Friday, October 26, 2012

Is Your Event an Oreo or a Macaron?

Has your event become an Oreo - where your participants know exactly what to expect, from the level and tone of speaker and message, to the dinner in a ballroom with the same type of meal, entertainment and dress code? Where they enjoy and embrace the familiar, perhaps not knowing there could be more. More engagement, more thought-provoking discussions that lead to new innovations in their field, a feeling of being more connected created by program timing that allows for this to happen.
What if the next year's planning brought reinvigorated thinking? New committee members or a new conference chair was ready to push the boundaries a little... would you end up perhaps with a Vanilla Oreo - different yes, but not necessarily better, or a DoubleStuff Oreo, where more filling is crammed in, everyone thinking people want "more" - more breakouts, a bigger gala, more panels so more people can present, more awards presented at the gala... Sometimes when we think twice as much of something is the answer, we find out it is only the right thing for a small percentage of the people - just adding more isn't always the right answer.
What if next year you thought of your conference as a macaron, where you replace the flour with almonds, making a shift from the beginning in expectation. While the macaron has rules associated - they are always a similar size and shape, they have two sides and a filling, you can start to play with these cookies. You can change the colors, you can change the flavours and fillings, and create an unending amount of combinations, each offering an individual appeal. 
If this year you approached the conference plan as if it was for individuals and what they might want, what would you change within the framework of days, time, space that you have? Would you add more places for people to have hallway conversations? Follow your plenaries with small "meet the speaker" campfire style sessions? Serve fruit and cheese instead of pastries to extend the energy of your guests through the sessions, or offer espresso instead of the vats of coffee, keeping more people on site and talking to each other? How about encouraging new formats for your breakouts - interactive, participatory, with improv or a fishbowl - there are many options that can provide new perspectives and create shifts without a need to recreate the entire structure.
Is it time to dust off your conference format and bake up some new ideas?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

10 Things I liked at IMEX

IMEX has taken the MICE market in the US by storm, as year two saw massive increases in the hosted buyer program over last year, and the education was even more jam packed goodness, with MPI Smart Monday, Association Focus, PCMA's Planner meetings, campfires and more. I loved hearing more about meeting architecture from Maarten Van Neste, and being inspired to enhance creativity and take care of our teams with Jonathan Bradsaw, and more about why to blog with Jenise Fryatt, among others.  IMEX America schedule 
Of course, that is only a small part of it. Here are some of my highlights of attending IMEX this year.
  1. Gerrit Heijkoop's shoes. Really. We first noticed them in the elevator, and it turned out he had posted his choices on Facebook, and his friends voted. They chose well. Conveniently they also coordinated well with Mr. Holland's outfit. A star of the show - for the great suit, the awesome hair and the general fun this very excellent branding and likeable character have given the whole country.
  2. People, oh the people.  We came, we saw, we hugged, we met, we talked, we connected and we grew. None of us stay in this industry for the long hours and airport wi-fi; we stay because of the people we get to partner with to create measurable, engaging, memorable magic.
  3. Inspiring visitors to the Vancouver booth to jump on our RockTheBike and blend up a batch of smoothies or margaritas. (Side note - we guaranteed so well we had close to no beverages wasted - we shared and drank them all!)
  4. The excellent interviews captured by Kiki L'Italien with some amazing people who are dedicated in a variety of ways to our evolving industry - Take the time to watch these - there are more but we talked to people ranging from QuickMobile to Meetology, DMCs to hotels, and platforms from Twoppy to SocialTables and many other experienced industry leaders - worth the time! We all enjoyed spending time with this smart and engaged lady who is always up for a challenge! 
  5. The sustainability hub the Green Meetings Industry Council hosted - their ongoing rotation of out-of-the-box suppliers was exceptionally interesting - and darn it, that is a really nice group of people who truly care! 
  6. Meeting @eventagist Stefania, @gheijkoop @djstomp @danberger ("Call me Don") among others IRL - it is always a blast to meet people you know through shared online conversation
  7. Smart and creative ISES leaders - Brian, Lenny Talarico, Laura and more - people who continue to remind us that it is always about the stories we tell through live events
  8. AVMan - the superhero representing AV For Planners - led my Mike McAllen and Jon Trask who have a plan to support planners in making decisions as they navigate the often confusing world of ever changing AV
  9. Hugging friends and fans of our beautiful city and seeing all our booth partners doing the same thing - we really are the friendly, fun West Coast CANADIANS!
  10. "Surprise!" and seeing the look on the face of our special friend celebrating a milestone - such a special idea to bring together friends from three continents to celebrate on the last evening!
I love the business conducted at IMEX, the learning, the connecting and the passion we all share for creating programs, conferences, events and meetings that matter.
It is fantastic seeing all the ideas we had to create a space that would engage visitors for three days, and I cannot wait to go back next year and do it again!