Jeff Hurt, Executive Vice President, Education & Engagement, Velvet Chainsaw Consulting FOR blogging about, speaking on, and living and breathing the idea of innovation and evolution of the on-site meeting environment
MAKING CHANGE: One of our goals as an organization is to help others see their conference planning through a new lens.
Why the need for the change? Learning and networking are the two primary reasons people attend conferences. Yet rarely do organizations spend their resources on improving learning and networking. They usually direct their efforts and dollars toward improving registration or marketing.
But how many people attend a conference because registration ran smoothly? It only makes sense that we spend time on improving the attendees’ experience.
FUTURE CHANGE: We need a conference revolution! The paying customer’s expectations have changed—we need to focus on programming and designing an experience. The function of content has changed. Content is everywhere; we need to help attendees uncover what that content means to them and their jobs, not just deliver it from the stage.
The process of education and learning has also changed—lectures aren’t the best route to new attitudes, behaviors, and skills; we need to focus on learning design. And the purpose of networking has changed—we need to network for ideas as well as connections. The job of the speaker has changed from lecturer to facilitator. And the position of the sponsor has changed from seeking eyeballs and logo placement to improving the attendees’ experience. We have to adjust our conference planning to these changes and others or our conferences will fail.
MANAGING CHANGE: We need to view change as an opportunity to innovate, not as a threat to our business!
Learn what Jeff does when he has a space hour, and the advice he was given that he never forgot by downloading the MeetingsNet interactive magazine app here
Michael Mahoney Director, Meeting & Convention Services, Genentech, FOR making his department a center of excellence within his company
Making Change: When I joined Genentech in 2001, all of our meeting planners were working in silos. While we had extremely talented planners with tremendous experience, there weren’t a lot of opportunities to share knowledge and best practices across our team of 24. We decided to take a “Meeting & Convention Services First” attitude—sharing standards, successes, and challenges. It raised the visibility of our department and elevated our value across the global Roche Co. organization [parent company of Genentech].
Future Change: The future for medical meetings will be full of change. The impact of the Sunshine Act is still unknown. Internally, our team needs to get ready for an unprecedented number of new products coming to the market and for all of the internal and external events associated with them. We are in the process of preparing everyone on our team to become “launch experts.”
Mentoring: Four to six times a year, I sit down with someone brand new to the industry (often before they have landed their first position). I talk about the pros and cons of being a meeting professional and help them find the resources they need. I was fortunate to have a mentor in the early ’90s who helped put me on this career path. It was sad, but a great honor, to speak at his memorial this spring and to hear from so many other event professionals whose lives were impact by Carey Craig.
Got an Hour to Spare? I like to read a real newspaper every day if possible. I like the layout, the feel of the paper, and the smell of the ink that comes from a real, physical newspaper.
Denise Truso, CCTE, GTP Director, Global Travel Corporate Headquarters, St. Jude Medical Inc. FOR never settling for the status quo and always pushing her team forward
MAKING CHANGE: As an organization, St. Jude Medical continues to look toward the future. If we want to improve outcomes in a rapidly changing healthcare environment, we can’t be satisfied with the status quo. Over the past couple years, we have looked at our meetings and events program and asked ourselves and our planners why we do it that way and realized we can’t continue to do something simply because that’s the way it’s always been done. We needed to challenge ourselves, challenge one another, challenge our partners. With that in mind, we have established a best-in-class meeting program and a meeting management tool that integrates with our expense management solution and our travel management company. We can now offer our employees and our customers a true end-to-end meeting management experience.
FUTURE CHANGE: It’s up to our team to live our values and ask, “Why not?” every day. Given all the changes in the healthcare industry, together we have an incredible opportunity to further define our place in the market by challenging old assumptions and stagnant ways of thinking. Our meetings program will continue to look at how we can improve the traveler’s meeting experience to ensure their time away from their jobs and families is a pleasant experience. Understanding the needs of our customers allows us to think outside the box and look at new technology, solutions, and processes, from meeting approval to the final spend management reporting and everything in between.
ADVICE THAT STUCK: Advice that Stuck:
Always be prepared. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you never know when an opportunity may be right around the corner. Don’t leave your desk without a piece of paper and a pen—you never know when you will have a meeting, and you should always be ready to take notes.
Learn how Denise manages change and what she does in her down time by downloading the MeetingsNet interactive magazine app here
Michelle Guelbart, MSW, Director of Private Sector Engagement ECPAT-USA FOR creating awareness of the part meeting managers, travel industry suppliers, and business travelers can play in combating human trafficking
Making Change: My organization, ECPAT-USA, began partnering with the travel industry in 2004 to fight the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Soon I realized that in most prosecutions of sex traffickers and pimps in the United States, local hotels were listed as the venues where the exploitation and recruitment of victims was taking place. Yet hotels in the United States were completely clueless about the unique role they could play in combating modern-day slavery! Simultaneously, most non-governmental organizations (who are already underfunded) were working on legislative efforts, awareness campaigns, and victim services but not engaging private companies on the issue.
I saw a clear need for change.
I began engaging meeting planning companies (and later corporate travel managers) by developing language for their hotel RFPs inquiring about anti-trafficking policies and training. I see meeting managers as an important link because they are engaged in conversations with travel suppliers every day and can use their relationships to leverage action.
My first experience with this was when Nix Conference and Meeting Management was asked by a religious congregation to book their conference at a hotel that had signed the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct (“The Code”). Nix became the first meeting management company to sign The Code; since then, we’ve seen Sabre, Maritz Travel, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, and others do so. And we have become the go-to organization for the travel industry to get involved in the fight against human trafficking.
Future Change: I see more buyers of corporate travel inquiring with suppliers and vendors about their human trafficking policies and training. This practice might not yet be an industry standard, but I think we’re well on our way.
Advice that Stuck: “Don’t get lost in the day-to-day.” It’s easy to get lost in the never-ending e-mail inbox and forget your mission, so it is important to prioritize your goals and the tasks you need to complete them. If those e-mails are not helping you reach your goals for the week or month, they need to be put last on your to-do list. That being said, you still have to keep an eye out to make sure you’re there to answer important matters.
Greg Van Dyke, Senior Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing, PSAV, FOR improving meeting set and program design to enhance the learning experience
MAKING CHANGE: At PSAV, our big change has been to move away from being the AV guys to being technology consultants for our clients. What that really means is that we are working with our clients to approach AV and event technology as a strategic means to increase the impact of their meetings so their messages are remembered. We have commissioned research on the neuroscience behind adult learning so we can appropriately recommend technology approaches that meet the communications goals of our planners. It’s about making meetings more effective.
FUTURE CHANGE: We are on the cusp of some radical changes in the meeting experience due to technology innovation. The meeting experience will become much more customized as we see the integration of mobile technologies, big data, and wearable technology. Combine this with four generations working together at once and we will no longer be able to support a one-size-fits-all meeting experience. We will need to engage each meeting participant with a unique approach and provide synergies across the group.
ADVICE THAT STUCK: Approach your job like you are building your resumé to leave. That keeps you focused on driving tangible results for your
company and building your personal skill set. As you do that, you actually decrease the odds of leaving your job—companies really do appreciate a focus on results. It creates a virtuous cycle where you will get more opportunity as you drive more results.
Learn how Greg manages change and what he likes to read by downloading the MeetingsNet interactive magazine app here
Janiece Sneegas, PhD, Director, General Assembly and Conference Services, Unitarian Universalist Association FOR leading sustainability in her organization and the industry
MAKING CHANGE: I had been in my job only three months when a group in our denomination requested that our General Assembly become more sustainable. I partnered with MeetGreen and under its tutelage began the journey of greening our General Assembly. Since 2005, we have had many successes, including preventing enough energy use to power an American family home for more than 10 years, conserving enough water to fill 2.2 million individual water bottles, and offsetting enough carbon emissions to take more than 1,300 cars off the road for a year. I believe our efforts have influenced cities (e.g., Fort Lauderdale), convention centers (e.g., Kentucky International Convention Center), and hotels (e.g., DoubleTree Portland Lloyd Center) to adopt more sustainable practices.
FUTURE CHANGE: We continue to up the ante on engaging our convention centers, our hotel partners, and our vendors in our sustainability efforts, including instituting penalties for not achieving the contracted goals, or changing vendors to those who demonstrate sustainable practices. Our 2015 General Assembly is in Portland, Ore.—it will be great to be in a community that has the infrastructure in place to support our goals.
ADVICE THAT STUCK:
I was moving from one job to another and trying to help people at my old job manage my departure. My father told me,
“Jan, if the horse is dead, get off of it.”
Learn the many ways Jan gives back to the industry and what she does when she's not doing all that by downloading the MeetingsNet interactive magazine app here
JR Sherman, President, Lanyon, FOR a bold acquisition strategy envisioning an end-to-end meeting technology solution
MAKING CHANGE: I’m working on leading an evolution within the meetings, events, and travel ecosystem, moving from custom-built applications and manual processes to a comprehensive SaaS platform. Bringing together Lanyon, Active Network Business Solutions Group, and Passkey, my objectives are to help our clients drive revenue and gain efficiencies by automating processes and aggregating spend. Also, with an end-to-end solution there are fewer integration points for the organization (and therefore less risk of failure) and adoption is easier. Another important objective is to create a “virtuous circle,” incorporating best practices across multiple verticals to help our ecosystem evolve together.
FUTURE CHANGE: We’ve done a lot of heavy lifting to bring our systems together. Our focus is going to be on the user experience. More than 90 percent of all organizations are still using home-grown or point solutions for managing meetings. I think the answer to attracting those organizations is in “consumerization.” That is, the experience of using a product has to be interesting, engaging, and delightful.
EARLY INNOVATION: Being the baby in a very large family may have driven my entrepreneurialism. Once, when I wanted to make some money, I sold my older brother’s minibike when he was away. Not a popular move. I paid for my tuition at Boston College with my own business: I booked local bands at bars near the campus that were looking to build a larger following. I then promoted the shows around school, which drove crowds to the bars on slow nights. The bands got an opportunity, and I got the cover charge.
Learn the best advice JR has ever gotten and does when she's not running his company by downloading the MeetingsNet interactive magazine app here
Sekeno Aldred, MTA, CMP, Event Manager, Goodwill Industries International FOR creating community awareness and mentoring CMPs-to-be
Making Change: I have planned a number of public-facing events, including donation drives and pop-up shops, in an effort to create a greater awareness of the Goodwill mission and enterprise. As a result, the local community and hotel employees have donated goods that went toward many hours of job training services and other community-based programs for people with disabilities, those who lack education or job experience, and others facing challenges to finding employment. This initiative has created a greater awareness of what Goodwill provides for the community and that we are a business partner in all the communities where we host our events.
Future Change: I would like the industry to see how creating a CSR event closely tied to your organization’s mission with the community in mind is a win-win for all.
Pay It Forward: For the past three years, I have led the Meeting Professionals International Potomac Chapter’s CMP University, which is a program to help those interested in obtaining their Certified Meeting Professional designation pass the exam. I have mentored many of the participants throughout the process and continue to mentor them long after they have passed the exam. I have also closely worked with the program subject matter experts and other committee members to remain engaged as an extended network of personal coaches.
Mentor: The role models that have impacted how I see myself in the business world have been Joan Eisenstodt and Everett Shupe, CAE, CMP. Both have taken an interest in my professional development. Both are avid learners and advocates of the industry, and I aspire to be a role model to others as they have been to me.
Got a Spare Hour? You would most likely see me volunteering.
Dale Hudson, Knowledge and Events Director, IMEX Group FOR bringing fresh educational ideas and meaningful corporate social responsibility into the industry’s biggest trade shows
MAKING CHANGE: There has been change on two fronts. One is sustainability and the social programs that we have incorporated into our shows. IMEX has been a leader for sustainability, which started out as educating our attendees as to how to make their events more sustainable, but soon started to become a way that we work. We developed “green” awards early on to recognize achievement on this front, to get the events industry thinking about how important sustainability is. In terms of the show’s sustainability efforts, we measure our progress every third year in Frankfurt (held annually in May), and every year in Las Vegas at our Americas show. We are working toward Level 1 of the ASTM/APEX standards. And our office is all about being more sustainable.
The social programs are also very close to our hearts and we have been fortunate to work with some wonderful organizations both in Germany, where our Giving Back program supports local charities, including Lichtblick aktiv Sister Sigrid e.V, a shelter for the homeless, and through our Badge Back initiative.
On the other front, IMEX has always been about hosted buyers meeting exhibitors, which is at the core of its success. But I always thought education was key, especially if we could offer it on the show floor. So over the past few years, IMEX has incorporated learning into the exhibition experience. This was not the norm years ago, but now many exhibitions are doing it. Now we have a number of hubs of learning. I understand that people learn in different styles, so I came up with the campfire idea (the credit for the name goes to Maarten Vanneste). I thought of other styles, such as peer-to-peer learning and ask the experts. This year we offered 200 education sessions at IMEX Frankfurt.
MANAGING CHANGE: Keep every idea simple. I think ideas are wonderful things, but so often they are shot down because we try to overcomplicate everything. I think if you can do something on a low or non-existent budget, it helps other people and—if simple—it usually takes wings.
ADVICE THAT STUCK: Ray Bloom has had a big influence on my career. I started working for him when I was 21 and there are certain things I will never forget him saying: Never leave a phone ringing, Everyone is important, Don’t fret about things you cannot change. I admire his enjoyment of life and his genuine kindness. Kindness is a trait that is far too undervalued!
Learn how Dale plans to change up IMEX education in the future and how she has been touched by her experience with the Future Leaders Forum by downloading the MeetingsNet interactive magazine app here
Lisa Block, Vice President, Meetings and Conferences, Society for Human Resource Management, FOR delivering customer service that rocks, and her career-long dedication to volunteerism
MAKING CHANGE: As the HR profession has grown and developed as a critical business function, the SHRM Annual Conference and Expo has mirrored that growth and complexity. When I started at SHRM in 1991, our attendance was about 3,500. Last year we had more than 20,000 attendees. We are constantly enhancing and innovating the experience and the program.
The Random Acts of Conference Kindness (ROCK) program I started in 2007 has played a role in that success and been adopted by many other organizations that want to improve their on-site service efforts. At every conference, our ROCK Squad aims to do something nice for 600 to 800 participants; for example, they might pay for someone’s taxi fare or luggage check fee, or provide a VIP seating pass for a general session. We also randomly assign hotel upgrades, comp rooms, and special amenities to surprise and delight attendees.
We’re always looking at what’s next to ensure our live events deliver ROI for participants. For example, we had a meeting technology summit in 2012 with our partners. Each company made a 30-minute presentation on how technology is influencing their sector of the meetings industry and as a group we discussed the implications for SHRM.
FUTURE CHANGE: Our plan is to make it easier for our attendees and exhibitors to attend our annual conference and exposition. That sounds simple. but it has broad implications for program development, marketing, technology, and logistics. For example, this year we eliminated the 100-page printed conference program and invested in an upgraded mobile app and streamlined event guide. We are decentralizing the on-site registration process and enhancing the online conference community function so attendees can connect before and after the event.
Pay It Forward: I have been an active volunteer leader in the Professional Convention Management Association for 20 years, and in 2013 I was the PCMA Educational Foundation’s Meeting Professional Honoree. But I think my real contribution has been as a mentor to my staff and others in the industry. I am really proud to see the many people I have encouraged and counseled become industry leaders.
Learn Lisa's best piece of advice by downloading the MeetingsNet interactive magazine app here
Joint Award: Ray Pekowski, Owner, and Randy Pekowski, Vice President and COO, The Expo Group
Father-and-son team Ray and Randy Pekowski of The Expo Group were nominated jointly for going the extra mile to service event and trade show exhibitors.
Read their story here.
Maarten Vanneste, CMM, President and CEO, ABBIT Meeting Innovators (AV-Production-Meeting Support) President, Meeting Design Institute, FOR leading the practice of meeting architecture long before most people knew what that meant—and for founding the freshest conference around
MAKING CHANGE: My adventure really started when my book, Meeting Architecture, a Manifesto, was published in 2008. We have had two reprints and sold 6,000 copies. This book is my original writing and sparked a new discipline within the meetings industry: Meeting Architecture as the profession of objective-based meeting design, including the execution and measurement of the impact of effective meetings and events.
My next “act of war” was the 2012 start of the FRESH conference. This is the ultimate meeting design conference where meeting planners experience and discover new formats, techniques, and tools. A growing group of meeting professionals also co-create the next steps in the development of the taxonomy for Meeting Architecture.
The Meeting Architect’s Toolbox, a catalogue of meeting design, was first published in 2013 and is the “proof of the pudding.” And now we offer one-day and five-day programs in our Meeting Architecture certificate course, designed for senior and/or ambitious meeting planners looking for an intellectual challenge.
FUTURE CHANGE: In the back of my first book I don’t have a bibliography, but a list of books to be written. Slowly but surely, these books are being produced and forward-thinking schools and universities are offering a growing curriculum around meeting design.
Learn what Maarten does when he's not creating change by downloading the MeetingsNet interactive magazine app here
Melissa Nahama, SMMC, Director, Business Development & NA Program Management, CWT Meetings & Events FOR realizing that one-size-fits-all solutions don’t work in the meetings industry
Making Change: Human nature and logic teach us that when we find something that works, we should repeat that over and over and we will have repeated success. It sounds good in theory, but in our business, this is often not the case. I approach our customers’ challenges a bit differently. I strive to use best practices, but only after truly listening and seeking to understand the challenge or scenario a customer is facing and understanding his or her needs and objectives. We must move away from the “one size fits all” and “it has worked in the past” mentality toward more consultative solutions.
Future Change: We work hard to take a “glocal” approach. (“Think globally, act locally.”) What does this look like in the real world? It means finding the common threads that should remain in place to create consistency, efficiency, and meet the stated goals and objectives, but then adding our expertise to accommodate the shift in geography, customs, cultures, and laws.
Role Models: Early in my career, I worked for a director of sales who was a top performer, fiercely loyal, hardworking, intense to a fault, and really hard on his staff. But I have to say, looking back, he challenged me the most and taught me a tremendous amount. Probably most important was that in failure (or “perceived failure”), there is always a lesson to be learned—and, therefore, something positive emerges.
Got a Spare Hour? Well, if I’m being honest, I love shopping and shoes! So when it fits the schedule and the budget, you might find me doing that. But mostly, my family and I love sports, so at any point in time, you’ll find us watching or listening to some game or match.
Ada M. Allende, Director, Strategic Projects and Events, CoreNet Global FOR throwing out her conference blueprint and rebuilding with the attendee in mind
MAKING CHANGE: Looking back to 2010, our conference as a revenue driver was static and the content was stale. In 2011, we got a new CEO, Angela Cain, who revolutionized the way the association operated and put a new conference management team in place.
When innovation is driven from the top, it makes the process much more feasible and enjoyable. When Angela asked me to lead this team, I relied on my experience in strategic project management (instead of focusing in my lack of meeting industry knowledge) and on a group of experts to guide me. In 2012, four months before our spring conference, we changed 60 percent of the event, adding four themed Learning Theaters and an App Exchange on the exhibit floor. We revised the agenda to provide enough “white space” for members to network. We rewrote the menus, adding more options to keep people energized and focused. We also added a mobile app, satellite registration desks in the host hotels, and partnered with Velvet Chainsaw Consulting to evaluate that conference and give us recommendations for future events.
It almost killed us—physically and mentally—but it was worth it. We really turned the corner and have not stopped or looked back. Last October in Las Vegas, we exceeded our attendance and sponsorship revenue goals, and earned the highest satisfaction ratings in the history of the association.
I try not to over-complicate our operations, to keep our ideas simple and doable, and most of all, to keep our attendees top of mind. It’s all about the attendee experience.
FUTURE CHANGE: We have a commitment to our members to keep things fresh and new. Every year we select one or two new elements to add to our conference program. Innovation is a conscious exercise for our teams, and we see it as a discipline. CoreNet Global, an association for corporate real estate professionals, does three conferences a year around the world. Each new element is customized to the maturity level of corporate real estate and to the culture of the region. You have to know your audience and manage change with the 60/20 rule in mind: 20 percent will immediately get on board, 60 percent can be influenced to get on board, and 20 percent will be opposed.
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Michelle M. Smith, CPIM, CRP, Vice President, Business Development, O.C. Tanner FOR being an unabashed advocate of employee recognition and incentives
Making Change: You have to walk the talk to have credibility. That’s why I’ve made it a point to work globally and in every segment of the recognition and incentives industries to raise awareness of the great work being done by providers and practitioners, and to continue to help those who are still on the journey. I’m an unabashed advocate of our industry, a continuous learner, and a student of my craft.
Future Change: I’ve set my sights on leaders as my next target for transformation. Businesses have invested (wisely) in employee, channel, and customer engagement, but many business leaders haven’t fully embraced the role they play in building and nurturing a corporate culture that truly brings out the best in their people. It’s time to finally change that paradigm.
Rarely does something significant happen within an organization unless its leaders support the initiative. So while I’m proud of the strides our industry has made in helping organizations appreciate and celebrate great work, I still see opportunity for improvement at the top.
Leaders worth listening to: I’ve always been attracted to mavericks with a unique point of view—Tom Peters, Richard Branson, Dee Hock, and Ram Charan. I admire how fearlessly they take on new challenges, push the envelope, and are wonderfully candid about their results (intended or otherwise). In the research/academic category, I follow the work of Jim Clifton, Gary Hamel, and Lynda Gratton. Clifton has transformed Gallup from a polling company to a world-class research organization, especially in the field of employee engagement. Hamel is the best on the topic of leadership, and Gratton has the pulse on the future of work.
Within the incentive industry, Karen Renk, the former executive director of the Incentive Marketing Association, has positively impacted my career in countless ways.
Scott Beck President & CEO Visit Salt Lake FOR making Visit Salt Lake a truly cutting-edge resource for planners and visitors
Making Change: At Visit Salt Lake, we have completely changed the way we aggregate, curate, and disseminate information about our destination. For nearly three decades, we presented information on our destination via membership listings only. We were a “membership marketing organization,” not a “destination marketing organization.”
After more than a year’s worth of meetings with partners and stakeholders, and by using the same information services used by organizations such as Yelp, Visit Salt Lake now has comprehensive listings for all restaurants, bars, nightclubs, etc., in our destination, not just restaurants that are our members. This change has enabled us to become much more visitor-centric. While membership remains an important part of our governance, it does not drive the information we use to generate awareness about our destination.
Making this change was not simple, but the driving philosophy behind it was simple: If DMOs want to be relevant sources for information, a service like Yelp can’t have better restaurant information than the DMOs’ own Web site!
Future Change: Content generation is the new frontier. Visit Salt Lake is embarking on a process to generate interesting and engaging content about our destination similar to what journalists and bloggers do currently, with the goal of sharing it across all of our media properties well beyond the current practice of static lists or a Visitor’s Guide. We are not getting into the journalism business as it is currently understood, but we are changing the way we look at content curation and moving toward content generation as a tool to showcase and bring awareness to various facets of our destination.
We are also looking to give existing content broader exposure via our own social media and Web channels. It is our belief that as a DMO, we are the trusted local expert. With the right tools and the right voice we can—and should—take the lead in generating content about our destination.
Peer to Peer: I am most often asked for advice on how to better manage/communicate with publicly elected officials and board members. This is the same advice I most often seek from my peers. DMOs hold a unique position in the meetings industry, especially those DMOs whose contract partner owns a convention center and uses public tax dollars to support the center. Public officials often struggle with their predecessors’ often decades-old decision to build a convention center and, more broadly, engage in this industry at all. Learning how to effectively articulate this continued vision is a critical component to fostering buy-in and converting hesitant supporters to energetic evangelists.
For Scott's advice on how to manage change, and some good advice he's gotten in his career, download the MeetingsNet interactive magazine app here
Michael Dominguez, CHSE, Senior Vice President, Corporate Hotel Sales, MGM Resorts, FOR being a teacher, tirelessly advocating for intelligent conversation between meeting professionals and the hoteliers and vendors who partner with them
Making Change: I have made a dedicated effort to elevate the dialogue in our industry, so we can increase business acumen overall and begin to have true business discussions. This includes a transparent look at our business models, margins, and where leverage really exists. This tends to be a conversation that is uncomfortable for some, but needs to become part of the vernacular in doing business. This is critical to move us forward and educate the stakeholders in our respective businesses.
Future Change: Working with Delos to create a true “Wellness Meetings Experience” at MGM Resorts. The focus is to create programming that improves the body and the soul. The programming is based on research from the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, and allows for a more productive interaction overall. As much as we have focused on sustainability as an industry, it is important to remember who we are saving the planet for. A focus on the human experience is a natural progression.
Managing Change: Understand that change will happen … it is the only certainty! Do not be afraid of what is coming. Embrace a culture of constant questioning of the status quo. Be careful to not institute change for the sake of change, but do not be afraid to go first in a new direction. I firmly believe you need to be asking whether you need to “rebrand or reinvent” all the time. If you aren’t asking the question, you won’t be relevant in the next 5 to 10 years.
Peer to Peer: I am often asked for career advice. There are always questions coming from friends, peers, and mentors about leaders, companies, and opportunities in the industry. I have spent a career building a strong, trusting network and have the ability to research and use that network to gain valuable intelligence.
Got a Spare Hour? I read and research constantly. I’m very curious by nature and consider myself the ultimate student. I love to learn about topics outside the hospitality industry, and I’m always asking questions from what I am reading. Constant learning—and more important, constant curiosity—have made me better in my job and quench my intellectual need to learn.
Joint Award: MaryAnne Bobrow, CAE, CMP, CMM, CHE, President, Bobrow Associates Inc. and Lawrence Leonard. COO and APEX Director. Convention Industry Council
MaryAnne Bobrow was nominated along with Lawrence Leonard, COO and APEX Director, Convention Industry Council, for their work reinventing the CIC’s Accepted Practices Exchange initiative by updating and modernizing industry best practices into a real-world, easy-to-use process.
Read their story here.
Kirsten Olean, Director of Meetings Association of American Medical Colleges, FOR trimming away dead-wood programming and making “big, hairy changes” to her annual meeting
MAKING CHANGE: As president of the Professional Convention Management Association Capital Chapter last year, I asked the board and committee chairs to rate the chapter’s existing programs and activities as bleeding edge, emerging, established, or dying, and then take action accordingly (which included “killing” some established programs). In the end, we offered fewer programs, but we had better than projected attendance across the board, resulting in better than projected revenue. We also completely reinvented the chapter’s annual meeting.
We had continued to add new initiatives, events, and services, but we rarely stopped doing something else to make room for them. I pushed our leadership to think about what it is we really want to be known for as a chapter—and pursue with excellence the activities that support that vision and our mission.
FUTURE CHANGE: While we have made incremental changes to my own organization’s annual meeting over the past few years, this year we are making “big, hairy changes” (to quote Kelly Peacy of PCMA) to everything from the structure of the meeting itself, to how we select and create programming, to how we deliver that programming. There is short-term risk that we may lose some attendees as they adjust to the shift. In the long run, however, there is great potential for growth as the meeting better aligns with the strategic goals of the organization and responds to feedback we’ve heard from many attendees for years. It is both thrilling and terrifying.
EARLY INNOVATION: In the third grade, I wanted to be class president, but that role always went to a boy. (A girl could be secretary—it was the 1980s!) My teacher told me that if I wanted to be president, I should go for it. I ran, and I won. There were many boy candidates and they split the male vote; I got all the female votes. I like to think of this victory as an early inspiration to think differently and take risks!
Learn how Kirsten manages constant change by downloading the MeetingsNet interactive magazine app here
Sandy Monkemeyer, Senior Vice President Corporate Travel Director, Captive Resources, FOR being a model and mentor to the next generation of planning team members as they get ready for the next generation of clients
MAKING CHANGE: I have restructured my department so that all team members are able to multitask. Now every member can do every job. Over the past few years, it no longer worked to individualize and specialize specific jobs (operations, coordination, contracting). We have moved from task specific to multi-operational.
FUTURE CHANGE: We are actually a tad behind the times when it comes to technology. I am excited as we finally moved to a 100 percent online registration and invitation process. Our members are very slow to change; however, with the next generation moving up the corporate ladder, we have found our clients becoming more and more flexible. This flexibility allows us to incorporate technology that we were not able to use in the past.
ROLE MODEL: My role model is Joan Eisenstodt. I have actually never met her in person, but back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, when I was just learning that meeting planning was an actual profession (I was in marketing at the time), I looked at Joan as a great leader and trendsetter of the industry. She made “meeting planning” seem real and a viable future for me.
ADVICE: At the end of the day, it is about relationships and growing and nurturing those relationships. This is very important when you have a conflict, challenge, or change. If you have a relationship in place, whether personal or professional, each party is more willing and energetic about making it work and finding a solution.
Hour to Spare? I’ll spend it with my children—usually at one sporting event or another!
Learn how Sandy manages change by downloading the MeetingsNet interactive magazine app here
Changemaker-in-Chief: Joan Eisenstodt, Meetings & Hospitality Consultant, Facilitator and Trainer, Eisenstodt Associates, LLC
Last but not least is our "Changemaker-in-Chief," Joan Eisenstodt, who has pushed the envelope for 40 years, changing the way we look at everything from meeting design, to diversity, to ethics.
Read her story here.