Friday, July 22, 2011

July 2011 Issue: Live!

One of our best covers ever (IMHO, as the kids text today) adorns our July issue, now available in both digital and text-only versions -- a fantastic illustration whose attention to detail is matched by the cover story it serves. Looking for a trade show with something to say about adaptation and reinvention in a turbulent economy, Hunter Slaton walked the floor at BookExpo America in New York City; the result is "Every Year They Write the Book," a deeply reported look at a show whose industry has been in flux for the last 15 years.

CMP Series: And speaking of deep reporting, for this month's CMP Series article, "The Blog That Became a Conference," Barbara Palmer attended SOBCon 2011 Chicago, a social-media conference that is as warm, hospitable, and high-touch a live meeting as you'll find anywhere.

Convene On Site: DMAI in New Orleans

For the last two days, I've been on site at the Sheraton New Orleans for the 97th Annual Convention of Destination Marketing Association International, or DMAI. Of course, any time one gets to visit New Orleans is a good one — but it's even more fun to be here with 1,077 travel-promotion and sales executives (and exhibitors) from destination marketing organizations (DMOs)/CVBs from all over the U.S. (and nine other countries besides), and all in one hotel on Canal Street, right on the edge of the French Quarter.  On Wednesday night the Convene team had dinner at Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House, where I had some killer (but very messy) peel-'em and eat-'em barbecue shrimp. Delicious.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Power of Power Girl

In honor of San Diego Comic-Con International, which kicks off tonight, take a peek at an actual, industry-relevant comic book: Power Girl #26, in which our heroine knows she's made the big time when she's invited to attend the First Annual Power Girl Convention. There's an exhibit hall, eager attendees, issues of crowd flow -- the whole deal. What's somewhat unusual is that the guest of honor has super strength, heat vision, and the power of flight, but surely that's nothing a good RFP wouldn't have taken into account.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Booking Windows: Small and Smaller

Salvador Dali clock
We reported in our July issue that more than half -- 56 percent -- of the meeting planners Convene recently surveyed said that their booking pattern had changed in the last year. Those results dovetailed with a recent Zentila survey which showed that, for corporate planners, the average booking window for off-site meetings is now 36 days.

And when it comes to booking event services, that window is getting even smaller.

According to the Congress Rental Network (CRN), a global network of A/V equipment suppliers, simultaneous interpretation specialists, and even support experts, the average confirmation time for events has dropped to two weeks.

“Perhaps a decade ago you could plan events three or four years down the line," says CRN Chairman Panagiotis Podimatas,  from PC Podimatas in Greece. But no longer, given the fast pace of business and improvements in transportation and communication.

Panagiotis said his company recently supplied interpretation equipment for the annual EU-GCC conference at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi with only two days notice.  "An event of this size is a real challenge, requiring eight large and three standard sized interpretation booths, 400 receivers, and 80 delegate microphones.  Due to prior commitments and resource locations these needed to be flown 2,000 miles from Vienna to Dubai, then transported by land to Abu Dhabi for set-up within 48 hours of confirmation.”

Source: Adam Baggs

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A People-Based Approach to Virtual Meetings

Next Monday, PCMA, UMB Studios, and the Virtual Edge Institute, will release a new research report that takes a fresh look at the role of digital technology in the meetings industry. 

Instead of the typical "virtual versus face-to-face" approach, this survey took a comparative approach, looking at how digital technologies can best be used within the framework of meeting environments. It delved into the social behavior and business motivations that fuel both in- person and online events, said Michael Doyle, founder and executive director of the Virtual Edge Institute, asking such questions as: Why do people attend in-person and online events? What business goals are being achieved? How are attendees engaging within these environments?

The bottom line: Attendees' business motivations and social behaviors are essentially the same at in-person and virtual events.

The full report, Business Motivations and Social Behaviors of In-Person and Online Events, will be available next Monday, (now available for download here) but as a special sneak peek for Convene readers, Doyle has shared five key findings and recommendations from the report:

Market content before, during, and after events: Respondents seek to access content online or via mobile devices throughout an entire event cycle. Digital channels allow meeting and event practitioners to engage with audiences before, during, and after events, connecting audiences from the physical event to the online channel and back again.

People are social creatures. More than 80 percent of respondents are "comfortable" or "extremely comfortable" connecting and networking with strangers, regardless of whether the setting was an in-person or virtual event.

People seek the same information at exhibitions, regardless of format: Both for online and in-person exhibit halls, respondents cited seeing ‘what is new’ as their number one motivation, followed by gathering relevant product and company information and gaining subject matter expertise. Respondents also noted that the motivation to network and connect is very high.

Exhibitor goals seem aligned with attendees’ needs: The main motivations cited for exhibiting at a conference include:  building brand awareness (68 percent), new business development (65 percent), educate market on products/solutions (62 percent), new lead generation (56.9 percent) and thought leadership (51 percent).

Participants are multi-taskers: Compared to their online counterparts, in-person participants are just about as likely to be checking email (81 percent in-person versus 83 percent online) or to leave a meeting/session for some reason (65 percent in-person versus 68 percent online). Online attendees are significantly more likely to take a phone call during a presentation than physical attendees (66 percent online versus 48 percent in-person). 

Doyle notes: “From our perspective, this report provides exciting insight on how we, as marketers and event professionals, can approach the use of digital technologies within our larger marketing and events strategies respectively."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Huanying Is in the Details

Hilton hotel Chinese-language menu
If there is one lesson that can be drawn from Editor in Chief Michelle Russell’s story about the how planning for an international meeting planning threatened to stall over differences in how Japanese and American cultures react to the image of a single cherry blossom, it’s that the little things can turn out to be the big things.

It is in that spirit that Hilton Hotels & Resorts is taking a detail-oriented approach to extending hospitality to Chinese travelers, with the launch of the “Hilton Huanying” program in 30 global hotels. (Huanying means welcome in Chinese.)

The hotel chain Interviewed general managers at Hilton hotels in China, as well as Chinese travel agencies in order to find out what would make Chinese travelers feel most at home. 

Based on that research, participating hotels all will have a front-desk member fluent in Chinese language, and in guest rooms, amenities will include tea kettles and Chinese tea, slippers, and a television channel dedicated to Chinese programming. Hotels also are adding Chinese breakfast dishes to their restaurant menus, including congee, dim sum, and Chinese tea and soy milk.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Different Buzz

NYC & Co. at NYSE
Temporary parties in nontraditional party spaces are having a moment, say the style editors at The New York Times.

And NYC-area meeting planners had their own moment last week, when NYC & Company hosted a tri-state event at the iconic New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Wall Street. The evening began with cocktails in the gilded, filigreed Board Room, where part of the fun was considering who else had walked across the elegant carpets over the last century. FDR? Richard Nixon? Ronald Reagan, for sure, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. And were there such gorgeous flowers on the mile-long conference table when Martha Stewart was on the board of directors?

After drinks, we moved down to the trading floor, which was closed for the day but still seemed to vibrate, thanks to the news and financial market tickers which continued to flash above the floor all evening. A jazz trio played standards, as meeting planners visited with 35 local sponsors and dined on New York City–centric hors d'oeuvres.

The trading floor, which holds up to 500 for a reception, has been available to the public for corporate and other events since early 2010. Additional NYSE venues can be used for dinners, meetings, and receptions.

By virtue of their contact with innovative decor, fabulous venues, and the latest food and beverage options, meeting planners can be famously hard to impress. But the buzz proved that an evening at the NYSE can wow even the most jaded — not to mention the line of planners waiting to have their picture taken at the balcony where the opening bell is rung twice a day to signal the start of trading.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Bell Jar

I love that New York City event producer David Stark used to be a painter, and that he approaches his work with such an artful eye. I first learned of him when Convene Senior Editor Barbara Palmer interviewed him for our July 2010 cover story, and was happy to find him the subject of a "Tools of My Trade" piece in the July/August issue of Fast Company. In the article, he lists six of his favorite ways to build events "that feel like art installations," saying that "flowers are only one tool in the toolbox. Many instances require different kinds of thinking and materials to bring the occasion to life."

First on his list is the humble glass bell jar (starting at $8 at, which Stark uses to create tablescapes. When filled with item(s) tied to a theme or an organization's mission, bell jars can make creative (and inexpensive) table centerpieces. Stark has filled the jars with fruit for a party at Martha Stewart's home, painted eggs for a Benjamin Moore event, and faux tulips crafted from euros for the Global Volatility Summit — you have got to appreciate the symbolism there.

Part of Stark's genius, I think, is his laser-like focus on specifics — but not in terms of details, as you might think. His approach, he said, is "about creating something event-specific, site-specific, and client-specific." That kind of narrow mindedness can open up all kinds of possibilities. Even if you're not an artist.