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 VegasTripping.com, 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.