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.