Six Days in Singapore

I’ve got just a few hours before I board my flight home from a week-long part fam/part conference trip in Singapore and I can’t stop drinking in this view from my room on the 47th floor of the Marina Bay Sands.

IMG_2797It’s an awe-inspiring vista, for sure. But what boggles the mind is that this futuristic hotel— three 55-story towers connected by a rooftop sky terrace containing the world’s largest/highest infinity pool — is built on reclaimed land. As is the lotus-flower-inspired ArtScience Museum (on the right) and adjacent urban-park wonderland Gardens by the Bay. This all used to be open sea.

It’s my first time in Southeast Asia and it seems that I’ve chosen my transition to this part of the world well. Singapore, I’ve learned, is “Asia Lite” — a mix of Chinese, Malaysian, and Indian communities with a decidedly Western business sensibility. It’s easy for meeting delegates from North America and other corners of the world to feel welcome here and to navigate this city/country/island and its variety of impressive, state-of-the-art convention spaces. What’s a challenge is wrapping your head around the incredible sense of innovation and forward thinking that permeates this place. That makes me think Singapore is an inspirational conference destination, in the truest sense of the word.

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Show and Tell at xplore

IMG_2586“Show, don’t tell” is one of the central tenets of good writing, but good meetings and conferences do a little both of each, as The Expo Group demonstrated at its xplore mini seminar for meeting professionals last week. Expo Group’s genius touch with xplore was to tie a half-day conference program at the Marriott Marquis Washington, DC, to an actual show it was producing — the GEOINT 2015 Symposium, presented by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF), just across the street at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Continue reading

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Eat Everything On Your Plate — And Then Eat That, Too

bluewareRendering every part of a meal edible is nothing new; it’s the concept behind lettuce wraps, waffle cones, and tortilla salads. Yet what if part of your lunch was disguised as the bowl you’re eating it from? That’s the concept behind edible serviceware, a trending category in Japan,  South Africa (where one can find “edible, crisp wheat bowls”) and now the United States, where a company called Biosphere Technology hopes edible plates and bowls will become a fixture at sustainably minded meetings.

At the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago in May, the company unveiled a U.S.-made, highly compostable range of plates, bowls, and bakeware made from reconstituted food waste. It’s called blueware, and it’s molded from the food scraps gathered from supermarkets and other venues. The pastel-colored serviceware is freezer-, oven- and microwave-safe, and will break down within 40 days in home compost bins, 10 days in commercial compost facilities, and 21 days in water (as opposed to three years for regular plates). “Our vision is to provide zero waste to landfills,” said Mindy Agnew, director of business development for Biosphere Technology, when I interviewed her for our July article on reducing food waste at meetings (which will be online and in print next week).

Agnew was kind enough to send me some blueware samples. While the plates are not yet edible, the bowls are. Yesterday, I took them out for a test run — which included downing a bowl as part of my dessert.

First, I loaded one plate with a drippy Caprese salad. The (non-edible) blueware plate was much firmer than the average paper plate, with graceful, decorative circles along its rim that a visual person can appreciate. No bending or spillage here, and even after letting the oil and vinegar pool for awhile on top, there was zero seepage through to the bottom of the plate. Win!


blueware_ice_creamNext, I served up some vanilla coconut-milk ice cream in one of the edible blueware bowls, which resemble terra-cotta cups. To the touch, they have a brushed cardboard consistency, and smell faintly of chocolate.

After I downed the ice cream, I took an tentative bite. The cup itself had the texture of a super-firm but stale Communion wafer blended with cardboard, and made a satisfying ripping noise as I bit into it. The flavor: Faintly sweet and waffle-cone-esque, with undertones of Nilla Wafer and cocoa. It wasn’t unpleasant at all, and in fact kind of tasty — texture notwithstanding. The bowl felt like part of my desert, albeit in a futuristic, Fifth Element kind of way. I have no idea how many calories it contained.

It’s fun to think that manufacturers of edible plates and bowls might keep finessing flavor, adding in hints of lemon, chili, or even bacon. In the meantime, blueware is a promising start in a cool new category.


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Demystifying Data Analytics for Trade Shows

2235564_ebc90c80When the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) surveyed trade-show organizers to find out how they were using data analytics, they  found that most respondents (68 percent) are engaged in analytics or will engage within a year, but nearly a third (32 percent) have no plans to do so.

And two-thirds say they work with data sets of 100,000 or fewer records — a volume that’s understandable for events that typically happen once a year, but hardly “big data,” which refers to data sets so large or complex that traditional data-processing applications are inadequate.

And that’s okay: Show organizers do not have to work with large data sets and complex analytics tools in order to produce positive business results. A large majority of respondents use general software, such as Excel and Access, to manipulate data, as opposed to specialized analytics applications.

The most popular uses of analytics are to support decision-making for attendee marketing (95 percent) and exhibitor sales (85 percent) — two of the best places to begin data analysis.

Other results from the two-part survey:

1. Analytics are more likely to support decisions for specific activities such as social-media campaigns or exhibitor-marketing programs. A minority of respondents plans to link diverse data sets together.

2. About one-third of respondents use in-house analytics expertise, while one in 10 contracts out such work to consultants. More of the largest organizations — those with $25 million or more in annual revenue — have their one in-house data experts.

3. Analytics are labor- and time-intensive, with one of the biggest challenges being “cleaning” data sets — detecting, correcting, or removing corrupt or inaccurate records — to ensure accuracy of findings.

4. While a minority of leading organizations are experimenting with technologies like RFID (radio frequency identification) to obtain new kinds of data, most are not.

For more about the report, visit CEIR, or this story in our June issue.

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10 Steps to a Better Speech

ThinkstockPhotos-506598495Every speech and presentation goes through some form of a writing process. Whether you’re writing a short speech yourself or want to give your plenary session speakers a tip sheet, executive speech coach Cliff Kennedy — today’s guest blog contributor — offers a proven, 10-step approach to the process.

  1. Know your audience. You are not giving a speech to just deliver a message, you must deliver something of value to your audience. Make sure that you understand their concerns and challenges, and what is happening in the world that affects them, so that your message addresses those needs.
  1. Define your vision. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince, once wrote, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” What is the future state you want your audience to long for? This is the vision you need to share.
  1. Craft your vision into a short, memorable phrase that becomes the theme of your speech. Make it concise, meaningful, and transportable — so your audience can use it when they communicate the vision to others. For example, an IT marketing executive I recently worked with used the theme “Go Beyond” to describe the workplace of the future his company was working to create.
  1. Organize your speech into primary and secondary messages. Primary messages are your conclusions, and secondary messages support those conclusions via facts, data, arguments, comparisons, and stories. Many of my clients get overwhelmed during this step, thinking that they must share a mountain of messages with their audience. I always respond with this exercise: Pretend you only have three minutes to speak and you can only make five declarative statements. What would those statements be? Those are your primary messages.
  1. Create an outline. This is the overall structure of your speech, or what I call the “Experience Arc.” This can be done by assembling your messages in a timeline or an “if/then” scenario — what I call a “logical” structure. The second part is a “dramatic” structure that draws on the tenets of storytelling (flashbacks, parallel structure, sub-plots, etc.), to engage your audience and make your speech memorable.
  1. Write your script. Determine what works best for you: a complete word-for-word script, just talking points, or a combination of the two. I always recommend using a two-column script format (the table function in Microsoft Word works well for this). Start on the right side of the page by writing what you will say. On the left side, describe or identify the supporting visual.
  1. Use clear, direct, conversational language. Speak in an active voice whenever possible, and pay attention to your phrasing, alternating short and long sentences.
  1. Incorporate the “Power of 3” — three parts to a phrase, three consecutive examples. This is a classic rhetorical device used by everyone from Shakespeare (“Friends, Romans, Countrymen. Lend me your ears.”) to Abraham Lincoln (“Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”) to the IT marketing executive I mentioned before, who described his workplace of the future as “Our dream. Our expertise. Our responsibility.”
  1. Write in pictures and sounds by using descriptive language to paint a mental picture or words that are pronounced the same as the noise they describe, like  “bang” or “zip.”
  1. Read it out loud. This critical step helps you correct awkward phrasing and clarify transitions. Only after you have read your script out loud and are satisfied with its structure and flow should you begin to develop your accompanying visuals and media. Remember, your visuals should always support your message.

Cliff KennedyCliff Kennedy is the founder and president of Kennedy Speech Communications. He is an executive speech coach, who has spent his entire career creating high-stakes, high-impact audience experiences. His background as a creative director, writer, and producer of corporate events has given him unique insight into what audiences expect and how they connect with speakers and presenters.

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Feed Me Friday: How Kiwis Are Acing F&B

dumplingsI’m on my way back from New Zealand after an action-packed ‘famil’ trip hosted by Business Events New Zealand that took us from Auckland to the wineries and mountains of the South Island. I’ll write more about the adventure in Convene‘s August issue. I’m still aglow from the warm Kiwi hospitality and creative twists on food and drink. Whether I was eating seared salmon sushi from a street cart for breakfast, or sipping milky oolong at an indoor tea truck, I was often crushing on New Zealander’s easygoing yet polished approach to food. Here’s my stab at distilling them into a few precepts.


1. Celebrate your culinary assets – and reimagine them from time to time.

It’s true that a visitor to New Zealand will encounter lots of lamb — as well as exquisite wine, olive oil, honey, kumara (sweet potato), and line-caught fish with exotic names such as hapuka and moki. I never tired of these things: The lamb in New Zealand is grass-fed and tender; the wines are elegant; the seafood is ridiculously fresh and plentiful. Rather than become an album on repeat, the chefs in New Zealand draw on their imaginations to constantly recombine these staples into new forms — such as the lamb loin with harissa, golden camera, kale, and foamy goat cheese (shown above) that we were served at Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant on Waiheke Island. If your region has an iconic food — whether it’s lobster, chili, or even grits— don’t fret about overdoing it, especially if you can approach it with fresh eyes. Serving regional dishes creates lasting impressions of a place for visitors.

2. Embrace your region’s cultural undercurrents.

Speaking of harissa: New Zealand’s proximity to the Asia-Pacific region, and strong Maori and polyglot culture, mean that all kinds of spices and “exotic” ingredients find a place in the region’s cuisine. Thai, Malaysian, Japanese, Chinese, and Indian flavors and dishes all inflect Kiwi food, which probably has its roots in Britain but seemed intensely farm- (or sea-) to-table with an elegant overlay of spices, sauces, and other ingredients from all over.


3. Don’t dial-in a buffet.

During the International Day at Meetings 2015, a gathering of service providers and planners that kickstarted our trip to Auckland, the ASB Showgrounds put out a spread that was anything but rote: braised Wagyu beef short ribs; roast-chicken sandwiches with apricot and brie; and a flaked, smoked Kahawai salad with egg, chili, ginger, coriander, and saffron rice (shown). It was fresh, delicious, interesting food, and many went back for seconds or thirds.

soup_shots4. Constantly rethink appetizers.

Small places, amuse-bouche, and hor d’oeuvres are where chefs can often be the most expressive and creative, and Kiwis have fun with it. During the harborside closing gala for Meetings 2015, appetizer stations were configured around the perimeter of the venue, Shed 10, in such a way that the sense of discovery lasted (for me) a full hour into the party. The morsels, created by chefs at Event Impressions, ran the gamut from soup shooters (pictured) to dumplings to a raw bar piled high with oysters to tiny boats of succulent lamb ribs. Imaginative small plates were a hallmark of the ensuing days, too, from spot-on charcuterie to bite-sized chowders made from paua, aka abalone.

tea4. Use drinks to excite, refresh, and unite.

The drinking culture in New Zealand is robust, probably because it’s buoyed by a world-class wine industry. Rather than include beverages as a habitual part of the meal, Kiwis seem to offer them up as vehicles for self-expression, fun, and irreverence. We sampled wonderful New Zealand wines almost every day, but also sipped affogatos and flat-whites; imbibed a twist on the Tom Collins made with Kiwi-infused gin; and swarmed Storm & India’s indoor tea truck at Meetings 2015, where planners could get a pick-me-up from ‘Afternoon Detox’ or coconut chai latte after lunch.

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Sleep + Conferences = Learning

John Medina (right) on stage with Adrian Segar.

John Medina (right) on stage with Adrian Segar.

It’s clear that we just can’t get enough of molecular biologist John Medina. A  2012 PCMA Convening Leaders general session speaker, Dr. Medina made not one but two return engagements on Monday — as PCMA’s Education Conference opening general session speaker, and then later in the afternoon at a deep-dive session. (We’ve also interviewed Dr. Medina in Convene several times, most recently in our May issue.)

Facilitator Adrian Segar, who has been helping to make the entire conference more participatory, got in a few questions for Dr. Medina at the afternoon session before turning it over to attendees, who packed an alcove of Fort Lauderdale’s sun-filled convention center. Dr. Medina’s booming voice and wonderfully manic presentation style — which are almost too big for a ballroom to contain — swelled this pocket of the center, keeping the group riveted.

That went double for me when Dr. Medina started talking about sleep, the cover story of our June issue. In his animated style, he shared the results of a lab study that showed that while a rat was sleeping, its brain was relearning the maze it had run during the day.

While our story explored a number of reasons why good sleep is important during conferences, Dr. Medina nailed it with his particular approach to human brain function: It turns out that sleep’s most important purpose is to enable us to process what we’ve learned during the day.

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#PCMAEC: Sitting Pretty at PCMA EduCon

Photo: Jacob SlatonPCMA always creates a new environment for every meeting, but it’s usually more abstract or thematic — not nearly so literal — as I’m finding here at the 2015 Education Conference in Fort Lauderdale. Our Education and Events team has set so many rooms and so many spaces at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center with interesting and different furniture, including chairs, sofas, highboys, rounds, pods, and more. It’s great — you walk into a room not knowing where or how you’re going to sit, and as a result you’re very aware of the ways in which the physical dynamics of seating affect your attention span, receptiveness to learning, etc. Almost like PCMA intends this to be some sort of transparent laboratory for meeting professionals. Almost. Continue reading

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Turning Vets Into Chefs

US_Navy_060509-N-3560G-050_Culinary_Specialist_'s_Zhou_assigned_to_Naval_Mobile_Construction_Battalion_Four_(NMCB-4)_celebrate_capturing_1st_place_during_a_competition_dinnerIn the June issue of Convene, executive editor Chris Durso profiles the inaugural ATD Values Vets conference, a meeting organized by the Association for Talent Development and one that explores the challenges and successes around helping veterans find post-service jobs.

One place where vets can make a relatively smooth transition from military life to civilian work life is inside commercial kitchens. Why do vets make such good prep cooks and chefs? Because they often fit seamlessly into restaurant kitchens, where a type-A chef might bark orders (‘Yes, chef!’) and maintain a strict line of command. Or because they possess the focus to perform repetitive prep tasks (such as julienning carrots) with precision, night after night. Or that vets just seem well-suited for the pace and stressors of food service and the intensity of the line. (“Seeing somebody that you know very well die puts everything in the kitchen into such perspective,” said New Orleans chef Johh Besh, a former Marine, in 2013.)

In fact, the Culinary Institute of America was founded in 1946 primarily to train returning WWII vets in the culinary arts. The 50 students who originally enrolled in what was then the New Haven Restaurant Institute attended on the GI Bill. By 1950, the school had graduated 600 veterans. Seventy years later, this prestigious culinary school still has a dedicated veterans admissions officer on staff (who offers Skype information sessions) and 150 veterans are enrolled. The Post-911 GI Bill offers significant reimbursement for tuition and housing, even for a vet who might want to attain a bachelor’s degree in pastry and baking arts.

So besides keeping us safe, veterans have also deeply shaped American cuisine. Hopefully, they’ll continue to find their way into kitchens — whether in restaurants, schools, or convention centers — via CIA or in a myriad of other training programs, such as Culinary Command, Colorado’s Vets to Chefs, or L’Academie de Cuisine.

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Feed Me Friday: Lunch With Sonoma County

IMG_2544Sometimes it’s Monday and the only thing you have to look forward to is another long, busy week. But sometimes it’s Monday and you get to have lunch with Sonoma County, which as luck would have it is the very thing that happened to me at the beginning of this week. The Northern California destination hosted a lunch for meetings and events people at Charlie Palmer Steak on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and as you might expect, they brought along their own party favors.

Which were front and center at the start of the program, a speed-dating-inspired tour of five of Sonoma County’s 17 officially designated American Viticultural Areas (AVA) — Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, and Sonoma Valley. Broken into groups of two or three, we spent about five minutes with a representative from each AVA, enjoying small pours of delicious pinots, zinfandels, chardonnays, cabernets, and varietals. The people doing the pouring were winemakers and wine sellers alike, and to a person were charming and happy to talk about whatever we wanted — the climate and soil conditions in their AVA, the history of wine-growing in Sonoma County, and, yes, of course, the types of group business their wineries host. It was like a cocktail reception in miniature, 25 minutes of tasty sips, small talk, and professional networking. Continue reading

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