Archive for December, 2010

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LOOKING BACK; 2010 – The Upside

December 30, 2010

LOOKING BACK:  2010-The UPSIDE

For me and Creative Events, it was a very good year!  Carry-over from Lawson, a new client in Dancer’s Studio, and of course CRV made 2010 not only the best year of 20 in terms of income, worthwhile and fulfilling projects, press and recognition, but saw me personally end the crippling debt caused by my fall and back injuries of 2002.  What a wonderful feeling it was to write that last check and erase that $21,000 that faced me this time last year!  And thanks to good projects, I was able to retire the Jeep, put myself in a new Mini Clubman, and make right a situation with a vendor that incurred way back during the RNC.  Yes!  With the slate wiped clean, I can now move on to that new life “after the fall” and for that, I am ecstatic.

But most of all, how much I have learned this year through an ever-growing circle of forward-thinking event folks and friends!  I feel like I began ever so long ago as one of the pioneers in meetings and incentives, matured with that industry as I was given a lot and in exchange, gave a lot back. Now,  once again,  I have received such a gift to be part of the morphing of those industries into new and uncharted territory requiring a whole new way of thinking as I grow from an event planner to an experience designer to meet the needs and thinking of today’s world in corporate America. Yes, it is a little daunting to not have the answers, to be experimenting with new thinking, and wondering, as time allows, if I am headed in the right direction.  But oh how exhilarating to fit a new piece into the puzzle that lies scattered about my desk and brain. What a great feeling it is to know I have a stack of books and book-marked websites and articles that are waiting to lead me further into that world. I am reminded, that for me, the thrill of discovery and one a-ha moment after another trumps the complacency that accompanies the self-confidence of knowing I can make it happen…the OLD way.

So after the last couple months of winding down, filled with health issues all resolved, despite depleting the savings to “tide me over”, and the uncertainty of what lies ahead, I am looking forward to 2011 and wishing I had another 40+ years ahead of me to continue to reap the riches of good friends and good colleagues experienced in the journey to this point.   

And once more, at the end of 2011, I am sure we will again be reviewing those lists of “Best of” and “Worst of” and wondering what the future holds for the world, the country, and for each of us personally as we peer into the light that signals the coming of 2012! May the scales tip to the good side for all of us.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, ALL.

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LOOKING BACK: 2010 – the downside

December 30, 2010

This is the traditional week of the year filled with lists of the “best of” and “worst of” 2010, and like everyone else, I have viewed or read my share.

One such commentary saddened me as I listened to the pundits 2010 view on the Iraq war.  In 2001, as plans for it surfaced (BEFORE 9-11) in the Bush Administration, war was declared on “Terror” and we invaded Afghanistan looking for Osama bin Laden…all the while building up for the already planned invasion of Iraq, I felt like I stood alone in the world, as a naysayer cautioning that we would not succeed.  I was the unpatriotic one as I pooh-poohed the weapons of mass destruction theory and suggested it was limited to the biological weapons provided to Iraq and sanctioned by the neo-cons during the Reagan administration – so of course, they knew Saddam had them-they had come to be when the US was using Iraq as a weapon against Iran in the 80s.  I was chastised by friends for suggesting that Iraq’s Sunni culture stretched back over a 1000 years and that mixed with a heritage of warring tribes left little hope that in a quick invasion we could “save” them from their ways and create a democracy that would prosper, grow and become the model for bringing democracy to the middle east.  What in the world were those people smoking in the White House to be so deluded and dismissive of facts? And how in the world did they get a nation of reasonably intelligent citizens to go along with it? Oh yes, I was told I wrong in that thinking…after all, the one thing the US government does pretty well was WAR, I was told by a friend.  Not to worry, it would turn out all right.

And so it began…and did not go well as it not only contributed to a 10 trillion dollar shift in the deficit projections for 2010, created a tremendous tragedy of loss of American and Iraqi lives, and has not succeeded yet in establishing a solid democracy.

Projected positive balance in the early 2000s was $5 trillion by 2010 and thus provided the reasoning for the Bush tax CUTS in time of war.  Unfortunately, since the Bush Administration chose NOT to include war expenses in the budget for either the Afghan or Iraqi war, it took a while to realize that war was eating into that projected surplus – then the collapse of the teetering economy began in the early second half of the decade, and today we stand frightened to death of a $ 5 trillion deficit.  Congrats to the US; we managed between war and greed to achieve a $10 trillion swing that today still threatens the international economy.  We sure showed the world how powerful we are, didn’t we? Or did we just make way for the rise of BRIC?

Today, as we look forward to 2011, what are the projections?  Now the pundits mostly concur, the Iraqi war will not accomplish the mission – a victory we already celebrated years ago!  Sadly, we are seeing my projections come to be.  I fear this will be long remembered as a horrendous misstep by our government – making 19th century policies of Slavery, Manifest Destiny, and Extermination of the Indigenous Peoples look like child’s play.  And that does not even factor in the lost lives – not just of American soldiers who died, and those that were physically AND mentally injured, but the horrendous cost in lives and injuries to the Iraqis themselves-a loss much greater than our own.  No wonder I feel saddened. 

Add to that, Afghanistan, the Housing Crisis, the Economy, Lack of Jobs/job skills shifts, the worsening split between the political parties, and one could quickly experience a major sinking spell !

 Thank goodness, we can balance some ofthis with the oh so many positives in the world, our country and our personal lives that also surround us and keep us optimistic and moving forward!

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CERTIFICATION AND LEARNING

December 29, 2010

Over 25 years ago when the CMP certification was launched, I was VP of Operations for the Meetings Division at Carlson Marketing Group. This was long before CMP discussion/study groups were formed, as the certification concept was in its infancy.  But surrounded with a staff of meeting planners with varying degrees of expertise, in January, 1986, I ordered the PCMA Preparation Manual for the Exam and the First Edition of Professional Meeting Management, and introduced the 25 disciplines covered to my staff of meeting planners.  Each was assigned a section, and asked to review the topic and then present it to the team for discussion as part of the weekly staff meetings. 

I envisioned the manual as a good training tool; and better yet, one that would save me the time of organizing my own knowledge and thoughts to create tools myself.  But along the way, I observed an interesting phenomenon-each planner instinctively used personal experiences to illustrate what they learned, and the audience quickly shared their own experience to support or question the point being discussed.  In some cases, we decided the manual did not always reflect the world of corporate meetings as we knew it – but we simply assumed this was because of innate differences between corporate and association meetings.

Eventually, I decided to actually sit for the exam and off I went to Chicago to be tested; and became one of the first five CMPs in the State of Minnesota.  And yet, the process was somewhat disconcerting.  It seemed I had some trouble with questions relating to AV Equipment and Production.  Really?  How could that be – by this time I had been responsible for AV Production and Equipment for a $15 million division of CMG for almost five years!  Surely, I knew the basics.  As I reviewed the questions I missed, I was irritated to find that I did give the correct answers; however my answers reflected emerging technology and practices not in place when the manuals, study guides and exams were authored. 

And with that, I experienced the first disillusionment encompassing certification-it is too time-specific for an ever-evolving industry.  The second, of course, was that no client in the world really knows what CMP means even these 25 years later, so it does not offer much value in terms of one’s promotability.  Nevertheless, I generally supported the process; advising those considering sitting for the exam not to expect a raise, or more business, but to concentrate on the real value – the process of interacting with one’s peers in the learning process.

And then a decade or so ago, another certification process emerged – this time for the CSEP.  Most who know me have heard me say that I would like to be part of a study group, but have no intention of sitting for the exam.  I believe my credentials and client successes speak well for my knowledge; I am not sure testing facts and practices at any given point in time is meaningful; and although I commend those that have risen to the challenge and successfully earned the designation, I do not see the benefit for me personally.   I accept that attitude as partly an age thing and partly just my quirky personality, and really have not given it much thought – unless I am questioned as to why I have not pursued the certification.  I have been encouraged, however, to see that process in the event world continue to emerge – from measuring how well one memorized definition of terms, to more emphasis on measuring process and innovative problem-solving within an event environment

But in the last two weeks, this nagging certification issue has fallen into place for me, thanks to my newfound “bible” – The NEW Social Learning.  The authors define learning as a “transformative process of taking in information that- when internalized and mixed with what we have experienced- changes what we know and builds on what we can do.”  Learning is based on input, process and reflections.

Despite being a disciple of new emerging ideas in the learning field, I was surprised to see that 70% of learning and development takes place from real-life, on-the-job experiences, tasks and problem-solving;  20% from other people in formal or informal feedback, mentoring or coaching situations; and only 10% from formal training.  That caught my attention and reminded me how we intuitively polished our planning skills so long ago in the Meetings Division by interacting with our peers and sharing personal experiences.

But the authors pushed further as they suggested that the traditional corporate training model is being modernized to take advantage of incidental learning, learning from interacting with others, and learning along the way in the course of doing work.   They further suggest that traditional training methods may survive and will prove useful for teaching highly specific tasks or safety procedures, but evolving practices require more.

There is no doubt in my mind that I have been a part of an evolving industry for 30 years, and in the last 10 of those years, it is an industry that has speeded up exponentially.  Every day our base of best practices is redefined and so, too, are the “right answers “ of yesterday proven to be dated and even wrong. 

So that explains the dilemma of testing knowledge at a given point in time as in my CMP experience…but it does not provide the answer to how one measures learning nor how one ensures that once certified, one continues to learn.  And while I have not thought enough about this particular topic of certification and its value, it does reinforce for me that it is merely a first step in a big process.

 If in fact one sits back after certification and considers oneself the proven “expert”, I fear we would end up with an industry out-of-sync with the rest of the world. I personally am not too motivated to tackle the grueling testing process needed to add those coveted additional initials to my name and so, for now,  will keep my own energies focused on continuing learning instead.  

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WINTER ARRIVES AT THE COSMOPOLITAN

December 21, 2010

…with continued forecasts of rain and warnings of flash floods!

How strange to be here in the 24 hour city at the Solstice-generally at home, a time of celebration for me as I know the darkness and short days of the autumn are behind us and for the next six months, each day, a little more sun will shine in our lives.

Instead, here I am….in the newest contribution to the LAS skyline-now opened and functioning for just one week.  And what do I think?  It certainly fits the mold of the glitz of Las Vegas ….a several stories high acrylic chandelier as a centerpiece, with shining marble and clean modern urban lines – accented by artwork everywhere and of course, throngs of people from every walk of life….together with the inescapable sounds of gaming, it certainly proclaims like a new babe – I am here and I want attention! And attention it is getting as the place is sold out.

Like all toddlers, it is learning as it goes…we climbed a lot of stairs yesterday in this vertical hotel, up and down and up and down, and still no sighting of that one freight elevator….but out of that merged a glimmer of a vision of what the Poolside Tuesday night Party will be, and lots of good conversation about how to incorporate new food trends and entertainment…it is an event shaping up as one not to be missed!

Today it’s logistics from beginning to end with the hotel and Freeman from check in, registration and bussing to room sets for general sessions and breakouts…maybe when we get to the dock, we will finally find that freight elevator and can RIDE it up to see where it makes its appearance on every floor!

The rest of the team is safely ensconced in the East Tower while, a late arrival, I am at the opposite end of the property in the West Tower – and one that I think has not had quite the shakedown and attention…I have no materials anywhere in this place on the hotel or its layout – so each venture out, starts with reviewing the website…not really too effective, but eventually I get to a touchscreen someplace in a public area that directs me were I want to go, and I find my way.  But why don’t I have a mini bar with at LEAST water?  Instead I have two lonely beers sitting in an empty fridge but a couple dirty dishes in the dishwasher and a family-size microwave.   Yes, a sitting room where this morning I did finally discover, the flat screen is NOT mounted on the wall, but can be pulled out to be enjoyed while lounging on the velveteen three-sectional couch, a kitchen but no coffee or directions on how to use this new Intazza coffee-maker.  No hair dryer, no iron, no door that locks! Oh my…that has been a little scary…the exact opposite from my balcony – where I can’t UNLOCK the door to get out for a little fresh air. But all the missing items are forgiven when I see the greatest bathroom suite I have ever encountered….with a fab shower and, time-permitting, what will be a great asset during the conference – a wonderful soaking tub.  Have I mentioned this is a progressive hotel – or at least I think it is.  Near as I can tell, internet access is free.  In case you think I am in a suite, no, this is simply the standard double bedded room!

 Through-out the property, the staff is still being trained, but very friendly and helpful when they do have the answers…and last night, we had a fabulous experience eating wonderful tapas, visiting with Chef Jose, and enjoying some great people-watching.  One couldn’t ask for a better three hours – filled with friends, good food and laughter.   But really, some of the shoes were just a TAD too high-heeled, and some of the skirts were a TAD too short….although, I know, it’s VEGAS!

So, I am off, armed with Ryan’s questions about the room in which he will produce the two general sessions, and host of questions I have myself….to find the rest of the team at the “circle of dogs” on the second floor.  Now, that is NOT on the website…so hopefully they will be barking to lead me to them and the start of another productive day on this site visit!

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A BOOMER AT HEART

December 18, 2010

Much as I try to stay current with the world, and even feel ashamed that my laptop is still just an XP and I communicate via a T-Mobile flip phone – both of which HAVE GOT TO GO in 2011, there is one thing I simply cannot give up.

Yes, that is the morning paper and a cup of coffee.  I guess that makes me a boomer at heart – no matter how much I try to move into the “NEW” world all around me!  But really, I just can’t imagine life without that one hour dedicated just to ME and all the tidbits I see and absorb in that daily ritual.  Take today for instance:

As part of a group known as “Telling Native River Stories”, the editorial entitled RIGHTING THE WRONG OF HISTORY, resonated with me…and if I am honest, I think every TwinCitian should take note.  If it caught your eye, you might be interested to know that the annual Dakota relay run/horseback ride to Mankato to commemorate those that were hanged in 1862 departs at 11PM December 26 from Ft. Snelling – I understand it may include a visit to the gallows site itself again this year. You are invited to participate and learn a little bit of history that impacts us all. And while you are at Ft. Snelling, give some thought to the equally sad story of the concentration camps near Bdote, and the many that perished there that winter as well.

There were several Letters to the Editor sharing advice from the masses on how to do a better job with snow-removal (what do you bet- the majority of these folks are “no tax increase”/ not with “our” money folks).  I could not help but wonder if they took note of the story on adopting a fire hydrant to help the fire department protect us during the winter – particularly when our homes are filled with burning candles, logs and dry evergreens . 

Maybe I am not giving them enough credit – perhaps they now have the article entitled “Snetiquette” taped inside their cars as a reminder of how to drive and act during a snow emergency.   That article made me chuckle and I hope it sticks with me and others long enough to limit the urge to curse as we continue to try to get from point to point through all the snow!

And who knew?!!!  All these years I have battled what I was taught was a female weakness – at all costs, do not show emotion (well, it is okay to holler and swear, but just don’t cry) – only to find out that now that our upcoming Speaker of the House cries frequently, it has become OK – or maybe it’s just ok for the “weaker sex” the males of the world to cry – I couldn’t quite grasp the whole message there.  If I “man-up”, does that now mean it is okay to cry even if I am a woman?

In STIFFED BY THE GOP, I learned demands for time and service during the recount have remained unpaid.  A shout-out for Blue Earth’s O’Connor who proclaimed next time she faces a recount, if there’s no money to support it, “nothing starts”.  Maybe that is the answer to control this frivolous waste of manpower, time and attention during a Minnesota election cycle.

Have you ever tried to UNSUBSCRIBE to irritating junk e-mails or even junk snail mail?  Today I read about a solution.  After an arduous and frustrating 18 months of trying to stop her husband’s mail, a widow changed his address to the cemetery and all the junk communications stopped – at least at her house.  I am going to remember that!

The Weather relieved my worry a bit about getting to the airport and flying in/out of Minneapolis this week; and there was a great and “told from the heart” column by a Marine Infantry captain on “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” –  I wonder if someone showed that to our friend John McCain.  He needs a lesson in how today’s youth feel so he quits obsessing about Vietnam.

And finally, another article on the unraveling of the western competitive advantage with a twist – this one shares a positive, optimistic spin and ended with “For most of human history, only a privileged few have reasonably been able to hope that the future would be better than the present.  Today the masses everywhere can.  That is surely reason to be optimistic.” 

That’s a fitting seasonal message on which to end, yet I can’t help but wonder how many white, US Christian citizens see this only as a promise meant for them?

So, with life-enriching tidbits like these every day, how can I ever consider giving up my paper – it’s something I learned as a boomer that is worth preserving!

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LIBERATION

December 17, 2010

When I first started Creative Events, I was fortunate to have a wealth of business-savvy friends as resources for advice on the dos and don’ts of owning a small business.  One such sage counseled that each year I must “fire” a CEK client.  His rationale?  One always has a client that takes up too much time, yields too few results and generally robs one of energy better directed to the pursuit of growth of the company or new approaches that will benefit the remainder of the client base.

As a newbie-business owner struggling to meet expenses, that was hard advice but he continued to nudge me until I did it and YES! It was so liberating.  Not only did it free up time and energy to be put to more productive use, it also gave me a second precious gift.  It reminded me that I am in charge of my own destiny – no one to blame but myself if I am in misery.  

So it’s a rule I try to follow- and most years, I succeed. 2010 was no exception. I quickly identified the culprit on my list, and on November 22, I moved to free myself from the poisonous relationship.  I told the client who the vendors were that I was using; I called the vendors and told them to feel free to go forward connecting directly with the client; and I erased that planned income for time already spent right out of my projections for the year.  Better to not be compensated than continue.  I left for Thanksgiving holiday relieved that all was right in my world.

So wasn’t I surprised, when that same client called me THIS WEEK to tell me they were not going to use me to finish the project!  Yes, they fired me as well. 

Aside from the fact that it signaled I either was not direct enough in November, or the client was not listening, what a good reminder I got!  If one is miserable in a business relationship, the other party most likely is as well. What a great reinforcement of that practice I learned so long ago.  Both parties will go forward applying our energies where there is a good return and less angst!

So I am approaching the end of 2010 pretty content.  Even when the fear of a bad economy continued to swirl around me, I was able to rid myself of the burdens of a disruptive longtime vendor and a disruptive client not well-matched to my strengths.  And I’ve had my best year ever, with 2011 shaping up with promise.

So, if you find yourself with similar angst, go ahead – make it a practice in your business as well..it clears the way for energies to be redirected and  it is so liberating! Here’s to celebrating all the new good relationships you will make room for.

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IT’S AMAZING

December 16, 2010

Last night I listened in amazement to news commentators question why TIME named Mark Zuckerberg PERSON OF THE YEAR…not because they questioned the impact of Facebook on our lives, but because he was so young…and weren’t there older people that should have been honored?  Really?

We talk daily about the exponentially changing world in which we live and what that means…do we really think that growth is driven by Boomers for goodness sake?

So I say “hat’s off “ to TIME – and to anyone reading this over 35 years old, my message is: get over it and move on.  Worthwhile ideas that change the world most likely will come from Millenials and younger, so act your age and let it go.  You might learn something.

And speaking of amazing, I was reminded once again of another amazing practice that still is followed, despite the emphasis on clean air, pollution, no-fragrance policies  in the workplace, CSR policies, and just general awareness of food and smell allergies. 

This morning, when I leaned down to pick up my paper at 5AM, I immediately sneezed.  Before I even dissembled the bundle of papers, I knew…somewhere lurking within would be a poisonous perfume advertisement.  And sure enough, Macy’s “Believe” was the polluting culprit.

After I carefully recovered it, sealed it in a bag and disposed of it, I sat down with coffee and paper and once again thought, “I am amazed”.  Why in the world do we continue to tolerate this dangerous and disruptive marketing practice?  We’ve been talking clean air since the 70s, folks-you’d think by now, we would have eliminated this.  Or isn’t anyone but me impacted by this selfishness?

And finally, I read with amazement yesterday that employment opportunities for meetings and event planners are expected to grow at a rate of 16% over the next decade or so – faster than the average of all professions.  This was attributed to the growing importance of meetings in increasingly global companies.  Say what?  What happened to all those industry complaints and whining over the last 2-3 years …or was that just a good cover-up?  Here I thought I was the only one that had the two best years in the two decades since I founded Creative Events. It’s amazing….isn’t it?