Archive for March, 2011



March 30, 2011

I’ve listened in amazement once again to politicians trying to put together the state budget piecemeal and wondered if ANY ONE in government has ever been in business and done a budget?  I think not; they would know no favorite project gets a green light until viewed in the context of impact on an overall budget.

I’ve  survived the annual winter flurry of conferences  and awards  ceremonies.

I’ve smelled the earth at the Macy’s Flower Show and lunched at the Oak Grill with two dear friends.

I’ve washed my car and immediately covered it with mud as I left the garage and immediately fell into a pothole.

I’ve gotten sprayed by the turbulent Mississippi River as I stood on the Stone Arch Bridge and watched the water tumble over St. Anthony Falls.

I was just startled by a loud crash as the normal winter waterfall of ice off the side of the building collapsed into a mound of ice cubes  just outside my window. 

I’ve had two input sessions with the client contact and tomorrow have scheduled a team start up meeting for CRV 2011-just around the corner, waiting to steal away my summer.

I have filled my house with Easter Eggs and bouquets of irises to signal the hope of a winter soon gone.

I am tired of my winter black and gray attire and yearn for pink.

I am off to the launch of Unveiled Minnesota – a new concept in shows the Wedding Guys are bringing to the Minnesota market this fall.




March 28, 2011

As the “star” dust settles after Friday night’s ISES Awards party, I’m sitting in my office contemplating what’s next.

I am so grateful the CRV team was recognized with five awards and I was especially honored to receive the ISES Team award on the group’s behalf because it speaks to my passion for collaboration among partners as an unmatched means to accomplish a mission.  The ISES Star Awards planning team demonstrated that with a great party Saturday night, and our CRV Team of both ISES and non-ISES members and vendor partners clearly demonstrated that with some amazing results for our client.

My second favorite moment in the spotlight was our win for Creative Design as that chandelier was not only an awesome symbol of working together and a great visual, but a powerful tool representing CRV’s initiatives.    Following closely behind were BeEvents win for Event Décor and Design and Interactive Media’s win for Technical-mixed with a disappointment that Matthew Trettel was not duly recognized for his graphic design efforts-not because I wanted a “sweep” but because those efforts did such a great job communicating the CRV message to our audience.  We would not have delivered the Experience we did for our client without them.

And then there was “Best Corporate Event”.  I’ve spent most of the weekend contemplating why it seemed so incidental in the bigger scheme of things and can only explain it with the emptiness I felt as I stood on stage and recognized that the audience before me had no idea what we did to win in that category.  Any hope that what we accomplished could be a “teaching moment” trickled away.

 That evening and over the weekend, we’ve been flooded with e-mails and face book comments acknowledging the wins and offering up congratulations and individual recognition of a job well-done, but only one conversation from Friday through Sunday even hinted at an understanding of what the CRV Experience was all about.  Only TCB got it that Boston Scientific was the hero for using the event to address their business concerns and we, as the producers of the CRV Experience were the tool they selected to make that happen…and our needs-based creative design delivered the results they were looking for. 

For me at least, that’s what this is all about, in a nutshell.  That is why I am still passionate about the industry and why I continue to hope that somehow, some way, some time, we will be able to breakthrough the clutter of “pretty” and “fun” and help others in the industry understand what can be accomplished, and how personally gratifying it is to be a part of something that creates change.

So, I will rally one more time as I start the planning process for CRV 2011 to frame what this past year at Boston Scientific  has accomplished, what didn’t work so well, and what needs to be done going forward.  This may be my last chance to communicate “it’s all about the work” before I finally let it go and devote my efforts for the next fifteen years to my other passion- the river.



March 26, 2011

I’ve sent my kudos to Leslie Larson and her team who took some risks, thought out of the box, and changed things up. Their great efforts produced a Star Awards that worked well. I’ve sent my thanks to two key vendor partners that could not be recognized because they are not ISES members (MCC and Kelber Catering); and now I have unpacked the three crystal symbols that represent the recognition I received for my part in the production of the CRV Experience 2010.  They look good up on the shelf with the “I AM CRV” team picture and the framed set of CRV buttons!

All in all, the CRV Experience received five Star Awards:  Best Corporate Event over $75,000; Best Event Décor and Design; Best Creative Design; Best Technical; and the one I most wished for, Best ISES Team.  That one alone made it all worthwhile. 

One last time (in the context of CRV 2010 at least) I will say again: this was a group of people that were melded together by trust and respect for one another.   They committed to the CRV Experience-driven by the possibility of delivering excellence.  In the course of ten weeks, we invented new best practices to raise the bar in our industry and together, we proved through collaboration we can change the event world and how it “rethinks”.   Along the way, we verified that needs-based creativity produces value.  Best of all, we produced an interactive learning experience that drove results for our client.   And there is nothing better than that.  I confess had we not been recognized for that team effort, I would have been devastated.

I had not anticipated the number of people that would personally seek us out to give us a word of congratulations, and I wondered why I have never thought to so overtly do that myself in other settings. 

That unsolicited peer recognition to me seemed so much more powerful than the organizational recognition.  It rated right up there with Shelly Elmore from TCB casually sharing that the whole magazine was abuzz since they featured the article in March about Boston Scientific and how great it was they have taken the lead in using new formats of meetings to engage employees and get two-way conversations going with BSCI leadership.

So it seemed to me I had battled the funk and won…that is, until Kim and Marilee came to say goodbye and closed the book on this chapter.  I was quickly engulfed again in the black cloud and had to make an early exit from the festivities.  Later, safely at home and enjoying a celebratory snifter of Remy Martin, it occurred to me that perhaps I had blamed the tradition of awards and recognition celebrations in error for my gloominess earlier in the day…could it be that I was just dreading saying goodbye to the two best client contacts I have every worked with?



March 25, 2011

I planned my first corporate awards ceremony in 1971 as part of an incentive program to Rome, Italy.  Between then and now, I have been involved with 400-500 of them around the world – either as the planner, the producer, the recipient of the recognition, or to support someone who was a recipient.  So far, there are not too many that stand out from the crowd.

On a personal level, there are three.  I immediately recall receiving the President’s Award from Skip Gage at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.  I had the most fun at one held in Florida someplace where I missed my name being called to receive recognition for becoming a Goalmaker.  And I am most proud of one I received from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for my volunteer work on the riverfront.

On a professional level, most are a blur, or worse, are occasions I would prefer to forget.  Because the truth is, this tradition of public acknowledgement and celebration generally does not meet expectations.

I admit – I am a purist about this.  I believe that some how, some way, we have to keep trying to find a meaningful way to celebrate the featured work- not an individual’s popularity or efforts to campaign for votes .  And I continue to believe that some how, some way, we will discover how to do that if we just keep trying.

 Meanwhile, I have a hard time connecting to the trend of making the recognition event all about the party.  I would blame my attitude on “age” but the truth is, I felt this same way 30 years ago.  We strive for a bigger and better party; we sometimes elevate the recipients to some god-like level; we emphasize noise, dance and drink; and usually forget about not only food, but respect for simple attendee and recipient creature comforts.  It’s “all about the work” has morphed into  it’s “all about the quest for a bigger and better party.”

And for some, that is success. I recognize that for the extrovert, being the center of attention is the  be all to end all.  I just wish there were some figures to support HOW MANY of the rest of us are tortured because we prefer to be backstage and not in the limelight.  And I also recognize that the planning of those events provides a great opportunity for the sponsoring organization as it serves as a base to build community.  Committees of volunteers give great energy, time and effort as they work together to conceive, design and execute their vision; and in so doing, they become a community that helps strengthen that organization-not just at the event, but on-going.

As usual, as this week approached, I have been filled with trepidation – not about whether we will “win” because that has already happened last August when we delivered the work; and we have certainly been recognized via local and national press as well as a place on the agenda at RETHINK.  However, I knew by today I would be in a funk about this whole practice of Award and Recognition. 

And last night the MME Best of Awards did nothing to help me stave off that funk.  A surge in popularity brought attendance to over 450 people – far too large a crowd for the “W” but it’s hard to switch venues at the end…and there is not much one can do about bigger crowds than planned in that venue.  I can criticize, though, the food and beverage service.  It should be good, shouldn’t it? – it’s Manny’s after all.  And therein lays the problem.  A great restaurant does NOT a great caterer make.  Even good restaurant food does not easily translate to good banquet food nor the knowledge of how to deliver it to a large audience.  And one bar -Yikes what a disaster.  Suffice it to say, the experience was good for connecting with a few; not too good for networking, and I have no idea who won in any category except those pre-announced! 

That certainly did not help my trepidation about this evening at the Star Awards!  So, I am afraid I won’t get much work done today – I need to focus on managing an attitude adjustment and talking myself into appreciating the evening for whatever it turns out to be.  A “been there; done that” attitude just won’t do.  I need to rise to the occasion. I owe it to the team and to the CRV client…and to the ISES volunteers that are producing the experience.



March 24, 2011

…will bring no more positive visibility or influence on the nation and the world than he did on Minnesota as Governor. Thank goodness the STRIB in their March 23 editorial finally took a stand on this man.  And two Letters to the Editor today raised some very good additional points.

Yup, he is a native son; yup, he is a nice guy…Yup, that’s about all the good I can find to say about him. Sometimes one thinks we should be so lucky to have had the crazy Jesse Ventura back instead of allowing the havoc wrecked upon our state by Tim happen…at least Jesse surrounded himself with an administration of good, effective people that had the state’s interest in mind while he pursued his own  personal agenda.

Yes, despite his coyness on “will I run for President/won’t I run for President” I believe T-Paw has had a PERSONAL agenda ever foremost in mind since the day he declared he would run for governor.

WHY doesn’t someone in the national press connect the dots?  Remember when Tim Pawlenty and Norm Coleman were BOTH running for Senator from Minnesota? And then came the secret phone call from Dick Cheney? And all of a sudden, T-Paw dropped out of that race and refocused.  He’d rather be Governor – isn’t that a more accepted route to the US Presidency?  Am I the only one in the country that thinks some promises were made in that phone call that captivated Pawlenty  – that charming hockey player from South St. Paul?    Unfortunately for Tim, (and lucky for the world), Cheney did not remain on the top as kingmaker after the Bush selection and his manipulation to become the VP.  Fortunately he was exposed for what he was.  Remember a prediction of a $5 trillion surplus by 2010 that turned into a $5 trillion deficit under Bush?  Along with that don’t forget Pawlenty at the same time managed the state of Minnesota into a $5 billion problem under his watch.  I shutter when I let my brain go down that “what if” he had his way nationally path!

Before anyone crowns Tim Pawlenty the heir-apparent, please dig into what promises were made.  Take a look at the state of our state over the last eight years.  Take a look at Minnesota’s Itaska Project led by top Minnesota CEOs and ask yourself why they feel “a sense of drifting away from the highest standards of excellence” and are once again stepping in to fill a leadership gap.  Yes, their goals tend to focus on creating a world class education program and improving the financial fitness of our state.  And now they have moved up to the plate by taking on an initiative to encourage new business to move to Minnesota. Sounds to me like T-Paw was not the answer to business here at home; how will he be that on a national level?

Think about the consequences to the country if we let ourselves be led by this “nice guy”.  George Bush was a “nice guy” too.   Or am I just missing the strategic plan here?  Perhaps even the GOP recognizes Cheney’s choice for coronation second time around could lead to another repeat of the Bush era – IF there was a chance of winning. Maybe they are ok with offering T-Paw up as fodder while they move to consolidate their efforts to take back the White House in 2016.  No sense wasting a viable candidate in 2012.



March 15, 2011

The March Issue of BIZBASH Chicago featured yet another gift we have received from the CRV EXPERIENCE this past summer. Yes, we knew BIZBASH was including us in an article, but what a surprise to open the magazine yesterday to “14 MOST INNOVATIVE MEETINGS…New ways of thinking are revolutionizing content-driven events, and such gatherings are experimenting with new formats, technology and strategies-and seeing their ingenuity pay off.”

And there we were, right after the TED Conferences and along with Oracle, NTEN, SAP, The Cable Show, Cisco, IBM’s Lotusphere, and several other innovative companies that are working hard to escape the bonds of old thinking to bring the meetings and event business into the 21st century. 

Each of us took a different approach, but oh, the wonderful experimentation that was represented in that article!  Just look at the results this group accomplished:  Building attendee engagement, Getting Green-Long Term, Integrating Social Media, Bridging Live and On Line Conferences, Curating Conference Content, Managing Noise, Integrating Mobile Technology, Boosting On-line Interaction, Engaging Exhibition Layouts, Connecting Buyers and Sellers, Luring More Exhibitors, Sparking On-Line Content, and Streamlining and Tracking Content.  I am sure there is not a good producer or designer in our industry that has not wrestled with these very same issues.  How many of these concerns have you encountered in your own world of meetings and events? And how have you dealt with them?

Yes, it was a spectacular “high” to be grouped with this awesome list of industry-leading events, but more importantly, what fabulous brain food for us as our thoughts are slowly turning to CRV 2011 to bookend the journey Boston Scientific is taking this year following the launch of CRV last August.  It reinforced our initial thinking is on track, and sparked new thoughts about how we can best keep that interaction between employees and leadership moving forward. 

Over the last several months, I have often used this blog as a platform to air my passion about innovation, interactive meetings, social learning, and how to address new thinking about adult learning through good event design, experiential marketing and the birth of a new meetings and events industry that has risen from the ashes of the old.  

So although the recognition of CRV 2010 is a very fulfilling “high”; the gift we received from Bizbash was much greater:  More good ideas to stimulate our movement forward in this very slow process of changing our world.  There is more to this industry that the WOW of a pretty party!

Check out the whole article. Anna Sekula, the author says it best:

“When choosing the events to include, we looked at organizations that are pursuing these new avenues, and that are seeking long-term solutions beyond gimmicks and one-off experiments to build bigger brands and relationships with attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, and other partners.  With tangible results, each of the 14 gatherings highlighted demonstrate how such options are setting the stage for smarter, results-driven meetings.  They also help prove the power of well-produced meetings and their value in a larger business context.”

That succinctly sums up the purpose of my own life’s work and why I continue to describe CRV 2010 as the Pinnacle of my own 40-year career in this business.



March 7, 2011

We survived; and another Catersource/Event Solutions Conference in Las Vegas is behind us.

It was a blur but thanks to a great team effort from Freeman, the Dock Scheduler and the Dock Master, a seemingly impossible situation worked as we managed to unload almost 60 trucks inbound and got a little more than half that loaded out…with almost no problems.

Oh yes, we had the inevitable one delivery that couldn’t follow the rules, and one incident of raised voices but both were show producer incidents so they had to be overlooked and fortunately, did not have long term impacts.

And of course since we survived, the two hours we spent lost in the bowels of the hotel trying to move two carts from the dock to the Marquee Nightclub will become- at least for Jean Peine, Meredith and me- a hilarious story that with each telling, will grow to become a show legend! A hint to those who follow us:  If you are unloading ANYTHING that needs to go to the Marquee – search for the Dockmaster.  He will place a call to his friend Jupiter to request an escort to help you find your way.  Otherwise, even with a breadcrumb trail, you may disappear into the maze forever more.

But the dock demands meant little show time…in the four show days, I attended a great Event Solutions class, one of three general sessions and did manage to catch 2 short appearances of fellow ISES members  – BeEvents and the Wedding Guys- on the xperience stage.

All in all, it was a typical show.  I checked in on Friday, out on the following Thursday and left the property only twice:  once, to the Awards at Meet where I was underwhelmed by the facility, the set up and the production (but was glad I went so I could experience the AirStar Dome); and once took a quick trip to the Convention Center where I was overwhelmed as I raced through 900 booths and caught the shuttle back to the hotel just two hours later.  So rather than the ballroom mole of old, this time I emerged as the dock mole.

As usual, the most memorable moments were spent in reunions with old friends-not only the Mintahoe /Catersource troops, but Rhonda Couchigan whose client won an award, and Elissa Hernandez from Hargrove, and of course, Tara Rae and Pat – the King of Losberger structures.

So despite laboring for less than minimum wage, this “Mother Trucker” had a good time.

But please, could a little more be put into the show next year to mask that the Event Solutions side is still-in the minds of some of the staff- the ugly stepsister?  The first general session displayed every unaddressed issue I pointed out during the site visit so thank goodness it was the classy Preston Bailey on the stage.  But it started the negative buzz…a buzz that was an undercurrent through the entire week. That was not a good scene and needs to be addressed.