Stop Thinking of Your Event as a Finite Thing

Author Simon Sinek will give the Jan. 6 opening keynote at PCMA Convening Leaders 2020 in San Francisco. (Courtesy WorkHuman) How do you win a game that has no end? Bestselling author and self-described “unshakable optimist” Simon Sinek poses the question on his website and explores the answer in his new book, The Infinite Game, which offers a framework for approaching leadership and doing business in a new way. Unlike finite games (think football), infinite games have infinite time horizons, no metrics, no endings. “There is no such thing as ‘winning’ an infinite game,” Sinek writes. The goal, for the players — or businesses and organizations — is to keep playing and thriving. And to achieve an infinite mindset, he says, leaders must follow five essential practices: Advance a just cause — offer employees a cause so just that they would be willing to sacrifice their own interests to advance it. Build trusting teams — be a leader who creates an environment in which people feel safe in order to be their best and true selves. Study your worthy rivals — or other players in the infinite game whose strengths reveal your weaknesses, giving you an opportunity to improve. Prepare for existential flexibility — or the ability to make profound strategic shifts to better advance your cause. Demonstrate the courage to lead — think chain drugstore CVS’ decision to stop selling cigarettes. Sinek will share why he believes leaders with an infinite mindset are crucial to an organization’s success — and outline the path to develop that mindset — in his Jan. 6 Opening Session Keynote at PCMA Convening Leaders 2020 in San Francisco. He recently spoke with Convene. In a world where many business leaders describe progress, or the lack of it, using sports terminology, the infinite game approach is a pretty radical idea. Are you finding people are open to it? There are some people who reject it outright. … My message is very, very pro capitalist, but it’s pro capitalism the way it’s supposed to work, not the way it works now. Because capitalism today is almost an exclusively finite thing. The capitalism that Thomas Jefferson embraced, the capitalism that helped America become what it is today, is not the form of capitalism we practice. … I want to return to a form of capitalism that’s actually productive for more people. And healthier for companies, by the way. Can you give me an example of your thinking? Using mass layoffs in an annualized business is a terrible idea for capitalism. Putting a shareholder before a customer is a terrible idea for capitalism. Those are finite-oriented things that are good for the people who don’t own the business and who don’t do business with the business. … Companies get punished by Wall Street when they reinvest in themselves. What? And then their stock price goes up when they announce mass layoffs. What? Basically outside parties are

Two for One: How Organizers Combined a Food Writers Conference With a Food and Music Festival

Held in collaboration with euphoria, the 2019 AFJ conference — called AFJ @ euphoria — turned into an educational and entertaining mashup of tastings and talks. When Hanna Raskin, food editor and chief critic for Charleston, South Carolina’s Post and Courier newspaper, was elected board president of the Association of Food Journalists (AFJ) last year, she accepted under one condition: that AFJ suspend its multi-day conference. AFJ’s executive director, Amanda Miller, agreed. The national conference held Sept. 25–28, 2018, in Phoenix, had made only a small profit — around $4,500 — and Raskin wanted to try something completely different. AFJ, which was founded in 1974, has held a national conference for its 250 members, Miller told Convene, usually in September, for decades, hosted in a different city each year. “But the model we were using wasn’t working for our membership anymore,” she said. While the four-day event was known for having strong educational content, including panelists who are award-winning journalists, attendance was dropping. “That had a lot to do with the fact that the media landscape has changed so much in the last five to 10 years,” Miller said. “Our membership isn’t composed of people on staff at outlets that are willing to pay $1,500 to $2,000 for [them] to go to a conference. Most members are freelance. We had to look at innovating to meet our members’ needs in an affordable, efficient way.” It was while she was at the board meeting in Phoenix that Raskin thought of a way to lower the price while still giving members valuable content. “I realized that a gala gathering of food writers was the kind of event which would fit perfectly into festival programming,” Raskin said. She immediately thought of euphoria Greenville — a four-day food, wine, and music festival that had impressed her in the past — held each year since 2006 in Greenville, South Carolina. The festival, which includes tasting events, concerts, cooking demonstrations, wine seminars, as well as multi-course dinners, takes place around the time at which AFJ has always held its conferences — this year it was Sept. 19–22 — so the timing would work, Raskin said. In addition, she was scheduled to judge Taste of Greenville, the city’s annual fall free admission food and music festival, the week after the 2018 Phoenix meeting, which would give her the opportunity to pitch the idea to euphoria festival organizers in person. The Right Ingredients So the following week, Raskin approached publicist Taryn Scher of TK PR who represents euphoria about the idea of co-locating the conference with the festival. Scher then presented the proposal to Morgan Allen, euphoria’s executive director. Allen immediately saw its potential — particularly “to have dozens of the country’s top food journalists in town for our festival,” Allen said. Held in collaboration with euphoria, the 2019 AFJ conference — called AFJ @ euphoria — turned into an educational and entertaining mashup of tastings and

How the International Baking Industry Exposition’s Marketing Strategy Keeps the Event Fresh

IBIE, held every three years at the Las Vegas Convention Center, is billed as the global grain-based food industry’s largest trade event in the Western Hemisphere. In an era of carb-less and gluten-free diets — not to mention constant consolidation across all business sectors — you might wonder how events that serve the grain-based food industry are doing. The International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE), held every three years, is one industry event that’s on a roll. With a strategic, aggressive multichannel campaign, IBIE went from a show in decline to one that has been breaking records — nearly doubling attendance in the last decade. More than 20,000 bakers attended IBIE 2019, held Sept. 7–11 in Las Vegas. How does IBIE keep from getting stale? With these (not so) secret ingredients. Breaking Bread Internationally While international acquisition has been an integral part of the growth strategy for the past decade, uncertainty around the Department of Commerce’s International Buyer Program forced the development of a contingency plan — dubbed the International Delegation Program (IDP). Developed and led by mdg’s international specialist, Anjia Nicolaidis, and supported by a committee of volunteers who do business internationally, the plan packaged benefits and incentives for large buying groups. Nicolaidis reached out to international associations, events, and publications to develop partnerships and promote the IDP among key influencers in top markets. IBIE’s strategy also included exhibiting at five international baking industry trade events in Germany, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, and Singapore. As a result of the program, IBIE 2019 attracted 23 delegations compared to 13 at its last event in 2016. There was a 62-percent increase in delegation registrations and a 5-percent increase in international participation overall. A strategic partnership with iba, the largest baking industry event in the world, was announced at the IBIE opening ceremony. And the cherry on top? A strategic partnership with iba, the largest baking industry event in the world, developed through these deeper conversations. This new partnership was announced at the IBIE opening ceremony with the aim to share resources to increase brand awareness and enhance market penetration across emerging markets and educational experiences at both events. Sweetened Experience IBIE expanded its show-floor activations and 2019 was arguably the most impressive experience to-date. Working closely with Freeman, IBIE ensured that the brand was baked into the convention center — from the multimedia arch above the entrance halls to the signage and social-media activation points to the education area and show features. The result was a brand-forward, consistent experience. One of IBIE’s goals was to add multiple activations on the show floor to add value to the attendee experience. The education program included more than 100 sessions which attendees paid for, exceeding revenue goals by more than 221 percent. IBIE also revamped its demonstration pavilion, where it hosted a cake-decorating competition and demos from celebrity bakers like Buddy Valastro. Also new this year: Virtual Bakery Tours, a

Events Industry Forecast: Technology Driving Change

John Ondrasik performs a song as part of his keynote presentation at PCMA Educon 2019 in Los Angeles. Event planners are using live music to create memorable experiences for attendees. (Jacob Slaton Photography) What strategies do event planners use to create memorable attendee experiences? Live music & entertainment: 56% (up from 43% over 2018) Social media display: 46% (up from 36% over 2018) Attendee messaging & networking: 45% (up from 38% over 2018) Event mobile app: 43% (up from 29% over 2018) 32% (up from 26%) Surprises/pop-up events: 35% (up from 30%) Interactive polls: 32% (up from 26%) Activity feeds: 27% (up from 22%) Personalized experiences via real-time attendee tracking (RFID): 25% Second-screen presentations: 25% Mobile gamification: 19% Virtual / augmented reality: 17% Source: CVENT: 2019 Planner Sourcing Report, Global Edition Mobile apps are the new lanyards.” Source: 2019 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, American Express Almost three-quarters (72.6%) of internet users will access the web solely via their smartphones by 2025, equivalent to nearly 3.7 billion people. Source: World Advertising Research Center (WARC) 3 Ways to Use Technology to Create Better Experiences Amy Blackman, founder of consultancy group Fruition Co., talked to Convene about how planners can better use technology. Amy Blackman Use a social/audience intelligence platform like Affinio, Helixa, or People Pattern to mine publicly published social data to better understand deep preferences, interests, and passions about participants, in order to create more personalized and impactful experiences on site. Consider creating immersive environments for high-impact learning and engagement environments — projection mapping, motion design, and kinetic sculptures can transform a static space into a living canvas for deeper immersion, memory-making, sharable moments, and high-resonance teaching/learning environments. Use video with no audio and visual slides with no text for visual engagement during presentations and keynotes. Remember, slides are pieces of art, and should be visually engaging, surprising, creative, and delightful. Design and aesthetics are paramount — voiceover on beautiful images creates deeper learning moments. This post is part of Convene’s 2019 Events Industry Forecast looking at the future of technology, travel, lodging, and exhibitions. Actual robots might not be coming, but automation is working its way into the meetings and events industry. Automation Arrives Automation, a hot topic in the meetings and events industry for several years, now is showing signs of creating tangible and measurable benefits for both the planning and delivery of events: The use of chatbots and the ultra-quick analysis of data through machine learning and AI will soon help to create a higher level of personalization for attendees, including during registration and online booking. Passive tracking uses beacons and RFID technology on

Creating a Safe Space for Failure

A presenter at Fail Festival Slush Impact 2015 in Finland — described as ‘the crash and burn party for positive social and environmental impact initiatives’ by startup innovators. Most conference programs focus on success stories and examples of leaders who have taken the right path to get positive results. Those kinds of case studies make sense. After all, attendees want to recreate those positive outcomes for themselves and their organizations. “Everyone enjoys talking about successes and how great they are,” Wayan Vota, a failure festival consultant, told Convene. “That’s good marketing fluff, but it’s hard to learn from successes. The presenters are so focused on making it sound like a success that they gloss over the issues and the stumbling blocks they faced,” he said. But “real learning comes when you talk about what didn’t go right.” Vota organized Fail Festival, an annual event held in Washington, D.C., from 2011 to 2017, to celebrate stories of mishaps and missteps. The idea came from Vota’s experience working in international development. “When you’re working with a donor, you don’t want to let them down,” he said. “You want to say how beautiful everything was thanks to their grant money or their assistance.” International development isn’t the only field where professionals gloss over mistakes that have been made — that tendency stretches across every industry. There are some audience segments, however, that make particularly ideal candidates for failure-focused conversations. The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) first incorporated a session on failure at the 2016 edition of its annual Technology Conference & Expo. Michelle Kudrin, ASAE’s learning director, conferences, told Convene that the breakout session was so successful that it now serves as the closing general session for the program. “I think perhaps the session works well with technology professionals as they are used to troubleshooting and solving such varied problems in their everyday work and can relate to the stories told,” Kudrin said, “and the people telling them.” While technology professionals may be more comfortable with mistakes, many workplace cultures are risk-averse and punish human error. And feeling shame for being responsible for something that didn’t turn out well is not only a natural human trait but somewhat of a societal norm. Then, there are others whose egos may be too fragile to admit they made a mistake. Since failure stirs up negative feelings, Vota’s aim with his annual Fail Festival was to help everyone embrace “the idea that failure is a normal, everyday aspect of what we do.” ‘Fail Tales’ The ASAE session features formal presentations that Kudrin calls “fail tales,” but the format is designed to turn attendees in their seats into storytellers, too. The audience tosses a chatbox (throwable microphone) around the room to share their own failures and offer suggestions on how they would have approached the situations that presenters document. “During the 2018 session, presenters shared their fail tale from the stage, and then, the facilitators asked the audience

Digital Event Strategist: Summer 2019 – Engagement Strategy

How do you get your attendees to engage and interact during your events? This module begins with developing an understanding of what engagement looks like and why it’s vital to your digital experience; and the challenges involved in keeping audiences engaged. We’ll examine the techniques for fostering attendee interaction, what the options of engagement and networking are in various types of digital environments and how they can be successfully implemented. Just as you find in the physical event world, “structured networking” opportunities often work best in virtual environments. This module will explore successful tactics and strategies for fostering robust attendee communication and interaction. BACK TO SCHEDULE

Enticing Attendees to Stick Around for the Last Day of an Event

One way to get attendees to stay through the last day of an event is to attract a high-profile speaker — like Geena Davis at PCMA Convening Leaders 2019 — to present on the final day. (Jacob Slaton Photography) PCMA’s Catalyst community offers members a platform to ask each other questions, share ideas, or, as the website says, “communicate and collaborate.” Each month Convene features some of the most popular topics in the forum. Here’s a sampling from a recent Catalyst discussion. Staying Until the End “Our attendance always drops off on the last day of our four-day conference,” Krista Raovan, manager, education and events, for the Humane Society of the United States, wrote to the PCMA Catalyst community. “There are three sessions on the last day with the conference ending at 1 p.m. Have you done anything specifically to entice attendees to stick around? Did it work? Speakers are also generally not happy about being put on the schedule for the last day. Looking for any ideas that have been tried and that worked. Thank you!” The only thing that has worked for us is to require attendance until the end (or 15 minutes prior to the end) of the last day. This is tied directly to education contact hours which is the motivating factor behind it making a difference. However, it’s not perfect and I haven’t found anything that is. — Shawna Schaeffer, CMP, Conference Services Specialist, St. Luke’s Health System I’ve seen prize drawings effectively keep attendees from leaving a one-day meeting early. I wasn’t the planner so I don’t know how successful it was, but they continued to do it year after year. — Anne Carey, Meeting and Event Professional I usually try to close with an enticing speaker or session. Doesn’t always help, because people like to catch flights, but it has helped in the past. — Robin Troutman, Deputy Director, National Association of Council on Development Disabilities We’ve started ending sessions with a general session for the whole group on an enticing topic. We still have attrition on that offering, but it “looks better” since it’s a larger group vs. several sessions with smaller audiences, and then it’s also fewer speakers to manage in that last slot. — Mariellen Morris, Director of Conferences, Public A few random ideas for you to consider: We basically decided, “Why are we trying to force/encourage our attendees to do something they don’t want to do?” So we cut the last half-day of sessions. I have also been to conferences where the last day was very specialized training/certificate-oriented types of sessions that people signed up and sometimes paid for. We knew they were engaged and wanted to be there and eliminated the disgruntled speakers problem. I’ve also had success with making the last day much less speaker-oriented and way more peer-learning-oriented. More hands-on, discussion, problem-solving experiences that get them talking — things like open source, hackathons, etc., [as well as] doing “Learning Excursions”