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Thursday, February 12, 2015

ACTION Social Justice Grade 12 Style

Impact points.  On March 3rd an inspired project is happening at Burnsview High School in Delta.  Laura Masini Piarelli teaches English 12 and Social Justice 12 and one of her tasks is to teach the students to write essays which will ensure they excel on their provincial exams. As this is a process that lasts for a few months, she wanted to find a subject that would inspire the students to write emotive narrative essays and combined these two disciplines, identified a subject which would inspire them, and brought these together.

They chose to face the issue of domestic violence and began with a visit to a secondary transition house nearby.  The playground here reflected the sadness of the circumstances of those who are here, victims of domestic violence, seeking a second chance.  They were inspired to raise funds to build a new playground for this group who are working through unfortunate circumstances.  But how to do that... well their teacher had an idea and this is where you can learn more about it.

Students share their experiences here with me in the writing, planning and the WHY they wanted to do this.  I left their classroom this week feeling hope for the future if these are the types of people we are raising in our community.  I encourage you to watch the linked video - and without minding the homespun quality of the video - please listen to the words they share - unscripted and raw.

On March 3rd you can come to Burnsview School in Delta and learn more about how you can help build a playground, and hear some excerpts from the essays the students wrote, which will also be available in an anthology volume "Enriching Times", seen above. and available for a minimum donation ($25) and be part of an evening which is about bringing together positive role models in our community with the youth which are about to embark on the next phase of their lives and become the fabric of our community.  If you don't live nearby but would like to help them on their journey to raising $30,000 please reach out to for more information.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

If Nicholas Sparks Wrote an Event

Nicholas Sparks understands the importance of place, of timing, and wastes no words. I have read most of the stories, and been drawn into most of the movies, feeling my own heart break as he weaves love and loss, pleasure and pain, eyes wide open to the reality that life does not usually come easy, that we don't always make choices that make sense, that families are complicated and events can't always be controlled, and in the end it is often the messy bits which make us the people we are.  

Just another great story
If we approached events with the same understanding of storytelling, allowing our audience to grow from hearing and sharing the tough stories, creating balance to focus on what matters and believing words are precious, we would create much different spaces. Much different conversations.  

I have been inspired by many speakers over the years. Storytellers such as Lisa Ling, Aron Ralston, and this year by Robert Fogarty at FICP's Annual Conference in Hawaii with his astounding Dear World project - the speakers that shake you up with tales of their own, and of others, these are the people I want to be inspired by. Stories where every image, every word has a place. 

When we create events, it is the conscious choices we make, in destination and venue(s), layout and design, programmed content balanced against white space and time for informal conversations, sound and lighting, decor - intrinsic vs created, ambient or focal entertainment, food and beverage, and all the thoughtful discussion leading to these decisions which determine the overall planned guest experience. When we market, we hope to capture the attention of the "right" people, those who will benefit from and create the energy of the event as it takes its shape and form. We need to create the environment and provide the information in digestible formats so their choices can be made easily, where conversations can flow, relevant and actionable takeaways can be inspired, and ultimately where they leave feeling richer for the time spent.

What have you been to lately that you felt this happen - where you leave more prepared, more inspired and bigger than when you arrived?  I would love to hear about it!     

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Conferences and Airplanes

Yes, that was fun - and great ideas were shared!
We design meetings for people to connect, communicate and share ideas.  There are literally millions of meetings taking place annually around the globe, bringing people together regionally, nationally and globally, and we know from various research studies most people attend 3 – 6 conferences per year, choosing those they believe will be the most valuable to them.  This nebulous value is determined by the education shared and the people met.  When a trade component is attached, then you may have sales or marketing targets to be met, but each of these transactions begins with a relationship.

So what does this have to do with airplanes?  For not the first time (I wrote about this first  in 2012), I am seated on a plane beside two people who have just attended the same conference.  They have spent 4 days in a new city, focused on similar goals, attending the same sessions and networking functions, likely passing in the hall more than once.  They didn’t meet.  They are now seated beside each other on a four hour flight, and from the first ‘Oh you were at X too’, they have not stopped talking. They have shared ideas for courses,  mutual connections, ideas around managing their students (they are both from universities) and have moved on to challenges they face with students, with funding, managing co-workers and family balance, and have come up with a few “a-ha” moments, with much nodding, smiling and brightness in the conversation.

How do we create an event which allows these types of conversations to happen?  Where there is a balance of thought provoking speakers who inspire disruptive thinking to happen, and where action can be driven by the conversations that follow, and where white space is encouraged.  Where networking functions are not buffet lines and cocktails with music slightly too loud to converse over, adding to a thumping ambience, but instead have features that elicit comments and food and beverage that enhances the overall sensations – taste, texture, health, and delight all incorporated.  Where we use technology in all its forms to support the experience. Where you have the opportunity to “touch” each person at least once, and where you leave with deep connections with at least a few people who will become game-changers for you, your business, your lifestyle.  These are the questions I can’t wait to explore this year.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Events of the Future and Digital Fluidity

Is the above photo a trade show dream, where thousands swarm the floor, seeking information and not swag; seeking connections and not business cards; where organizations are cementing their brand presence and not merely taking up space?  It is hard to say what the individuals experienced, because we give so little energy in our typical planning cycle to thinking of the individuals.  We may create "buyer personas" and attendee profiles, generalizing to show our exhibitors the types of people they should expect to meet at our show, enticing them to purchase a booth and immerse themselves in the experience.  But how each person is able to build their own schedule, easily find their preferred exhibitors or those they seek to know more about, or find colleagues, friends, and potential collaborators who have similar interests - this is still missing for many.

I wrote recently for Corporate Meetings Network about the concept of Digital Fluidity and what this means to our event experiences and I believe we must become much more fluent in this new language, and the medium which lives in the pockets and purses of the individuals who attend.  They are busy, they are living with a certain amount of stress from work, life and the integration of the two in a continuously time - strapped world where 24/7 access is a reality for many. How can we use mobile and its inherent tools such as location via bluetooth or similar now built in to so many devices, or apply concepts such as flipped learning with augmented reality, and ease their journey through our event, allowing for deeper connections, more relevant learning to the time and space they are in now, and deliver events which are ultimately more meaningful, and create a thirst to return again?  It is these questions that keep me intrigued, that cause me to ask deeper questions of fellow planners and the smart people I work with and to continue to explore the many facets and components of mobile and how we can use it, quite simply, in a better way.   How are you using the new wave of technology to enhance your experiences?    

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Celebrating Ron

CindyMDiaz Photographer may be the only person with more
photos of Mt. Shasta than Ron. I chose this one
It would be impossible for me to write about our friend Ron without including Mt. Shasta, as I have a montage of years of this mountain, which he loved. I write often about other people and their accomplishments and ideas on my blog, and this will be a first for me to write about someone who has so recently left our world.

It is with profound sadness that today I write about Ron.  He was lost to us this week through cancer and its complications. He is someone who has profoundly impacted our lives, and the lives of many, and who deserves to be remembered. Ron and my husband Greg have been friends since the end of high school, and when I came along was wrapped up into a wide group of friends, many who are still close 30+ years later, often with Ron as the catalyst for the many happenings. We learned how to make our first real turkey dinner when we took over his mom's kitchen one Easter (by "we" I don't mean he cooked), I have seen Styx and Ozzy Osbourne (among others and both well past their prime), and he was both our best man and the man when Greg was unavailable when my water broke with Nicholas five weeks early to take me to the hospital. Probably in a Mustang and very nervous about his seats - fair enough it was not his natural comfort zone!

Ron loved getting people together, both at home and away.  Along with many others over the years Greg has enjoyed over 35 long weekend trips organized by Ron as he wove a social fabric that stretched to fit the new relationships and friendships and which all contributed to a life well lived.  Sun and a cold beer, a great dinner and a fabulous bottle of wine, playing his grand piano alone or for friends, or the guitar for a sing-along, sharing a concert or a night at Margaritaville, on the curling ice or the golf links, at a hockey game or a ball game, it has always been about creating experiences and memories.  But never Facebook and rarely pictures.

After his diagnosis Ron shrunk his world to a small circle who were there to support him through his journey which ended with dignity on Tuesday with three of these friends there to see him to the other side.  I was not physically part of this journey and now give a huge shout-out to those who were, as drivers, dinner makers, and for just being there - each by choice and each for a reason.  All of us would be fortunate to have this type of support in any time of need, and you know who you are and how important this time was for all.

For many there is literal heartbreak.  For his lovely parents the pain is enormous, and burying a child is the worst any of us can imagine, the age is irrelevant.  How Ron lived life was gifted to him by Fred and Nancy who taught him by example to choose a profession that you enjoy and serves your lifestyle of choice, and then to live each moment. If there is one thing we can each take away from knowing Ron it is this, to capture the moments, to spread happiness and to simply enjoy.  Rest well my friend, you are missed. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Anvil Centre

With Heidi Hughes the day the stairs were poured

Deciding to build a new venue is always part dream and part business case. The Anvil Centre just above the riverfront in New Westminster is certainly a great example of recognizing and then filling a need, for both meetings as well as the community.  

Having been on several hardhat tours over the previous year, I was simply thrilled to be at the Grand Opening at the end of October and to see many familiar faces from our industry also there to
One year later on the staircase!
celebrate this gorgeous addition to our meeting inventory. There were also many faces familiar to me from work both in other Vancouver venues and across the country, so I know they have also spent the time and energy on building a great team that thoroughly understands both service and operations.

This boutique conference centre will easily serve both corporate and association needs and its proximity to Skytrain, thoughtful building planning, and commitment to supporting their local community including a museum filled with local history (which can also be included in your event) makes it a shining example of sustainable design, which I always appreciate. 

Go ahead, check it out!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pooh, Pain and sunshine

Anyone who has been reading with me for a while knows I write mostly about events, sometimes about life and occasionally about impact points. Today is about these. There are certain, unexpected phases of life that happen to us of which each must be embraced for who it brings us and what it teaches us. 
The phase in our 20s where it seems like we go to many (first) weddings, launch our (first) careers and often meet our lifelong friends through work, college or happenstance - the idea that we meet people for a reason, season or lifetime beginning to make sense.  Last weekend we had the opportunity to attend the wedding of our godson Dylan to the beautiful inside and out Megan and to share this with their family and friends, and to watch them set out together to face whatever life will bring.  The bride obviously gorgeous in white, the groom wore Batman Converse. 
Dylan and Megan we could not be happier for you
Most of us have many positive memories of our 20s (or are building them now) and much of who we become happens now.  It is also often the first time we have to learn to deal with loss, of a friend or family member, and it is how we manage the grieving process, the support we have available and our own inner chutzpah kicking in that gets us through these times, giving us strength we did not know we had yet. In the words of AA Milne and Winnie The Pooh “If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together... there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart... I'll always be with you.”  
In our 30s we tend to focus on our careers, many begin families, others are just meeting their life partners, and life generally is full of deep potential. Careers and relationships may change and momentum carries us forward. I adore seeing all my third-decade  friends bring their charisma and joy and drive to their workplace and lives. On the flip side from other perspectives there is a certain displacement, a disconnect between a generation that is not so good at balance or work/life integration and the community that comes with this, and there are thousands of workshops and articles on what this and the next generations means to the evolving workplace.  I admire their sense of lifestyle, or again in the words of Pooh Bear  “When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.”
It is the next phase that is seemingly more challenging, the age where our parents are aging and our friends and even their children are facing challenges that seem grossly unfair. In two words 

Last Christmas we received what we thought was a typical Christmas card from our old neighbors whose cards always featured a picture of an adventure they had been on this previous year - salt mines in Turkey, exotic beaches and jungles. Last year it was of them in front of the Victoria Cancer Centre and the story of their daunting, overwhelming year. We received this two weeks ago. We were once again reminded by the two oncologists of how rare it is that she was sitting there talking to them considering the original prognosis.(0.5%)  They will continue to hold their collective breaths for another 6 months at which time they will consider her out of the danger zone (statistically speaking). This is good news for sure and we invite everyone to lift a glass of wine in thanks…in six months it will be champagne. 
Bring on the bubbles has never seemed so wonderful.
We have too many friends currently battling cancer, and while they are winning the battle their personal and unique wars on cancer are full of challenges and none is without its scars. The tools we have are poisonous and often experimental, but when the choice is to live through some terrible days, to live... I applaud their courage and am thankful they have made the choices they have.  Keep fighting to win!
We interviewed a wonderful man last week on Event Alley - Izzy Gesell  and while the show was about the lessons in Improv for business, what intrigued me as much (since this first makes a lot of sense to me) was the work he does with cancer patients and their loved ones on patience, acceptance and trust, all tools that are needed by everyone involved in the care and outcome as you move from curing to healing. 
Last week someone passed me in the hall during IMEX and while continuing on their path said two simple words Hello Sunshine.  While literally said in passing, as offhand as anyone could say hello it made me think. If I thought consciously each day about what I was bringing to my family and colleagues, or our listeners on the weekly Event Alley show or in any presentation I give - I would choose to be exactly this, a ray that brings light and gives energy to others.  I rarely watch the news - in this age of connected and social everything we get all the bad without seeking it, and we phone people when we are troubled as often as when we are delivering exceptionally good news, and we connect in ways that are often personally sent through impersonal forums - text, facebook, twitter, linkedin, in blog comments... yet we still seek connections that are meaningful.  For all of you I do not get to see enough as the regular demands of life are real, know you are never far away in thought.  
I live with a man forever looking on the bright side and know how lucky I am (and our children are). If I had to sum up my feelings with a final Winnie the Pooh quote it would be this If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”   Go ahead, hug a bear.