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!