Meeting professionals may not think of themselves as creative types — more like the rubber-meets-the-road kind of people. But when you think about what goes into assembling the many pieces of an event from start to finish, I’d say it takes creativity, and lots of it. How can we dig deeper to come up with ideas that will keep our face-to-face events fresh?
The two speakers we have lined up for PCMA’s Convene Live program, July 28–30, in Ottawa, will not only share, but show — in interactive workshops — how. Collaborating together for the first time, creativity experts Todd Henry and Keith Sawyer, Ph.D., will help participants find innovative solutions to their own toughest on-the-job challenges. They recently spoke to Convene about what’s in store for them.
Keith Sawyer, Ph.D.
What could make getting this kind of hands-on help from experts and a small group of your peers an even better experience? It’s free. Convene Live is fully hosted for qualified planners — including airfare, accommodations, meals, and registration for the sessions and workshop. You can fill out an application to see if you qualify. For more information, please contact Katie Yandell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope to see you there!
Visit. Go. Discover. Choose. Experience. In the May issue of Convene, we explore why DMOs are choosing their first names carefully. In the February issue, we talked about how some CVBs are choosing some interesting partnerships — forming alliances with other DMOs. In that article, we spoke to Greater Houston CVB Vice President of International Group Sales and Tourism Jorge Franz about why his city joined the BestCities Global Alliance in May 2012.
We got the word this morning from our PCMA teammates on the IMEX show floor in Frankfurt, Germany — where the announcement was made by the Choose Chicago team — that Chicago is the latest and tenth member to join BestCities, joining
Chicago joins Global BestCities
Houston, Berlin, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Dubai, Edinburgh, Melbourne, Singapore, and Vancouver.
As we reported in our February article, “every city in the alliance must undergo a stringent third-party audit to prove that it maintains a high level of service and meets certain qualifications, such as having more than 10,000 hotel rooms near its convention center as well as a major international airport.”
Check, check, and check, for Chicago — one of my favorite U.S. cities and home to PCMA headquarters.
After getting a pretty mean sunburn while waiting more than an hour for a beer, it was difficult to say many good things about the first-ever Great GoogaMooga, held in Booklyn last year. This summer, organizers of the annual food and music festival promised things would be different, and on Saturday afternoon, I was pleased to discover they kept to their word.
In order to keep lines moving at this year’s GoogaMooga — held May 17-19 — organizers avoided choice overload by asking that vendors offer only one food option per booth. There were also ten more vendors added to the roster, bringing the total to 85 food stands. And after the 2012 GoogaMooga received complaints for being too carnivorous, planners beefed up their vegetarian selection. Shorter lines meant we could actually try more than one type of food (a gourmet grilled-cheese sandwich with caramelized onions and kale from Little Muenster, and fall-off-the-bone brisket from the Hill Country Barbeque Market).
They did away with “GoogaMoola” — drink tickets needed to purchase alcohol — and instead implemented wrist bands, which were handed out by staff members walking around the festival grounds. We waited in line only ten minutes for the wine-tasting tent, as opposed to 45 minutes last summer. Which was nice, because the tent provided shelter from the rain that day.
Despite a constant drizzle and a persistent layer of gray clouds above, we actually had a really great time at GoogaMooga this year. The clouds prevented sunburns, the wine-tasting tent prevented us from getting soaked, and the lack of lines allowed us to over-eat to our hearts’ content.
Unfortunately for organizers, the second full day of the festival was canceled on Sunday due to thunderstorms (disappointing vendors, and festival-goers who’d purchased a ticket to a “rain or shine” event). I guess GoogaMooga isn’t totally off the hook just yet. The curse, perhaps?
Great Falls — captured in a photo not taken by the author, who left his smartphone behind.
When is it time to unplug? Yesterday morning my wife wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day with a few hours of quiet, undemanding family time, so we took our two daughters to Great Falls Park, which straddles the Potomac River in Virginia and Maryland. We parked on the Virginia side, and as we were getting out of the car, we both decided at the last minute to leave our smartphones behind. Meaning we experienced nature off the grid, without photographing, Facebooking, or tweeting it. Instead we did a little hiking and a lot of sitting — among the jagged rocks and lush woods of Great Falls, overlooking a Potomac that was churning and excited from several weeks of bizarro weather. Without having to worry about framing the experience for digital consumption, I think we relaxed into it more than we might have, and just enjoyed ourselves and our girls and the beautiful, bright day. And driving home, I felt relaxed and thoughtful.
We talk a lot about using social media and other technology platforms to connect your meeting to a larger conversation — before and after the program, and maybe especially during. But my experience of late is that live, in-person meetings are something of a luxury in our on-demand world, because they take us out of our everyday environment, in which we’re constantly on call, and ask us to think only about who or what is in front of us at that moment. Once I got home yesterday and life began seeping back in, I wondered if the most engaging and fulfilling conferences would be those that unplugged themselves by discouraging tweeting and everything else-ing, at least in the moment, and by encouraging the here and now. (This overlaps a bit with a post I wrote a few weeks ago about the magic of live experience.)
I don’t know. I love technology, and I’ve found online communities and conversations to be a very rewarding complement to real-world communities and conversations. But might a meeting or conference be a place to draw the line, the better for attendees to immerse themselves only in their immediate environment — and the thoughts that are in their own heads?
Yesterday morning, as part of a media trip sponsored by The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, I played foosball. With my whole body. While touring Broadmoor Hall, part of the resort’s extensive meeting and event facilities, we walked into Broadmoor A ballroom to find this:
It’s a giant, human foosball arena, and we were soon divided into a red* and blue team (five players on each side, including the goalie) and strapped into harnesses set up along ropes, mimicking a traditional foosball table. Players were restricted to horizontal movement only, so it was pretty funny to watch everyone try to move vertically within the space, attempting to score or block the “foosball” (in this instance, something like a soccer ball). My group had already been at The Broadmoor for the previous two days, so we had gotten to know each other a bit — which helped ignite some competitive spirit without anyone feeling uncomfortable. But I can imagine what a great icebreaker this could be for smaller meetings or in smaller group settings. And with two ten-minute halves, it was a surprisingly great workout.
Here’s some of the game action:
*Full disclosure: My team (Red) lost, 2–0.
While Google Hangouts may have gotten serious the moment President Obama used the program, or maybe when major media outlets started to broadcast interviews via Google Hangouts, now its gotten even more professional with HangoutMagix.
Our team at Convene has been using Google Hangouts pretty regularly, both for our editorial meetings and when attending live events remotely. And with travel becoming more difficult, and attendees now desiring a virtual or hybrid component to their events, more and more meeting planners will need affordable, professional, reliable streaming outlets.
With HangoutMagix you can add captions, titles, and logos to your Hangouts, much like you would with film editing tools like iMovie or Final Cut Pro. The subheads make the footage look a little less homemade, and more like a polished broadcast. The graphics also help introduce the speaker, and help attendees keep up with the conversation.
Created by French technology expert Bertrand Diouly Osso, HangoutMagix is currently in Beta testing, but Google Plus users are invited to check out the website and begin creating their custom overlays.
“This really does break new ground,” Osso said in a press release, “especially for professionals who want to use the Hangouts system while retaining company branding and staying true to their professional corporate image. The fact that it is free also makes it accessible to organizations of any kind.”
Chris Shepherd’s Korean braised goat and dumplings — from Houston, with love.
There are no new ideas, at least not in my head this beautiful Friday afternoon. Last night my wife and I attended a reception at the Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC, hosted by the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau (GHCVB), and pretty much everything that it occurs to me to say about it is something I’ve already blogged. Food as culture? Yep. The value of a plus-one? You betcha. The sheer pleasure of face-to-face conversation? Of course. It was a lovely event all around — elegantly staged, seamlessly executed, and leaving me at something off a loss. So I’m going to fall back on the food. Sue me.
Two of Houston’s star chefs, Hugo Ortega and Chris Shepherd, are nominated for James Beard awards — for Best Chef: Southwest — and the ceremony is in New York City this coming Monday night. So GHCVB had Ortega and Shepherd detour from their trip to NYC, stopping in Washington, D.C., where they provided the food for last night’s reception and talked up their city as a cultural and culinary mecca (and, not coincidentally, played off GHCVB’s super-fun My Houston campaign). The whole program was elegant in its simplicity: bring in your chefs and let them show what they can do. After two of Ortega’s fresh, tart margaritas and three servings of Shepherd’s spicy, savory Korean braised goat and dumplings, I’d say they can do quite a bit. And so can Houston.
Recently, I had a phone interview with Storify Co-Founder Burt Herman while he was attending the 2013 South by Southwest Festival, held in Austin March 8–17. Wandering through thousands of festival-goers, he explained how much “noise” can be created on the Internet when everyone is Tweeting, Instagramming, Facebooking, YouTubing, you name it. Storify, a social media-aggregating platform, helps shape that noise into readable, engaging stories.
After our conversation, I wasn’t surprised to stumble upon an article about Storify being indicative of the future of content. Since everyone is a reporter now — number one on the list according to Contently reporter Karl Hodge — more and more, readers shape the news we consume. In the same way attendees drive a meeting.
Because of social media, attendee feedback is instantaneous and meeting professionals can communicate with their audiences in ways they haven’t been able to before. Attendees can hold more conversations, make more requests, be more places at once, and receive attention in ways they didn’t in years past. Now event planners can document and monitor their conferences in a whole new way. By following the experience of attendees, they can gauge reactions to their events and enhance their meetings every year.
With the rapid evolution of Storify, the platform is now being used in ways that surprised even Herman. To discover more interesting and cutting-edge ways planners, suppliers, and attendees are using Storify, check out the upcoming Working Smarter feature in the May issue of Convene.
Do we spend enough time talking about a meeting as a live experience? Not as a face-to-face experience, but as a unique, one-time-only production? I don’t know that we do. And we should. A good meeting is a sort of exclusive group performance, presented for and by attendees, and happening just once — so if you weren’t there, you missed it, but if you were there, it will always be part of you.
That really struck me when I was listening to, of all things, an interview with Neil Patrick Harris. Comedian Chris Hardwick was talking to Harris about a magic show that Harris recently directed in Los Angeles. They were joined by the show’s performers, magicians Derek DelGaudio and Helder Guimarães, and when Harris explained why he’s such a champion of magic and other variety-style performances — “I want people to value seeing live things that are good,” he said, “and seeing them live” — DelGaudio offered a lovely, off-the-cuff commentary on why live experiences matter:
“It’s temporal. A lot of it has to do with knowing that this is happening in the world right now at this moment and can never be reproduced in some way. Whether or not [the performer is] going to tell the same joke, do the same effect or something — I know that this is happening for me.”
In our rush to expand our remote audiences and make our content available post-conference via any number of digital platforms, are we giving short shrift to the beating heart of our meetings? Are we neglecting the magic — the unvarnished presence, the serendipity, the communality, the sheer liveness — that makes them like no other professional experience for the people who are there?
Technology + meetings industry + expert = Corbin Ball.
That’s been a proven formula for the past 15 years that Corbin has devoted himself full-time to meetings technology. In this video interview with James Latham of International Meetings Review — recorded at PCMA Convening Leaders this past January in Orlando — Corbin says he’s never witnessed a period in time when technology has been changing more rapidly than right now. Even if you, like me, often feel stressed about keeping up with the pace, when you watch this video, I think you’ll agree with Corbin: It’s an exciting time to be in the meetings business.