Friday, May 13, 2016

A Kite Dancing in a Hurricane #IMEX16

What makes IMEX the go-to meeting for much of the MICE industry in both Europe and America? It is a place to do business, learn about what is new and as always it comes back to the sheer amount of opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations with people from around the world.
No Rog Simons you take the pic - your arms are longer!
Also with Maarten VanNeste

With Padraic Gilligan and IMEXDale Hudson
Nothing beats face to face.I am currently midway through the DES – Digital Event Strategist Certification – where we learn all there is to know about the development, management, and delivery of successful virtual and hybrid programs from experts across the industry – a great program, and I was able to connect with fellow learners from the EU while at IMEX - from chat room to chat! 
Mike Lyons pleads for the defence, my "counsel" Padraic and I listen raptly,
Jon Howell presides above
IMEX offers several adjunct programs including Exclusively Corporate Day for these planners and also an Association Day, among others. Exclusively Corporate was ably hosted by the SoolNua team of Padraic and Patrick and began with some fun polling, a journey through new thinking from Kaihan Krippendorff, and moved through a variety of topics which offered ideas and suggestions for challenges these planners face. We ended with a Mock Trial presided over by the legendary Jon Howell and ably facilitated with the help of Mike Lyons and  and our expert “witnesses” Deborah and Peter. While we did not come to a final conclusive end to our arbitration we certainly shed some light on important topics for our industry. Once again IMEX offered a day to these planners which tapped into their needs before they moved into their time at the show. 
In the #EventTech area
As always for those of us who are either new to or have spent time in the industry the show floor navigation is full of information, smiles, hugs and engaged conversation with friends and colleagues from around the world – we all become kites dancing through the hurricane. I was able to discuss job progressions with Jessie States of MPI; the future of strategic and engaging design with Ruud and Roel of the Event Model Generation Canvas; to be inspired about the importance of embedding sustainability into our meetings especially during the FRESH Dinner with Dale Hudson, Claudia and BabsNijdam; to be inspired by our future leaders including Courtney Stanley, Magdalina Atannasova, Rosa Garriga to meet, see and spend time with luminaries including Olga Novarro, Terri Breining, Julius Solaris of EventManagerBlog, (my first post linked here!) and Maarten VanNeste from the Meeting Design Institute, Eling Hamso, Mike Van de Vijver, and many more. IMEX as always is about the people.

Hanging out at MPI with Jessie States and Ruud Janssen
The floor was buzzing with announcements, hospitality and fun activations on the floor and once again the IMEX team maximized social, always adapting to the changing social media as our relationship to mobile and digital evolve. Again Miguel Neves and Gerrit Heijkoop are a formidable team, creating, curating and sharing across platforms to engage those on-site as well as those watching from around the globe - and they do it smiling for four days. (link takes you to a great post from a new member of the IMEXSocial team)

IMEX is a place where business is done with people we meet live and have come to trust and as always I can’t wait to return.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Scotland Summit Shapes Ideas

Global Events Summit

Hosted by VisitScotland, IMEX, the International Special Events Society (now ILEA) with support from C-Vent and Events Are GREAT Britian this Summit was a stellar example of how great minds collaborating can identify challenges, seek solutions, and simply... ideate!
So it begins... Gleneagles and the whole group
So it Began, Glorious Gleneagles

As meeting and incentive planners we have all been to fabulous resorts, on beaches and golf courses, with activities and fine dining, the places which create memories and build loyalty through shared experiences. In the world of golf courses, Gleneagles in Scotland is what can be considered an aspirational destination. I had no idea it would have the same effect for our small group of event professionals who gathered here, brought together with support from the IMEX Hosted Buyer Program (which we avidly attended first) and under the auspices of the International Special Event Society (now ILEA) to meet and share ideas in a setting which really should be experienced.

Described as a playground, it is so much more. While a good leisure destination for obvious reasons – world-class golf and past host to the Ryder Cup, a stunning spa, endless pools, and a range of activities from the historical such as shooting and archery to the sublime, it is also a perfect incentive destination for these same reasons. It boasts true world-class(ic) dining with table-side preparation in its feature restaurant; the thoughtful cuisine echoed in its banquet service. Our group of 30 began our Gleneagles adventure with a delicious lunch in the clubhouse, vibrant with spring golfers enjoying the same. After lunch it was time to dig into our agenda and a nearby meeting room was reached through the most scenic of paths.

Whisky and Getting to Work

The afternoon allowed us to begin the process of answering the pressing questions facing our industry, bringing together the collective expertise from many sectors of the event industry on two continents. The evening was a fantastic experience in long table dining featuring luscious scallops followed by the most delicious local venison and ending of course with chocolate before we retraced our steps to the Blue Bar, an open air bar featuring couches, blankets and firepits and local whisky, of course.

A typical dinner at Gleneagles
The following day dawned crisp, with some heading out early to test the small course before our day began, while others enjoyed a run through the trails, deer leaping past, and others stayed in their comfortable rooms or moved in the fabulous fitness centre before the day began. It was time to come together again, and this day brought a series of unexpected learnings as the group opened themselves to growth, sharing and discussing the real threats impacting the event industry including safety, security, economics and perceptions. The sheer depth of knowledge and experience in this group enabled a lively and multi-faceted discussion ably facilitated by Sean Blair of Promeet, who taught us by example the experience and humility it takes to be a great facilitator – this is not a skill easily mastered!
Sharing, learning, discussing, debating, dialoguing... communication nexus!
People Make Glasgow

We also had a visit from the Glasgow team this day as we just could not squeeze in a visit there with our packed schedule. What struck me was how this city has used the building of a fabulous new multiplex and the hosting of the Commonwealth Games to regenerate an entire area of a city, breathing life and culture for both residents and visitors. I had the opportunity to visit friends working on the Commonwealth Games before they happened in this city and to see it through their eyes. We thoroughly enjoyed our short time there – so I can only imagine how much fun those members of our group who were able to stay on and head over to see Dierks Bently in concert in Glasgow had!

Rethinking Space and Awesome Incentives

Soon enough it was time to depart for Edinburgh where the Summit would continue. As we departed there was one small stop to make at the new Gleneagles Arena, 25,000sf / 2,500sm of flexible space, with excellent rigging throughout. What struck me most throughout our time viewing Gleneagles and meeting the staff was the true understanding of the market for both meetings and incentives, and the need for flexibility and adaptability in working with the planners – in each area we saw they offered multiple options for use of the space and ideas for what could be done. This is indeed a perfect playground for adults with six-star dining, one of the most beautiful spas I have seen (and I have seen a lot on three continents!), fabulous outdoor options, and more. I also appreciated the small touches, including all activities for adults also come in junior size, making this a fantastic destination for a family incentive, a trip that often ends up at a theme park resort. Consider the reactions to these historic activities which can be so much more meaningful and memorable, and offer that precious family time to incentive trip recipients. I am certainly thinking of ways to come back with a group!

Sorry, I Have Dinner at the Castle Tonight

Just after arriving in Edinburgh I had a text from back home asking if we wanted to come over for “Takeout Friday” and I had to say “Sorry, I can’t make it, headed for dinner at the Castle!” After a short time to check out the neighbourhood immediately around the Sheraton Grand Edinburgh, renovated and gorgeous since my last stay there it was time to head to the Castle! I am a bit spoiled in this being my third trip to Edinburgh and also the Castle, where I have been during Festival in August and had the amazing opportunity to experience Tattoo, an extravaganza of bagpipes from around the world, so my expectations ran high. We were not disappointed, arriving with our small group shortly after the grounds had closed for the day we were led up, up, up to see the Crown Jewels and hear about their storied past, before heading down for a traditional dinner in a room with a view to the city to be treated to a very fun traditional show full of cheeky Scottish humour which was enjoyed by all. Of course we didn’t want it to just end there so on our return to the hotel we had to check out a local pub; with its local singers and tasty brews it definitely added to our experience in Scotland.

The bagpiper, the castle, and behind us the city.
 @EICC shows off

Our final day of the Global Event Summit supported by IMEX, Visit Scotland and ISES began very auspiciously as we toured the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. Now, we have all toured many hotels and conference centres over the years and we would be lying if we said we were excited about this tour… and then we stepped into the building. Tables were set, lighting was on and the coffee and tea were fresh and hot and being served as we liked it by their staff. How to describe the sheer delight as we sat in the theatre seats, ready for what was sure to be another destination presentation, when BAM! The whole theatre began to spin including the tech booth, and joined another whole section of the theatre, showing us how they have an amazing space that can be 300 + 300 + 600 in plush, tiered seating, or how they can all be put together to create 1,200, perfect for symposia or a concert. The delights continued as we saw rigging points that a car can hang from, another multi-level flexible cabaret seating space for 900 and many foyer spaces filled with natural light. Then it was back to business and another full and facilitated day where we addressed many issues, which will soon become a white paper for the industry under the auspices of the newly renamed #MyILEA or the International Live Events Association.

All grown up on the Royal Yacht Britannia
How to Wow!

Step One, outfit all the men in full kilted regalia; for the women, a tartan sash to complement their outfits. Step Two, all aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia where champagne is chilled and the opportunity to explore this ship which for many years was used for royal relaxation and entertainment is enjoyed. Step Three, bring on the haggis, in the most ceremonial fashion of course, with poetry and a sword to slice it with. Have a toast from the “first man” of events, Dr. Joe Goldblatt and then serve your guests a delightful meal with invisible service, the level where you never see your glass filled and yet it is never empty. We simply can’t leave the yacht until we have had our own personal tattoo-style performance which we watch from the deck of the ship, and then it is time to leave this fantasy and head back to our hotel for a final nightcap, and the ceremonial drinking from the quaich  - the traditional Scottish friendship cup.

We were in awe - this is what it really looked like as pictures were being taken!
 One Square, Batch 2

Of course on a group trip there has been the occasional post-event cocktail enjoyed on return to the hotel and while you might have expected us to enjoy Scotch whisky the hit of this trip was the local gin. The Sheraton has partnered with local Summerhill Distillery to create One Square Gin, with the botanical mix developed by their own Gin Concierge, and straight up on ice or with tonic, this was a refreshing treat to end our final evening and round out what has been a spectacular week of sharing, learning and immersing ourselves in both the possibilities of Scotland and the future of our industry.

As we began to share pictures we had many other #eventprofs from around the world share their memories of meeting in Scotland, and it being among their favorite places to host programs in what was for many decades of planning meetings and incentives. For those who have not been to Scotland, I simply don’t know what you are waiting for! 

In one sentence...
All these photos are courtesy of Visit Scotland and Simon Williams Photography - he was EVERYWHERE!