Learning Lounges Spark New Connections

algonquin lobby loungeThe Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a lounge as “a room in a private home or public building for leisure activities.” The meetings industry has redefined the lounge as a place where intimate learning, networking, and collaboration takes place.

The idea of lounge-setting educational and networking sessions often came about from need and desire. Meeting planners needed a way to fill empty floor space and attendees wanted an area in which to learn and network in smaller spaces. This became the impetus to carve out smaller spaces where attendees and speakers could have intimate and interactive learning experiences.

This transformational space is about so much more than just knowledge sharing. It’s about giving attendees the time and the place to immediately process what they’ve just heard during educational sessions. By discussing these fresh takeaways with colleagues in a meaningful way, all of those little “a ha!” moments can be cemented to memory and applied as reallearning.

The concept of the lounge has been very successful at many meetings, including those held by members of the ConventionPlanit.com Advisory Council.

“Lounges are the best places for informal learning opportunities because that’s where participants connect, share their common interests, and seek out others that may have a solution to their issues,” says Annette M. Suriani, CMP, Chief Meeting Strategist, AMS Meetings Solutions. “One thing I like to do is use the lounge for 20 minute meet-up sessions throughout the day. Have a specific topic that people can come to the lounge to discuss. I make an effort to include someone that has an expertise in that area to serve as a facilitator. It proves to be quite lively. Of course we use the lounge for our tweet-ups as well.”

Nedra Sneed, Conference Manager at Bioactives World Forum, adds, “When I think of the use of lounges to facilitate all types of networking, I think of IMEX America, where buyers meet with vendors from all over the world. ConventionPlanit has hosted me as a buyer the last five years. IMEX has a buyers’ lounge which is used by most buyers. You can get your name badge, have your appointment schedule printed out, get your travel refund, check your baggage for later pickup, have a snack, pick up a tote bag for all the literature you will pick up at appointments with vendors, check in for your departing flight and print your boarding pass, as well as just visit with others in the room. Various groups grab a table or couch area for private conversations while others like to meet strangers and exchange business cards as well as experiences at various venues. At IMEX, lunchtime is a time to eat with strangers and interact with them. I have done business with someone I met at lunch there. I find that most people who come to programs, short courses, or conferences have the mind-set to interact with each other and enjoy doing so. ‘Build it and they will come’ is a popular phrase from a movie. For interaction between meeting attendees, it could read, ‘Give them time and they will interact.’”

Valerie Sumner, Principal at VRS Meetings & Events, Inc., offers, “Learning lounges, tech labs, and ‘Ignite’ conversations are all tremendous learning, networking and collaborating formats for all types of events and conferences. VRS works with each of our clients to create unique open-space learning environments based on the industry, content, and resources particular to that industry. The attendee response is tremendous and the experience always valuable.”

How Meeting Planners Use Social Media

social mediaLast month we featured a post that described several successful strategies meeting professionals can use to engage attendees before, during, and after events.

In this post, members of the ConventionPlanit.com Meeting Professionals Advisory Council give advice and real-life examples about the use of social media at their meetings.

“At the International Association for Dental Research, we use live Twitter feeds to announce the start of sessions and for general informational announcements,” says Leslie Zeck, CMP, CMM, Director of Meetings at the International & American Association for Dental Research. “We have had a live crawl showing the tweets from our delegates throughout the meeting in a common area.

“We also implemented Instagram this year where our delegates could post photos. Many started with their abstract acceptance and posted photos of their acceptance letters, getting on the plane, landing in Boston and throughout the meeting. It was very well received. We observed so many delegates taking photos in front of our logos and signs this year that we plan to create a banner/photo area where they can do that in the coming years.”

“We just finished a terrific APhA2015 in San Diego March 27-30 and had a highly successful social media campaign including a social media wall scrolling communications, an APP help desk, a Selfie wall, and we selected our 2016 Annual Media logo via live tweet at the Second General Session,” explains Windy Christner, Senior Director, Meetings & Exposition at the American Pharmacists Association. “In all, using the APhA2015 hashtag, we tracked about 7,000 tweets during the meeting.”

“AIChe has employed social media – specifically Facebook, Twitter, and the AIChE blog to engage attendees, presenters, exhibitors, and sponsors,” says John Vasko,

Web Strategist at AIChE. “The institute live blogs, tweets, etc. throughout its Spring Meeting, Annual Meeting, Student Conference, and Global Congress on Process Safety and engages in online conversation using conference-specific hashtags. Usage of the hashtags and social media has increased since 2010 when they were first employed and year after year, members are posting more photos of events on twitter. You can find AIChE at http://www.facebook.com/chenected andhttp://www.twitter.com/chenected. If you’re attending the upcoming meetings, tweet using #AIChESpring and #GCPS.”

“As I travel to participate at conferences or to execute conferences and meetings, I have observed how event participants are actively and constantly tweeting (retweeting), liking, friending (unfriending) posting (reposting), and commenting on things of interest to them,” notes Carrine V. M. Todman-Lewis, MTA, CMP, CGMP, CVEP, Meeting Industry Consultant and Doctoral Scholar Practitioner.

“For the event organizer, this is a great opportunity to leverage participant engagement and free marketing and public relations. Furthermore, the majority of event attendees have a social media profile and information can be disseminated and received almost instantly! Consequently, individuals who are socially connected are usually more abreast on what is going on at their specific event(s), in the host city, and throughout the world –all at the touch of a button!

“Social media was a welcome addition during the staging of a federally-commissioned Bullying Prevention Summit I was tasked with coordinating in 2014. By using social media, we were able to engage remote attendees from around the world and extend the life of a hybrid event physically hosted in the nation’s capital.”

Meet at a Hollywood Landmark

Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, located at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard, first opened its doors in May of 1927. Since hosting the First Academy Awards in 1929, The Hollywood Roosevelt has become both a landmark attraction and a popular destination for locals and tourists from around the world. Situated in the heart of Hollywood, along the legendary Hollywood Walk of Fame, the location is ideal for any group or meeting.

Guests can choose from a variety of accommodations ranging from poolside cabanas to tower rooms to our 3200 square foot Gable and Lombard Penthouse Suite including a rooftop deck with stunning views of the city and Hollywood Hills. A 2015 multi-million dollar tower rooms renovation, designed by Yabu Pushelberg,  evokes the epitome of Hollywood glamour as the old embraces the new.

The Blossom Ballroom has been restored back to its original magnificence, featuring custom chandeliers, original tile and ceiling architecture, its detail is reminiscent of its 1927 origins. Space options include common and uncommon event, dining and entertaining space. In all, the hotel has over 25,000 square feet of versatile event space accommodating 10 to 1500 people.

Hotel guests can enjoy amenities such as complimentary wifi, wooden floors, Davines toiletries, fully stocked mini bars, robes, 24-hour room service, a fitness center, a massage garden, lobby coffee/tea service, our famous David Hockney painted Tropicana Pool and seven food and beverage options.

Learn more about the Hollywood Roosevelt.

Learning Exploration at IMEX Frankfurt

CP.com's Hosted Buyer Group listening attentively to the Columbia Tourism Office presentation

CP.com’s Hosted Buyer Group listening attentively to the Columbia Tourism Office presentation

Soon-to-be CP.com supplier partner Columbia gave an in depth presentation on their exciting Latin American destination. The National Tourist Office was supported by 11 partners representing hotels, DMC’s, CVB’s and convention centers.

Maureen Pickell surrounded by her Hosted Buyer Group in standard “presentation formation.”!

Maureen Pickell surrounded by her Hosted Buyer Group in standard “presentation formation”!

Hosted Buyers included Maureen Wyse, The MBA Tour/Kristin Combes, Knect Events/Chris Morse, The Travel Center/Wendy Pangburn, Pangburn Partners/Terry Combes, Help You Get Organized Events/Michele Stephenson, CTMS Travel/Martha Benson, SAE International/Emily Rodrigues, ACBS.


The closing press conference had Ray Bloom, Chairman of IMEX giving us the rundown on this year’s event. For those judging success “by the numbers”, here are a few stats:

9,000 participants including buyers, visitors and exhibitors

62,000 individual and group appointments along with stand presentations took place

50% or more of appointments included a profile or RFP

3,900 plus hosted buyers attended

55 new stands with 20% of returning exhibitors increasing their space

Statistics are important, but I’m going to leave you with a quote from one of our Hosted Buyer Group attendees, summing up the importance of the entire week:

“Dear Maureen,

Just a quick note to thank you for inviting me to IMEX Frankfurt.  It was a great
experience, I met people that I can do business with and made some new friends.

Thanks again,

Chris Morse
Corporate Travel / The Travel Center USA”

Until next year!

Healthy Living at IMEX Frankfurt

Navigating through 9,000 participants and being overwhelmed by the dual cacophony of sound and stimulation that defines a successful trade show environment does not usually contribute to an attendee’s well-being.

However, this year the IMEX Knowledge & Events team turned this around under the “Be Well at IMEX” tagline.



A new Meditation Room offered a sanctuary from the buzz of the show floor and your rattled blogger took the occasion to drop in and chill out during the week. Also available were Yoga, relaxation exercises and guided meditation…but getting down/ up from a floor mat in full business attire was too much of a challenge!!

Oh, and if hurrying around the huge convention center to make each appointment wasn’t enough exercise, Brazil sponsored the IMEXrun at 7am one morning…a 5 kilometer jaunt that attracted 250 runners from 50 countries. (BTW, I wasn’t one of them!).

IMEX Frankfurt 2015 – The Olympic Games


As usual, mid-May finds your ConventionPlanit.com intrepid blogger arriving in Frankfurt, Germany for the IMEX 2015 show aka the “Olympic Games of the Meeting, Incentive, Convention and Exhibition Industry.”

The CP.com group of Hosted Buyers were geared up to take on a show floor comprised of 3,500 exhibiting companies representing over 150 countries. To say that the week was positioned for everyone to seize vast opportunities to learn, to meet and to do business is quite the understatement!

The Media Conferences held during IMEX week are a good way to keep up with the new developments being launched by our CP.com supplier partners. Here are a few:

Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre has initiated a Professional Development Grant aimed at growing the next generation of local meetings industry leaders in Malaysia. The KLCC is also celebrating 10 enriching years of “Focusing on Perfection, Always!”

ACC Liverpool unveiled their Plus Liverpool initiative which provides support for clients looking to bring their global events to the city and ACC Liverpool. By packaging this partnership approach to working with organizers, they ensure that all events are as seamless as possible.

Heike Mahmood, Director of Conventions for the Berlin Convention Bureau chats with a new client.

Heike Mahmood, Director of Conventions for the Berlin Convention Bureau chats with a new client.

Visit Berlin announces their city as now the 4th most popular convention destination in the world!


Friday Webinar Series – Improve Productivity with RFP Organization

What: RFP Organization Webinar

When: Friday June 26 | 11:30-12:00 pm est OR 3:30-4:00 pm est


-Learn how to streamline RFP sourcing with this free online tool by ConventionPlanit.com
-Receive personalized consulting
-Customize and compare necessary criteria
-Send RFPs to pre-qualified suppliers
-View compiled responses within your deadline on a comparison chart

Register by emailing ashley@conventionplanit.com or comment below for more information!

Networking Experiences Multiplied

Networking is always a key element of a successful meeting, and increasingly meeting professionals are looking to exciting offsite locations for these events. These can include a wide variety of venues, many of which can provide unique experiences for attendees.“I’ve always been a big believer in giving people a great experience and good food to help them connect and engage at conference networking events. When you give people a fun location and/or an engagement opportunity outside of the convention center/conference location, then you find that organic relationships are built, says Carrie Abernathy, Director of Education and Events at Practice Greenhealth.Consider some of the adventurous and exciting offsite venues highlighted on ConventionPlanit.com:

L.A. Live
Looking for the ultimate entertainment destination, maybe with a bit of star-sighting? That would make a great networking activity. L.A. Live in Los Angeles is a genuine world-class sports and entertainment destination. Located in the center of the entertainment capital of the world, the 5.6 million square foot L.A. Live mixed-used development on 27 acres is the primary “content campus” and event center for Southern California.

Some of the many venues include the Conga Room – the premier Latin and world music venue in Los Angeles – which features live performances from the hottest Latin music acts along with authentic Latin cuisine, cocktails and dancing. The GRAMMY Museum® is an interactive celebration of the power of music with four floors of cutting edge exhibits, experiences and films. The Nokia Theater is home to the EMMYs, ESPYs, American Music Awards and American Idol Finals.

Universal Studios
Universal Studios Hollywood has activities that can get everyone talking. Popular venues include their show pavilions such as the Globe Theater, Animal Actors Pavilion, and the Special Effects Stage.

Up Close With the Monuments
On the East Coast? Check out the The American Pharmacists Association’s headquarters, known as the American Institute of Pharmacy on the National Mall. Located on Constitution Avenue, the event spaces include two connected buildings with ground-level indoor and outdoor areas and a spacious rooftop deck.

The original building was designed by renowned architect John Russell Pope, whose work includes the National Archives and the Jefferson Memorial. The expanded building, completed in 2009, is LEED certified, boasts a rooftop terrace with unparalleled views of the National Mall and beyond. The rooftop is seasonally tented and available for corporate and private events March to November.

On the Track
Some friendly competition is a good way to break the ice and make connections. Pole Position Raceway in Jersey City, New Jersey, is a state-of-the-art indoor karting center. They work closely with planners to ensure a customized, memorable networking experience.

Back to Nature
More into nature? Cibolo Creek in Marfa, Texas is a 30,000 acre ranch that offers ATV rides, horseback riding to view Native American rock art and its own ghost town. Rafting trips through the canons of Big Bend National Park are also a great way to get adventuresome networkers to do some bonding.

Check Out the Ranch
The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland, Colorado hosts automotive shows, animal and livestock events, and concerts. Getting away from the normal stress and hectic schedule of meetings to go kick up some dust will definitely let attendees relax and connect.

Social Media Helps Drive Successful Meetings

Interactive social media use has become a must for conferences and meetings. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and SnapChat can be used in every stage of a meeting. They can be used to enhance content, encourage people to register, and build a sense of community.

Even before the conference starts, social media can be used to gather information from attendees on what types of content they want, as well as speaker suggestions and other programming selections. An easy way to do this would be to utilize something like Crowd Campaign, which gives participants a way to suggest content, and for others to vote on it. Or, you could go even simpler and use Tweetpoll or PollDaddy.

As the meeting draws closer, social media can be used to encourage registration. This can be done by enticing potential attendees with snippets of content to peak their curiosity. Get your speakers to produce teaser content. An easy way to do this is to set up a blog on Tumblr (for free, in about 10 minutes) and have your speakers call the toll-free number and leave a voicemail. It will be automatically transcribed, and posted to the official event blog. They can also post on Facebook. Contests on Twitter or Facebook can offer free registration for those who follow. Those who don’t win might be intrigued enough from following to register.

Lauren Precker, Social Communications and Strategy Manager at ASAE, says that you have to be careful about focusing too much on the pre-conference register message. Precker says, “It can be a mistake to focus on the ‘Register’ messaging. You should obviously have calls to register, but that should not be the bulk of your messaging. If you keep pushing out a one-way conversation of ‘Register, Register, Register’ in every post, your audience will begin to tune you out. Focus on the content and value that your event will provide. Highlight learning and networking opportunities, and if you are going to a new city, share some highlights about what attendees can see/do after the event is done for the day.

“Social media is enhancing the conference experience because it allows us on the organizational side to not only push out up-to-the-minute conference details onsite, but it also creates one-on-one connections with attendees that can’t be done through other communication methods such as mailers and email.”

The number one principle you need to follow when using social media, according to Deborah Shepard, Sales and Marketing Consultant, destinationExcellence and ConventionPlanit.com Regional Director of Sales, is to know your audience. You need to know if they are comfortable with social media. Take time to do your research on where your attendees are active. Some effort upfront will ensure that you are all talking on the same channels.

Shepard says to make sure that the platforms you use are accessible. “It can be very frustrating if the bandwidth at your venue is inadequate or there are firewalls in the way.” You need to check with the venue and negotiate to make sure that the wifi is adequate for your social media needs.

“Have help desks to help attendees use social media,” says Shepard. There is no benefit to having Twitter feeds or Facebook pages if your attendees cannot engage.

Once the conference begins, the real fun with social media starts.

Create a conference hashtag. A dedicated conference hashtag can serve several purposes, but most often it provides a way for conference attendees to engage in virtual conversation with other attendees, whether that’s about the speakers that excited them, the ideas they want to discuss, or the delicious lunch they just had. You can also use hashtags to allow attendees to ask questions during sessions via Twitter. Questions can be displayed on screens or be seen just by the speakers. This can help to encourage shy attendees to ask questions and to temper those who may use question time for self promotion.

Social media can also help conference organizers. According to Precker, “Social media has also become another customer service outlet too. If attendees voice their complaints onsite about overcrowding in a session, problems with the event app, or even registration, then we can see it happening in real time and react quickly. Hopefully, it will help our attendees have positive experiences.”

As the conference winds down, social media can be used to take the conference content and spread it as widely as possible. Your goal is to get the doubters that didn’t come this year to view that content and decide to go the next year. Take every conference presentation, and instead of just putting them on your Web site or emailing links to attendees, release them on SlideShare (one per day for maximum impact). Provide Twitter transcripts to attendees, and also post it to your various event pages. Backupify has a new free service called Session Tweets where you can automatically make a PDF of all tweets using your event hashtag.

Social media is also a great way for organizations to obtain feedback and measurable data from attendees. Most social media platforms have analytical tools that help you gather information on everything from polls, to membership votes, to speaker reviews (and a great way to go green and ditch the paper evaluation forms). Having the ability to gather these metrics and to prolong the value of the content also shows that an organization is strong, what it has accomplished, and that the meeting still matters.

From start to finish, social media is a fabulous (and practically mandatory) way to entice, engage, and encourage attendees and to provide them with an exceptional experience.

Watch for Part 2 of this series, where members of the ConventionPlanit.com Meeting Professionals Advisory Council will talk about some of the social media success stories at their conferences and meetings.

CP Members Receive CIC Award

Kudos go out to Jane Schuldt, CIS, CITE, founder and president, World Marketing Group Ltd. and longtime supplier partner of ConventionPlanit.com along with Patricia Farías Barlow, CEM, CEO, Puerto Vallarta Convention Center, a brand new member for being honored by The Convention Industry Council.

“This year’s CIC Hall of Leaders and Pacesetter Award inductees represent a global footprint of the meetings, conventions, events, and exhibitions industry and we are excited to celebrate their expertise, leadership, and breadth of achievements. The iconic Hall of Leaders encapsulates a lifetime achievement award, while the Pacesetter Awards recognizes emerging leaders who have made an impact,” said the CEO of the Convention Industry Council, Karen Kotowski, CAE, CMP.

The winners will be inducted into the CIC Hall of Leaders for 2015 during IMEX America in Las Vegas this coming October. The CP.com team is proud to be partners with such esteemed colleagues and we value their contributions as leaders in the meetings industry. To Jane and Patricia, Congratulations and ¡Felicidades!