Sunday, November 8, 2015

When is Social Media Not Social?

Me and "Speaker Sue" at last meet IRL (oct 2015)
Coffee with my SM Hero Matt Bologna of BizBash

Social Media. Two words. Social is the active part of this combination. Media is a tool. What Jenise Fryatt taught us as #EIR in the early days of learning how to use this twitter tool = Engage, Inform, Retweet.  Engage with people - yes PEOPLE who are actively sharing interesting content and ideas - start and continue conversations because when you meet these people IRL (in real life) you will find yourself with new friends, colleagues and interesting conversations immediately. It is rather awesome the power of online conversations turning into a live, interactive, intelligent conversation, often with a beverage in hand.  (aka why I love IMEX- see previous blog for all the social media friends I have the opportunity to see there!)  

Engage. Note the word being overused - conversation. When Social Media is not social - ie a one - way dumping of information out, it is an advertorial, not social media at its best.  When you are not engaging with other content, or responding to any reaction to your content sharing - you are kind of missing the point - and mostly you are missing the opportunity social media brings - for you personally, for your organization, and especially if you have a small business you are trying to grow.

Inform.  Sharing content without interaction-boring. Sharing content others can interact with - good idea.  Sharing content with #hashtags to create conversation around a topic of interest to many - very good idea.  Being part of a community such as #eventprofs brings rewards, including friendships born out of common interests.  Being part of weekly chats such as #contentchat or #assnchat around topics that affect your professional life -- growth opportunities.  Sharing content you have created - now we are talking!

Retweet. So simple - hit the retweet button and BOOM you are sharing relevant content with those in your community. Add a comment, ask a question, add to the discussion and your impact is growing.  BTW this is the only one of the three that applies to Twitter only  in terminology - every platform has a way to like, share or comment - so consider the platforms that make sense for you and your business, get comfortable with a couple, and get sharing!

Want to learn more? Michelle Bergstein Fontanez joins me via skype to talk Social Media at a live Vancouver ISES meeting soon - join us if you want to delve into personal and business-friendly social media best practices.
ISES Educates November 17

Saturday, October 24, 2015

People Make IMEX-Again

Building hygiene kits with support from Clean the World for Shade Tree - simple, fun and smile-creating!
IMEX has always impressed me because of its "people first" thinking. Yes they are producing arguably one of the largest trade shows for meeting professionals from around the world, but from the beginning they have considered their impact.  It began from the first show with a focus on sustainability, then CSR supporting Shade Tree and this year a focus on wellness was added, supported by thoughtful keynote presentations and a rather awesome meditation room and wellness was suggested as an inclusion on the floor and was brought to life through various booths with support from like-minded exhibitors.

IMEX has also always been technology forward thinking and this year the Pitch Presentations were a highlight, with Loopd taking the prize, awarded by judges who understand the industry.  Once again QuickMobile built the app, and this is a tool I simply cannot imagine being without.

Roger Haskett teaches education through play.
As always, IMEX over-delivered on education, making it simpler to find this year as it was located in one hub at the easy to find Inspiration centre. A highlight was a session on the Power of Play from Roger Haskett of Engagement Unlimited.  I have known Roger for many years, but didn't know his depth of knowledge and passion for this subject, and with a delightful presentation style, he had this audience truly engaged.  Dale Hudson and her team continue to rock it!
Thought leaders Corbin Ball and Martin Sirk

IMEX once again brought the world together, and for me, that means friends from around the world are all in one place and it is a time we can catch up on lives personal and professional as the conversations range from outfits to meeting design, the coolest new toys in tech to how play fits into and enhances learning. The ability to connect like-minded thinkers is always fun to watch.

Another at last IRL Cindy from @redvelvetevents

It was fabulous to follow along with the Event Technology awards, and to be present for the awarding of this prize to CrowdMics. There are so many ways technology is changing how we interact at meetings and it is important we understand the benefits to our participants with so many to choose from. To have time to talk with the creators of these technologies and to hear first hand how they see positive impacts and why they are excited about what they are doing is one of the best reasons to be here.  

On technology, I continue to be impressed with the IMEX Digital initiatives led by Miguel Neves. Supported by the IMEX Social Team with the constant of Gerrit Heijkoop, they have paid attention and evolved year over year to respond to the changing face of technology and how we - the participants - respond to various mediums. From production to curation, they find ways to continue to exceed expectations for how information is shared, and keep it fun, informative and relevant.  An execllent collaboration.

The CIC Hall of Leaders inducted many worthy recipients this year (see list in the link), and it was pure joy to see Amy Spatrisano inducted for her many contributions to the industry - this is a woman who deserves it all! Produced with the MGM Events team and hosted by Laura Schwarz, it sparkled.  

Meeting Speaker Sue at last IRL - while doing art
in the Play Room
I also had time to meet some great new friends and catch up with many others.  David Adler and Brandt Krueger were great GatherGeeks reporters collecting a heap of interviews for this great new podcast and Mike McAllen was holding his own with a ton of great IMEX focused interviews on the inimitable MeetingsPodcast

For sheer fun at an event, Donny Neufuss is always a joy to see with his effervescent personality keeping it real... Fremont Street may never be the same! Glenn Thayer is so fun to walk the floor with as his knowledge of truly improving general sessions and the discussion that ensue continues to inspire me. 

Padraic pre-suitcase catching up!
The next generation, these lovely, smart young women coming up who really get the business of meetings wow me - if these are "millenials" I can't wait to work with them! The short list includes Courtney the Lady Phenomona, Magadalina from Bulgaria, ElizabthB, Emma Parston, AmyfromBC  - all who are so committed to what we do as an industry.  Dan Berger moderated a fantastic panel on how meeting technology and hotels are rapidly adapting and he is always interesting to talk with as Social Tables  has a culture from both a technology and a people place to be is (award winning) incredible and always makes me think. Padraic and Patrick - these Irish meeting and incentive industry legends bring their wisdom, inherent sense of fun and true ability to connect people with them wherever they go - plus they are really smart marketers and event designers - how I enjoy seeing these two - and so fun to finally meet Aiofe Delaney who is a true (millenial) mover and shaker! 

One of the true joys was walking the floor with Janet Elkins of Eventworks - this woman and her passion for events knows no bounds!  A true surprise was @PenthouseLord Jason Scott who I met with Silvia Pellegrini - also IRL for the first time - her depth of curiosity about the industry is something I love. and what EventsUncovered is doing for sharing thought leadership is quite fabulous.

My perennial favorite selfie... with @IMEXRichard

Then they are the many great speakers - and surely I will miss many... Sam Smith is someone else who understands PLAY and interaction and seeing Play with a Purpose partner with Interactive Meeting Technology to bring the Play Room to life for MPI Smart Monday was a total blast.  

Jessie States not only shared great information on the future of the industry but walked miles on a recently broken leg - impressive.  Tyra Hilliard takes the dry and challenging topic of contracts and leaves people smiling and understanding more.  Tracy Stuckrath and her knowledge of all things Food and Beverage truly delights audiences - and they too learn a TON.  So from my perspective... if #IMEX16 is not on your radar - it should be!  It is a place where business is done, and where conversations that enhance your professional knowledge are around every corner.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Anvil Centre Celebrates One Year

The fabulous Mellomanic Band closed the night (the Quayside Singers opened it)
Vali shared stories including the missing kitchen, the 500,000 gallon flood and more 
I don't often write about venues, leaving that to others such as Padraic Gilligan and other well traveled #eventprofs. I have some favorites though, and the Anvil Centre is one of them. This boutique conference centre is in the heart of the Lower Mainland right at the New Westminster Skytrain stop, and includes a beautiful theatre (above), a ballroom and meeting space, shared community space full of learning, art, dance and music, a museum that groups can utilize and a very cool new media digital gallery! These last are open to anyone to visit - check them out if you are in the neighbourhood. 

I have been on multiple hardhat tours, celebrated at the industry opening night one year ago, and this week was honoured to be the MC for the First Anniversary celebration.  This was so fun for me because I really like the team, led by Vali Marling with Sales and Marketing led by the lovely and smart Heidi Hughes who I have known through all the evolutions of our careers, including teaching the same class (and others) at BCIT.  Diane and Colin who are key to the operations I have also worked with in other roles for demanding events in other venues, and even had Colin - keen to understand the meeting planner - take the event management class at BCIT several years ago. There is history here and I know how diligent this team is in ensuring excellent guest experiences.

Then there was the food.  At first, an antipasto platter... a good start. But then, the house-made tuna sushi cones, pulled pork sliders, duck confit on toast, and a delicious spoon of crispy potatoes with a mini poached quail egg and bacon that was rather spectacular began the evening, and to close the night, cake (of course) and gorgeous desserts created on site that day. 

The speeches, short and poignant and funny.  The music, first from Q5 the Quayside Singers, their acapella sound acoustically perfect in this theatre and then the Mellomanic Band fronted by Anvil Centre staff Josh with one of the most versatile bands (they kept changing instrumental places!) with a vocal range that not only astounded the audience, keeping them in the room even as we approached the end of the evening - and they soon had the group up dancing, an unexpected and rather perfect ending to the evening.
I could not resist - Diane all dressed up! I might be in trouble for sharing this but seriously... she is so funny!
Chief Constable Dave Jones spoke of the revitalization of the area, and the delish lemon squares
Hello dessert - thank you for coming!
Need a place to host your event (10 up to 450 ideal) that is easy to get to from across the Lower Mainland, has great food and even greater staff... check them out!

Thanks for including me - I had a blast!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Last Events of Summer 2015

The summer ended with three significant events for me.  After being home for a few days from MPI I headed to Toronto where I was one of the nominees for the Meetings Canada Hall of Fame in the Big Idea Category, and was honoured to join a fantastic group of nominees for a nail-biting (for me) ceremony during IncentiveWorks.  

What was this big idea?  With support from QuickMobile and Sonic Foundry / Mediasite we created a 10-hour Mobile App Certificate which is run as part of the Convention Industry Council's Preferred Partner program.  This program maps the use of mobile apps for meetings back to the CMP domains and shows planners how to truly integrate this now ubiquitous digital tool into the overall meeting design.  I was thrilled to win this category, and the recognition for this small and important program for our industry. In the next few weeks we will see the final results in the magazine.
Drury SummerMash awesomeness

Did I mention the very fabulous Drury SummerMash?   Once again - this was a highlight as they experiment with the latest in experiential awesomeness.

At the end of August I had the opportunity to take my first ever trip to Pittsburgh for the Collinson Media Connect event, and learning more about the Sports Event sector of the industry and delving into the Association mindset was really fun.  As always, a great event from this forward thinking team, a ton of great speakers and friends to see and a city that offered up delicious surprises.  
Fun at Collinson Media Connect

It was also around this time I made the difficult choice to leave the rather fabulous QuickMobile team and join the BC Innovation Council to produce the Inaugural #BCTECH Summit coming to Vancouver in January 2016. Learning more about the fantastic technology that is being developed by uber smart and thoughtful designers, businessmen, solution-seekers, engineers and developers throughout our province is literally blowing my mind.  From wearables designed to save lives, medical technology that allows doctors to get the information they need during surgery without de-gloving, to fantastic applications for forestry, mining, cool VR and AR and so much more is inspiring - and I can't wait to show it off!

Next up is IMEX15 - and I look forward to seeing many of you there!

Friday, September 4, 2015

MPI hits a San Francisco Home Run

Hello MPI, welcome to San Francisco.  Wellness rating 4.8/5.  With a hotel approximately a ten minute walk from Moscone, each day started and ended with relatively fresh air, natural light and exercise, all lovely.  The opening general session began with brunch, and instead of lunch on this day, guests instead at the first break after noon had a selection of light smoothies and salads to carry them through their afternoon sessions.  While unusual, if you had read ahead and were prepared for this it was an experiment that worked.

As you can see to the left they also offered guests emergency information as part of this opening general session and while this is something we see more often at meetings, it was something I saw rarely in the series of meetings I attended this summer. Good job MPI!

As always MPI is an excellent blend of the people we get to see, with thoughtful sessions geared for planners and a willingness to experiment with formats.  As noted above there was brunch, but on the days when lunch was served it too was lightened up with a healthy salad and protein with a side of rolls for those who still wanted their carbs with lunch.  Overall the people I ate with were a-ok to eat on site as they often would at home.

For me, I had anticipated the keynote James Curleigh, the CEO of Levis as I had originally met him in 2010 when we created (at Cantrav) one of the most sustainable, fun and thoughful programs I have had the pleasure to be part of in his previous role. A great memory of this program was my first meeting with JC in the office and understanding how authentically he lives his brand stories and I knew this would have continued at Levis. Indeed he did not disappoint as he shared what they have done with Levis to continue to grow this brand, with its history, into the future.  There were lessons for all here in his message, but also in the way the entire general session was crafted to include the brunch, a "what's in your bag" scavenger hunt where each table worked together with lots of laughs, great music and visuals with RoonieG, Dave Sharpe as the MC, and while it didn't feel contrived, it felt like good organized fun.  This is much harder to achieve than it seemed!

After good learning, another great mobile app experience with QuickMobile, spending time with friends and co-hosting a very fun evening at Urban Putt for local and MPI guests with our fabulous partners-in-fun Sonic Foundry and PRG it was time to wrap it all up.

As MPI celebrated with Guy Fieri and the Jersey Boys the decision to go in June 2016 to Atlantic City, what happened with spontaneous dancing in the aisles could again not have been scripted but absolutely added to the joie de vivre of this event.  With a wrap up at City Hall they again reminded MPI members and guests why this is one of the must-attend events each year for our industry!

The audience joins the lunch tim

Thursday, September 3, 2015

GBTA Mobile - SMMP and more

GBTA Wellness Rating was increased this year by their planning team's focus on ensuring that 5,000 participants had a lunch that would carry them through the afternoon, and with salad, a "light" starch and lean protein along with a lighter dessert being served up each day, they met their mission.  It was also easy to get in 10,000 steps within the meeting, even if nearly everyone opted for the shuttle busses to get there - a decision that made sense given the July heat and humidity in Orlando.


It is always fun to be at a booth when we have also made the app for the meeting, and what a nice mobile app GBTA has for their guests.  Simple in the functionality chosen, it highlights the sessions, makes it easy to build a schedule and ultimately made it easy to navigate this multi-faceted and large trade show space.  You have to love a great partnership!
We know how much our reliance on mobile has impacted the way we make travel and buying decisions, the way we manage our lives, expenses, parking, teams, lists and so much more.  There were many sessions which reminded us of this, and shared strategies for businesses moving forward in this new age. It is our practical reality.  All in all this is a meeting which focuses on the business of meetings, the efficiencies and processes and this definitely ties in.
There were also many excellent speakers, and a personal favorite (not for the first time) is Steve Wozniak aka The Woz, who when being interviewed is always delightful as he spreads his energy to every part of his life and to each time he is in front of an audience.  

If you notice on the top left corner this screen often held a snapshot of all the production screens running this show.  As the girl who prefers to view the session (and be in control) from the tech riser, I liked seeing what was happening in a backstage snapshot.  While not appropriate for every group, it worked here.  Overall the general sessions were well-paced and the speakers excellent, always a challenge when you have a group of this size, a certain amount of association business that has to happen from the stage, and a terrific lineup of speakers for a demanding audience, and they met it with grace.

Until next year... 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

CEMA aka Days 30-34

Day 30 - 34
Flights from Barcelona to Toronto to San Diego for the CEMA Summit 

For those of you who have been following along this was an epic 34 day journey with holidays (days 25 - 30 not documented here), a soccer tournament for the teens, and this being the 5th conference in a month. 

Wellness rating: 4.7/5 Overall this event offers great choices for the meals which are mainly buffets with salads and fruits and whole grains easily available. Being San Diego most of these are served outside, and the natural light, sunshine and fresh air are highly conducive to friendly conversations - you have to smile! Walks and yoga are offered each morning and an instructor led stretch break on the final afternoon home stretch all keep attendees blood flowing. Points lost as some of the breaks did not offer a non-sweet or non-white alternative.  But the bacon popcorn was delicious!

CEMA is the Corporate Event Marketers Association and for those who play in this space, it is an association that specifically focuses on the needs of this niche group, with this annual Summit being the culmination of their education efforts which include nearly monthly events through the year. It is specifically designated a non-selling environment, so while we attend as a supplier partner (and provide the app including gamification to support networking) it is truly about relationship building, making this a deeply enjoyable event to attend.
As you can see above the room set with furniture that had charging stations built into the arms was pretty awesome, with rounds and tables with stools at the back for the more traditional note-takers.  Jeff Hurt and Sarah Michel were our conference weavers, and they did a great job of tying the ideas together. This is a role whose importance cannot be overstated but is often overlooked. From an audience perspective this helps us tie together all we have learned, and the final facilitation they led really helped solidify our learnings in a variety of ways good for the learners as well as the organizers as they plan for next year with a clearly seen response laid out visually by the participants.
Check out this giant iPad - this was fun for everyone to play with - mobile on a grand scale!  This is now how we find our information, and understanding how to design the most useful app experience for all your stakeholders is now a variable planners can use to their advantage. For me - so much better than a booth!

The sessions were great as always, and a few highlights for me included Mike Robbins opening with positive psychology, David Shing of AOL wowing us with where technology is leading us, Lee Fine of Juice Marketing taking us through how to truly use merchandise giveaways to build not only brand but relationships with your brand, Mark Komine on the Humanness of connections, a teambuilding filled with great stories from a Navy Seal team and others. These all made us think, or provide actionable takeaways.
Leonora Valvo featured this tweet from the day before in her session on using data today.
If you are involved in creating experiential, brand-friendly events - check out CEMA - you will be pleased with the resources and connections you find here.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Teen Lessons at the Barcelona Summer Cup

Day 16 – 24
Best Hotel Negresco, Salou
Wellness rating – variable depending on the day.  Three buffet meals a day, a small and incredibly overheated gym, many motor coach journeys, and perhaps as much wine as water, with days of surf and sand and turf and concrete made each day an adventure in wellness.

Here we go!
Bring on the teenagers!  21 teenagers, 3 younger siblings, and 18 assorted adults make up the group headed for the Barcelona Summer Cup in Salou.  This is Futbol with countries from North America and Europe born between 1999 and 2007 represented, both boys and girls teams, all intent on playing their hearts out in the hot Spanish sun.

What a life experience for those boys and their coaches whose journey began with the planning one year out, but in reality had started for many of these boys who began playing on the same team (or in the same league) when they were just 7 years old.  You can see more about the boys and their coaches in the links.  They have been coached, worked through fitness training, played and practiced, won, tied and lost over many years and hundreds of days.  Their results were a series of losses and if that was your only benchmark you would not be paying attention to the value of a team sport, for a team they were.  In every game each member of the team stepped up with effort and heart, never giving up, never slowing down until the final whistle.  They were there to be part of a team, which meant playing, eating, exploring, sleeping, swimming, beaching and growing together as a team.  The 18 boys on the team are all unique, and all brought their own strengths to bear, and at the end of it all returned home better for the experience.

We did enjoy this time which began by releasing the jet lag with a trip across to Costa Brava for a day of kayaking and snorkelling, discovering their first topless sunbathers, and for the adults getting lost in the sun and sand of this area.  From there it was into days of training for the boys, and exploring the nearby Salou and gorgeous beaches of the area.  The girls tried out the cleaner fish pedicure – five minutes of these babies nibbling at their feet as they squealed and squirmed and took endless photos.  

The days at the pitch were an exercise in staying cool, cheering on teams from around the world and seeing how coaches and teams interact, and no matter what the language was it was often the same message – play your best and while there is joy in victory, what matters is being there for your team.  

Our final days were filled with adventure and excitement, one of these back on motor coaches as we enjoyed a day in Barcelona including Camp Nou, a true soccer fans experience that should not be missed.  The tournament organizers knew that if in Salou, you have to experience the Port Aventure Theme park, and the majority of the teams took advantage of these tickets and enjoyed the wonders of roller coasters while some of us instead enjoyed the Mediterranean.  This evening everyone headed in to see Amaluna, and this Cirque de Soleil spectacle had the boys heads exploding with wonder at the super-athleticism of these wondrous performers.  To see them experience this was a highlight for sure.

It was bittersweet to send many of the boys home and see the other families off at the end of this part of our adventure knowing it was the end of an era in their soccer lives as this team will disband and join others next year.  Thank you Coach Sherri and Palmer for making this dream a reality, and thank you to the boys who showed respect, teamwork and joy in this epic journey.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Exploring Barcelona and Serendipity

Day 14 - 16
(almost) Alone in Barcelona!

The Fresh conference is about to end, and I am asked, what will I do in the three days before our 41 – member strong soccer team and supporters arrives in Spain.  I answer I will use the time to explore Barcelona on my own.  So begins this conversation many of us will have had in the events industry over the years, as we occasionally try to add time in destinations of interest to us.

“Do you like doing that, spending time on your own in a city?’
“Not as much as I prefer spending time with others exploring, but in this case that was not an option.”

Sp what to do?  The elephant in the room, the idea of exploring a foreign city alone, looms in front of me at the same time daunting and exciting for its possibilities.  The next morning arrives, and breakfast is a little late for many as we had explored the Saint Joan festival until rather late the evening before.  I join a table with a few other participants I have met and we talk about the plans, and most are going home.  Fortunately for me, one other woman had the same intention as me, to explore the city for two days, and we decide to join forces.  Now being experienced planners and travellers we know this could go one of two ways – brilliantly or oh dear, who is this person?  So we agree that should we enjoy the same discoveries we shall stay together and if we choose to separate and explore on our own this too shall be fine.  I am happy to report that not only did I end up with a very organized tour guide and incredible map reader, I have a new friend, with a shared love of architecture, nature and good food at the root of this, and I not only greatly enjoyed Barcelona, I found a certain peace I had not expected for while we walked 28,000 steps inane day, we did it all at a leisurely pace and did not rush from place to place.  

So again, the power of serendipity intervened.

Wellness rating – 5/5 

Friday, July 10, 2015

10 things I learned at Fresh 2015

Days 9 - 11 - GMIC ends at 2pm, and I take two flights for 8 hours to be home for 10 hours before getting on two more planes to fly from Vancouver to Barcelona. wth? 

Days 11 - 13, Fresh
Hesperia Towers, Barcelona

Wellness Rating: 4.6 / 10 The breakfasts were in the hotel restaurant so lots of great choices each day, plus a good time to catch up with friends and other attendees in a more quiet space to start the day.  Lunches offered an interesting selection and were served outside with warm sunshine and fresh air, and guided meditation (sponsored by IMEX) was offered each day.  The challenge came from "Dinner" being receptions which is harder to navigate and find healthy choices. 

I decided very last minute to attend the Fresh Conference after being a virtual participant for a few years. It had been on my radar since the original Meeting Architecture Manifesto written by Maarten Vanneste.  After a conversation with experience master Greg Bogue at the IRF Invitational at the end of May in Miami I felt inspired to attend so, it was off for "Art and Inspiration". 

The Hesperia Towers added edible Miro to an afternoon break
Things I learned from Fresh were far reaching and I share here.
This is a sketch of Fresh as a Cocktail - the "Fresh beertini" (action obviously being Periscoped!)

  • Art can be inspiring. Art can also be distracting. I enjoyed the session attended with the lovely "PCMA 20 under 20" from Bulgaria, Magdalina as we were able to try different drawing techniques including cartoon, pencil sketch and even together on one picture using a straw to blow ink to create images related to the conference (picture above).  There were several other installations and performances that were very cool but would have been much more interesting had we as the audience been drawn into the why behind the performance.  What we love of course about Fresh is that it is approached as an experiment each time bringing new ideas and testing them, and when you have a room full of designers, well we just love the why. My takeaway is as meeting designers we need to challenge ourselves to include our participants more fully and trust they are there for the most complete experience possible, and be open to giving it.  There are times to learn together.
  • Music can move an audience.  Joshua Samson did this in more than one appearance through the event and at the end of it all won the Fresh award for Best ART in Meetings as voted by the participants. When you tell the participants what it means, and why it matters, they become more engaged and the emotional buy-in required for a perspective to shift can begin. It is also worth checking out the other award winners as well in this link - some really great people and ideas overall.
  • Meditation can add to the meeting experience.  When you find you need to re-focus having a space to go for some quiet reflection is rather fabulous.  Thank you IMEX for sponsoring both the awards and the meditation room - you are indeed a small, friendly, forward-thinking company and a personal highlight for me was time spent with Miguel and Achilleas who are both very thoughtful and insightful about our industry.
  • Learning comes in many forms.  Good learning makes you think - it is actionable, it might be disruptive, is where you find nuggets of information you can apply to your own events or workspace and it gives you a-ha moments.  This can come from the environment, from the presenters, from the discussions you have in sessions or outside of the sessions, and ultimately learning comes from conversation, context and connect-the-dot moments. It is incumbent upon a meeting designer to understand the objectives and balance the presentation time and format with the overall flow, time in and between sessions and stellar content to create a balance that leaves the participants feeling as if they are taking away something of value to them in resolving their challenges. 
  • Sometimes you can have fun with your panels - in this case below I had the participants play Freeze Tag - an improv tool which forced the panelists to pay attention to each other as at any time they could be forced to step in and continue answering the question posed when I "froze" the current speaker.
  • Rehearsals matter. As we develop content we tend to base our decisions on a title, paragraph and outcomes, and rarely do we see a whole presentation, let alone provide suggestions for improving it BEFORE it goes live at your once-in-a-lifetime event. Consider building in the time and overall resources (session room, AV techs, presenters) to ensure you have a full set of rehearsals before launch. A great session on how to run rehearsals started one morning and there are lessons here.
  • Mixing it up is OKOne of the better designed segments was the Learning Carousel where various sponsoring organizations had the opportunity to do brief presentations to small groups who moved through the space, and eventually voted on the technology they thought had the most potential to be applicable and impactful. This format worked.  Gerrit Heijkoop did his usual great job of hosting this and not only keeping it on track but ensuring people took the time to provide their input towards the awards (see link above).
  • Forced networking is a good start, but having your own mini-community within the event is much more fun.  The first afternoon saw (the other) Michael Jackson leading the group through meeting a number of people in 6 minute timed sessions which did allow for a great way to begin conversations - including one I had with a robot attendee - and that is the joy of Fresh.  As the conference evolved I found myself connecting with people from my neighborhood and from across the world and having conversations I could not have had without being here - including Meeting Architect Aysun from The Banff Centre and the dynamic Avo whose expertise on learning and development within meeting environments is second to none, and experience designer Greg Bogue, my original inspiration to attend.  That is the power of meetings.
  • There is such a thing as too much technology.  Full stop.  (yes I am the meeting planner for an event tech company and believe deeply the tech needs to enhance the human experience and meet the objectives first).  Like balancing flow and format, balancing the amount and types of event technology in any event is critical.  We don't mind downloading an app, in fact we often appreciate having the information at hand, on our devices but we don't want heaps of emails and many different technologies plus a Twitter feed, all reliant on a data plan or great wifi, to explore in 48 hours. While I have to give props for the sheer enthusiasm in showcasing so many, it became a bit overwhelming in a space full of great people to talk to live.
  • Serendipity cannot be overrated. What will continue to draw us to meetings is the combination of potential knowledge and connecting with people and growing from time spent. I am so grateful I was able to have the conversations and often surprising experiences I had in Barcelona - from an idea hackathon on a boat organized by Olga of ITB DMC to find improved ways of designing pharma meetings to dancing with my new Dutch friends at Ocean during our exploration of the Saint Joan festival on the beach to exploring Barcelona with the very fabulous (and joyfully calm) Sanna for two days... you never know what may happen once serendipity steps in.
We're on a boat!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Singing about the Power to Change-GMIC

Day 7 - 9, GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference
Westin Peachtree and 200 Peachtree Center, Atlanta
Wellness rating: 3.6/5 Based on no protein and limited allergy/gf sensitivity items available at breakfast, limited options for exercise/walking, limited access to natural light during the sessions. Excellent fitness center in the Westin was well used by participants. I am adding a wellness rating to these meetings because when you are spending 34 days on the road, every day counts.

A Study in Sustainability was how we chose to approach the GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference and again, I am so pleased QuickMobile has returned as their mobile app partner and were able to make a positive difference to their initiatives. It is one of the most satisfying parts of my work, to see mobile in action!  It is also one of the reasons we developed the Mobile App Certificate, part of the CIC Preferred Partner Program - 10 hours of how to design mobile into your meetings - and why it matters now that everyone shows up with mobile device in hand!

There were so many things to learn and discover, including a fantastic session on meeting dietary needs of participants in this new age of allergies, sensitivities and choices by Tracy Stuckrath who along with Nancy Zavada, a founder of GMIC was recently named one of M&C's top 25 women in the meetings industry.  Two women I am proud to call friends and who have earned this distinction, along with the others included in this list.

If you don't know Kristi Casey Sanders of PYM - well, you are missing out!  As our host for this meeting she kept us informed, kept it real, reminded us of the learnings we were having along the way, and tied together her love for technology and people with fun periscope interviews throughout. 

We chose to have a study because we wanted to share ideas, and we were able to share twenty copies of Meet Better, a new book by Nancy, Shawna McKinley and Mariela McIlwraith with those who came by to chat with us.  We know they will enjoy the 167 ways to make their meetings more sustainable.  It should truly be part of the thinking behind every meetings - the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit is a pillar we should all be able to get behind and make adaptations that make sense given each particular situation. 

Keynote presentations reminded us of a variety of things related to the theme of the Power to Change, starting with Laura Turner Seydel and the work the Turner family continues to do do around sustainability in their many businesses and using their power for good in their home base of Atlanta.  Derreck Kayongo of the Global Soap Project was simply delightful as he shared his story of starting with one idea and now delivering with partners soap to 92 countries in need! 

We also had the opportunity to head out to MODA, the Museum of Design Atlanta and explore how a city applies design thinking and sustainable choices into their growth including telling the story in innovative ways such as these word cubes. One of the highlights of this whole trip for me was of course the people I get to have conversations with. We began talking about sustainable meetings in 1995 in Vancouver, and have a LEED Platinum Convention Centre and I now teach a Sustainable Event Operations class at BCIT and believe that this needs to be simply woven into our planning and being surrounded by like-minded people is always awesome. One of my early heroes was and remains Jill Drury of the Drury Design Dynamics because they do incredibly interesting and thoughtful and visually stunning work, and do it all with sustainability as a core value - in their office, with their people who never leave, at each and every event and learning from every conversation with her is always something to look forward to. 

Other groups experienced other behind-the-scenes tours and then we reconvened for a closing lunch and a final keynote.

The key reminders were all brought together in a team focused closing keynote led by Angus Clark as he brought out his guitar and shared the story of the beginnings of Song Division in Australia, their journey and the ongoing work they do to support community through music, and ultimately in having us all work together to solidify our learnings into a song verse in teams at our tables.  With input from the group who had worked on various verses the lines were chosen to make up a song which we then were able to hear put together at the end, and laugh and enjoy an upbeat and memorable closing keynote that worked to drive home the key messages.

I was also able to enjoy dining with fantastic friends who are sharing this journey of sustainable meetings from around the world, and enjoy both White Oaks and South City Kitchen, two of the many restaurants offering farm to table options - and there is nothing better than great food paired with fabulous company!

I can't wait to see what the new GMIC President, Roger Simons brings to the organization as he takes on this important leadership role.  His passion for sustainability, enthusiasm for life and living it, and smart approach to the issues at hand will continue the great work done to date by the people before him, many still actively involved, and all still planning sustainable events.

5 lessons from PCMA Educon

Day 4 - 7, PCMA Educon
Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina
Wellness rating: Wellness rating: 4.6/5. Good variety of food items at all meals and special meal requests on plated lunches met by the facility.  Great natural light in both hotel and convention center open areas and active outdoor open air networking in the evenings.  Limited fitness centre but opportunity to walk between venues. Good balance of time in the program. Points lost on last evening with lack of options for food and beverage, although a stunning location.  I am adding a wellness rating to these meetings because when you are spending 34 days on the road, every day counts.

The road to learning is this way... a short walk between the hotel and the Broward convention center was marked with these making it easy to find (or an air conditioned shuttle was available) and a highlight on the return journey each day was first a lemonade stand, and as we neared the hotel, a cool towel with a laundry basket 50 steps later! It is these small details that make PCMA stand out, and make Educon a particular favorite for many meeting professionals to attend.  While my first Educon, it was one which had been recommended as a "must attend" for a number of years and I am happy I was able to experience PCMA learning in action.

So what does PCMA do that makes this meeting stand out?
  1. They experiment.  They take risks with the format, and they openly talk about what worked and why, and what didn't work, and why. After it is all over, they adjust and consider what to try next.  The picture above is but one example of some excellent seating options they showcased, in this case combined with what the venue offered. Each environment offered a different feeling which was interesting to see how people responded - generally very positively! 
  2. They think deeply about the flow of the event and made choices that made sense for the participants, fit the venue, and showcased the sponsors on an ongoing basis with the timing and location of meals and breaks. It cannot be overstated how important this balance is, and how delicate. 
  3. They use mobile smartly. I am fortunate to work with their mobile partner QuickMobile and I know the thought and work that goes into the various integrations and use cases that are considered to build it into their overall meeting design and I LOVE WHEN MOBILE IS USED WELL! 
  4. A good host / facilitator, this time Adrian Segar, is crucial to weaving a story through your meeting and this was done well - the right information at the right time. Each meeting will have its own unique needs, and for this one Adrian was the choice that made sense.
  5. Everyone arrives at your meeting with a brain and having John Medina who really explains how our brain works at a meeting and in life - and is completely fun to listen to, was an absolute highlight of the meeting, as a great keynote should be!  This is certainly a meeting I would return to, thank you PCMA! 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Speed Dating and Power Lunches

Over this series of posts I will share with you what I am learning in 34 days, 5 conferences, 12 flights, 9 hotels, 9 hours of time difference, 1 international soccer tournament and over 100 meals eaten out.  So it began... 

Day 1 - 4. Hello Orlando and the Rosen Shingle Creek. A self contained conference property, this space worked really well for Collinson Media's Collaborate bringing together nearly 1,000 meeting professionals for 3 days of events, education and a hosted buyer program done in a six minute speed dating format.  
Wellness rating: 4.2/5 Based on large venue offering lots of walking between spaces but very limited natural light in the convention center area and weather limited outdoor networking when in the hotel.  Universal off-site event was great for lots of walking, excellent food options, and stimulating fun. Food choices overall offered a great variety at breakfast and lunch the dietary requirements were well met by the venue.  This is being added because with 34 days on the road, every choice counts.

Lessons I learned
  1. A super hero theme is extra awesome when you have Bill Rosemann of Marvel Comics come and speak about his affinity for the flawed, introverted humans who become superheroes due to circumstances beyond their control and that each of us has the power and compassion inside of us.  
  2. Presenting a new session I created on How to Unleash Your Inner Creative Superhero was a ton of fun as the overfilled room had an unbeatable energy and it was a blast to see the emblems each person created for themselves before the session was done. From what inspires us to how we become heroes for our clients and how to sell creativity - every minute from the time I started putting this together until after the session was, well, super!
  3. If you are prepared, in six minutes you know if you have a business fit and you can decide to continue the conversation.  This is a hosted buyer format that was great to experience.  I also appreciated that on the second day the Collinson team listened to what people said after the first day and incorporated a break into the second afternoon for everyone to rejuvenate before getting back to business.
  4. Great keynotes inspire participants. Captain Mark Kelly shared not only his powerful story of supporting his wife, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords through her post shooting recovery, but also about the practical lessons he has applied to his life as a fighter pilot and astronaut. Practice and persistence were his key messages and he is right, we don't get better at anything unless we just keep doing it. And we don't do it alone, and a team you can trust is critical to any successful mission.
  5. Chelsea Clinton reminded me that any parent can make time for dinner with their family, as hers did, with a little effort. Having been a planner / producer for twenty years I have missed a lot of meals, so we try to make up for it in other times - it is not always easy but it is important to understand your priorities.
  6. Anderson Cooper is funny, truly enjoying everything about life, and while we all have complicated lives, you can choose to embrace the weird, or you can choose to wallow in the challenges... Nah - bring on the complicated and laugh in the face of impossible! When you are surrounded by really had things happening, show compassion and have empathy for those in circumstances we can't even begin to imagine.
  7. Think like a curator!  Jeff Hurt is one smart man, and my more serendipitous moment was finding Jeff first on my late arrival and enjoying home made guacamole and chips, and maybe a margarita or two over a fascinating conversation. It is these moments when you leave your room that make events meaningful.
  8. Michelle Bergstein Fontanez rocks.  If you don't know Michelle and the work she does, check it out.  I really appreciated Michelle taking time out of her schedule to come and spend time with me analyzing the industry, marketing for events and event businesses and so much more.
  9. Perspective is everything.  In 6 minute and 40 seconds per speaker our Pecha Kucha style session covered wellness (me), sustainability (stylish and smart Trevor Lui), digital integrations in meetings (Matt Love from Collinson), the irony of failing to succeed (the inimitable Courtney Stanley), contract law (ubersmart Lisa Sommer Devlin), favorite apps of planners (delightful Jim Spellos) and Meetings Mean Business (verbose Roger Rickard) and this was fabulous.  The style pushes you to be articulate and concise - and for many of us who tend to talk more - it was a great exercise in constraint - and so amazing to hear and see how each person put theirs together - this we want to do again!
I left this event feeling inspired and headed straight on to the next one, with a small change as my flight on a small regional airline no longer existed, so after being re-routed I eventually got to PCMA Educon on the other side of the state, and next up is my learnings from this.