Archive for the ‘A New Meetings Industry’ Category


MEETING DESIGN: The What, Why and How

August 15, 2013

Yesterday, I received the advance copy of the MPI launch of their new initiative – a focus on Meeting Design.  It, along with a supporting case study based on our own collaborative efforts in conjunction with Boston Scientific and the CRV All-employee meetings of 2010-2011, will be introduced to 71 chapters of MPI around the world over the next several months. 

On one hand, I feel like the proud mom, to be even a small part of the movement that grew out of the mid-2000s, that I was experimenting with here in Minneapolis in 2007-2008 with some good successes surrounding the Republican National Convention.  As I was reading and researching and re-thinking the world of “meetings”, Maarten Vanneste was doing the same thing – “popularizing it in his book,  Meeting Architecture, a manifesto (2008)”.

Slowly, the interest and understanding of a new approach to our business grew; the successes happened and were acknowledged in trade press; fortunately for me, a colleague in the industry here in the Twin Cities was also following the transformation and change in thinking and opened the doors to us at Boston Scientific so that we could become the case study that is included in the MPI international launch.

Although I am tempted to use the cliché, “The Rest Is History” – it really is not.  It is only the beginning.

I have associations with several professional organizations – two of which seem to be launching the new approach Big Time this year…and that is a good thing.  Nevertheless, it will not be an easy transition.

I myself am currently working with a client that daily reminds me of the great task ahead as we move forth to try to modernize our own industry.  I have been working with this “Event Team” for 6 weeks now; and long ago lost count of the number of times I have been challenged by two members of this mini-steering committee (who in their professional lives handle meeting logistics for their own organizations).  I have no doubt they are passionate people; that they are passionate about logistics; and they are passionate about being right and doing it their way.  They are not so passionate about collaborative thinking, however – which is, indeed, the very key to the successful transition into the new world before us.

That first step –the Principle of Collaboration is an elusive one for many people. MPI describes it and its importance well:

Tap into the collective intelligence of the group to better understand its needs, generate new ideas, determine best solutions and put plans into action….the wisdom of the crowd is an invaluable resource.  Inherent in every meeting, is the opportunity for change, progress and innovation.”

And so, as I proudly read the final version of the MPI Meeting Design initiative, and the final version of the accompanying case study, and forwarded it to the rest of the team, I was quickly brought back to reality.  

Yesterday was a baby-step forward.  The rollout in MPI Chapters internationally will be baby-steps; the fight for successes in this new world will be baby step after baby step.  The work is not done in modernizing our industry and pulling it – screaming in protest- into the 21st century.

 PCMA is doing a great job in moving forward leading the industry as they have done with forward thinking since their first publication of the book “Professional Meeting Management” in the 1980s that led to the CMP certification process. (And yes, I am as proud to say that I was one of first five CMPs in Minnesota, as I am to say, I am proud to be one of the 5 founders of  the ISES chapter in Minnesota, and proud to be working with MPI to launch the Meeting Design approach all these many years later).

 MPI has now made the initial move; I think ISES is trying to do the same with their new educational approach.  But none of us have learned to walk yet, let alone RUN with these new ideas.  With time, we will get better – just as over time, we got better with the logistical end of our business.

In the meantime, I am comforted to read in the new initiative:

Meeting design challenges the status quo.  It represents a paradigm shift-a profound change in the fundamental meeting model that sees every meeting as a nail for the proverbial hammer of logistics. Logistics is building a house; meeting design is making that house a home….meeting participants needs are evolving beyond satisfying their basic needs for food, shelter, safety, proximity to others and  exposure to others.”

Basic needs:  food, shelter, safety, proximity to others and exposure to others.  Taken out of context, that conjures up man’s move out of the cave and exploration of the world around him, doesn’t it?  Those that were afraid to leave the cave and explore for new opportunities died.  And that’s what makes this exciting! 

“Attendees want innovative, unique experiences that challenge their senses, their expectations, their knowledge and their ideas.  Fulfilling on that is the ultimate value of meeting design.”





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.


LOOKING BACK; 2010 – The Upside

December 30, 2010


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.




February 9, 2010

Much as I was encouraged to read Harvey MacKay’s column yesterday, I was equally dismayed as I perused a reprint from the New York Times written by Joe Sharkey entitled “A new meetings industry emerges from the ashes”.

Yes Joe, our world does include irresponsible organizations holding lavish meetings that have led to what you term the “AIG Effect”. But did you confirm the outrage was caused by a meeting held in Las Vegas –a site which caters to meetings with good hotels and the biggest convention center in the nation? Or could the swell of disdain have resulted from the perception that because AIG was too big to fail and thus created the bail-out, the public viewed their meeting as inappropriate because it felt the government and thus the American public paid for it? The two issues are not the same.

Yes Joe, you may have felt the Sea World atmosphere was created just for you and thus you can exclaim about the lavishness of evening parties. But did you stop to think that all but the food and beverage are seen every day, day after day, hour after hour by Sea World guests . So the cost of that “special” whale show and most other accoutrements, have been amortized long ago over daily admission fees collected from the visiting tourists and their families. You might be surprised to learn that theme parks are chosen by planners for off-site events because it often COSTS LESS to produce there than creating a message-driven evening event from scratch. So, sometimes, reinforcing the message of the meeting in a social environment is sacrificed in order to manage costs.

Yes Joe, as we all struggle to adjust to the new economy rising out of this recession, for some, meetings and events are being redefined. But the new meetings industry you describe as emerging from the struggle is NOT necessarily based on cost control and virtual events as you reported.

In the first place Joe, cost control has been a critical tactical element for serious meeting and event planners for decades. ROI and Strategic Meeting Management were buzz words long before we knew we were in a recession. Procurement and cost control represents one important arm of meetings management – which many in the industry define as meeting efficiency. You might wish to check out 04 01 archive.html that was just recently forwarded to me by a colleague. Jay Smethurst created a picture that explain this very well.

Secondly , as technology advances, virtual events are indeed being experimented with in several arenas. But as the discussion continues, I think many of us are welcoming the hybrid event comprised of both live and virtual elements – not because we can, or because it is less expensive, but because it allows us to extend the audience exponentially, and thus create greater connections and engagement. Oh yes, Joe, one saves money in air, hotel and food and beverage with a virtual event, but a national meeting content producer recently pointed out to me that no one factors in the new costs – those of uplinks and television/movie picture quality production – which is needed if we expect in a virtual setting to hold the audience’s attention and create a meaningful dialog that will drive real business results.

Yes, most importantly, Joe, there is no need for meeting efficiency of which you speak, if one does not have meeting effectiveness – the arm that focuses on business results. Meetings and events that lack focus, purpose and a clear understanding of desired outcomes on the part of both the organizer and the audience are not worth holding-no matter how little or how much they cost.

EventView, the largest and longest-running annual survey of corporate sales and marketing executives, repeatedly reports that meetings, events and tradeshows far surpass advertising and web marketing when it comes to achieving corporate goals, introducing new products, cementing relationships, and enhancing a company’s brand. And they do so because face to face interaction optimizes effective communication, sharing of information, resolving objectives and obtaining buy-in. And it does this with a targeted audience that is interested, qualified and motivated to participate.

So yes, Joe, my hope for the future of the industry as we emerge from the ashes is that we scrutinize every meeting opportunity to get back to the basics – why is the meeting being held in the first place. And then, we move forward in design to accomplish this task and measure the results. In the 21st century that means we may abandon old models of talking heads and PowerPoint aimed to push information out to the audience and strive to create interactive experiences that connect, inform and engage.

We need to hold all stakeholders, planners and producers “feet to fire”. No real results; no repeat of that meeting. And along the way, we will change the role of the meeting planner from procurement experts to strategic players who by managing both efficiently and effectively, assist their organizations to market with their audience, for the mutual benefit of both.

Thanks for your patience as I vented.