Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Guide to Recognizing Your Attendees

Washington, D.C., is a prime-enough meeting destination that it doesn't seem at all unusual that The Washington Post would publish a handy infographic designed to help people, as the headline says, "Know your conventioneer." It's cute and tongue-in-cheek, but also contains large kernels of truth -- or, at least, the names of many eclectic, real-life organizations that meet here, such as the National Association of Church Business Administration, the International Dairy Foods Association, and BioMass 2011: New Horizons of Bioenergy. Walking around downtown, you never know if you're passing someone who's come in for a meeting -- a scientist or a teacher or a business executive or a chef or a government contractor or an artist or whomever. Or, maybe you do know if someone is conventioneering. "They travel in clusters," Events DC President and CEO Greg O'Dell tells the Post. "And their badges give them away."

Friday, June 24, 2011

Serious Fun with Gamification

Game ON! app
If you liked our June story, "The Play's the Thing," about how the Green Meetings Industry Council used a multi-player game to help attendees engage with content at the 2011 Sustainable Meetings Conference, you're going to love this:

Elizabeth Henderson, chief sustainability strategist at Meeting Change and conference program committee chair, and Mitchell Beer, president of The Conference Publishers, have released a 40-page case study about the experiment.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

PCMA EduCon Wrap-Up

Just back from the very successful PCMA 2011 Education Conference in nearby Baltimore. Convene kept busy there -- we produced the show daily for AIBTM, which was co-located with the Education Conference at the Baltimore Convention Center, and also blogged and tweeted while on site. (Here are my and Barbara Palmer's Twitter handles. You'll find Convene's Twitter stream in the righthand column of this blog.) In the interest of housekeeping, here's a handy roundup of the links we tweeted for Convene interviews with some EduCon speakers:

* Vernice "FlyGirl" Armour, the U.S. military's first female African-American combat pilot
* Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronic Association
* Jeff Hurt, director of education and engagement for Velvet Chainsaw Consulting
* Chef Jeff Henderson, convicted drug dealer turned five-star chef

All of these links take you to Convene's digital edition, which requires you to register. But it's totally worth it, because you get to read these articles if not the way God intended then something pretty darn close.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Putting Tech In Its Place

Michael Doyle, director of the Virtual Edge Institute, and Lynn Randall, managing partner, Randall Insights, offered a primer on virtual events and environments at a packed "Virtual Events 101" session Tuesday morning at PCMA's Education Conference in Baltimore.

Some takeaways:
  • That feeling that you have that virtual events are exploding? It's based on reality: The field grew by more than 50 percent last year, said Doyle.
  • Fears that virtual events will cannibalize live events are dissolving in the face of evidence to the contrary: An average 18 percent of people who attend conferences virtually opt to attend the next year, he said.
  • One of the most perplexing areas for many is knowing how to calculate costs and choose vendors. It's not necessary to spend a lot to livestream a session from your event, Doyle said, but adding virtual components to meetings can run into many thousands of dollars, depending on the variables.
  • Technology is not the first thing that people should think about when considering virtual events, Randall said.  Knowing your business goals and your audience should come first.
The 90-minute session was filled with questions and discussion, and Doyle and Randall didn't make it all the way through their presentation. Luckily, there's a (digital) remedy -- the pair plan to continue the presentation in PCMA's virtual environment, PCMA365.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Buzz in Baltimore

On Monday afternoon, the exhibition floor at the Baltimore Convention Center was filled with the smell of sawdust and the beeps of heavy machinery on the move, as exhibitions staff readied the show floor for the inaugural The Americas Meetings & Events Exhibition (AIBTM). When it opens Wednesday, it will be the first large-scale hosted buyer event in the U.S.

AIBTM show floor under construction
In the sea of wooden packing crates, stacked furniture, and prefabricated walls and ceilings, there were lots and lots of ladders -- of hundreds of booths, many are two-story creations.

Scott Smith, an exhibits technician for Brede Exposition Services, was at work Monday on  the Visit Baltimore booth. The company builds booths of all sizes, Smith said, but was taking the elaborate construction surrounding him as a very good sign of the health of the international meetings industry.

Also noted: the record-breaking attendance at the PCMA Education Conference, co-located with AIBTM this year.

In total, approximately 3,000 meeting planners will be in Baltimore this week. Convene will be here, too -- follow us on @pcmaconvene. If you are not in Baltimore, attend virtually here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Architecture Is Fate

"Character is fate," the Greek philosopher Heraclitus is quoted as saying, but when it comes to meetings, I think it's architecture that is fate. I kind of flirted with this idea back when I attended the dinner for ASAE's Summit Awards last fall, but it really cohered for me this past Tuesday, when I attended a luncheon for L'Alliance Francaise de Washington at the Belgian ambassador's residence in Washington, D.C. It's a magnificent property -- a two-story limestone structure built in 1931 and situated on nine wooded acres above the Potomac River. The elegant luncheon -- to which I was invited by the Belgian Tourist Office's Annette Choynacki -- honored the work of the Alliance, a network of French language and cultural centers. And the ambassador's residence encapsulated that perfectly simply by being what it is: a Louis XIV-inspired manor house with crystal chandeliers and parquet floors. In a sense, the venue didn't complement the event; it was the event. Is that an effect that you shoot for when you're scouting locations for your meetings?

June 2011 Issue: Live!

One of the best things about my job is that it provides me with a lot of opportunities to write about things that interest me -- such as books, comics, and, as you'll see from the cover story (and CMP Series article) in this month's issue, food. The specific genesis of "Menu: Impossible" was my love of the Food Network shows "Dinner: Impossible" and "Restaurant: Impossible," which led us to ask PCMA's own Kelly Peacy to create an F&B challenge that we then presented to seven meeting chefs across North America. And they came back with some great, non-impossible menus.

Other highlights from this issue -- not necessarily an outgrowth of my hobbies and interests, but great content nonetheless:

"Focus Group": A feature article by Barbara Palmer about the use of "mindfulness" practices such as meditation to improve attendee concentration.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hypnotweeting, and Other Conference Bizwords

One of my downfalls as a journalist is that I take terrible notes. I often can't read my own writing. I also find when I interview people that I focus so intently on taking down their quotes verbatim that I'm not thinking ahead to the next logical question to ask. So I rely heavily on a digital recorder.

I've always thought I was a fairly good multi-tasker, but that's just one example that proves I'm not. Here's another: I feel torn listening to a great speaker or participating in a good session. Should I tweet? Or give my full attention to what's taking place in the here and now? So I chuckled when I read this new term and its definition in Fast Company's June issue: "Hypnotweeting: When a conference speaker or presenter's ideas are so powerful that the entire audience stares intently into their computer screens, dutifully live-tweeting everything they're not missing completely."

"Hypnotweeting" comes from Alex Blagg of, and he says it is just one of the "hottest new bizwords blowing up presentations and panels at tech conferences, expos, forums, and fests across the world." See the article for a handful of others.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Trade-Show Attendee Tells All

Photo by quinn.anya
When I hear a really good idea at a meeting, I draw a little light bulb in the margin of my notes. And after attending the 10th annual Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum (ECEF) in Washington D.C. on June 1, my notebook was well illuminated.

But one idea in particular deserved a lightning bolt: ECEF producer Sam Lippman invited Amy Nichols, CEO of Dogtopia, to come and talk  about face-to-face marketing -- namely trade shows -- and the role it has played in the rapid growth of her business, an upscale pet-care company.

Nichols talked about her experience attending exhibitions and meetings at different stages of her company's growth, from one she attended in 2002 just as she was founding Dogtopia, to a meeting she and her staff organized for the company's franchise owners. (Nichols plans to outsource the planning for the 2012 meeting, because it was so grueling.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

One Mortgage at a Time

Interesting report on the "Marketplace" radio show yesterday about the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America's Save the Dream tour, which brings what reporter Tess Vigeland calls "loan modification conventions" for homeowners facing foreclosure to cities across the country. At the Shrine Expo Center in Los Angeles last weekend, about 25,000 people turned out to meet with mortgage counselors and bank representatives; many of them walked away with better terms for their mortgages. It's a story both inspiring and depressing; and, to that end, this exchange between Vigeland and NACA CEO Bruce Marks jumped out at me:
VIGELAND: Why does it take something like this for a homeowner to be able to modify a loan? What's the difference here?
MARKS: There are two differences. We have legally binding agreements with all the major lenders and the investors covering over 90 percent of mortgages in this country where they have to do it. Secondly, there's nothing like that face-to-face interaction. Personal interaction is what gets the results, because you see families, you see the devastation firsthand, and that makes that banker that much more committed to helping the homeowner.
In a world of networks and procedures, bureaucracies and hierarchies, face-to-face interaction can cut through the clutter; it can focus and prioritize things and, more important, people. And it can even help save their homes.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Stage Appearance in Toronto

I can now add to my list of accomplishments a stage appearance in Toronto.

Last week, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) and Tourism Toronto, who — along with the Hilton Toronto — hosted the PCMA Leaders of Thought Summit, held our first dinner in the convention center's plush John Bassett Theatre — where we took the stage.

More than 20 of us — 16 meeting professionals from organizations around the country, summit speakers, and several PCMA staff — were treated to an elegant sit-down dinner prepared by the expert MTCC culinary team on a stage bathed in lavender lighting and transformed into an intimate dining area. It was a scene for all our senses and we drank it in — including musical interludes by the four-member a capella group Cadence, whose unique blend of harmonies and instrumental imitation made it hard to believe there weren't a few trombone players and drummers hiding in the orchestra pit.

The two-day summit is a highly participatory program intended to shake up our thinking about face-to-face events. The MTCC and Tourism Toronto took that theme and ran with it, bringing us from the audience to the stage, and delighting us with a truly out-of-the-ordinary experience. (My thanks to Bryan Campen of Manifest Digital for his photo of the stage taken from the audience.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hooray for Barbara! Hooray for Convene!

Last night our own Barbara Palmer took home a Gold Award as part of Association Media & Publishing's EXCEL competition, which every year honors the best in association magazines, newsletters, websites, books, and other publications. Barbara won for "7 Days in Port-au-Prince," the amazing Leading by Example article she wrote about her visit to Haiti with an organization called Healing Hands for Haiti last March.

If you haven't read it yet, do it right now. If you have, read it again. And join us in congratulating Barbara for this well-deserved honor.

And congratulations to our design team -- Mitch Shostak and Roger Greiner of Shostak Studios -- for taking home a Silver Award for the cover of our February 2010 issue. At a time when the Twitter Revolution was already in the rearview mirror, they helped us find something new to say about, as our cover lines put it, #SocialMedia&Meetings. And the package of stories this cover fronted -- collectively headlined "Do We Have Your Attention?"-- was pretty darn good, too. Isn't it great when pictures and words work together like that?