Thursday, August 16, 2012

We've relocated! 

Please visit Convene's current blog at

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Aaron Hammer demystifies Twitter
In a recent column, we talked with industry experts about the fact that just because attendees aren’t using a conference hashtag or Twitter doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in social media. It could be that attendees just need a little hands-on help in using the tools.

Last week, at the 2012 Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif., MDRT not only set up a laptop-equipped "Tech Zone" as a learning lab on the exhibit floor, but Liana Blum, MDRT’s website coordinator, found the perfect tutors: other MDRT members.

Who better to tell others about the benefits of using Twitter at a meeting than someone already actively doing it? Blum recruited more than a dozen of the association’s most prolific Twitter users to volunteer for short blocks of time during several "Tweet Team" sessions throughout the four-day meeting.  And a big plasma screen showing a live Twitter stream featuring the conference hashtag provided instant gratification to the new Twitter users.
Aaron Lee Hammer, an MDRT attendee from St. Cloud, Minn., was both enthusiastic and patient as he guided first-time Twitter users through the process of choosing a handle, signing up on Twitter, and sending out a first-time tweet, using #MDRT2012. (“That’s you, my man,” Hammer told one Twitter newbie, pointing to the screen.)
Hammer likes to help others (volunteering is the “MDRT way,” Blum said), but he also has his own reasons to help others MDRT attendees learn how to converse via Twitter, he told me.  “The more people who use Twitter at the meeting, the more I know about what other members think are the best ideas."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Alamo Moment

I'm here at the PCMA Education Conference in San Antonio. It's my first time in this great city, and I didn't want to leave here without making a trip to see the Alamo. Little did I realize that it is just a quick walk from our hotel, the Marriott San Antonio Rivercenter. Like many tourists who come upon the No.1–visited State Shrine in Texas for the first time, I was a little surprised by the site's scale. It looms so large in our American consciousness that the actual place — in the heart of a bustling downtown — seems much smaller than I imagined.

I thought about that when "Practical Futurist" Michael Rogers (see our interview with him in the May issue) spoke at this morning's general session. Staying on top of the latest technologies and figuring out how to implement them to benefit our industry seems overwhelming, given our growing day-to-day tasks. (As a former colleague used to say, "It's hard to build the house when you're washing the windows.") Rogers acknowledged that operational duties trump research and development — but R&D is critical to innovation. He recommended that you designate someone within your organization be removed (perhaps on a regular basis) from the operational side of things to talk to people and search the web — to do the actual work of seeking out and understanding new tools and technologies.

Designating someone to focus on that on a regular basis feels doable. And for me, something that I imagined to be such a huge thing seemed to shrink down to a manageable scale.

The Cure for Drowning

Steven Rosenbaum diagnosed the problem of digital overload at the 2012 DigitalNow conference, and offered a cure: associations. We are drowning in data, he said, and associations, with their deep knowledge of their organizations' interests and needs, are in a unique position to serve as filters and curators of information. "Content is no longer king," Rosenbaum said. "Curation is king."

The way forward is filled with challenges, but for those associations that get it, there are rewards, he wrote in The Huffington Post.
I think [associations have]  got the secret sauce to win big in the new world of Data Overload. Because publishers are fighting for fractionalized mindshare, while associations are poised to curate with authority. The challenge for them will be, can they build an internal information gathering, curating and distribution workflow that moves at the speed of the real time web?
For more from Rosenbaum, author of Curation Nation, see our story in the June issue of Convene.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Convene On Site: Maui, Hawaii

Aloha! Now let's change the world.

For the past six days, I’ve been on a press trip in Maui, Hawaii, a place I’ve discovered to be one of the most economically and environmentally diverse places on the globe. Hawaii has always had a long-standing reputation as being one of the most beautiful places on earth, full of sun, sand, surf and some of the best people you could hope to meet. But, science? Not exactly what comes to mind when I picture this paradise. But after this press trip, it is. There are a plethora of organizations that groups can visit while at a conference in Maui, a potential meetings hotspot for the science and technology industry.

Here is a quick rundown of all the awesome organizations in Maui that are working to advance our scientific research, enhance our homeland security, and just generally make this world a better place:


Pacific Biodiesel

How they're changing the world:

Owned and operated by husband and wife team Kelly and Bob King, Pacific Biodiesel, established in 1996, is the leader in biodiesel fuel production in Hawaii. They house the only 100% biodiesel-ran pump on the island. They collect used cooking oil from local restaurants and process it so that it can be used as fuel. Buses on Maui and Oahu, and the ferries to and from Pearl Harbor, are run on 20% biodiesel from their plant. It's a community-based project and all the fuel remains within the islands — exporting would cause pollution and waste energy. However, they help countries all over the world build and operate their own biodiesel plants — paying it forward in a big way.
Pacific Biodiesel plant in Maui. 


Haleakalä Observatory

How they’re changing the world:

The Observatory, stationed at about 10,000 feet on Mt. Haleakala, houses one of the greatest technological wonders, the largest digital camera in the world. They have the ability to see and photograph further into space than almost anyone on the globe. They’ve spotted hundreds of undiscovered asteroids and deliberated how to change their path so as not to interfere with earth’s atmosphere or collide with the planet itself. (We were told the methods they use are vastly different from Bruce Willis in Armageddon). Ran by the University of Hawaii, the Observatory also provides great resources for students and amateur astronomers. 

Convene On Site: San Juan, Puerto Rico

I'm sitting on my balcony at the San Juan Marriott, winding down this press trip here in Puerto Rico.  I didn't know, having never visited Puerto Rico, that the unique aspects of this U.S. commonwealth would combine to create such an amazing experience, hospitality-wise. Puerto Rico is a mix of cultures, of course. Most everyone speaks both English and Spanish, and Latin and Spanish influences are everywhere. But it's also easy to get to, requiring no passport, and all conveniences are here--including the biggest Walgreens in the United States. The Condado area of San Juan is an interesting mix of urban nightlife, restaurants, residential homes, and several large, beachfront hotels like the San Juan Marriott & Stellaris Casino. This makes it a popular destination for tourists and other groups, but also for local residents. In fact, there were several proms and events going on at the hotel during our stay.
Ocean view from my room at the San Juan Marriott, Puerto Rico
This mix between resort-style amenities in an urban setting means that it's easy to reach some of the most popular attractions in the area like horseback/ATV tours, some of Puerto Rico's best restaurants, Old San Juan, and the Barcardi Distillery--all of which we visited during our time here. 
A street in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, where you find a mix of Latin American, Spanish, and even Moorish-influenced architecture
Because this was my first press trip with Convene, I was interested to see what the other journalists I was traveling with would be curious about as we toured around San Juan. We were a group of writers covering business, group, and meeting travel and destinations, so most of our interests were focused there. But what's great is that the wonderful representatives of the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau did not forget that we're visitors to the island too, interested not only in the convention center and various sites (and we saw many great ones), but also in the people and attractions that make Puerto Rico a unique destination.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Un-Quiet Conversation

When I made plans to interview Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, I suggested we meet in a coffee shop that, visually, exudes calm, the kind of place where patrons sip coffee at long wooden tables, surrounded by piles of crusty loaves of bread.

But, fresh from my reading of Cain's description of optimal environments for introverts — introverts have wide-open channels for stimulation — when I showed up to meet Cain, I became keenly aware of all the racket. Dishes clanked, conversations boomeranged off walls and ceilings, the piped-in classical music seemed intrusive. I could even feel the subway rattling underground.

Cain was extraordinarily gracious about the distractions and even allowed me to do a short video of her top takeaways for meeting planners about making meetings introvert-friendly.. And because it was really noisy, here's a transcript of what she said:
I think the most important thing for meeting planners to understand about introverts at a conference …  Well, there are really two things. One is that introverts really do need to recharge, and they are going to be at their best, at their most energetic, at their most socially open, if they get the time that they need to take breaks. And so it is not a good idea to encourage everybody to be going from morning until night. It is actually okay to be able to go back to your hotel room, or off by yourself to a cafĂ© for an hour to take the break that you need. And so that is the first thing. 
And then the second one is that introverts are probably not that excited about breakout groups in the middle of the session and probably a lot of them feel like they are there to get information, and they actually want to hear the information from the speaker on the stage. And they might be less excited about doing a little breakout group where they chat with their colleague about what they just heard. There are exceptions to that.  It depends on the topic and the material. But in general, I would be careful about assuming that everybody enjoys breakout groups. They might act like they are enjoying them because they know that there is an expectation that they should, but the truth might be different from the face that they are showing.
You can read more from our conversation about introverts and meeting planning in the June issue of Convene.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Not-So-Great GoogaMooga: When Inaugural Events are Bashed on the Internet

The weather was ideal for the inaugural Great GoogaMooga, the first ever “foodie festival” in Brooklyn on May 19-20. But most attendees would say this was the only thing that was ideal. Glitches are to be expected with any inaugural event, however the not-so-great GoogaMooga — that seemed to be ruled by Murphy’s Law on Saturday when I attended — experienced heightened backlash from attendees via social media. The fact that the event started a half-hour late, the two-hour-long beverage lines, the mandatory (and confusing) drink tickets called “GoogaMoola,” the spotty cellphone reception, the high prices, the lack of shade, and that fact that some vendors ran out of food by 3 p.m. (even in the V.I.P. section), all combined to make that Saturday a less-than-perfect affair — and prompted a lot of attendees to take their frustration to the net. None of these mishaps would go unnoticed, or un-tweeted — with many references to The Hunger Games.

The crowds gather in front of the main stage at the Great GoogaMooga.
The event featured food from over 75 local restaurants, 20 musical performances, more than 35 winemakers, and 30 beer makers. It was called a “food amusement park,” meant to showcase the gourmet side of New York dining. The vendor booths, some curated by Anthony Bourdain, were arranged in a horseshoe surrounding a large stage where Hall & Oates and The Roots later played. Bourdain also spoke at the event (but only for those with a $250 V.I.P. ticket). 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On Site at CT2-MTL

© Barbara Haemmig de Preux

I'm here in beautiful Montreal, attending the first-ever C2-MTL Commerce + Creativity Conference. And this event just oozes creativity. It starts with the location — a former industrial corner of downtown called Griffintown, which is in the midst of revitalization. The conference is housed in a "village" of several distinct spaces. You enter through a large, sophisticated tent with piped-in fragrances and mood lighting, innovative lounges, cafeteria-style rooms, and an art installation of construction-cone walls (inside the center [peephole] of each cone is an image of innovative urban design). Once you exit the tent, you're in an urban outdoor space with a bar, music stage, and conversation pods with oversized Adirondack chairs.  The sessions themselves are held in the 1850s New City Gas building, a beautiful, stone building that was restored and outfitted specifically for the conference.

The conference's creative partner is Cirque du Soleil; content partners include Fast Company, IBM, and pwC, and its presenters include Laurentian Bank, Tourisme Montreal, and HSN. The line-up of speakers is equally impressive — especially considering that this is an inaugural event. Today, Arianna Huffington made use of her stage time to give us a sneak peek at her new "GPS for the Soul" app, and Ian Schrager gave us a glimpse into the creative genius behind each of his hotel designs. One nugget in particular settled in my brain: When asked how he plans the design for each of his hotels, Schrager said: "It's like a journey, not a plan."( I think I will use that line the next time someone asks me why we don't know what our cover story will be four months from now.)

If I put on my meeting-planner hat, I am sure I could find some flaws in this event's execution (the foie-gras-stuffed-flower appetizers yesterday evening, for one). But wow. There is so much to be mined from this event's format and environment — a creative act that reflects and supports the content.

Spicing Up the Trade-Show Floor

MyCEB's "Spice Market" at IMEX 2012
I'm currently at IMEX 2012 in Frankfurt, the annual powerhouse exhibition for incentive travel, meetings, and events. It's challenging for destinations to stand out in the exhibition hall, with exhibitors from more than 150 countries all trying to both get the attention of attendees, and to share the flavor and advantages of their destinations.

But the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) booth was impossible to ignore Wednesday afternoon during its "Spice Market" cocktail reception, where they staged a modern version of the historical markets that thrived 600 years ago along the Silk Road. MyCEB distributed stacks of currency during the exhibition, and during the reception, attendees could buy colorful textiles, fans, and other items from "traders" who spread their wares out on cloths laid on the booth floor.

It was high-energy fun, and underscored the point that MyCEB makes about Malaysia as a meetings destination: the country sits at the crossroads of India and Asia, the fastest-growing economic area in the world, and offers meeting planners a multi-facted, multicultural environment.