Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Candid Conversation with MPI" - WEC2009

On Tuesday, the last day of WEC2009, the leadership team of MPI invited attendees to a "Candid Conversation with MPI". A modest group turned out to ask questions. Here are my highlights. Please note that these are NOT quotes, just my interpretations of what was said.

  • In response to a question about the "Ambassador Program", MPI would like to expand this mentoring program to include all new members.
  • Between donations and matching programs by corporate partners, the MPI Foundation had raised about $25,000 at WEC2009.
  • An attendee from a local chapter said that he frequently heard the complaint from suppliers that the planner/supplier ratio at events is dropping. He feels MPI should do a better job explaining to suppliers that a large amount of their business actually comes from other suppliers -- the value to suppliers of MPI participation is not just access to planners.
  • Tradeshows at other events have been very successful using a one-on-one appointment model. MPI is exploring this option for MeetDifferent.
  • I asked Bruce MacMillan about the internal conversation regarding the pricing of the Virtual Access Pass. I heard him say the following:
  1. MPI is in the business of creating great content, and great content costs. Someone needs to pay for it somewhere along the line.
  2. MPI does not want to create a "subsidization model" where paying attendees cover the costs for non-attendees
  3. Much of the WEC content will be made available to members at a later date, but the live streaming of the conference was worth a premium
  4. (If I misrepresented what was said, please let me know!)
  • An attedee asked if MPI could publish a peer-reviewed journal for academic research. Every profession includes a body of knowledge, an education curriculum, and ongoing research. A journal that published peer-reviewed case studies would support researchers and academics AND help develop new content for MPI
  • MPI is sending out an RFP for research on the economic impact of meetings in the US. The Canadian research already completed is a benchmark for this kind of study around the world. MPI would like to get some economic data before the end of 2009, but the timeline will depend entirely on the vendor who wins the RFP.
  • Finally, MPI is getting an international CSR certification, including the MPI staff. This will help chapters and members drive CSR into every aspect of the meetings industry.


Leadership in the Social Media Age - WEC2009

On the last day of WEC2009, Dr. Amy Vanderbilt gave a great talk on Management and Leadership in the Social Media Age. She presented a good percentage of the content from a three-day workshop in about 90 minutes, so I'll just touch on the highlights for me.

Dr. V is a trend watcher. The two trends that she sees converging on the leadership space are the shift from the Communication Age to the Social Media Age, and the shift from Baby Boomers running the workplace to a workplace filled with Boomer, Gen-Xers, Gen-Yers and (soon) Millenials. Each of these generations brings a different set of valuable skills and attitudes. Boomers bring experience. Gen Y believe that anything is possible (so they'll try it, and sometimes it works!), and Gen X is now old enough to know better, but still young enough to try.

The major shift that needs to take place in the mentality of management is away from the myth of control. The command and control attitude is a holdover from 1950's management philosophy, when there was very slow change and very little information flow. Control is a personal craving for power and authority. Managers with a control mindset tend to believe that they are the sole source of information for their subordinates, and they sometimes demonstrate "Self-Tending Mushroom" behaviors -- they hide themselves in the dark of their own office and they feed themselves their own.... well... you know.

The Social Media Age makes the control mindset very dangerous for businesses. SM creates a pervasive awareness both inside and outside the company -- there are no secrets, and the manager is no longer the gatekeeper of information. If you as a manager aren't honest and forthcoming, Gens X and Y will get as far away from you as possible. They will leave the company and take their skills with them. SM has also accelerated the expected response time for your organization -- there is no longer time for a formal approval process. This means that those crazy Gen X and Yers on the front lines are making critical decisions every day that impact your customers and your brand. You do not have control.

Managers need to become leaders. Ask yourself the following questions:
  1. What tasks am I responsible for?
  2. Do I enjoy those tasks?
  3. Can a subordinate do it?
  4. Is this task uniquely my responsibility?
As a leader, you must do only the things that only you can do. Delegate the rest. There are still times were autocracy is a valid leadership style -- only in emergencies, and then be sure to THANK the team for responding so well. In this age, leadership must be participatory.

Dr. V presented a great model for the "Cycle of Command". Leadership positions are not forever, and you should go into each position preparing to leave it. She presented four stages of leadership in a team, from establishing leadership to mentoring your successor. At each stage, different styles and tactics are appropriate.

A couple of other notes that I thought were interesting.
  • Set Thresholds for both Rewards and Punishments
    Write those standards down, make them fair and consistent, act quickly when someone meets those thresholds, and be open about the entire process.
  • The Right Way to Do Layoffs, if they become necessary
    Be up-front - explain that layoffs are coming and why
    Explain the criteria for who gets cut and be fair about it
    Act swiftly after the announcement to minimize dread
Dr. V presented a ton of other great content. Her trend-watching reports look pretty fascinating. Check out her website for more.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesday ONE+ Daily Illustration

The "Case for Meetings" Session with Mary Boone was fantastic yesterday! Participants heard from each of four experts on meeting design, measuring value, managing meetings as a portfolio and advanced logistics, but spent most of their time developing a sales pitch on each of those topics to take to executives within their organization. You can see the synthesis illustrations of their work here, but check back, because we'll be adding more content - including the particpants' own marker boards - in the next few days!

Today's ONE+ Daily illustration is inspired by the Case for Meetings. Enjoy!


Monday, July 13, 2009

ONE+ Daily - Monday "cartoon"

Good morning, WECers! Today is full of opportunities to change the world. Will you explore an extreme meeting makeover with Jim McDonough? Or dive in deep on the Four Elements of Strategic Value with Mary Boone, Susan Radojevic, Karen Haas, and Jack Phillips (oh, and yours truly)?

The quote below is from Peter Block's Community: The Structure of Belonging. I highly recommend it for all meeting planners interested in both the meeting process and the environment in which meetings can be held. The title of this chapter is "The Small Group Is the Unit of Transformation."

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Speaker Sue Supplier Session - WEC09

Sue Hershkowitz-Coore (SpeakerSue for friends, websurfers and twitterheads alike) provides more, usable information in five minutes than most people hear all year. Her tips are for people who need to communicate with other people. That means pretty much anyone. She focused this session on suppliers to the meetings industry. The 75 minutes were gone in an instant.

I cannot begin to capture all of the great ideas included in this presentation. I'll hit on the general framework of the talk, and then highlight some key insights for me.

The context of "sales" has changed for suppliers to the meetings industry. It was never a good idea to be an "order-taker" as a supplier, but it would be death to do so now. We must develop a business case for our clients to use to sell our services internally. Here are four key questions to ask yourself to help build a business case:
  1. What are the 3-5 most important strategies for your clients?
  2. How does your client (the individual) contribute to those strategies?
  3. How does this particular meeting contribute to the success of the strategies?
  4. How does your service or product contribute to success?
When you're building a proposal, focus on the themes and words that the client used in their own RFP. Demonstrate your ROI, and give them all the tools they need to feel safe and smart.

The balance of the presentation focused on four themes: Prospecting, Following Up, Social Media, and Emails that Sell. You can find the details in the notes above.

Some key lessons for me:
  • "Make them feel safe and smart"
  • Ask for their opinions/experience/insight, and then shut up
  • Be authentic, be yourself, be quirky
  • Earn the right to advance in the sales process -- "Would it be ok if I...?"
  • Disarming candor: "How would you like me to follow up with you?"
  • Twitterize your email: direct, clear, concise, positive
  • "F.U." means "follow up"
  • Treat each call/contact as new
  • Verb + Promise + a Number + Quirky = much higher response rate
And some "nevers" that we should all appreciate:
  • Never ask "How are you?" - you don't have that right
  • Never say "Touching base" - that's for baseball players
  • Never mention previous failed contacts in a new message
Finally, "If you're not using social media, you are losing sales."

More at SpeakerSue's blog or @SpeakerSue on Twitter.

Sue added these comments in response:
"I love you, Jay! What a great recap and amazing illustration. As always, you bring clarity. And about those "nevers" you quoted...yes! On a cold call, never say, how are you. On a follow-up, never touch base; have a reason for the fu... to provide a link, an article, an insight about a new situation at your hotel, venue, with your service or to ask: We're ramping up for 2010 and would love to know what you need next year ....

"What you do enables learning and retention, not to mention fun. Thank you!"


Friday, July 10, 2009

Notes from the Field - MPI WEC 2009

Here we go! I am off to Salt Lake City for the MPI World Education Congress. I'll be sharing my journal pages as well as other reflections throughout the event. You can check here to see my progress.

I've also been asked by ONE+ editor David Basler to provide their daily newspaper with a graphic for each day's edition. Here's a draft of Sunday's image.

The theme for the event is "When we meet, we change the world." It's an interesting proposition. Peter Block says that every major change starts with a conversation in a small group. So important conversations will be taking place in Salt Lake City. There will be a whole lot more conversations taking place outside of Salt Lake City through a number of social media channels. I'm excited to explore this from the inside, and I'm happy to be able to share some insights with those of you who cannot attend.

Stay tuned...

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Ultimate Networking Event

In a recent #eventprofs chat on Twitter, the discussion briefly turned to the "ultimate networking event". What would it look like? How would it work? Why would it be better than other networking events?

In the interest of full disclosure, it was exactly this line of thinking that led us to create the services that we offer. So I've tried NOT to frame this as a sales pitch, but rather as a thought process that leads to great interactions between people.

First of all, why do we network? We want to connect with new people. These might be people we want to learn from, to work for, to work with, to sell to, to partner with, or a whole host of other variations on those themes. We want to meet people who have similar interests to ours. We want to meet people that might be fun and/or productive to work/talk/play with in the future.

So how do we connect with new people?

Personal Introductions
Perhaps the most valuable way to meet new people is a personal introduction from a trusted third person. I know Andre. Andre knows Barb. Andre knows that Barb and I share common interests, so he introduces us. This is a great, new, "qualified" connection to our network. But what if we're in a room full of strangers...?

Shared Interest
We often want to meet people who share our interests. How, in a room full of strangers, can you find out who's interested in what? This challenge led us to create the "Galleries" concept in the first place. What if you could distribute content and ideas strategically around a physical space? That would allow people to congregate near the topics that were interesting to them, and that would allow them to bump into other people interested in the same topics!

Imagine the Louvre or the Met in New York. You will find a fair number of visitors to the museums who try to wander around the whole place to see every thing. You will also find people who specialize in particular artists or styles or themes. Spend some time in the Impressionist area, and you are bound to find other enthusiasts of Impressionism. And having the topic of your interest (the paintings) all around you, it becomes much easier to find people who share your interests AND to start a conversation with them -- "Don't you love the way Monet uses light and water together?"

IdeaBoards are designed to create the same networking opportunity at meetings and conferences. IdeaBoards are illustrations of the content from keynotes, panel discussions, group discussions and breakout sessions. Our illustrators create these IdeaBoards in real-time, and post them in the Gallery at the end of each session. We can organize the IdeaBoards by speaker, by theme, or by any other topic.

IdeaBoards draw people into conversations. They are a fun, colorful, insightful way to present content. The invite people who attended that session to see what they heard in a new way, and they give people who didn't attend a quick overview of the story and major themes of the session. And as these two kinds of people stand next to each other in the Gallery, they can easily start up a conversation about this topic that they both are so clearly interested in!

IdeaBoards are just one of the tools that you can use to facilitate networking. Twitter feeds, SMS surveys, and content-driven trivia questions (among many others) can help strangers in a crowd to identify others with whom to make a connection.

Working Together - The IdeaLounge
Of course the ultimate test of any networking relationship is how well you end up working with that person. So why wait? Why offer canapes during a networking event, when you can offer tools to get real work done?

We've all spent many hours at these kinds of event, a drink in one hand, an empty toothpick in the other, wishing we could take a great conversation to the next level. We search for somewhere to put our drink down. We fumble for a napkin or the back of a business card to scribble out an idea...

What if you were surrounded by an environment full of collaboration tools AND comfortable seating? Imagine being able to sketch out your ideas on a marker board. Imagine a spontaneous brainstorming session of "the best ideas from this conference". Imagine taking a problem identified by a speaker earlier in the day and convening a quick focus group to come up with solutions, or next steps, or a proposal for funding to solve the problem. In this setting, surrounded by all of these tools, you get to meet people and work together with them! You get to experience how creative they are, how open they are to ideas, how flexible and funny they are when they're engaged in real design and not just cocktail chatter.

Again, marker boards and couches are just a few of the tools that can be brought to bear on the challenge of getting people to work together and not just chit chat. Flip camera can be used to record "great ideas" that people come up with. Digital cameras can be used to capture and share the marker board models and lists. Music can be used to strategically energize or relax the group. Polls (via SMS or informal walk-arounds) can test the mood of a group or introduce discussion topics. And of course wifi access can bring real data, computation tools and a world of other resources to bear on these (initially) casual conversations.

Not that there's anything wrong with canapes, of course. But we can get SO much more out of our investments in networking events!

I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences too! Are there other ideas and tools that I'm missing?

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tips for Unconferences

Jeff Hurt is a meeting planner and social media maven that I've recently had the good fortune to encounter in the #eventprofs chat on Twitter. His background in educational design shapes his entire approach to planning events.

Based on a WordCamp Dallas event he attended, he presents his tips for planning an "unconference" -- a non-traditional gathering where interactions among participants are more important than lectures from speakers. Both may still be included, but the emphasis is shifted towards interaction and co-creation.

Among my favorite tips:

"5. As you plan your schedule, include some adult white space for attendees to digest information, network and learn from others.
Just as in Twitter, it’s not about how many followers you have, conference planning is not about how many speakers you can cram into a day. It’s about the quality of your speaker’s presentations and the quality of the connections one can make."

"8. Unconference organizers should remember that people today are learning in new ways that are collective, egalitarian and participatory.
The best conference learning occurs when there are varieties of ways people can learn from passive listening to collaborative round-table discussions to small group exercise. Retention and learning decreases the more attendees sit and passively listen, especially for eight-to-ten hours a day...

"While trying to have a single-experience for the entire audience is admirable, it is not possible. Nor does it really happen. Everyone brings their own set of learnings, skills and perspectives to an event. Each person leaves with their own takeaways and views. The Internet has turned learning on its head and no one person enters, follows or leaves the social space in a same way."

Events must be valuable for all of your participants and stakeholders, but each of these people will have their own criteria for defining value. This is Jamie McDonough's "Value of One" principle. Our events must create personalized value for every attendee. It is critical first to understand what your different stakeholders want and need, and then you must design an approach to your meeting that allows for this wide range of unique experiences to unfold.

How have you seen this be successful at events? Share your "massively unique" event stories in the comments section!

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