Tag Archives: meeting education

ConventionPlanit Attends SPINCon

SPIN celebrated its 10th birthday at SPINCon 2018 hosted by the Don CeSar in beautiful St. Pete Beach, Florida, and ConventionPlanit’s Muzette Randall was in attendance to support our strategic partner.

For the 2nd year in a row the conference focused on Brain, Being, Body, & Business with an impressive array of speakers offering insight and education geared specifically to the senior planning community. The agenda was jammed pack with opportunities to participate in sessions and workshops that covered everything from pricing strategies to website design to recipes for life to the power of presence.

Celebrating SPINCon 2018 on the rooftop of Hotel Zamora (photo by Josh Power)

Quiet time at the end of each session was introduced this year to give attendees the opportunity to process the information received. But it wasn’t just about learning…it was about building and fostering relationships that uplift, inspire, support and encourage each other.  The Brain Snacks were amazing and the Dance Parties were stimulating.

Reading Buddies ruled – SPIN’s sponsored charity included books for YMCA READS. Pictured L-R Tracy Smith & Shawna Suckhow

This event is undoubtedly one of the most creative and engaging conferences held by any organization. To give an example: the general meeting room was a theater in the round and attendees shared sofas, high top tables and comfy chairs. This year’s theme was “Magical” and attendees were encouraged to dress in costumes, wear pajamas, outrageous slippers, etc…but most of all be comfortable. Authenticity was mandatory and “I am fine” was an unacceptable answer to “how are you?”. Attendees found the  “no judgment zone”  liberating and the overall atmosphere infectious.

ConventionPlanit.com was in excellent company and shared sponsor honors with, to name just a few, Business Events Toronto, Memphis Tourism,  Alaska Destination Specialists,  DMC Network, Experience Grand Rapids, Cabarrus County CVB, Kalahari Resorts & Conventions, Daytona Beach CVB, Great Wolf Lodge Groups & Meetings, The Beach of Fort Myers and Sanibel, Visit Anchorage & Hotel Zamora.  As is SPIN tradition, sponsors were made to feel part of the family and were bestowed with many hugs of affection.

What a pleasure to spend time with such a passionate group of people who truly believe in servicing their clients with the best possible meeting experience. Next year’s SPINCon location has not been announced yet, but you can bet I’ll be there.  If you’re a supplier and haven’t partnered with this network yet, then you need to put it on your to do list. If you’re a planner with 10+ years of direct planning experience and are not a member, then you need to check out spinplanners.com. You don’t know what you’re missing!

ASAE Opening Reception features an Unusual Talent

On our industry calendar, “A” is for August and the ASAE Annual. No passport necessary this year as the event was held in the Windy City. So off went your intrepid blogger to report on the 2018 Conference & Exposition held Aug. 18-20 in Chicago.

ASAE’s opening nights are always epic, but the reception this year was a fabulous kick-off party at the Wintrust Arena.  Barbecue and country music shared the menu for a rousing good time as attendees networked with colleagues both inside the arena and outdoors (as the weather more than cooperated.) It truly was a “Chi-town Chow Down” enjoyed by all.

New! A sign of the times was the upgraded security to enter the hall as well as the advance warning to make sure ladies handbags were regulated to a specific “clutch purse” size. This proved to be a bit of a challenge as clutch purses were designed well before the arrival of the oversized smart phones!

McCormick Place hosted the annual meeting and exposition and the opening general session set the tone for this year’s theme, “Get Focused.”

John Graham reiterated ASAE’s focus on standing firmly against legislation resulting in any type of discrimination.” We will fight for the right of all people to come to our meetings, participate in our programs and serve our organizations.” He was enthusiastically applauded by the 3,554 Executives, 2,120 Exhibitors and 418 staff, press and guests who attended THIS meeting!

Meeting Planner Summer Camp

Learn and play with a purpose at the Reston Herndon Meeting Planners (RHMP) summer camp 2017!

The camp takes place on July 27th in Leesburg, VA and will have lots of fun, professional development training, and the opportunity to learn about managing interactive traditional and non-traditional meetings.

The event is free to planners!

To register and additional details, visit http://www.rhplanners.info/

ASAE Annual Visits Salt Lake City

David Markham, Mara Buckner and Maureen Pickell enjoying ASAE Salt Lake City

David Markham, Mara Buckner and Maureen Pickell enjoying ASAE Salt Lake City

If it’s mid-August, it must be time for your intrepid blogger to report on the 2016 ASAE Annual Conference & Exposition. Salt Lake City was the fortunate city this year to host 4,800 attendees anxious to network and attend educational sessions positioned to help them:

  • Grow globally
  • Foster volunteerism
  • Be a collaborative leader
  • Design inclusive, safe and welcoming meetings
  • Establish a disaster plan
  • Educate tomorrows workforce
No these weren’t the window washers!

No these weren’t the window washers!

ASAE’s opening night receptions are always epic, but Salt Lake brought a new dimension to their event held against the dramatic backdrop of the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges in downtown Library Square. Along with the local food and drink and a giant social wall projected onto the side of the city’s art, science, and technology museum, attendees were treated to aerial dancing on the public library’s glass exterior wall by Project Bandaloop.

That’s right, the WALL of the building served as the stage as we all looked to the sky to follow the intricate performance.

I don’t think that this was planned as the lead-in to the Opening General Session the next morning, but we found ourselves focused heavenward again as astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly enthralled the audience with a dual keynote “conversation” about the challenges connected with their combined 550-some days in outer space.

Using a combination of brotherly bantering and serious reflection, the Kelly’s presentation demonstrated how we should always welcome the opportunity to accomplish something that is hard. Thank you ASAE for kicking off the conference with men of action instead of just “talking heads.”!!

Mergers, Meetings and Avoiding Mayhem

brand mergersWith all of the recent hotel mergers, PCMA decided to tackle the topic at a recent conference with a panel of suppliers and meeting planners.
ConventionPlanit was there to get the scoop!
The main concern is that of relationships “going away” as companies consolidate – though the point was made that unless they are merged, some companies would disappear, taking those relationships with them anyway.

Hoteliers mentioned that it is critical that a like meeting of the minds exists when merger candidates are under consideration. The most important core value is “put people first otherwise mechanics will fail.” Visions should be set clearly and belief systems should be in line.

Change occurs along with the need to adapt. Business is still relational, so change should be understood and not feared even though business rules will be re-written to make room for something different. This would include the fact that those basic terms i.e. cancellation policies/deposits/commissions etc. will be under review due to fewer players.

Specifically in regard to the Marriott/Starwood merger, 60% of U.S. lodging is franchised. Therefore, the individual GMs will still set pricing as large chains have never had this responsibility and that will not change moving forward.
This fragmented approach (unlike the Airlines) takes into consideration market conditions as well as the needs of each owner.

Major Brands will need to satisfy all parties at once…owners/managers/clients. How do they hear the voice of the customer? Having a similar culture helps relationships stay consistent.
It’s important to maintain vulnerability by keeping ego out of it. Provide incremental value or Don’t Do It. Use Advisory Boards and provide open communication.

Other take-a ways:

Don’t under estimate the time it takes to complete a merger. There is a goal on the horizon but as it is human driven, it takes years to do well.

PLANNERS need to be open-minded, not anticipating problems. Express any concerns in a civilized manner as fundamentals need to stay strong…provide constant education to end users to manage expectations.

BRANDS must communicate to the customer openly, frequently and consistently from a marketing perspective. Avoid a vacuum or people will fill it with their own negativity.

BOTH SIDES should manage emotions, show empathy and look at the good changes taking place (more affordable technology and cost savings based on volume purchasing).
What other concerns do you have about mergers? Any other tips to help navigate the changing market? Comment below!

IMEX America Showbuzz

The month of October is known for cooler weather, falling leaves and IMEX America in Las Vegas.

Your intrepid blogger is happy to bring you the “showbuzz” for the fifth edition of the largest meetings industry trade show in the U.S.!

Even the Democratic Debates took a back seat to this show, boasting more than 3,100 exhibitors representing 150 countries interacting with 3,000 buyers from 54 countries.

Your intrepid blogger with two of our hosted buyers

And, once again, ConventionPlanit.com sponsored a group of Hosted Buyers to participate in the shows’ innovative agenda enabling them to:

  • Conduct up to a year’s worth of global business in only 2-3 days… without needing a passport
  • Learn from the best minds in the business during the Education sessions
  • Enjoy both professional and personal networking

Our corporate and association planners also participated in Group Appointments with CP.com supplier partners from the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau, the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and the Philippine Department of Tourism.

It was hard to believe that along with all the rushing around amid the super charged atmosphere of IMEX America (i.e. if I’d been wearing a FitBit, I would have blown out the mileage calculator!), there was actually a “Wellness” theme infusing the entire show.

Along with the health and well-being track that ran through the education program, participants were encouraged to stop by certain booths that were dispensing everything from green energy shots to fruit boosts and granola bars.

Needless to say, it was more difficult to find these healthy options that it was to locate Louisville Bourbon, Bailey’s Irish Cream and wine from just about any destination on the show floor! Yours truly felt very healthy early on but must admit to enjoying a “wee dram” of Scotland’s best whiskey to end a challenging day.

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.”

IMEX America Hosted Buyer Opportunity

IMEX AmericaEveryone knows that IMEX America is the biggest meetings industry event in Las Vegas this year, but did you know that you can attend for free?

If you are responsible for placing two or more international meetings annually (away from the US, Canada and the Caribbean), join ConventionPlanit.com at IMEX America 2014 via the Hosted Buyer Program!

IMEX America returns to the Sands Expo in Las Vegas October 14-16, 2014. Don’t miss your chance to be part of our Hosted Buyer Program and join this group of valued meetings organizers as a guest of IMEX. At IMEX America you’ll meet suppliers from across the United States and around the world under one roof. Along with conducting business with them, you will be able to benefit from tailored education and peer-to-peer networking.

What is included?

  • Roundtrip airfare
  • Accommodation at one of our partner hotels
  • Transfers within Las Vegas between Las Vegas McCarran Airport, the Sands Expo and hotels
  • Access to the Hosted Buyer Lounge with phone charging stations, free luggage storage and complimentary WiFi
  • Dedicated Hosted Buyer team to support you and your clients

Bonus – our Hosted Buyer group is led by me and my colleague (and fellow blogger) Maureen Pickell. We’re a pretty fun duo!

For more information or to register, please comment below and we will be in touch!

IMEX Provides Everything Planners Need

IMEX is all work with some “play.” ConventionPlanit.com hosted buyers Marianne Van Wagner of the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society and Alison Watson of Society Offices relax at a dinner hosted by CP.com supplier member ACC Liverpool.

The weather has been lovely in Frankfurt so outside restaurants are very popular after a long day sequestered in Hall 8 of the Messe!



IMEX has been described as “a crash course on what the world has to offer.” Two major examples of the type of education provided are the programs presented during the “Exclusively Corporate @ IMEX seminar and the traditional Association Day sessions.

From discussions of issues that are challenging many parts of the meetings industry to how to juggle being creative as well as compliant, corporate and association planners found the programs to be perfectly targeted in providing useful tips.

One planner put it succinctly, “I only attend IMEX and no other shows, it provides everything I need.”

Yesterday, me and the hosted buyer group ended the group appointment component of the show at the stand of our supplier partners The Malaysia Tourism Board and the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

Speaking of appointments, there have been more than 60, 000 individual and group meetings at the show.  No wonder it’s been so hard to navigate the aisles of the Messe congress center!

PCMA 2014: The {R}evolution Starts Now

Well, if it’s January, it must be the annual PCMA Convening Leaders 2014! Your intrepid blogger arrived in Boston Sunday and joined the ranks of meetings industry planners, suppliers, students and faculty ready to be transformed by education, engagement and networking.

The Mayor of Boston welcomes PCMA

The Mayor of Boston welcomes PCMA

As usual, Convening Leaders combines the best of PCMA’s premier education and best practices under the theme “The {R}evolution Starts Now.” The five area of focus are:

  • Technology 140113_002
  • Business & Strategy
  • Globalization
  • Working Together
  • Meetings & Experience Design

Attendees will be leaving with more than a few good nuggets of information, helpful strategies and plenty of new contacts.

Providing a glimpse into the future of meeting planning, PCMA recognized today’s emerging leaders by introducing the “20 in Their Twenties” inaugural class. Applicants had to be employed full time in the meetings industry, be 29 years or younger and showcase three ways they can be considered industry leaders.

The number of applications submitted exceeded all expectations, and those chosen receive complimentary 2014 PCMA conference registrations, $1,500.00 for travel expenses, and with additional benefits to be awarded until they reach 30.

Truly a worthwhile initiative by PCMA, engaging these young leaders who promote innovation within the industry is critical to its continuing success.