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).