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!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Heat Map vs Hot Lead

Kiki L'Italien streaming #assnchat from the trade show floor.
The sign is powered by LEDs and requires human power from the bike!
I appreciate we have access to a plethora of resources available to provide information and ideas that make us think, reflect and grow - with ideas to improve and adapt our events to our changing stakeholder needs. After listening to an #EventTech podcast today with one of my favorites John Federico aka Gadget Boy I am finding myself thinking about how we consider stakeholders, in this case exhibitors. During this show the guest's approach to meeting exhibitor expectations using event technology, specifically in this case, beacons and their ability to create a heat map surprised me. 

A heat map provides a digital visualization of where people are traveling through your event. It shows by colour or density higher volumes of traffic, and each beacon can indeed tell you exactly how many devices (presumably with their people attached) have gone past any specific area. This is useful for understanding flow, for managing in real-time movement of participants and allows for adjustments that can positively impact the guest and exhibitor experience. When combined with smart gamification strategies, push messaging and 'near me' tech, the possibilities become very interesting.

The suggestion from this guest was with a heat map and its data "we can show unhappy exhibitors how many people walked past their booths and provide evidence we have 'done our job' as organizers and provided them people to talk to". The conversation continues to note that any lack of success of a particular exhibitor at a show could be attributed to any of the following -  if their booth staff wasn't good / were on their phones / talking to people they already knew / were understaffed or had uneducated staff, etc. 

Anyone who has been an exhibitor knows how many resources - human and financial - are invested in participating in a show. Nobody takes this lightly, and while not all booths are visually stunning, and not all exhibitors stand out front with a smile waiting for the next guest to come and talk to them - there are many factors at play on both sides - flow, timing, placement of food and beverage, time of day, competing events within the overall program, and reasons the participant has attended and may be interested in talking to or meeting with as examples.

For exhibitors, trade show success is often judged on hard leads returned to the office and shows focused on buying with both buyer and seller understanding this purpose will deliver this. Often these shows include hosted buyers, across all industries and not just events / meetings because if your show is being judged on "hot leads" then bringing buyers who have business to do and can do this in the most expedient way is good for everyone.

Other shows will deliver success based on conversations which build or grow relationships; others when show education offers a way for thought leadership from the exhibitor to be shared. "Success" requires thoughtful activation and a responsible investment - understanding which shows get a tabletop and a banner with limited staff, vs. the shows where you bring out the big booth and a significant portion of your team, and focus on demonstrations, opportunities available and conversations.  For busy people attending a show where the majority of the suppliers they are interested in meeting are also in attendance makes sense from a resource perspective - time and financial. As organizers we need to ensure we allow enough time on the show floor at defined times for there to be adequate traffic flow for both exhibitors and guests - it is more than just a numbers-passing-by game.

To put this in perspective if you don't regularly follow or otherwise know me, I believe deeply in the power of technology and its ability to benefit human interactions. I have been actively using all types of #eventtech for some time. I have been a planner, producer, trade show designer and exhibitor; I have been the organizer and the client and I have also been responsible for spending tens of thousands to create memorable on-floor activations for multiple clients. I have also worked at QuickMobile and been behind the scenes where beacons have been used to heat map entire shows and tracked traffic patterns through a venue, a city and even back to origin airports. This data is used for real-time adjustments as well as future planning by many organizations working with a variety of savvy vendors and analysts to interpret and apply recommendations driven by the data. There are great success stories from PCMA, CES and SXSW who all used beacons in ways that made a positive difference to the experience.  

Ultimately success is defined by each person who attends, and perfomance is not defined or defended by a heat map. We need to consider the technology we implement - why and how it is applied to achieve interaction, knowledge retention, contact exchange and data collected within the realm of what is most useful - and take advantage of this ability to measure more clearly the impacts of face-to-face business events.