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!

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