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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.

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.