Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Collaborative Blog Post: Part One — Successes of 2009!

Earlier this week I published an article introducing a new project idea of mine;  to write a blog post utilizing Google Wave as the creation platform.  For those of you not aware Google Wave is a new web 2.0 application still in its beta testing phase.  Its greatest strength, initially, seems to be it’s use as a collaboration tool in a real-time wiki style environment.

For this project I developed five “hot topic” business questions and invited several event professionals into a Google Wave I created, to respond.  Initially I anticipated writing one document to recap the entire experience.  However, due to a tremendous response there was enough content generated to necessitate more than one article.  This is Part One in a series of posts …

Many thanks to the following event professionals participating in this portion of the interview:

  • Jessica Levin, President & Chief Connector, Seven Degrees Communications
  • Midori Connolly, CEO and Chief AVGirl at Pulse Staging and Events
  • Michelle Bruno, President, Bruno Group Signature Events
  • Jeff Hurt, Director of Education & Events, National Association of Dental Plans
  • Ian McGonnigal, Executive Director, Strategy – George P. Johnson
  • Mike McAllen, Co-Founder, Grass Shack Events & Media
Question  — What, in your mind, is the greatest success story of 2009 in the Meetings & Events industry and why?

Jeff HurtJeff:  The rise of “attendee” as king and the primary focus of attention in the meetings industry. The traditional meeting model has slipped into a focus on the speaker or the organizer instead of the attendee.The biggest success in my mind is a return to focus on the attendee, their needs, their wants, their expectations. Attendees are questioning the status quo of traditional meetings and looking for unique conference experiences.

Ian McGonnigalIan:  I would have to say the emergence of virtual events as a viable marketing tactic. The economic crisis, coupled with travel restrictions, bandwidth availability, technological advancement and adoption have created an optimal environment for virtual events (and hybrid activities) to thrive. Cisco GSX is an excellent example of this. This virtual sales conference successfully engaged over 19,000 attendees through keynotes, breakout sessions, and interactive games, saving Cisco millions.

Mike McAllenMikeSurvival– Our industry took an awful beating this year and I hope it will change in the near future. I see my clients who are mostly internal meeting planners for large companies starting to talk about meetings returning. When I look back at 2009 I think about all the online tools we have at our fingertips to build relationships. I see that growing into utilizing these same tools in and around meetings to enhance the social interaction, education and motivation to engage attendees at meetings and conferences. But our companies need to start meeting again to make this positive path work.

Midori ConnollyMidori: Greatest success story? People like this group (#Eventprofs) finding each other (in half the time it would have required a couple of years ago).

Good topic guys! Actually, we had a record month in October and have been fielding a steady new stream of business.   There is one key piece of economic data that EVERYONE should know and how I’ve hinged my economic forecasting. Non Financial companies in the second quarter of 2009 had a $156 billion surplus of cash flow relative to their capital spending. Except for 2005 (when companies were allowed a one-time repatriation of foreign earnings at a reduced tax rate, that is the largest surplus on record.   Essentially, if you look at the economic data, you can explain the uptick in business.

Finally, it’s important to bear in mind that no matter how much we try to apply logic, the economy is very much a function of two emotions – as my dad always taught me – fear and greed. Frankly, I see a population that is simply becoming tired of being fearful, no longer dwelling on the bad news. Rather, they are gradually shifting back towards a state of greed.

Jessica LevinJessica: I think 2009 has forced us to become more disciplined in our approach. Meetings need to have value. Perhaps we took attendees for granted and expected that they would be in attendance without carefully evaluating what they were getting out of our events. Now, in order to succeed, we need to scrutinize everything from format to speakers to networking. We are forced to find creative solutions and work much more closely with vendors on pricing structures that work for everyone.

Michelle BrunoMichelle: Although there isn’t much documented evidence yet, I believe that the concept of “inbound marketing” in the events industry is beginning to catch on. In other words, event organizers are developing engaging ways to attract customers to their Web sites, discussions, offerings instead of pushing messages out to the customers. The notion that community building tactics are more effective than customer acquisition “ploys” is an important new realization.

Michael McCurryMcCurry: Great insights and comments by my colleagues here… Thanks so much for taking time to share your thoughts on this topic.  This conversation will continue  in my next blog post to be published on Wednesday.  Please come back and check out what these industry leaders have to say!

Do you have a perspective or thought to add to continue this conversation?  If so please share your comments with us…. Let’s keep the conversation going!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dana Freker Doody November 24, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Reading this (and having lived through 2009) I see “big picture thinking” as the greatest success story of the year. Meeting, event and tradeshow organizer are taking their heads out of their turtle shell and noticing what is going on around them, in the lives of all their shareholders and customers, and in the world in general. It seems like an awakening.
As Jeff and Jessica state, organizers are focusing on attendees and the value they receive. We are turning to online tools, as Mike mentions, and online communities like #eventprofs that Midori refers to. Michelle discusses inbound marketing and community building.
All of these points lead many organizers to think about the big picture of how their event can and does affect all those involved. I see many tradeshow organizers in particular noticing their impact on the earth and what they can do about it to see results years down the line. Likewise they are paying attention to customer service, and understanding with that big picture view how their decisions impact not just their members and attendees but also their exhibitors, suppliers and others in now and in the future.


Michael M McCurry CMP November 24, 2009 at 2:40 pm

@Dana Freker Doody,

Such great insight you have Dana… I agree people are starting to wake up and look at things more from a big picture!

The systems thinking concept is starting to kick in…and as Jeff puts it the attendee is “king”

Thanks for the contribution.



Jessica Levin November 24, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Mike – you deserve a big congrats for taking the lead and really showing us all what a powerful tool Google Wave can be.


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