Pacesetters recipients were and are all amazing, hard-working, humble and kind. Leaders indeed.
  7. To business. Ultimately every investment of your resources must lead to this, and when you bring the world together, business happens.
As always, I return home full of ideas I can implement, and wrapped in the warmth of friends, collaborators and colleagues from around the world, looking forward to returning again to continue the growth. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Using Our Time for IMPACT

A real "week in the life"
The life of an #eventprof (event professional) is ALWAYS busy. Work, life, taking care of family and self, unrealistic deadlines, it all adds up to a calendar that looks something like this. Add in travel to events you are producing, speaking at or learning at, or maybe even "sneaking in" a vacation and it comes back to being busy, tired, and even burnout.

So what if we measured time not by busy-ness but by impact. If I consider even the week above - a recent week - there was as you can see only a small amount of time left to do "real work" outside of meetings. Of course the small open spaces you see were used for answering the seemingly endless emails we all receive, most that allow us to keep moving work forward. But, we made huge progress on the #BCTECH Summit program by using meetings to consult with industry, researchers and stakeholders who are vested in the education we will be offering that will be relevant, forward thinking and actionable. IMPACT. We met with groups who can support our marketing initiatives to more deeply and broadly share the why of participating in the Summit - because we know the success from last year with conversations that led to conversions and this needs to be shared.

The big block you see at the end of the week was a soccer tournament to raise money for KidsUpFront that BCIC placed a team in. When they needed more girls to play I was ready to jump in - and voluntold Julia since I have never played - a classic Mom move. This was fun to watch and raised money for a great cause. IMPACT.

I have just packed and am ready to head for four days at IMEX16 where I will spend some time leading tours through the event technology space, sharing the possibilities with meeting planners who are seeking solutions that will make their work more efficient or productive, that will provide useful data for building and designing their meetings, IMPACT. Oh and also a lot of fun as I know already I am heading into hours of great conversations about how meeting professionals are changing lives one meeting at a time.

So the next time someone asks you how it's going - don't reply with "so busy" instead think about how many lives you have impacted - through dollars raised, food or waste diverted, knowledge shared, or inspiration provided.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Events with Purpose...Because it Makes Sense

Events with Purpose. Meetings with Heart. Sustainable Meetings and Events. These are all the articles we see now, as our industry collectively shifts to keep up with what our consumers, our event participants are demanding.


Welcome to the Night Circus. This net-zero event in 2014 saw 1,200
dancing the night away to local performers bringing a story alive.
Produced by Kelly Aleda while we were at Cantrav.
Perhaps I am naive, or perhaps I was lucky enough to have my event roots in Vancouver, and that my "anchor" events, my first two large-scale events where I did my most rapid growing and deepest learning - had these values embedded. We started working on both of these in 1993, and the first was GLOBE 94 - "Global Opportunities for Business and the Environment" which was and still is one of the largest events focused on cleantech and sustainable thinking as a core business value, across all sectors. From waste management to recycled paper, and recycling everything, thought was given to all we produced and end-to-end use.

In 1995 we worked with the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD), the Vancouver Convention Centre and several local chapters of the major meeting and event planning associations to write the first Green Meetings Guide for the city. With the Vancouver Convention Centre now being a LEED Platinum Building and Vancouver working towards being the Greenest city in the world by 2020, sustainable living, and by extension meetings - well, it's just how we roll.

In 1996 I was part of the incredible team that brought the XI International Conference on AIDS, with the overarching theme of One World, One Hope to life. From planning for simple, nutritious meals and a medical centre for the 1,500 participants living with HIV/AIDS to the process for ensuring the highest level of education for the 13,000+ medical practitioners who attended from around the globe - no stone in inclusive planning was left unturned. This was a feat accomplished by hundreds, and included technical groundwork such as laying new T1 lines to broadcast the information to a wider audience - the early days of "hybrid"! We spent days educating the many who would touch the lives of our participants during event setup, operation and dismantling - and were scared in doing so they would catch AIDS - they would not. 

When I think of these and so many other associations, topics and forward thinking corporations I have worked with to create sustainable, stunning, experiential events that have led to new knowledge imparted, collaborations strengthened, deals made, and friendships built, I know that we have always considered the objectives and created spaces that allow these to happen. Meet with purpose... yes. Let's keep doing this.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

EventTech is Here to Stay


A Limbic Media social rainbow - connecting participants one disk at a time.
Keeping Up is Hard!
Two years ago I wrote about digital fludity and what this means as we plan events.  While there are many very cool ways we are embedding technology into events - from holograms to robot concierges, wayfinding and crowd management, multi-projections and multiple live streams, the ubiquitous mobile apps and their ever expanding capabilities, and so much more - the learning is never-ending

Join Me for Tours at IMEX16
One of the many things I appreciate about attending IMEX is the sheer volume of relevant and current knowledge as they listen to what participants want and need to know more about right now. At IMEX October 18-20th I will be leading EventTech tours which will begin at the Media Centre multiple times throughout the three days - join us and hear from five different types of event technology companies (each tour is different) and their thoughts on the future of event planning and the technology supporting these changes. On Tuesday and Wednesday you can augment these tours with Innovation Tours led by Glenn Thayer at alternate times. A great way to learn quickly more about what is going on right now - ideas and tools you can take away.

If you really want to see what's next - check out the IMEX Pitch Competition.

Why We Need to Keep Up
In this recent post for Event Manager Blog I looked at The Attendee of the Future and what this means to how we need to plan events now. Fundamentally our expectations have shifted and our collective audiences now expect to receive information in the way they want it - paper, desktop, and mostly, mobile. As planners we also want (need) to be able to work any place and in any time zone, and with as little paper to carry around as humanly possible. We can do initial site inspections as virtual walk-throughs, and manage our clients' needs 24/7 with the cloud based tools available. Then we add Facetime to talk to our families and sleep and fitness apps to help keep us on track as we attempt to find balance! It's all digital, all the time!

As event professionals we know technology is not going anywhere except deeper into our lives and those of our participants. It is exciting - and I look forward to learning more along with all of you!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

So You Think You Can

Brian Dennehy captured this amazing
moment at an I event I produced while
working at Cantrav
So you think you can be an event professional? Well you can. But it won't be what you expect, and it definitely won't be as easy as you imagine it will be. 

Five years ago (!) I wrote a post on 23 areas you need to be an expert on to be a meeting professional. If anything this list has grown, with an even greater emphasis on both risk management and technology in all its forms. This ranges now from business management to data acquisition, privacy and data analysis for your own business and your clients and ultimately the event and of course, event participants

There is a reason that Career Cast lists event professional in the top 5 most stressful jobs, right after military officers, police officers, firefighters and airline pilots. I would like to point out that rarely is our actual life on the line, but we do have numerous stakeholders from C-level executives and their direct reports, marketing teams, sponsors, exhibitors and participants; and an environment which we imagine and then rely on often dozens of supplier partners we can inspire but don't control, a team of staff, volunteers, performers, presenters and yes, participants to bring our event to life. We do this all in the immediate view of anyone attending our events live PLUS all those following their perspective of our events as shared in visual content on multiple streams of social media or traditional media. We now have to please live participants and virtual attendees in many cases, and all have their own needs. EVERY person attending has made an investment in our event, and everyone deserves the best we can deliver.

So what does it take? It is a combination of attitude and aptitude, hard-won experience and yes, education. Since this post I wrote - also in 2011 - about education  vs experience I have recertified my CMP, obtained my Digital Event Strategist (DES) and am working towards my Certified Event Designer (CED) designations. Why? I recognize that to continue to deliver what our clients demand, we have to stay ahead of the curve, defeat the status quo, pay attention to the changing consumer, and continue to LOVE what we do. Do I think you need certifications to be a skilled, savvy, fantastic event professional? Of course not - there are many people who have entered this industry from a variety of backgrounds and who understand experience creation, branding, client service and are creative or logistic geniuses with excellent careers and clients. Do I believe if you are starting out or desiring you should take the (precious) time and take advantage of the education available both formal and informal, through universities and associations? YES. 

Is it daunting? Often. Is it do-able? Heck YES. Do you have to truly, deeply, madly want to deliver unequaled experiences that change people's lives? YES. 

Please, share what you LOVE about being an event professional, I would love to hear!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

My Top Eventprofs Reads for 2016

Inspired by others sharing their top ready, below are books I have read, use to teach with, have learned from or think you will find useful as you build or evolve in your event / meeting career. From the "basics" to the inspirational, these are among the best I have found across the sectors that are driving us forward.

  1. Convention Industry Council's 9th Edition because it is the base for the CMP exam for a reason. If you are seriously into planning meetings, and believe in lifelong learning, and work somewhere that recognizes the benefits of this designation, or want to, this is a good read for you. A nice companion read is Professional Meeting Management, 6th edition.
  2. Event Design Handbook - Roel Frissen, Ruud Jannsen and Dennis Luijer. This builds the story of the #EventCanvas which captures the process of design - from building stakeholder empathy maps, why this matters and defining needs, goals and measurements - both real and visceral. It lays it out in a way that is systematic and ultimately for your event owner - compelling. As a book, it is (of course) really well designed and therefore both easy to read and to pull relevant content from.
  3. Winners Dream by Bill McDermott. Why do meetings and incentives matter? This explains why - from the perspective of this CEO. 
  4. Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility in the Meetings and Events Industry by Elizabeth Henderson and Mariela McIlwraith. We share one world, we have the ability to have the biggest impact on it - much of it positive once we understand our power and pay attention to the planning and design process with an eye on sustainability. This book breaks it down without being preachy.
  5. Gamestorming A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers and Changemakers. Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo. If you don't like the title, this is not the book for you. That's okay. If you want to work with your teams and committees and even on-site at your events to change up formats and deliver more actionable learning, this is a great book for you.
  6. Resonate by Nancy Duarte. If you are a content creator, an event producer, or just love the way storytelling can be used to deliver great messages, this book is practical, has lots of great examples and will spark new ways to deliver content well - and make every presenter you share it with look better too.
  7. Trending Topic by Gerrit Heijkoop and Paula Vos is described as a 'management novel' and it really is just this - an easy read that you learn from. If you are thinking you still don't really understand social media or how it can benefit your meeting, event or association and its members, this book is an easy way to create understanding. Social media is simply another medium we need to understand as event professionals, and this makes the learning, yes, fun.
  8. Wine Drinking for Creative Thinking by Michael Gelb. If you know me - the title says it all. If you want to delve into the process of creativity, enjoy some great storytelling, and pair it with chocolate, this is exactly the book to do it with.
Happy reading!