Thursday, August 16, 2012

We've relocated! 

Please visit Convene's current blog at pcmaconvene.com




Thursday, June 21, 2012

#TeachingTwitter


Aaron Hammer demystifies Twitter
In a recent column, we talked with industry experts about the fact that just because attendees aren’t using a conference hashtag or Twitter doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in social media. It could be that attendees just need a little hands-on help in using the tools.

Last week, at the 2012 Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif., MDRT not only set up a laptop-equipped "Tech Zone" as a learning lab on the exhibit floor, but Liana Blum, MDRT’s website coordinator, found the perfect tutors: other MDRT members.

Who better to tell others about the benefits of using Twitter at a meeting than someone already actively doing it? Blum recruited more than a dozen of the association’s most prolific Twitter users to volunteer for short blocks of time during several "Tweet Team" sessions throughout the four-day meeting.  And a big plasma screen showing a live Twitter stream featuring the conference hashtag provided instant gratification to the new Twitter users.
           
Aaron Lee Hammer, an MDRT attendee from St. Cloud, Minn., was both enthusiastic and patient as he guided first-time Twitter users through the process of choosing a handle, signing up on Twitter, and sending out a first-time tweet, using #MDRT2012. (“That’s you, my man,” Hammer told one Twitter newbie, pointing to the screen.)
           
Hammer likes to help others (volunteering is the “MDRT way,” Blum said), but he also has his own reasons to help others MDRT attendees learn how to converse via Twitter, he told me.  “The more people who use Twitter at the meeting, the more I know about what other members think are the best ideas."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Alamo Moment

I'm here at the PCMA Education Conference in San Antonio. It's my first time in this great city, and I didn't want to leave here without making a trip to see the Alamo. Little did I realize that it is just a quick walk from our hotel, the Marriott San Antonio Rivercenter. Like many tourists who come upon the No.1–visited State Shrine in Texas for the first time, I was a little surprised by the site's scale. It looms so large in our American consciousness that the actual place — in the heart of a bustling downtown — seems much smaller than I imagined.

I thought about that when "Practical Futurist" Michael Rogers (see our interview with him in the May issue) spoke at this morning's general session. Staying on top of the latest technologies and figuring out how to implement them to benefit our industry seems overwhelming, given our growing day-to-day tasks. (As a former colleague used to say, "It's hard to build the house when you're washing the windows.") Rogers acknowledged that operational duties trump research and development — but R&D is critical to innovation. He recommended that you designate someone within your organization be removed (perhaps on a regular basis) from the operational side of things to talk to people and search the web — to do the actual work of seeking out and understanding new tools and technologies.

Designating someone to focus on that on a regular basis feels doable. And for me, something that I imagined to be such a huge thing seemed to shrink down to a manageable scale.

The Cure for Drowning



Steven Rosenbaum diagnosed the problem of digital overload at the 2012 DigitalNow conference, and offered a cure: associations. We are drowning in data, he said, and associations, with their deep knowledge of their organizations' interests and needs, are in a unique position to serve as filters and curators of information. "Content is no longer king," Rosenbaum said. "Curation is king."

The way forward is filled with challenges, but for those associations that get it, there are rewards, he wrote in The Huffington Post.
I think [associations have]  got the secret sauce to win big in the new world of Data Overload. Because publishers are fighting for fractionalized mindshare, while associations are poised to curate with authority. The challenge for them will be, can they build an internal information gathering, curating and distribution workflow that moves at the speed of the real time web?
For more from Rosenbaum, author of Curation Nation, see our story in the June issue of Convene.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Convene On Site: Maui, Hawaii

Aloha! Now let's change the world.

For the past six days, I’ve been on a press trip in Maui, Hawaii, a place I’ve discovered to be one of the most economically and environmentally diverse places on the globe. Hawaii has always had a long-standing reputation as being one of the most beautiful places on earth, full of sun, sand, surf and some of the best people you could hope to meet. But, science? Not exactly what comes to mind when I picture this paradise. But after this press trip, it is. There are a plethora of organizations that groups can visit while at a conference in Maui, a potential meetings hotspot for the science and technology industry.

Here is a quick rundown of all the awesome organizations in Maui that are working to advance our scientific research, enhance our homeland security, and just generally make this world a better place:

1)

Pacific Biodiesel

How they're changing the world:

Owned and operated by husband and wife team Kelly and Bob King, Pacific Biodiesel, established in 1996, is the leader in biodiesel fuel production in Hawaii. They house the only 100% biodiesel-ran pump on the island. They collect used cooking oil from local restaurants and process it so that it can be used as fuel. Buses on Maui and Oahu, and the ferries to and from Pearl Harbor, are run on 20% biodiesel from their plant. It's a community-based project and all the fuel remains within the islands — exporting would cause pollution and waste energy. However, they help countries all over the world build and operate their own biodiesel plants — paying it forward in a big way.
Pacific Biodiesel plant in Maui. 

2)

Haleakalä Observatory

How they’re changing the world:

The Observatory, stationed at about 10,000 feet on Mt. Haleakala, houses one of the greatest technological wonders, the largest digital camera in the world. They have the ability to see and photograph further into space than almost anyone on the globe. They’ve spotted hundreds of undiscovered asteroids and deliberated how to change their path so as not to interfere with earth’s atmosphere or collide with the planet itself. (We were told the methods they use are vastly different from Bruce Willis in Armageddon). Ran by the University of Hawaii, the Observatory also provides great resources for students and amateur astronomers. 

Convene On Site: San Juan, Puerto Rico

I'm sitting on my balcony at the San Juan Marriott, winding down this press trip here in Puerto Rico.  I didn't know, having never visited Puerto Rico, that the unique aspects of this U.S. commonwealth would combine to create such an amazing experience, hospitality-wise. Puerto Rico is a mix of cultures, of course. Most everyone speaks both English and Spanish, and Latin and Spanish influences are everywhere. But it's also easy to get to, requiring no passport, and all conveniences are here--including the biggest Walgreens in the United States. The Condado area of San Juan is an interesting mix of urban nightlife, restaurants, residential homes, and several large, beachfront hotels like the San Juan Marriott & Stellaris Casino. This makes it a popular destination for tourists and other groups, but also for local residents. In fact, there were several proms and events going on at the hotel during our stay.
Ocean view from my room at the San Juan Marriott, Puerto Rico
This mix between resort-style amenities in an urban setting means that it's easy to reach some of the most popular attractions in the area like horseback/ATV tours, some of Puerto Rico's best restaurants, Old San Juan, and the Barcardi Distillery--all of which we visited during our time here. 
A street in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, where you find a mix of Latin American, Spanish, and even Moorish-influenced architecture
Because this was my first press trip with Convene, I was interested to see what the other journalists I was traveling with would be curious about as we toured around San Juan. We were a group of writers covering business, group, and meeting travel and destinations, so most of our interests were focused there. But what's great is that the wonderful representatives of the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau did not forget that we're visitors to the island too, interested not only in the convention center and various sites (and we saw many great ones), but also in the people and attractions that make Puerto Rico a unique destination.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Un-Quiet Conversation



When I made plans to interview Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, I suggested we meet in a coffee shop that, visually, exudes calm, the kind of place where patrons sip coffee at long wooden tables, surrounded by piles of crusty loaves of bread.

But, fresh from my reading of Cain's description of optimal environments for introverts — introverts have wide-open channels for stimulation — when I showed up to meet Cain, I became keenly aware of all the racket. Dishes clanked, conversations boomeranged off walls and ceilings, the piped-in classical music seemed intrusive. I could even feel the subway rattling underground.

Cain was extraordinarily gracious about the distractions and even allowed me to do a short video of her top takeaways for meeting planners about making meetings introvert-friendly.. And because it was really noisy, here's a transcript of what she said:
I think the most important thing for meeting planners to understand about introverts at a conference …  Well, there are really two things. One is that introverts really do need to recharge, and they are going to be at their best, at their most energetic, at their most socially open, if they get the time that they need to take breaks. And so it is not a good idea to encourage everybody to be going from morning until night. It is actually okay to be able to go back to your hotel room, or off by yourself to a café for an hour to take the break that you need. And so that is the first thing. 
And then the second one is that introverts are probably not that excited about breakout groups in the middle of the session and probably a lot of them feel like they are there to get information, and they actually want to hear the information from the speaker on the stage. And they might be less excited about doing a little breakout group where they chat with their colleague about what they just heard. There are exceptions to that.  It depends on the topic and the material. But in general, I would be careful about assuming that everybody enjoys breakout groups. They might act like they are enjoying them because they know that there is an expectation that they should, but the truth might be different from the face that they are showing.
You can read more from our conversation about introverts and meeting planning in the June issue of Convene.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Not-So-Great GoogaMooga: When Inaugural Events are Bashed on the Internet

The weather was ideal for the inaugural Great GoogaMooga, the first ever “foodie festival” in Brooklyn on May 19-20. But most attendees would say this was the only thing that was ideal. Glitches are to be expected with any inaugural event, however the not-so-great GoogaMooga — that seemed to be ruled by Murphy’s Law on Saturday when I attended — experienced heightened backlash from attendees via social media. The fact that the event started a half-hour late, the two-hour-long beverage lines, the mandatory (and confusing) drink tickets called “GoogaMoola,” the spotty cellphone reception, the high prices, the lack of shade, and that fact that some vendors ran out of food by 3 p.m. (even in the V.I.P. section), all combined to make that Saturday a less-than-perfect affair — and prompted a lot of attendees to take their frustration to the net. None of these mishaps would go unnoticed, or un-tweeted — with many references to The Hunger Games.

The crowds gather in front of the main stage at the Great GoogaMooga.
The event featured food from over 75 local restaurants, 20 musical performances, more than 35 winemakers, and 30 beer makers. It was called a “food amusement park,” meant to showcase the gourmet side of New York dining. The vendor booths, some curated by Anthony Bourdain, were arranged in a horseshoe surrounding a large stage where Hall & Oates and The Roots later played. Bourdain also spoke at the event (but only for those with a $250 V.I.P. ticket). 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On Site at CT2-MTL


© Barbara Haemmig de Preux

I'm here in beautiful Montreal, attending the first-ever C2-MTL Commerce + Creativity Conference. And this event just oozes creativity. It starts with the location — a former industrial corner of downtown called Griffintown, which is in the midst of revitalization. The conference is housed in a "village" of several distinct spaces. You enter through a large, sophisticated tent with piped-in fragrances and mood lighting, innovative lounges, cafeteria-style rooms, and an art installation of construction-cone walls (inside the center [peephole] of each cone is an image of innovative urban design). Once you exit the tent, you're in an urban outdoor space with a bar, music stage, and conversation pods with oversized Adirondack chairs.  The sessions themselves are held in the 1850s New City Gas building, a beautiful, stone building that was restored and outfitted specifically for the conference.

The conference's creative partner is Cirque du Soleil; content partners include Fast Company, IBM, and pwC, and its presenters include Laurentian Bank, Tourisme Montreal, and HSN. The line-up of speakers is equally impressive — especially considering that this is an inaugural event. Today, Arianna Huffington made use of her stage time to give us a sneak peek at her new "GPS for the Soul" app, and Ian Schrager gave us a glimpse into the creative genius behind each of his hotel designs. One nugget in particular settled in my brain: When asked how he plans the design for each of his hotels, Schrager said: "It's like a journey, not a plan."( I think I will use that line the next time someone asks me why we don't know what our cover story will be four months from now.)

If I put on my meeting-planner hat, I am sure I could find some flaws in this event's execution (the foie-gras-stuffed-flower appetizers yesterday evening, for one). But wow. There is so much to be mined from this event's format and environment — a creative act that reflects and supports the content.

Spicing Up the Trade-Show Floor

MyCEB's "Spice Market" at IMEX 2012
I'm currently at IMEX 2012 in Frankfurt, the annual powerhouse exhibition for incentive travel, meetings, and events. It's challenging for destinations to stand out in the exhibition hall, with exhibitors from more than 150 countries all trying to both get the attention of attendees, and to share the flavor and advantages of their destinations.

But the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) booth was impossible to ignore Wednesday afternoon during its "Spice Market" cocktail reception, where they staged a modern version of the historical markets that thrived 600 years ago along the Silk Road. MyCEB distributed stacks of currency during the exhibition, and during the reception, attendees could buy colorful textiles, fans, and other items from "traders" who spread their wares out on cloths laid on the booth floor.

It was high-energy fun, and underscored the point that MyCEB makes about Malaysia as a meetings destination: the country sits at the crossroads of India and Asia, the fastest-growing economic area in the world, and offers meeting planners a multi-facted, multicultural environment.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Power of People: Events After Controversy

This Mother’s Day, as we do every year, my mother, sister and I participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Philadelphia. Just as I was impressed by the resilience of the breast cancer survivors competing (and kicking butt) in the race, I was also impressed by how, despite controversy faced this year, the Komen sponsored event was just as successful as in years past.

A sea of pink outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of Susan G. Komen - Philadelphia
In the wake of a fierce media backlash after cutting funding for Planned Parenthood, and being accused of using their brand to promote unhealthy products, Susan G. Komen for the Cure has still managed to keep a majority of its supports, and not just corporate. At the 2012 Race for the Cure in Philadelphia — a 5k run culminating in a large celebration at the Philadelphia Museum of Art — there were more than 40,000 participants and 100,000 spectators, and the event raised over $900,000 dollars for breast cancer research and treatment.

It was reassuring to see that despite an organization’s trip-ups or difficult financial times, you can still count on the people to rally around a cause they’re passionate about. After my first month with Convene magazine, I’ve realized that that is the lifeline of the convention and meeting planning industry — the attendees who continue to show up, to join a group of like-minded people, to represent a subset of the community that they feel connected to, and to learn and grow as a result of these events.

Controversy or no controversy, my family and I, just like the other 140,000 people present that day, will continue to participate in the race, to support a worthy cause, to commemorate the women in our lives we’ve lost to breast cancer, support those that have survived, and fight for the future of women everywhere — proving that an organization is only as strong as its devoted members.

Photo courtesy of Susan G. Komen for the Cure - Philadelphia
Read Convene editor Barbara Palmer's interview with the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Nancy Brinker here:  http://www.pcma.org/Convene/Issue-Archives/December-2009/Leading-By-Example.htm.

Friday, May 18, 2012

What Price Knowledge?

I recently spoke with Michael Burke, a partner at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP, who chaired the American Bar Association's Section of International Law 2011 Fall Meeting in Dublin last fall. Something he said about the meeting — and the advantages Ireland provided as its host — reminded me of Convene Senior Editor Barbara Palmer's "What Price Knowledge?" sidebar in our May issue cover story.

Barbara talks about PAX East — which has agreed to hold its gaming conference at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center for at least 11 more years — and its unique relationship with Boston's knowledge base, specifically the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute at Becker College.

Michael shared that one of the benefits of holding the fall meeting in Ireland was the ability to "leverage off of" The Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland, Galway — a renowned university-based institution for the study and promotion of humanitarian law. "The legal services industry in Ireland is as talented as you're going to get," Michael told me, but to to be able to have a speaker from that "human rights program, you know, it's a whole different perspective than we'd find elsewhere."

Checking In From Checkpoint Charlie

Near "Checkpoint Charlie" in Berlin
Convene is on the road again. I am on a pre-IMEX educational trip to Berlin, with planners from the U.S., Brazil, and China. Berlin is a beautiful city with a fascinating history, and is the fourth most-popular city globally for association meetings. I'll post pictures here, as well as on our newly activated PCMA Convene Facebook page.

My nearly first order of business in the city was to find a store where I could replace a computer cord I'd left behind. (It made me wonder if DMAI's Event Impact Calculator, which Corrie Dosh wrote about in our May cover story, calculates the purchases of all the things that meeting attendees forget and replace.)

But the store where I bought the cord was just a block or so away from "Checkpoint Charlie," the most famous former border crossing into East Berlin. There was a wonderful photographic timeline on the spot, telling the story of the Berlin Wall, which stood between East and West Germany from 1961 until 1989. Tourists waited nearby at a rebuilt guard station to get their photos taken with actors playing American guards.

I felt lucky that my errand gave me the opportunity to stand at that iconic spot — the likelihood of pleasure mixed with business is part of what makes for a great meeting destination.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Convene On Site: Athens, Part 2

Following up on my post the other day, I need to reiterate the benefits of mixing media people and meeting professionals -- at least for we media people. During our many site visits over the last few days (including to the Westin Athens, where I'm sitting on my balcony writing this), it's been hugely instructive to hang back and watch my fellow participants -- an interesting and experience group that includes corporate and association planners, third parties, incentive professionals, and even an organizing committee member -- talk to our hosts and each other. They ask questions, clarify their needs, and offer solutions; you can see them sketching out an event in their heads, and trying to figure out if a specific venue will be an adequate canvas on which to paint it. For me, it's like auditing a master class.

PS The city is beautiful, the local meetings and hospitality community is warm, gracious, and expert, and the food is terrific. Wish you were here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

App-cidents Happen

The Old: 2010 DigitalNow app
Before I attended DigitalNow in late April, I went online to download the conference app, and mistakenly downloaded the app for the 2010 conference. The conference length, name, and the venue, Disney's Contemporary Resort, were the same both years, but it confused me for longer than I probably should admit.

Still, I'm glad I made the mistake, because it was eye-opening. (For starters, I saw the need to label conference apps with the year —lots of people, like me, operate at a gallop online, doing at least two other things while downloading your app.)

But the bigger, more important takeaway was the graphic example it provided of how quickly apps in particular, and tech in general, are evolving.

DigitalNow's bread and butter is technology, but their two-year-old app now seems pretty limited. It listed the agenda and speakers, along with sponsor logos and information about the resort, and offered embedded links to email and websites. But it functioned more like a digital version of a print conference schedule than a digital tool.
The New: 2012 DigitalNow


The 2012 app, by comparison, gave far more detailed and interactive information about sessions and speakers, offering attendees the opportunity to create their own personal agendas. Attendee bios and photographs were loaded into the app, attendees could link directly to the conference hashtag, sign up for text alerts (which were used judiciously), and physically find sessions and breakouts on a map of the convention center.

The app also connects directly to archived content; attendees can access videos of select sessions, including exhibitor presentations.

As good as it was, I wanted more. Specifically, I wanted to know which sessions were popular with attendees who were a lot like me. Social media platforms like Facebook, along with websites like Amazon, are training me to look for "recommendations" from people that I don't know well.

It is surprising to me that I expect so much, because not much more than a year ago,  I wrote a column about organizations that were developing their first conference apps. It was new ground to many of the people I spoke to, and unfamiliar territory for me as well. I didn't even know if I would like to use an app.

Today, I'm a big fan, and a recent Convene survey of meeting planners showed that more than 25 percent of respondents use them, a figure that almost certainly has grown since then.

What about you and your conferences? Are you using apps, and how are they changing?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Convene On Site: Athens

Hello from Athens, where I'm participating in a fam trip sponsored by the Athens Convention Bureau. That beautifully hazy photo to the left is the view from my balcony at the Hilton Athens -- an accurate snapshot of this bright, hot, and heavy Sunday afternoon in the cradle of Western civilization, where it very appropriately happens to be election day.

We've only just hit the ground here, but already this trip has endeared itself to me for a very simple reason: We participants are a mix of media representatives and event planners, heavily weighted toward the latter. As an editor who covers the meetings industry -- reporting and writing on an area in which I have no formal training or education -- I'd much rather tour a destination with practitioners who can share their professional insights throughout our many site visits, meals, and other programs together. It helps me better understand how they approach the events they plan; and it also invariably suggests a lot of different ideas for Convene stories.

Something else that this trip is already doing right: doling out the downtime. Some of us arrived at the Hilton after traveling for more than 18 hours, and upon checking in our gracious hosts told us to relax and freshen up for a while; if we're interested, we can take a bus tour later this afternoon, followed by either an early dinner or simply cocktails and appetizers -- our choice. We're all excited to be here, but as you know it's not uncommon on a trip like this for the spirit to be willing and the flesh to be weak. It's nice to see that reality being taken into account.

If you're curious about what else makes for a good fam trip, check out this CMP Series article we published on the topic. And check back for another dispatch or two from Athens over the next few days.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Live From TED2023


You decide if this is testament to the power of meetings in general or of the TED conference in particular: As part of their viral-marketing campaign for the upcoming summer blockbuster "Prometheus," filmmakers Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof have released a TEDTalk from the year 2023 by one of the film's characters -- industrialist Peter Weyland, played by Guy Pearce. The three-minute video was created with the full cooperation of TED, and even has an official page on TED's blog, complete with "About This Talk" and "About the Speaker" tabs.

Why TED? "'Prometheus' takes place in the future, but it's a movie about ideas, and I just felt like it would be really cool to have one of the characters from the movie give a TEDTalk," Lindelof tells a TED interviewer. "Obviously, since the movie is set in the distant future, it would have to be a little more contemporary. But wouldn't it be cool if it was a TED talk from a decade in the future? And what is a TEDTalk going to look like in 10 years? And what would this guy have to say?"

Well, among other things, he might say that a conference is just the place to announce that you're going to change the world.

Friday, April 13, 2012

GSA: A Sort of Screed

Following up on Michelle's post about PCMA's recent webcast spinning off the GSA controversy -- I'm watching this case unspool from two different perspectives, each one maybe a little different from that of the general public: as someone who works in or for the meetings industry, and as someone who lives in the Washington, D.C., area. Thanks to the first perspective, I'm cautious about condemning the people who organized the GSA conference that's on its way to becoming the subject of congressional hearings, because at least some -- not all, but some -- of the things that are being most harshly criticized seem like the normal, necessary trappings of any meeting. The whole story is still shaking out, but I do wonder if some of what has people upset is based on a misunderstanding of how meetings are planned, and how much they cost. Shades of Muffingate, perhaps.

The second perspective is related to the first, but, of course, much more personal. Living in Arlington, Va., I have a number of friends and neighbors who work for the government -- indirectly, as contractors and consultants, and also directly, as federal employees. All of them are hard-working professionals who take their jobs seriously, and to see this controversy used as an occasion to mutter -- on talk radio and blogs and comments pages -- about lazy, overpaid government bureaucrats is upsetting. As if government employees shouldn't be meeting at all, anywhere, under any circumstances, because they serve at the pleasure of taxpayers.

Were elements of this meeting out of line? Yes, absolutely. Some of it was crazy tone-deaf; some of it was outlandish. But, as the Society of Government Meeting Professionals notes in its response:
[T]his apparent instance of excessive spending is newsworthy in part because it's unusual. ... The federal government maintains strict rules regarding spending and ethics when it comes to travel and, as in this case, when those rules are broken those responsible should be held accountable. The entire government meetings industry should not be judged on this one grossly "over the top" executed event. It clearly demonstrates the importance of agencies having a professional meeting planner versed in the proper processes of solicitation, contract awards and event execution, as required by government policy, the procurement process and ethical conduct standards.
Serious professionals need serious meetings, and serious meetings cost money -- more than most people realize, I think.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Imagining Hawaii



At the Executive Experience fam trip to the Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, Joe Rohde, Disney's Chief Imagineer, described for participants what it was like to see his vision come to life. (You can read more about the fam trip in our April issue.)

Last June, Executive Editor Chris Durso talked to Rohde about the creative development process he led in creating the resort's design. You can read that interview here.

Ethics or Ignorance?

Last week's media storm over reports of the General Services Administration's (GSA) lavish Las Vegas conference for government employees served as the jumping-off point for a PCMA Webcast, Meeting Value & Strategic Measurement. It might have been the reason why the table was set for the discussion — between Webcast participants and PCMA President & CEO Deborah Sexton; Chairman of the PCMA Board of Directors Kent Allaway, CEM, CMP; and PCMA Senior Vice President of Education & Meetings Kelly Peacy, CMP, CAE — but it was not the meal that was served. Whether the GSA's overspending was the result of an ethical breach or ignorance, the focus of the Webcast was more on lessons learned and opportunities moving forward.

The media's portrayal of the GSA conference as an isolated instance of a government agency failing to follow federal travel regulations and making poor choices was encouraging, Deborah said at the beginning of the Webcast, because "this time, versus other sensationalized instances in the past, the public and Washington did not make sweeping judgments regarding the benefit equation of meeting face to face. Something is working." That "something" she attributed to the Economic Significance Study released last year, which was important in positioning the meetings industry as vital to the economy. But, she quickly added, "We're only halfway there. What we need to do is create a solid messaging campaign that talks about the benefits, other than economic, that face-to-face meetings create."

GSA serves as a glaring example of the need to continue to professionalize our industry. It's why, Deborah said, PCMA offers the education and tools that detail professional convention management standards on how to best define event objectives, clear measurements, and justification of spend, from RFPs, contracts, ethics, corporate social responsibility, third-party practices, and more.

"Professionals in our business understand the need for clearly defined goals and objectives that define not only what will take place at the meeting, but what will be accomplished at the end. This allows for budgetary recommendations and decisions to be made effectively at a person’s organization," Kent said. "Are we effectively evaluating the meetings we are holding? Are we attaching measurement to dollars that we are spending? Can you support that increased spending in one area resulted in increased attendance or education?"

Measurement is one thing; ethics is another. As Kent pointed out, there are a lot of opportunities in this industry "to make an incorrect choice." More training and mentoring is needed on ethical decision-making. Kelly noted that PCMA's membership application and renewal form includes the Principles of Professional and Ethical Conduct with 10 points "that serve to remind us" of appropriate behavior.

But ethical questions can be tricky. Plus, new ones evolve over time, Kelly noted. Kent said: "Transparency with your leadership will always pay dividends and result in a clear understanding, especially around expenses, trips, gifts, etc."

In addition to bringing ethical considerations to their attention, it's critical for planners to communicate consistently with their CEO on evaluation, strategic measurement, and spend justification, Kelly said, to be "proactive with reports" and make "spending vs. savings" a constant discussion.

Our biggest challenge, Deborah concluded, "is still in front of us: to create a global message on the value of individuals getting together face to face."

Here's the 30-minute Webinar in its entirety on PCMA365.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Red-Carpet Treatment

Storm damage in Henryville. State Farm photo.
On March 2, an historic outbreak of storms unleashed dozens of  tornadoes in 11 southern and central states, killing more than 40 and injuring hundreds more.

That was on a Friday. By Monday, the Cincinnati-based George Fern Exposition and Event Services had set up a fund to help storm victims through the Red Cross. The company made an initial contribution of $5,000 and pledged to match employee contributions until March 31. (By the end of March, the total had reached $11,000.)

“The tornadoes hit two of our markets pretty significantly,” including the southern Cincinnati area, and areas to the north and northwest of Louisville [Ky.]," said COO Aaron Bludworth.

Even after setting up the relief fund, Bludworth thought there was still more that the company could do. (The company and its employees have a track record of reaching out, we discovered when we wrote about Fern employee Jean Tracy’s volunteer work in Haiti.)

So Bludworth contacted the mayors of some of the hardest-hit towns to ask if the Fern’s tractor-trailers could be used as collection points for supplies. But the affected communities were already overflowing with support, Bludworth learned. “I moved here four years ago and I’ve been very impressed with how the communities were supporting one another.”
           
Photo courtesy WHAS11.com
But in late March, Bludworth got a call about something that he was in a unique position to supply: carpeting, for temporary school facilities for about  500 students in Henryville, Ind., where a tornado had destroyed the junior-senior high school.
           
When carpeting has reached the end of its useful life for trade shows, it’s still in good condition, Bludworth said. In one day, his team pulled 22,000 square feet of carpet from their distribution center, and delivered it the next day to the temporary school facilities.
           
The school’s colors are blue and yellow; Fern couldn’t get carpeting in those colors together fast enough to fulfill the entire request, Bludworth said. Instead, students got the red-carpet treatment.

“The kids were out of school for a month,” Bludworth said, “I’m glad to be able to help them get back, and get their lives to where things are a little bit more normal.”

Monday, April 2, 2012

There's a Blog for That?

A recurring feature in Convene's front-of-the-magazine "Plenary" department is "There's a Meeting For That?" which explores the awe-inspiring range of interests that bring people together.

We've uncovered everything from the Face Painting and Body Art Convention to Laurapalooza 2010, which brought together scholars and fans interested in children's author Laura Ingalls Wilder. Our takeaway? No matter how narrow the niche, people love both to share what they know and to learn from each other.

In that spirit, we offer "There's a Blog for That?," a link to a blog with an off-the-beaten-path perspective on a topic relevant to the meetings industry.

First up is Sound Branding Blog, by Karlheinz Illner, a German sound-branding expert.  "Music sparks emotions and emotions control our brain's decisions," says Illner, who consults on projects for leading international firms, including Coca-Cola and Mercedes-Benz.

Illner doesn't post frequently, but what he has to say is often fascinating. (Here's a link to an interview he did with another blogger about sound branding in hotels.)

As Illner notes, sound branding is a new field. But as meeting planners pay more attention to the senses and the art and science of creating immersive experiences, Illner's voice is one worth tuning into every now and then.

And, as it turns out, there is a meeting for that: Illner has blogged about the Audio Branding Academy's annual Audio Branding Congress, which launched in 2009.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mike Daisey: Hazy Details

Since I posted a blog about my reaction to attending Mike Daisey's one-man performance, "The Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs," Daisey has admitted that he fabricated certain elements of his trip to the Foxcomm plant in China. His performance now includes a brief explanatory note and he has scrubbed a few details in the recounting of his experience in China.

The brouhaha has been focused on an episode of National Public Radio's "This American Life," in which Daisey's story was presented as entirely factual. "This American Life" has retracted that episode and re-interviewed Daisey to get at the bottom of what about his experience actually occurred and what he created.

Here is an excerpt from the transcript of that radio interview, in which Daisey is speaking to "This American Life's" Ira Glass:
"...everything I have done in making this monologue for the theater has been toward that end — to make people care. I’m not going to say that I didn’t take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard. But I stand behind the work. My mistake, the mistake that I truly regret is that I had it on your show as journalism and it’s not journalism. It’s theater. I use the tools of theater and memoir to achieve its dramatic arc and of that arc and of that work I am very proud because I think it made you care, Ira, and I think it made you want to delve [into inhumane working conditions at the Foxcomm plant]. And my hope is that it makes — has made— other people delve."

I guess I don't feel particularly betrayed by Daisey because I experienced his message in the theater, not on NPR. My assumption at the time was that he could very well have embellished the truth to make his point carry more dramatic weight. Had I since learned that all of the details of his trip were fabricated, that would be another matter. But his main point — that we need to pay attention to the way all of our tech tools are made — sticks.

Which brings up an interesting question for the meetings industry. How can you vouch for the veracity of keynote speakers' stories? And are you obligated to fact check them?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Celebrating #Neuroscience

Image by Jared Tarbell, via Creative Commons
This week is Brain Awareness Week, a good time to assess the growing influence that neuroscience research is having on how we think about meeting design and creating environments that support learning.

At Convene, we've taken a lively interest in the topic: In our cover story in July 2010, Andrea E. Sullivan, president of Brain Strength Systems, introduced readers to mirror neurons, and Dr. John Medina got us thinking about chunking information during presentations.  In January, David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work described how the NeuroLeadership Institute reconfigures their agenda and structure in pursuit of the goal of having the brain-friendliest meeting anywhere. In February, we explored a very new idea: that parks and public spaces don't just help us relax, they help us think.

The role of emotions in cognition and decision-making also is making waves. One of my favorite interviews in 2011 was with Anne Kreamer, author of It's Always Personal: Emotion in the New Workplace. And Convening Leaders speaker David Brooks surprised me when I talked with him last fall by his knowledge and interest in mindfulness, which, come to think of it, we also wrote about last year.

Researchers are at a very exciting stage, when the puzzle pieces of how the brain works are beginning to fit together. There will be lots more to think and write about, and to put into practice.

A special salute this week to Jeff Hurt, of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, and his passion for exploring brain-friendly meetings at Midcourse Corrections.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Here Are Some Interesting Statistics About Meetings


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View more presentations from cdurso.

How many hotels are opening in the United States this year? What are the top five international meeting destinations? How many meetings does the average planner organize every year?

Find out the numbers behind these and 12 other burning industry topics by clicking through this PowerPoint presentation I delivered at Convention Sales Professionals International's 2012 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., last week. Every number in there comes from either Convene's 2012 Meetings Industry Forecast, published in our November 2011 issue, or our 2012 Meetings Market Survey, which is forthcoming in this month's issue. Because while there may be lies, damned lies, and statistics, sometimes there are simply really interesting numbers that help you get a better handle on your job.

Monday, March 5, 2012

On Apple in the Big Apple

"Look at this," my dad said to me recently, pointing to the new digital camera he had purchased. "It's a Japanese camera manufactured in China. What else is new?"


I thought about that frequent lament — that all the manufacturing jobs have left the U.S. and other countries for China — when I saw Mike Daisey perform his theatrical monologue "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" at New York City's Public Theater yesterday afternoon.

For nearly two hours, Daisey sat in a chair on the spare stage to share his love story of all things Apple, and in stark contrast, a riveting account of his visit to Shenzhen, China. In particular, his trip to the massive Foxconn Technology plant, where 430,000 workers toil under inhumane conditions to produce those very cool Apple products, as well as nearly half of all consumer electronics sold throughout the world. (A recent New York Times article corroborated Daisey's diatribe.)

It was sobering, to put it mildly. The iPhone in my bag seemed heavier than usual. As my friend and I sat talking in the theater while the audience streamed out, we wondered what to do with this information. As we made our way out, we were handed a piece of paper. The headline on one side read, "Change is Possible." The other side: "The Rest of the Story Is in Your Hands."

How is this relevant to the meetings industry? Two things come to mind. First, how helpful it is — should you have speaker who will be delivering a message that will likely make attendees want to do something to feel less powerless — to provide some kind of follow-up material.

And secondly, as Convene's latest epanel results (to be published in next month's issue) show, meeting planners have embraced the iPad, like so many other industry professionals and consumers. Nearly a quarter of those responded to the survey use a tablet for work and 32 percent use one for personal use; nearly 80 percent of these tablet users have an iPad. We, too, have a say in this. From Daisey's handout: "Apple has long been a pioneer in technology — now they have the opportunity to lead the entire field into an era of ethical manufacturing. Let's keep pressure on them to do the right thing." Apple CEO Tim Cook's email is tcook@apple.com.

Note: Since I posted this, there's been a bit of a brouhaha about Mike Daisey's performance not being entirely factual. See my updated blog post on this.

Friday, March 2, 2012

"The Ideas-Conference Boom"

New York magazine landed in my mailbox this week, with a story, "Those Fabulous Confabs," that comes straight from the heart of the meetings industry. It's a gossipy look at the growth and evolution of the TED conference, and dozens of similar conferences, like PopTech and the Aspen Ideas Festival, that have sprung up in its wake.

Audience at TedGlobal 2010
The story covers some of the same ground I did in a story last year, although I was more starry-eyed about the trend. And if you were at 2012 Convening Leaders in San Diego, there's a good chance you already know what TED's founder, Richard Saul Wurman, who is quoted in the article, has to say about conferences. (Or you can read Executive Editor Chris Durso's interview with Wurman.)

The story asks a question about the new conferences which nagged at me:  "Are we running out of things to say?" I'm not sure if editors were just trying to be provocative, but the notion that a few dozen or even few hundred conferences could scratch the surface of what there is to say about sustainability, creativity, or solving global problems, just for starters, is one I can't take seriously. Organizers' judgment about who and what is worth hearing may fail, or we may be running out of time to listen to all those ideas, but those are different problems.

What I also found interesting was the short shrift the article gives to attendees. Other than an elite group of speakers and A-listers, ideas-conference attendees are painted as a pathetic and grasping lot. (The story begins with an anecdote about an attempted mugging of a TED conference attendee for his badge.)

The article recounts the value that speakers get from the connections they make from such conferences, and it seems likely to me that attendees —who mostly don't have a voice in the story — could tell similar stories. The conferences aren't proliferating simply because they offer content that, in many cases, is available on the Web. Attendees go for the opportunity to connect, and I don't think they are so clueless they would continue to attend if there wasn't something to be gained.

I would love to hear what you think.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Community-Building with Richard III

Kevin Spacey at BAM
I went over the weekend to see Richard III at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Harvey Theater and the production, with Kevin Spacey as the villainous Richard, impressed me on every level. And that includes an email BAM sent me a couple of days before the performance, which got me thinking about the opportunities organizations have in helping attendees prepare for events.

I didn't expect the email, which reminded me that I had tickets to the performance, which I bought months ago. It also included production notes, a map with directions to the theater, a list of nearby bars and restaurants, and an invitation to join a Facebook group for the event.

All of that is pretty standard. But where BAM excelled was in sifting through the available information on the Web about the production, finding what was relevant and reliable, and presenting it to me in an easy-to-digest way. I had intended to brush up on the history of The War of the Roses before the play; BAM sent me a link to blog post with a family tree of the warring British royal houses, two video clips, and a few additional links to articles and interviews. It wasn't exhaustive, but rather a thoughtful, "best-of" kind of list.

I appreciated it, and it reminded me of a Clay Shirky quote that I came across last week, which describes the contents about BAM's email perfectly:
Curation comes up when search stops working…[and] when people realize that it isn't just about information seeking, it's also about synchronizing a community.
I'm a fairly new member of BAM, and I joined, I confess, in order to have a better shot at getting tickets to very popular productions like Richard III. I know that the email is a marketing tool, but it made me feel like more than just a ticket-holder. And by not trying to sell me anything, but to give me something of value, I ended up more sold on BAM.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Recipe for Engagement

Meredith Rollins, left, and Mona Simon (in toque)
As editors, we’ve often written about the benefits of interactive experiences at meetings — of how a shared activity can strengthen relationships more effectively than just bringing attendees together in a meeting room or around a conference table.

Last week we experienced it ourselves, when Convene’s editorial and sales teams met with members of PCMA's executive, marketing, partner relations, and business innovation staffs for a planning retreat at Grove Isle Hotel & Spa in Miami.

One sultry evening, Chef Ehren Beers led us in an “Interactive Chef’s Challenge;" Mona Simon, director of partner relations and advertising, divided us into four teams, mixing it up in terms of our daily job functions. Luckily for us, Beers made food preparation practically foolproof: ingredients for our three-course dinner were pre-chopped and pre-measured, and Beers coached us on methods.

 Editor Chris Durso and ad exec Mary Lynn Novelli
It wasn’t structured as a competition, but our group managed to make it into one, talking friendly trash about other teams’ techniques, as we tossed together a chicken and mango salad, sautéed fish, stirred lemon and pine nuts into quinoa, and flambéed – or attempted to flambé – berries for dessert.

The hands-on dinner came at the end of a long day of strategy and discussion, as we filled page after flip-chart page of ideas. And it worked as advertised, switching on our playful sides, and creating a relaxing, if rowdy, atmosphere.

The resort looks over beautiful Biscayne Bay, and we moved from dinner to sitting around one of the hotel’s well-appointed fire-pits, overlooking the water, sipping wine, and talking into the night.

Software programmers invented the phrase “eating your own dog food,” as a metaphor for using your own systems, and it’s an apt, if inelegant, description of what we were doing.  And, with apologies to Chef Beers, our dog food tasted great.

Photos by Advertising Executive Mary Lou Sarmiento

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sebastian Thrun's Big Idea



Today is the first-ever national Digital Learning Day, a good day to talk about computer scientist Sebastian Thrun, a Stanford professor who is leaving a tenured position and will teach free online computer science classes to a global audience. (Thrun begins talking at 2:27 minutes into the video.)

Thrun is a very popular professor at Stanford -- the class he taught with Peter Norvig on Artificial Intelligence (AI) routinely drew 200 students. But when Thrun offered the course online and, with one email,  invited the world to enroll, that number jumped to 160,000 students.

The experience changed Thrun's life, he said in a talk at the recent DLD - Digital Life Design conference in Munich. The course was exactly the same as the one he taught in the classroom on the Stanford campus, but the online students included working men and women of all ages from all across the globe.

As Thrun heard back from the online students about the impact the class was having on their lives -- including a note from a soldier stationed in Afghanistan who watched online instruction while on a break from mortar fire -- he decided that making education free and accessible could change the world, he said.

Thrun and two partners founded Udacity, which is planning to offer more courses, including a programming course with no prerequisites.

What does all this have to do with the meetings industry? Because Thrun is one of the world's premier scientists, we can expect to see him thinking deeply about the content and delivery of online education.

The first class has already yielded teaching lessons. Students told him that the online classes felt personal, despite the fact they were broadcast to thousands. They felt intimate, Thrun said, because he kept the technology simple, using a camera, a pen, and paper to illustrate course content. Thrun also up-ended the passive lecture model, finding ways to make the course material interactive, so that students were actively engaged.

Udacity is looking to add more instructors from top-tier universities -- in law, business, medicine, and other disciplines. No doubt those individuals will bring their own ideas about online education to the enterprise.

Udacity and its audacious goals were announced just a few days ago. But it does look like the start of something big.

Thanks to Dara at diyscholar.wordpress.com for posting the video.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Second Chance at San Diego

Everyone loves a second chance. Here's yours (and mine, too).

On  Jan. 31, PCMA is hosting a free virtual extension of several sessions from Convening Leaders, held Jan. 8-11 in San Diego. You can link to register for the virtual extension here. And go here for information about the rebroadcast of the co-located Virtual Edge Summit.

I attended Convening Leaders, and I've already registered for next Tuesday's virtual event. I want to see some sessions  I reluctantly missed — including Dr. John Medina's Masters Series, "More Brain Rules for Meetings" — because I was attending others in the same time slot.

I'm also attending because it won't simply be a taped version of the content. There will be a social mediator on hand to keep the virtual group connected through text chats and at least two of the presenters, Sally Hogshead and Mary Byers are taking part in the live chat. It's a safe bet that we'll see more extensions like this in the future, as a way of expanding and extending the meeting experience to more people.

When Convene talked to James Goodman, managing vice president for conference and event services for the 157,000-member American Dental Association (ADA) regarding its decision to expand the virtual component of its annual meeting last fall, Goodman had this to say: "We are not trying to replace the live experience, we we are trying to enhance it."

So whether you are a repeater like me, or haven't had a chance to see any of the sessions, in person or otherwise,  I hope to see you online.

According to some sources, it was a pretty good meeting.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Closing General Session

Photo courtesy NeilsPhotography

After the Beatles broke up, George Harrison's first solo album was titled, appropriately enough, All Things Must Pass.  True enough.  In the same vein, it's with regret that I — Convene Senior Editor Hunter R. Slaton — must now say the same: For the time being, at least, I'm calling my last general session to a close, and signing off from PCMA, Convene, and the meetings industry.

It's been a good run for me.  I joined the meetings industry four and half years ago, when I started working at a competitor magazine of Convene's.  When I started, I was given my "beats" — journalist slang for areas of coverage — one of which was an acronym I'd never heard of before: PCMA.  Little did I know that in the coming years PCMA would become an even bigger part of my life.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Global Platform Could Unite, Expand Virtual Events

Tony Lorenz, left, with industry leaders at Convening Leaders.
The Network.

That’s what Tony Lorenz, founder of bXb Online is calling a new global online channel designed to aggregate content that offers live and on-demand content, primarily from face-to-face events. Plans are to launch the network later this year, but only after gathering information from the events industry. The network, which will be on an open-source platform, will be “for the industry and by the industry,” he said.

Pulling content together onto one network will make it easier for users to find and access the best, Lorenz said. He also expects that by aggregating the content, the network will raise the profile of the events industry in the greater business world, he said.

Plans for the network were announced this morning at the San Diego Convention Center at a press conference held during Convening Leaders. Lorenz was joined by supporting organizations,
including the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA),  and Virtual Edge Institute (VEI). The International Association of Events & Exhibitions (IAEE) is also a charter supporter.

Lorenz will be gathering information from the industry in a series of face-to-face events, some tied to large industry events, as well as through an online forum. More details are available here, http://bxbonline.com/blog.
Those interested in participating can also contact bXb by email at thenetwork@bxbonline.com.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Live From Convening Leaders

Convene is representing at PCMA 2012 Convening Leaders in San Diego this week -- overseeing the PCMA Daily newspaper and maintaining a strong, florally accented presence in the PCMA Partner Lounge. Photo by Andy Chasteen.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Scholarship Funds Support Digital Certification Program

Meeting professionals eager to develop the skills required in the quickly expanding hybrid and online events arena could soon get support from an industry leader.

Michael Doyle, founder of the Virtual Edge Institute (VEI), announced today that  bXb Online has committed $100,000 in support of VEI’s Digital Event Strategist (DES) certification program, the only one of its kind. The financial support offered by bXb Online, a four-month-old marketing agency founded by Tony Lorenz and specializing in hybrid and online event strategies, will sponsor professionals who are pursuing advanced credentials in the discipline.

The DES Certification, scheduled to launch this spring, is designed to help develop the talent that organizations need to effectively engage audiences using online events, Doyle said.

“The digital events community is an important and fast-growing category within event marketing,” he said. “The scale of the industry, when compared to the available talent in the digital events category, calls for investment in the talent base. bXb Online’s commitment will help ensure growth of a robust talent pool in the industry.”

For the second year in a row, VEI's Virtual Edge Summit is being co-located with PCMA's Convening Leaders.

Education is a pillar of bXb Online, said Lorenz. “We want to do what we can to support professional education in the digital event marketing space." The DES certification program starts with best practices around strategy, a characteristic that Lorenz called "embedded in the DNA of bXb Online."

While not a condition of bXb'a commitment, Lorenz is encouraging industry colleagues to consider a match of up to 100 percent of the pledge to further expand VEI’s DES certification program as a critical component of the entire event marketing landscape.

 Look for details about the bXb Online DES scholarship program and registration for scholarship applications on January 31, 2012, at www.bxbonline.com/desscholarsship. For now, interested professionals may sign up for scholarship updates by emailing their complete contact information to desscholars@bxbonline.com.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Here We Go Again


As I picked up this morning's local paper (The Record, serving northern New Jersey), I ran across this front-page headline: "Convention trip cost taxpayers $14,000." My initial concern was that conventions are once again being targeted as junkets, but as I read the more, I learned that those interviewed for the article were not questioning the merit of the conference in question — the New Jersey State League of Municipalities conference in November in Atlantic City — as much as raising the fact that one N.J. city (and potentially 17 other towns) failed to obtain proper state approval before sending 24 employees and officials to attend it. That city and those towns are under state supervision for receiving transitional aid and are therefore subject to a number of requirements regarding expenses — conferences included.

That was a relief, but I still imagined something of a smirk on the face of the writer as he described the conference: "Municipal officials have flocked to the conference for decades to attend seminars meant to improve government practices, schmooze with other officials, and be tempted to buy a wide range of services and products that are offered on the convention floor by private vendors." Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

And in other recent government news in my neck of the woods, yesterday NY Gov. Cuomo announced plans to turn Manhattan's Javits Convention Center into a housing, hotel, and office development, while pushing for a new 3.8-million-square-foot convention center — the country's largest — at Aqueduct Raceway in Queens. Mayor Bloomberg, who supports the proposals, asked: "Could you imagine what we could do if we had a world-class, appropriate-sized convention center?"

It will take grit along with imagination to see the project through, as convention-center expansion is not without its critics. In an unrelated City Journal editorial on Dec. 31, Steven Malanga accuses cities of "squandering money on hotels and meeting facilities" by using public dollars to build convention center space for two decades — "far more than demand warranted."

I think we should all embrace a healthy debate on the topic. At the very least, it keeps our industry on the public's radar.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What's Ahead for Virtual in 2012?

Image by Solfrost
As Michael Doyle, founder of the Virtual Edge Institute, prepared for the  2012 Virtual Edge Summit next week, co-located with PCMA's 2012 Convening Leaders in San Diego, he took time to look ahead with his top seven predictions for the virtual meetings industry for 2012.

1. Movement toward a simpler “less is more” approach

The trend toward a more simplified, web page-based graphical interface for online events and meetings will continue in 2012. Platform vendors are moving in the “less is better” direction with their new versions.

2. More embedded event and meeting solutions

Events in 2012 will be open and easily accessible to attendees wherever they are located. Many event and meeting producers will want to embed their events and learning programs into their existing websites to simplify the attendee experience.

3. More convergence of event technology

The competitive edge will go to those vendors who have the ability to converge registration, website, mobile, community/networking, and virtual extensions into a single solution. Most digital event solution providers will continue to move toward open architecture and a modular approach that will allow the embedding of elements driven by physical event registration and mobile communication systems. 

4. More 365 environments

Although there will always be the need for online environments for single events, the trend will be toward building perpetual environments that are available year-round to allow for better utilization and monetization of content. Users and producers alike will seek easy-to-use solutions that include their history, sufficient storage for recorded materials, and a familiar social network.

5. More shuttering of virtual event platforms

“Currently, there are too many virtual event platforms with too few distinctions,” Doyle explains. “Mobile technology has changed the game and what was a workable platform six months ago is now on the verge of being leapfrogged. That being the case, we will likely see new entrants that come into the market based on the latest web services, mobile and cloud architecture as others continue to drop off the radar screen.”

6. More predictable pricing models and shared risk/reward

In 2012, more simplified and more predictable pricing models will emerge. Some technology providers will choose a true Software as a Service (SaaS) model with limited services, while others will focus more on the services than on the technology platform. Some of these services will be geared toward making the event producer more successful from an ROI standpoint and we’ll see compensation models that reward or share in success.

7. More facilities will bring their Internet costs down while others will go “plug ‘n play.”

Internet charges for streaming content from events and meetings will come down as the strategic value of hybrid events continues to grow. Convention centers will find it a competitive advantage to offer great connectivity packages that enable attendees and event producers to share their event experiences via low or no-cost Internet and Wi-Fi. Some centers will also seek to become leaders in the digital revolution by offering in-house streaming studios, streaming services and built-in virtual presenter solutions. Event producers will need to negotiate the digital elements of their physical events before they sign their facility rental contract to get the best deals.

In summary, Doyle notes, "the theme is ‘more, more, more’ for 2012, though not necessarily more of the same. Experimentation and ongoing adjustment to digital strategies will be with us for the foreseeable future as we strive to add value to event, meeting, marketing and learning programs with an ever-growing arsenal of digital tools."