Friday, April 29, 2011

'Conference Addicts'

"Hello My Name Is: Conference Addict" — that's the headline for a one-page infographic in the May issue of Fast Company. The wheel, resembling an LP, showcases the "swankiest" conferences — including Davos, TED, and Sun Valley — attracting movers and shakers. Fast Company calls it the "cozy conference club." Sarcasm notwithstanding, the graphic shows how these conferences result in deals and relationships between the who's who of social media, technology, and politics. Proof again that in our high-tech, complex world, to have a meeting of the minds, well, you need to have a meeting of the minds.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Convene On Site: Phillip Island and Sydney, Australia

A resident of Koala Conservation Centre on Phillip Island
Photo by Alan Kleinfeld, CMM, CMP
In our latest issue, Alan Kleinfeld, CMM, CMP, writes about the 2011 Asia-Pacific Incentives and Meetings Expo (AIME), which he attended on behalf of Convene this past February. Held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, AIME is owned by the Melbourne Convention + Visitors Bureau, which before this year's show hosted some attendees, including Alan, for a "pre-touring program" to "showcase the best of Melbourne and regional Victoria." Here's Alan's account of his experience:

As part of the Asia-Pacific Incentives & Meetings Exhibition (AIME) in Melbourne, members of the media were offered pre-fam tours of several cities. I picked Phillip Island, southeast of Melbourne, in Western Port Bay, because it was easy to get to and the description sounded like a blast.

It was.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Off to the PCMA Prom

The Washington Hilton's International Ballroom, leading up to showtime.
Just about every association I've worked for has had an awards gala or other annual celebratory event that you might just as well call the prom, and that in fact is called the prom by staffers like me who aren't nearly so clever as they like to think. PCMA's 2011 prom -- officially known as the PCMA Education Foundation Dinner Celebrating Professional Achievement -- is happening in just a few hours at the Washington Hilton here in Washington, D.C. It's always a swell time, with people dressing up and coming together for top-flight food and drink and networking their way from one side of the Hilton's famous International Ballroom to the other, all in the name of honoring three dedicated industry veterans -- this year, Gregg Talley, CAE, Talley Management Group; Brian Stevens, ConferenceDirect; and Glen Ramsborg, Ph.D., CMP, Kendall College.

In Convene we approach the industry from something of a big-picture or deep-thought perspective, because our readers are senior-level professionals and that's the sort of thing they're looking for. But sometimes, it's nice to be reminded of the glamour and excitement and simple fun of what we do; and how nice that the PCMA prom is about all of those things even while remaining a serious industry event.   And check out that photo above, taken in the International Ballroom just a few minutes ago by fellow PCMA blogger Christine Melendes, CAE. When the curtain goes up at 6:30 tonight, that space will have been transformed into a carnival of light and sound, color and rhythm -- a living celebration of the transformations that meeting professionals create in similar spaces for similar events every day. See you there, I hope!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

McSweeney's Takes Aim at TED

If you don't know by now (which apparently many people don't!), the independent publishing company McSweeney's, founded by author Dave Eggers, has a bunch of hilarious content on its website — or "Internet Tendency," as the company cheekily puts it.  Best of all are its "Lists," which incredibly are archived — together on one long, long page — all the way back to 1999.

Anyway, here's a great meetings-related one I read yesterday, gently tweaking the super-popular TED Talks, and also the oftentimes labored, over-serious titles for various conference educational sessions:
TED Talks Throughout History
By John Cafiero

Have We Been Worshiping the Wrong Sacred Tree?

The Wheel Will Change the Way We Live Forever, Once We Turn It on Its Side and Attach It to Something, But What?

Global Initiatives for Making God Less Angry
How "Coins" Are Revolutionizing Bartering
Dragon Lairs, Leprechaun Hoards, and Other Promising Sources of Wealth in the New Economy 
Great stuff.  Click here for the full list, with four more hilarious fake TED Talk titles.

Bonus info: In doing research for this post, I discovered that Eggers actually won a TED Prize in 2008 for his public-school advocacy work.  Read more about the prize and Eggers' passion for schools here.

Convene Reads: The Facebook Effect

There's no way that a book about social networking and technology and social-networking technology wouldn't unfold in and around a bunch of meetings, and, boy, is The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World, by David Kirkpatrick, ever the mother lode. Beginning with late-night brainstorming and coding sessions when Mark Zuckerberg and Co. were still at Harvard, through sitdowns with potential investors in Silicon Valley, to internal meetings and industry conferences and Facebook's own events -- the world's biggest virtual-communication company is all about the face-to-face.

Indeed, the book begins with the story of a civil engineer in Colombia who used Facebook to arrange a protest against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that was attended by millions of people worldwide in February 2008. As Zuckerberg tells Kirkpatrick: "We did some thinking and we decided that the core value of Facebook is in the set of friend connections. We call that the social graph, in the mathematical sense of a series of nodes and connections. The nodes are the individuals and the connections are the friendships. ... We have the most powerful distribution mechanism that's been created in a generation."

Extra, Extra!: Convene Newsstand

After a bit of a hiatus, welcome back to Extra, Extra! — Convene's online supplement to the association's ThisWeek@PCMA newsletter.

Hilton Hotels & Resorts last week unveiled its new lobby design, as part of a $40 million renovation of the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner hotel in McLean, Va. The new design fits into what's become or becoming the dominant mode in hotel-lobby functionality: the living room or "great room" format, with lounge areas, a bar/restaurant, and an open-air business center–type area.  According to the company, the design "offers a flexible layout with a living room feel that encourages a social atmosphere where guests can interact, work, and collaborate."  Here's a video intro to the new lobby:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Snapshots From Spring Break

Last week it was spring break for Arlington Public Schools, meaning our two daughters were home all week. Meaning we needed to come up with things for them to do. And my wife, ever the organizer, rose to the challenge, creating an action-packed itinerary: Luray Caverns! The National Aquarium, Baltimore! Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus! Gettysburg! Hershey Park!

A stagehand on alert during Ringling Bros.' Spherical Miracle.
I joined the family for the aquarium, the circus, and, as part of a three-day Easter weekend, Gettysburg and Hershey Park. It was all a lot of fun, and, as you might imagine, not completely irrelevant to meetings -- especially when it comes to the different ways that a live event or destination is experienced. At the circus, for example, it was interesting to watch the many stagehands needed to produce the three-ring spectacle -- sticking to the sidelines and (of course) wearing black, but otherwise a visible component of each performance, and for the show's more death-defying acts, quite a prominent one. During the super-cool Spherical Miracle (pictured above, hazily), stagehands with fire extinguishers were stationed around the attraction's 16-foot ball-cage as seven motorcycles zoomed around inside it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Shaping A Sustainable Path

Port-au-Prince, March 2010
I took this picture last year in Haiti, ten weeks after the earthquake that filled Port-au-Prince with rubble, killed thousands and left thousands more homeless and living in tents. This river, filled with discarded plastic bottles and trash, runs through downtown, and I remember thinking as I clicked the shutter that I was looking at two kinds of disasters, one natural and one man-made. In that instant, I pledged to myself that I would never, ever drink water from disposable plastic bottles again.

I wish I could say that I have lived up to that promise, but I can't. For lots of reasons, including the fact that it's hard to change.

Doubletree Hotel Portland
Which leaves me grateful this Earth Day for event organizers that make it possible, and even easy, to make a more sustainable choice.  These water stations at the 2011 Green Meetings Industry Council annual meeting in Portland, are a gorgeous example.

In their book Switch, authors Chip and Dan Heath talk about "shaping the path" -- the idea that one can encourage change by making it easier and intuitive to do the right thing. "What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem," they write. "When you shape the path, you make change more likely."

Event organizers have an incredible opportunity to shape a sustainable path for their attendees, creating an environment where constructive, life-affirming actions are not just possible, but a pleasure. The upcoming APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards, which we wrote about in the May issue, offer planners a road map, but they still have to put their hearts into it.

This Earth Day, I am recommitting to that smallest of changes -- avoiding plastic water bottles. I've tried this no-brainer before and failed, so if you have any suggestions or encouraging words, please send them my way.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

April 2011 Issue: Live!

One of the things we work hard at with Convene is trying to make the abstract more concrete. A great example of that (I'm comfortable saying, since I didn't write the article) is the cover story in our April issue -- the digital edition of which is now available -- in which Hunter Slaton digs into the oft-discussed, oft-misunderstood health-care law to find a very tangible relevance for the meetings industry. Seriously. Do you know about the impending law's "Sunshine" provision? And the cover story has two more components, both related to continuing medical education: "Proof of Learning," about the growing emphasis on demonstrating that CME participants are learning what they're supposed to be learning; and "Do You CME What I CME?," which traces the evolving missions of the Alliance for CME and the Global Alliance for Medical Education.

Also in this issue:

CMP Series: "Going for Green," Barbara Palmer's preview of the long-awaited APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards, which are scheduled to be released later this year.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

So long, Bubba!

When Apple opened a pop-up shop in Austin during the 2011 SXSW@Interactive Festival as part of the launch of the iPad 2, the first in line was -- not a gadget-crazed techie -- but event planner John Muehlbauer.

Among the many reasons that meeting planners are embracing the iPad is its ability to store massive amounts of information in pixels, rather than paper, and still fit under your arm. In our April issue, we talked to meeting planners who have made the jump from using traditional binders during conferences to storing information on iPads and tablets -- and who aren't looking back.

PCMA's meetings and events team -- Kelly Peacy, CAE, CMP; Sarah Corrandino, CMP; Mandi Kasper, CMP;  and Dyan Couch, CMP -- is part of that trend: The team used an iPad during 2011 Convening Leaders in Las Vegas.

How did it go? See Mandi Kasper's video report above to find out.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mexico's Perspective on Mexico

More than a half million more Americans visited Mexico in 2010 compared with 2009 and, since 2008, the number of visitors from Brazil increased 100 percent. Those facts -- as well as news about the robust growth of Mexico's economy -- tend to get overshadowed by concern over the country's drug violence, Gloria Guevara, Mexico's secretary of tourism, told Editor in Chief Michelle Russell in an interview.

In the past, Mexico has made the mistake of "leaving a gap in information," Guevara said. "When you are not actively providing information, what happens is that that [gap] is filled up with bad news."

For Mexico's perspective about the violence -- and some good news about meeting in Mexico --  the complete interview in the April issue of Convene.

Switzerland up Close

The Switzerland Tourism media event I attended last night at the Helen Mills Theater in New York City featured a presentation by award-winning National Geographic Traveler photojournalist, Catherine Karnow. With such a visually stunning country to capture, I had assumed the photos that she was going to share of her assignment in Switzerland would be of crystal-clear lakes, picturesque villages, and of course, mountains. Lots of snow-capped, majestic mountains. And that was the gorgeous backdrop of the photos she presented to our group. But what drew us in to those photos were the people — the young cheese-maker who felt he had a "calling" to go to the mountains to make cheese, the woman who drives a postal bus over winding mountain roads and through tiny Swiss villages to Italy every day, and the salesperson showing a customer a $400,000 Patek Philippe watch.

The best photos, Karnow said, should make you want to linger, to learn more. What captivated the audience last night was hearing those simple stories that went with some incredibly scenic photos. Of course, it didn't hurt that sparkling blue lakes, white-capped mountains, and alpine villages were our visuals. But storytelling really is at the heart of every memorable presentation, no matter the meeting's industry or topic. Even if the Matterhorn isn't a backdrop.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

'Can Meetings Save the World?' Yes.

A terrific cover story by Barbara Palmer in our January issue asked a simple question: "Can Meetings Save the World?" Barbara presented many examples suggesting that the answer is yes -- from PopTech and the Women's Conference to the Creativity World Forum and the Clinton Global Initiative. Here are two more:

High-Level Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety: In response to the nuclear disaster resulting from last month's earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is convening a meeting of foreign ministers and nuclear-agency officials in Vienna on June 20-24 -- according to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, "to learn the right lessons from what happened on 11 March and afterwards."

Fighting Childhood Obesity: Slate magazine's crowdsourcing project -- called The Hive -- uses the collective wisdom of its readers to generate solutions to some of the world's most vexing problems. Capping off an ongoing discussion about childhood obesity, next week Slate and the Cleveland Clinic are hosting an "all-star conversation" with "the top thinkers, scientists, doctors, political leaders, and policymakers in the field" at the Bank of America Conference Center in Cleveland. It seems that vigorous online debate is one thing, but to get really serious about something, you need to talk it over face-to-face.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Themed: Bags of Ice

The satirical newspaper The Onion had a great little story yesterday about the events industry.  The headline?

Lazy Event Planner Throws 'Bags Of Ice'–Themed Party

Too funny.  Here's an excerpt (click the link above for the full story):
Lacking the time, energy, or initiative to prepare anything better, Hollywood-based event planner Frankie Haines spent roughly 20 minutes last week organizing a 'Bags of Ice'–themed celebrity birthday bash. "I figure it makes sense: Parties and bags of ice, those are two things that go together," said Haines, describing his inspiration for the hastily created, half-million-dollar soiree, which will feature five massive columns of ice bags stacked throughout the space, ice bags leading up the driveway, and possibly an ice-bag sculpture centerpiece, "if there's time."
What's the most out-there (or quickly slapped-together) theme you've ever used for an event?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It All Began With a Tweet ...

I can't get enough of this story about the world's first flight to be initiated via Twitter. In a nutshell, a group of Dutch house music fans successfully lobbied KLM to add a flight from Amsterdam to Miami, so they could attend a music festival. (The flight also has been designated by Guinness World Records as the world's "Highest Altitude Dance Party.")

It's true that the stars lined up to make the flight happen: there was a cohesive dance community with a defined need, and, in KLM, a company that was already committed to using Twitter as a way to better serve customers.

It's a fantastic example of what can come from listening to customers and being open to new ways of doing things. And how a tool like Twitter can supercharge communication.

"When we change the way we communicate," Clay Shirky wrote in Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, "we change society."