Thursday, June 21, 2012


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:


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. 


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 cafĂ© 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.