Thursday, March 31, 2011

Meetings as Structures

Sustainability in architecture is not a trend, it is now a given -- like inside plumbing, New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger said last night at the Tenement Museum in New York's Lower East Side. Goldberger also shared his top two favorite places in New York -- which turned out to be not buildings at all, but Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge --- as well as his views on "starchitects," the function of memorials in American culture, and the transforming power of architecture.

The evening made me think. About the built environment of New York City, but also about the parallels between events and buildings, how meetings can be seen as structures for creating community. They can play a role -- if a much more temporary one -- similar to that of architecture in shaping our social environment and interactions with each other.

Goldberger appeared at the museum as part of the "Tenement Talks" series, which occur every week, and sometimes more often. The events are far from fancy -- participants sip inexpensive wine from plastic cups, and sit on folding chairs. The main thing, however, is talk -- the series brings in an fascinating array of authors, academics, artists, and performers to speak about everything from historic waterfront strikes to Jewish cooking to Civil War history.

I love the museum, but I became a member because of Tenement Talks -- even though admission to them is almost always free.   I want to support them, because they connect me to people who share my interests.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Don't Let Takeaways Get Away

In Convene's March issue, we talked with executive coaching firm Building Champions about a common problem: attendees whose personal and professional lives are moving so fast,  they have a hard time absorbing the new ideas they encounter meetings. Notes taken with great enthusiasm and the best of intentions end up tucked into files, and then ... nothing. 

There's even a name for it: The Law of Diminishing Intent -- the longer you wait to implement an idea, the less enthusiasm you will have for it. 

Building Champions CEO Daniel Harkavy has hit on a way to interrupt that pattern: last fall, a few weeks after the World Business Forum, Harkavy conducted a post-conference coaching call for attendees. In 45 minutes, he pared down two days of information to a succinct list of takeaways, with concrete suggestions on how to put ideas into action. 

PCMA's Christine Melendes
Over the last weeks, Christine Melendes, CAE, PCMA’s director of member relations, has  been guest blogging about her experience at the second annual Event Camp National Conference,  held in Chicago February 11-13. Today, Christine also is acting as "guest executive coach," stirring up the pot, and sharing her list of takeaways from the meeting. Here's her list of standout points:

Hybrid Events

* Nobody has all the answers.  Find a technology partner that you feel comfortable working with and put together a program that fits the needs of your organization. 
* Bring in more people to work on the virtual end than you think you’ll need – because you’ll need them.
* Adding a camera facing the audience will help the virtual audience get a better sense of what it feels like to be at the meeting, interacting with F2F attendees
* Adequately communicate the link needed to join online in advance. Make sure you help people get to the party.
* Build your event with a virtual audience in mind.
* Give the virtual audience tasks that keep them engaged
* Be authentic when interacting with virtual audience – don’t use a script

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Night on Earth

This past Saturday, at 8:30pm local time, cities, landmarks, and buildings in 134 countries around the world — including many convention centers and hotels — turned off their lights to mark Earth Hour 2011.

The event was begun in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, where more than two million people and 2,000 businesses turned off their lights for an hour to bring attention to climate change, energy consumption, and sustainability.

As the pictures linked below will attest, Earth Hour this year was a startling and moving reminder of our relatively small place in the cosmos, and how special the wet, green ball where we all live is.

Monday, March 28, 2011

March 2011 Issue: Live!

With April looming at the end of the week, it's probably time to get around to our March issue -- the digital edition of which you'll find here. It's a fat, data-packed issue with a fat, data-packed cover story on the landmark Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy study (unveiled just last month), whose big magic number is emblazoned on our cover. You'll also find pages of sharply designed tables and charts that track exactly how much the meetings industry contributes to the economy in terms of direct spend, taxes, room nights, full- and part-time employment, and more. Also in this issue:

Meetings Market Survey: Our 20th Annual Meetings Market Survey is a perfect complement to the Economic Significance study, with hard info about the state of the industry based on a comprehensive survey of meeting professionals. In a nutshell: They feel pretty good about things.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Convene On Site: IACC-Americas

One of my favorite things about meetings is that they involve so many different facets of human experience -- education, conversation, entertainment, food, aesthetics, travel, and on and on. Judging by the Thought Leader Summit that kicked off the IACC Americas Chapter 2011 Annual Conference on Wednesday, I'm not the only one who feels this way, because what was most notable about the lineup of panelists was their varied areas of expertise: Terri Breining, CMP, CMM, principal with the Breining Group and a practitioner of Meeting Architecture (read a Convene article about that here); Bob Dean, director of North American business for Profiling Online and a Certified Experience Economy Expert; Richard D. Flanagan, a trained psychologist, consultant, and author of The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning: How to Turn Training and Development Into Business Results; Andrea E. Sullivan, a speaker, trainer, and instructional designer; Amy Wickenheisser, CMP, hotel manager for the Hamilton Park Hotel & Conference Center in Florham Park, N.J.; and Jeff Vredevoogd, director of education solutions for Herman Miller.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Convene On Site: CGA Focus Forum

Greater Phoenix CVB's James Jessie
You might think that when it comes to creating sustainable events, there's nothing new under the sun. (Which, it should be noted, is a renewable energy source.) But yesterday's ASAE Convene Green Alliance Focus Forum at the Marriott Washington Wardman Park in Washington, D.C., suggested otherwise. Riffing on St. Patrick's Day, the theme was "Going Beyond Green: Legacy Projects and More," with panelists Jim Clapes, manager of Greenbuild conference and events for the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC); Sara Schoen, commercial market development associate for USGBC; and James Jessie, senior vice president of sales for the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau, which sponsored yesterday's program. Each speaker had a new or interesting twist on a topic that in the wrong hands can feel played out.

Thinking About Japan

Coming to the end of a long, terrible week for Japan, there's not much to do but try to help keep the focus on what seems sure to be an ongoing crisis. You can make a donation to the Red Cross via PCMA's homepage. And you can read the latest update from the Japan National Tourism Organization here; it begins on a simple, heartfelt note that makes you want to cry: "We are grateful for the warm support and thoughts from many people after the historic earthquake in Japan on March 11."

Let's do what we can to keep the warm support and thoughts coming in the weeks and months to come.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Event Camp National ... By the Tweets

Image courtesy
Christine Melendes, CAE, PCMA’s director of member relations, returns with the second installment  of a three-part series on the second annual Event Camp National Conference,  held in Chicago February 11-13.  (Her first post is here.)

One of the beautiful things about Twitter -- and having a great group of people to follow at an event -- is that they oftentimes capture key nuggets of information from a speaker before you can.  

So I have recapped some of the tweets from Event Camp (#ecnc) that still are resonating with me a month later. I’ve added my own two cents on the sessions at the end.

Here are Saturday's speakers, followed by key tweets -- ones that get right to the core of the speaker's message:

Speaker: Glenn Thayer

The virtual attendee needs to step up and take responsibility for their experience . Tell us what you want! #ecnc

Repurpose content to drive online traffic for the next year. - Thayer #ecnc #ectc

Speaker: Chris Brogan

Use headline tips from TMZ, Cosmo or Oprah to draw people into your community says @chrisbrogan #ecnc

Speaker: Hank Wasiak

I love the positive examples that @hankwasiak is showing. Positivity is powerful. #Ecnc

@lizkingevents: Coach youself. Don't criticize. Think of how you can learn and be aspirational. #ecnc #lke

Look at others as an asset & change the way you see relationships says @hankwasiak #ecnc

Use the 5:1 ratio: Focus on 5 good things for every 1 bad thing #ECNC #eventprofs

Monday, March 14, 2011

#sxswcares about Japan

As the images of the massive devastation in Japan continue to flow in, there comes the time when you just have to do something.

And that's what happened at SXSW Interactive, in Austin, where Rob Wu of the digital fund-raising platform CauseVox, and bloggers Leigh Durst from LivePath and Deb Ng launched a social media campaign to raise funds to aid in the disaster just hours after it occurred, using the hashtag #sxswcares and a quickly assembled website,

The campaign, which partnered with the Red Cross,  began with a goal of $10,000 -- which it quickly reached. It is halfway to its new goal of  $50,000.

There will be lots of talk about the influence of social media at SXSW this week. As Deb Ng wrote on her blog, "If we can't do some good, then all our talk about influence is just that: talk."

Unearthing a Natural Disaster

Disclaimer: This post is tied to the meetings industry with a very thin thread.

It was probably poor timing. But yesterday, with heartbreaking images of disaster-torn Japan still fresh in our minds, my family and I stepped back in time to experience another natural disaster: Mount Vesuvius' eruption some 2,000 years ago, at the Pompeii exhibit at Discovery Times Square museum in New York City.

I was fortunate to visit the Pompeii ruins several years ago with my husband, during his company's incentive trip to Italy. Being in the actual setting is mind-blowing. But to see such a large collection of artifacts so miraculously preserved — including an entire room of body casts of people consumed by heat and ash — from a faraway land and time in your own backyard, well, it packs its own kind of punch.

The exhibit gives visitors a glimpse of a far more advanced society than we might imagine — from medical instruments to indoor plumbing to food prep. Case in point: Pompeii was likely the first fast-food — and drive-thru — destination. People pulled up to food stalls in their chariots, where they could have a dish prepared on the spot for them in something of a clay "hibachi." (Hint, there's the F&B link to our industry.)

Less surprising, considering it's the world's oldest profession, are the brothel rooms uncovered by excavations in Pompeii. One such room is cleverly tucked away at the exhibit.

And I guess that qualifies as my hospitality connection.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The World-Changing Way We Meet Now

"Can meetings save the world?" we asked in our January cover story.

Our focus was on what we termed  "big-tent, big-idea" meetings -- from the Clinton Global Initiative to PopTech -- which bring together the world's leading thinkers and activists to train their attention on the world's biggest problems.

Central to the story was the question:  Can the the way we meet change how meetings change the world?

"Movements can be spawned around the social interactions generated at conferences," one meeting designer told us. So, what happens when technology -- in the form of video, livestreaming, and social media --  greatly accelerates the number of those social interactions?

One example to watch is Tina Brown's Women in the World Summit, in New York City today and tomorrow. Brown's conference is taking on truly thorny problems, like sex trafficking in the United States, war's effect on women, and empowering women in democracies.   The conference is being livestreamed today and tomorrow -- wherever you happen to be, you are invited to listen in and take part in the conversation.

Central to the story is the idea that these meetings are about real change, not just talking about change.  Last year's inaugural Women in the World summit resulted in donations to schools in Kenya and the establishment of a peace foundation in Liberia, and Brown is ramping up the active funding of solutions at this year's conference.

What are your thoughts:  Can meetings save the world?

Then Why Don't You Marry It? Durham, N.C., That Is?

One of my favorite ways to tease my two daughters is with the classic "Then why don't you marry it?" formulation. As in:
Daughter #1: I love this book! 
Me: Then why don't you marry it?
Daughter #2: I love pizza!
Me: Then why don't you marry it?
And so on. The older my daughters get, the easier it is to annoy them with this; from my point of view, it's what leadership and management consultants call a win-win. So imagine my joy when my colleague Barbara Palmer alerted me to the fact that it's not just me who gets a kick out of this. There's also the entirety of Durham, N.C., where a volunteer-led event called Marry Durham is offering residents to prove their love by joining the city in holy matrimony next Saturday, March 19 -- as a way to raise money for five local nonprofits.

From the website: "On Saturday, March 19, 2011, Marry Durham is inviting all who love Durham to join us in a mass civil union, a parade, and a reception to affirm our dedication and devotion to the Bull City. Our vows will include commitments to keeping our streets clean and safe, protecting our natural resources, shopping locally, supporting the arts and local non-profit organizations, cherishing diversity, and electing responsible leaders."

Can I just say, I love the idea behind Marry Durham so much, I want to marry it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lessons from the World's First Twitter-Fueled Flight

In February, Convene wrote about the world's first Twitter-demanded flight: a Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM)  March 21 nonstop flight between Amsterdam and Miami added to the schedule by the collaborative efforts, via Twitter, of KLM and the Dutch electronic dance community.

A quick recap: KLM already was planning nonstop service between the two cities in late March -- but just a a bit too late for attendees of the Ultra Music Festival.  When a Dutch DJ joked that there were more than enough Miami-bound house music fans to fill a plane, KLM challenged the Dutch music-lovers to do just that. KLM set a deadline of a week to ten days -- and in just one day, the hashtag group set up for the purpose, #fly2miami, had generated enough applications for the flight to be scheduled.

I followed the #fly2miami hashtag while writing the story and have continued to keep an eye on it  -- even though I can't read Dutch. There have been more than enough posts in English for me to see how #fly2miami  has become a source of information, not just about air travel, but about the music festival experience itself.

Festival-goers are using #fly2miami to share information about where to stay in Miami, which parties are not to be missed, even when their festival tickets arrive in the mail. ("Woot!") The biggest party may turn out to be the nine-hour flight itself, not just because of the music broadcast that is planned, but because #fly2miami has forged new bonds between the music fans.

If I didn't already get it, the story hammered in for me the often-repeated idea: Social media isn't about selling things or about promoting events. It is about creating and connecting communities with shared interests and goals. From that community, other things naturally follow.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Convene Reads: "Inside the Secret Service"

Believe it or not, this guy works the reg desk.

One of the consistent themes we've explored on this blog, as well as in the pages of Convene, is the fact that, pretty much everyone who does anything attends meetings.  On a recent business trip to Chicago, I was riding in a cab from O'Hare with my executive editor, and noted that nearly every story in The New Yorker, a favorite magazine of mine, is based on or somehow centered around a meeting or convention.  (The particular story that sparked this observation was about the debate over the need to protect Earth from asteroid and comet strikes, and involved a visit by the writer to NASA's Ad Hoc Task Force on Planetary Defense, held this past July at a hotel in Boulder, Colo.)

But one thing we haven't explored as extensively is the fact that a lot of people who aren't officially meeting planners often fulfill that capacity — including, as I learned in the March 2011 issue of The Atlantic, Secret Service agents.