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.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Win More By Not Being Rude

Has it become "okay" to be rude?  Is the trend of self-focus gotten us to the point that we rarely even acknowledge the people around us?  Smart phones and other gadgets have our attention, and since the power to connect with the whole world is in our hands we are missing the human engagement that is all around us.  

I am not talking about blatant in your face nasty (that should never be acceptable), yet there seems to be less common courtesy and fewer smiles between people in our daily interactions.  While "rude" is a word that makes many nervous, I think it is the right word.  Most people do not see their own actions as "rude".... but in a world where being over-extended and busy is a badge of honor, few people take the time to notice others (much less give them a few seconds of polite attention).

If you watch closely throughout your day you will see what I mean.  People seem more detached in recent years.  It is in the little things where etiquette seems to be abandoned.  I am not blaming the internet, social media and the mobile technology, but there is clearly a lack of intention lately to the social manners.

At Starbucks this morning I watched the line of people in front of me.  Only one woman said "Thank You" to the person who was serving the drinks to the waiting customers.  Now, one could argue that in the transaction of six dollar cups of coffee one does not need to be gracious to the baristas, but one out of eight people seemed out of wack.

Last week at a hotel when the elevator doors opened two young women who were staring at their phones walked into the lift without waiting for others to exit.  Those of us getting off had to push past, and once the doors closed we all looked at each other in amazement.  No recognition that other people had been present. 

And don't get me started about "Thank You Notes", or at least saying "Thank You" to people who have done you a favor or sent you a gift.  Too many people just go on with their lives without showing any gratitude, and if questioned about it they look at you like you are from Mars.  Gratitude is not something you should ever ignore.  

In a world where common courtesy seems to be in short supply, if you want to stand out and find more success in your human-to-human relationships it is easier than ever to get noticed by simply not being "rude".  Being polite and making others feel special will allow you to win more often in the game of life.

Go back to the basics of social etiquette and people will be impressed by your actions.  It takes no extra time to be polite, and if you do this regularly you will develop an epic reputation for how you treat others.  It is sad that being kind to others has become a way to stand out in the crowd, but those who practice being nice, and avoid being rude, will find more success.

I often speak to groups about "Cooperative Significance".  We all want to make a contribution and be significant at work, home, and in our communities.  But you cannot decide for others that you are significant, they make that determination.  To be significant you begin by making others feel they matter (as this will cause them to notice you).  One way to do this is to be nice to them and help them feel good about the things they are accomplishing in their world.  

Five Tips To Being Kind

1.  Be observant.  Many people go about their day feeling invisible, as too few are noticing others actions.  Take the time to watch the people around you and acknowledge their contributions. You should do this at home, around the office, or anywhere you go. Make it a habit to be aware of others.

2.  Say something nice.  Everyone is so busy that we rarely say anything to the people around us, and this is amplified when dealing with strangers in transnational situations (the coffee shop, elevator, car wash, etc...).  When you are interacting with someone look them in the eye and say "please", "thank you", etc...  Maybe add in a compliment about their work product, their appearance, or something else they are doing well that makes them stand out.

3.  Look up from your phone.  Get beyond thinking that important things are happening constantly in your email or you Instagram feed.  Put the phone down and be present with the other people.  When you are talking to someone one-to-one do not put your eyes on your phone during that conversation.  Nobody appreciates being ingnored.  We call it rude when other do this, but when we do it ourselves we call it "multi-tasking".  Sorry, it is rude.

4. RSVP and show up on time.  Somewhere along the line we forgot that we are supposed to respond to invitations and then do what we said we were going to do.  Respect other people's time.  Be militant about your schedule and show up when you say you will attend.  

5.  Make gratitude your secret weapon.  When someone gives you a gift or does you a favor, make sure you thank them in a proper manner.  A text that reads "THX" may or may not be the right answer.  Know this: No matter what you do, if you take a shortcut to show gratitude the other person will know it.  

Being rude or aloof should not be acceptable in the course of your day.  It takes no more time to be polite, attentive and aware.  Those who embrace these small actions will have more wins in the long run.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Monday, January 04, 2016

PCMA Convening Leaders and The Morning "Pre-Note" (like a Keynote, but earlier)

If you are going to this year's PCMA (Professional Convention Managers Association) Convening Leaders event in Vancouver, I know you are getting excited.  In just a few days several thousand people will gather to learn, share, network and grow their understanding of the trends in the meetings business.

I am excited to be involved again this year.  I spoke in the Learning Lounge four years ago and was impressed with the agenda and the people who were present.  There is a real excitement about this event, and Vancouver is an awesome city.

This year I am going to be part of the "Morning Orientation" that will take place before the daily general session.  Before going to hear the "Keynote" people have the opportunity to come to a "Pre-Note" during breakfast.  These sessions will co-hosted with Kelly Peacy, the senior vice president of education and meetings for PCMA, and we promise everyone will learn and meet others.

In the past years on Sunday night there has been a "First Timers Reception" where Kelly has shared special information about the Convening Leaders event and encouraged networking for the hundreds who are present for the first time.  But since the event kicks off on Monday, the NFL Playoffs on Sunday night have been a conflict.  Plus, the information about the unique experience PCMA has planned over the coming days is not just for newcomers.  Everyone can benefit from learning about the methodology behind all the cool things on the agenda.

PCMA prides itself on always trying something different.  Thus in place of the 1st Timers party, there will be a daily "Morning Orientation" that will combine information about what is planned for the day, along with a high energy and interactive session.  Kelly will share the the ideas and concepts for the day, and then turn it over to me to kick off with my "Pre-Note" session.  My charge is to get people pumped up for the day, give them valuable information, and to help them make a new friend each morning!

Schedule for the Daily Pre-Note at the Morning Orientation

Monday:  How to Maximize the Conference.  For first timers, or anyone, a key part of getting the most from a live event is the networking, but often people fail to get the most they can from attending an event.  Regardless of if someone is an extrovert of an introvert, we will discuss ways to make connections that matter and how to have more fun.  

Tuesday: Creating a Culture of Connection.  Meeting professionals always want to make sure that their attendees get the most from attending their events.  This workshop style conversation will be highly interactive and we will tap into the brilliance in the room to share the best ideas on setting the tone for networking at any event.

Wednesday: What is the Best Thing You Learned at PCMA 2016.  With so many sessions, nobody can attend them all.  This facilitated discussion will get people thinking about what they learned and how they will use it when they get back to to their office.  Come and share your best "Ah Ha" moment from Convening Leaders.

Below is the interview I conducted with Kelly Peacy on the "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" Podcast.  She talks about her 15+ year career at PCMA and we discuss the 2016 Convening Leaders event.   You have to take some time and hear this podcast chat. 

If you are going to be at the Convening Leaders event, please attend the "Morning Orientation" every day and come and say "HELLO".  I am looking forward to meeting you.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

***Check out my new website that will launch on January 6, 2016..

What is a Pre-Note??

"What exactly is a PRE-NOTE?".... I hear that a lot.

I speak or serve in the role of the master of ceremonies at many corporate and association events.  I am known as the "The Conference Catalyst", which can be a traditional keynote presentation, but can also be morphed to meet the needs of any event that desires to create a culture of connection at their conference.  

Sometimes organizations that hire me already have their keynote speakers set up when they discover me, or they only use celebrities or industry celebrities in the keynote slots.  In these cases there still may be a way to fit me into their program.

So I created the "PRE-NOTE".  The pre-note takes place before the main presentations and sets the tone for the whole event.  When and how the pre-note happens is customized for each client and their individual agenda.

  • The PRE-NOTE happens before the opening reception the night before the conference kicks off. 

  • The PRE-NOTE happens for 20 - 25 minutes at the start of the General Session before the headlining keynote presentation.

  • The PRE-NOTE happens as an optional session during breakfast each morning of the conference.

If your conference organizers are seeking a unique way to set the tone for better engagement at the event and if your team is not shy about trying something out-of-the-box that is not a "cookie cutter" speech, look at fitting the "Conference Catalyst PRE-NOTE" into your agenda.

Have A Great Day

thom singer 

Friday, January 01, 2016

Hiding Sadness from Yourself

I recently had a situation that made me have to explore my feelings (admittedly I don't do this often enough), and found that while I am historically a very happy person, I have been masking real sadness for several years.  I was surprised, as I had done such a good job of hiding the reality of my feeling, that even I did not see the extent of my inner blues.

I am not going to share the details of the underlying situation, but the reality of my sadness hit me like a ton of bricks.  It knocked me over. I mentioned being "sad" in a conversation with my wife, and then I could not stop thinking about how true that statement was.... not only about the current conversation, but overall.  Just answering that way was out of character, as I usually say "fine" or "good". Looking back this had been the case for so long it was embarrassing to me that I would have been this sad and never said the words out loud.  How could this be true?  

Could a person have "Hidden Sadness"?  I began to research and it turns out a lot of people have feelings like this that range from mild to severe, and even those with higher levels of depression will commonly mask their feelings from others and themselves.  I want to be clear my own situation is not dire, and I respect that some deal with serious depression and other issues.  My feelings were mild enough that I was able to blow past them and function without much pain, but they have been there for so long that it was like an "ah ha" moment when I saw that sadness had been with me for years and had taken root inside of me.

I nervously laughed as I read the signs of people with sadness and how they compensate and cover up their feelings.  Turns out this is very real and I had allowed this to go unnoticed and untreated for so long that it had become part of me.  I would identify myself as an up-beat and happy person, and this label kept me from being able to deal with the issue, so I masked it and went on with life.

My first reaction was to place blame on others for these feelings. I am clear on where others had let me down and I identified moments that made me sad.  I wanted to point fingers, but quickly realized that this is not anyone's fault (not even my own).  While hurtful things have happened from the outside, I have to accept that my internal reactions and ways of dealing are the foundation of my feelings over this much time.

I am planning to talk to a professional, as I think this type of thing should not be ignored.  However, the interesting thing is the more I read about sadness and honestly look at my feelings, the lighter the burden has already become.  I did not know the weight of what I was holding inside, but it was there. While I still feel it, there seems to be an opening for real change.

Unbelievable that I could subconsciously host a major cover up from myself.  There have been clues, but nothing that made me take notice.  Clearly it was easier for me to ignore the whole situation and I did so for a long time.

My natural tendency is to not publicly talk about negative and personal issues (apparently even with myself), but after spending hours reading about this subject I believe there must be others who carry this type of chronic sadness around and like me are covering it up.  It was the posts of others sharing openly that allowed me to recognize myself in their stories.  

People are fast to judge and fill in the blanks with their own thoughts and opinions, so I worry some I know will jump to conclusions or judge me for saying this here.  But this is what it is and I am not shying away from it anymore.  In politics they say the cover up is worse than the crime, the same seems true as I work to fire sadness and make room for happiness.  My feelings are what they are, but my inability to admit them has caused me problems, and that is over.

I don't need to have the end game figured out, but I do need to make some changes starting now in my interpretations and expectations.  I cannot expect others to do things I want them to do and waiting for them to change will never produce any results.  I have to work on me.

Since this is New Years Day it seems like a prefect time for a fresh start.  I want 2016 to be a year I look back on with joy.  I am not going to continue to hide.  I hope this resonates with someone out there!!

Have A Great Day

thom singer