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Saturday, May 16, 2015

U2 and the Mobile Mind Shift

I have loved U2 since Joshua Tree because their music is honest and awesome.  I have seen them perform multiple times over the years (lucky me!) and now, 25+ years later, love how they have embraced all the #eventtech available to elevate the human experience.  One of my favorite moments was when they brought up a thrilled audience member, tapped into her own phone and had her film and project what she was seeing on the gigantic double sided, catwalk enabled screen that filled the stadium. From close-ups of each member to panning the audience so they could be on the screen too - she maximized the experience. And... she has that memory stored on her device forever. They aren't scared of mobile - they are maximizing the opportunities of a mobile enabled audience. We know this one concert added to the 70 million daily Instagram photos, was seen by many of the 745 million daily Facebook users and was part of the 700 million tweets posted daily. #U2

From another human experience, having spent many years planning medical meetings, many specifically focused on HIV/AIDS, I also appreciate as they have grown they have used their power for good establishing among other things, Red, a charity to support creating an AIDS free generation. Some of you may remember this time, it wasn't that long ago when AIDS was a new and frightening disease, and if we can work to eradicate it, as we have smallpox, polio and other diseases through research, medical care and most importantly, education for those most affected, this is something I can get behind.

Mobile in action during the concert
Now those mobile moments.  This is something I talk about frequently as I speak on experiential design, event technology and most recently, the importance for meeting and event professionals to embrace the reality that our participants are arriving with their devices in hand, and more than ever are relying on mobile to provide their access to information, their work functionality and social connections, and to capture and share their memories.  What Forrester Research refers to as the Mobile Mind Shift is happening in life, in retail, in the way we research, discuss and purchase products and services and 100% in the way we experience meetings and events.  Are you considering how to integrate the BYOD reality into your plans - amplifying your brand and growing your event community's stories? Plus capturing their thoughts and feelings about your event, and being able to "see" in real time what is happening in your events?  Isn't it time?  

Oh, and if you have the chance to see U2 on this tour - go!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Tea Tasting at Events - Sweet

In 2008 I had the pleasure of working with an amazing team in Beijing for the Summer Olympic Games. On arriving in Beijing, as one of the first to come during training, I was greeted at the large and overwhelming airport by Kiko and Lindsey, and a large group of super-cute, nervous and somewhat giggly Chinese team members in training.  They would be with us for the whole month, and were in great hands learning under Kiko, whose knowledge of event transportation is second to none, and anyone in this industry knows this is an art, especially on large, world-scaled events. Lindsey had a host of roles over the course of the Games, and I always found her presence to be one of calm and still get-it-done. Now, several years later to see them translating their skill set and love of tea into a business that would add something unique to events is quite fantastic, and I asked her to share her story in greater detail here.

1. Lindsey, tell me about why you created Blackbird Tea - what couldn't you 
find already in the world of tea?

The primary reason is that I love tea – the first time my mom made me English Breakfast tea with sugar and milk I fell completely in love – and when I started contemplating the idea of starting a business with my husband, Kiko, tea popped into my mind. He’s a coffee drinker, but he got on board. 

Also, I was noticing among the people around me that the story surrounding tea was, in my opinion, incomplete. Most of my friends saw tea as something you drink when you’re sick or in need of a health boost. And while tea is certainly comforting and healthy (especially when enjoyed without loads of sugar and milk), I think it’s also just a tasty beverage. And with loose leaf tea, which is the best type of tea to drink in terms of taste and health benefits, many people I’ve met tend to get nervous and think it has to be this mystical, serious process that is so concerned with steeping times, water temperature, and portioning that they just don’t try it. But you can make a great cup of tea just as easily as you can make coffee, and it doesn’t have to be a fussy, cumbersome process. Tea is good for us, it has a long history, and it can be ceremonial, but at the end of the day, it just tastes really good. You can take the other aspects of it or leave them.

So mainly, we’re aiming to share good, high quality tea and to demystify it in a way.

My experience: I too had a similar falling in love experience with my neighbours who moved in across the street when I was eight.  A British family, every day after school there was tea, with delicious treats I learned how to bake at their house, and cloth napkins. It was both grown-up and peaceful.

2. We have really seen a push towards wellness in the past year or so with meetings and events. This is something I feel very strongly about as we tend to fill up participant's time into very long days, and we don't always offer the most hydrating or nourishing items for these long days. Tell me about your vision for how Blackbird tea can fit into this new thinking.

I realize that I’ve just gotten done saying that people don’t need to think about health 
when it comes to tea, but when I say that I am mainly speaking to debunking the idea that if something is healthy is probably doesn’t taste good, or it’s something we’ll only have when we feel under the weather. We’ve made huge strides in the world of food with regards to realizing that things can be good for us and taste great, but I think that tea still has a ways to go with this. Part of the issue is the stories we tell about tea – that it’s a healthy alternative to coffee, that it’s a cancer fighter, etc, all of which are true, but I think we have to broaden the story.

Tahira: We certainly can't take away coffee, but as participants seek to personalize their experience having choices is always a good thing.

3. I love the idea of creating on-site tea experiences!  I see a ton of opportunities for both venues and hotel brands, particularly those embracing this movement towards health and offering lifestyle menus - to be able to offer planners something really creative.  What would a Blackbird tea tasting experience offer to event guests?

Blackbird is still really small, and with our experience with events we are drawn towards the evolution of both adding tea experiences to events, or eventually to supply product for meetings and events. So far we’ve done parties and some great pop-up shops and have found it is a great way to introduce people to another option. 

Plus, guests wouldn’t get those jitters associated with too much coffee but still have a way to connect with others over a hot cuppa!

You can make it a cocktail too – tea and spirits go well together! 

Tahira: I love the idea of offering alternatives to guests, and tea cocktails would be fun.  I see a workshop brewing!

Since we’re still small and nimble, there’s a flexibility there that wouldn’t exist with all brands. I think our best quality at the moment is that we are able to create most any kind of experience to complement the experience of the event – special wedding favors in  upstate New York; a small tasting stand at a private fundraiser for the surf industry in California; a retail pop up space in Seattle. All different looks and objectives but achievable through our small size, which in that sense, is an asset. We offer that flexibility coupled with some really tasty teas, a small, local business feel (because that’s what we are), and a love of sharing our knowledge of tea with guests. If people want to know, we’ll talk about the origins of the teas, ingredients, how to make them at home, and even the journey of starting a tea business. 

Lindsey, thank you for taking the time to share this with me.  I see so many opportunities for forward thinking events to add to what they are doing as you do offer more than just a teabag on a station, and I believe as we continue to seek more authentic experiences and connections, you offer a way to make this happen.  When we think about what we are learning about meeting and learning design, time for reflection and the introvert's need for quiet time, I think stopping at a tea station, or in a larger event even a great pop-up space, offers something really special.  For anyone who wants to reach out directly - 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Nicholas wins Michael Smith Science Challenge

Earlier this year Nicholas wrote - in French - the Michael Smith Science Challenge and we heard yesterday Nicholas came first in Canada - FIRST!!!

No, we had not heard of this before either and even when he was asked by his teacher to participate, we still didn't hear about it.  Other parents reading this may be familiar with this phenomenon.  Then this letter came. Let's go with "WOW!"

Yes, he is our son, and his fascination with science is well known to us, but when I looked at what the types of questions were, and couldn't answer any... well suffice it to say, I was impressed.  

One of the things we most appreciate about Nicholas is his innate curiosity. Every day he asks a question we can't answer and often have to look up.  This is something that will serve him well through his whole life as he won't accept the status quo, but will dig deeper and seek solutions that serve the greater good.

Way to go - we are really proud of you!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hybrid Events - Another Way to Learn

I first met Stephanie Pfeilsticker in another life for both of us, she as a corporate meeting planner and I was the Director of Creative and Production at Cantrav, where I had the opportunity to work on several events with their rather awesome team.  Since then she moved into digital and hybrid events and is currently following her passion for both educating the industry and hybrid events.  I caught up with her recently as she gets ready to launch a new program and here is what she had to say.

1.   Steph, can you give me a bit of history on your experience and where your passion for hybrid events began.

I have been a planner in the meetings industry for 16 years. In 2010, I discovered virtual and hybrid events at an industry event. After a successful hybrid pilot where I streamed a National Sales Meeting to those who couldn’t attend in person, a viable option to extend our message was born. Requests came in for more hybrid meetings and I started a Virtual Strategy Group to produce these events.I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur since I was 10 years old. Late last year, I made that a reality by launching Hybrid Events Authority, LLC based in Minneapolis, MN. Through Hybrid Events Authority, I guide clients through the process of planning hybrid events or if they prefer, I can produce the events for them.

2.  You have created a new program for meeting professionals to better understand hybrid events. Can you tell me more about this and what it includes.  Also, are there CE HOURS available?

That’s right. I believe that education on hybrid events is necessary for planners to understand how and when hybrid meetings should be incorporated into their own meetings. Most education at industry conferences give planners 60 minutes to learn about hybrid events. To fully understand the process behind hybrid events, a more in-depth course is needed. To meet this need, I have teamed up with Digital Event Strategist, Mahoganey Jones from Toronto to produce a 5-part series online that will allow planners to walk away with the ability to plan their own hybrid event. We wanted the series of sessions to be comprehensive, yet practical so the information could be immediately put to use.

The course begins on Thursday, April 23rd at 11:30 AM CT via the internet so that anyone can attend! The course is Convention Industry Council certified and there is 6.25 CE hours available. Meeting professionals can register for it at Enter code NMID to receive the early bird rate!

3.  How is this different than the DES program? 
Great question! I had an excellent learning experience in the DES program and encourage others to consider it. This course was designed as a pre-cursor to the DES. If you have minimal digital experience, our Hybrid Series will give you a sound foundation of practical knowledge to build on.

4.  Who developed the program?  I know there is a story to this. Can you tell me more?

Mahoganey Jones of Event Specialists in Toronto was the originator of the idea. She reached out to a mutual colleague to potentially partner. That person referred her to me. I had a similar idea on my “to do” list and was thrilled to partner-up with such a like-minded person. Together we spent months shaping the program and tailoring the content so that it was comprehensive, yet practical. After 4 years and dozens of hybrid events, we have tried and true methods that take the guesswork out of hybrid meeting planning. For example, I know the marketing plan we share works because I’ve perfected it over the last several years at my own hybrid events. We want a planner to be able to immediately put our information to use to produce their own hybrid event. 

5.  If someone is interested in this program how can they get involved?
Our program is detailed on our website, The early-bird rate ended last week, but we are offering your readers the code NMID to register at that discounted rate. Our first class starts on Thursday, April 23rd at 11:30 AM – 12:45 PM CT. If participants can’t attend the live class, they are able to view the recording afterward. The remaining classes are offered on Thursdays at 11:30 AM CT for the next four (4) weeks.
If anyone has questions, they may contact me at or 612-247-4420.  Mahoganey Jones can be reached at or 647-693-3444.

So there we go - another great way to gain some knowledge in our ever changing industry!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I Nominate... #CMP30

I love this initiative from the Convention Industry Council to celebrate CMPs who are making a difference to individuals, and I am so honoured to have been nominated by Mariela McIlwraith. 

When I first started I was finishing my Event Management Diploma and my practicum was led by Claire Smith, CMP who has been such a mentor to me and so many others over the years she has been actively and proactively involved in improving our industry, one day at a time.  She is thoughtful in all she does, kind to all, and never looks back except to learn from what has happened already.  Claire was one of the first to take on sustainability and Vancouver and its Convention Centre today are among the most sustainable in the world.  Her commitment to education and the industry has no boundaries, and I appreciate all she does.

Mariela has evolved her career from thoughtful meeting planner to writer and educator and her strength of mind and strong character continue to inspire me.  She does not have a stop button when it comes to getting things right, and her ethical and straight-forward approach combined with a real commitment to continual improvement are inspiring.

This is simply a good start and I encourage everyone who has been inspired by a CMP to take a few minutes and nominate someone.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Doughnuts are not a Proper Breakfast

I write, talk about and order food for meetings and events which is brain-friendly, delicious and has a semblance of nutrition.  I recently wrote about the three areas I think we could do better at in planning meetings - still - for Corporate Meetings Network. These are wellness, sustainability and technology. Don't get me wrong - many event professionals are doing a stellar job in these areas and more and I applaud the many amazing successes we see.  Even as I was writing this, I thought maybe I was being a bit harsh, and then I went to another (otherwise fabulous) conference - where the content was fabulous, the people I met inspiring, the events great - but they promoted breakfast as being available, and this is what we got.  

For anyone gluten-free, they were out of luck, for anyone who wanted to survive the morning sessions without a 10am sugar crash - they too were out of luck.  There was no alternative offered so you could go down in the hotel and find something else, but if you hadn't allowed time for that, the inclination was to grab and go, which many people did. 

As planners or venues when we offer this type of food we have done nothing to set our participants up for success - mental or physical - with this offering and it made me a little sad.  Which also sounds a bit melodramatic but is how I felt.  Please can we simply stop offering white-flour, white-sugar, coated in sugar food products as "breakfast" and create better meetings by doing so.  Please.

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.