Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Events of the Future and Digital Fluidity

Is the above photo a trade show dream, where thousands swarm the floor, seeking information and not swag; seeking connections and not business cards; where organizations are cementing their brand presence and not merely taking up space?  It is hard to say what the individuals experienced, because we give so little energy in our typical planning cycle to thinking of the individuals.  We may create "buyer personas" and attendee profiles, generalizing to show our exhibitors the types of people they should expect to meet at our show, enticing them to purchase a booth and immerse themselves in the experience.  But how each person is able to build their own schedule, easily find their preferred exhibitors or those they seek to know more about, or find colleagues, friends, and potential collaborators who have similar interests - this is still missing for many.

I wrote recently for Corporate Meetings Network about the concept of Digital Fluidity and what this means to our event experiences and I believe we must become much more fluent in this new language, and the medium which lives in the pockets and purses of the individuals who attend.  They are busy, they are living with a certain amount of stress from work, life and the integration of the two in a continuously time - strapped world where 24/7 access is a reality for many. How can we use mobile and its inherent tools such as location via bluetooth or similar now built in to so many devices, or apply concepts such as flipped learning with augmented reality, and ease their journey through our event, allowing for deeper connections, more relevant learning to the time and space they are in now, and deliver events which are ultimately more meaningful, and create a thirst to return again?  It is these questions that keep me intrigued, that cause me to ask deeper questions of fellow planners and the smart people I work with and to continue to explore the many facets and components of mobile and how we can use it, quite simply, in a better way.   How are you using the new wave of technology to enhance your experiences?    

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Celebrating Ron

CindyMDiaz Photographer may be the only person with more
photos of Mt. Shasta than Ron. I chose this one
It would be impossible for me to write about our friend Ron without including Mt. Shasta, as I have a montage of years of this mountain, which he loved. I write often about other people and their accomplishments and ideas on my blog, and this will be a first for me to write about someone who has so recently left our world.

It is with profound sadness that today I write about Ron.  He was lost to us this week through cancer and its complications. He is someone who has profoundly impacted our lives, and the lives of many, and who deserves to be remembered. Ron and my husband Greg have been friends since the end of high school, and when I came along was wrapped up into a wide group of friends, many who are still close 30+ years later, often with Ron as the catalyst for the many happenings. We learned how to make our first real turkey dinner when we took over his mom's kitchen one Easter (by "we" I don't mean he cooked), I have seen Styx and Ozzy Osbourne (among others and both well past their prime), and he was both our best man and the man when Greg was unavailable when my water broke with Nicholas five weeks early to take me to the hospital. Probably in a Mustang and very nervous about his seats - fair enough it was not his natural comfort zone!

Ron loved getting people together, both at home and away.  Along with many others over the years Greg has enjoyed over 35 long weekend trips organized by Ron as he wove a social fabric that stretched to fit the new relationships and friendships and which all contributed to a life well lived.  Sun and a cold beer, a great dinner and a fabulous bottle of wine, playing his grand piano alone or for friends, or the guitar for a sing-along, sharing a concert or a night at Margaritaville, on the curling ice or the golf links, at a hockey game or a ball game, it has always been about creating experiences and memories.  But never Facebook and rarely pictures.

After his diagnosis Ron shrunk his world to a small circle who were there to support him through his journey which ended with dignity on Tuesday with three of these friends there to see him to the other side.  I was not physically part of this journey and now give a huge shout-out to those who were, as drivers, dinner makers, and for just being there - each by choice and each for a reason.  All of us would be fortunate to have this type of support in any time of need, and you know who you are and how important this time was for all.

For many there is literal heartbreak.  For his lovely parents the pain is enormous, and burying a child is the worst any of us can imagine, the age is irrelevant.  How Ron lived life was gifted to him by Fred and Nancy who taught him by example to choose a profession that you enjoy and serves your lifestyle of choice, and then to live each moment. If there is one thing we can each take away from knowing Ron it is this, to capture the moments, to spread happiness and to simply enjoy.  Rest well my friend, you are missed. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Anvil Centre

With Heidi Hughes the day the stairs were poured

Deciding to build a new venue is always part dream and part business case. The Anvil Centre just above the riverfront in New Westminster is certainly a great example of recognizing and then filling a need, for both meetings as well as the community.  

Having been on several hardhat tours over the previous year, I was simply thrilled to be at the Grand Opening at the end of October and to see many familiar faces from our industry also there to
One year later on the staircase!
celebrate this gorgeous addition to our meeting inventory. There were also many faces familiar to me from work both in other Vancouver venues and across the country, so I know they have also spent the time and energy on building a great team that thoroughly understands both service and operations.

This boutique conference centre will easily serve both corporate and association needs and its proximity to Skytrain, thoughtful building planning, and commitment to supporting their local community including a museum filled with local history (which can also be included in your event) makes it a shining example of sustainable design, which I always appreciate. 

Go ahead, check it out!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pooh, Pain and sunshine

Anyone who has been reading with me for a while knows I write mostly about events, sometimes about life and occasionally about impact points. Today is about these. There are certain, unexpected phases of life that happen to us of which each must be embraced for who it brings us and what it teaches us. 
The phase in our 20s where it seems like we go to many (first) weddings, launch our (first) careers and often meet our lifelong friends through work, college or happenstance - the idea that we meet people for a reason, season or lifetime beginning to make sense.  Last weekend we had the opportunity to attend the wedding of our godson Dylan to the beautiful inside and out Megan and to share this with their family and friends, and to watch them set out together to face whatever life will bring.  The bride obviously gorgeous in white, the groom wore Batman Converse. 
Dylan and Megan we could not be happier for you
Most of us have many positive memories of our 20s (or are building them now) and much of who we become happens now.  It is also often the first time we have to learn to deal with loss, of a friend or family member, and it is how we manage the grieving process, the support we have available and our own inner chutzpah kicking in that gets us through these times, giving us strength we did not know we had yet. In the words of AA Milne and Winnie The Pooh “If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together... there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart... I'll always be with you.”  
In our 30s we tend to focus on our careers, many begin families, others are just meeting their life partners, and life generally is full of deep potential. Careers and relationships may change and momentum carries us forward. I adore seeing all my third-decade  friends bring their charisma and joy and drive to their workplace and lives. On the flip side from other perspectives there is a certain displacement, a disconnect between a generation that is not so good at balance or work/life integration and the community that comes with this, and there are thousands of workshops and articles on what this and the next generations means to the evolving workplace.  I admire their sense of lifestyle, or again in the words of Pooh Bear  “When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.”
It is the next phase that is seemingly more challenging, the age where our parents are aging and our friends and even their children are facing challenges that seem grossly unfair. In two words 

Last Christmas we received what we thought was a typical Christmas card from our old neighbors whose cards always featured a picture of an adventure they had been on this previous year - salt mines in Turkey, exotic beaches and jungles. Last year it was of them in front of the Victoria Cancer Centre and the story of their daunting, overwhelming year. We received this two weeks ago. We were once again reminded by the two oncologists of how rare it is that she was sitting there talking to them considering the original prognosis.(0.5%)  They will continue to hold their collective breaths for another 6 months at which time they will consider her out of the danger zone (statistically speaking). This is good news for sure and we invite everyone to lift a glass of wine in thanks…in six months it will be champagne. 
Bring on the bubbles has never seemed so wonderful.
We have too many friends currently battling cancer, and while they are winning the battle their personal and unique wars on cancer are full of challenges and none is without its scars. The tools we have are poisonous and often experimental, but when the choice is to live through some terrible days, to live... I applaud their courage and am thankful they have made the choices they have.  Keep fighting to win!
We interviewed a wonderful man last week on Event Alley - Izzy Gesell  and while the show was about the lessons in Improv for business, what intrigued me as much (since this first makes a lot of sense to me) was the work he does with cancer patients and their loved ones on patience, acceptance and trust, all tools that are needed by everyone involved in the care and outcome as you move from curing to healing. 
Last week someone passed me in the hall during IMEX and while continuing on their path said two simple words Hello Sunshine.  While literally said in passing, as offhand as anyone could say hello it made me think. If I thought consciously each day about what I was bringing to my family and colleagues, or our listeners on the weekly Event Alley show or in any presentation I give - I would choose to be exactly this, a ray that brings light and gives energy to others.  I rarely watch the news - in this age of connected and social everything we get all the bad without seeking it, and we phone people when we are troubled as often as when we are delivering exceptionally good news, and we connect in ways that are often personally sent through impersonal forums - text, facebook, twitter, linkedin, in blog comments... yet we still seek connections that are meaningful.  For all of you I do not get to see enough as the regular demands of life are real, know you are never far away in thought.  
I live with a man forever looking on the bright side and know how lucky I am (and our children are). If I had to sum up my feelings with a final Winnie the Pooh quote it would be this If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”   Go ahead, hug a bear.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

IMEX14 - Socially Aware

I am always impressed with the work of the IMEX Social Team. Miguel Neves and his team truly understand all facets of on-line, and brought together all their lessons (includes a good video recap) and continued to grow.  They again worked with How-can-I-be-social to facilitate conversations with on-site and virtual participants around the globe and had a lot of fun with the IMEX Social Team capturing information all through the space.
Their enthusiasm, experience, no fear to experiment and embrace what is happening NOW, and continue to learn... all of this is what adds up to an excellent ongoing partnership. 

This is the year of the selfie, and you can head to this link to tag yourself in the picture above! Seriously - this is quite awesome. 

 From IMEXLive, sponsored by Hilton Worldwide and The Events Network on BOB-TV there are many great interviews captured (also available in the app), and in the Vancouver booth, Kiki for the fourth year captured interviews with many locals and leaders.  CNTV in a co-production with Sonic Foundry and PRG also broadcast live from the show with these and more interviews being available as part of IMEX TV each day.  It is always fun to see what people are saying about the show and our industry and to have so many great avenues and perspectives adds to the story.

Brandt and I were also on site with the Event Alley Show and had the opportunity to dig deeper into what is going on right now in the industry and how we all impact it. This is a great episode and thank you Brandt for pretty much doing it all! 

The tweets were off the charts, with the extended reach into the millions, and we were able to capture this and showcase it with QuickMobile and its newest offering, Concerto. For me as a planner who loves social, I am digging this new tool!  The ability to be social from within the app (Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook) is also a great feature.
Concerto on the screen in our comfortable QuickMobile space

IMEX continues to be a leader from social to education all encapsulated in a serious buying show and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next year.

In the meantime you can check out this IMEX America Live Link to see all the action.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

IMEX - Social Good and Results

IMEX is the ultimate place through the year to facilitate connections and collaborations. Anyone who has been to an event of more than 50 people however knows how hard it is to find people, and that any serendipitous moments in time should be treasured.  
There are many things that happen at IMEX though which happen to facilitate connections, and here are a few - if you have more, please share!
Photo from Trevor Lui

  1. The hosted buyer program with web based and in-app requests and changes available. This may be obvious, but the power to choose who you want to meet and potentially do business with is very powerful.
  2. Fun on the show floor is never ending from coffee in Columbia to champagne in France, sushi in Japan, beer at the Euro-party, and oh so much more to be found as hospitality is truly celebrated. 
  3. Found on the IMEX Facebook page - as you can see it is going to be an awesome experience
  4. The fantastic project to support Shade Tree was again both a great success and a fabulous opportunity for those who participated and those who benefitted.  For anyone who has participated in a well designed and meaningful CSR project, you know the value runs deep, and the shared feelings last forever.
  5. The relevant education program offers something for nearly everyone in attendance.  This is well thought out and it begins with MPI Smart Monday, includes CIC Seminar and campfire sessions, FRESH thinking in the Meeting Design Institute booth space, the Future Leaders Forum, association and corporate focused learning, and other sessions offered throughout the show floor and it is a great way to find like-minded people in either short or deep-dive sessions. It is hard sometimes, particularly for introverts, to reach out and meet people, but I can assure you from experience taking a deep breath and introducing yourself to someone beside you comes with its own rewards.
  6. Evening events. Again, while this sometimes these events can be a bit overwhelming. Tips from Padraic earlier this year really cover what you need to know.  This year I missed SITENite (always excellent and sold out in 48 hours!) but had the opportunity to attend the FRESH dinner the Keep Memory Alive Center, a superb venue which gives all their proceeds to the brain research institute attached, with a level of space and food service which will keep every planner who hosts an event there happy. Yes, it is really this cool. Then you add in the great people, the philosophies that drive their menu planning, the drive to move guests after each course (first the men, then the ladies, new flatware appearing for each course) and the scrumptious food and this was all in all a worthwhile evening.
    Inside the Keep Memory Alive Center with FRESH
  7. Evening events continued at the blowout that is Rendezvous. What can we say as they moved venues this year to the Drai night club in the new Cromwell Hotel.  The atmosphere was spectacular, the people I saw were ready to connect and this year we could actually hear each other, always a pleasant surprise, and overall a really fun evening full of great networking, all in support of a worthy cause and raising (drum roll) over $190,000.00! 
  8. Hosted buyer events. These are endless, and range from amazing to overwhelming and this year, from the stories heard, was no exception. Dinners and cirque shows, and at the Four Seasons a helicopter rained rose petals into the pool, one of the many events that are buzz-worthy!
I would love to also hear about your experiences and the highlights.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

IMEX - My People

Let me begin this post by stating categorically, I will forget someone, and this is not with intention. It also only notes people who I saw this year, and not those who were missing (Padraic and Patrick, Midori and many more). The reason we want to go to IMEX is for the face to face connections. Those that happen due to the appointments and the serendipitous aisle and networking function spottings which often lead to great conversations, and the inspiration to be found in both expected and unexpected places. Here are a few of my favs from this year.

BTW - this is LONG - so pull up a beverage, and think about who you want to add, and please comment and add!

Ray Bloom and Carina Bauer have been integral to the success that was first IMEX Frankfurt and is now both this and IMEX America. I deeply appreciate that at the beginning and the end of each show, Ray is omnipresent saying welcome and thank you to all.  It is this warmth and interest that extends throughout his team.

QuickMobile and Lumi support MPI Foundation!
QuickMobile is the amazing team I have most recently joined and one I am enjoying being part of. Yes, we build the app for IMEX, and I think it is pretty special in terms of what it provides to participants. As a meeting planner, seeing how this team seeks first to understand needs and to determine what elements of a mobile event app will be most useful to deliver information and create adoption leading to participation is a source of joy. All members from the Dev team to support and release, QA and project managers and those of us attend the events and those in the office that support all the functions - it is a full bodied team effort. 
To be successful today requires deep and seamless integrations based on understanding what will make meetings more meaningful and can be delivered well. With the smart innovations we have with Lumi (some of the great people above) it is one example where we have a deep integration that works because of a shared interest in meetings, and also in having fun, something critical to being successful in this demanding industry. I have met many, and am impressed with all.

Glenn Thayer The Voice of Meetings and Events 
@TahiraCreates: Yep that's real @glennthayer #IMEX14 Best mc in the industry!
Claire Smith is the VP, Sales and Marketing at the Vancouver Convention Centre and she has been an inspiration to me since I did my Event and Convention Management Diploma Practicum (planning the 2nd Annual Partners in Professional Planning conference) a good number of years ago. Claire was also on the committee when we produced the Welcome Reception on their stunning plaza for the MPI WEC in 2010 - when I felt we had come full circle in my chosen profession.  To hear her excitement in discussing her day with the Future Leaders Forum reminded me of the passion she carries still for our industry and her unending fascination with the shifts and trends we face.

Mike McAllen was one of the first people I met through the EventProfs community, and not only is he a honey of a guy, Grassshack Road Productions is a thoughtful production agency, and their AV for Planners offer to help planners better assess AV for their meetings is one of the most interesting tools produced to date.  Mike is also the reason we held EventCamp Vancouver which had a profound positive impact on my life - I always enjoy seeing him.

Mariela McIlwraith is a leader in sustainability, having co-authored with Elizabeth Henderson Corporate Social Responsibility and Ethics in the Meetings Industry, a surprisingly easy read for a dense subject and the book I now use when I teach Sustainable Event Management at BCIT.  This 30 hour course provides a strong base for the students to filter their events through a triple bottom line model of people, planet and profit.  She more recently was the Executive Editor of the ninth edition of the Convention Industry Council manual. This is the key study guide for the CMP and I am proud to have been one of the many contributors to this, with its focus on strategy and sustainability weaving together seamlessly with logistics. More importantly, she stands true to all she believes and who she is, and I always enjoy catching up with her to see what is on the horizon.

Paul Salinger is a shining example of bringing sustainability to an organization, and his work with GMIC over the years has pushed the industry in ways we can embrace.  Plus, he is humble, fun and kind - and gives a mean pecha kucha! 

Embedded image permalinkDr Tyra Hilliard and Jessie States provided one of the best hours of the conference for me in a rather impromptu meeting. They are brilliant, dedicated, funny and true examples of doing what you believe in for your best life. Experts in risk and contracts (Tyra) and meeting design (Jessie) among other things - these educators, best in class speakers and brilliant women are included in those I look forward to seeing time and again. Plus when Mary Boone tweets that she wants to join the party - you know this is a group of power women!

Lenny Talarico is a multi talented man who is a key part of the MGM Events team (yes King I missed you this year).  I met Lenny my first year at IMEX and over the years my fondness grows - he is a true professional, a creator, a performer who understands performance, an ISES mentor and CSEP, and their team is always willing to give back - including these gorgeous arrangements at the FRESH dinner on Tuesday night. 

Brennan McReynolds provided one of my highlights of the week when another tech firm did not recognize the EventFarm brand and I was treated to a most excellent repartee which included alpacas and holsteins among other animal friends.  Thank you for that! I first met Brennan at PCMA Convening Leaders this year when he used his other skill set to help planners figure out ways to add more health and fitness to their busy lives in an activation with the Vancouver booth there. What I learned is that he knows a lot about my favorite subject - the intersection of humans and technology to improve meeting experiences. 

The IMEX team members have proven themselves year-over-year to be willing to challenge themselves. First with education, Dale Hudson and her team have selected excellent programming, and then have created a warm and easy atmosphere for the speakers. Richard Allchild and Achilleas have been my main contacts throughout the years I have been coming to IMEX and every interaction has been professional and productive, with a little bit of good humour along the way. Suzanne Medcalf showed her good sportsmanship riding the bike with us in Vancouver last year, and has once again proven her teamwork and enjoyment in the job this year through a number of interactions.  Miguel Neves has brought new meaning to the social and online communities that make up IMEX, and his impact is not going unnoticed. We had occasion to have an in-depth conversation with him at MPI WEC and his view of the industry at large, the role associations play, and the impact the business of meetings has globally is refreshing and clear.

BTW Richard - my final day selfie with you had 11 retweets, to a mere 4 of me *in bed* with @MeetMrHolland.

Tech Start Up Competition - results link. What is new is a key part of any great event and this year judges included Miguel Neves, Senior Online Community Manager at IMEX Group; Julius Solaris of Event Manager blog; Dahlia El Gazzar, CEO of the Meeting Pool; Liz King CEO of Liz King Events and Brandt Krueger, tech whiz and an industry instructor who translates geek to I get it.  An excellent group all around and people I consider a key part of understanding how the many faces of technology are rapidly impacting our events.

Speaking of tech... Social Tables have continued to grow their team from their CEO Dan Berger to include a team of smart people who understand the role they have to play in creating the software for floor plans that will change the way we can choose to design our experiences. I always enjoy time spent learning (and in witty banter).  

Campfire Boxes...
Maarten Van Neste and Dominika Fudula were there with the Meeting Design Institute banner flying high, but their role in the industry goes deep and wide. I consider myself creative, and I have lost many nights to thinking about better ways to design meetings and events but Maarten makes me look as if I never had a new idea. I appreciate this as it pushes me, and the ideas he shares, and the way he shares them continues to push us forward. I like that. 

It was great to spend some time with my Event Alley co-host Brandt Krueger (Lindsey was too busy with her own events to join us).  There are a number of people we interviewed on the Event Alley Show this year I had the chance to meet face-to-face, including Sam from Song Division along with his smartly down-to-earth boss Andy who were also a part of the CIC Hall of Leaders Gala, adding to the fun of the event.  Bridging the career gap we had a great conversation with Jeff Leggett, and it was great to see him immersed here.  One of the most articulate people with a wide perspective on the industry is the CEO of ICCA Martin Sirk, and this is one of the best interviews of the year. I was also so pleased at the FRESH dinner to be joined by Julius Solaris who again brings a deep understanding of the industry and its shifts.

Kiki L‘Italien. I always enjoy seeing live the lovely Kiki.  She again conducted (for the fourth year) interviews from the Vancouver Booth at IMEX.  Known as a creator of extraordinary member experiences for associations, her forward thinking mindset combined with her fantastic attitude always make her a pleasure to be around. Her ability to share knowledge and to connect through warmth and empathy for the challenges we face, combined with a deep understanding of the modern tools to do this makes her an important voice in our industry.

Gerrit Heijkoop - when you open this site you will see it is in Dutch but when you meet Gerrit, or hear him speak it is easy to forget that English is not his first language. (note the Google translation is imperfect and often a little funny but I do not think he would even mind). You might notice his kinda famous red sneakers. I had not seen a presentation for a while from Gerrit, and the engagement from the audience was simply off the charts - which is a great thing in a sea of speakers!  What I really appreciated was his philosophy of which translates to every day being a little bit different than the day before, and often different than you might have expected. I think many of us in this industry can relate to this! For IMEX he was brought in to support the social media experience (extraordinary) and is often seen as a host or doing interviews, a nice repertoire to include when you need to add a little bit (or more) of energy to your events.

And now... I rest and go to be woken in the middle of the night with those I missed!

Please add comments with your favorite people or moments or the posts you have done too following another amazing and intense show.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

IMEX14 - The Beginning

I love when Padraic Gilligan does his recaps of shows and I will attempt to do him justice with my own reflections on my experiences at IMEX America this year.

For the past three years I have had the great pleasure of supporting the Vancouver team in their booth, and this year, we focused on creating a more usable space (with the talented team at Cantrav) and I think we not only accomplished that but created visual impact worthy of this very fantastic show.  While I have transitioned this as I changed jobs, it was bittersweet to do so, and I may have stopped by more than once to visit.

Last year QuickMobile had a fantastic space filled with iPads and sportily dressed staff rocking the colors and sharing information in their inimitable style. This year we opted to invite people into a relaxed atmosphere where they could learn more about mobile with us, enjoy a foot massage handily placed under the table during their meeting, and have a respite from the busy space all around us.  Of course, we have to focus on technology, so in addition to demos, they could also see our newest social capture tool Concerto tracking Twitter activity on the screen, or check out the Augmented Reality built into the pictures on the back wall. That is right, the ARt (blown-up covers from our most recent resources designed for meeting planners) was really AR!
this portion of the booth featured Augmented Reality fun
Anne Thornley Brown as always shared her best booths of the show, and we have to say while it is impossible to choose only a few, she has chosen some excellent pavilions. 

This of course all happened before opening day, much as the great IMEX America app was launched and the excitement begins before we arrive as appointments are made, the floor plan is explored, we see who is going to be there and we procure tickets for the evening events including perhaps the CIC Hall of Leaders Gala, SITE Nite, the FRESH dinner, MPI Foundation Rendezvous and so many other events that take place throughout.

When I joined QuickMobile it was because I love the intersection of human needs and mobile technology, and to see the intuitiveness, interaction and analytics which will now facilitate a year-round community for IMEX Exhibitions - that is what makes my job interesting.  I cannot wait to see what next year brings.

ps. there is a LOT more to talk about so watch for other posts to come! 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Event Alley Fun

Content. 48 hours of content uploaded every hour. How do you possibly find that all important "Context" within the Content? Finding what is relevant for you, relevant for your industry is a challenge. I am a voracious consumer of content and always have been, so when I was invited to be part of Event Alley Show this year, I thought it seemed like a great idea.
Lindsey preps for a live show
at MPI WEC this year.

So far, so good!  The Event Alley Show guests are what define the show, and we have had some amazing people join us including most recently Evan Greene, the CMO of The Recording Academy (the Grammys), Simon T. Bailey, Julius Solaris, David Merrell and Chad Kaydo on trends and the business of design, Ruud Janssen and Roel Friessen discussing Event Model Generation and so many more.  We have also done live episodes from PYM Meetings, MPI WEC and the IRF Annual Invitational.  Explore and see what you can find!

We also occasionally do audio only Show Plus episodes and have talked with Roger Simons of MCI about event sustainabiliity, Andrew Walker about MPI's CSR initiatives and King Dahl about large scale events, among others, and I enjoy hearing what these smart people have to share with us.  In teaching Sustainable Event Operations at BCIT earlier this year I used a number of the interviews - with Shawna McKinley, Mariela McIlwraith, Karen Swim (PR) and Michele Sarkisian (EPCAT and human trafficking) as we explored the people - planet - profit impacts of events and meetings.

We have recently updated our playlists and the range of subjects from Technology to Event Design to Sustainable and Responsible Meetings provides excellent listening no matter where you play in the meeting and event space.

I definitely have some favorite episodes - but encourage you to check out our YouTube channel for the videos, or Event Alley Show on iTunes or Stitcher if listening podcast style fits your life better. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Event Model Generation

Tahira and Ruud at MPI WEC in Minneapolis 2014
Does your meeting planning team struggle with getting buy-in? Do you wrestle with dreaming up new ideas for your events?  What if there was a tool that fostered open discussion, encouraged creativity and still focused on meeting your business objectives?

I began my exploration of meeting design and how it can change the parameters of how people meet and more importantly what they get out of it several years ago. I have continued to enjoy the evolution, which for me led to co-authoring this chapter in the ninth edition of the CIC Manual, collaborating on EventCamp Vancouver and meeting people from around the world who share my passion.

As we delve into human nature, environment creation, presentation delivery and interaction based on neuroscience to increase engagement, analytics and return on investment of meetings, it always comes back to objectives before design.  There is always a challenge to derive the objectives and create an easy to understand story to present to your stakeholders about how you will use a meeting (or incentive event) to fulfill these objectives.

During this journey of learning I came across TNOC and the smart, forward thinking Ruud Janssen. About two years ago Ruud introduced me to the book Business Model Generation, a pre-cursor to what has now become his newest venture with Roel Friessen Event Model Generation.   This is a process which encapsulates all the information you want to collect about your event and its reasons for being and KPIs, and allows you to put it together in a simple visual presentation to share with your stakeholders. This is an incredibly simplified explanation, and because they are REALLY good at telling their own story please see this link for more detailed information.

FAQ's about #EMGcanvas =  #EventCanvas

Why do I think this is cool enough to write about?  There is always a need to be able to explain why an event is the best choice - whether as a marketing tool, a sales driver, a fundraiser or as the best way to deliver content and networking connections to your stakeholders, vendors and participants as examples. In 20+ years of producing meetings and events "EMG" is the best tool I have seen for getting everyone on what is now literally "the same page" - a one - page concept for success.  I have gone through this process on smaller events and have found it very useful - I can only imagine if this was enterprise-wide how impactful it can be to consistency in storytelling through your event touchpoints!  I am excited to see them bringing this to America at what is arguably the biggest industry experience of the year (IMEX).  Yes there is a cost for this, as they have assessed a value for the content you will return to your organization with, and is reflective of the time spent bringing this to fruition, and the expertise of the presenters in delivery.  In an industry where we often don't pay speakers (and we are not alone) and at a show with a focus on a hosted buyer program there are risks in this and I applaud all the organizations who will take risks for quality education.  

ps There is a good chance they will show up with Swiss Chocolate. (hint hint)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Stronger Together

Over the last few weeks I have had several encounters that have left me thinking a lot about our industry and what it means to the people who work so hard in it, and what it takes to do what we do.  Above is a picture from our team on the final day of the opening of the Port of Prince Rupert Fairview Container Terminal (2007/PRIME). This event crossed four levels of government and many private entities and a small team of dedicated planners before and an awesome team on-site to deliver this important event to 600 dignitaries during the day and 4,000 people from the town (of 12,000) in the evening. On the last day we all donned the glam gear above and cleaned up the 10 acre site. Nodody was too important.

Last night we saw the movie The Hundred Foot Journey, a story that speaks of family, friendship, overcoming challenges and understanding triumph and how it comes in many forms. (loved it) At an early point in the film the lead character, a cook asks an aspriring chef from across the street for help. "You could recommend a book", he says.  "Why would I do that? You are now the enemy." 

I believe in our industry that each of us - whether it is restaurants, hotels, DMCs, DMOs, tech suppliers (AV, reg, mobile, streaming, etc.), catering, transportation, decor / floral, event management / agencies and others compete against each other on a daily basis in our own categories. Concurrently we work together in associations (MPI, IRF, PCMA, ISES, SITE, IAEE, ASAE etc), on city-wide bids and on events that require more than one thing to happen - so all of them. We are in this together, and understanding that at any time you may require cooperation and partnership becomes a critical piece of being successful in our business in my mind.

At many shows we attend we are separated between planner and supplier, the distinction being planners buy and suppliers sell. For clarification, heading into my 22nd year in the industry, I am now a "Supplaner"' meaning I am the meeting planner for a supplier organization after 20+ years as a planner and producer for PCOs, Incentive agencies and DMCs. As enterprise or association planners, nearly every event we do supports selling - sales incentive trips, national sales conferences, sales and service training sessions, client dinners, board meetings and events... each of these is designed to support the selling of your service or product.  When we exhibit at trade shows we never know who will buy or recommend what we do, and every touchpoint has to be a positive interaction which ideally creates a memorable moment.  

In each job (including my current role) I have had direct responsibility or influence over significant travel and meeting spend, but now I am seen as "the enemy" by other suppliers, and was evidenced at a recent event where I was not allowed something due to the word "supplier" on my badge.  This took me back to planning EventCamp Vancouver where the committee decided specifically at the request of one smart person  who asked if our badges could include name, twitter handle and maybe something we were passionate about instead of name and organization. Their request came because they didn't want to be judged as they were in between jobs. They were coming to learn and connect, and appearing to be job-hungry wasn't how they wanted to be perceived. We agreed. 

At another event this week, Drury Design Summer School, I thought the badge they used (at right) really showed the possibilities. This invitation only event was incredible to be part of as they bring together their key clients, their staff, their contract staff and their suppliers into the same room with tracks for learning /training and production / engagement with compelling keynotes for all. To introduce an end client to a supplier they could contact directly shows their deep level of understanding relationships built on trust and integrity which have led to 33 years of success in an industry which has become increasingly challenging. Their team members and clients understand roles and responsibilities and trust, and what they bring to the table in terms of understanding objectives, creativity, imagination and innovation is what makes this work. This event was inspiring on many levels - the use of space, the openness of the concept and the ability for people to actively engage in learning formally and informally, and connecting over the 10 hours together, the endless healthy food and beverage so guests could refortify at the time they needed to, the embedded sustainability and the showcasing of technology (including a helpful app) which was so thoughtfully able to be used at meetings had my mind reeling with possibilities.  As I tweeted - although I am a creative and technology forward planner - I felt as though I had been living in a cave!

This coming week I will be at two events in LA, both which require strong partnerships, trust and forward thinking teams of people to bring alive.  If you want to learn more about how mobile and location based technology is changing events, QuickMobile is hosting a lunch catered by Wolfgang Puck inside of the fabulous AOO space in Hollywood.  Kudos to Dave Merrell and his team for understanding we are all in this to be better and learn holistically about making meetings the best they can be using all the tools available. They are another shining example of giving back to the industry with deep participation in ISES and a willingness to share best practices. August 13th - RSVP link  And yes, this one has an app!

On Thursday, August 14th it is all about BizBash as we do another LA Planathon. BizBash has been a go-to resource for me for many years, and their generosity of spirit in mentorship, a love of social physics and a deep understanding we get better by improving idea flow make these a true pleasure to be at. This one is almost sold out as I write this and I look foward to both of these for very different reasons. Yes, this one has an app too!

At MPI WEC last week Mike Dominguez of MGM was thanked for his time in the Chairman role and MPI introduced the lovely Fiona Pelham as incoming 2015 Chair. Lovely... yes, this is the word to describe the person who is smart and business savvy, who has sustainability ingrained into the core of her business and life, and who understands that together we are stronger. I look foward to the positive impact she will have. I would also like to give a shoutout to Mike Dominguez for his ongoing contributions to education and empowerment in our indutry and also to the events team at MGM led by King Dahl, and supported by fantastic people like Lenny Talarico - every single person I have met from this team (and there are a lot of them) has been consistently warm, professional, willing to share information and ideas and who also understand that every interaction matters. 

Did I mention this one also had an app? QuickMobile worked again with MPI to deliver an app that allowed this event to be the first paperless WEC and that was pretty cool to see. They also created an excellent CSR day with six different projects, and Andrew Walker or MPI beamed through the day. Kevin Kirby, current chair, and described to me in such glowing terms by a former colleague I expected him to float (dignity, kindness, integrity all words used) was present throughout at various events and he too is someone who understands sustainability starts with taking care of people and builds.

Until the next time we meet...or meet for the first time... stay friendly and have fun!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Networking Love

In a recent post by Dan Berger, CEO of Social Tables  he talks about what we can learn from Latin American meetings, and he is so right - so I am going to head to MPI WEC tomorrow and do what I can to do some network - busting and make new friends. Who is in with me? 

You will be able to follow the twitter feed, or if you are at the event check out the picture gallery in the app as we share pictures of friends old and new sharing what we know will be great experiences - let's rock this!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Grocery stores and Trade Shows

QuickMobile team prepping for a day at IMEX Frankfurt
What do grocery stores, trade shows and airports have in common? The more shows I go to, the more travel I do, the more it strikes me that there are many common elements to the experiences, which I share my first thoughts below.

  1. They are all places with a LOT of people, some there by choice, some by necessity.
  2. Traffic flow has to be thought out ahead of time and managed on a daily, or even hourly basis.
  3. Music adds more to the experience than announcements.
  4. The biggest companies get the prime real estate.  (do you know the premium for having your product beside a check-out stand?)
  5. They SHOULD all have wi-fi!  (and often don’t)
  6. They are full of possibilities.  
    1. If you are in an airport you are either going somewhere or meeting someone, both are opening up experiences you may not have otherwise.
    2. If you are at a trade show you are likely going to see people you know, meet with organizations you are aware of, and find new partners you could work with or new people you can collaborate with.
    3. If you are in a grocery store, you may be there planning a dinner party or deciding how you will eat this week – will it be white wine and popcorn, a brown rice cleanse or perhaps steak and red wine on Saturday night?  
I really love all of the above experiences. I like the planning , I don’t even mind standing in line and imagining what all the people around me are there for – What are they buying? Did they really think those shoes made sense for this? Why did they come?  Is their anticipation of the experience being met?  

The next time you are heading out to any of the above… tell me what you look forward to, or what really makes you crazy!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Customer Service Rules

Helping at the IRF
Customer service comes in many forms, but one thing I know absolutely is that we recognize and appreciate excellent service, we talk about bad service, and we have become immune to average service.  From my first career as a hairstylist and salon manager, to my second as a meeting planner and event producer, I have innately understood that great service is the only option if you want to become successful in that thing called work most of us will have to do for a long time.  We are lucky when we have work we love doing, and enjoy the rewards of providing good service. In the meeting and event industry, service is often our only differentiator, and while I have dozens of stories from my work in this arena, below I share a few that have inspired me to think about how we can do what we do better.
Trevor sharing knowledge

I have a few stories, the first from my colleague Trevor, a star among us in how he makes people feel, and who appreciates great service.  Trevor comes home from IMEX Frankfurt, exhausted as you would expect, and gets in a taxi to go home. The taxi is a regular taxi on the outside. Inside it is uber-clean with an office organizer on the
dashboard for the driver’s pens, receipts etc. The car smells good. There is nature/spa music playing at a reasonable volume and the temperature is comfortable.  The driver at the end of the trip says thank you very much, here is my card with my mobile number on the back and if you would like to book a ride with me, please call or text.  A week later, Trevor remembers this experience, texts the driver for a 4am pickup. He responds and says he will see him at 4am, and would he like a coffee? How would he like it?  At 3am the driver texts and says, see you at 4. At 345 he texts and says I am in the Tim Horton’s lineup would you like anything to go with your coffee? Guess who Trevor will have pick him up when he comes home?  And – this is a regular taxi driver and not a private car service, or a fancy sedan – nobody told him to do this – he has taken it upon himself to offer this level of service.  Guess who Trevor calls every time he has to go on a trip?

The next is from Andy who as someone who makes orthopedic braces understands well how important service is and who enjoys helping people greatly. Today he got a new drum. I love this story because it is from a guy in Beaverton who hand-makes the drums with an amazing amount of care and attention to detail, and who will only sell to musicians. Why? He wants people who love music to play his drums - not for someone who appreciates the beauty to make them a coffee table or a lamp.  Great service comes with passion for your product.

My cousin Kerry owns a coffee shop, the Hawthorne Cafe in Milton, which means for the most part her and Matt spend seven days a week caring for the basic coffee and food needs of guests, and who have focused on what matters to them - fresh, wholesome food, organic and fair trade products, and being a go-to place for those who appreciate excellent f & b products and great service.  They have created a warm environment that is conducive to families and individuals, indoors in a great space and outdoors on a fabulous patio, plus catering, jam nights, and other ongoing events. They ALWAYS do this with joy, and if you are near the area, I would stop in! 

Many of us are familiar with the famous level of service provided by Ritz Carlton properties. and on the Event Alley Show we were lucky enough to capture Jeff Hargett, a great speaker on the subject of service and a true master of this subject as the Senior Corporate Director, Culture Transformation for this organization as he shares his thoughts. It was one of our more technically challenging episodes as he joined us over a wifi connection, something we can all agree has not reached the level of service we now require (!) but well worth the listen for the content he shares.

How do we inspire this level of service from every individual who works with us?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Better Way

In the last few weeks I have been to a number of industry shows, meetings and events, and for the most part, all the things we keep talking and writing about, all we have learned about how people learn and connect, is largely ignored.  I offer up below examples of the hum drum to the oh so much better.

First, the average. I won't name names.  
Venue: large hotel in a convention city. Mobile app - average - it opens with an ad for the mobile ad company, it offers up basic functionality for finding my agenda, and one speaker has used the polling function that is available. The social activity is minimal, so my thirst for knowledge as to what is happening around us, coming up or is inspiring others is not sated. As I walk up to the registration desk, I am greeted warmly but told that my badge isn't ready since they haven't printed speaker badges yet, and plan to do that later in the day.  I can go to the first session though if I like, and coffee is available. Coffee, scones and cookies. Yes, it is 8:30am and the brain-foodie in me shrivels a little. Enter the first session, set for 200+ in classroom seating facing directly to the front, stage is way on the left. So I sit on the left, and approximately 40 people join me, leaving the speakers to ask any questions across a relatively vast, dark space from their dimly lit stage.  The session of course is on the future of meetings. The morning sessions have good speakers, followed by a boxed lunch available in the trade show area, with seating for a few at rounds at the end of the rows. Again, a sandwich or wrap, cookie and fruit, and a salad with some unfortunate small nut additions in an unlabeled container which cause my lips to go numb (first sign there is a nut in here for the allergic me), and enough packaging to make the sustainable me a little sad, but even more than this, the amount to be opened and consumed means people have to sit for a while, which means they are not visiting the exhibitors who await them.  Here again, rows of pipe and drape, some exhibitors have very nice spaces, and as is typical in this type of show many leave up their black and white hanging sign the exhibit company used to id the space.  The flow through the show is light, and the exhibitors offer up their cheery exuberance and overall the experience leaves me wanting more.  It isn't that it is bad, it is just "same" and the declining numbers are to me an indication of a need to spice this baby up!

The better. Venue: large convention centre, in a space filled with natural light to begin. I walk up and give my name, am checked in by one of the plentiful staff on an iPad and my speaker badge generates on wireless printer in seconds. There is a small printed agenda available, and innovation is featured, and served up in a gorgeous room set with great lighting and interesting chairs and a nice stage draws people in. The app is likely full of good information, but no matter how socially able I dislike having to use facebook or linkedin to access any app - I know it is my own issue, but since it is a compact agenda I don't download it.  Outside the trade show is a lounge open to all set with a variety of interesting furniture, and offering complimentary mimosas.  Inside the trade show floor is abuzz with action, caterers serving up bite size samples, photo booths drawing people in, music overhead at a reasonable but energizing volume, mainstage presentations which allow more innovative ideas and suppliers to be showcased, and an engaged audience taking the time to speak with exhibitors, you feel as though participants will leave refreshed and with new ideas to take back to their clients.

My (personal) favorite so far of the last six weeks. BizBash Planathon, Toronto. Venue: Palais Royale, which really puts its best foot forward. QuickMobile is a sponsor, and I am
there to represent this, but even more so to be part of the mentor group, which leads tables full of eager planners through a fun, interactive and deep brainstorming to transform an existing event... into anything they can imagine in 30 minutes.  These sessions are fun, fun, fun, and the reception which follows on the patio overlooking the lake could be dampened by the downpour, but the combination of the music enhanced with a figure skater moving across a teflon rink to the songs, fantastic food presented in a range from small plates and spoons, to a paella pan and chef to homemade popsicles in an ice and dry ice display and a selection of mojitos full of fresh ingredients - they really took the opportunity to showcase their abilities. This combined making the best of a venue, having a setup conducive to the objectives (at the last minute at the client's request all the tables were flipped from 6' rounds to 5' rounds for easier conversation to be had), allowing ample time for conversation and by the format, making those conversations easy to have. The learning comes from every group coming up with ideas that inspire other ideas and allow you to build on these, and sparks fly!  BTW - the app is gorgeous, sparkling champagne bubbles invite you in to explore - you can connect to all the other attendees - and after the event is over, the videos of the awesome ideas will all be shared and easy to find for all who participated.