Feed Me Friday: Coffee Hounds


Pour-over coffee on the trade-show floor at Content Marketing World in Cleveland. Not pictured: A long, mostly patient lines\.

If I hadn’t seen it, I might not have believed it.  Four dozen or more conference attendees standing in line at 8 a.m., waiting for 15 minutes or more for a single cup of coffee being brewed by hand, painstakingly, in Chemex decanters. Meanwhile, there was no waiting at a nearby phalanx of five-gallon containers of conventionally brewed coffee.

It’s possible that many of those standing in line were patient because we were waiting for our second cup of coffee of the morning. But all of us were fans — or curious about — coffee made by the pour-over method and were willing to invest a little time to get it.

It underlined two things for me:

One, it pays to swim against the stream. News Cred, which sponsored the booth at Content Marketing World,  was one of the most visible and talked-about booths on the trade-show floor. Overheard from one coffee drinker, walking away with a steaming cup: “This is the best thing about the conference!” It’s hard to argue with quality.

Columbus Coffee Trail stop, photo courtesy Experience Columbus

Columbus Coffee Trail stop, photo courtesy Experience Columbus

And two, the artisanal segment of the coffee market has gone wild. Like craft beer, micro-roasted coffee is spreading across the country and gaining converts all along the way. That means that serving great coffee is a good move, and helping visitors find their way to a good local cup of coffee is a no-brainer.

Next Monday, Sept. 29, is National Coffee Day and also marks the day that Columbus, Ohio, unveils a new Coffee Trail.  More will be revealed when Experience Columbus launches a website on Monday, but the Coffee Trail include stops at eight local coffee shops, leading visitors through the city’s flourishing coffee culture. There are a dozen local craft coffee roasters (most of them roasting single-origin beans) and even more specialty coffee shops, according to Experience Columbus.

Drink up.

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One Thing Your Speakers Don’t Know

070625_850_img_3458It’s common for speakers – even keynoters addressing a large group — to get out from behind the podium to walk into the audience. Sounds like a good way to help erase the distance between “speaker” and “audience” and make for a more intimate kind of dialogue, right?

Not really, according to a recent study published in the October issue of the Harvard Business Review. In eight experiments, doctoral student Yanping Tu and three collaborators found that people “feel more negative toward individuals, images, and sounds if those ‘stimuli’ are perceived to be approaching them.” This aversion, the article says, “has cautionary implications for public speakers who like to get close to their audience.”

Tu told HBR that on one level, listeners may perceive a speaker as warm and friendly if s/he gets closer to listeners. But an “undercurrent of negative feeling” will increase as the speaker gets nearer. It’s almost an instinctive response — they may feel intimidated, threatened, or that the speaker is invading their space.

Tu thinks it has to do with evolution: We evolved to perceive that “stimuli pose a greater danger if they’re approaching,” she said, “and we’re still wired that way.”

What might be a better approach? Tu suggests that speakers start off near the audience — maybe a short distance from the front row, and stay there.

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Farm-to-Fork Fare

fishy fishyI’m on the last leg of a wonderful whirlwind trip throughout Ireland, where I’ve been superbly hosted by the Meet in Ireland team. Since last Friday, I’ve spent time in Belfast, Derry-Londonderry, Dublin, Cork, Killarney, and I’m now in Limerick at the historic and majestic Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort.

This is my third trip to Ireland and I am no less awe-inspired than my first visit here more than five years ago. This is a country where it’s easy (as they say here) to “tick” the boxes: spectacular scenery, warm and friendly people, fascinating ancient history and inspiring recent history, and a rich culture — not to mention the many lovely hotels and state-of-the-art meeting venues that I’ve been shown around.

But if you were to ask me to name one thing has surprised me most on this trip, I’d have to boil it down to the food. It’s delightful. Ireland has really upped its culinary game in a way that is unpretentiously true to its roots, with fresh dairy items, meats, poultry, seafood, and organic produce — all locally sourced — on nearly every menu.

It really can make a difference to your dining experience when you know where your food comes from. Last night, the traditional Irish brown bread that accompanied my yummy Spiced Red Lentil & Vegetable Dahl at 1826 Adare was served with a round of creamy butter. Neatly over its top rested a paper identifying the local dairy supplier.glenilen

Earlier this week, I enjoyed fresh and flaky hake at Fishy Fishy in Kinsale, where owner/chef Martin Shanahan goes one step further in connecting diners to their food source. The local fishermen who bring him their daily bounty are not only named on the menu next to their catch, their photos line the restaurant’s walls. All of which adds to the pleasant memory of a most delicious meal.

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#Throwback Thursday: Back to the Future

10635776_10152729461190730_85846262127518285_nMore than a century ago, French artists were commissioned to create a series of postcards that imagined life as it would be for Parisians in the year 2000. As I prepare to join a Google Hangout that will link Convene editors in New York and Washington D.C., an image of the artist Villemard’s 1910 postcard seems particularly prescient.

Not pictured: Facebook, where a friend posted the image.

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#GloPro: We Happy Few, We Band of Brothers (and Sisters)


Where everybody knows your name, aka PCMA’s Global Professionals Conference – Europe.

A few weeks ago I attended PCMA’s Global Professionals Conference – Europe in Lisbon — a great program hosted by the Lisbon Congress Centre that brought together 23 meeting planners and 13 suppliers for two-and-a-half days of education, networking, collaboration, and generally enjoying the food, culture, and splendor of a beautiful European capital. As I said it was a great program, with two thought-provoking keynote speakers — Sony Kapoor, managing director of an EU-based economic think tank, discussed “Evolving With the Rapidly Changing Euro-Economic Landscape,” while cross-cultural business expert Oscar van Weerdenburg presented a “Euro-Cultural Negotiations Workshop” — and a lot of small-group discussion, and numerous opportunities for everyone to get to know one another, formally and informally.

Indeed, in some ways the entire GloPro Conference was a small-group discussion. Including PCMA staff there were about 40 total participants, and that size lent itself perfectly to the sort of relaxed mingling that marks the most successful events. Between breakout exercises, coffee breaks, a Country Solutions Learning Lounge, networking lunches, and, of course, drinks and dinners, you kept bumping into someone new, or sitting next to someone you’d talked to the day before, or standing among a group of longstanding colleagues, and by the end of the program, everyone seemed to know everyone else pretty well.

As something of an introvert, I appreciated the opportunity to meet people in an organic, low-key way; and as an editor for a magazine that regularly writes about the growing importance of “chunking” content, it was interesting to see an entire conference that was itself chunked, from the attendee roster to the education program — with the size and scope of everything designed to maximize the experience.

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Feed Me Friday: Hand to Mouth at the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival

While on a fam trip to Hawaii I was lucky enough to attend the Corks & Forks gala on the rooftop of the Hawaii Convention Center. The event, part of the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival, drew celebrity chefs from all over the globe and some of the Napa Valley’s finest winemakers.

Here were my favorite moments.

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Feed Me Friday: How A Suburban Chicago Convention Helped Supersize Fast-Food Wage Rallies

burger_dollarIt may not carry the gravitas of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference or the 1968 Democratic Convention, but a meeting that took place in suburban Chicago earlier this summer has a direct link to the fast-food wage protests that erupted across the country yesterday.

Those sit-ins, strikes and marches were the latest action in fast-food workers’ two-year campaign to earn an hourly wage of $15 — roughly double the federal minimum wage of $7.25. The “day of civil disobedience” went down in 100 cities, resulted in hundreds of arrests, and grew directly out of a July convention of 1,300 fast-food workers inside the Odeum Sports & Expo Center in Villa Park, Illinois.

Details of the unusual two-day event, which was organized by Service Employees International Union, were scarce — but according to the Associated Press, attendees discussed civil disobedience and eventually voted to “escalate their efforts” toward a $15-an-hour wage.

A direct result: A day of rallies and arrests six weeks later, and another spike in public visibility. Another result of the campaign is that cities from Chicago to Seattle are planning to raise their minimum wage higher than the federal level.

With President Obama’s verbal support, as well as financial support from the SEIU, it’s likely that the “Fight for $15″ campaign may have continued anyway — but as with many movements, a meeting helped propel it forward.

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Top 3 (Non-Academic) Lessons Learned From Nobel Laureates


Talk about a Dream Team. Nearly all of the plenary speakers at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Metings, held annually in Lindau, Germany, are Nobel laureates, who have been gathering on an island in Lake Constance since 1951. I attended the 64th meeting, held early this summer, where 37 Nobel Laureates from medicine and physiology took the stage for 30-minute lectures.

Not everything the laureates said went over my non-scientist head, but there also was much to be gleaned about how we learn. I wrote about the meeting’s history and organization in the September issue of Convene; here are three non-science takeaways:

1. Storytelling really does help us learn. None of the topics that the Nobel laureates addressed could be described as lightweight, but I noticed that I had a far greater chance of understanding and retaining knowledge when presenters included stories about their work, not just equations and hypotheses.

For example, Elizabeth H. Blackburn, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and 2009 Laureate, titled her talk about the role that telomeres play in disease, “Adventures at the Ends of Chromosomes,” began by telling the audience that her research literally began with the study of pond scum, illustrated with a picture of a scummy pond. I was hooked.

2. Rituals are a glue that hold groups together. Many of social events scheduled during the meeting were traditions that went back decades and were a little corny, such as a Bavarian evening, complete with Lederhosen and folk music — see photo above —  and dance where attendees were randomly matched together. The dance is “an awkward situation for everyone,” says Wolfgang Huang, who, meeting organizer and director of the executive secretariat of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings.“That is part of the fun. And that brings people together.”

3. We need each other to do our best thinking. Nobel laureates are rightly honored and elevated for their intellectual discoveries and their own personal abilities to make brilliant leaps of thought and knit knowledge together in new ways. But it was striking to hear how many of the speakers began their talks by praising their colleagues and students for the contributions they had made and were making to their work. Not one laureate indicated that they had gotten to where they were standing without the help of others.

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#ThrowbackThursday: (Beautiful) Killer Questions

In our September cover story, Editor in Chief Michelle Russell talks with author Warren Berger about what he calls  “beautiful questions” — big ambitious questions that can be acted on – and how they can transform business.

When Convene talked Lisa Bodell in November 2013, the CEO and founder of the global innovation training company future think also was thinking about the power of the right questions — Bodell calls them “Killer Queries.”

“In our quest to always have the right answers, many of us have forgotten how to ask really smart questions,” Bodell said, “the kind that inspire you to truly think, address the elephant in the room, or even make people a little uncomfortable. Killer Queries should be open-ended, provocative, even outrageous, and they can target any aspect of your business.”

Bodell provided examples of the kinds of questions that meeting professionals should be asking as they design their events:

1. If we couldn’t do anything that we normally do when it comes to creating an event, what would we do?

2. What are all the assumptions you have around what must happen in a meeting? What if the opposite were true — what kind of meeting might result?

3. If you had unlimited funds to create the award-winning meeting of all time, what would you spend the money on?

4. You can only focus on one thing for your next meeting to make it a success — what is it? Why?

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24 Hours in Indy

photo[15]Late last month, I attended Visit Indy’s annual Hotel Symposium, a morning program that brings the local hotel community together to learn about how the city is doing in terms of leisure and group business and what’s on the horizon, including larger trends shaping the overall hospitality industry.

In a nutshell, business is good in Indianapolis. And I was able to see why for myself. It was my first time visiting Indianapolis in more than 10 years — the first time I visited the city was to attend my first PCMA Annual Meeting in 2004. When I landed the afternoon before the symposium, I checked into my hotel, and struck out on my own, with no particular goal in mind other than to get a sense of this place.

In Indy, you can check off all the necessities for groups: beautiful, state-of-the art convention center, great hotel product, modern airport. But after my short one-hour stroll, I saw so many other ingredients that give the city character — modern buildings alongside historical landmarks, parks, world-class museums, and cool shops and restaurants. Indy’s a vibrant city that is exceptionally walkable, compact, and welcoming.

photo[13]And cultural! I stayed at The Alexander, a boutique art hotel that Senior Editor Barbara Palmer wrote about last year. Mesmerized by the large-screen video art installation on my room’s floor, where buildings appeared and disappeared in pop-up-book fashion, I was almost late for Visit Indy’s tastings dinner at Cerulean, conveniently located downstairs. Sometimes tasting menus are hardly that and are actually too much of a good thing. But as we nibbled our way through seven yummy, adventurous tiny courses — from rabbit terrine with raspberry verjus, to dueling tartare (beef, tomato, quail egg, potato chip, arugula, black garlic), to a two-dessert denouement including macadamia financier — it struck me that it somehow captured the essence of my brief experience of Indy: forward-thinking yet completely manageable.


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