Feed Me Friday: How Might The New Dietary Guidelines Affect the Meetings Industry?

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAEvery five years, the USDA and the U.S. department of Health and Human Services retool their Dietary Guidelines, the supposed standard-bearer for how Americans should eat. They’ll do so again in 2015 — drawing on a 571-page report handed in earlier this month by a Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

To set the scene, the 14 experts on the panel cite some stark facts: Two-thirds of Americans are overweight, while one-half of U.S. adults have “preventable, chronic” diseases. They suggest that raising meat on a large-scale is not an environmentally sustainable practice — and that cholesterol is no longer the evil substance we thought it was (or at least a “nutrient of concern.”)

To wit, they recommend some “bold actions”: Increased emphasis on plant-based diets, to lessen the environmental impact of meat production. A shift away from refined grains — such as white flour — as well as sodium and artificial sweeteners. Taxes on sugary soft drinks and desserts. Restrictions on how we market unhealthy foods. Even the possible introduction of “obesity interventionists” in our workplaces.

Whatever you think about the recommendations, they’re key to how the government structures and funds food-assistance programs and school lunches, among other things. So, will they have a measurable effect on what we eat at meetings and conferences?

From my brief experience in the industry so far, some hotel and convention center chefs are already ahead of the curve: They have to respond quickly and nimbly to attendees’ evolving dietary preferences, from vegetarians to Paleo eaters to gluten-free diners. Though they may do it awkwardly at times, they do it, and a few ace vegan, protein-rich, or gluten-free dishes. Portion control seems to be a non-issue, especially with shrinking F&B budgets. And only once in the last year have I encountered a break table filled with candy bars.

At the same time, soda and cookies are ever-present, as is a dearth of healthy drink choices — besides coffee, tea, and the occasional infused water. It’s the beverage front, I think, where catering (and planners) are the least creative. Since the Dietary Guidelines report puts a renewed emphasis on drinking water über alles, as a non-soda drinker, I guess I’ll continue to float through 2015 on a tide of Poland Spring bottled water — at least until more interesting choices come along (for instance, citrus-infused sparkling waters, house tonics, and/or iced herbal teas. Hint, hint).

One pillar of the meetings industry isn’t going anywhere soon: Java. Three to five cups of coffee a day? No problem, at least according to the experts. Caffeinate to your heart’s content — and possibly its benefit, too. Just go easy on the sugar.

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Top Apps for Road Warriors With #Hustle

Liz King, founder of New York City-based Liz King Events and one of the industry’s leading event technologists, uses the hashtag #hustle a lot. In addition to running a  successful events company, Liz travels the world for speaking engagements,  hosts her own events technology conference, TechsyTalk, in New York, and is omnipresent on social media channels.

So when Liz puts together a list of apps to help planners manage travel and boost productivity, I pay attention. Liz shared the presentation, “Go, Go Gadget: Travel Apps for the Road Warrior,” at  NYPCMA’s Education Day on Feb. 20 in New York City,  and many of them were new and intriguing to me. (I already have apps described in Slides 13 and 45 downloaded on my phone.)

Be sure and click through all the way to end, because Liz saved some that will put a smile on your face — I am looking at you Slide 59 — for the end.

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Down Under, the Events Business Is Booming


Today marks the beginning of Business Events Week in Australia, and tomorrow the 23rd annual Asia-Pacific Inventive & Meetings Expo (AIME) begins in Melbourne, so it’s only fitting that the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) chose this moment to release “The Value of Business Events to Australia,” the first comprehensive economic impact study of nation’s the meetings and events industry conducted in more than a decade.

In 2014, more than 37 million people attended business events across Australia — to put that figure in perspective, it’s about nine times as many people as attended the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. More than two thousand exhibitions were staged in Australia last year, attracting 9.3 million visitors and more than 65,000 exhibitors.

Looking down at the showroom floor at the Melbourne Conference and Exhibition Centre, home to AIME, as exhibitors assemble booths and trundle in supplies, it’s easy enough to understand why. Australia is a convenient hub for the entire Asia-Pacific region, and the convention center, a mere six years old, is on the verge of a major expansion. Over the next two days, more than 11,000 meetings between AIME’s more than 700 exhibitors and nearly 500 hosted buyers will take place.

“AIME 2015 marks the beginning of a new strategic direction that will ensure we continue to lead the industry and provide added value to the business events community and its business growth,” said Jacqui Timmins, AIME’s exhibition director, at a press conference held ahead of the show. The networking and professional development opportunities at the exhibition have been greatly expanded this year, with a reimagined gala dinner on the 25th replacing the traditional opening night reception and a brand-new 600 square-meter interactive networking center situated at the heart of the show. Education sessions like “Making the Most of Global Partnerships,” sponsored by PCMA, will help the planners in attendance keep up with the latest industry trends and leave them with actionable strategies for their event portfolios.

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Feed Me Friday: Discovering Good Eats via James Beard Award Nominees


Heirloom tomatoes and burrata at Boston’s Coppa, a previous James Beard Foundation Award winner.

Two days ago, the James Beard Foundation released its list of restaurant and chef semifinalists for 2015, naming hundreds of outstanding chefs, bakers, beverage professionals, and restaurants around the country.

When I was a newspaper food writer, the mid-winter announcement always had us scrambling to write a quick online story about nominees in our area. Later, though, I used the list a tool for discovery — both an inspiration for road trips as well as a way to feed myself in new locales.

It’s led me to memorable food and drink at the Hot & Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Alabama (poached red snapper jowl with preserved lemon);  The Violet Hour in Chicago and The Dead Rabbit in New York City (transcendent cocktails); Betony in New York City (all-around excellence); and Coppa in Boston, among others. After this year’s announcement, I’m kicking myself for still not having eaten at Parachute in Chicago, which has been a down-low foodie favorite for months and was just nominated for Best New Restaurant in the United States — which might make seats in the tiny eatery harder to score.

Basically, the #jbfa list is a brilliant way to map out what’s new, hot, and excellent in cities all over the country. Big ‘burgs such as  New York, Seattle, and Chicago are heavily represented — but scanning the list tips you off that Birmingham, Kansas City, and even Arkansas are brimming with tasty eats. That Cambridge, Massachusetts is eclipsing Boston when it comes to food, and northern Virginia is stealing culinary bluster from D.C. That The Rusty Spoon in Orlando has a talented chef behind the stick (Kathleen Blake).

In a few weeks, the James Beard Foundation list will be whittled down to finalists, and after that, winners. So bookmark it or print it out while it’s still in its long, raw, colorful form —the full list is here. Bon appétit.

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TBT: “Carol Dwecking” It!

Two-Mindsets-Featured-InfographicI did something new for me yesterday, and wasn’t thrilled with the outcome. But I surprised myself by thinking “I’m just going to Carol Dweck it!”

For me, that’s shorthand for resisting the temptation to think I just don’t have the personal qualities I need to reach my goals, and instead think of how I can work to improve my skills. Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, is the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, in which she shares her research about “fixed” and “growth” mindsets. A person with a fixed mindset thinks they have a certain level of talent, and that determines how well they achieve their goal. A person with a growth mindset sees their own intelligence and abilities as things that can change through effort and persistence.

Dweck was a mentor to social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson, who was the Opening Speaker at the 2014 Education Conference.  We wrote last year about Halvorson’s terrific little book, 9 Things Successful People Do Differently. 

Here’s how Halvorson describes the same concept:

Believing you have the ability to reach your goals is important, but so is believing you can get the ability. Many of us believe that our intelligence, our personality, and our physical aptitudes are fixed — that no matter what we do, we won’t improve. As a result we focus on goals that are all about proving ourselves, rather developing and acquiring new skills.

Fortunately, decades of research suggest that the belief in fixed ability is completely wrong — abilities of all kinds are profoundly malleable. Embracing the fact that you can change will allow you to make better choices and reach your fullest potential.”




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Need To Get It Done? Do It On A Tuesday

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 12.02.35 PMFor points east, it’s another sub-freezing day (grumble, grumble). Out west, it’s nothing but sunshine and birdsong. No matter the locale, we all share one thing in common: It’s time to get it done. That’s because it’s Tuesday.

Yep, this nondescript day wedged between catch-up Monday and almost-to-the-weekend Wednesday is the day in which we’re most productive, according to staffing research firm Accountemps.

Since 1987, Accountemps has periodically surveyed human resource managers, and always gets the same result: Our productivity surges on Tuesdays, specifically between 10 a.m. and noon, then dwindles as we near Friday and the weekend (indeed, Friday is the least productive day of our week; and in New Orleans, this particular Fat Tuesday might be a day in which nothing gets done).

Since this day is almost half over, at least on the East Coast, how do we make every day like Tuesday? Accountemps (whose website is stuffed with all kinds of useful staffing research) has a few tips. Among them: Make realistic to-do lists; find apps to assist productivity; and “know your prime time,” or the hours when you’re at your most alert and productive.

The entire list is here. Time to get back to work.

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Stop Stressing Out Your Meeting Attendees

Vancouver Convention Centre

Vancouver Convention Centre

There’s good stress and bad stress, write Andrea E. Sullivan and Janet Sperstad in the PSAV research report “Mindful Event Design: The Psychology of Physical Meeting Environments.”

Both are experts on neuroscience and meetings; Sullivan is the founder of BrainStrength Systems and Sperstad is the director of the Meeting and Event Management program at Madison College, in Madison, Wisconsin.

Ambient stress in the environment — things like heat, noise, and crowding — shifts an attendee’s mental resources away from learning and  interaction to managing their own state of mind.

Sullivan and Sperstad suggest 7 ways to manage ambient stress, and 7 things you should stop doing to avoid creating environments that are counterproductive to engagement:

Vancouver Convention Centre

Vancouver Convention Centre


1. Create open space or the appearance of open space

2. Optimize the level of visual stimulation with a reasonable amount of useful and well executed signage, which have minimal graphics and are clear and easy to read.

3. Provide user-friendly wayfinding and make it easy to find activities.

4. Bring in plants and other greenery, or project images of plants or outdoor, natural scenes.

5. Use sound-dampening materials to reduce or counteract noise.

6. When possible, incorporate large windows, mirrors, paintings, or digital imagery for visual escape

7. Provide fun, social, or relaxing programming to reduce mental fatigue.


1. Don’t crowd people into small aisles and spaces with dim lighting.

2. Overload attendees with stimuli or information, or allow visual clutter with signs, literature, and graphics all demanding attention.

3. Provide complex wayfinding systems that lead to ‘navigational angst.”

4. Create industrial spaces with insufficient or harsh lighting, stark rooms, hard surfaces, or echoing empty space.

5. Place important information near sources of ongoing or intermittent noise.

6. Crowd visual space with signage and objects.

7. Offer complicated technology that is hard to use or requires a steep learning curve.



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4 Ways to Outwit Your Inbox

8860There are a lot of great tips out there on managing your email from the viewpoint of productivity. But email not only can bog you down work- wise, it can increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of stress hormones, the February issue of Psychology Today reports.

They offer four tips that can not only heighten your productivity, but  help keep you healthy, happy, and sane.

1. Start your day with s stress-free routine. In other words, don’t start it by reading your email in bed. Before you even open your email, meditate, take a walk, pet your cat, and make a list of your priorities for the day. Then look in your inbox.

2. Separate your personal inbox from your work inbox. And consider additional folders within your inbox to keep you focused. “The most inefficient inbox is the one that pulls you in opposite directions.”

3. Take a break before you respond to a stressful message. Excellent advice. I once worked in an office where there was a five-minute lag between the time we hit “send” and the email was sent. It came in handy. Now I try to remember to walk away from my desk and take a few deep breaths if an email hits me the wrong way.

4. Ease the burden of responding. Create simple templates to use for messages you repeatedly send. And if a message requires a long explanation, pick up the phone.

From the article, “This Is Your Brain on Gmail,” by Emma Seppala. For more tips see: “30 Tested Ways to Conquer Your Inbox Fast!”




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You Aren’t At a Meeting. You Are On a Quest.

The organizers of the C2MTL business conference — “C2″ stands for Creativity + Commerce — know a little something about theatricality. The event began as partnership between the global creative services firm Sid Lee and Cirque du Soleil, both of which are based in Montreal.

So when actor Vincent Hoss-Desmarais, above, played the role of storyteller during the May 2014 conference, introducing sets of speakers on the main stage and performing short sketches, both he and the event producers went all in. Hoss-Desmarais inhabited his roles completely and his performances were enhanced by lights, music, and special effects.

It speaks directly to Convene’s February cover story, “Drama School,” an exploration of where the world of meetings and theater meet. I love how confidently C2MTL pushes out to become a business conference where  attendees come, not just for education, but to be on an adventure. C2MTL is, organizers say,  a  quest — “a quest for knowledge, inspiration, for business connections, for environments that spark that elusive insight.”

Hoss-Desmarais’ introduction of a trio of presentations  — Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al-Saud, creative director Graham Douglas, and Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Director Nathalie Bondil —  paints their achievements in mythic terms: a princess “bringing joy and richness to all”; a man fighting for his brother “until the end of time,” and a grand lady bringing the world’s luminaries to her court.

By appealing directly to our love for stories, Hoss-Desmarais was daring the audience not to be intrigued.

“We are primed for story,” said Jordan McArthur, content marketing manager for Guidebook Inc., as well as an actor, producer, and writer, in our cover story. “People want to feel swept up in something.”

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Feed Me Friday: Airplane Food For Thought

What was your last meal on an airplane?

For me, it was two bags of peanuts and one bag of pretzels (plus seltzer) on a Delta flight from Chicago to Laguardia. I felt silly asking for extra snacks, but the flight was half-full and the attendant didn’t bat an eye.

Sometimes when I eat — or hardly eat — on a flight, I remember sweeter airplane meals, usually from years ago. This is partly how I got lost in the worst kind of food porn — passenger snapshots of airline food. They’re not pretty, but they’re addictive in an anthropological kind of way, and they’re all over the Interwebs. It began with this shot from a 2005 American Airlines flight, snapped by flyer Pat Guiney:


And then another on American in a 2010 flight from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport to JFK:


Green beans are a common thread here (as are romaine salads and red wine). Asian and Europe-based airlines sometimes serve with a bit more panache. Here’s a shot from Thai Airlines (economy class) in 2007. “Steamed fish, baked potatoes, cauliflower, carrots and peas with a creamy sauce,” wrote passenger Mattes, who snapped the photo:


And this is from KLM in 2010:


The other reason I became immersed in airplane meals is that I was reading about the airport food service workers who protested Thursday in Chicago, Dallas, and elsewhere. They’re urging the three major airlines — United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and American Airlines — to pay 5 cents more on every ticket sold to the catering subcontractors that load and unload food onto planes. In theory, this “Nickel A Ticket” would enable companies such as Gate Gourmet and LSG Sky Chefs to pay their workers more so that they might afford health insurance. (In Chicago, a Gate Gourmet worker who washes dishes at O’Hare told a Chicago Tribune reporter that she makes $8.71 per hour and cannot pay for heath coverage).

If you want to check out the campaign, you can go here.  (And if you want to see more airline meals, visit Wikimedia Commons and search for “in-flight meals”). Both the protests and the shots had me wondering about how the flat wages of U.S. airport catering contract workers relate to the skimpy state of domestic airplane food. On-board $4 hummus-and-chips and $9.99 turkey-and-chutney sandwiches — sometimes the only things available to U.S. economy-class flyers — are being served by workers who, for the most part, earn just above the minimum wage.

Meeting planners have pushed for better food standards at convention centers, and in many cases have made a difference. Whether the public’s muscle can, or should, be applied in the realm of domestic U.S. airplane food (and the labor that supplies it) is worth pondering. The differences between in-flight meals on international and domestic flights, as well as between international and domestic carriers, can be stark.

Here’s an Air Canada economy class meal in 2014, shot by “Shwangtianyuan”:


And an Air China economy meal, 2014:


United Airlines, Shanghai to Guam, January 2015:


United Airlines, Bistro on Board, destination unknown, January 2015:




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