Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Theme Recap and 2013 New Year Motto

Looking back on 2012 I have to smile.  It was a year filled with some good, some bad, and some ugly.... but I came through the year improved for the experience.  Overall it was a fine year, and I have enjoyed the journey.

I wrote on my blog (here and here) about working to "be a better person" in 2012.  It is not that I was a schmuck... I just wanted to focus on improvements.

There were four areas of attention:

  • Belief in Self
  • Intention in Action
  • Joy in Family and Friends
  • Fun in Success
In the end, the "theme" was subjective, as it is hard to say if I am any "better".  However, I do view the year as a success.  I did believe in myself, took action, found joy with friends and family and had fun in my success.  I also hope I helped others along the way.  Many who teach goal setting profess that a goal MUST be measurable, which is why I went with a "theme" (it allowed much more flexibility).  It is certainly open to opinion and there are those who would criticize,.... while others might applaud.  Yet in the end, I did try to be better ever day.

I learned through trial and error that there are three kinds of people we encounter:

1.  Givers:  These are folks who enjoy helping people excel along the way.  They do not lead with the "what's in it for me" mentality and are never jealous of the successes achieved by others.  They know that your success is proof they can find their own victories.  These people make introductions, promote others, and do all they can to create "win / win" situations.  

2.  Indifferents:  These are the ones who do not care much about about your efforts.  But wait, before you judge... these people are okay, too.  It is not every's job to be caught up in the lives of others.  What is important to us will not always be on the same level of importance to someone else.  The world can be demanding and there is not time to be engaged with each person's cause.  Sometimes people just do not have the bandwidth to see your efforts and lend a hand, or they do not share your beliefs.  Don't get bummed when people are indifferent.  Often they wish they were the givers (or think they are the givers) all the time.  Usually they do give sometimes (just not to you), and usually when it is convenient for them.  Don't fret... and help them if you can, and keep going toward your goals.

Meanwhile there is the third kind of person:

3.  Jerks: The people who think that everyone is out to get them and they chagrin anything that is a win for another person.  They are confident that people are cheating if they are in the lead.  These people can suck the energy out of the room, and cause a lot of hurt along the way.  They do not do it on purpose, and will rationalize all day why the other person is surely wrong, but they have a darkness deep inside.   You cannot change their soul.  They are jealous, needy, and greedy.  Often they are invisible until it is too late.  When you do business with a jerk you eventually find out.... and it is painful.  

Fortunately, the givers out-number the jerks (Indifferents exist on a situation by situation basis and are harder to quantify).  Part of my mantra for 2013 will include the words "fewer jerks".  I am trying to learn to identify and avoid those who are clearly selfish or self-centered in their pursuits.  I am writing a private mantra for the year, and it is all about the importance of the good people in my life and mutually beneficial opportunities.  

A win for one is a win for both when all parties see opportunities as unlimited.  Those who see a pie with a finite number of slices will always get nasty when seeking their slice.  I choose not to believe that we live in a finite world. 

We need meaningful connections is we desire meaningful success.  Build relationships, but choose you people wisely.

In 2013 I am going to attempt to live by the motto:

         "Value People, Have Fun, and Make a Difference!!!"

I hear from people from all over the world that they desire to have a stronger network, and they had hoped that social media was the answer.... but after nearly a decade online, many isolated.  A "link" a "like" or a "friend-request" is not necessarily meaningful.  We need the human-to-human interaction to be more engaging to find the real results of networking.

I believe that we are still living in difficult times and that in the new year we need meaningful connections with others more than ever before.  It is why the topic of networking continues to grow in popularity.  

(When I began speaking professionally 4 years ago I was told that the topic was overdone and nobody cared.... meanwhile I have found that through the recession the power of business relationships has become more important).

Please join me in 2013 in stirring the pot to encourage people to invest in each other beyond creating a digital phone book of strangers.  Remember that when you deal with another person there is always a human on the other side of your interaction that has their own "stuff" going on in their life.  Networking is not about how they can help you.... but how you can create a mutual web of shared success.

Happy New Year 2013.

Have A Great Year

thom singer

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The 12 Days of Conference - Day Thirteen

Over the past twelve days this blog was graced by informative posts about the meetings industry by a variety of guest bloggers.  "The 12 Days of Conference" turned out to be more than I expected, so today I wrap it up with the last post (yes, Day Thirteen.... always provide more than is expected!)

CLICK HERE to read the whole "12 Days of Conference" series!

Give Them More Than They Are Expecting
by Thom Singer

When you are planning an event (or doing anything), make sure that you are providing more than your attendees expect.  Too often we are conditioned to expect less than promised, so when something exceeds expectations the "WOW FACTOR" goes way up.  People enjoy positive surprises, so a little extra in the "Conference Attendee Experience" will have a lasting impact..

What you provide will vary from event to event, but you should look for ways to be sure that your conference is not a "cookie cutter" experience from the earliest promotions to the after-event follow up.

Like "Day 13" of a twelve day series, when you add something unexpected, people will take notice (you are reading this right now. right?).  The result of going beyond the normal and providing an extra will always make your participants take notice.  When an event ends all your attendees have are the memories, thus you need to ensure up front that there is something that will stick in their brains.

Some ideas that can go beyond the normal:
  • Speakers and topics that are not the "same" as what are seen and heard at other events
  • Unique venues and decoration that spur creativity
  • Meaningful engagement of host organization staff with attendees
  • Creative meal experiences that encourage an atmosphere for networking and learning
  • A surprise program (not everything needs to be in the promotional materials)
  • Post-event online programs to keep people engaged
Be creative.  If you simply copy an add-on from other events, then it no longer will stand out.  Doing the same thing as others by definition is the same... not different.  This can be hard work, because being creative is not  easy.  (Sure, it looks easy when it is pulled off successfully).  There needs to be a commitment from all levels at the host organization to find ways to deliver something that will add value and serve the attendee community.

Playing it "safe" and "same" will not cause anyone to take notice.  The best event planners are risk takers, not those who are buried behind checklists that ensure all is just like last year.  Go beyond the expectations every single time, and your event will become a "happening".

Good luck!

(What ideas do you have to add here?)

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The 12 Days of Conference - Day Twelve

As we prepare for 2013 I am hosting a series of blog posts called "The 12 Days of Conference". Each day a different expert from the meeting, convention planning, speaking and hotel industries will add their single best idea on how to create better events or other tips for how to improve the "Conference Attendee Experience" in the new year.

Planning is the New Black
By Lina Roque

Pre-show, during, and post-show: plan your exhibit experiences around your target audience. 
·         Pre-show strategy
Is your goal to generate leads for your sales team, sell product on the floor or increase brand recognition?

Consider your target demographic– you should know your target market so intimately that you understand what drives them both personally and professionally. This is a great chance for some face time with clients in a more relaxed environment. Sending pre-show invitations such as and invitations with a small gift prior to an event can really boost attendance rates.

A well trained, successful sales person knows which questions to ask prospects early in the lead capture process in order to identify whether or not the prospect will be a good candidate for your products or services. Make sure your trade show team knows which questions to ask and keep them motivated by setting some realistic goals, such as collecting a certain number of email addresses, approaching a certain number of attendees, or handing out a certain number of brochures.

·         Attract attendees to your booth
Part of your planning should be thinking about how you can engage visitors using all five senses. People tend to remember experiences much longer than they remember casual conversations or static product displays. Visualize the feeling you want to deliver to attendees when they step into your booth space. Do you need to order creative promotional items? Giveaways? Music?

Make your trade show exhibit booth an experience to remember. Your trade show booth gives attendees something to do when they visit your booth. This encourages them to stay longer in your space and hopefully have more meaningful conversations with your staffers; it provides an experience they can't get at a retail store. Appeal to the other senses (smell and taste) by providing a complementary coffee or fresh snacks that will attract extra attendees.

Most tradeshows host large evening events. Think about how you can maximize the opportunity, one idea we’ve heard of is hire a college drama group to stage a mock protest or a Flash Mob to highlight your product. There are creative ways to attract attendees to your booth.

Be sure your design communicates who you are, what you do and how you can meet your target markets needs. Create eye-catching trade show exhibits with outstanding signage with simple text and/or illustrations. Strategic lighting within your trade show booth that highlights logos and graphics can be an eye catching way to engage attendees. The use of interactive technology such as iPads can be a knowledge center for attendees for you to highlight your product or service.

·         Post show strategy
Throughout the day, your team will probably have picked up a good number of business leads – make sure you get this information from your team at the end of the day.
Social media is playing an increasingly bigger role in exhibitions and trade shows, consider following up with your leads on Twitter as an icebreaker, and then set meetings via email and phone call.

For more information on creating and designing trade show exhibits, contact The Exhibit Source.

Lina Roque
is the Social Media Coordinator for The Exhibit Source, a design-based exhibit house that provides a complete selection of event marketing and trade show exhibit solutions. Although new to the trade show industry, Lina is looking forward to using social media to connect and help clients and perspectives meet their exhibit needs. Follow her on Twitter at Follow The Exhibit Source on Twitter at

Friday, December 21, 2012

Cool Things My Friends Do - Austin Auctioneers Mike and Sherri Hanley

Each Friday on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their work and personal lives. 

Ever you ever been to an auction?  I mean a real auction with those fast-talking auctioneers who get the whole place buzzing with excitement?  My friends Mike and Sherri Hanley (of SR Custom Events and Auctions) are real-to-goodness auctioneers. 

They are "Charity Benefit Auction Specialists" who believe in giving their clients two Professional Auctioneers for the price of one.  Mike and Sherri both attend the event and use their co-auctioneering style to create banter and fun to keep the crowd engaged.  Also, with a lot of attendees, it is very beneficial to have two people to provide
not only bid calling, but professional ring/color/bid spotting.

Together they have over 40 years of experience in non profit event planning and fundraising.  They work hard in advance to consult clients on crowd analysis, evening agenda, Live and Silent Auction strategy, timing, order, placement, ensure the entire evening goes smoothly.
Also, if needed they can provide "Auction Boosters."  These are items to be added on a reserve basis to round out your auction.  For example, you may have a lot of  trips and jewelry, but we could add movie, music and/or Sports memorabilia.

Finally, among  the many strategies that have proven successful over the years that they will share with you is what they call Paddles Up or Fund-a-Need.  This is a direct ask from the crowd that results in $1000's of dollars in just a few minutes during the Live Auction.  

Mike and Sherri are looking forward to 2013 and the work they will be doing for Empower Network, Habitat for Humanity, Purpose Medical, Ace Academy and many more.

More information can be found on

Have A Great Day

thom singer

The 12 Days of Conference - Day Eleven

As we prepare for 2013 I am hosting a series of blog posts called "The 12 Days of Conference". Each day a different expert from the meeting, convention planning, speaking and hotel industries will add their single best idea on how to create better events or other tips for how to improve the "Conference Attendee Experience" in the new year.

The Truth Can Set Your Meeting Free
by Barbara Palmer

As an editor at PCMA Convene magazine, I don’t plan events — I just write about them. (And the thought has occurred to me that I wouldn’t last a month as a meeting planner — I have enormous respect for the complexity and demands of the job.)

But in talking with literally hundreds of planners, I’ve noticed the same thing in many top performers: They know their biggest problems can lead to their biggest successes.

Take, for example, the PCMA Learning Lounge, which debuted at Convening Leaders 2010 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The concept  —dozens of short presentations offered simultaneously in a variety of formats — was wildly popular, much emulated, and has since become a regular meeting component. (It’s also where I met Thom — he was a standing-room-only presenter at the 2012 Convening Leaders Learning Lounge in San Diego.)

But maybe my favorite thing about the Learning Lounge is that it was created as a direct result of a problem.  In 2009, Kelly Peacy, PCMA’s senior vice president, education & meetings, was wrestling with the fact that the MGM Grand’s arena seats 16,000, and Convening Leaders was expecting 4,000 attendees. How to shrink the space so that attendees didn’t feel swallowed up?
The solution?  Use half the space for general sessions and to fill the other half with education, including the Learning Lounge. Link:

I wrote a story for Convene earlier this year about Danielle Cote, vice president for event marketing for Sage North America, who was more than dismayed when RFID chips in attendee badges revealed that her meeting’s expensive keynote sessions weren’t attracting nearly the number or kind of attendees she had assumed. The data, she said, was “gut-wrenching.”

But instead of wringing her hands, Danielle took action. Working with meeting architect and speaker Sarah Michel, of Perfecting Connecting, the pair reinvented the keynote session at the 2012 meeting, using a modified Open Space concept — called “Sage City” — that engaged attendees, vendors, and Sage employees before, during, and after the meetings.  The innovation not only doubled the level of attendance, it created new ways for the software company to learn about how their customers used their products. [link to story:]

I see a few key things in both examples: Neither Kelly or Danielle denied that they had a problem or sugarcoated their challenges. They looked at them clearly and dove right into the middle of them.  And then they executed their problem-solving solutions to high standards, calling in expert help where needed.

If you are attending Convening Leaders in Orlando in January, you’ll see the Learning Lounge in action, of course, but you can hear Danielle and Sarah tell the story of Sage City at on Tuesday, Jan. 15, at 10:30 a.m. 

Hope to see you there! 

Barbara Palmer is senior editor of Convene magazine. A resident of Brooklyn, she has worked as a writer and editor at newspapers, magazines, and non-profit organizations. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The 12 Days of Conference - Day Ten

As we prepare for 2013 I am hosting a series of blog posts called "The 12 Days of Conference". Each day a different expert from the meeting, convention planning, speaking and hotel industries will add their single best idea on how to create better events or other tips for how to improve the "Conference Attendee Experience" in the new year.

Be Open to Wonderment
by Dana Freker Doody

In this season of lights and carols, recognize the delight in discovery reflected in a child’s eyes. Capture it in your memory bank as you would capture on film the Christmas morning rush.

It is our own childlike qualities that drive us to discover, probe and wonder. I believe those are some of the most important qualities we need in event planning today. When our attendees come to our tradeshows and events it is vital to put them in the frame of mind you capture in your memory bank, help put them in the mode for discovery and wonderment.

Creating fascinating experiences and settings can help your attendees engage with one another, with the learning content, with your exhibitors or sponsors. Specifically in tradeshows, where I am most at home, that can mean rearranging your floorplan into different shapes or even neighborhoods of like exhibitors. It may mean incentivizing your big exhibitors to move away from the front door or launching material handling packages that encourage everyone to bring more product. A fascinating experience on a trade show floor could be the latest game or it could be a town hall space at the center of the show where education, engagement and even social media come to life.

The rarity of the delights found during the Christmas season adds to its appeal. “Mom, look! There’s a huge inflatable Santa Claus riding on a motorcycle in that yard.” We don’t see that every day. And that’s the point.

Help your attendees to see, hear, smell, taste and touch something they don’t every day. If your conference schedule is always the same, you’re a yard without Harley Santa. When you shake things up, tweak that schedule, play with the floorplan, introduce a new idea, your community says “Look! Harley Santa!” That discovery opens their mind for the next new thing, the next opportunity, the next relationship, and the next.

Start talking with your team about how you can create entrees to discovery and wonderment within your conference or event. It starts, I think, with lots of questions.

Why do we do it this way?

What if we added this?

Would people react differently if this was over here?

Which pieces of our event should be enhanced?

Can we set politics aside and talk about attendee mindsets?

Could you support us in this trial initiative?

When is the ideal time for our attendees?

What if we started from scratch?

Should we go for a walk to clear our minds?

What’s in it for them?

What’s in it for us?

Will you take a step back and think about this other idea?

What if, what if, what if?

What amazes you?

What can we change today to improve the conference and event experience for your community?

Start small. Don’t go Clark Griswold on us, because too much of anything can be a bad thing. But don’t be afraid to try. This isn’t the season of comfort and joy because it’s same-old, same-old. Capture that wonderment, and be merry.

Dana Freker Doody is Vice President of Corporate Communications for The Expo Group where she oversees in-house and client-side programs for this general services contractor and custom exhibit house. A 12-year veteran of the industry and The Expo Group, Dana helps drive the company’s service promise pulling from previous experience at Disneyland, brings communications knowledge from her days at The Dallas Morning News and rebels against the status quo thanks to … well, no one is really sure. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The 12 Days of Conference - Day Nine

As we prepare for 2013 I am hosting a series of blog posts called "The 12 Days of Conference".  Each day a different expert from the meeting, convention planning, speaking and hotel industries will add their single best idea on how to create better events or other tips for how to improve the "Conference Attendee Experience" in the new year.

Create an event that you’d actually like to attend. 
By Elizabeth Luna

I don’t know about you, but I like to attend events that take risks—events that show me what works and what does not, so I can go into planning my next event with a repository of innovative ideas created from what I experienced.

     What we as planners don’t want to have happen, obviously, is to create an uninspiring event that doesn't show attendees anything new. The same-old-same-old event ultimately translates into a drop in next year’s attendance, something no planner wants to see.

     So, what can you do to avoid the repetition—to turn up the volume at your next event and really stimulate the minds of your attendees?

     It’s simple really—focus on the attendee experience and don’t be afraid to take a few risks along the way.
Here are some simple steps you can follow to keep focused on attendee engagement and meeting design. 

• No meeting should be planned without first completing two very important steps: 1) Identify and state goals and objectives for your meeting/event, and 2) Identify your target audience.

Once you have those identified:

• Plan the meeting through the eyes of your attendees – apply principles of what is important to you when attending a conference.  How early does the day start, how much time between sessions, networking time allowed, ability to interact with speakers during sessions vs. just simply listening to a lecture, opportunities to connect with experts outside of the session room, transportation to offsite events, white space in the schedule, etc.?

• The attendee experience literally means everything the attendee will see, hear and feel pre-conference, learn onsite and see and hear post-conference. This includes the way you reach out to your attendees pre-conference regarding details (emails vs. printed pieces, website interaction), what your attendees experience onsite (signage at the airport, welcome at the hotel, how they feel coming out of general session, options and taste of meal functions, learning experiences in the room, learning experiences outside of the room, new connections), and the experience after the event (follow-up from onsite experiences, opportunities to stay connected).

• At every possible moment, get input from potential attendees and engage with them in the planning of the event.  Be it education, networking or even schedule planning, the feeling of ownership in the end product creates an urgency not only to attend, but to champion the event for others to attend and be exponentially more participatory while onsite.

     In the planning process for WEC 2012 in St. Louis, the MPI team walked through the convention center as though we were attendees, we talked through the schedule as though we’d be the ones participating and not working.  During the event, we heard comments from attendees and saw increasing satisfaction scores for logistics, which showed that our efforts had made a definite difference. 

     In 2013, we’re calling WEC in Las Vegas, a “Laboratory of Risk.” We aren't going to be afraid to take risks. Some of what we do will work, some won’t, but the experience will be memorable and meaningful. We’ll be taking conference design and participant engagement to a new level, planning a truly innovative event our industry will not want to miss. It’s going to be an event designed, in theory and in practice, partially by them but completely for them.

_ _ _

Elizabeth Luna is the Manager of Live Events for Meeting Professionals International (MPI).  She has 10 years experience in the meetings and events industry including the last three and a half years at MPI. Prior to joining MPI, she was the Associate Director of Training and Events, managing a team that was responsible for planning and executing multiple annual events and monthly training programs. At MPI, she has been involved in managing both content and logistics for live events.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The 12 Days of Conference - Day Eight

As we prepare for 2013 I am hosting a series of blog posts called "The 12 Days of Conference".  Each day a different expert from the meeting, convention planning, speaking and hotel industries will add their single best idea on how to create better events or other tips for how to improve the "Conference Attendee Experience" in the new year.

Creating Meaningful Events
By Cindy Lo

An event’s success depends on a number of factors - great partners; a one-of-a-kind location; excited guests; and a dedicated event planning professional are all essential to making sure the production runs smoothly.

But the events that stick in people’s minds aren’t necessarily the biggest, or the splashiest, or the most outrageous events. They are the events that were the most meaningful. So, in a world where being over-the-top is often confused for being the best, how do you go about planning a meaningful event? It’s simple: you get creative.

The best part about being creative is that it doesn’t necessarily mean being expensive. You can have a very creative and meaningful event on any budget. Here’s how:
·         Be Thoughtful. Take time to think about what will make the event stand out, what the client’s goals are, and how it will all come together for the guests. Don’t ever rely on a cookie-cutter approach; every event is different and needs to be approached thusly. And make sure you focus on both the big picture and the little details.
·         Look For What’s New. Some tried-and-true event touches will never get old, but you don’t want to feature something that your guests saw at pretty much every party – five years ago. Keep in mind what’s new and what’s exciting, and tailor that to fit your client’s needs and wishes.
·         Consider Your Audience. Not every tactic will work for every audience. For example, an event for an older crowd shouldn't rely too heavily on social media. Keep your guests’ needs in mind as well as your client’s desires. You want everyone to be delighted by the time everyone goes home.
·         Hire an Event Planning Professional. When you hire an event planning professional or a DMC, you’re hiring someone with years of experience in the industry – someone who knows how to work within your budget to put together a memorable, creative event that will sparkle in your guests’ memories for a long time!
Again, it doesn't take an unlimited budget to get creative (it definitely helps but it’s not required) to plan a meaningful event. It does take time, knowledge, and experience. For more details on how to make an event a wonderful and meaningful experience for all involved, call Red Velvet Events today!

Cindy Lo, owner of Red Velvet Events, loves to strategize and challenge her team to out do their own production year after year. On any given day, you can find Cindy buried in an Excel spreadsheet; traveling the world to get new design ideas; and reading every article she can get her hands as she's always looking for inspiration.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The 12 Days of Conference - Day Seven

As we prepare for 2013 I am hosting a series of blog posts called "The 12 Days of Conference".  Each day a different expert from the meeting, convention planning, speaking and hotel industries will add their single best idea on how to create better events or other tips for how to improve the "Conference Attendee Experience" in the new year.

Hashtags & Hoteliers:
Network Outside the Ballroom
Increase ROI of Conference Registration Fees and Travel Costs!
By Valerie Sparks

When a hotel sales professional returns from a meetings industry annual conference, the #1 goal is to show Return on Investment (ROI) on the hefty registration fee and travel costs. He or she will look better to a boss with new RFPs and business cards collected.

An opportunity to exceed these goals is available, and has been for a number of years. Why aren't the majority of hoteliers taking advantage of it?

Virtual Conference Networking via Twitter Hashtags

Hoteliers have an opportunity to increase business development productivity during an annual meetings industry conference by engaging qualified meeting planners, virtually, via Twitter. By tweeting an assigned conference hashtag before, during, and after a conference, one’s individual hotel property or brand will be exposed to a larger audience of meeting planners. Let’s say one hotelier is attending a conference with 300+ planes in attendance, how many new relationships can that hotelier realistically expect to make on the trade show floor or at designated networking events? Imagine engaging an additional 50+ planners, virtually, all through Twitter.

What is a Hashtag?

A hashtag is a word or stream of letters after a pound symbol. Two examples of hashtags used on a daily basis are #hotelprofs and #eventprofs. The first allowing hoteliers to exchange industry related trends and the second allowing any business related to the meetings and event industries to gain better exposure to a targeted meeting planning community.

On December 14th (2012) alone, 541 separate tweets included #eventprofs.

Another type of hashtag is one assigned for a specific annual conference. These hashtags are typically only utilized around the dates of the actual conference. Examples: #hpnglobal and #HSC2012

HPN Global 2012 Annual Partners Conference - Omni Dallas - #hpnglobal
Between Dec 9th – Dec 17th
  •           Total tweets including #hpnglobal: 250
  •           Total hotelier accounts used #hpnglobal: 5

Holiday Showcase 2012 Annual Conference - Hyatt Chicago - #HSC2012
Between Dec 10th – Dec 15th
  •           Total tweets including #hsc2012: 350
  •          Total hotelier accounts that used #HSC2012: 3

For a hotelier, this data screams OPPORTUNITY!

I am not referring to a hotel’s already existing Twitter account, but rather, a personal Twitter account.


Before diving in head first, ensure the following of your new Twitter account:
  • Professional headshot; preferably photo from LinkedIn for consistency and better recognition.
  • Short professional bio; making it clear the hotel/hotel brand represented.
  • Any tweets written or re-tweeted should be professional, positive, and relevant to those in the meetings and events industries.
  • Friends don’t let friends Drink and Tweet. Meetings industry conferences are not shy about the alcohol. Ensure you do not allow social media and alcohol to mix. 
 Action Steps 
1.      Go to Twitter and build a free account.
2.      Link your Twitter account to your LinkedIn profile. Instructions Here3.      Don’t freak out. You don’t need to tweet anything right away. No one is following you, so no one will read your tweets anyway.
4.      Think to yourself, “Wow, I’m 95% ahead of the pack in getting more ROI out the next attended meetings related annual conference.”

Opportunities for Continual ‘Social Media for Business Development’ Related Learning

Request to join these private LinkedIn Groups (850+ members each):
     Valarie Sparks (formerly Wilder) recently left a successful 13-year hotel management career to conduct Social Sales Training Workshops for hotel sales and meetings professionals. Her workshops increase business development productivity utilizing the LinkedIn and Twitter platforms. 

Valarie Sparks
Social Sales Training Consultant | Speaker | Hotel Sales and Meetings Professionals
Follow on Twitter: @Sparking_Social
Connect on LinkedIn

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The 12 Days of Conference - Day Six

As we prepare for 2013 I am hosting a series of blog posts called "The 12 Days of Conference".  Each day a different expert from the meeting, convention planning, speaking and hotel industries will add their single best idea on how to create better events or other tips for how to improve the "Conference Attendee Experience" in the new year.

End it with a Shebango!
by Jessica Pettitt

After working for years as an event planner and now as a speaker and facilitator I gotta share a secret.  Conference attendees don’t usually think about the months of hard work that go into planning an event.  An event is more than a theme, a list of programs, and meals at a good venue.  The secret though, is that on the last day of the event, the planning team are often stressed, underfed, and lacking sleep.  The final speaker takes the stage and there is an exhale – it is over – we did it – yeah!  We get to sleep again soon.  However, this is a big mistake – I mean you do get to sleep soon, but don’t miss the opportunity to end your event the best way possible!

A few ways to determine if a conference has ended badly…

  • Finding piles of dusty business cards from conferences
  • Conference resources that hasn't inspired me from inside the filing cabinet
  • Calls to action that have piled up under an unread reading pile
  • Reams of paper of notes of great ideas and best practices
  • Renewal notices for organizations I don’t remember I belong to
The final program of a conference is an often overlooked opportunity for the planning committee – not on purpose necessarily – but overlooked nonetheless… Here are a few things you can do to wrap up your event with not just a bang, but a SHEBANGO!

A few ways to determine if a conference has ended with a SheBang…

  • There is a distinct difference in your posture and attitude
  • You have multiple dates set up to continue conversations with folks from the event
  • Next year’s event is already in your calendar
  • Participants have a list of folks to encourage attending the next event and renewing their membership
  • Meeting Planners and Event Committee look like superheroes to attendees!
  • Conference mishaps are overlooked and the theme is restated over and over again
The closing speaker’s job is to make attendees feel good or better yet, inspired.  Once motivated, participants head out the door and back to reality where they quickly forget what they just learned, who they just met, and why they are part of the association.  This isn't a blame worthy element of event planning – just happens.  Ideally, events should end in the exact opposite way – and it doesn't even cost more money!

As a closing speaker, it is my job to make the meeting planner and committee look AMAZING, assist all attendees in really internalizing everything they just learned and apply it to their regular lives, support participants’ new network of contacts, and block their schedules with the next event’s dates.  Moreover, an event attendee is the best marketing tool for the next event, and also for the organization itself.  Ending with a SHEBANGO increases member retention and recruitment and makes all of the hard work to plan, present, and share worth it.

It is a HUGE responsibility to smooth over the unexpected happenings at an event, be it fire alarms, broken elevators, rubber chicken, or presenters who don’t deliver, threading together the mission and vision of the hosting organization and event theme, and inspiring attendees to take the messages home.  Lastly, motivating the participants long after the event to support the organization throughout the year and bring in new faces, information, and maybe even serve on the next planning team.  That is ending it right – with a SHEBANGO!

Jessica Pettitt stirs up conversations using humor and history.  Get the Whole Shebango! at, email,  or call 917-543-0966.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The 12 Days of Conference - Day Five

As we prepare for 2013 I am hosting a series of blog posts called "The 12 Days of Conference".  Each day a different expert from the meeting, convention planning, speaking and hotel industries will add their single best idea on how to create better events or other tips for how to improve the "Conference Attendee Experience" in the new year.

Get Productive: 
Use Video to Increase Engagement
By Neen James

Video is the future.

Video is changing the way kids learn at school –look at the way thought leader Salman Kahn and the Kahn Academy has flipped the way kids learn math.

Video is changing the way universities share content – look at the phenomenal enrolment numbers of online learning.

Video is changing the meetings industry.

If you want to increase engagement from attendees, vendors and speakers at your events in 2013 the way to do it is, yes you guessed it … video!

In our productivity consulting and speaking practice we use video in a number of ways to serve our clients. We have found using video has several benefits:
·         Great promotional tool for marketing before, during and after the event.
·         Start conversations between speakers and attendees early.
·         Content is in small digestible chunks for increased effectiveness.
·         Social media engagement skyrockets!
As a meeting planner you can leverage video by inviting all your speakers to create short videos explaining the benefits of their session to attendees. You will see major events in 2013 embrace this concept.

As a vendor you can leverage video by inviting attendees to visit your trade stand for exclusive offers and quality conversation.

As a speaker you can leverage video by sharing your content, building excitement for your session and suggest attendees engage with you before the event.

At Neen James Communications we send videos to our meeting planners to use in their promotional activities, we engage in social media with guests before the event using the hash tag for Twitter, LinkedIn discussion groups, Facebook conversations and Instagram.

We encourage all attendees watching the video to email us in advance their biggest productivity challenges (or whatever the topic we are keynoting about) and we can use these questions to customize the content for our program.

We send videos after the keynote to increase accountability to actions agreed in the keynote and also to embed the learning of key concepts.

Video is hands-down one of the most vital engagement tools for 2013 – how are you embracing video in your next event? Share your ideas with us here on our blog.


Neen James CSP is a productivity 
thought leader (and Aussie) who delivers engaging keynotes that have educated, and entertained audiences with real-world strategies that apply at work and life. She also provides mentoring to women and when she isn’t traveling the world on her Harley; she is collecting fabulous shoes!

Friday, December 14, 2012

The 12 Days of Conference - Day Four

As we prepare for 2013 I am hosting a series of blog posts called "The 12 Days of Conference".  Each day a different expert from the meeting, convention planning, speaking and hotel industries will add their single best idea on how to create better events or other tips for how to improve the "Conference Attendee Experience" in the new year.

 “Letting Go” 
(of the need to over-prepare and over-organize 
our events and presentations)
By Sara Canaday

OK, I admit it.  Being uber-organized feeds my need to feel somewhat in control of my time, resources, and results. I love the feeling of being over-prepared for a presentation with an outline with a solid framework, rocking transitions, and a theme that seems to magically appear with each and every story.  However, beyond the selfish and seemingly productive advantages of being ├╝ber-prepared, I've seen some disadvantages that could slowly, but surely impact the overall quality and texture of my presentations, my ability to grow as a speaker and, ultimately, the depth of the connections I can make with my audience members. 

We’ve been trained and conditioned to over-prepare for every meeting and every speech. For planning professionals that means ghantt charts, Excel spreadsheets and automated registration and updates. For speakers that means detailed presentation outlines, choreographed stories, and perfectly timed humor.  Sure, our audience expects the clarity, structure and wit that come from carefully planned events and presentations.

At the same time, however, our audiences want a fluid conference experience and a genuine and more spontaneous connection with presenters. What this means for all of us is that we need to be more responsive to attendee feedback and reactions, not just before or after the event, but right smack in the middle of it.   As hard as it will be for some of us (ahem) to let go of the uber-organzied event or presentation plan, we will need to be much more fluid and in-the-moment.  

We need to be ever vigilant in observing what is happening “real-time”.  What is the mood? What are people's reactions? What conversations are going on?  What are people asking for, or anticipating from the conference?  There are times we need to (brace yourself here) veer from our detailed plans or go “off-script” so that we are improving and enhancing our events and presentations as they are happening.  

Yes, there seems to be a paradox here.  Our clients and audience members want us to be organized, professional, timely, consistent, and efficient.  Yet, they also want us to be fluid, reactive, spontaneous, and EFFECTIVE! 

Welcome to the world where you cannot control everything.  Welcome to the new world of conferences.  Let go and enjoy the ride.

Sara Canaday ( ) is a leadership expert, career strategist, speaker, and the author of  a new book,  You -- According to Them: Uncovering the blind spots that impact your reputation and your career (available on

Cool Things My Friends Do: Ooh La Bra! - Lisa Angelos McKenzie

Each Friday on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their work and personal lives. 

In September 2011 I wrote on this blog about my friend Lisa Angelos McKenzie, the founder of Ooh La Bra!  Lisa has created a niche business creating decorative bra straps and headbands.  She launched the company in the middle of the recession and now her business is busting out (sorry, I could not resist).

Her business began when she spotted a friend wearing a stylish rhinestone bra at a high school reunion.  Lisa has always had an eye for fashion (I have known her since college), and she found boutique where the friend had made her purchase and bought out the store.  She soon found that they were a great accessory, and realized that the straps were the key. Next thing you knew she had a business.

I love seeing an idea become reality, and now Lisa is working hard to expand her company.  Yes, the holidays are a busy time of they year for this "bra-strap entrepreneur".  (HINT, HINT..... if you are looking for a great gift, check out Ooh La Bra! for some great gift ideas).

When I started this blog I never dreamed that I would write about bra accessories (and now twice!), but when it comes to "Cool Things My Friends Do",.... Lisa Angelos McKenzie is a great example of someone I think is cool off the charts.

Have A Great Day

thom singer