Deck the Hotel With Boughs of Holly (Or Cypress, Balsam, and Pine)

IMG_0440Earlier this month I attended a special wreath-making class at the Hyatt Union Square in New York City. The hotel has offered  the classes throughout the holiday season — fitting, since it’s just blocks away from the fabled Union Square Holiday Market. Michael Gaffney, a floral designer and author of Design Star: Lessons from the New York School of Flower Design, instructed us on how to make simple, beautiful floral designs while he shared an anecdote from his appearance on “The Today Show.”

We sat around a table heaped with seasonal cuttings and were outfitted with floral-foam wreath forms and clippers.

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Feed Me Friday: Summer in a Martini Glass

photoFort Lauderdale’s Riverside Hotel has a gorgeously trimmed tree in its lobby, but it is eternally summer at Wild Sea, one of its three restaurants.

I was in Fort Lauderdale last week for Florida Encounter, one of a group of journalists sponsored by Visit Florida. At the end of the second day of a two-day fam, we stopped at the hotel for cocktails and small bites at Wild Sea, as part of a progressive dinner along Fort Lauderdale’s storied Las Olas Boulevard.

In the restaurant’s private wine room — which can host parties of up to 30 — we snacked on bruschetta, rock shrimp beignets, Blue Point oysters, and cornmeal-fried oysters with chives, pickled sweet peppers, and a beer-mustard cream sauce. Executive Chef Toby Joseph has created four unique menus for groups at various price points and the staff is happy to work with planners on custom menus.

Although the restaurant is known for its extensive wine collection and exhaustive Scotch and Cognac menu, I particularly enjoyed the Vodka #1, Wild Sea’s signature cocktail. It’s a one-of-a-kind elderberry, lime, basil, and vodka martini. The drink was introduced last year after the restaurant’s staff worked together to capture the spirit of Wild Sea — in a glass rather than on a plate.

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5 Ways Wearables Are Impacting Events

intersectionIn our December issue we explored the latest advances in wearable technology. Dahlia El Gazzar, CEO and founder of The Meeting Pool, shares how she’s seen wearables in action at events and predicts what come into play in the near future.

1. What’s the coolest implementation of wearable tech that you’ve seen done at a meeting or event?
Here are two implementations that I think are telling and very cool!

One example: There are a couple of very innovative attendee engagement solutions out there such as,,, to name a few, have successfully created apps for speakers to use Google Glass to monitor audience questions and polling results, definitely bringing another angle to second-screen sharing. So speakers can now utlize Google Glass as a teleprompter  to help them with notes on their presentations through the glass lens. For example, a speaker will now be able to see through Google Glass how many people are engaged at the specific slide they are speaking on as questions will pop up, prioritizing the ones that have been voted up. Continue reading

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Giving Tuesday: Green Pumpkins in SF

Unknown-1Although I love the decorative look of piles of pumpkins as much as anyone, it’s always troubled me that those festive displays also represent tons of wasted food.

Happily, the San Francisco Marriott Airport Waterfront has saved me from feeling like a spoilsport. It donates the pumpkins it uses to decorate the hotel in fall to the San Francisco Zoo, where they are fed to giraffes, rhinos, hippos, mandrills, and other animals.

General Manager Clif Clark personally drove a truckload filled with pumpkins to the zoo after Thanksgiving. The hotel, which has received World Wildlife Association and Trip Advisor Green Leader Silver awards for its green practices, started donating pumpkins last year.

It’s a great idea that I hope becomes a tradition at lots of hotels.


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Feed Me Friday: Zur With Egg? Kwok Wok Won Tons? Welcome To The IMEX Recipe Collection

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.06.08 PMI had never heard of Zur until yesterday, when I stumbled across the recipe on the website of…IMEX. I did a double take: First of all, what on earth was zur? And, why exactly was IMEX publishing exotic recipes on their website?

The peeps at IMEX answer the second question by way of introduction to their IMEX Recipe Collection, an ever-growing work-in-progress: They aim to highlight “the extra boost that puts you at peak performance” with recipes drawing on “super foods to power you through the day.”

What also seems to unify these recipes is passion and heritage. One secretly hopes that the recipe for Wiener Schnitzel — aka fried veal cutlet — offered by May Sollinger-Soucek of the Vienna Convention Bureau is a long-held family secret. Then there are time-tested recipes for oatmeal cookies, ahi tuna dip, pumpkin mac-and-cheese, turkey burgers with farro salad, and even pork-and-prawn-stuffed Kwok Wok Won-Tons from chef Hon Lam Kwok of the New Oriental House (father of IMEX America’s senior marketing executive Teresa Kwok). The collection also includes the Power Breakfast that fuels Sherrif Karamat, PCMA’s super-fit chief operating officer. (Note to IMEX: Convene editor in chief Michelle Russell is rumored to make a mean vegetable soup. Ask her about it.)

Taken together, the recipes seem like a microcosm for the breathtaking diversity of those who work in the meetings industry — colleagues with culinary sleights-of-hand up their sleeves that might not be readily apparent.

As for zur, it’s a traditional Polish sour bread-and-sausage soup that draws its pucker from fermented rye flour. “There are as many recipes for cooking zur as there are regions of Poland,” writes Krzysztof Celuch, head of the Poland Convention Bureau, who provided the recipe for Zur with Egg. As the mercury falls, I can’t wait to try it.

You can add to the IMEX recipe collection by tweeting recipe names and/or photos to @IMEX_group with the hashtag #IMEXrecipes — or follow the IMEX Recipe Board on Pinterest at

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What Makes A Millennial A Millennial?

That’s the question that Jon Iwata, IBM’s senior vice President of Marketing and Communications, addresses in a video produced by Big Think Edge. Iwata uses his yearly breakfast with the company’s summer interns as a springboard to examine the ways that Gen-Y works, collaborates, uses data, even influence office design. “It is true that the purpose of their work matters greatly to them,” Iwata observes. “They don’t want to differentiate what they do in their personal life from what they do in their professional life. It matters to them.”

You can watch the video here.

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 5.22.54 PM

Iwata’s talk meshes with our December Convene article on Generation Y, which examines ways in which meetings have already shifted to meet the upcoming generation — from event design to engagement initiatives.

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Cozy in Copenhagen

copenhagenlightI am attending  MINDevent 2014 this week in Copenhagen, a guest of VisitDenmark, along with about about 6o international meeting planners. Among the many things I have learned is the meaning of the Danish word hygge.

It translates roughly to “coziness,” and Copenhagen is drenched in it this time of year. The days are short and dark here in winter; sunrise is well after 8 a.m. and twilight begins to fall by three in the afternoon. In response, Copenhagen is illuminated by blazing fires, outdoor torches, scores of green Christmas trees lit with white lights, and thousands and thousands of candles. In four days, I haven’t eaten a single meal that wasn’t lit by candlelight, including breakfast.

Icandles am staying on this week to take a course in “Meetovation,” a deep dive into meeting-design principles developed in Copenhagen, beginning about 10 years ago.

Like the candles, Meetovation was a way to take a city in a smallish country and make it shine. Copenhagen may not have the best weather, Steen Moeller, director of business events for Visit Denmark, told me at the event’s conclusion. “Our way of thinking is our advantage.”

I can’t wait to share more of what I learn.





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#Giving Tuesday

logo Solo World Toilet Summit 2013Today is the third annual Giving Tuesday, a national movement to inspire action around charitable giving. It’s our belief at Convene that many meetings give back to the world by their very nature, spreading knowledge and insights that make it a better place. We make it our business to provide real-life examples in the magazine of meetings that do just that. And going a step further, we shine a light on corporate social responsibility initiatives that have a connection to the meetings industry in our monthly Giving Back column.

In the spirit of these things — and touching on another monthly Convene column, There’s a Meeting for That, which profiles out-of-the-ordinary events — I bring you the World Toilet Summit.

Jack Sim founded the World Toilet Organization (WTO) in 2001 to raise awareness of the global sanitation crisis and the 2.6 billion people who go without proper toilets. The best way to get traction on this health issue, he has found, is through the annual World Toilet Summit — a global event that brings together “various sanitation stakeholders under one roof to connect and collaborate on innovative inventions, projects, and products in the sanitation sector,” according to the WTO website. Jointly organized by a host government and the WTO, the World Toilet Summit has been held 14 times; the 2014 edition just wrapped up in Bangladesh.

It’s not a topic for polite conversation, but Sim holds the summits for just that reason: “What you don’t talk about,” he says in his short documentary “Meet Mr. Toilet,” “you cannot improve.”

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Can’t Get There From Here, Panama Canal Edition


The administrator of the Panama Canal Authority lives somewhere around here. Imagery © 2014 Terrametrics; map data © 2014 Google.

When the administrator of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) extended an invitation for the president of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) to join him for tea one afternoon during ASCE’s 2014 Global Engineering Conference in October, little did ASCE’s Amanda Rushing, CMP, realize that getting to the administrator’s house wasn’t as simple as asking for directions. Not that she didn’t try asking for directions — and ended up with a hand-drawn map from an ACP executive along with an aerial photo of the Panama Canal Zone from the administrator’s staff. I include some of those details in the final article in our Engineering ASCE 2014 series, published this month, but it’s worth listening to Amanda tell the whole story in her bemused, understated way. Give it a listen, taking care to ignore my nonsensical asides and idiot jokes:

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Feed Me Friday: Food Trucks Are Dead. Long Live Food Trucks.

Seattle's Marination Mobile

Seattle’s Marination Mobile

Sometimes we write more in Convene than we can actually fit on to its pages. In our brand-new F&B column, which appears in the November issue, I covered the farm-to-table food at Grande Lakes Orlando, as well as the trend toward hard cider. But there was a breezy little piece that got cut — one about food trucks.

Ranking and reviewing food trucks is a favorite pastime of food writers (like me) but our picks can be pretty local. A few weeks ago, The Daily Meal website cut a broader swath with an ambitious list of the 101 Best Food Trucks in America, created using an algorithm that combined Twitter followers with Yelp ratings.

It’s a delicious roster. Unsurprisingly, Los Angeles (16 trucks — including #1 Kogi BBQ) and New York (nine trucks) cleaned up, but a few other burgs had respectable showings: Chicago (six trucks, including Pierogi Wagon), Miami (five trucks), and Nashville and Seattle (four trucks each, including Seattle’s Marination Mobile). Asian fusion (such as St. Louis’ Seoul Taco) and barbecue dominated, but so did lobster trucks (such as Longshot Lobsta in Louisville, Kentucky) and South American specialties (arepas in Denver, pupusas in New York). The most unique: Phoenix’s Emerson Fry Bread.

The relationship between convention centers and food trucks can be complicated, symbiotic, or both. When national rankings persist, though, it’s clear that food trucks aren’t going away any time soon. Stay tuned for more in Convene about how you can incorporate the food truck ethos inside (rather than outside) your venue.


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