Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category


That SLOW 1st QTR, 2011

January 30, 2011

One of the benefits of the Minnesota events world has traditionally been a slow down mid December after holiday events, that extends into January and often bleeds into early February.  For me, it has been a time to recharge, reorganize, and regroup and thus a time I look forward to.  I clean out my office and prepare for the coming season; I curl up in front of the fireplace in my “library” and read – attacking the ever-growing stacks of trade publications and books that deliver not only inspiration and “what’s new” but food for thought as they challenge me to examine my own “best practices “ and incorporate new thinking. 

But here I am on January 30, surrounded by chaos.  An almost stripped Christmas tree stands abandoned in the living room; the dining room filled with crates and containers waiting for all that decor still strewn across the table and floor; stacks of books and magazines remain in my office and covering the fireplace hearth; papers and files are everywhere, and my last THURSDAY’s unfinished to-do list sits before me – where it has kept me occupied three days and promises to hold me captive all day today as well.  WHAT HAPPENED?!!!

Coming off my best year ever for Creative Events, I don’t have the excuse that the down-turned economy allowed me to get into bad habits and work less efficiently over the last couple years, and now I am out of practice…so as I headed towards that awful place of mental whining and complaining, I have had to stop and take stock.

Oh yes, we kicked off a new season for the riverfront Visitor Experience this month, and I’ve been spending some time absorbing the results of the design competition for short and long term plans for the river “above the falls” that were unveiled this week…

Oh yes, we celebrated my brother and sister-in-law’s sixtieth wedding anniversary, as well as their birthdays…acknowledging I now have siblings in their 80s…really?  I still vividly remember them both before they were married!   It’s comforting to see that my pledge to remain an active player in my own industry “until I am 80” has some credence, as they both are active in maintaining their antique store!…

Oh yes, I have devoted some fun time traveling memory lane as I have reconnected with college friends, and some BI friends, and several CMG friends via Linked In, Facebook, and several meet ups for coffee, drinks or lunch, and along the way, I’ve squeezed in some time to keep connected with new faces I met over the summer…

Oh yes, we are in the final countdown now for the Catersource/Event Solutions Conference and Trade Show in Las Vegas, and I am absorbed in overcoming a bad design problem in the construction of this hotel  as I struggle, along with the Dock scheduler to figure out how we can get a load in for both conferences attended by several thousand persons, all accomplished in ONE DAY with one or two docks available only from 10Am to 4AM…

Oh yes, I am still spending time telling our success story of CRV 2010, with two new articles due out in March, as well as preparing for a live telling to influential corporate executives -TED-style -at RETHINK which launches simultaneously February 14 in Minneapolis, New York City, Paris and Copenhagen …

And oh yes, the Creative Events opportunities!  We submitted our CRV entries for the MN-STAR Awards  and now await the announcement of finalists.  We have already begun preliminary planning for CRV 2011, space is secured and we’ve begun initial discussions on design as the I AM CRV communications campaign came to a close at the end of 2010 and has been replaced by BE CRV.  This will lead us through to the second all-employee meeting in which we will reflect on how well we did and what’s still to be done to keep this new division of Boston Scientific moving forward; we’ve concentrated on looking for new opportunities and are excited about our positioning for a couple.  We have started the movement to increase our collaborative team of independents to include a few key support vendors and are polishing our collaborative skills together as we tackle some significant RFPs that have come our way.

And oh yes, the personal growth!  FINALLY, I have made the jump from talk of leaving the 20th century behind and personally started the immersion into the 21st century.  The purchase of the MINI began the process; the acquisition of not one but TWO flat screens and DVDs came soon after and this month I have now acquired a smart phone…with conversion to a new computer and probably an I-pad in the plans before the quarter ends.  I am determined to prove that even I can adapt without too much angst – a couple years late, but better than never! (Although I admit, I made the conversion only so I could personally experience the impact of its use within the meeting and event environment; as I was perfectly content with my old flip phone that allowed me to call people and people to call me  with no other complications or distractions!)

So as I review this list, I understand why my life is in chaos and realize it is all due to very good things.  I will try not to complain going forward, as I think about another Award entry due shortly;  meeting with my tax accountant on Feb 10; presenting at RETHINK; a possible trip to Boca for the NSM for CRV; and the approaching departure for Vegas on Feb 25 for Catersource/Event Solutions.  Maybe in March, I will get that Christmas evidence put away and be able to bring out the tulips and irises of Spring…and crack open some of the books still waiting.



December 14, 2010

A new term in my vocabulary, and perhaps in yours…and if so, make note of it; remember it; seek out more information because I am convinced, we will all hear much more about this as we move forward into the second decade of this century…some of us still dragging our feet and holding on desperately to the familiarity of what we know and excel at in our past.

Thanks to the big winter storm here in MN, I was given a precious gift-two “found” days this weekend to lose myself in “The New Social Learning”  -with a short break once in a while for a peak outside or a quick escape into the world of Tom Clancy, to allow my mind time to process what I was discovering.

When I read the forward by Dan Pink, I knew I had found a gem…”Twitter, Facebook, and their social media kin are not all about marketing.  They’re equally if not more so, about learning….”  YES, finally a resource that positions social media not as a personal or corporate marketing tool but as a collaborative aid to facilitate learning! 

With that to peak my interest, I delved right in and before I finished the introduction, I was impressed with the authors’ realistic and thoughtful approach to this topic.  After an opening chapter on trends reshaping the workplace, the challenges and opportunities of these shifts and how social learning fits in this environment, the authors address, chapter by chapter, a specific social media category, its application, how these practices overcome business challenges, and how to address the critics of each.

Criticism.  Now that is a phenomenon I have encountered most of my life, and certainly recently as I have used this blog to contemplate ideas gleaned from industry thought-leaders  re adult learning, alternatives to consider when structuring conferences going forward, and possible options to minimize ineffective general session costs.  I recognize that criticism is a normal reaction to defend the familiar status quo, and generally, after the first sting, adds value to the innovation process, as it points out weaknesses to be overcome, or sometimes simply prepares one for that natural phenomenon of naysayers that are lurking in the wings.  But Bingham and Conner reassure the reader that the criticism generally falls into 3-4 predictable categories; then they build the case of how to dismiss its negative impact, and offer up success stories of those national and international organizations that have already forged ahead to embrace the change.  They even include top-notch examples of Governance of social learning use within some impressive corporations.

And best of all, they did not write this book frozen in time, but as two of the most respected names in training and development, they recognize that the tools discussed in the book may have dramatically changed by the time the book is read, so they created a complimentary website to keep the conversation current; provide more about applications of interest to each of us, and even “getting started guides”.

All that and I had not even started the book yet!   Needless to say, by the end of the weekend, the book was filled with margin notations and my ideas journal reflects a long list of action items; including some quality time devoted to that website! Today, let me end with some memorable thoughts put forth in the Afterward of this new treasure chest of ideas:

Once you move away from the push of information to the pull of learning, you liberate creative powers  in your people to succeed in this rapidly changing environment…once you make it easy for people…and you create an environment where people are not afraid to fail, you allow them to ask the really hard questions. …It’s about making learning a priority and using the tools of social media to facilitate a culture where we get better at getting better. It’s no longer about just being a better competitor.  It’s now about being a stronger contributor and a savvier learner. 

AMEN to that.



September 12, 2010
    In spite of the glow of success of our recent CRV event this summer, I missed the adrenalin rush of discovery as time constraints of the project meant no available slots in the day for reading, researching, exploring, and discussing new ways to push the envelope. I missed those quiet times of contemplating why…and why not.

    So in between the laborious task of reviewing supplier invoices, generating our own final invoice for CRV, and reconnecting with clients needing assistance with Fall events, I committed to attending EventCamp Twin Cities 2010.

    WOW! I got my fix of Social, Innovation, Experimentation, and Collaboration – just as Sam Smith and Ray Hanson promised I would. I am almost glad I could only make half the sessions as my head is spinning with new approaches, new questions, and discussion after discussion after discussion!

    Yes, guys, I am inspired to try new communication and collaboration techniques at my events;

    Yes, guys, you demonstrated how to harness participant power and transform that energy into new ideas and solutions that change business;

    Yes, guys, this innovation lab allowed us to experiment and push the boundaries!

    And wasn’t it great that one of my favorite blogs – Velvet Chainsaws Midcourse Connections won the Blog Award for “Best Industry Advancement”?

    Congratulations Sam and Ray for the initiative and hard work bringing the EventCamp experience to the Twin Cities. And Congratulations, Jeff Hurt for the blog award!

    And now, I have a new “to-do” list , a new list of books to find and my Personal Introspective Card to keep me focused and moving forward exploring better ways to deliver meetings and events in the 21st century!



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).



October 6, 2009

Robyn Waters, formerly VP of Trends at Target, and today a reputable trend specialist, once explained to me that her success was due to constant global travel combined with reading some 40+ magazines in-flight as she winged from place to place.

Absorbing the content of more than 40 monthly magazines seemed a great accomplishment to me—until I took stock and realized I, too, was a magazine freak!

A weekly news magazine, 8-12 trade publications, Arts from MIA, and Minnesota History from MHS, Metro, and that AARP one for good measure and today, after weeding out many of the design and culinary publications as subscriptions expired, my mailbox is still stuffed monthly with almost 20 welcome “windows on the world” that provide me with hours of education, entertainment, and good creative ideas-plus a fabulous visual experience.

And yet, hardly a month goes by that I don’t spend a Sunday afternoon with a cup of coffee at Barnes and Noble, looking through a stack of Metropolis, Met Home, Creative, Traditional Home, Wired and 3-4 food magazines – all of which were once conveniently delivered to my house – trying to decide which ONE treat I can buy!

So I am sad today to say goodbye to Gourrmet. Although it has not been a monthly visitor for perhaps 30 years, it was my first culinary subscription oh so many years ago, and I am sorry to learn of its end.

And yet, I understand it is a sign of the changing times as the print media world continues to fade and is replaced by less costly and faster means of communication with Web 2.0. As the News Service so aptly pointed out:

“Gourmet’s demise…illustrates how the ability of print media to make—or break—anything is waning. Increasingly, it is the viral aspect of social networking and blogging, that gives rise to new faces, places and flavors. ”

So be it. RIP, Gourmet.



September 29, 2009

This past week, I experienced a transition in what social media means for me. From its impact on forming a sense of community with “like” people and a basic appreciation of its marketing and communications applications in the event world, I have jumped to a whole new level of understanding of its usefulness and one that ties directly to the Creative Events mission of facilitating the communication of a quality, cost-effective and motivational message within every meeting or event environment.

An article in Meetings Net gave me some practical tips. One, attendees tweeting at my events will tip me off to situations that need my attention – whether that be the room is too warm, the music is too loud, or the beverage service is backed up. It is my responsibility on site to monitor those logistical details so that our guests are not distracted. I agree with Peter Hutchins at ASAE that I would rather know about the issue when I can act to correct it, than for it to become a negative mark on the event after it’s over.

Further, the ASAE article hinted at something much more important as it referenced Twitter moving from “interesting” to “useful” as it served as a means to relay questions between speakers and non-attendees. For ASAE, that was a signal to think more about two audiences – the ones that were physically at the meeting site, and those that are attending virtually through social communities of the attendee -and how the event organizer must do a better job of meeting the needs of both.

That provided a bridge back to an interesting podcast last week between Sue Peltier and Jeff De Cagna of Principled Innovation, LLC. In short, Mr. DeCagna suggested planners need to think differently about “social”- virtual has arrived. We devalue events when we do not allow opportunities for interaction, and create a show instead of an interactive experience. We need to integrate connectivity into our planning and encourage both face to face and virtual engagement for our audience. We should challenge our producers and speakers to get involved in this process. We need to create an environment in which the live and virtual community engages and wants to tell the story of their experience.

In the third point of that podcast – covering the need to nurture the learning mindset, it all came together for me. As DeCagna posed the question of what was a more “learnful” experience – to try to stay focused on the words of the speaker, or to allow myself to immediately share a point of interest with my community to discuss informally, peer-to-peer, with real time feedback, I finally moved forward to understand that social media is a powerful learning tool. It becomes the social interaction we once planned to happen after the message delivery to allow for peer discussion. We know that discussion is key to helping our audience to, not only understand, but to also create the memory joggers to recall the message once they leave our event. That is the key to behavioral change. For many in our audience, that social interaction is happening at the same time as the message is delivered-through the use of emerging media applications that allow immediate connectivity to a peer community.

As the event organizer or planner, we should not be concerned about that – we should facilitate it as we continue to support purposeful engagement.

As we reset after the damage of this recession, we will be facing a new economy – one in which every event has to have a strategy that is uniquely developed for its own purpose. As an industry, we need to understand that the adult learning model is changing and we must search for how we can best use tools such as social media to cultivate learning as the priority in our events.

And now, a new challenge for me. “Not enough time” can no longer be my crutch for not becoming better at using social media. There IS no excuse to limit learning opportunities!


National Civic Summit

July 18, 2009

Thank you Mark Ritchie and Nate Garvis for initiating this experience!

I first engaged by responding for a call for volunteers for the Opening Night Reception and Tweetup; and now have spent several hours in the last two days exploring the expo and attending the seminars and have come away with pages of notes on how civic organizations are using social media to get their audiences engaged – all great thought-starters – not only in the civic world – but for the event world as well – I’m energized and anxious to integrate all this into my own area of expertise – experiential, branded events.