Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Three Reasons to Thank Millennials

Convene's June cover story, "Generation Y Speaks," looks at the experiences and expectations of Millennials in the meetings industry, from a perspective that really shouldn't be as rare as it is: Gen Y's own point of view. (The author, senior editor Hunter Slaton, is himself a member of Gen Y.) The story reframes the conversation -- always a great way to bring fresh thinking to bear on a topic.

In the same issue, regular columnist Dave Lutz does a little reframing of his own, offering a list of ways that organizers could make conferences more Gen Y-friendly.

I was struck while reading Dave's list -- and a similar list he posted elsewhere -- that many of the things that would make Gen Y happy would make us all a little happier with the meetings we attend.

Here are three simple reasons, borrowed from Lutz, why we in the meetings industry should probably thank the nearest Millennial:

1. Millennials expect and demand access to free Wi-Fi. Most meeting attendees, even if they are not checking in on Foursquare, want to stay connected to their smart phones and laptops. At a recent conference I attended, I had to physically travel a couple of times a day to a spot where I could log on. It changed how I spent my time at the conference -- and not in a good way. I've come to feel entitled to access to free Wi-Fi, too.

2. Millennials are foodies. Forty percent, according to Lutz. And three cheers for that. Enjoying food and cooking are not limited to Gen Y, of course, but my experience is that Millennials are masters at making the connection between good food and living well. Have you ever been on a picnic with a Millennial? They don't pack lunch so much as curate it.) Trying to cater to the Millennial palate would likely mean better F&B experiences for everybody.

3. Millennials want to do cool things. They want to have experiences, not things, Lutz writes. That desire dovetails perfectly with brain research that emphasizes the role of experience and exploration in learning. We are hard-wired to be curious, and the most successful learning environments are those that allow us to interactive, according to molecular biologist John Medina. (For more from Medina, see the upcoming July issue.)

So if Millennials get what they want, we'll have more technologically seamless meetings, with great food, and richer, more valuable learning experiences.

Sounds pretty good to me.

Monday, June 28, 2010

'Busting a Move' at a Convention

Wikipedia defines "flash mob" as a "large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and pointless act for a brief time, then disperse." The term is applied only to "gatherings organized via telecommunications, social media, or viral e-mails."

Does it have a place in conventions? Since this seemingly spontaneous bit of entertainment interjects an element of surprise and fun, maybe it's not totally pointless. Last month, the "first ever restaurant industry flash mob dance" was coordinated by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) at the 2010 NRA Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show. According to NRA's website, the mob dance, set to Lady Gaga's "Just Dance," was choreographed by dancer Christina Chen (that's her in front), exclusively for the NRA show at Chicago's McCormick Place. The participants included show attendees, chefs, culinary students, exhibitors, and others:

Here's what happened when the Opera Company of Philadelphia performed a "Flash Brindisi" at the Reading Terminal Market:

Unusual, yes. Pointless, perhaps. But it's okay in my book if the only point of these flash performances is to surprise and delight audiences.

Extra, Extra!: Convene Newsstand

Each Monday, the newest Convene editorial staffer — which currently is yours truly, Senior Editor Hunter Slaton — rounds up meetings- and hospitality-industry news from the past week, in order to compile a top three-story list for inclusion in PCMA's Tuesday e-newsletter, called ThisWeek@PCMA.

So each Monday morning finds me combing through the past week's Google News Alerts and industry publication e-mails, and clicking on anything that seems interesting. My Web browser thus becomes stuffed to overflowing with interesting meetings-industry news items. Then I narrow down the list, write my stories, and send these along to my executive editor for review.

But so much gets left out! That's where it's good to have a blog. No more space limitations, ever! With that in mind, here are links to a handful of interesting stories that didn't make this week's newsletter:

On July 1, Starbucks will begin offering free Wi-Fi in all its coffee shops — including those in hotel lobbies. As any seasoned traveler knows, most hotels charge (a lot) for Internet access ... so will this cause guests to crowd hotel Starbucks in order to avoid "outrageous" hotel Wi-Fi fees?

If you've ever experienced sticker shock when shopping for, say, a couch, you'll be able to empathize with the Wilmington (N.C.) City Council, who recently authorized a quarter of a million dollars to furnish the town's forthcoming new 107,000-square-foot Wilmington Convention Center, opening in "late 2010." That's 2,500 chairs and 720 folding tables!

An airline made a 10-year-old throw away her pet turtle! (The airline denies that its employees ever told the girl that she had to throw away her pet in order to board the plane ... but the airline's employees also said that she could not get on the plane with the turtle, so you do the math.) Thankfully, another airline employee, a kindly ramp supervisor, rescued the turtle, which was later reunited with its owner.

Hotels might be getting a bit shabbier over the next few years, according to analysis by NYU Tisch Center divisional dean Bjorn Hanson. Total capital expenditures will be $3 billion in 2010, or 9 percent less than 2009's $3.3 billion and 45 percent below the record-setting $5.5 billion spent in 2008. Said Hanson: "In periods of declining industry performance, many discretionary projects, and even some items that might be noticeable to guests, are cancelled or postponed."

That's all the extra news for this week. Tune in next week for more meetings-industry news and ephemera (or, to receive our main-edition ThisWeek@PCMA e-newsletter — plus of course many, many more benefits — become a PCMA member).

* If you want to subscribe to PCMA's second weekly e-newsletter, UpComing@PCMA, which A) also features meetings-industry news items, B) is sent out every Thursday, and C) is open to non-members, you can do so by e-mailing your request to

Friday, June 25, 2010

Convene On Site: London, Part 3

The theme of the day here in London seems to be adaptability. The press trip in which I'm participating stuck to London Eastside today, and as we made our way from Borough Market, to the East End, to Olympic Park, to Canary Wharf, we heard one story after another of something old that has become new, or something tired that has been refreshed. We began to get a sense of that yesterday, when we learned that ExCeL London was built on the site of the Royal Victoria and the Royal Albert Docks -- the busiest docks in the world at one time, reduced to an industrial wasteland when they were selected as the side of the ExCeL project. And we saw plentiful evidence today as we toured the formerly downtrodden heart of working-class London, whose revival is most visibly symbolized in the huge Olympic Park project.

But maybe the best story reflecting Eastside's spirit of evolution came from Lance Forman, managing director (and fourth-generation owner) of H. Forman & Son, the oldest salmon smoker in the United Kingdom, whose combination factory, restaurant, and event venue is pictured above. As Mr. Forman offered a tour of his facility -- the closest venue to the new Olympic Stadium, which sits about 150 yards away -- he pointed out a squiggle of purple paint that a local graffiti artist had blasted onto his warehouse. Recently, he said, organizers of the Hackney Wicked Art Festival 2010 asked him if they could use Forman & Son as a venue, and he told them that they could -- provided that they identified the best local graffiti artists and had them decorate Forman's restrooms. Two artists ended up spending a week painting striking graffiti-style murals in the facility's men's and women's rooms. To me, this is a terrific form of CSR -- Mr. Forman made a decision to ignore the graffiti marring his warehouse and to invite local artists to contribute to a business that is helping revitalize their community.

Perhaps equally important, we had lunch this afternoon at Mr. Forman's eatery, Formans Restaurant and Bar, and it was rather amazing. But then, I would say that.

Sacred Time

I can't tell you how many times I've asked myself, "What city am I in again?" when traveling for business. If the extent of their host-destination experience is their hotel and the convention center — with maybe a restaurant or two thrown in for good measure — how can meeting attendees have a distinct impression of where they've been?

With the focus on cramming meeting itineraries with rich content to make sure attendees get what they came for, I hope we don't lose sight of the place they've traveled to. Giving meeting participants a few free hours between the end of a session and an evening event can be all they need to get a sense of their surroundings. Why not include suggestions for local activities, such as a short walking tour, in your conference program?

Sometimes, they'll just want to strike out on their own. An impromptu visit to an historic and cultural site, taken with friends and colleagues, can peg a meeting and its host destination in someone's mind for years to come.

Last week at the PCMA Education Conference in Montreal, Convene Account Executive Wendy Krizmanic, Scientific Societies Director of Meetings Betty Ford, and I took advantage of a few free hours to venture to St. Joseph's Oratory, on the northern slope of Mount Royal. Wendy snapped some photos (including the one above) while I filed the experience in my memory bank, where it will be linked with the conference as part of my wonderful experience in Montreal.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Convene On Site: London, Part 2

It's an interesting time to be in London, meeting people from the events industry, because in just two years, the city will host the biggest event in the world: the Summer Olympic Games. At the ICC London ExCeL Launch Event today, everybody was talking about that within the context of the ICC project, which doubles ExCeL's meeting space, and adds a 4,000-seat auditorium and a 3,000-person banquet hall. The consensus seems to be that, taken together, the ICC and the Olympics are a game-changer for London.

"People always want to come to London," Amanda Jobbins, vice president of European marketing for Cisco, said during a "London Future Forum" panel discussion at today's event. "Here with the ICC, they've got another reason." In January, Cisco will bring its annual Cisco Live conference to ExCeL -- the first time that the Europe-based event has been held in London.

In 2012, ExCeL will host seven Olympic sports and five Paralympic events. "The brilliance of 2012," said Daniel Ritterband, London's director of marketing, and another London Future Forum panelist, "is it's a catalyst." Added Bill Morris, director of culture, ceremonies, and education for the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games: "London is a wonderfully porous city that can welcome people from wherever. ... [The 2012] London [Olympics] will be truly spectacular, but in its own way."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Case for Lunch

Author Tony Schwartz (The Way We're Working Isn't Working) spread out red-and-white checked cloths on the grass at Madison Square Park in New York City at noon Wednesday, inviting busy New Yorkers to take a collective "Take Back Your Lunch" lunch break. He and his team -- Schwartz runs a consulting and coaching company called The Energy Project and is a frequent keynote speaker -- wore yellow t-shirts and passed out buttons, but the event was more than just another publicity stunt. It was meant to call attention to our rat-a-tat-tat work habits and the effect that that has on the work we produce, not to mention our health and quality of life.

Most of us spend our days like the proverbial hamster on a wheel: A Huffington Post poll found that sixty percent of people take less than 20 minutes a day for lunch, 20 percent took less than 10 minutes, and 25 percent never left their desks at all.

"That's crazy," Schwartz said.

Human beings aren't meant to work to like machines, he added. His assertion, based on his survey of interdisciplinary research, is that we are far more productive when we "pulse" between periods of expending and renewing our energy. We naturally oscillate between higher and lower alertness in 90-minute cycles. Taking regular breaks to renew intermittently through the day with food, rest, and exercise is not only healthy and enjoyable, "It drives productivity," he said. "Employers should be pushing employees out the door," pressing them to take breaks, he said.

It's not a way of thinking that gets a lot of support in the mainstream work culture, where demands are ever-increasing and only sissies take breaks. But a shift in that mentality has got to take place, said Schwartz, whose clients list includes Google, Apple, and the Cleveland Clinic.

The collective lunch break in the park will continue in Madison Square Park on Wednesdays all summer long. More than 50 "Take Back Your Lunch" meet-ups in 50 locations in eight countries also took place today -- a remarkable rally considering that the campaign was launched just a week ago.

Said Schwarz: It just goes to show "that there's a hunger --literally and metaphorically -- for it."

Convene On Site: London

This is the view from the Executive Lounge of the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, which is the host hotel for a press trip that Visit London has organized around the opening ceremony for London ExCeL's new International Convention Centre (ICC). (Apologies for the photo quality, but it's not too bad considering I snapped it using the Photo Booth app on my MacBook Pro laptop.) If you've got to get some work done on a beautiful summer day in a gorgeous European capital, this isn't a bad place to do it.

The ICC event is tomorrow, and the neat thing about it is that ExCeL has organized something that's much more than a photo opportunity. In fact, it's a day-long meeting, with a forum on how cities can attract business opportunities, a media briefing by London Mayor Boris Johnson, a keynote presentation, networking, and more. Makes sense, because what better way to show off a new conference center than by hosting an actual conference?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ice Skating with A SocialFish

The rave-reviewed presentation above, was created by Maddie Grant, CAE, of SocialFish, and Ben Martin, CAE, for ASAE's Marketing and Membership Conference last week. As Maddie says, it's pretty self-explanatory, and as commenters on her blog agree, it's pretty fabulous.

So what is Prezi? Here's how Executive Editor Chris Durso memorably described it in our April issue:

Click after click after click takes you all over that first slide, twisting and zooming and scanning, and only when the presentation is over do you realize that the first slide is the only slide - a single canvas ... This is Prezi, a presentation application launched about a year ago whose creators call it "visualization and storytelling without slides." Think of it like PowerPoint in 360 degrees. Wearing ice skates.

Have you tried Prezi? Do you have a favorite presentation to share?

By the way, we talked to Maddie and her partner, Lindy Dreyer, in the February issue of Convene.

Convene Reads: The Imperfectionists

During its short life, Convene Reads has confined itself to nonfiction -- until now. Yes, that's right, meetings and conferences are also part of the world of make-believe, including the new novel The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman, which is a wry look at an English-language international newspaper based in Rome. At one point, the paper's editor-in-chief, Kathleen Solson, she participates in a panel discussion at a media conference that will sound familiar to any meeting planner who has created "the future of our industry"-style programming:
The subject of the panel discussion is "How the International Press Views Italy," an enduring preoccupation in the country. She resents having to attend -- it's clearly a task for their young publisher, Oliver Ott. But he has gone missing again and ignores her phone calls. So the conference is left to Kathleen and the paper must manage in her absence. It is not managing well, if the constant stream of text messages on her BlackBerry is any indication.
"Will the newspaper industry survive?" the mediator asks her.
"Absolutely," she tells the audience. "We'll keep going, I assure you of that. Obviously, we're living in an era when technology is moving at an unheralded pace. I can't tell you if in fifty years we'll be publishing in the same format. Actually, I can probably tell you we won't be publishing in the same way,  that we'll be innovating then, just as we are now. But I assure you of this: news will survive, and quality coverage will always earn a premium. Whatever you want to call it -- news, text, content -- someone has to report it, someone has to write it, someone has to edit it. And I intend for us to do it better, no matter the medium."
Is it me, or do Kathleen's remarks work equally well as a stirring defense of face-to-face meetings?

Monday, June 21, 2010

My Personal-Technology Event Horizon

According to Clarke's Third Law, coined by science-fiction author and futurist Arthur C. Clarke: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." But this morning, I discovered that, at least for me, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from wallpaper.

I was using Skype to interview someone in Europe. And, as we sat thousands of miles apart and chatted face-to-face, I thought to myself what I always think when I participate in a free transatlantic videoconference: "For someone old enough to have been introduced to long-distance communication with rotary phones and evening and weekend rates, this modern world is incredible." Meanwhile, I failed to notice that my digital recorder, which I'd placed near one of the speakers on my laptop to capture the interview, had run out of memory and was no longer recording.

And there you have it -- okay, there I have it -- the promise and the peril of this modern world. Or maybe just my personal-technology event horizon: the point at which my many devices have receded into the background, outside the boundaries of my perception, continuing to operate quietly, seamlessly, and flawlessly, with no attention or upkeep from me.

Fortunately, the person I was interviewing could not have been more gracious. I explained what happened, excused myself and hung up, erased some files from my recorder, and Skyped him back within about 10 minutes. But I'm curious if something like this has happened to any meeting professionals while they were on site, perhaps while a program was underway. Has a critical piece of technology functioned so effectively that you've stopped paying attention to it -- only to have it go stealthily, silently go dark? And what did you do when that happened?

Tweeting a Meeting

One final thought about the 2010 Association Media & Publishing Annual Meeting: A big priority this year was to involve AM&P members in general and Annual Meeting attendees in particular with the conference via social media -- especially Twitter. As co-chair of the Annual Meeting Committee, I tried to set a good example by tweeting before, during, and after the event. During the actual three days of the Annual Meeting, I tweeted more than I ever have, firing off at least one takeaway -- and usually several -- from every session I attended. We were running a live Twitter feed of our hashtag in the exhibit hall, which was also the scene of every lunch, coffee break, and other networking event throughout the meeting, so a lot of people saw it, and were motivated to dive into the maelstrom of tweets, replies, and retweets. Some people even created Twitter accounts on the spot so they could join the conversation.

It was a great hands-on learning experience -- a true living laboratory for social media -- except that at a certain point I found myself listening to speakers not as an attendee who wanted to be educated but as a twitterer who wanted to entertain. I was focusing on sound-bite takeaways that would lend themselves to 140 characters (or fewer, ideally, so people would be encouraged to retweet me). When I realized that, I pulled back from Twitter a bit; instead of instantly tweeting every nugget that came my way, I took old-fashioned handwritten notes, and after a session wrapped up I tweeted whatever seemed tweetable. Maybe I cut myself off from Twitter's instant feedback loop, but at least for a moment, it's what I needed to do.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friends at Work

I've made two big moves in the last ten years, first from Oklahoma City to Silicon Valley, and then from Silicon Valley to New York City. Both times, it's been hard to leave jobs and houses -- I still miss our front porch swing next to the honeysuckle vine back in Oklahoma, and keep buying rosemary-mint soap because it reminds me of weeding my garden in California.

But I knew both times that -- by far -- what I would miss the most were my friends. Not just intimate, talk-until-2-in the morning friends, but my work buddies. People whom I could depend on to make me laugh, give me sound advice, and to be generous about sharing the currency of any workplace: information. And who, in turn, looked to me for the same things.

Tom Rath's book, Vital Friends: The People You Can't Afford to Live Without, confirms for me what I already had learned about friends in general: the quality of our friendships are the best predictors of daily happiness and life satisfaction.

But I was surprised to learn how important our work buddies are to the quality of our work:

Rath found that people who have a "best friend" at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their work. They also have fewer accidents, more engaged customers, and are more likely to innovate and share new ideas. Close friendships at work boosts employee satisfaction by almost 50 percent.

I think that sheds light on why meetings are so important. We go to learn new things, but we also to make new friends and to reconnect with old ones. Friendship is not just a frill, it's vital to our happiness and success.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Shout-Out to Some Peeps

The keynote speaker at the 2010 AM&P Annual Meeting (have I mentioned that I helped plan it?) on Tuesday morning was Debra Leithauser, editor of The Washington Post Magazine. Debra is the first one to tell you that her lasting contribution to the Post thus far is the Peeps Diorama Contest, an Easter-timed competition that invites readers to use everyone's favorite marshmallow-based zoomorphic candy as the basis of some kind of three-dimensional tableau. The results are insanely creative, insanely funny, and, in some cases, just insane.

Where did Debra get the idea for the contest, which she introduced to Post readers in 2007 when she was editor of the paper's "Sunday Source" section, and which this year drew more than 1,110 entries? Oh, gee, Convene blog reader, where do you think? Of course it was at a meeting. In 2006, she attended the American Association of Sunday and Features Editors Annual Conference, heard someone talk about their paper's Peeps contest, and was sold. "This is not necessarily high journalism," Debra told AM&P attendees on Tuesday, "but it is high fun. And it's a way for us to connect with readers."

PHOTOS: Bill O'Leary / The Washington Post

Kirk Bauer on Leadership

Because of the way the world works, some of the most interesting things that our current Leading by Example profile, Disabled Sports USA Executive Director Kirk Bauer, had to say when I interviewed him were around the topic of leadership -- and we didn't have room for many of them in the article. So we're pleased to present -- as a Convene blog exclusive! -- some choice quotes from a man whose leadership style was born in the jungles of Vietnam:

As a noncommissioned officer with the U.S. Army's Ninth Infantry Division arriving in the Mekong Delta in 1969: "Because I was a new insert into an existing unit, I did not go in with the attitude that 'Hey, I'm in charge. You're gonna do what I say. Screw you if you don’t.' Mine was more to work with the unit that I had to get them to jointly assume the responsibility that we had to go on operations and do what we needed to do, and to lead by example. I was very, very adamant about that. For instance, when I first got in there, one of the most dangerous jobs was walking point, because you were either exposed to ambushes, sniper fire, or booby traps, and you were basically the person who cleared the way as you were going through the ridge line and across the paddies and along the hedge rows and in the jungle. I felt that if I was going to ask other individuals in my unit to walk point that I needed to share that responsibility. I finally was told by my commanding officer that that wasn't my job -- that I was supposed to be commanding this unit. So I had to pull back on that, but I felt that it was important that I showed to my men that I wasn't afraid to walk point and that I was willing to assume responsibility so I could ask them to assume responsibility at critical times. That is the way I approached things."

The evolution of his leadership style at Disabled Sports USA: "When you're dealing with an organization that's got little chapters and power centers all over the country, you sometimes tend to be -- I developed a little bit of an autocratic style, because you really have to keep people together. Everybody wants to go off in different directions, so it was a little bit of 'This is the way we're gonna do it. If you want to work with us, this is what you gotta do.' But at some point, I realized as executive director that that only carries you so far, that you really have to start listening to what the local community people, what your constituents, are wanting or needing, and then start responding to that. I learned in the late-'80s, probably the mid-'90s, that I needed to begin to change my method of leadership from one that very much pushed it on them so we could create some order, to starting to make it more of a give-and-take -- listening, doing surveys. We started having meetings where we would go to an event of chapter leaders and say, 'What do you think of this?' We started surveying participants and looking at what their responses were."

Look for additional content from our interview with Kirk -- including audio snippets -- in future blog posts.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Should I Have Commuted to My Meeting?

The 2010 Association Media & Publishing (AM&P) Annual Meeting, which I blogged about the other day, finished up this afternoon, and after three long days of programming and events, I'm relieved and disappointed, and happy and sad, that it's over, which I'm guessing isn't that unusual a cocktail of emotions for a meeting planner to experience once a show is over.

Not. That. I. Think. That. I'm. A. Real. Meeting. Planner.

But, as the co-chair of the 2010 AM&P Annual Meeting Committee, I did help organize the meeting, played a major role in shaping its content, and was there every morning before programming began and every night after things wrapped up, serving as a kind of host and cruise director. Which brings me to the only takeaway that my tired brain seems capable of remembering tonight: Commuting to a conference as an attendee/volunteer is really ... challenging. The AM&P Annual Meeting was held in Washington, D.C., where I live, so I headed home every night, but usually not until nine or 10 o'clock -- only to be back at seven the next morning. In retrospect, perhaps this was a mistake, because it even though I was fully involved as an attendee and a volunteer leader, and even though I couldn't be prouder of the event we put together, I'm not sure that I was immersed in the experience of the meeting to the fullest extent possible.

Have you ever planned and worked a meeting that was held in the city where you lived? Did you stay at the conference hotel, or go home every night? Is there a case to be made for each approach?

A Moveable Seat

For our July issue, which is just going to press, I had a long conversation with the effervescently thoughtful Mark Greiner, senior vice president and chief experience officer at Steelcase, which manufactures office furniture.

But having Steelcase on the brain doesn't account for my reaction to the new school desk that Steelcase and IDEO have just unveiled: the Node. (I saw if first on Fast Company's blog.) I can't help but think how much I would love to walk into a breakout and see a few dozen of these waiting. The chair swivels, the work surface adapts for lefties and righties, there's storage for your bag. And the whole thing is on wheels, for unlimited configuring and reconfiguring, into small groups or in a rectangle, conference-table style.

Is it just me, or do you want one, too?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Climbing Everest Virtually

Mountaineer Jamie Clarke knocked it out of the park yesterday at the 2010 PCMA Education Conference in Montreal, speaking passionately about the failures he encountered along the way to successfully summiting Mt. Everest. Clarke made us laugh, made us think, and made some of us mist up. He kept me, along with the entire audience, on the edge of our seats -- although the particular seat I was sitting in was 300 miles away in my home office in New York.

It's not the first time I've gotten great content by logging on remotely to a conference -- last February I wrote about logging into the Virtual Edge Summit. But this is the first time the experience has felt so emotionally compelling, or that I have felt so much a part of the experience. I think there are two reasons for that.

First, Clarke is a master storyteller. He used details brilliantly to convey experience -- I could almost smell chocolate-chip cookies baking in his mother's kitchen, and taste the cups of tea brewed in at base camp as Clarke spoke. (Um, yuk, if you happened to hear the talk. Watch it here if you missed it.) Clarke broke the rules, exceeding the length of time that conventional wisdom says is an appropriate time to speak. But at 45 minutes in, the energy in the room was palpable, even when delivered via streaming video

And secondly, the remote audience was skillfully and warmly invited into the experience by Jessica Levin and Mike McCurry. They greeted those who made their virtual presence known and kept tabs on the quality of the video experience. There wasn't a lot of tweeting going on during the talk -- it was that mesmerizing -- but our online exchanges had the feel of shared glances and nods. There was a consensus about what stood out in Clarke's talk, arrived at by way of tweets and retweets: Failure is a good teacher, if you can just boot your ego out of the way. Success doesn't come in one big, individual leap, it comes through collectively facing down difficulties, one by one. Family and relationships matter more than anything. Including online relationships, as Mike McCurry pointed out.

There's been a lot of talk about whether or not videoconferencing will hurt face-to-face meetings. As satisfying as it was to be in the remote audience, I can't imagine that any of us wouldn't have rather been there in person.

Or hasn't made a mental note: 2011?

P.S. Jamie Clarke talked about about embracing adventure and climbing your own Everest in the July issue of Convene.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Today I'm a Meeting Planner. Of Sorts.

For my entire career, I've been a reporter and editor, which means I've spent my professional life writing about things that other people do. But this morning, with the start of the 2010 Association Media & Publishing (AM&P) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., I'm a practitioner in my own right. And not just any practitioner -- for the next three days, I'm an honest-to-goodness meeting planner. Of sorts.

I'm a member of the AM&P Board of Directors, in which capacity I'm co-chair of the 2010 Annual Meeting Planning Committee. So for the last year or so, I've helped put together a conference for association publishing professionals that includes a half-day pre-conference workshop, an awards dinner, two general sessions, an exhibit hall, roundtables, nearly two dozen education sessions, and lots of networking events. And it's been instructive and just plain fun to, in some very small way, do what the professionals for whom I write in Convene do every single day.

I'm planning on writing an article about my experiences planning the AM&P Annual Meeting in a near-future issue of Convene. But, meanwhile, if you have a spare moment between now and Wednesday, direct some positive energy toward Washington, where one of your editors will be trying like heck to practice what he preaches.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Drive in Pictures

Remember Dan Pink? We interviewed him about his new book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. And remember "graphic recording" -- which involves illustrating a presentation as it's happening? We wrote about it as part of an Innovative Meetings article about ASAE's Global Summit on Social Responsibility in 2008. Now, Drive and graphic recording come together in an RSA Animate video that sketches out one of Dan's talks. It's totally fun, totally interesting, and totally memorable -- the triple-threat of meetings and conferences.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Patience, Bigfoot, and Other Myths

At the Mashable Media Summit held yesterday in Manhattan, CollegeHumor co-founder and CEO Ricky Van Veen presented his list of "10 Web Content Urban Legends." Meeting planners who want to promote their upcoming event using online content should take note — unless, of course, you've already stopped reading: According to Van Veen, in his remarks regarding Myth No. 2 — "People will be patient with your content" — "35% tune out soon after starting to watch a web video."

What does that mean for aspiring online meeting marketers? It means you better make it interesting — and quick. In that spirit, here are Van Veen's 10 Web Content Urban Legends, followed by a video of his talk. But it's 40 minutes long. So don't feel guilty if you tune out. (The 10 Legends portion of the keynote starts at about the 4:10 mark.)

Myth #1). People will want to watch your branded content.
Myth #2). People will be patient with your content.
Myth #3). People will find your content.
Myth #4). The Internet is a level playing field.
Myth #5). We have no idea why things go viral.
Myth #6). Experience beats documentation.
Myth #7). You should build your own community and tools.
Myth #8). Keep things professional.
Myth #9). Traditional media is irrelevant to the web.
Myth #10). People will create good content for you.


You think you've got an enticing exhibit hall? Ha! The AV Club files a report from the Willy Wonka's chocolate factory of show floors -- the National Confectioners Association's Sweets & Snacks Expo, which this year was held at Chicago's McCormick Place on May 25-27. Before offering a surprisingly nuanced report on the (many, many) candies they sampled, The AV Club's editors take a stab at creating a greater context for their sugar binge:
The 2010 Sweets & Snacks Expo felt more restrained than in years past, with fewer big product rollouts and tight security that limited what attendees could take out the door.
Then it's off to the buffet. A quick look at the event's website shows there were also keynote sessions, but the real business of the Sweets & Snacks Expo is buying and selling, which also means sampling. Lots and lots of sampling.

But what about the meeting professionals working behind the scenes at a show like this? Civilians assume it must be a blast for them, because, hey, free candy! But no matter how fun (or scrumptious) the industry, on a certain level a meeting is a meeting, no?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

June 2010 Issue: Live!

The digital edition of our June issue is hot off the binary equivalent of a web-fed offset printing press, and it's a good one. The cover story, " Generation Y Speaks," by Senior Editor Hunter Slaton, cuts through the conversation swirling around the Millennial generation by talking directly to a variety of its members working in the meetings industry. Whatever your feelings about Gen Y-ers, some of them almost certainly are your colleagues, and all of them most definitely are our future; and Hunter's article just might help you understand and appreciate them a little more. Other highlights:

Update -- Crisis Response: The Icelandic volcano eruption and the Nashville flood happened while we were putting the June issue together, and had such an immediate and direct impact on meetings and conferences in the United States and around the world that we created a new department to address them. Learn how meeting professionals on the ground responded to these disasters.

Convene Salary Survey 2009: Is the recession over? Not for respondents to our latest Salary Survey -- fewer than half of whom took home more money last year than they did the year before.

Leading by Example: Meet Kirk Bauer, who lost a leg in Vietnam, and who for the last 28 years has served as executive director of Disabled Sports USA -- bringing to people with disabilities the healing power of skiing, cycling, climbing, swimming, and dozens of other sports. Keep checking back to the blog for more photos and audio clips from our interview with Kirk.

"Social Media + Meetings": A recent online survey finds that when it comes to meeting professionals using social-media tools at their events, 12 percent are working it, 49 percent are working on it, and 14 percent are nowhere.

"The CMP Hits the Quarter-Century Mark": Contributing Editor Sara Torrence, CMP, honors the Certified Meeting Professional designation on the occasion of its 25th birthday, and runs down the latest developments for the industry's most widely recognized credential.

International Meetings: Ben Goedegebuure, sales director for the Scottish Exhibition + Conference Center, responds to James F. Hollan III's International Meetings column in our April issue -- in which Hollan explained how "North American planners and European or Asian venues come to the negotiating table with very different expectations."

Frame of Mind: A Q&A with international mountaineer and PCMA 2010 Education Conference keynoter Jamie Clarke -- from his base camp on Mt. Everest. No, really.

Other Duties as Assigned: In the second installment of our new back-page department, Vicky Betzig, CMP, talks about the one meeting where it was very helpful to be able to speak French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Portuguese.

Look for the text-only version of the June issue on the Convene homepage sometime within the next week.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Convene Reads: The Poisoner's Handbook

Contrary to what "CSI" and "Quincy, M.E." might have us believe, science-based criminal investigation hasn't always been a fact of life. In The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, Deborah Blum tells the fascinating story of how forensic toxicology came to be -- and how easy it once was to poison someone and get away with it. The heroes of her story are Charles Norris, who in 1918 was appointed the first-ever chief medical examiner of New York City, and Alexander Gettler, Norris' toxicologist. Together, Norris and Gettler helped elevate and standardize the field of forensic medicine, with a particular emphasis on toxic industrial products such as arsenic, mercury, carbon monoxide, chloroform, and radium. How did they do it? Well, in 1922, there was this meeting:
That September Norris caught a train to Washington, D.C., to meet with representatives from other cities -- a coroner's physician from Chicago, a pathologist from Johns Hopkins, a chemistry expert from Cornell Medical College, and the revered medical examiner from Boston, George McGrath, who had created one of the first professional programs in the country. They agreed to form a committee, pool their resources, and hire someone to investigate the state of forensic medicine through the country -- "the training and qualifications of the men performing this important work in the various large cities" -- so that they could start setting some national standards.
A face-to-face meeting and an initiative to create national standards. Is there nothing new under the sun?