Archive for February, 2010

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ANOTHER TAKE ON TECHNOLOGY

February 8, 2010

What a day-brightener in the midst of yet another winter storm, to read Harvey MacKay’s column in the Strib this morning about the use of technology to enhance brainpower!

For 25 years, I have had a simple “reminder note” displayed in my office. It reads: “The Medium is NOT the Message”. The mid 1980s was a technology transition time in the meeting and event production business that would move us from use of communication media such as 35mm slides and 16mm-35mm film to video and video conferencing–and with the introduction of computers, the very beginning of programs that eventually were replaced by PowerPoint as the preferred method of speaker support to talking heads, – not only in general sessions, but in every break-out as well.

After the initial discussions on compromising the quality of image, we gave in to the notion that our audience was acclimated to the inferior images of video at the time because of TV and we needed to embrace it. At the same time, our passion and knowledge for message reinforcement through peer discussion in social environments, along with a long list of advantages of traditional face to face meetings allowed us to weather the scare of teleconferencing putting live meetings production out of business.

And so, with a new mindset, we slowly started to move away from analyzing the best tools and means to communicate a message to the thrill of finding that newest available technology and how we could be among the first to introduce it to our clients. It was not long before our creative brainstorming was giving precedence to technology – and not to achieving client outcomes in the most efficient and effective manner. We were selling us and our expertise and knowledge, not how we could best tell the client’s story.

As Mackay mentioned, the McLuhan theory of the 1960s stated that the medium used influences how the message is perceived, and engages the viewer in different ways. Twenty years later, an industry thought-leader expanded on that. I’ve lost the source name but not his campaign message: “The Medium is NOT the Message”. I adopted it as a primary principle – not only in our work environment in the CMG Meetings Division, but as a guiding directive over the next 25 years.

So Mackay’s affirmation of that principle definitely got my attention.

Based on a concern that we are losing the ability to think creatively because we are now focusing more on how to use today’s tools of communication than we are on how to effectively communicate, MacKay posed the question of whether creativity was lost to the medium. He stated that if communication is meaningless and useless, the whole point of having and using great tools is lost. Reminiscent of my earlier blog on Innovation and the need for leaders to foster creativity, MacKay suggested that good managers challenge employees to use technology to enhance their brainpower.

MacKay offered up some interesting exercises to get creativity and innovation moving in organizations, adapted the McLuhan theory to state that the medium ENHANCES the message, and then closed with the MacKay Moral: “Technology is a result of creative thinking, not a replacement for it.”

Even in today’s world with technological applications growing exponentially, we can’t just blindly include a new tool, it has to contribute to the purpose. My mantra still stands – the medium is not the message (or vice versa).

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STATE OF THE INDUSTRY – INSTALLMENT TWO

February 5, 2010

Last month, I shared my views on our industry’s tactical trends focus; and with that mindset, I approached the sessions on trends at the State of the Industry with some trepidation.

I knew the design roundtable led by Ryan Hanson was positioned to focus on strategic meeting/event design trends – providing his audience was interested. But a quick survey of the attendees clearly indicated they were looking for more of what’s new in colors, décor and other accoutrements. Fortunately, offline, Ryan shared new and interesting perspectives from national industry people I did not know – Mary Boone and Jay Smethurst – and I went away with some great food for thought.

My original mindset reinforced, I took in catering trends and then moved on to Kris Young’s “Crafting More Strategic Meetings.” Here we had a good discussion on the use of events to advance one’s business strategy and in the course of the roundtable, we touched on changing demographics, a new approach and look to general sessions, the misuse of ROI as a term for cost-savings, and much more. The table was not physically full, but we all left full of new insights-and a great handout positioning Meetings and Events as Strategy.

So somewhat stimulated, I progressed to the Closing Session and the reason I had come to the State of the Industry in the first place….a longtime colleague, Joan Eisenstodt, was addressing the group with “Where we go from here: Future Trends”. After following Joan’s column in a major national trade magazine since the late 70s, I first attended one of her seminars in New York in the mid 1980s and left in awe. For more than 25 years since, when I have a chance, I make a point of listening to what she has to say about who we are and where we are going. Tuesday, as usual, Joan was all I expected – and more.

Ethics…Confidential assets…Climate change…Social responsibility…Changing demographics…World economy…Terrorism and other risks…Technology…and Education, Training and Professional Development Delivery-The nine future trends she addressed should not be a surprise to anyone. What lies ahead is more than GREEN and VIRTUAL. These trends are challenges faced by all of us in all industries and countries around the world.

But as we focused on the list, Joan pushed us to the next step. Knowing what is coming, she asked us to think of core competencies we each would need to manage those trends, and how we would acquire them. “Some joined this industry because they loved people and travel and were good at details or sales/marketing. Future competencies will be different.” That was an attention-getter!

I think most of us in the room struggled to respond so she shared some tips. Learn to improvise and think on your feet. Gain an understanding of the adult learning model and how it is changing. Read the American Disability Act and understand it thoroughly. Find legal expertise. Find technical expertise. What you are good at today will not help you be good tomorrow.

Then, as time ran out, she reminded us to access the many resources she had shared with us, including the World Future Society at wsf.org and closed by holding up a book I immediately recognized….DRIVE by Daniel Pink! Amen, Joan. Thank you for the jolt to move us in the right direction. You made the time I invested on Tuesday more than worthwhile.

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STATE OF THE INDUSTRY; INSTALLMENT ONE

February 4, 2010

Yesterday because Joan Eisenstodt was the Guest Speaker, I once again found myself at Meetings, Minnesota’s Hospitality Journal’s annual event, the State of the Industry. Thanks to AVEX, the presentation of survey results was improved immensely. But certainly, the most worthwhile elements were those that involved Joan.

I attended her breakout on Ethics and to my amazement, so much of the input from the audience was couched in a discussion that reflected the impact of the down economy on ethics – with many in the room seeming to feel it is ok for ethical principles to change in hard times.

I certainly understand lack of work and income creates desperation, but it does not give one permission to put one’s values in the closet until times improve. I so wanted to add my own two cents and direct people to John Maxwell’s “There’s No Such Thing as Business Ethics” or Minnesota’s own Bill George’s “Authentic Leadership” but knowing I am fairly passionate about ethics and its role in our industry, I held back as I tried to process what I would share so as not to look too judgmental. Fortunately for all of us, Joan was able to redirect the discussion back to the topic – Ethical Negotiations in a Changing Economy – and how an understanding of pressures on both sides can assist one in MAINTAINING ethical negotiations. And thanks to those in the audience that tracked with that, shared good input and action steps that contributed to the good discussion that ensued.

More to follow on the Closing Session “Where We Go From Here: Future Trends”. It was right on!

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ANOTHER MINNESOTA BEARD AWARD WINNER

February 3, 2010

Congratulations to Wayne Kostrowski of Cuisine Concepts for being named the recipient of the Beard Foundation’s Humanitarian of the Year Award for his work with Taste of the NFL and the more than $9 million dollars contributed since its inception to national foodbanks.

In a past life, I was privileged to work with Wayne as Taste of the Nation grew in size and prominence here in the Twin Cities. From those roots came Wayne’s inspiration to create the very first Taste of the NFL during the 1992 Superbowl held here in Minneapolis. As Operations Co-Chair of that inaugural event, I was so proud of the chefs , players, and hundreds of volunteers that worked to develop and support that event as the NFL came, judged, and found the concept worthy of being integrated into NFL Superbowl activities on an annual basis. And as they say, the rest is history.

Under Wayne’s guidance, I learned the importance of those that make our living in the hospitality world to give back to those less fortunate and how little separates us from those in need of help. But equally important, I learned the satisfaction gained through volunteerism and social responsibility as we “give back” where we can.

Wayne has continued to work tirelessly thrugh the Taste of NFL for the cause it supports. And for this, he has earned the well-deserved recognition he has been given from the James Beard Foundation.