Thursday, December 30, 2010

Things that Rocked in 2010

In no particular order, things that made 2010 amazing.
  1. My family (husband, son - 11, daughter - 10) all getting their black belts in Tae Kwon Do.
  2. Finishing my first degree - Bachelor of Hospitality Management. This took two years of time spent in the classroom with an awesome peer group, on - line courses and many projects, assignments and exams completed - well worth it now!
  3. Winning the opportunity (based on the creative treatment) to produce the Welcome Reception for the MPI WEC10 in Vancouver - and getting a 98% satisfaction survey result in the post-conference delegate survey!
  4. Working on my second Olympic and Paralympic Games.
  5. Enjoying the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games time in Vancouver with family and friends - amazing sports, pavilions and energy in the city!
  6. Taking six entire days off over the holidays - food, friends, family, and skiing!
  7. Seeing numerous fabulous programs and events brought to life with the team at Cantrav - the energy each individual pours into the programs and events continues to inspire and impress.
  8. Seeing Paris and the surrounding area with my amazing family, and our lovely friends Verena and Kader. (words can't express our appreciation for their hospitality, advice and friendship - they rock!)
  9. Babies. So many new lives created, so many friends lives changing in ways they can't imagine - enjoy, and so many challenges we still have friends facing in this arena - your courage and determination astound and inspire.
  10. Children and Teens we know - from my own to the many around us that are growing up knowing that here we have a lot and finding ways to share, from Samaritan shoeboxes, to Me to We, to anti-bullying, and to exploring their worlds through the good and the challenging, and finding their way to the "other side" - yes, we did it too and it is amazing to see this next generation being strong, learning and growing.  
  11. Twitter. I know, I didn't expect it either but the flow of interesting information, challenging and inspiring thoughts and ideas, and people that are amazing that I would not otherwise know about... it is pretty neat to have access to our world in a whole new way.
  12. Friends and family - so many people in Vancouver, BC, Canada, the US and around the world that we don't see enough during these "happy, tired" years but who we do appreciate every second we have with them - whether live, on the phone or through letters, facebook and email - keep it coming folks! 

Please comment and share what rocked your world in 2010! 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

You cannot duplicate success - Part 2

So continues my thoughts as inspired by Oprah's comment that  "I began to see that not only can you not duplicate success, you're not supposed to. Every new endeavor is created out of the quality of the energy you bring to it and is meant to be its own thing."  

At work success has different measurements, our own, our peers, our supplier partners in the success and the event's stakeholders.  What continues to keep us energized and our events interesting is there is freedom in the approach. With the freedom to generate ideas and apply them to projects, that is when energy is created - an energy that brings the programs to life and generates success. It is not about what has been done, it is about what we can do next, using the experience gained from the past to make what we are doing now even better. I can hardly wait to see what 2011 brings! 

Friday, December 24, 2010

You cannot duplicate success - Part 1

So said Oprah in her closing article in the January 2011 issue. "I began to see that not only can you not duplicate success, you're not supposed to. Every new endeavor is created out of the quality of the energy you bring to it and is meant to be its own thing."  While talking about OWN, she articulated perfectly (and in her inimitable style) how I try to approach each project. 

I believe each of us recognizes when we are successful, as measured by our individual benchmarks. As 2011 approaches, this coming year I will refocus and put both more energy and time into my family. At 10 and almost 12 our children are successful in their own right and we want to continue to provide the foundation that allows them to succeed, to fail and learn, and to be their individual best. Plus, my family is fun to hang out with, and we have many friends we like to spend time with, and for me, a measure of success is the amazing people we get to have fun and grow with - and this is energy well spent.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Teamwork and Rocket Ships

So one of the requests that is common for us is to come up with a teambuilding exercise that incorporates sustainability and will inspire the team both during the exercise, and then into the future as they return to their normal routine. There are many ways of doing this - we could be inspired by a Sports Day as below. What I love about this is that the entire school is divided into four teams - and they just have to wear a shirt of that color, and boom - they are in! They are led by the grade sevens to develop a team cheer, and they have an awesome day. What I love about this particular picture is that the anchor for this tug of war is one of the smallest in the class - but she believed she could do this job. (not a massive surprise as this is my daughter).

Earlier this week, we watched (again) Apollo 13 and yes, I cried through a lot of it, for me a sign of a great movie, even when I know the ending. Here is the thing about Apollo 13, it really shows what happens when a culture has been built that embraces the team. Each member is valued for their individual contribution, and each knows what they can offer to the team and where they fit. When push came to shove, the entire team was willing to stand as one, to stay awake and keep focused on the task at hand that they could all contribute to, and to support each other all the way until the end. There are other examples of this out there, but this one really is a brilliant showcase of the power of both teamwork and a strong organizational culture.

When people ask us to create teambuilding for their organizations, ultimately this is exactly the type of response you would hope to create. The thing is that what we have to do really is to first understand the culture that exists, to determine what teambuilding / simulated exercise would best suit their objectives, and then to use this as a building block that supports (or is part of a transformation exercise, depending on the objectives) the organizational objectives. Ideally, this building block will be an enabler that should your organization face a critical situation - and there are many possibilities of what this may be - that your team will better understand each other, their roles and fit, and how they can contribute to the solution. Ideally, they will be able to "bring it home!"

I know I have many events that I have had amazing teams to rely on - at this time of year, it is a big shout out THANK YOU to all of you! (you know who you are)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Entertainment or Enjoyment

In the business of planning events we often use entertainment to increase enjoyment, and we often entertain people through experience, showmanship, dining or delivering the spectacular. But equally as often there is little time given to reflect and collect your thoughts, time that is just simply enjoyable. Sometimes, we are afraid to build it in, focusing on networking, education, programed time that will provide a "measurable benefit". Occasionally, we are learning to build in the valuable "hallway conversation" time that is proving to have the immeasurable value that participants seek. It is critical that we continue to think about this, particularly as we have participants who seek more control of their own programming.

Often when we travel to a new destination, whether it is for work or pleasure, it is the silent moments between events that are the times of greatest pleasure; a coffee enjoyed on a patio solo or with a quiet friend; a walk that takes you down an unexpected street where you discover... well something you didn't expect. It is perhaps that, particularly in North America, we spend so much time focused on work, activities, or getting things done, that we need to be away to enjoy what is the guilty pleasure of "stealing" these moments.

We certainly are not going to shy away from providing appropriate entertainment - it has value in creating ambience and energy, in bringing your messages to life, in creating a special experience guests can't have elsewhere, and ensuring the "special" stays in special event. In building programs, considering both the programmed time as well as allowing time for guests to explore and create memories that are both from their group experiences as well as their individual moments, will be what has participants ready to return again.

Interested to hear opinions on how you balance programming!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Event Leadership

Special Events: events for a new world by Dr. Joe Goldblatt (Sixth Edition) recently came across my desk for review. While the specific review was related to the new chapter on green meetings, I was inclined to start from the beginning, and boom, there it was, right at the beginning, what is this profession we call the event industry... defined.

Event leadership is defined as "a profession that requires public assembly for the purpose of celebration, education, marketing and reunion."

If we consider the characteristics that those who determine certifications and designations and how they qualify a specific job as a profession, we can assess if this applies.
  1. The profession must have a unique body of knowledge.
  2. The profession typically has voluntary standards that often result in certification. 
  3. The profession has an accepted code of conduct or ethics.
Based on the above, and due to the great work of multiple organizations committed to the professionalism of this industry, we can indeed say it is a true profession. When we really consider our industry, no matter what avenue followed, from meeting planning to event production, incentive house, destination management, festivals, trade show and exhibition management, wedding planning, sponsorshp, fundraising, and the many specialized vendor partners we rely on, it is one that requires immense cooperation, and a great body of knowledge to be successful.

We have a number of designations available through a number of certifying bodies, and there are a plethora of certificates, diplomas and degrees, including masters, available around the world in institutions both private and public.  The interesting thing though, is that unlike other professions (law, architecture, engineering as examples that also fit the above criteria), our greatest challenge has been that to enter the event industry, you don't need to have any particular piece of paper or specific qualifications to enter. The only real barrier to entry is your self.

To be successful, a start is to have knowledge about the basic structure of the type of event you want to be part of. Then, to be solution oriented,  creative, forward thinking, strategic, a great communicator, and to have passion for an industry that requires intense collaboration, and often involves intense competition, are the next skills to develop.

This then becomes the base, (and tools like this textbook are meant to provide a basis for) is event leadership. When you take your skills and atributes, and combine this with that next layer, the ability to inspire and lead a team of people to be successful event after event, you begin to be a leader.  Eventually, leaders will create a culture and establish a vision for success that spans a variety of industry sectors, and to inspire a team - internal and partners - to truly be engaged and empowered to bring their unique skills as you work together to bring brands to life in unique settings, and to create environments that engage and deliver emotional connections that drive ROI.

I love seeing the students, the novices, and the newbies as they are so enthusiastic, and their desire to learn and grow continues to inspire me!  As we see the more experienced professionals continue to do this amazing work and to see the ideas that are generated and then brought to life is awesome.  To watch our industry work so hard with initiatives ike the Event Camp series, and knowing so many talented, committed people who work across the spectrum understand the need to deliver messages that will stick and are discovering better ways to do this and finding clients that "get that we get it" - while the economy is providing its challenges, the desire to use our skills to make the world a better meeting place remains great!

What do you think makes a great event leader?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Value in a DMC

Recently this question was asked on a LinkedIn DMC Forum by Thomas H Hallin:
If you would rate a DMC (Destination Management Company) - in what areas / categories would you find it to be of most value to do so?

I wanted to share my answer because I think that it offers a good perspective.

Thank you for asking this question. I have worked across the industry - as a PCO, Incentive House Planner and Producer and at now two DMCs in Western Canada. I have spent many more years buying DMC services than providing them, and as a result I tend to be our own toughest critic as I do see it from both sides. Reading this it is great to see two things - one is that organizations do see the value in using great DMCs and the second is that when I really look at our organization I can say with pride that our team really does focus on doing all the things that seem to matter. We do it because each individual cares about each individual having an excellent experience and about relieving stress for our clients when they come here. We also want programs to be creative too - we have no interest in doing the same program over and over again and any opportunity to customize the experience is what keeps us engaged. New tours - please ask, new venues - well buildings are buildings - so we stay current on what is working, what is new, what is renovated and most importantly on what is going to be a fit for various types of groups and how we can use the venues as one building block in the experience.

The world of meetings and events has changed exponentially in the 27 years (and yes we have some people who have been here for much or all of this time as well as new fresh-idea'd team members) and responding to the changes in the participants and their needs, the agencies and what they now need to provide in terms of collateral, content and value, and ultimately to the expectations for experiences that deliver memories, build relationships and drive loyalty for your end clients is critical.

As a few people have mentioned, it becomes most important when something happens that requires common sense, connections and a service ethos that goes beyond the norm, backed up with processes and systems of support that have your DMC being a key partner in managing a variety of unusual situations. Again, having been on all sides of this - a strong DMC is your best local ally.

Being a great DMC is, like many aspects of our industry, a demanding job with long hours and many demands. The people who do this are true customer service focused individuals (both here and anywhere I have worked with a great DMC) who come together to lead teams of supplier partners chosen to be appropriate to your specific programs. Create dialogue as you go through the process of choosing your DMC - they will be your best allies for success!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thinking Big

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Helen Keller

So if this is what Helen Keller thought, we have to agree - think big, take risks, enjoy the adventure. Here are the reasons why I think it is important to THINK BIG.

1. The world is a big place, so having a view that encompasses more than just our own small space ensures that we make better decisions. This might include thinking sustainably or finding positive ways to impact either locally or globally. We are the "haves" and it is good to think about how we can take small steps that help others in a way that can be big to them. How big is your circle of influence?

2. Big has impact. A couple of postings ago, I talked about String Theory In Theory Blog Posting and this is BIG that WOWS when they set up a 65' (or 300') harp and then bring together rock, opera, classical, string, percussion and voice to create a BIG experience that guests cannot have in any other way. I love when our clients are willing to take risks that are way "outside the box" and see it pay off.

Last night I saw the TransSiberian Orchestra - again BIG and wow - this mixture of technology and musical talent, not to mention all the long blond hair, is another big wow. ps. if it comes to your town, check it out, it's pretty cool.

3. Big can be tough, but tough can be okay. Recently we were one of three organizations nominated in the Best Opening Event Category for the BC Event Awards. We were nomimated for the Welcome Reception of the MPI WEC in Vancouver this last July - an awesome event that received a 98% "great" in their final surveys - a fact that already made us feel like winners! The other two events included Synergy Events for the opening of an Okanagan winery, and PRP (the fabulous Patrick Roberge and team) for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Paralympic Games. This final event won. Quite honestly, I was at both ours (obviously!) and the Paralympic opening, and it is a little like comparing an orange to the moon. They are both round... From there the comparison ceases to be possible as the scale of everything was so vastly different.  I am honoured that we were considered in this same space.  I am also proud of the many winners and nominees this evening who all are thinking BIG about how we produce events in our backyard.

4. Big thinking can shift perspective.  When we come upon a new idea, whether it is something we come to in conversations, hear or read in a book / blog / magazine article that shifts our perspectives and makes us open our minds - then big(ger) thinking can begin. When we can be thoughtful in our actions and impacts, and drive changes, big or small, this is all good.  As event industry professionals, when we can create the environments that bring big ideas out - those are the best days!  Let's all keep thinking BIG!

5. If you can't think BIG, think positive. Last week I joined many old friends and colleagues as we said goodbye to three talented young ladies heading to London to live the next part of their lives. At this gathering were many of the fabulous young women I have worked with over the years, who I always enjoy seeing for many reasons. This night was special for me though as many reached out and found time to sit with me and catch up, and each of them thanked me for the positive influence I have had on their lives and their careers in the event profession. I was personally humbled and so proud of each of them - you go girls!

So there we are - let's keep this industry rocking!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It is about the OTHERS

I came home from school tonight with a book on Tact by the fabulous storyteller Peter Legge. The Power of Tact is a great read and has very simple, very good messages about how to best get along in life, much learned from his father. I am about to share this with my children as well, one in particular as we embark on a 30 day challenge to be more kind to those around us, to just generally improve the world one attitude at a time.

There were a few thoughts that came to me in my first read through this book tonight. One is that while I have just said we are embarking on a challenge to be kinder, my kids are kind, and pretty cool.  In talking about Christmas preparations the other day, they are prepared for a few annual things we do. First, we always choose a charity, this year it is BC Children's Hospital as we watch the progress of our little friend Elizabeth (you can see their blog on my homepage) who fell off her bike earlier this year sustaining challenging injuries, and with the more than capable medical help provided, her parents, family, friends and Sunnybrook support, she continues on the road to recovery, returning to school on Day 83 of recovery just this past week!

The second is with their tae kwon do club as they dip into their piggybanks (with our support as well) and we build good samaritan shoeboxes that will be sent where the school supplies, socks, toothbrushes and toys will be put to good use. This may be our third or fourth year and as they have more thoughtfulness to provide appropriate to children the same age they are, the boxes are pretty good.  Check it out -  Shoebox Project

They have already decided that they don't really need anything, and that having our planned family experience skiing with friends for a couple of days will be just great with them - wow!  I am sure they will have stockings that rock waiting on Christmas morning! While we always hope that we are providing a positive role influence, it is more than just us. Perhaps Nicholas's trip to the Me to We conference last month has supported his beliefs that we can always do more, and while Global Voices is not an easy read at any age, he is taking it a page at a time and digesting the information in small bites. I might try it too...

Then there is cookie baking. We will bake thousands of cookies, and share these. Best day every season is the girls cookie day - wine, cheese and cookies - it simply does not get any better than this.

In his book the Power of Tact, Peter Legge talks a lot about the legacy began by William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army. While merely encapsulated here, what a great story, one that I was not that familiar with. He put Twitter to shame when he was asked to describe in one word what the Salvation Army stood for, and he did it.  OTHERS.  Simple, right? So if we look to each day to see what we can do for others, show compassion and encouragement, and provide hope, well it is a good start. I am looking forward to the next 30 days!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Relax, Chill Time Increases Productivity

When you are brain dead try this - Chris

What a great list of the things we already know we should do. When we feel "brain dead" we should definitely try at least one of these - and not just push through and get it all done - we have all been in this place and we know the work is not exactly its peak anyhow, so hey, cut ourselves some slack.

I would love to be able to take this one step further. Every afternoon somewhere between 2 and 4 - this happens. I think if we can't institute siestas, we should at least be able to take a 20 minute break to do any of the above - eat, nap, pray, walk around the block... whatever re-energizes us to come back and accomplish the balance of the day with success. 

Next week - this will be my new goal - to take this time and then - maximize productivity when I am ready to re-engage.

Don't tell my boss...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Team Talent

I only want people around me who can do the impossible.” - Elizabeth Arden
I read this today and just could not decide if on my team I want people who challenge what we do and continually raise the bar, or if I really want people who can do the impossible.
What does impossible mean?  Many of the programs, events and trade shows produced in our industry are like running marathons, with hills, curves, long hard runs and mental, physical and sometimes even emotional challenges to overcome as we run with and ahead of our clients, anticipating, planning, preparing, training and then finally, side by side, going to the finish - and doing what may seem impossible. In our case it is ensuring that thousands and thousands of people every year leave Western Canada educated, engaged, informed and inspired about where they have been, what they have experienced and having increased loyalty to our organizations and associations.
If this is my criteria, then it does seem like it may have its challenges, and maybe I do want people around me who can do the impossible!

Monday, October 18, 2010


So I have arrived for class tonight and am again surprised that there is still a sign up in the foyer space that says. Do NOT rearrange the furniture.  The furniture is 20 stuffed blue chairs lined up around the space on the walls, 3 here, 4 there. This foyer is in the hospitality management area of an institution that prides itself on being progressive and connected to the industry. Yet, they don't assume that these same progressive students that they seek to attract may want to sit and face each other to have a conversation, and heaven forbid - they might not move a chair back against the wall. Seriously?

Obviously this institution (and likely many others) could use a dose of "Event Camp" to up the progressive ante on the models and methods of engaging learners and creating the next level of professional entering our industry.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

In Theory...

Just when I was thinking about how much fun we have playing at our job...

A week later, we find ourselves at the Law Courts with a smaller group - just 150, and again, a team of people who are truly excellent at the detail they put into events and who each brought their expertise to share with these guests. This night had many special treats for the guests, from a short / long limo ride through the streets of Vancouver, to walking the red carpet and being greeted by their executives, to fabulous food and then, to begin the night, a rousing performance by a group of high - energy and talented youth sharing their enthusiasm. As dinner drew to a close, they enjoyed a string quartet and then a fast-paced and exciting awards presentation. They could never have expected what happened next... and this is where, when I talk about immersing yourself in what we do - well this was one of those performances that transcends!

Oh String Theory, how we adore thee! Imagine if you will a circle harp that stretches as far as you can imagine - in our case 66' - over and above all the awards presenters - invisible and visible at the same time. Add drums in at least four configurations I can recall, guitars of all tones, gorgeous violins, whistling... yes, whistling, incredible vocal opera, and a little rock and roll rhythm to make it all accessible, and well, honestly it does not even begin to describe the magical performance created. This is such a talented group of musicians, dancers, performers - all these titles are inadequate for what they present. This is a group who is taking music of various genres to new extremes and who obviously love, love, love sharing what they do.  This love of performance came through and this audience appreciated the entire experience.  I cannot wait to have this experience shared again!

When I play

This morning on the way to her soccer game, my daughter said, "Mom, you know what I love about soccer? Once you are out there, it is all you have to think about."  So simple. This is how I feel about events.  No matter if the lead up is 2 years or 2 weeks, once you have the pre-event, and especially when the load in begins, it is all about the focus on bringing all the ideas to fruition.

Last week we had so many great things happen. We found out we are nominated for the BC Event Awards, Best Opening Reception, for the MPI WEC 2010 Welcome Reception, (MPI Cantrav video) with some amazing competition!  As I looked through the entire list of nominees, I felt so lucky to work in this industry, and so proud of all the nominees. Many of these events I had the opportunity to see, participate in or see photos of, and WOW is all I can think. What amazing professionals we are surrounded by here!

We also had the opportunity to produce four incredible events, each with their own personality, and each perfectly suited in a myriad of ways to the participants.  First we produced an Opening Ceremony for 3,000 professionals that was in a challening venue, and took some risks, and was flawless.  This group moved up to their welcome reception, an event for 3,000 that showcased a cross-Canada experience.  This particular event was very special for many reasons, including
  • the partnership and trust with the clients who were excited to embrace new ideas - and they have done this conference for 25 years, so they know their group!
  • what the suppliers brought in professionalism, in taking this to a new level and in stepping up to bring simply crazy ideas to life
  • our whole production team was on site and critical to making this all come together - and being able to share the event experience with them
  • the balance of the team that supported the conference portion of the event - all consumate professionals, who are friendly, fun and forward thinking - so great!
I have many favorite moments from this first week where we produced three great events in three different and distinct downtown venues. First the performance that combined acrobatic cirque with dance to showcase the nature side of Vancouver with the urban integration those of us who live here and love this about our city.  The windows to the "kitchen" were delightful, the asian areas inspired, the fireworks spectacular, the entertainers... from Tiller's Folly, to the sounds of the Pipa and the Forbidden Flutes, Jahnke Jazz in more than one configuration, and Leslie and her amazing quartet who brought our final night to an incredible close... we are so fortunate to have such an amazing pool of talent in Vancouver to choose from!

Unbelievable still to me are the six performers who agreed to wait on tiny platforms surrounded as fabric lanterns 50' above the guests for nearly two hours - out of sight and ready to astound the guests when they suddenly appeared and did an incredible performance that culminated in fireworks over the harbour.  Spectacular, on so many levels.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Taking Control of time, is it possible?

This is your world. Shape it or someone else will.

Hmmmm, just saw this quote somewhat randomly on a website about viral marketing and it reminded me that being responsible for our time ultimately is up to each of us. As we manage the new reality of some long - term planning for events combined with many events with short lead times, it is tougher to do this. For our creative sparks, and everyone we work with, it has been too busy for a while, so the shape of the world is in flux.  We have been concentrating on what matters - delivery of top-notch programs with sustainable products and awesome entertainment, and keeping us motivated and energized on a daily basis, and having fun along the way.

Shaping our world, well that is still in the works, and for the sake of our families and ourselves, we are working on it...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Event Camp - Like Minded Thinking

For so many reasons, what Event Camp has started is an amazing step forward in keeping our industry at the forefront of thought leadership for creating more engaging life-long learning experiences. Check this out for yourself.

Why is the Event Camp Community Special

Each time we are able to bring some element, whether introducing new seating styles (exercise balls anyone?) to virtual breakouts, or transparency in learning styles, it is all an opportunity to extend the life of the meetings people attend.  When we set the stage for better connections to be created, it allows opportunities for people and their businesses to see growth and return on the time invested in the education and networking available.

Thank you thought leaders for starting this and let's keep it growing.  West Coast anyone?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Face to Face - the reality, the research

There has been a plethora of research recently on how meetings are most effective - face-to-face, virtual or hybrid, or a combination of this and more. We need to consider many things in our planning to determine what is going to fit the needs and meet or exceed the objectives
  • pre-assessments - what education / team building needs to happen - what are they looking for
  • meeting objectives
  • management objectives (corporate or association)
  • sponsor and exhibitor needs
  • relevant education for a variety of levels of participants
  • meaningful teambuilding 
  • networking opportunities
Most of these require PEOPLE to make them successful. People seek relationships and want to do business with people they know and trust.  The best way to create this base is through shared, authentic experiences that provide opportunity for dialogue. The research is fascinating - thank you Maritz and Cornell for your continued leadership!
Perspective on Face to Face Meetings

As much as we can seek to understand, and provide research and show tangible results, sometimes we just need to see a group bring this to life. This was our experience this week, as we welcomed 3,000+ people to Vancouver, and saw the relevant education, well thought out exhibition with full service amenities gathering space, and excellent events all bring together people again and again. Last night at the Closing Reception, the sponsor, the staff members of the association that had worked to bring this to life, and hundreds of delegates met for the final time until next year, and they ate, they talked and finally, unexpectedly, they DANCED. My favorite moment was the man who put to the side first one cane, and then the other and DANCED until we finally, 30 minutes past the stated end time, ended the music and as they finished their beverages and conversations, they trickled slowly out, leaving 6 days of meetings and events feeling fully satisfied with their experience, and knowing the value of these relationships as they go forward in their careers and back to work. Truly, face to face at its best.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

You are Always Planning the Unexpected

This may be one of the greatest compliments I have ever received and it was just this week, but it was related to events both this week and from other events the giver of the compliment had experienced with us over the summer. It really has made me think about what I love about what we do. We are often asked for "out of the box" "creative" ideas that will "wow" our guests, and then find out that the budgets don't match the wishes, or that what creative means to us is vastly different from what it means to the clients.

We love to create surprises and this week has offered us myriad opportunities to do this, and for this we thank a client who had trust, and who wanted to do a little bit of shaking up of the norm. As the chief said "it is time to move this organization forward" and we embraced the challenge to keep things safe and elegant, but to add the unexpected. Adding the unexpected has generated comments from "This IS a party", to "they were in a cage" (they were not, it was a Circus SkyLadder), to simply, "WOW!"

From the fantastic keynote speaker they selected, to the surprise of the performance that culminated with a flash mob coming out of the audience to help move the thousands upstairs, a fabulous reception with the Vancouver Convention Centre pulling out all the stops, to the fortune tellers that were lined up all night, the light dance and the silk aerialists that had waited 50' above the audience for 98 minutes... to the fireworks that lit up the harbour, this welcome was a memorable start.

We have continued the week with dinners, performances, venues and delightful surprises, and we are excited about tomorrow's closing... and then on to the events that follow.

Next week is a 50' violin - new group, just as much "unexpected" we believe to come!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

One week later

It is now one week since my last post. There have been moments of silence at school, at the soccer fields, and for more than one family, there will be many, many more. Last week I wrote of the loss of our local teen, and how this has impacted our community. With no resolution to the reason or perpetrator of this, we all wait and watch more carefully over our children.

In another part of the world, another local girl, a friend shared with many, has moved into her grown up life, fallen in love and lives on a gorgeous island with her husband and small son.  This last week they too suffered a tragic loss, as their newborn, at just two weeks old passed away. Again, a loss that cannot be explained or understood. Not for these parents, or their first son at just 2. One tiny life lost and an impact that will diminish as they heal over time, but will never go away. Our hearts extend to this very special family during this tragic time.

We also avidly read the blog of Omer, Janet and Elizabeth as they keep us up to date on Elizabeth's recovery from her bike accident this summer.  We are so thankful to see she is healing, and now able to share time between home and Sunny Hill, and that progress is being made daily in all areas. We will continue to watch and cheer for each small victory and thank Omer for keeping this blog so current.

As our ordinary life goes on, with the incredibly busy time that autumn always is, with family, school returning and homework ramping up, fall sports well underway with practices and games for soccer, testing and tournaments for tae-kwon-do and curling beginning again in the family, we look forward to Thanksgiving weekend, and spending some time with our friends and family and appreciating what we all have. 

Next week our son will attend with 15,000 children and teens from BC the Me to We event, begun as part of the Keilburger's Free the Children movement.  They will have the opportunity to hear Jane Goodall, Jason Mraz and the Dalai Lama, among others share their journeys and their stories with impact with this next generation, who will continue to work on making our world a better place.

Over this past weekend I also produced an amazing show with the support of an incredible team and with clients who were willing to let us take some risks for the opening of a conference at the Vancouver Convention Centre. This involved yet another 24 hour shift - the same I said I would never do again - but in the end all worth it - so stay tuned for details of this astounding welcome our guests experienced! Yes, those were our fireworks...

The reminders to be thankful are plentiful, we do need to take time to appreciate all we have.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Happy Memories

Well on a slightly brighter note this week, we have finally uploaded the video of the building of the MPI WEC event this summer, and this was a BLAST!  Yes, it was July - but every memory of this night was great! Check it out

Monday, September 27, 2010

Life IS the messy bits

I believe generally, I am a realist. Not really pessimistic, often optimistic, but always with a large dose of checkpoints on life, to make sure we are on track. My favorite quote was on a flight where I watched Letters to Juliet, and Claire expresses her view that really, "Life IS the messy bits." I generally agree. 

Today I find myself continuing to be upset, completely, reasonably, hysterically upset over the senseless loss of 15 year old Laura, a teenager from our neighborhood that I did not know. National Post story

We live in a neighborhood filled with schools and churches, temples and recreation centres. Our neighborhood is full of homes filled with love, and children in every block. We live where we should feel safe.

There was simply no reason that anyone, walking across a well used path in the middle of the day, across a soccer pitch, between two schools and beside a football game in progress, would have any sense they were about to be viciously, irrecovably attacked, and that in the morning, their family would bear the unbearable loss of their child, taken brutally and for no reason. No matter what your belief system, we cannot ever believe that violence of any nature is anything other than reprehensible behaviour. 

For most of us, today has been a busy day as the rest of us move on with our busy lives. Work to attend to, chores to absorb us, learning, working, and whatever else may come up, but not for this family. For this family, they have so much still go to through, and "normal" does not ever return. I know. As do many of you, who each have your own stories of loss.

I tried to find joy today. Meeting with clients who are very happy with the fantastic progress being made as they prepare for 3,000 conference delegates to descend this weekend.  In seeing an instructor whose graduating class I spoke to last week who told me what a positive impact my 30 minutes of sharing my experiences in this industry made on their students.  In stopping at Mink chocolates and investing in some delicious bars to share with my work colleagues, something I know will bring them pleasure, both in the receiving and in the eating. In thinking about an amazing weekend with my cousin, cooking, sharing and flying home and watching Babies, an astounding story of four babies in four parts of the world, and how each will have their own unique experience, and never passing judgement, showing how we can all find joy, laughter and love in our own place.

Still though I know I will go home this evening and talk with my children before they return to school tomorrow, where they will have a moment of silence and "age appropriate" discussions and counselling in their elementary school classrooms, where Laura was once a promising french immersion student also.  How can I explain to them how important they are to us and how we would do anything, ANYTHING to keep them safe in the world.  That they should not be afraid to walk across a field to schoold but they have to be always be cautious, and never be alone. That it will never be an option for them to go alone.

I tried to feel joy as the rain fell gently on my skin, and I could FEEL it gently washing away the vagaries of the day, but not enough to heal. Not yet.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Dinner Party Planning

What possessed me? It seems we are a family with competitive spirit. The rest of my family competes in both team and individual sports, but since my arm surgery and rebuilt nerve tunnels don't make me the best team member, I find other ways to compete. Mostly against myself, in improving a run time, or just finding the time to run.  #TR30 is going to happen later in the fall - thank you #TR30 tweeps for the extra motivation to get out there and make a meaningful change! But that is not what this is about.

In the meantime, here I am at my cousin's house in Toronto, and tomorrow we will cook and talk and see if we are the right fit on Dinner Party Wars, which naturally we want to be, and naturally we hope to then win. Like I said, what possessed us to even apply? It seems like fun, and the spirit to entertain and cook and enjoy and yes, win, well, it runs in the family. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Room with a View, week 2 - The Vegans arrive

This may be the coolest meeting ever from what it means to the world. An organization that manufactures globally has brought together in Vancouver, a city working on its sustainability for future generations with this initiative -  Vancouver greenest city by 2020 a group of people dedicated to the same values.  They are together to look at every business unit and find more sustainable opportunities from products with no glues or toxins, to improved factory conditions and maximum positive impact in the communities they are part of.

Of the sixty, one-third are vegetarian / vegan and all have been riding skytrains, walking and taking the aquabus for their transfers required this week.  The food prepared by one of our favorite local caterers has been stellar, with many positive comments.  A member of the green table network, it is important to Culinary Capers to be a responsible part of the food chain also, and they have been a great partner to event planners for two decades.

The first evening included members of First Nations from here to welcome and bless the meeting, with a Chief from New York who is also working closely with their team to identify ways of including this culture in continuing initiatives to create a more solid future. This was held at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, a perfect venue, not only for its spectacular setting and art, but also for setting the context that we have been here for thousands of years and we need to take care of our earth for the many generations to come.  Not one or two they suggested, but think ahead in your planning to seven or more generations from now.  Daunting, yes. Possible? Absolutely!

Again, we have used a sustainably manufactured furniture line to dress up Creekside, and it looks great! They are ready to engage!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Room with a View

To truly engage learners they need a combination of great environment, facilitators and presenters who understand the message and the method of delivery that will be the most beneficial for the learners and their organization. This week we have an amazing example of clients who know their audience, understand the messages they want to deliver, have brought in the right speakers and facilitators to deliver that message and then worked with us to create the setting.  The right venue helps too and in this case it is Creekside, a new legacy venue created out of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, where this was a key part of the Athletes Village.

The message they chose is how to stay lean.  This is one that has been around for a number of years, and in these economic times, and particularly for our clients who manufacture and sell globally, one of renewed importance.  There are lots of places to find information on it - this is just one. - one look at Toyota's Lean Model

Here are a few pictures of where they get to meet, and where they get to eat, all inspired by nature, with sustainability planned throughout, a part of meeting in Vancouver that is easy to accomplish. The girari furniture line is a sustainably built line, and one we love to use for both its stylish features as well as its overall philosophies. The plants you see are all grown locally, and will all be sent to good homes following the meeting. The dining choices are healthy, they can fill their own water bottles from the coolers or the tap, and the group is transferring mainly with their feet, on the Skytrain and using our Aquabus system. Excellent choices all around.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Egonomics - What do YOU need?

As some of you know, I have worked across various sectors of the industry. I have been a PCO/Meeting Planner, an Event Producer at a DMC, a Sr. Event Producer (hey that's what happens when you change jobs right...) at an Incentive House, and now a Director of Creative and Production back at a DMC.

In any job we have had to answer this question, "What VALUE do you bring?" Whether asked by a meeting host (often in a profession completely unrelated to what we do and senior in their world), or a seasoned planner, my answer is consistent, “We will give you back time and use our expertise to create a memorable experience for your guests".

Anyone who is working in meetings and events is busy, working on mutliple projects for multiple stakeholders, who all work to their own time schedules, usually engaging less than three weeks before a program, and of course wanting us to adapt to their input. This is not even stressful, it is an anticipated reality.  The reality is, in any job or position I have had in this industry, our teams have always risen to the challenge and made it happen. We don't do this alone, we do this with our highly engaged and professional supplier / vendor partners - who also understand that we are all always only as good as our last event. 

Our last event is also very specific - very specific to meeting the individual needs of each and every guest who has participated, as everyone has an opinion.  Now I have been doing this long enough that in the olden days, we collected thousands of paper evaluations and spent a lot of time collating these results, which were shared with one or two people.  Then we moved into online surveys, an amazing tool for the instant results you can obtain, and again, reviewed by a handful of people.  Now as meeting and event professionals, we have the added challenge of social media, a great tool for marketing, and a tool where now, in nano seconds, any spectacular moments can be shared, and any flaws can be exploited for all the world to share, with words, pictures, video all able to be streamed instantly. As if there wasn't already enough pressure on us!  Are we ready to work tirelessly (or with a lot of 'insert energy beverage of choice') to create an end-to-end memorable experience for our participants - HECK YEAH!

This week I participated as a virtual participant in Event Camp Twin Cities  twitter #ectc10 and it was phenomonal to hear the same messages from a room and a virtual room of people who CARE about making events more meaningful - and how we will continue to do that now and into the future.
This is what I will continue to love about what we do - everyone who is part of our extended team, does what they do with passion, energy and a true expertise and we are so lucky to wake up every day not knowing exactly what the day will bring, but knowing what we do makes a difference to the people we touch.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sport, Culture, Sustainability

Not only the three tenets of the Olympic movement, really just a great way to live life. Incorporate some sport, some form of fitness you enjoy, something that keeps your body limber - anything will do - and you will feel better. It is that simple.

Culture - keeping the mind active has proven itself again and again in making you more interesting as you grow up, and in defying age as we get older.  Culture can be anything you want it to be - play an instrument, enjoy a concert, act in a play, enjoy watching a play, paint, enjoy a museum or art gallery - so many ways to subtly improve our lives.

Current personal favorite - Robert Lepage - continues to astound

Sustainability - create less waste, eat more local food, be kind to the people you encounter, share knowledge, limit our foot print (see previous blog post for 20 event related ideas...)

Live well, enjoy, breathe...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What is sustainability?

The first time the Greater Vancouver Regional District wrote a green meetings guide it was 1995. We have come a long way, and now the Convention Industry Council, in partnership with a host of organizations is about to launch their guide, more excellent tools to come!

Green Meetings Standards Mark Industry Transformation

Below are some ideas of things we have been doing here for a while, in a city / country that embraces recycling of most paper, metal, plastic and more, where it is easy to do.
1. Eating local, using in season or locally available products whenever possible

2. Oceanwise seafood – ensures seafood is grown and harvested sustainably

3. Unused food is picked up by local shelters and shared with those in need

4. Water stations vs. bottled water, either guests “bring your own bottle”, or hosts can give them to attendees – a great branding opportunity that will last for years in the stainless steel version

5. What about giving them their own coffee cup?

6. China, glassware, flatware – with little need for disposable use the “good stuff”

7. Recycle everything you can in partnership with the venues – on the west coast this is really easy as separate containers for all types of waste are commonplace from paper to aluminum, glass and plastic

8. Recycle items like name badge holders, or use the cornstarch based plastic holders that decompose quickly

9. Think corn and bamboo – everything from “paper” plates to knives, forks and even golf balls!

10. e-send everything you can – ask your attendees if they prefer paperless – there are a small percentage that might still want paper, but certainly not all of them

11. Create signage that can be reused event to event or recycled / on recycled materials

12. Print using soy or vegetable inks on paper that can be recycled, or planted such as seed paper

13. Use your glass again – at a reception, asks guests just to refill – successful at the MPI WEC Welcome

14. Ask us about the Hybrid SUV’s, bio-fuel use, even incorporating the SkyTrain into your programs – and remember that a motorcoach with 50 people on it is actually pretty darn fuel-efficient when put on a per-person basis

15. We can provide a carbon off-set package when you book your air travel with our travel department

16. We design our environments using furniture made locally and / or sustainably produced

17. Centrepieces can be made from a myriad of substances – even the florals we use are grown within 100km of the downtown core!

18. Dine by candlelight – soy candles even!

19. Give back – have attendees bring work appropriate clothing they no longer wear and collect it for an organization such as Dress for Success with chapters across the country supporting women re-entering the workforce

20. Production value – what we have today uses less power and creates amazing impact – let’s talk about what you really need to deliver your message effectively

21. Incorporate activities that bring people back to nature – kayak, bike, hike, canoe around the amazing scenery and enjoy this time you have here at a slower pace and only human fuel required!

22. Gift if it makes sense – are you creating a memory and providing something useful (water holder, USB stick, clothing they can use for example)

23. Planning ahead – from the first meeting to the final guest departure, we will find ways to help you in both the messaging and the implementation around making your meeting the most sustainable it can be – it is just our way of thinking

24. What else can we do locally to leave behind a positive impact - bring your old suits to share with a local dress for success (seen at MPI WEC), bring books to support a local inner city school with limited library resources, spend an afternoon cooking where not only do you enjoy the meal but you also get to prepackage enough for groups like meals-on-wheels or the Dr Peter Foundation to share with those in need...

Ultimately it all just ties into thinking that the only footprint we leave behind is, well, from our own feet!  Here is another one of my favorite intiatives - being spearheaded by some of our favorite bands!  I also love when we can all get together to share and celebrate with music, and when we can do it in a way that makes sense.

Filter For Good

Smart Trade Show Idea

I have a confession, I love trade shows! I love walking through the entrance, seeing traffic on the floor, how organizations use booth space and design to engage clients, seeing colleagues and meeting people you have only had non-f2f interaction with.  This summer I enjoyed my time on the floor at MPI WEC10 - they drew you in with an excellent lunch that was easy to get to and energized you for the next hours on the floor, with some great suppliers to meet. Here the hosted buyer program many were on also worked well to connect qualified buyers with the right suppliers - something that for this reason continues to be popular at shows.

There were some great booths at Incentive Works, the larger hotel booths where you could come right in and at either a stand up table or sitting on comfortable furniture, with a beverage, catch up on the global properties available for your groups.  They did a great job of dividing this up by global destination so you could work through and really think about where you want to take your groups and meet appropriate suppliers along the way. 

Anyone who has spent any number of hours standing on a floor knows how hard this is - staying energetic and focused in a small space for A-type personalities is always a challenge and finding things to draw people in and have them remember you is tricky.  My favorite at this show was the Sheraton Parkway North who had their booth and surrounding area (good thing they were at the end of an aisle) packed with people who wrote a paragraph that started with "I _________ would love to book my next meeting ant the Sheraton Parkway North, only 20 minutes from downtown Toronto".  This paragraph was then analysed by a handwriting expert, she really knows her stuff - it was memorable, and it created a line that allowed the sales team to interact with those waiting - an excellent use of time all around!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

YouTube, Twitter and more

So in this day and age of Social Media - what are we doing to use all these new tools to enhance our meeting and learning experiences?  What are we doing to connect people on a continuous basis via all the available mediums?
Social Media Revolution

They say that there is 24 hours of content posted to YouTube every minute.  That is exponential.

Two great examples from Incentive Works were first the session on engaging the human dimension with @Alissa Hurley and Gayle Duncan from Maritz - with many examples on the ppt, in the room and using live feeds to drive content (and win prizes) who had fun with SMS, polling and tweets in the room. That added to and did not take over the session.

A great session on social media with Gary Vaynerchuk - a man who has driven sales in their family business using primarily social media tools, including their own YouTube channel - check this out - 125,000 daily - DAILY - viewers!


When I sat down to hear Gary (@Garyvee) speak, he had been following the #incentiveworks I think as I had a direct message saying - hope you are in the session today - so a little new technology to embrace I think! 

btw if you have a nice steak, a little smoked sea salt on top - pair with a bordeaux!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Aspiring to... Inspired by... Rewarded... Recognized

Permission to pause.
Permission to reward (appropriately)
Recognition accepted.

No matter the pressure on organizations today around the optics of hosting meetings, and particularly incentives; combined with on-line learning / webinars / hybrid events available, there is really no way to replace the value of a F2F experience.

In an incentive program, the most value for the attendees is the time they get to spend usually with the significant other that has given them the time and support to be successful, but also the time they get with senior management and the C-level of the organization they have chosen to be engaged with.

Determining the ROI is important - setting the objectives of the program, staying true to the goals and parameters set at the beginning of the reward cycle, and knowing what measurements your C-level is looking for are all critical to success. There are many ways to do this - just one is below.

Motivational Experiences Deliver Business Results - well they should or else what is the point?
SITE White Paper on Validation of Motivational Experiences

The big impact though is exactly the same as what happens when your sales (or service) force is in the field delivering to the clients you need to be successful.  The elusive and tougher to measure ROR - Return on Relathionships.  Relationships with each other, relationship with the organization and the perceptions brought to life during the program, the amount of leisure time vs. education vs. networking vs. recognition - the most important aspect is finding the balance that is right for those who are being rewarded. Then watch the magic happen!
A true reward with a private concert
A gala night of our stars - with each award brought out by a Cirque performer!

Engaging Learners

Learners need to be engaged to learn.

That sounds so simple. No matter how much technology we get, no matter how many ways we have to connect electronically, it all pales compared with face to face communication. Think about the frustrations when we are forced to go through voice message after voice message when calling a company we want service from, and feel unable to get it. Then think about when something is going right, it usually involves a person or a group of people who have created an environment, an organization, a sports team, a social group, or a school, for example, where a community can flourish. A natural extension of community is when we come together at an event to celebrate, network and be recognized.

Once the goals are established, there are two main considerations, the content you will deliver and the methods of delivery, and the environment you will deliver it in. This may involve a traditional classroom style, being lectured at by a presenter, for example. But more and more research shows that these are not the methods that will increase our engagement, or aid in the retention of information, and most importantly, it is not the most effective way to affect change, and if we are not seeking a change, or at least a shift, then why are you meeting?  (well maybe for celebration and recognition but that is another blog)

The next time it comes to meet, determine the w's -

1. Who is involved in the meeting?

2. what are they there for - learning? Motivation? Reward?

3. where will you meet - what country / city / venue will be the most suitable?

4. when is the best time to meet - is there an immediate need, is it a trip they need time to earn or an annual meeting you are planning for?

5. Why is there a meeting - find clarity among your stakeholders! First, the goals of meeting. Are you seeking to educate? Motivate? Change perceptions? Affect change? Create a greater sense of community?

6. How are you going to accomplish your goals?

What about hybrid meetings?

While there is a place for "hybrid" meetings, where we combine electronic support such as a webinar or broadcast, with a place to come together and share an experience. Ideally in a hybrid situation we are able to engage before the meeting or event, during through either social networking or live chats, and then follow up with further interaction that supports the learning offered.

Any comments? Please share your thoughts!

The Power of the Leader

Really, this says it all, but of course I have more to say!

Michael Hyatt Ways to Energize Your Team

Whether you are an appointed or unintentional leader, it is a responsibility to help people around us to be engaged.  The more engaged the team, for us, the better the events for our clients as we are always pushing the bar.

The best part of what we do is seeing our well served clients glowing, and the best way to do this is to have team members that all believe in the value of what we do.

Every day I will continue to do my best to lead by example in showing the passion we have for what we do. Some days I know I will be wildly successful, some days will be more of a struggle as the realities of keeping clients happy is not always the simplest thing in the world. So on to another day!

a small part of our volunteer lunch crew on the 2007 weekend to end breast cancer

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Seeking Talent

Seeking and finding great talent is an ongoing process, and finding people who feel that our community workplace is one they want to join, then that is just a beginning.

Talent can be described in many ways. By Tom Peters in Re-imagine, he states it as such:

Talent. The intangible attributes that mark talent. Includes displaying passion; inspiring others; loving pressure; craving action; knowing how to finish the job; exhibiting curiosity; embodying “weird”; exuding fun; thinking at a high level; thriving on WOW! More importantly the way you need to consider the people you are hiring now – the people beyond “employee”

As an employee, we get a paycheque for the talent, knowledge and skills we bring to our organization. This at the most base level is all that an organization owes us. Really.

However, as humans, are needs are higher than this. We need to be recognized, appreciated, motivated at both extrinsic (such as our paycheque) and intrinsic levels. As organizations continue to grow in ways that include multi generations, backgrounds and talents, it will remain a challenge to find the individual motivators for the people who choose to join us.  What we can do is continue to seek what motivates our individual team members and to find people that we want to be surrounded by every day.  What we do for our clients is to continue to work closely with them to ensure that we are creating programs that ensure that the guests leave feeling rewarded, valued, appreciated and through the experiences we collectively create they leave inspired, motivated and feeling loyalty to their organization.

What can we do as employees? Well in a perfect world, we get to do our jobs with passion, integrity to both ourselves and our organizations, and we share the responsibility for success every day. I say, bring it on!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I Have a Dream

This week I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing Simon Sinek speak. We were introduced to Simon Sinek during one of our classes this year as the hospitality professionals taking our Bachelor of Hospitality Management when we had to seek things we were interested in and many of us ended up on checking things out. (If you aren't already a regular visitor - go!) This was a message shared between the class that resonated. This was a large motivator for me to go to Incentive Works this year, to hear this message live.

There were so many interesting things he brought up that just made me think. I LIKE thinking as we have that quiet time, in this case on a plane, to see how that translates to us.

Now one of the things he talked about was Martin Luther King's infinitely famous "I have a dream" speech and thinking about some of the parameters of this. In a time of little mass communication as we know it today, nearly a quarter of a million people came to Washington to hear about this man's dream, what he believed in. This is quite a long speech, and it is nearly entirely about what he believed was possible. We can assume that most of the people who came shared this belief, and they came to have this validated in a highly public, highly sharing, highly connecting way.

But the interesting thing pointed out, was that he said "I have a dream" he never said "I have a plan". Hmmm just something to think about.

On another note, I have been following, as many of you have, a linkedin group where someone started a thread asking could anyone recommend a keynote speaker that people would talk about / remember. Now, it turns out that hundreds of people each have their favorite speaker(s) and that each of these has literally hundreds or thousands of groups they could connect with. Each of these seems to have an excellent message to share, through stories and experiences that they will use to find connections with your audience and leave a message that resonates and supports the positive changes you are seeking with your meeting.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Rockies and Banff

Oh how I love being in the Rockies and seeing the looks of awe on the faces of guests who are enjoying this spectacular locale, and hearing their stories of the activities they enjoyed.  It made me think of all the things I have not done while in the Rockies, again and again, for eighteen years of bringing groups here.

Things I have done
* eaten a lot of fantastic food
* floated down the Bow River
* stayed in gorgeous hotels "the Castle in the Rockies" among others
* produced fantastic events (shameless but true) with some excellent environments and entertainers
* enjoyed the spa - ok, once
* seen bears, elk, moose and a whole variety of cool wildlife, including the Mounties
* breathed in the freshest air around

Things I have not done
* drink fabulous wine (hey, we're working!)
* skiied
* been in a helicopter
* slept enough
* golfed
* swam in the beautiful pool
* gone horseback riding and had tea at the Teahouse
* been fly fishing
* gone river rafting
* played croquet on the lawn over the golf course
* line danced
* spelunked - really!
* atv'd
* biked
* hiked
* had ice wine by the firepit surrounded by ice sculptures

hmmmm, maybe one day! In the meantime, our lucky guests will continue to enjoy this fantastic location.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bring your kids to work day?

Excerpts from conversations with the client...

Hey, we have a great idea! For the World's Greatest Backyard, we want to make sure it is easy for people to get their beverage of choice, of course. In addition to the greatest grapevine, we are definitely going to include the hydration station, with lots of flavoured water (a huge hit btw) and then we are going to have the specialty bars, and the beer stations with our great local microbrew from Granville Island Brewing, but what about that lemonade stand? Wouldn't it be great to have some kids?

At this point the event planner / mother in me feels a small start of... was that panic? Maybe as I seem to have stopped breathing. I definitely don't want to have to worry about kids at the largest most pressure filled event for our peers of all time... thinking, thinking... what is the right response... stalled completely by the next question, "What about your kids? They are adorable!".  Now, every mother wants to hear exactly those words, your kids are adorable. uh - oh, there is only one thing to say... "let me ask them!" I say brightly!

So I asked them if they might know any kids who would be interested in working at this large, important event, and their hands shot up. OK, I guess we will try this.  My daughter was especially keen and asked if she could come and spend the whole day with me setting up. Sure, why not, we can use more volunteers, so she did.  The first question, as we loaded into the car at 6am was "So Mom, is there like a main person who is in charge of this event tonight?"  Apparently my children, who have traveled to exotic destinations like Quebec City and Beijing with me on programs, have no idea what I do!

Well in the end, it was a fantastic day, and the joy of having a junior volunteer, is when you ask them to do anything, they RUN. Think about this high productivity booster, and how can we harness that? I generally discourage running on-site, but in this case, we had a lot of ground to cover. 

At the end of it all, they were adorable, and helpful and it was indeed a pleasure to bring my kids to work... and if you had any lemonade at the MPI WEC10 Welcome Reception, you got to meet them too!

Next time they want to be on the trampoline though!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Food and Beverage and Event Design

At the recent MPI WEC10 I was invited by a former colleague Karen Massicotte, to join her panel speaking on "Putting Character into your F & B events". Along with the Executive Chef at the Vancouver Convention Centre  Chef Blair Rasmussen, nutritionist Ali Chernenkoff and the Executive Chef of the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver Chef Robert LeCrom

The idea was to give four perspectives on designing menus - the event designer (me!), an Executive Chef on foood, a the nutrition and its importance, along with allergies and special needs, and pairing wine, as Chef LeCrom said, that is just about love. There were some really fun perspectives, and some tangible tips for participants, on working with Chefs, and making the (oft dreaded based on the group's comments) break menus even more imaginative for our guests.  I shared some of my favorite ways we have presented food and beverage through a series of pictures (ok, about 70!)

This reminded me just how much I LOVE food and beverage - one of the most impactful parts of your events, and one that keeps people talking - the more positive food and beverage experience you can create, the better. Doing my small part of this session has seriously made me want to delve even deeper into its importance and to create some tools to inspire the Chefs and catering teams, including the CSMs to continue to push the bar on fresh, delicious and nutritious.

Caesar Shooter

MPI WEC the Ultimate Backyard Grapevine!

Blue Mountain, Networking in a Tennis Dome - with pub style food to impress!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Meeting Design - the Environment Matters

How to make meeting dialogue open up? That was the critical question for the clients who had recently undergone a massive change in their leadership. When I met with the clients for the first time - 3 1/2 weeks before their meeting that involved 25 national GMs, they told me their main goal was to engage these GMs and have them clearly understand this was a new way of doing business. The leadership was going to be more open and transparent, they were all going to be more accountable. So I asked about their environment - what was their plan? It included a screen, a projector, everyone at rounds, and each department sharing their perspective. Perhaps Finance would even share their ppt they had prepared recently for the board! In my head, I thought "YAWN" - so what I asked was "What if you turned the entire meeting upside down?" They keenly asked what would this look like, and I talked about creating a living space feel, plasmas replacing screens, comfortable seating replacing tables, all day snacks so you didn't have everyone feeling the pressure of ten minute coffee breaks and how can I also check my blackberry and have a coffee? Make a space where they felt comfortable, taken care of and that visibly showed this meeting was going to be different.

Two days later, we met with the responsible VP who shared his vision, which fortunately matched our two rabid days of planning and what a success it was in getting people talking. The shortest ppt - 5 slides - the longest maybe 17... and the presenters came prepared to open it up, share their messages in a way that enticed dialogue and questions vs being an edict, and the GMs all returned to their own business units two days later ready to "drive the experience" internally and engage their own teams in creating the best product they can deliver. That is what a great environment can set the stage for - let's keep finding ways to bring messages alive!

Meeting Design - If it was a TV Show

During the recent MPI WEC 2010 in Vancouver I thought a lot about meeting design, what works, what doesn't and why, why, why? 

Why do we put people in moderately comfortable chairs, all facing front, with a speaker pacing, or speakers perched somewhat uncomfortably on stools, or hidden behind a table, put a large projector in the sightline of a good portion of the room, and then assume this is an environment conducive to learning?

I had the opportunity to have a short discussion with the MC of the week,  Glenn Thayer whose perspective hit home with me. We have an audience that is a generation of tv watchers. We engage with a "show" for about five minutes, then we have two minutes of commercials, then we have another five minutes and we might get up and go to the fridge... but when we put people into a learning environment, we feel that one person can engage them for an hour or more, and that the learnings will be retained. There are ways to improve this, starting with making it fun, interesting and relevant.

Having a great MC helps keep it all in line, excellent speakers (a personal highlight was Emmanuel Gobillot) who understand communication as well as moments of silence, and sometimes it might be just about bringing it home with a game show.

Below are two events created in years past with other clients who were open to trying new ideas, and were successful for doing so. On the top, Jeopardy and on the bottom, Family Feud, both with questions that were all about the organization, with an actor / MC who kept it moving along quite nicely!

Meeting Design - Preparing the presenters

During the recent MPI WEC 2010 in Vancouver, I attended several sessions on meeting design and the future of meetings, and there were some excellent presentations, many recaps available on line - check them out. MPIWEB Events

The importance of meeting design can not be overstated. Organizations spend billions on meetings every year, and how much of the information that is delivered is retained? How much is used? With the importance of lifelong learning being recognized as a critical use of time to improve and engage a work force, are organizations really preparing every meeting to maximize the opportunities?

Are pre-assessments being conducted?

What is the format or the meeting? Is this conducive to the goals that have been set out being met?

Are you avoiding "death by powerpoint"? Coaching your presenters on delivery methods - pacing, tone, tools to engage the audience and help them walk away remembering the key messages? Are you allowing enough time to review the material with the group of presenters and ensure the messages are cohesive with the MVV (mission, vision, values) of the organization? That not only are they comfortable with the material and the presentation, they are excited about the possibilities in bringing these important messages to your teams.

As the meeting planners / event producers we may not be entirely responsible for the content but we sure can be responsible for helping ensure the message is delivered in a way that has the attendees walking out with tools to produce the desired change, having retained the critical information your organization is trying to deliver.  I will be looking at some of the effective tools I have seen in the next few posts.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Going For It!

It seems that after nearly two decades, it is a-ok to trust my event-stincts and be able to provide the best service and the best environment for your guests. It is great to be able to be so excited about the upcoming events and know that they will be the best they can be and to share the passion and enthusiasm for our industry with those of like minds. Think Big - deliver results. Let's keep going for it!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Issues in Tourism

Issue in tourism: a volcano erupts over Iceland disrupting air traffic for days to much of Europe, inbound and outbound. Meanwhile, certain trains in France are also on strike. Chaos ensues. It takes FIVE days for the transport ministers of the various countries to all speak together. Every world leader scheduled to attend the funeral of Poland's leader, one among many killed on a flight to Russia that was meant to recognize the peace found between these countries, is not able to fly in. The issues, the impacts for tourism, meetings, conferences, festivals, honeymoons continue seeming without end. The trains that are running are full, and even those without tickets ride, sitting in the aisles for hours across countries. Car rentals when available are at astronomical rates (2000 euros for two days...), hotels some remain fair, many gouge, airports become filled with mattresses as flyers await news. There is NO planning, no risk management, no contingency to allow for this type of natural disaster. Consumers are all out of pocket for expenses. Airlines are losing an estimated 200 million euros a day. chaos. no recovery will be enough. From 9-11 when humans caused chaos and disruption, nothing like this can be ammortized and insurance companies won't let the airlines take the risks. It is unthinkable and impossible to imagine.

We are the lucky ones. We have accommodation with friends and they continue to let us stay. We can shop at the market for meals, and we have, if they start flying again Tuesday, a confirmed flight for Wednesday. On Friday, Wednesday seemed ridiculous, impossible, so far away, and now we have one day left. The weather has finally warmed up, the family is finally all healthy, and we have enjoyed our "bonus" days very much. So we wait, in comfort and relaxed and able to work on line and meet all our needs, if not able to make all our meetings. Sometimes, life catches us up and we are forced to abide by new timelines, such is this time.