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.