Friday, June 24, 2011

Blogalong with Eventwist - Vancouver, New York, and Yes Las Vegas

This week I had the distinct pleasure of being part of the new VANCOUVER booth at AIBTM in Baltimore. OK, reality check, I was administering this booth - making sure all the partners had what they needed for uniforms, swag, support etc. etc. Now, there is a reason I am the Creative Director at Cantrav. and not the administrator of much! So I dug in and got it done and I think I can safely say this was a roaring success - great sales team on the floor, great quality of hosted buyers who were committed to maximizing their time at the show and a great space to do it in!

Here was the funny/great thing about our row for me... beside us MGM Resorts on one side and Boston on another. Dave Gazley had lost the bet with Boston - check this out for Dave wearing the Bruins Jersey - a good sport that one! Just beside Boston, New York! So I think that between the class of Vegas's MGM Resorts and the yellow taxi cookies of New York, we held our own! I think that Lenny from Vegas may have been a bit surprised when I came up and gave him a hug, but when King Dahl says "Hug" - well. you HUG!  Whatever they might say about New Yorkers - I found them VERY friendly and I can't wait to go!

We LOVED having Kiki L'Italien filming Social Media Sweet Spot LIVE from the booth and we sure had some of the who's who stop by, naturally bringing them in for an interview - check it out and you will see Jeff Hurt, Joan Eisenstodt, Dave Lutz, Liz King, Traci Browne and then our Vancouver hosts including Ken Cretney from the gorgeous Vancouver Convention Centre and Doug Tewnion with the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle - at least! Thank you ALL (but especially Kiki!)

On a personal note, seeing for the first time IRL people who have inspired me on-line for nearly a year - you know who you are - Jenise, Lindsey, Traci, Barbara, Ruud... and reconnecting IRL with Greg who took us to some serious local haunts (Nacho Mamas, the fabulous Blue Hill Tavern and then of course Walt's for Karake and Mamas on the Half Shell and then cannolis) - thank you sir, you are a star!  Andy - how much fun did we have? Thanks for sharing the experience. Liz, Billy, Andrea, Kiki, Glenn, Trevor, Joan, Midori, Jeff, Jessica, Christine, Dave... For anyone who does not understand the power of SOCIAl (media) - all I can say is keep reading...

I am so fortunate to have connected with people who are PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES, who understand that meetings can make a difference, and that when we as planners and producers take care of the people who attend our events and their educational, personal, professional needs are met through events that allow them to be engaged and to truly connect... this is what is going to make meetings and events continually better through relevance and proven RO... I(nvestment), E(ngagement), R(elationships)... let's create memorable moments and give people information they can use when they return to their organizations...  I say BRING IT ON!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Violence and Sports do not belong together

First let me say that I am proud of the Vancouver Canucks who played hard to get to the Stanley Cup Final. Note the word played. We play sports. When we play there should be joy. Win or Lose. In schools and sports for younger children they don't even keep score as they believe it is about teaching children the love of sport, exercise and friendly competition. As children get older we are meant to teach them about good sportsmanship, fair play and winning with joy and losing with grace. The Canucks lost with respect for the other team and grace in losing.

However all these lessons seem to have been lost on a small portion of the more than 100,000 people that had filled the streets of Vancouver to watch this final game of the season. This small portion can blame the Canucks for their anger, an anger that incited riots, burnings and lootings - but they made this choice for violence, possibly even before the game began. Now this is not the first time that a small portion of a group has taken advantage of a situation like this - a festival or sporting event that draws large number of crowds - to bring out the very worst in themselves and a few around them. It is horrifying to watch and must have been even more horrible to be part of. Especially if you were one of the many who went with good intentions to share with your tribe of Vancouver fans an experience that is not often replicated. Hockey fans believe in their team, they believe in the power of team sports - it is disruptive individuals who started these riots - not fans.

As an Event Producer we learn about risk management. We learn terms such as crowd surge, crowd push and others - there is no term of "crowd control" as control is lost when we bring together large groups of people.  We rely on the support of the professionals - police, security, medical, fire, transit and more to assist us in planning for the safest management of crowds. During the Olympics we saw first hand that it is possible to bring together hundreds of thousands and to be safe. When individuals are bent on destruction, it becomes nearly impossible to stop them, and we have seen this over the years in hundreds of examples, from world wars to love festivals, 9-11 to last night's riots. We will continue to teach event professionals the importance of risk management, and to work with teams of professionals to keep people safe. 

As a human I feel shared shame that this has happened in our city and a belief that I still live in one of the greatest cities in the world, where the vast majority are warm, friendly Canadians who will rapidly restore our city to what it was. As a parent, I will continue to instill values in my children that are about the positive power of teamwork and also a strong sense of individual responsibility to make the right choice. Those that choose to violence - in any form - are not to be respected or joined.

I will continue to hold out hope and to plan carefully so that we can continue to safely enjoy events of all kinds that bring us together in the joy of shared experience.

I know many have thoughts to share, please do.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How do we know THEM?

Recently my husband had a birthday and we invited the usual cross-section of people that tend to intersect at our house. Over the years many have become familiar faces to each other, even though it may only be with us they see each other.  At the end of the evening, my daughter asked "how do we know them?" referring generally to the people who were there. The answers of course varied. Some had been friends since high school, some through tae kwon do, or Greg's curling team, some people I work with and all of them people we are richer for knowing.

A day or two later I was again at a One Degree of Separation event.  This is what I refer to as "our secret club" although it is neither secret or a club, it is a gathering nearly monthly that began last year when two lovely men, Michael and Marc and I were at an event with ok wine, people we didn't really know, hellomynameis badges and said "wouldn't it be great to go to an event where the wine is good, there are no name badges and we are talking with people we like, and while they might be in similar industries, it is not about business cards."  The next week we decided to try it out, and nearly a year later it is a highlight of each month. The One Degree simply means you need to know one of us, or the host (which changes monthly with the venue) and you are welcomed in. Wine is often simply by donation, the food never complicated and the people, well let's say the time flies, and many of us have both deepened relationships and made new connections. A few have even found new work because of the connections made. Do we all still belong to and support traditional industy associations? Heck yes!  Would we give this up... Well not for a while.

Then it was on to SPINCon, where I had the opportunity to co-present on creating Brain-Friendly Meals for your Meetings with Andrea Sullivan; participate in a session led by Sam Smith; be "Canada's Leader" for Sam and Erica St. Angel; see Midori Connolly present on new gadgets; and see Brandt Krueger's band play at Memory Lanes... What is interesting about this? Before this weekend we were on line friends via twitter, but hanging out with them was like hanging out with old friends - totally great!

Next time you are with a group of people, ask yourself, "How do I know them?" and remind yourself of the value of friendships. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

SPINCon11: The View from Canada

I recently had the great pleasure of presenting at and attending SPINCon; the inaugural conference of the Senior Planners Industry Network led by Shawna Suckow, in the Twin Cities. First, who knew there was a direct flight from Vancouver to the Twin Cities? It was really easy to get here, the Crowne Plaza St. Paul outdid themselves with the hospitality (and great rate!) and the reasonable registration made this a highly accessible meeting. Thank you. Focused on the needs of senior planners (10+ years) and with the supplier participation coming from sponsors who really want to better understand this special breed of planner, with years of experience to share, strong experience and/or education and a desire to collaboratively work to successful meetings, this was quite a special place to be.  Check out for details on the sessions as well as archives.

The sessions were overall excellent, with lots of time for discussion and sharing, loads of interaction, and always done with no fear by the senior planners for this meeting, Shawna, Tracey Smith and Sara Vanderbilt. Their approach to selecting presentations and presenters was thoughtful and thorough, and their attention to detail from the "hatching of the ideas" to the timings of the sessions, the egg sweaters and duck speaker timer... It all added up to fun that engaged the learners as they had more tools to retain the information being shared.

A final session was the "Cheater's Guide to Hybrid Events" and the group was divided into a main room where the presentation took place (the function room) then into the "Home Office" where the experience of following along as if you were at home with headphones on was simulated and then what we called "Canada" which simulated a pod experience.  Here is what Canada found in their room, and what we have learned NOT to do, as it was set up by Sam Smith and Erica St. Angel to show what happens when you don't consider that the home, function room and remote pod as separate entities that will require thoughtful preparation to allow for their differences.

With only one camera angle far away from the main stage, and no way to see the slides being presented, we found ourselves easily disengaged and a bit disgruntled with the overall experience. Why? Several reasons, including:

  1. We could not really see what was happening as it was too far away
  2. We had zero connection to any emotion from the speakers with the distance and no facial close-ups
  3. The bandwidth challenges meant that the connection was a bit jumpy and irritating to watch
  4. The sound was not great
  5. We could not see the slides the speakers referred to
  6. There was no clear focus on our needs as learners, even though they did give us work to do, we were less interested in doing it

What we learned was what NOT to do when planning a hybrid! Was it risky to put participants through a less than ideal experience? Heck yes and kudos to the presenters and the organizers for recognizing that we learn as much or more from failures, and for being willing to walk off that cliff and seize the opportunity to show in a very real way what happens if you "forget" the details related to your event.

The great elements ranged from opening keynotes (GrowthWorks) who returned to wrap up our learnings at the end of the conference; Joel Zeff with an opening improv on the second morning; two awesome CSR activities, one filling school backbacks for the United Way on a riverboat cruise, and the second getting baby suppliers at the Mall of America for a local women's group; great breakout sessions that covered choosing brain-friendly food for your meeting to AV Girl's tips for technology success to Sam Smith looking at our five wishes for the meetings industry and a fun approach to strategic thinking, among others.  For me, it was also great to meet some people I had not yet met IRL and it was just as great as could have been anticipated!

Was it perfect? It wasn't supposed to be - it was meant to take risks and did, and now they will take the the concepts and sessions that really worked for the majority of the group, and build on these for the future.  And continue to focus on senior meeting planners (evolving) needs. I would definitely do what I can to participate again!