Friday, January 15, 2016

Your Best Learning From PCMA Convening Leaders 2016

"The Power of Hello" at Monday's PCMA Morning Orientation

The final “Morning Orientation” session at the PCMA (Professional Convention Manager Association) Convening Leaders Conference in Vancouver was a facilitated conversation with the participants about their best “Ah Ha” learning moments and how they intend to implement these ideas once they returned to the office. 

When I serve as the master of ceremonies at an event, or in this case, when I am charged with facilitating special projects for a convention (The “Morning Orientation” was an optional session each morning before the keynote – a “Pre-Note” as I call it - where the breakfast hour provides extra information and networking), I enjoy leading an engaged discussion where attendees can share with each other what they learned at the event.  

Participants at a convention can never attend all the concurrent sessions, and since they cannot be in all places at once, the chance to hear nuggets of inspiring information are limited to the sessions they choose to attend.  Plus, we all process differently, so we may miss parts of a message in a workshop, even if we are in the room.

This small but powerful conclave of PCMA attendees at the Wednesday "Morning Orientation" shared many great ideas.  I have posted them below so these thoughts of brilliance could be shared with others.

(***Special thanks to Gwen Fortune-Blakely for taking notes from this fast paced and high-energy conversation).

The below information are ideas that stood out from the 2016 Convening Leaders Conference.  Attribution is given when possible, but the purpose of our group discussion was to share an idea and how it could be implemented. Many ideas came from sessions, but some came from participants impromptu hallway conversations and other chats they had offline. I acknowledge that the information is paraphrased in most cases, but there are many powerful ideas that should be shared broadly.
  • From Jeff Hurt's Session: What is the information that CEOs wants their people to learn?:  Leadership, strategic thinking, innovation and creativity top the list.  But do these topics show up in the agendas of most conferences that people attend?  90% of CEOs see leadership as the highest priority (second is strategic thinking), and yet too many associations flood their leaning with industry sector specific topics. 
  • There was also talk from Jeff Hurt’s session about being more strategic.  A member of our discussion group pointed out that her team will meet on Monday to brainstorm the two major ideas where they will focus their attention this year and how they will track the impact to their next meeting. They had already calendared the meeting while still in Vancouver (I like that kind of initiative).
  • From Donna Kastner and Tahira Endean's session:  When having a conversation with a client, are you focused on what part of your conversation matters to the other person, or are you instead leading with topics that matter to you?  When you put your attention on to what they are thinking and what motivates them, you will have more success in your conversations. 
  • One early morning participant shared that her big "Ah Ha" was that she has to fight the “we have always done it this way” attitude in her association, but she has been challenged this week to be more persistent.  Giving up right way on "change" when you get push back will leave you with the same old same old, and nobody wins.  Her manager likes the way she pushes and has given her permission to “bug” her with fresh ideas.  She said her boss sees the ROI of attending an event like Convening Leaders by how much she comes home from a conference with new ideas, and how much she bugs her to try the new concepts.
  • Many people in the “Morning Orientation” sighted the words of Juliet Funk and her concepts of “White Space”.  We talked about how important it is to get away from the “busy routines” of work and to allow some down-time to inspire the discovery of solutions.  Participants said they were going to find ways to build “White Space” into their schedules and to bring this message back to their teams.  If someone needs to go for a walk around the block to deal with processing issues, that can be viewed by co-workers as slacking off.  If the culture of the organization supports this, everyone wins.  If people realize this is an important way to get to solutions (having the time to think and process), then more people will do it regularly.  Additionally, small staff meeting do not always have to be in the boardroom, a team could take a walk together and find more success discussing a problem in a relaxed atmosphere. 
  • From the session on “Six way to dramatically improve committee output” (presenter: Sarah Michele) there were several take-aways.  Once participant said while her staff is not supposed to drive “content” they can and should drive the experience of their event to ensure they are providing attendees with the “White Space” to have their own “Ah Ha” moments.  Suggestions were talked about to work with their committee to not overload the agenda and allow serendipity.  There was more talk about “how things have always been done” being a problem when dealing with sacred cows of program agendas, etc… 
  • In overcoming these traditions, there was more talk about being persistent as a planner.  If you hear “No” to an idea, it is not a stop sign, but a yield sign.  You have to keep trying to get change to happen.  (***However, there was a caveat added from Maia from the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.  In her work she gets worried when people use words that undermine “no mean no” language, as they relate to sexual abuse--- “No” does mean stop!!!  We talked about that when using words to encourage persistence in creating change for meetings, we need to put those words in context.  I applaud Maia for sharing this, as it was an important lesson to everyone to recognize).
  • Another attendee shared that her association is going through an organizational change and sighted a session that had the four steps of change, which include how staff and volunteers need to deal with the feelings of betrayal and denial.  Management has to  be aware of how stake holders are feeling and help people deal through with new directions
  • One person added that the facilitated discussion we were participating at this "Morning Orientation" was in was in itself a “White Space” moment (in relations to how we were discussing ideas and sharing perspectives with the group), and she added that sometimes “White Space needs a moderator", and she planned to add a session like this into her own events to engage the sharing about the best learning moments. 
  • Praise was given to PCMA for this year's Convening Leaders event and the attention to more personal development topics.  People thought this was great and everyone agreed there are limits to the technical topics of space, contracts, room blocks, etc…  Many shared cases at Convening Leaders when they were challenged to step back and look at the big picture of actions they should be taking on a daily basis.  They also said there were times they learned about actions they need to quit doing.  Several members of the conversation committed to doing a daily plan of the big tasks they need to get done, and pushing aside the distracting and less important things so they could put more focus on the big ideas. 
  • The “Power of Hello” concept from the Monday “Morning Orientation” was a big “Ah Ha” for several in the room.  They had immediately put this into practice while at the event and found that when you say “hello" to others at a conference, that will begin a conversation.  Several people said it was easier than they expected to meet new people and find others to eat with at lunch, dinner, etc… 
  • Final tip was when you got back to the office, to transcribe all your notes and “Ah Ha” moments into a Word document and to share them with your team.  Not everyone could attend the event, and by sharing your notes you might inspire someone else with their own “Ah Ha”.  It is also a good, and subtle” way to show those who were at the office all week that you were actually working while at Convening Leaders and not at a great party (although the event was a lot of fun!).

Thank you to all who participated in the “Morning Orientations” for one or more of the three days.  The early start time meant you had to be committed to hear the important information about PCMA for that day, and gain from the additional content and networking.  I think we succeeded in having fun, too.

If you read this blog post and were at the 2016 Convening Leaders event, please add you best learning or “Ah Ha” moment in the comments section.

**Thanks you to all presenters who shared ideas at the PCMA event and those who passed these key insights on in our group discussion!!

Have a Great Day

Thom Singer

Thom Singer is a professional master of ceremonies and motivational keynote speaker.  He is known as “The Conference Catalyst” for his high energy and content rich programs that impact how people engage at live industry events.  Thom is also the host of the “Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do” podcast.

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