Thursday, November 17, 2011

In Your Mind's Eye

This is the image I snapped on my iPhone earlier this week — and the spectacular view the editorial team enjoyed as we mapped out our January issue poolside at the beautiful Le Blanc Resort in Cancun. We were there to help host the inaugural Convene Forum, a hosted-buyer conference with a focus on shared learning. (Look for us to tell you more about our successful forum on upcoming blog posts and in the January issue of Convene.)

I've been to Cancun three times now since I first visited this beautiful tropical paradise 30 years ago on my honeymoon. At that time, there were two hotels in Cancun and a dirt road took us from the airport to ours, a Hyatt. I never could have imagined how this quiet vacation spot would take off to become Mexico's most popular resort destination, and how those two hotels dotting a pristine shoreline would multiply into hundreds, one after the other. But that's only because my capacity for imagination is not so great — because it was clear back then that Cancun's white-sand beaches and emerald-blue ocean were a treasure to be mined.

It struck me that imagination is probably a trait that planners learn to cultivate — to be able to see in your mind's eye how a space can be transformed, set up, or reconfigured to suit your group's needs. That capacity is tested even more when planners book a future meeting at a venue that exists only on a drawing board, the topic of our October issue cover story.

Sandy Biback of Imagination+Meeting Planners read that story and shared with me her own this week: She had suggested to a client several years ago that the Scotiabank Convention Centre of Niagara Falls would be a good place for their January 2012 conference. At that time, it was barely a hole in the ground that she and her client overlooked from a hotel room. She said: "Our sales manager did an excellent job of getting us to visualize the space, using the hole in the ground, actual architectural drawings, and of course a PowerPoint presentation (which today would be on an iPad, I suppose)."

Fast forward to two months from now: "Based on good faith and good financial decisions, our conference will be moving in January 17," Sandy wrote. "It can be done, with a lot of homework." Plus imagination, I'd say.

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