Monday, December 27, 2010

Standing Tradition on Its Head

Can doing something backwards be the way to move forward?

Yep, says Convene contributor Jeffrey Cufaude. Turning traditions on their heads -- often, but not always, by incorporating technology -- can lead to better learning results and better meetings.

One case in point is high-school math teacher Karl Fisch, who stopped lecturing in class and instead uploaded lecture videos to YouTube. Students watched the videos at home, and Fisch, freed to be a hands-on coach, then used class time to answer student questions.

Conference organizers can use that same basic tactic, Cufaude suggests, by sharing podcasts or videos of keynote speakers well before meetings take place. Attendees can then submit questions about the content in advance, giving speakers the opportunity to fine-tune and focus their presentations to audiences.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

World Changers

When psychologist Lauren Abramson talks about "conferencing" in her work as executive director of the Community Conferencing Center in Baltimore, she's not talking about the kind of meetings with registration desks and cocktail receptions. But, by creating a space where both the victims and perpetrators of crime can come together to try and reach a common understanding by talking with each other, her work intersects with what's at the heart of most meetings: communication, learning, and engagement with others.

Abramson has had remarkable success in creating an alternative to courts -- the Community Conferencing Center has a roughly 95 percent success rate for the cases that come through its doors. The Center uses the process to help resolve conflicts in neighborhoods and workplaces, as well in criminal cases.

The work has spread to other cities, and countries, and now to you, by way of this video from PopTech, an annual conference which does have a registration desk and drinks.

More about PopTech, and conferences that try to change the world, is coming up in the January issue of Convene.

December 2010 Issue: Live!

Just in time for Christmas comes the digital edition of our December 2010 issue, whose cover story (and CMP Series article) is a veritable stocking stuffed with bite-sized treats. Intended as a counterpoint to last December's cover story on change of the high-level, deep-think variety, this month's cover story -- "No Small Change, Part 1" -- is proudly smaller-scale, with profiles of 10 meetings that have practiced change in a nuts-and-bolts way, as a series of tweaks. We found so many organizations that wanted to talk about this -- innovation that is practical, manageable, and easily implemented -- that we didn't have room for all of them in this issue, so look for "No Small Change, Part 2" next month.

Other highlights from this month's overstuffed issue:

"The Destination Will Be Televised": A feature article about the crazy number of new TV shows set in real-world cities, and how those cities' DMOs feel about the fact that many of them are bloody cop shows.

Leading by Example: A profile of Dickson Beattie "Doc" Hendley, a former bartender whose Wine to Water nonprofit organization uses wine-tasting events to fund clean-water projects in the developing world.

"High Water Mark": Six months after the Gaylord Opryland flooded, on the eve of the property's grand reopening, Gaylord Chairman CEO Colin Reed offers an inside look at the decision-making process that prompted him and his leadership team to evacuate the hotel -- and that probably saved lives.

On on One With: Frits van Paasschen, CEO of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, who took a break from a Starwood-sponsored CSR project in Harlem to talk to us about hospitality, business travel, and doing well by doing good.

Convening Leaders Preview: In-depth Q&As with five speakers at next month's PCMA 2011 Convening Leaders -- CEO Tony Hsieh, Drive author Dan Pink, Meetings Mindset founder Jon Bradshaw, Virtual Edge Institute Executive Director Michael Doyle (whose Virtual Edge Summit is co-locating with Convening Leaders), and futurist David Houle. Once you read what they have to say, you'll want to attend PCMA's annual meeting. Fortunately, registration is a snap.

Look for the text-only version of December on Convene's homepage within the next few days.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Frisked at the Airport": My Favorite E-Greeting

Here's a fun little holiday carol from The Water Coolers. I've got to say Frosty's got a little cellulite going on. But who am I to judge?

Monday, December 20, 2010

You Can't Keep a Good Meeting Down

Two quick items highlighting the indomitable spirit of meetings, or some such something or other:

1. ASAE's 2010 Technology Conference & Expo (Tech10), canceled when a once-every-25-years snowstorm buried Washington, D.C., last February (thus giving rise to UnTech10, which was a story unto itself), was finally held last week at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center -- despite another round of dicey weather. Bisnow has a good roundup of what sounds like a strong program.

2. The American Geophysical Union (AGU) used its 2010 Fall Meeting at the Moscone Center in San Francisco last week to address a life-sciences paper that has drawn vocal criticism for its methods and conclusions since being published in the journal Science at the beginning of the month. AGU added a last-minute panel discussion called "Reporting on Cutting-Edge Science: The Curious Case of 'Arsenic and Odd Life'" to its schedule of press conferences -- the better to consider "the challenges in reporting on controversial research in the era of instant news and the ramifications of conducting follow-up scientific debate in the blogosphere." Among the panelists was one of the paper's co-authors. What a great way to leverage a community of resources that was already going to be assembled in one place anyway.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Life Imitates Convene

As I've mentioned before, I'm a member of the board of directors for Association Media & Publishing (AM&P). On Monday, we had a board meeting in Chicago -- deliberately scheduled, like a lot of other association programming, to overlap with the Association Forum of Chicagoland's Holiday Showcase. Thanks to the terrible weather in the Midwest and Northeast this past weekend, four of our board members couldn't make the meeting and had to participate via conference call, which wasn't an ideal solution, but certainly was better than not having them present at all.

Also, much like my experience serving as the co-chair of AM&P's 2010 Conference Committee, this situation gave me a small but potent taste of what our readers do every day of their professional lives. Specifically, I was reminded of the Innovative Meetings column I wrote for our September 2010 issue, about how the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) responded to dozens of its Annual Meeting speakers getting stranded in Europe by the Icelandic volcano eruption last spring. AACR had as many of the speakers as wanted to deliver their presentations via conference call. That time it was volcanic ash. This past Monday it was snow. But the effect was the same, and so was the solution. And I'd say that my own AM&P is in pretty good company.

The photo above, by the way, is something I just couldn't resist posting. It was taken on Monday morning from the 24th floor of the Hilton Chicago, where I was staying during my trip. Did I mention there was snow...?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Idea File: Crowdsourced Confetti

When I interviewed futurist David Houle about how society and culture are changing for a story in the December issue, one of the things we talked about is the paradox of the new high-tech/high-touch environment. Digital natives, who have grown up never knowing what it is like to be without the Internet and cell phones, are not only the most technologically advanced generation, but among the most connected. "They text one another all day long," Houle pointed out. "They hug."

I thought of that conversation when I read that NYC & Company is collecting wishes, both in-person and online, which they will include as a part of the confetti that flutters down to mark midnight in Times Squares. Visitors can write them in person on a "New Year's Eve Wishing Wall" at the Times Square Information Center, or submit them online.

Who knew confetti could be interactive?

Image courtesy NYC & Company

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Convene at the Movies: Love and Other Drugs

A couple of years ago, when I was working for a competitor meetings magazine, I helped one of my fellow editors come up with a list of the best movies that feature conferences or meetings. Can you name any?

(The Fugitive is one. Michael Clayton — though that wasn't on the list — is another, sort of.)

At any rate, I saw another good one this weekend: Love and Other Drugs, a romantic "dramedy" set in the late 1990s, in which Jake Gyllenhaal's Jamie Randall and Anne Hathaway's Maggie Murdoch fall hesitantly — especially on her part — in love.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It Was 30 Years Ago Today

Every generation seems to have at least one "Where were you?" event -- something that freezes into people's memories in such a way that the circumstances of what they were doing when they heard about the event are forever intertwined with the event itself. For Baby Boomers, obviously, it was John F. Kennedy's assassination. For Millennials there's Sept. 11, although that one really belongs to all of us. For my own Generation X, it's probably the Challenger shuttle explosion, although the first "Where were you?" incident that I actually remember is one that happened 30 years ago today -- the murder of John Lennon, which remains particularly vivid because the next night it prompted my parents to do the unthinkable and wheel the TV to the dinner table so we could keep up with the whole senseless thing as it unfolded. And of course yesterday was the 69th anniversary of what I imagine is the Greatest Generation's defining "Where were you?" moment: the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Why do we ask each other where we were when something big and terrible happened? It's probably as simple and profound as the need to feel connected to one another, even years and years later, and the reality that we're defined not just by the things that happen to us but also by the things that happen around us. We own them, and as bad as they are, we wouldn't give them up. Rest in peace, Mr. Lennon. I was 10, home with my family, eating dinner, when it really hit me.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Patrick Swayze Wants You to Be Nice

How many people can say that they've learned an important life lesson from Road House, the cheesetastic 1989 movie in which Patrick Swayze plays the world's greatest bouncer? But yesterday, when someone on the MeCo Google Group linked to this New York Times column about the dearth of "common sense and courtesy" among airline passengers, I realized that a certain line from Road House has always stuck with me: "I want you to be nice, until it's time to not be nice." (This link will take you directly to that line, but be warned: The rest of the scene has some NSFW language.) It's a good guiding principle, because it's easy to remember, it's universally applicable, and it allows for some discretion -- i.e., it's not telling you to be a pushover, just to try being, you know, nice. I'm sure you'd appreciate it if all your attendees opted for this approach -- at least, before they decided to not be nice.

Extra, Extra!: Convene Newsstand

Welcome to this week's edition of Extra, Extra!, wherein we round up news from the meetings- and business-travel industry that we didn't have room to print in our weekly ThisWeek@PCMA newsletter. We hope you enjoy!

According to data provided by OAG–The Official Airline guide, and reported on by USA Today, the 10 largest U.S. airlines had 2.7 percent more seats available in November (obviously a big travel month) than the same time last year. That's a reversal from the trend of the last three years, during which, responding to a weakening (and then flat-out weak) economy, airlines cut capacity, eliminating routes and numbers of planes running those routes. Now that tide is turning — albeit slowly — as airlines carefully adjust their supply to meet the growing demand.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Planners Not So Bugged by Bed Bugs

The bed-bug epidemic may be grabbing headlines and creating stampedes to forums like the North American BedBug Summit held last September outside Chicago (see our story in the November 2010 issue), but meeting planners are much more focused on things like cost and location.

That’s from a survey of meeting planner reactions to the bed-bug hullabaloo, conducted in October by The Knowland Group. Here are some of the findings:

Only 8 percent of meeting planners inquire about bed-bug outbreaks when researching meeting spaces, and 82 percent never do.

Fear of bed bugs have led only 2 percent of planners to ask for clauses pertaining to outbreaks in meeting contracts. However, a good number — 18 percent — do ask about bed bugs after a hotel is booked.

Attendees are even less likely to bring up the question of bed bugs in meeting hotels. Most — 88 percent — have never expressed and concern to planners.

And while 4 percent of meeting planners report that the absence of bed bugs is their Number One concern when booking events at hotels, for most planners, other considerations rate far greater attention, including location (33 percent), cost (25 percent), meeting space (20 percent), and amenities (9 percent).

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Extra, Extra!: Convene Newsstand

Glad you could join us for this week's Extra, Extra!, wherein we round up interesting, offbeat, and important news from around the meetings industry.

First up is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's goal of reinvigorating Atlantic City by making it more attractive for smaller and midweek conventions and meetings. According to a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, A.C. stands the best chance of accomplishing this if it does the following:
  • Focus on regional conventions more likely to seek out a drive-to destination.
  • Improve sales and marketing channels to attract small meetings and gatherings, as well as tourists.
  • Build more hotel rooms, priced more affordably.
  • Comp far fewer guests, offering high-quality hotel rooms to customers paying to stay in them.
Why does A.C. need to attract more of these smaller and midweek meetings, with attendee counts of 250 to 1,000? Because gaming revenue, long the lifeblood of the town, has been dropping steadily and continues to do so: The take over the first 10 months of this year was down 9.1 percent as compared to the same period in 2009.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Back to the Future: PCMA Master Series

If you missed the PCMA Masters Series in Washington D.C. on Oct. 21, you can watch a complimentary webcast at noon CST on Wednesday, Dec. 1 at PCMA's new interactive learning and networking space, PCMA365.

At the live event, a panel of association and meetings industry experts tackled the topic "Associations and Meetings of the Future: A Look Ahead to 2020," and offered what Executive Editor Chris Durso called "a terrific assortment of big-sky and ground-level insights."

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Power of Stories

The Human Voice from StoryCorps on Vimeo.

Great presenters are great storytellers. But you don't have to be polished or think of yourself as having any talent for speaking to tell a story that holds value for others. You just have to be willing to share. And sharing stories is what the "National Day of Listening" is all about.

Today, November 26, is the third annual national listening day, the brainchild of the nonprofit organization StoryCorps. The project aims to preserve our stories, and to connect us to one another through our experiences.

Says StoryCorps founder Dave Isay:
“By listening closely to one another, we can help illuminate the true character of this nation reminding us all just how precious each day can be and how truly great it is to be alive.

StoryCorps has set up permanent recording booths in New York, San Francisco and Atlanta, and has taken the booths on the road to American cities.

What kinds of stories would your meeting attendees tell — and what would you learn by listening to them — if you gave them the opportunity?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Turkey Who Lived

On previous occasions I've blogged about the importance of ceremonial events and what makes for good Political Kabuki Theater -- two things that came together at the White House this morning when President Obama pardoned the National Thanksgiving Turkey. This is an annual occurrence, usually conducted with a sense of tongue-in-cheek officiousness, as a joke everyone is in on. It's both ceremonial and Kabuki, which probably means it has some sort of relevance for meeting professionals that I'd be more inclined to plumb if it weren't 4:30 p.m. on the day before Thanksgiving.

But mainly, the pardoning of the National Thanksgiving Turkey is fun, and helps get everyone in the holiday spirit. Including you and yours, I hope. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

November 2010 Issue: Live!

Coming up on the end of the year, you're probably thinking about one thing: next year. Which makes our November issue -- whose digital edition is now live -- particularly timely, with an annual Meetings Industry Forecast section that spans 30 pages and offers a lively assortment of analyses, predictions, facts, and figures about lodging, travel, and exhibitions in 2011. Other highlights in this issue:

CMP Series: "When Meetings Meet," Barbara Palmer's engaging, comprehensive look at organizations that have co-located their events. And don't forget: Once you're done reading, you can take a short test and get CEU credit toward your CMP.

Convening Leaders Preview: A Q&A with Renee West, the first woman to head up a resort on the Las Vegas Strip (today she's president and COO of Excalibur and Luxor), and a General Session speaker at PCMA 2011 Convening Leaders.

Plenary: Our new front-of-the-book section hits its stride with sharp, topical, and/or fun coverage of bed bugs, Abraham Lincoln impersonators, art-and-technology artists, international chemists, chain drugstores, and more.

International Meetings -- Asia Rising: An architect with tvsdesign, which designed three convention centers that have opened in China since 2008, discusses what the country wants in a meeting facility -- and why it's building so many of them.

Other Duties as Assigned: We always end on the lighter side -- which this month means Caitlin Dougherty's story of helping set up a dinner by carrying five salad plates on each arm. Because she used to be a waitress.

You also can find the text-only version of November on our homepage.

Extra, Extra!: Convene Newsstand

Welcome back to Extra, Extra!, Convene's weekly news supplement.

First up is the news, reported by Las Vegas guide, that Wynn has begun charging $30 a night for an extra bed in its hotel rooms. JohnH writes:

Now I could spend my time here getting vociferously angry over this policy, but I have made my opinion toward this fee more than clear in the past. I hate this new trend as much as I hate resort fees, but just like the latter, this thing is starting to spread across the industry and there's little that any of us can do about it.

I guess those days of doubling up with a colleague when traveling to a conference — and saving a lot of money in the process — are over, or getting that way.

Monday, November 22, 2010

If a Meeting Falls in the Forest ...

Writing in The Huffington Post the other day, Kitty Kelley (yes, that Kitty Kelley) bemoans the lack of coverage given to "a group of elite whistleblowers" who recently met in Washington, D.C., despite the fact that they've "helped enrich the U.S. Treasury by more than $16 billion since 1986." Kelley's point is that many of these folks have had a tough time of it -- ostracized, fired, and otherwise harassed for trying to prevent their (now-former) employers from defrauding the government -- and that they deserve more recognition for their efforts.

Which is probably true enough, but also feels like a variation on the philosophical puzzle "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" That is, if an important meeting is held but doesn't garner sufficient attention, is it actually an important meeting?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gaylord Reopens on a Grand Scale

I'm here at Gaylord Opryland — along with 400 meeting planners and their guests and 150 other members of the media, hosted by Gaylord for its Grand Reopening celebration weekend. Altogether, we number about 1,000 guests of the hotel, and then there are more than 1,000 other "regular" guests here. That includes lots of families with wide-eyed little children who are enjoying the property's magical holiday decorations.

The size and scale of Gaylord's hotels is always awe-inspiring, but with it all dressed up for the holidays and looking brand-spanking new after $270 million in renovations and repairs since the flood six months ago, it's hard not to feel like a little kid myself as I wander around the resort.

Last night's opening celebration had some especially jaw-dropping moments, including pyrotechnics, fireworks, and aerial acrobatics — inside the cavernous Delta Atrium. (That's "outside inside," as my 19-year-old daughter Kelly, who joined me on this trip, called it, versus "outside outside," when you venture through doors that lead to the non-climate-controlled great outdoors.)

After hearing Gaylord Chairman and CEO Colin Reed speak at the ceremony — and watching videotaped interviews of Gaylord Stars (staff) — about the night of the flood and the tragic loss of life and property in Nashville — it feels good to be part of the coming-back celebration. Last night, that included a festive dinner in the Delta Ballroom and a private concert by Keith Urban. Even non-Country Music fans got swept up by his performance and rushed up to the stage to kick up their heels, cowboy boots or not.


In light of the uptick of talk lately about using social gaming at meetings and conventions, I wanted to share a case study written by senior editor Hunter Slaton about SVNGR. It appears in the November 2010 issue of Convene:

When the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT) held its 2010 International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) at Chicago's McCormick Place on Sept. 13-18, AMT itself made use of a newly manufactured technology: a social-gaming application called SCVNGR, courtesy of the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau (CCTB).

SCVNGR is a "mobile gaming platform" available as an application on the iPhone, devices using Google's Android operating system, and any phone with text-messaging capability. It is similar to other "geo-social" apps such as Gowalla, Loopt, and Foursquare, said Harvey Morris, CCTB's director of digital marketing and social media.

But unlike those apps, which emphasize "checking in" from your current location, SCVNGR allows organizers to create interactive challenges for attendees to complete. "We did a lot of product comparison," Morris said, "and [SCVNGR's] ability to customize the challenges and connect those across themed ‘treks' seemed to make more sense to us for the event space."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Convene Reads: War

Meetings and conferences have always played a key role in the world of warfare -- from planning battles to negotiating peace treaties -- but, still, it's a little jarring to see one pop up in the middle of Sebastian Junger's War. The book follows a U.S. Army platoon deployed in Afghanistan's harrowing Korengal Valley -- "too remote to conquer, too poor to intimidate, too autonomous to buy off" -- and Junger's account is determinedly ground-level, following the soldiers through the thrill, boredom, relief, agony, triumph, and ultimate hell of near-endless combat.

Sometimes the fighting stops, at least for a little while. In one of those cases, the result is this riveting scene:
A few days after I arrive, [Captain Dan] Kearney puts together a shura of valley elders, and the provincial government flies in for it. The meeting starts in what must have been a rather incredible way for the locals: a young American women from USAID speaking in Pashto about plans for the valley. After that, the governor gives a passionate speech about what this area could be if the locals stopped fighting and accepted government authority. He's dressed in a suit and vest, and it's quite possibly the first suit and vest the locals have ever seen. When he's done a young man stands up, eyes bright with hate, and says that the Americans dropped a bomb on his brother's house in Kalaygal and killed thirteen people. "If the Americans can't bring security with their guns and bombs, then they should just leave the valley," he shouts. "Otherwise there will be jihad!"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

PCMA 365: A Conversation Without End

Virtual drum roll, please.

PCMA has just launched a new “PCMA365” virtual environment And it is accessible to everyone in the industry — not just members — through the PCMA website, using this link.

While it's cutting edge, it is not just one more shiny technology tool that will be replaced by something else in a few months. It’s a work-in-progress that will bring many of the activities that PCMA members already are engaged in under one virtual roof, with the goal of making it much easier for individuals to connect with each other and with online education and other resources.

I checked in with PCMA’s Senior Marketing Manager, Mary Reynolds Kane, to find out more about the space:

How would you describe PCMA365?

Mary: As the name suggests, it is a virtual space that will offer opportunities to engage every day of the year. It will be open 24-7, so that PCMA members and meetings industry professionals can network and share ideas with one another all the time, not just when we have meetings and other events. What you see right now is just the beginning — we are in no way finished. PCMA is a kind of laboratory for improving meetings, and we will be building the virtual environment in phases, with the goal of demonstrating best practices and strategies that members can go out and build their own. It will help break new digital ground in areas like virtual trade show booths, integrating games into meeting experiences and much more.

How do you hope people will use PCMA365?

Mary: We want to be able to help people network seamlessly. In PCMA365, you can easily send e-mail, participate in general discussions, or set up private chats. You also Tweet in the environment and connect with Facebook and LinkedIn networks.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Convene Reads: The Wave

* This photo, of Tahiti's Teahupoo wave, is courtesy of Duncan Rawlinson

I've been meaning to write a new post for a while now, as I've been reading (and am now nearly finished with) this great book called The Wave: In the Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean, by Susan Casey, the editor in chief of O, The Oprah Magazine.

I'm a bit nuts about the sea — so it was cool to read about a gathering of others who share the same obsession (albeit in a much more science-y way). Casey writes about the Tenth International Workshop on Wave Hindcasting and Forecasting and Coastal Hazard Symposium, which she attended at Oahu's Turtle Bay Resort in 2007:
Every two years the world's most eminent wave scientists gather somewhere to exchange information, present papers, compare notes, and above all, to argue.

Convene On Site: DC Convention Hotel Groundbreaking

Technically, it was a groundbreaking ceremony for the long-delayed Washington, D.C., convention center hotel project, but really, Wednesday morning's event could have been a local chapter meeting for Meetings Mean Business. Because almost every single one of the 13 VIP speakers on stage -- from DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, to Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray, to Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, to Marriott International Chairman and CEO J.W. Marriott Jr. -- talked about the local economic impact of the 1,175-room, $520-million Washington Marriott Marquis property that is going to be built right across the street from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What Open Community Means for Meetings

Convene is happy to be taking part in the virtual book tour Maddie Grant, CAE, and Lindy Dreyer are doing to explore concepts from Open Community: A Little Book of Big Ideas for Associations Navigating the Social Web. in In this post, Maddie and Lindy answer a few questions for Convene's readers.

First, tell us a little bit about the book. Why did you write Open Community?

Lindy: Well, the community forming online around your organization (and your meeting!) is bigger than you may think. That’s an opportunity and a challenge.

Maddie: Lindy and I have talked to thousands of association executives who have voiced their frustrations about the social web--from the overabundance of tools and the disorderly experimentation of staff (and members!), to the lack of organizational support and the unwieldy processes for monitoring and managing social media, and that’s just the beginning. We decided to write Open Community as a way to address those frustrations and redirect the thinking about using social tools to build community online.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How iPads Can Make Meetings More Accessible

An article in today's New York Times talks about power of the iPad to open up the world for the disabled, including a 7-year-old-boy with a motor-neuron disease. The iPad has been so quickly embraced by disabled users, the story points out, because it comes right out the box with built-ins like closed captioning, magnification, and audible read-outs.

It reminded me of an exchange I had last May with Phillip Arbuckle, the president of MeetingTrack, in Kansas City. Phillip had already grasped the iPad's potential to help attendees with hearing and vision loss enhance their meeting experience.

Extra, Extra!: Convene Newsstand

Welcome back to another edition of Extra, Extra!, wherein we round up interesting news from around the meetings industry. Here's what's news this week:

More so than many other cities, Las Vegas has had a rough time of it since the recession. But things may be looking up: According to stats from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, convention attendance for Aug. 2010 (the most recent month for which data was available) topped out at 345,095 — a remarkable 46.3 percent rise over Aug. 2009's total. Now, one reason for this marked increase is that two major trade shows, MAGIC (75,000 attendees) and World Market Center (50,000), were held this year in August rather than their traditional September — but still: If Sept. 2010 convention attendance numbers hold up, it could mean that Las Vegas is back on a hot streak.

Monday, November 8, 2010

It's Not PowerPoint. It's You.

This presentation is a front-runner in SlideShare's annual contest to find the World's Best Presentation. You can enter your own presentation through next Monday, Nov. 15, or visit the site to browse entries.

You're guaranteed to find some ideas for things you'd like to try -- or vow to avoid.

Speaking of the latter, if you have a presentation horror story to share, there's a place for that, too. 3M is looking for the 10 worst presentation horror stories. The more embarrassing and dreadful the better. Like the time a panelist fell asleep on stage during a presentation ...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Architecture of Face-to-Face

Architect Witold Rybczynksi has just published a book called Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas About Cities. In an article in Slate that was adapted from the book, Rybczynksi traces the development of the American city from compact, densely populated, heavily industrial environment to decentralized, far-flung metropolitan area. It's an interesting read, and comes with the added benefit of validating this thing of ours:
Virtually every technological innovation of the last 50 years has facilitated, if not actually encouraged, urban dispersal. But the long-term effects of new technologies are often unpredictable. The telephone is, on the face of it, a decentralizing device. Yet telephone communication made working in high-rise office buildings practicable, which in turn produced the concentrated central business district. ... Laptops, personal digital assistants, and cell phones are held to be the tips of a great dispersal iceberg, but the migration of work to the motel room and the home office has been accompanied by a countervailing trend: the need for face-to-face contact. That is why there are more conferences, retreats, and conventions than ever before.
What do you think? Does technology create an ever-increasing demand for face-to-face interaction? If it does, is there an endpoint -- where technology will become sufficiently advanced to replicate face-to-face interaction perfect?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

In Praise of Print — and Twitter and YouTube and ...

I've been thinking a lot lately about triangulation, in regards to how I learn about things. Since I work for a print magazine, and have loved the medium ever since I spent my babysitting earnings on Seventeen, I am not exactly an unbiased bystander.

But I feel like I am starting to see a new information landscape emerge, one that is animated by the streams of data, opinions, and observations that fly second-by-second across our laptop and phone screens, but also anchored by traditional news sources with rock-solid reputations for accuracy and trustworthiness.

For example, when a freakish hailstorm hit Brooklyn, where I live, a few weeks ago, I jumped on TweetDeck and entered the hashtag #brooklyn as soon as ice began pelting the window. There were lots of incredulous reports, and plenty of bon mots (My favorite: "Tom Hanks must be filming You've Got Hail!"). But for a more comprehensive look at the storm, I turned to the New York Times, which posted a story on its "CityRoom" blog later that night. Newspapers and news websites may be slower to broadcast news, but I know from my days reporting breaking news, that no matter how urgent the story, getting the facts right trumps being first. I might have been able to piece together a picture of the storm together myself, but I was glad someone was already working on it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Extra, Extra!: Convene Newsstand

Welcome back to Extra, Extra!, after a couple weeks' hiatus. So what's news this week? (Besides, of course, what was published today in ThisWeek@PCMA.)

Do you use TripAdvisor to get a read on hotels in advance of your visit? Have you ever had a hotel in mind and then, due to a particularly savage review, shied away? Well, hoteliers want to have a little more control over this happening in the future, according to this story in the New York Times. Susan Stellin writes, "Although TripAdvisor does allow property owners to post responses to reviews, some hoteliers want the site to monitor comments more actively and take action when managers express concerns, especially when reviews border on libel."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Event Full

To give you an idea of how busy it was in and around Washington, D.C., this past weekend, it was something of a relief when trick-or-treating started last night, and all we had to worry about was our neighborhood getting overrun by hundreds of kids hopped up on adrenaline and sugar. On Saturday, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear pretty much shut down the Metro system and defeated our best efforts to get there, although we know a lot of people who did make it down to the National Mall. Following their updates on Facebook and talking to them later didn't exactly make it feel like we were there, but it did contribute to a sort of party atmosphere throughout the weekend.

Helping Expert Speakers Turn Pro

Conference attendees prefer learning from the experts in their own industries and professions, because they can share real-world experience. But finding and inviting industry experts to speak at your meeting is just a first step, says Dave Lutz, managing director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.

Offering industry presenters coaching and meaningful evaluation —based on proven adult-learning principles — will help make sure you deliver top-notch education, Lutz says.

Lutz suggested seven things to keep in mind when lining up industry speakers for your event:

1. It takes two to dance. Build a relationship with your industry speakers. Don't call them just to tell them they've been accepted and to finalize the session title, description, and learner outcomes. Ask questions about their delivery style, presentation skill level, audience-engagement plan, and how they evaluate their success. Share attributes of previous, highly rated education sessions. Offer advice and continue the coaching after the presentation.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy 41st Birthday, Internet!

Forty-one years ago today, the first message was transmitted over ARPANET, the computer network that would grow into the Internet, when UCLA graduate student Charles Kline sent the world "login" -- one letter at a time -- to Stanford Research Institute programmer Bill Duvall. The L and the O were sent and received with no problems. In a video about this momentous exchange, Kline remembers what happened next: "Then I typed the G, and [Duvall] said, 'Wait a minute, my system crashed.'"

Which is perfect, no? The modern experience of e-mail -- instantaneous communication, hair-pulling frustration -- sprang fully formed from ARPANET on Oct. 29, 1969. And nothing would ever be the same -- including meetings and conventions, which, let's face it, have gained a whole lot more than they lost from the deal. Including this blog. Thanks, Internet!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Big Ideas, Small Bucks

Think you need a huge budget to create an interactive, lively exhibit booth? This booth, promoting EventCamp East Coast at BizBash New York Expo this week, used brown kraft paper and permanent markers and asked the questions: "What was your worst event experience?" and "What does the event of the future look like?" to create a community conversation.

It's also a great example of brand alignment: EventCamp East Coast will follow the crowdsourced meeting model designed by conference consultant Adrian Segar, author of Conferences That Work.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

ZMO = Zombie Marketing Organization

Smart destinations find a way to reach out to any and all potential visitors -- business travelers, tourists, investors, even the living dead. So it's no surprise to hear about the hordes of zombies that have been turning up in cities across the world today. Because even zombies understand the importance of meeting brain-to-brain face-to-face.

Okay, actually it's a stunt to promote AMC's new series "The Walking Dead," with each city welcoming the zombies in its own way. Here in DC, for example, legions of the undead tried to overrun the Lincoln Memorial, The Washington Post reports, but they were turned away by the U.S. Park Police because they "did not know they needed a separate permit to enter property administered by the National Park Service." An insatiable urge for human flesh is one thing, but it can't hold a candle to bureaucratic protocol.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Convene On Site: PCMA Masters Series

The PCMA Masters Series program held at the Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel last Thursday offered a terrific assortment of big-sky and ground-level insights (some of which I tweeted throughout the event), but for me the grand unifying takeaway was the fact that you can't separate a meeting from its parent organization, and vice versa. An obvious conclusion, perhaps, especially considering the topic was "Associations and Meetings of the Future: A Look Ahead to 2020," but there it is.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Got Engagement?

In Beth Kanter's instructive blog post about "unpresenting," she listed more than a dozen points gleaned from an "unpresentation" by Heather Gold.

Two leaped out at me:

Emotions Are More Important Than Facts: To prompt conversation, you need to make an emotional connection.


The Only Thing That Matters Is That You Care: The most important thing is that you care about your topic and that you have some passion for it.

I immediately thought of this video, made to call attention to what it is like to be living on the streets today. I don't think adding PowerPoint slides would have improved upon this message, do you? As of today, more than a million people have downloaded the video from YouTube.

Thanks to Jeff Hurt for pointing out Beth's post.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Convene On Site: Singapore Power Lunch

Is the meetings industry part of the hospitality industry, or is the hospitality industry part of the meetings industry? At a "power lunch" hosted by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Singapore Ambassador Heng Chee Chan at the Singapore embassy in Washington, D.C., this afternoon, the answer seemed to be: Yes. Because, while today's event focused on Singapore as a destination for international meetings and exhibitions, STB and Ambassador Chan seemed most concerned that everyone felt welcome.

Indeed, Kershing Goh, STB's regional director for the Americas, is based in New York City, but told guests that outside of Singapore, the embassy is her home. "In terms of inviting you to my home," she said, "this is as good as it gets. This is home." Likewise, according to Ambassador Chan, "I often tell people, 'I'm just the landlady here.' So welcome to our premises."

Lunch at the landlady's premises started with cocktails -- Singapore Slings were popular -- followed by a fresh, inventive four-course meal created by Chef Ed Cotton, a finalist on the most recent season of TV's "Top Chef," which was filmed partially in Singapore. Not that it was all F&B. "Why did we call this a power lunch?" Ambassador Chan said. "It's because we have people with a great deal of power and influence in this room, so I expect you to meet and make deals."

Spotlight: Stuart Ruff

Stuart Ruff's hilarious recollection in the October issue of Convene about the gut-wrenching experience he had as a meeting planner at a medical conference in India is not to be missed. (Just don't read it on your lunch hour.)

But it does offer a bit of one-dimensional view of Ruff, CGMP, who is senior meetings planner for the International Trademark Association. For more, I recommend the also-entertaining "Member Spotlight" profile of Ruff on the PCMA website.

The profile, written by PCMA digital marketing specialist Maggie Endres, coincidentally includes more context about Ruff's experience organizing the medical conference in India: Planning for the meeting, which was co-sponsored by the U.S. State Department, was underway at the time of the 2008 Mumbai hotel attacks, and everything had to redone following the attacks -- from invitations to visa applications. The extra expense left no money for a site visit, so Ruff planned the meeting without ever visiting the facility or the country. It was the toughest meeting of his career, he told Maggie: "I cried when it was over, and now I cannot wait to plan a meeting in India again."

While you are there, dive into some of the other Member Spotlights. There are dozens of them, and Maggie adds about three a month to an ever-expanding archive. They are a great way to get to know other meeting planners and suppliers, and to learn from their experiences.

Friday, October 15, 2010

October 2010 Issue: Live!

Not a digital edition of Convene goes by where I don't seem to say something like, "And it's a doozy!" For those of you playing the drinking game at home this month, I won't be disappointing you: Our October 2010 issue is indeed a doozy. The cover story is something new for us -- an exclusive portfolio of sketches and other renderings of the next generation of convention centers, designed by some of the world's leading architects, along with short essays by those architects musing on the evolution of meeting facilities. Senior Editor Barbara Palmer pulled together this package for us, and it's gorgeous and thought-provoking and makes you appreciate both the art and the science of our industry. Other highlights in this issue:

CMP Series: In this month's CMP Series article, "The Appearance of Impropriety," Senior Editor Hunter Slaton uses a new Convene survey as the starting point for a comprehensive exploration of ethics in the meetings industry.

Leading by Example: A profile of Harry Markopolos, a former finance-industry executive who spent a decade trying -- and failing -- to blow the whistle on Bernie Madoff.

Convening Leaders Preview: A Q&A interview with Ben Sherwood, author of The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science That Could Save Your Life, who will be presenting a Masters Series program at PCMA 2011 Convening Leaders.

"No End in Site": A joint Q&A with Brenda Anderson, global CEO of Site, and Fay Beauchine, CITE, president of the Site International Foundation Board of Trustees, about the future of incentive meetings.

Plenary: Our brand-new front-of-the-book section, loaded with news, photos, fun facts, and our popular Convene On Site articles.

Other Duties as Assigned: Stuart Ruff, CGMP, looks deep within for a story about the time he got really, really sick at a meeting he was running -- and why his attendees loved him for it.

Look for the text-only version of October on our homepage next week.

Making More Meeting Sense

In our July cover story, we talked to meeting planners, designers, and neuroscience experts about something we called Return on Intangibles -- how environmental and emotional factors can affect a meeting's outcome. I wish I'd known then about the work of brand consultant Martin Lindstrom in applying neuroscience to marketing, if only for this one statistic: We process 15 percent of what our senses tell us in our conscious mind, and 85 percent in our unconscious, Lindstrom asserts. Almost our entire understanding of the world is experienced through our senses.

In the meetings industry, W Hotels has a wonderful grasp of this concept. At some W hotels, planners can order a "Sensory Set Up," with elements designed to engage all the senses: candles, flowers, aromatherapy, tactile "twisty" pens. (Both genders like the enhanced set-ups, a representative for the Scottsdale W told me.) W hotels also offers "Wish Workshops" -- breaks where meeting attendees can take knitting and cooking lessons -- and "Recess," a time for attendees to get physical with yoga or other active team-building activities.

What about your meetings? Do you have any stories to share about how you have deliberately appealed to your attendees' senses, beyond what they can see and hear?

Photo of W Scottsdale Sensory® Set Up, courtesy W Scottsdale

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Celebrating Collaboration in Chile

I am writing this as the 13th miner to be rescued from beneath a half-mile of solid rock is about to emerge into the Chilean sunshine, after spending more than two months in a collapsed mine.

We’ve written in Convene about how collaboration and crowdsourcing will help us reach our business goals, and make our meetings and conferences more effective, But the rescue operation helps to clarify -- in a profoundly meaningful way -- what's at stake. Working together and sharing knowledge allow us to accomplish things that seem absolutely impossible and connect us at the deepest levels.

The most visible symbol of collaboration is the rescue capsule, built by a joint effort of NASA and the Chilean Navy, but throughout the ordeal, the 33 miners’ hopes of survival have rested on a network of people, starting with themselves: For the 17 days before the miners were contacted by rescuers, they created brilliant strategies for their survival, while eating just two teaspoons of tuna and a biscuit every two days, washed down with a sip of milk.

A few minutes ago, a CNN news anchor interviewed J.D. Polk, NASA’s chief of medicine, and asked him what he would single out as a the key to the rescue efforts success. I am paraphrasing, but Polk praised the way the Chilean government split up the rescue operation into many parts, and then sought expert help.

It’s not over yet, Polk cautioned. That’s true, but it’s also time to celebrate.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Extra, Extra!: Convene Newsstand

Welcome to this week's installment of Extra, Extra!, where we expand a bit on the meetings-industry news disseminated in our ThisWeek@PCMA newsletter.

In its Oct. 4 issue, the New Yorker published an architectural piece about Las Vegas' new CityCenter development, praising it for its modern sophistication, and for not (as many structures do in Las Vegas) simply cribbing from a previously existing architectural model. The writer described CityCenter thusly:
It is the biggest construction project in the history of Las Vegas. It has three hotels, two condominium towers, a shopping mall, a convention center, a couple of dozen restaurants, a private monorail, and a casino. There was to have been a fourth hotel, whose opening has been delayed indefinitely. But even without it the project contains nearly eighteen million square feet of space, the equivalent of roughly six Empire State Buildings.
That's crazy and awesome! Read more about CityCenter and Las Vegas here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


One of the highlights of the World Business Forum (WBF), held Oct. 5 and 6 in Radio City Music Hall in New York, was hearing Jack Welch. The plain-spoken, hard-driving former CEO of GE has been named by many as the world's greatest business leader.

If I thought I could guess what Welch was going to say, I was wrong. Here’s what the man who was nicknamed “Neutron Jack” for slashing jobs at GE in the early 1980s had to say about leading through intimidation. “Fear is a dead issue for a leader … It was never very good – but it worked for a while.”

He also lamented the “tragic lack” of leadership development in corporate America: There’s a lot of “huffing and puffing” going on about developing leaders at conferences like WBF, “but back in the office, there ain’t that much going on.”

Welch, who is 75, is a fan of Twitter. “I think it’s fun. It’s good for getting out a message.” He’s also in favor of the increased transparency that the Internet and technology has helped create. “It’s so exciting to see everybody know everything,” he said. “A more open society, and more candor can only be good.”

Nothing if not candid, Welch had harsh words for President Obama’s 2009 criticism of corporate travel to Las Vegas. Here's Welch: "Conventions are the rhythm of business.”

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

FaceSkype or Skypebook?

Rumors have been circulating for the last week that Facebook and Skype are close to announcing what Kara Swisher -- co-creator and co-host of The Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital conference, who broke the story -- calls "a significant and wide-ranging partnership that will include integration of SMS, voice chat, and Facebook Connect." Sounds great to me. I use Facebook and Skype every day, professionally and personally, in ways that are similar but distinct, and it feels intuitive to integrate their services in some way.

Their (hypothetical) partnership also seems like it would create a social-networking analogue for a face-to-face meeting experience -- with Facebook as the platform that brings people together (e.g., an annual conference) and Skype as a program that gets them talking (e.g., a networking reception). That's a pretty good thing, right?

Extra, Extra!: Convene Newsstand

Welcome back to ThisWeek@PCMA's online news supplement, Extra, Extra!. So what's meetings-industry news in late September/early October? Let's see:

Party planners will be happy to hear that, after two years of scaled-back (if not entirely canceled) celebrations, holiday parties are apparently back for 2010, according to a story in the Boston Herald. One COO of a restaurant-owning company said its clients did want to hold holiday events in the past couple of years, but that they didn't want to spend so much per person on a meal. Now, though, a senior vice president of the event-planning firm Best of Boston says that companies are planning parties designed to reward their employees, rather than raise a toast to the company's revenue. "It's not lavish, it's conservative, but it's definitely focused on employee recognition," said the senior VP. But the question remains: How will employee spouses feel about once again having to tag along to their significant other's office holiday party?

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Human Touch

This is a screen shot from Cisco's recent hybrid meeting, the 2010 Global Sales Experience (GSX). Cisco made its global sales meeting entirely virtual in 2009, but came back this year with a hybrid event that featured both face-to-face and virtual elements. (It wasn't a retreat from virtual; a hybrid meeting in 2010 was part of the plan all along.)

One thing that strikes me about the screen shot is the use of the hand-drawn word, "together," above. To my mind, it provides a much-needed human touch, creating a point of emotional connection on the computer screen. (You can watch a video about virtual collaboration in the planning and design process here. ) I personally am going to be watching to see how virtual meeting interfaces evolve to create a feeling that is more personal and less "digital."

Another thing to watch for: Angie Smith, who manages global sales operations for Cisco, is scheduled to be a featured speaker at Virtual Edge Summit 2011, which will be co-located with PCMA's Convening Leaders next January.

Her talk is one that I don't want to miss.

Friday, October 1, 2010

'Smaller Is Friendlier'

Erin Fuller, CAE, is group president of the Coulter Companies, which offers management, events, and consulting services for associations and other nonprofits -- meaning she has a lot of experience with a lot of different size meetings and conferences. In a post on Coulter's blog, she draws three conclusions about face-to-face meetings based on events that Coulter managed for two of its clients, the International Association of Continuing Education & Training (IACET) and Association Media & Publishing (AM&P):
1. Smaller is friendlier. This is actually stolen from Claridge's hotels, but rings true. The relatively intimate scale of the IACET and AM&P events made them feel special, and more like a celebration than a convention center filled with hundreds.
2. Bells and whistles might be overrated -- both events used a minimal amount of staging, production, signage and marketing.
3. We all obsess over lead time -- and just in time works just fine too. Neither event had a long lead time in terms of planning -- but the right people showed up just the same. When it is important, people will come.
The whole post is worth reading. And, lest you think Erin doesn't fully understand the intricacies of meeting planning, allow me to remind you of her last appearance on our blog. This is someone who knows what time it is.

Toss Out That Criticism Sandwich

In this interview with Stanford's Clifford Nass, a professor of communications and author of the new book The Man Who Lied to His Laptop, Nass, who directs the Communication between Humans and Interactive Media (CHIMe) Lab at Stanford, lists five key ways to build trust:

1. Flattery is underrated -- it's fantastic. Toss the "criticism sandwich."

2. Inconsistency is the single biggest threat to trustworthiness.

3. Most team-building exercises don't work. To be effective, they need to build team identification and foster interdependency between team members.

4. Negative emotions are the most important emotions in the workplace -- and must be dealt with well.

5. To be persuasive, focus on expertise and trustworthiness.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Convene On Site: ASAE Summit Awards

A quick impression from the ASAE Annual Summit Awards Dinner, held at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., last night: There's something to be said for matching a venue to the specific mission of a specific event. The dinner honored six associations for programs that have made the world a better place through initiatives that are flat-out inspiring, from the Food Bank for New York City's Earned Income Tax Credit program to the American Academy of Pediatrics' Helping Babies Breathe program to the American Automobile Association's School Safety Patrol program. And the venue was equally inspiring. The National Building Museum is one of D.C.'s grandest venues, a red-brick palace with a vast, soaring Great Hall dominated by eight 75-foot-high Corinthian columns; and last night, even the table settings (pictured above in a photo by Convene Account Executive Wendy Krizmanic) felt meaningfully ornate. It was the perfect setting in which to contemplate the heights of service to which all our organizations aspire.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Once Every 30 Years

In a Convene Reads item about the book Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea a few months ago, I wrote about a human-rights conference at which a North Korean defector named Hyuck had testified: "[M]aybe we can take some small comfort in the fact that conferences of the type that Hyuck attended ... are helping shine a light on situations like this."

But conferences don't just happen outside the impenetrable Stalinist monolith that is the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea. Today, the Workers' Party of Korea -- the country's ruling party -- convened in Pyongyang for its first meeting in 30 years, according to The New York Times, during which Kim Jong-Il was "renominated" as general secretary. One doesn't imagine there was much debate. One also wonders about the meeting planners tasked with setting up this conference, and what that RFP might have looked like.

The Next Volcanic Eruption?

As we wrote in a story in the current issue of Convene, the airplane-grounding volcanic eruption in Iceland that seemed to come out of nowhere last spring wasn't a surprise to everyone: Kevin Mellott, president of Erase Enterprises, warned his clients that volcanic activity would probably interrupt air travel in Europe during the first six months of 2010. Forewarned, they sent clients home from Europe on prearranged alternate routes.

Now Mellott is recommending paying attention to a sister Icelandic volcano -- Katla -- which is even bigger than Eyjafjallajökull and potentially could blow in the next year. There's lots of talk about the Katla on survivalist blogs, but also at conferences like mid-September's "Atlantic Conference on Eyjafjallajökull and Aviation" in Keflavik. In a summary, the conference chairman wrote that it was generally accepted by volcanologists that the probability of another volcanic eruption in Iceland or elsewhere in the coming years is "high" -- with Katla as the primary suspect.

Some sources were downplaying the likely effect of the volcano, but not Mellott. He also wasn't optimistic that many planners were paying attention to the potential of another eruption. "The intelligence is out there," he said. "It's just a question of whether anyone is looking for it."

NASA image of Eyjafjallajökull

Monday, September 27, 2010

Convene On Site: The Peabody Orlando, Part 2

The press trip to The Peabody Orlando wrapped up in fine fashion on Saturday night, with a four-course, wine-paired, Northern California-themed dinner at the hotel's sharp new restaurant -- and it also represented something new for me. In my two-and-a-half years with Convene -- working in the meetings industry in my own way -- this is the first event to which my wife accompanied me, meaning that for the first time I didn't get to my hotel room and immediately call her to say, "Boy, I wish you were here." Instead, we were lucky enough to be able to share a very nice experience, from the site tour to that four-course dinner to the daily walking of the Peabody Ducks. In that way, the press trip did what the best meetings and conferences do -- created a sense of common history, something that a certain group of people experienced together and can look back on warmly. Especially those ducks.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Convene On Site: The Peabody Orlando

On Thursday, The Peabody Orlando officially dedicated its $450-million expansion project, and this weekend the property is hosting a press trip to show off the results. And there's a lot of new stuff to show off -- such as 300,000 feet of beautifully designed meeting and convention space, a 31-story guest tower, a high-end spa and fitness center, and a swank cocktail lounge that wouldn't be out of of place on "Mad Men." That's on top of The Peabody Orlando's existing portfolio, which includes a prime location next to the Orange County Convention Center and, of course, the ever-lovable Peabody Ducks.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Bed Bug Battle Plan?

By now, you've surely heard about the first Annual North American Bed Bug Summit, held Tuesday and Wednesday at the Hyatt Rosemont in Chicago. The meeting brought together 14 of the world's leading entomologists to discuss the battle against bed bugs, which have come back with a vengeance in recent years, due most likely to the ban of pesticides like DDT.

Bed bugs are bad news for everyone -- they have closed down more than one store here in New York City, the bed-bug capital of the U.S. And, as a Wall Street Journal blog post points out, infestations inflict both physical and mental suffering. Although experts say that personal cleanliness is not a factor in infestation, there is considerable stigma attached to having bed bugs in your home or hotel.

Bed bugs are of particular relevance to the meetings industry because they can be spread, among other ways, through rented furniture, hotel mattresses, and luggage. So far, I haven't heard of any industry-wide campaign to address the bed bug surge, but it seems to me that a proactive, transparent, unified strategy would be a very good idea.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Welcome, Beck/Stewart/Colbert Nation!

I've written before about the pluses and minuses of living in a premier meeting destination like Washington, D.C., but I'm having problems figuring out whether the trio of "populist outrage" style events coming here over the course of two months is a plus or a minus. Glenn Beck kicked it off with his Restoring Honor rally, held at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, and Comedy Central's Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are following up with their own "dueling" events on Oct. 30 -- Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity and Colbert's March to Keep Fear Alive.

Leaving politics completely out of the equation: It's pretty cool to live somewhere that's identified as a symbolically important place to convene, even if Stewart and Colbert are mostly riffing off Beck for as many laughs as they can get. The flip side is that, depending on who's holding a symbolically important rally here, there's a segment of the population elsewhere that equates D.C. with everything that's wrong with the country. You try not to take that personally, but sometimes it gets to you.