Monday, April 18, 2016

The Lost Art of the Question

Asking questions is a lost art. Yes, I just said that. 

As humans, we are good at asking questions that don't mean much ie "How are you?" or "How are things going?" - often not waiting for the answer. What we need to get better at in developing events is asking questions both in developing the event and in delivering the event. Imagine if in the table above you sat down, and were unfamiliar with the art of Dali - you may question why everything is the way it is... a little "off" and always interesting. You may also be shy to ask, or worried that you may be the only one. In events we need to make sure there are safe ways to create comfort for questions - it is often in the search for answers that innovation is found.

Questions allow you a safe way to look at new solutions from different perspectives. Imagine if instead of presenting the (creative, out of the box, on-target) idea for an event, you instead were able to put your stakeholders in a room and instead of saying "here's the plan for our conference" opening up the door to them to potentially rethink the approach to the event by asking questions that get to the heart of objectives. 

At the Exclusively Corporate Day at #IMEX16 the first presenter of the morning Kaihan Krippendorff shared with the group the importance of questions and creating space for disruptive thinking. Kaihan is truly an expert on "disruptive thinking for future expansion" and to be introduced to this concept even briefly made me want to go out and buy at least 3 of his 4 books to better understand how to increase our mental agility using the patterns our brain responds to, and how to use various narratives to better understand and tell our own stories. It always comes back to starting with questions - to ensure you are on the right track and to open up to new ideas and ways to approach what we are doing.  Check out his website, and begin your Question Journey.

Now back to comfortable learning spaces for your participants. We have SO many ways to ask questions, including using apps where the question can be typed in with a name or anonymously and the group can up-vote, making it easier for the moderator to choose in what is always limited time to continue the conversation between presenters and audience. (yesterday we used all day, while ICCA's session used another tool from Corbin Ball, and there really are an endless array available to try). There is the "old-fashioned" microphone, and the new tossable Catchbox which is a million times easier (no runners needed) and so much fun it encourages questions from the floor. However you do this - bring back the questions! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dandeliions vs Orchids

 This is Henry. Henry doesn't know that dandelions are considered weeds, he just knows they are pretty. He also knows how to win hearts with cute smiles and by bringing the girls, including his mom Jayne and I said dandelions. He doesn't know we are snobby event planners, exchewing these, carnations, baby's breath (really what baby breathes out flowers!?) and other "lesser" flowers in our never ending quest to design beautiful event environments for our guests, adding stylized flowers, props, lighting, entertainment and seating into gorgeous destinations and stunning venues around the world.

Henry also doesn't understand time, or our lack of it as we rush to meet the demands of our clients, in ever-shrinking time frames. He doesn't know as we answer texts while holding him, tired from running through fields of clover that we have forgotten how to just stop and hold onto the moment. That moment of stillness with the one or two people more special to us in the world than any others, never to be replicated and too fleeting as they race to grow up. 

There are lessons in love, laughter, play, learning, and being fully engaged in the moment we can learn from Henry as we work to design event spaces that tap into this sense of joy we once felt running through dandelions, oblivious to all but the birds we chase in front of us. In a world ever more dominated by the small screens in our pockets, sending us information - good, bad, indifferent, horrifying, smile-inducing - at all hours of the day and night; our attention deficit selves so continuously inundated it is not only challenging to find this elusive "balance", it is nearly impossible to allow ourselves time to just stop, listen and enjoy. As event designers it is equally challenging to create environments where our guests can find time and space to learn, be inspired or motivated, to connect to ideas and people, and to just breathe.

At IMEX next week they are embracing this new concept of sweatworking inviting all to join a 5k run - and here is the real secret - when you are doing a run you really can only focus on the motion of your body, and the people around you. You may be in motion, but you are still taking time for a positive for yourself and those with you - you have to be engaged in the moment.

I had two wonderful hours with Jayne and Henry before heading home to enjoy time with my own family, and I deeply thank Jayne and Henry for this time of nothing more than fresh air, sunshine, a good breakfast and my beautiful dandelion.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

8 Favorite New Resources

Herb gardens at the Downtown
Grand Las Vegas (yes they
use these!)
Over the past year I have come across some great resources for (sustainably minded and tech forward) event professionals and it is time to share.  I look forward to any comments back that include your favs!  I have looked beyond my norm of the twitter feeds and LinkedIn forums and the more obvious daily or weekly reads which for me land in my inbox and which I explore by time and headline – like most of us! These include the PCMA Daily, EventTechBrief, BizBash, MeetingsNet, EventsUncoveredTV, #EventTech, TechsyTalk, EventManagerBlog, MeetingsPodcast(now also found on MeetingsNet), Skift, Padracino and a few more. These are all worthy of finding time to explore and are also mentioned on many other great lists.  Below are others which all have positive impact for me and our industry - and possibly YOU so have fun discovering those you might not be familiar with.

Fuel: Passions that Drive Us is Liese Gardner’s ode to doing, seeking and sharing what we love and in every word ,she nails it.  

Eventcellany by Shawna McKinley always leaves me feeling as an individual (and we are as an industry) are still on the very cusp of truly doing events more sustainably – and provides thoughtful steps to help us all – working together – finding ways to improve.

GatherGeeks by BizBash launched in 2015 and I have listened to each episode where I have found the in-depth interviews to be an excellent source of forward thinking ideas and how to apply these to events.  It is an auto-download on Stitcher for me and I catch up on the way to work.  (monthly)

Sustainable Living by Jenise Fryatt and Marianne West
For those of us trying to do it a little better every day, this is full of useful tidbits and is truly from their hearts.

Trending Topic - We have to do Something with Social Media #ButWhat by Gerrit Heijkoop and Paula Vos is defined as a management novel. What this offers to the reader who wants to learn more about using social media to promote your events and strengthen your association community is a highly readable romp through the anxiety ridden days in the planning process where you don't know how you will get your registration numbers where they need to be. This provides usable information and more importantly context –the WHY to use social media as one of your tools.  A refreshing change from the usual checklist format we often find this type of information offered in.

X: the Experience where Business meets Design by Brian Solis is masterfully designed and a great study into marketing across all spectrums with a focus on the digital. While not directly about events the principles can be applied in many ways across your business as well as experiential events.  I wish all informational books were this beautiful.

The Third Plate by Dan Barber delves deeper into the stories behind two of my favorite TedTalks by this thoughtful Chef and the story of his farm, restaurant and mission to change the way we think about food - production,distribution, waste and how we can all participate in this most human of topics.

Visual Strategic Tool
The Event Model Generation is an in-depth and well thought out multi-part tool developed over the last two years. I have worked on many events and conferences over the years and it is rare that I do these events with a deep understanding of the WHY and what the true desired outcomes of the varied stakeholders are.  This is a tool designed to ensure that every member of the team has this information at hand as they work through this and other important questions, and finish with a visual map on one page - the storyboard of this generation - before they bring the magic to life.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

SuperBoob and Real Life

Samme Allen "we need to talk about our cervix, it's just another body part,
but one that can get cancer."
All of us have had "stuff" happen in our lives we didn't expect.  We have friends and family we have lost, who have suffered from and survived disease, who have had life-altering surgeries, who through no fault of their own are now paralyzed, those who are living with many degrees of depression or anxiety.  We all know someone who has come out stronger from a breakup, or more tragic loss, and amazed us with their strength. We have watched our children fall down and get back up, or are managing with aging parents, or just trying to keep up with all that has to be done every day. This is life, and we are living it. 

I have so many people I admire who have openly shared their stories, including Samme Allen above on being diagnosed (in time) with cervical cancer and who is now a strong voice for early and consistent testing. Have a listen as this interview is a good reminder that there is NO excuse. #FearNoSmear 

My chiropractor of 20+ years saved me from the curse of constant headaches. I met Dr. M after several years of debilitating pain in my 20s. I had taken 1,200 (!) Tylenol 3's and just been moved on to stronger medication and deciding this was not the life I wanted I started regular treatments with him and was able to change the way I was living. He was diagnosed with MS in his 50s and chose to take early retirement to focus on his own health and spend more time playing tennis with his wife - a decision it took 3 years to make while he continued his practice and shared his story with many of his patients, proving that remaining active can be a life-improving choice.

This week the fun, energetic and somewhat inimitable Lord Jason Allan Scott shared his story on his Guest List Podcast Episode 10 (episode TLG-010) and this is worth a listen - for any day you think you are having a tough day - know you are never alone!

Oh and SuperBoob... that is how I now refer to my left breast because it has a titanium chip where they removed a (BENIGN!) calcification after two mammograms could not prove it was nothing and a biopsy was required. They do this implanted chip so in a worst case scenario they know where to remove a cancerous lump, and in cases like mine, they know where to keep an eye out in the future. 

To all of you who have been there, a giant hug coming your way - just because.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Digital Disruption is Alive and Well at Events

Our BCIC Robot Sheldon
tours the show floor at the
#BCTECH Summit
Digital Disruption has already happened. Our meetings and events will never be the same again. Digital disruption has seen the majority of the global population having a device or two in hand most of the time. At its simplest iteration we now have nearly ubiquitous mobile event apps and an ability for everyone at your event to socially share what they are experiencing across multiple platforms, at their discretion and not yours!

During the planning process our clients are googling their way in - requiring videos of all the acts we recommend, often rejecting these based on quality of video vs. our quality of known experience; sending us their Pinterest boards, Instagram shares, TED Talks and links to speakers they like or gorgeous event environments found on-line which may or may not be realistic for their budget, location, type of event and theme or environment being created. Don't get me wrong - these shares can provide valuable insight into what will please your client and (potentially) their stakeholders but it does require more management at times as you edit or adapt based on what is shared.

We have seen social revolutions started on-line, which begs the question - how do you use the tools available to connect and strengthen your own communities? We have the opportunity to use a myriad of tools to build communities online including LinkedIn forums, Facebook events and groups, virtual chat rooms and lounges attached to hybrid software (MediaSite, Inxpo, Kubi and more), internal forums and discussion boards on your association website as simple examples. These allow us to connect to our own meeting and event communities, our associations, and even festivals where 100,000+ are having a "shared" experience. This new digital age can be your best marketing tool at the same time it can be your biggest challenge as your audience become your storytellers - you have to set the "stage" and the "performance" - comfortable environment, thoughtful and thought-provoking speakers, food, beverage and entertainment that makes sense for the showcase to wow those there live and sharing virtually. 

With technology omnipresent in our lives and at our events, we need to be aware of how mobile technology can benefit our experience.  When we set a room we consider how the space design will influence behaviours and enhance learning, and now we need to extend technology from the main stage AV into the audience. As a short list, we can add in
  • flipped learning (watching a video prior to the session for knowledge-based discussion)
  • watching a second screen in-hand with an ability to take notes, ask questions and share
  • avoid the in-room mic runners and the inevitable, awkward wait with the ability to ask questions directly from a device with a plethora of text-based, moderated tools or 
  • CrowdMics where every phone has the potential to be a microphone
  • taking notes and images and sharing these with at-home or remote teams in real-time
  • post ideas and photos direct from devices to a virtual audience 
We no longer live a life outside technology, our connection to the outside world is with us at all times and in the hands of our participants as well. As meeting professionals we need to stay focused on lifelong learning and adapting to the curve balls the world will continue to lob our way. This digital integration of f2f and virtual participation can indeed change the world, one meeting or event at a time.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

50 Fun Events Tech Ideas - Almost Live

One of my favorite sessions to deliver is about #eventtech - and this session I originally developed looks at dozens of technologies impacting us. This was done originally last March and changes every single time I deliver it - because technology and how we use it changes constantly.  

For The Special Event in January in Orlando I was unable to attend live - it was just a few days until we opened the #BCTECH Summit - and so I proposed using (gasp!) technology to deliver the session, and they agreed to try it. The team at AV Strategies  took time to shoot, edit and improve the video, and Laura Lopez of Social Tables was our on-site, in-room session leader, ensuring the session was not only informative but interactive.  At the end I joined the session for some live Q and A from home, and overall it was very well received. If you are thinking of alternative ways you can deliver sessions - this might work for you!

The link to the TSE 2016 Session can be found here.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

When is Social Media Not Social?

Me and "Speaker Sue" at last meet IRL (oct 2015)
Coffee with my SM Hero Matt Bologna of BizBash

Social Media. Two words. Social is the active part of this combination. Media is a tool. What Jenise Fryatt taught us as #EIR in the early days of learning how to use this twitter tool = Engage, Inform, Retweet.  Engage with people - yes PEOPLE who are actively sharing interesting content and ideas - start and continue conversations because when you meet these people IRL (in real life) you will find yourself with new friends, colleagues and interesting conversations immediately. It is rather awesome the power of online conversations turning into a live, interactive, intelligent conversation, often with a beverage in hand.  (aka why I love IMEX- see previous blog for all the social media friends I have the opportunity to see there!)  

Engage. Note the word being overused - conversation. When Social Media is not social - ie a one - way dumping of information out, it is an advertorial, not social media at its best.  When you are not engaging with other content, or responding to any reaction to your content sharing - you are kind of missing the point - and mostly you are missing the opportunity social media brings - for you personally, for your organization, and especially if you have a small business you are trying to grow.

Inform.  Sharing content without interaction-boring. Sharing content others can interact with - good idea.  Sharing content with #hashtags to create conversation around a topic of interest to many - very good idea.  Being part of a community such as #eventprofs brings rewards, including friendships born out of common interests.  Being part of weekly chats such as #contentchat or #assnchat around topics that affect your professional life -- growth opportunities.  Sharing content you have created - now we are talking!

Retweet. So simple - hit the retweet button and BOOM you are sharing relevant content with those in your community. Add a comment, ask a question, add to the discussion and your impact is growing.  BTW this is the only one of the three that applies to Twitter only  in terminology - every platform has a way to like, share or comment - so consider the platforms that make sense for you and your business, get comfortable with a couple, and get sharing!

Want to learn more? Michelle Bergstein Fontanez joins me via skype to talk Social Media at a live Vancouver ISES meeting soon - join us if you want to delve into personal and business-friendly social media best practices.
ISES Educates November 17