A Little WEC11 Love

I’m leaving on a jet plane for #WEC11 (World Education Congress) in less than four weeks! Where has the time gone?  When #WEC10 was over, I thought woefully that I have to wait a WHOLE year before the next one.  Somehow the whole year flew by, and now I have to start planning how to fill my precious few days in Orlando.  With only two days left for early registration, I wanted to share eight reasons (in no particular order) why I love attending WEC!

Education & Professional Development
That’s the biggest draw for me, the education that MPI provides during WEC is probably some of the best education and professional development opportunities around, in my humble opinion that is!  This year MPI seems to be stepping it up another notch, with the rallying cry “Get Smarter“; a more hands on, less talk focus.  Attendees will have access to over 100 educational sessions – my mind spins, as I know I won’t have time for them all.

Events & Networking
To name a few… The Big Deal, Rendezvous, Open and Closing Receptions, Offsite Insights, Puppy Cuddling, Chapter Receptions, Golf Tournament, Rise Awards…and the list seems to go on. Sleep is overrated during this conference!

Location
This year WEC will be held in sunny Orlando, FL, probably one of the easiest places for those on the east coast to access and with the prices on plane tickets going up every day – it’s much more cost effective!

Technology
I LOVE Technology. I love checking out all the new shiny toys, tablets, smart phones, applications, tools, etc.  This year MPI has created the HIVE! The HIVE is the new gathering spot, located in the Global Village, for showcasing the latest in event technology. It’s the ultimate show-and-tell stage in which a tech-savvy concierge staff of digital and social media experts shares the latest tech tools and wizardry.

Leadership
Attending WEC gives you that edge; the edge you can take home with you, use as a Chapter Leader on the MPI Board and use within your own company.  It gives you that boost within your career, takes you up a notch as a professional.  I feel more empowered, a stronger leader, a more prepared professional.  I come away with new resources to make my job easier, ideas to help inspire others and feel more confident!

Inspiration
Every time I attend WEC, I leave feeling inspired and rejuvenated. I have new ideas and my creative juices are flowing.  Attending WEC pumps new energy into the meeting professional world!

No More Tradeshow (Now MarketSquare and Blitz!)
I do appreciate the tradeshow, but I don’t love tradeshows, especially not two days worth of wandering somewhat aimlessly around the tradeshow floor.  Nevertheless, there will be time for supplier to market themselves on the MarketSquare and with Blitz!  MarketSquare is a permanent fixture throughout the entire conference, where suppliers can meet with clients, have a representative talk to attendees or simply gain brand exposure. On top of Market Square, there will also be Blitz! This new addition to WEC is set to provide an additional way to give companies the visibility at WEC, with a designated spot for the evening in the progressive reception; no longer a search-and-find adventure for buyers.

Friends
I would be remiss not to mention all the friends you make while attending this conference.  It just amazes me the number of people you meet from all over world, who I now consider not just colleagues, but my friends.  Connections are made and kept; I always look forward to attending so we can meet up again!

Now, why do YOU want to attend #WEC11?

Face Time

I might be a little over the top when it comes to encouraging the use of social media as a meetings professional.  I love Twitter and LinkedIn for my professional side, and Facebook for my more personal side of life.  I even went so far as to sign up for all kinds of social networking and online communities, many that I don’t use regularly, just so I could ensure no one else gets my username.  (You can check yours too NameChk)

I spend lots of time touting the benefits of social media to my MPI Chapter (Northeastern NY), they all smile at me.  I have to wonder, are they smiling (and maybe laughing a little) because they wish they had more time for social media? Knew more about it? Understood the benefits? Or is it, smile and nod until she stops talking? Perhaps it’s a little of everything.  I think most people WANT to get involved with some type of social media application, but then once they do, not everyone really finds it useful (not to mention the time involved). And that’s OKAY.  I’m not here to tell members they absolutely have to join Twitter or LinkedIn (or any other social community)…but they might want to consider it.  And by joining, that doesn’t mean face to face meetings will go by the way side, or that face to face connections will disappear.  Isn’t that what a Tweet-Up is for?  (they are rolling their eyes at me, I know it)

Check out Liz Utter’s blog Social Intimacy & Social Media: Why Face Time Is Still Key

My favorite lesson from her blog…

Social media is a tool, but does not take the place of face time. Creating events where followers meet and interact is a crucial building block in nurturing and solidifying the status of your relationship with followers. It provides more than just an opportunity to put a face with a name; it is a way for the community to verify that you are who you say you are.

The power of the human touch and engaging people face to face is what makes meeting professionals so strong.  We might love technology to help make our lives easier, but we love to spend quality time with each other as well.  Learning from one another, listening to stories, connecting in real time.

Your sincerity and enthusiasm should carry over into the online community as well.  There’s just no way to hide anymore.  Most of us can spot a fake from a mile away.  Be real in person, be real online.  Otherwise, the online community will pretty much shun you.  And that’s pretty harsh.

I’ll leave you now with points from the Convention Industry Council’s grassroots effort, “Face Time, It Matters”.

FACE TIME. It Matters.” is a grassroots industry campaign theme designed to promote the benefits of meeting face-to-face. The campaign was developed in response to one of the most challenging years ever faced by the meeting, convention and exhibition industries. It was based on the findings of a recent national survey of corporate and association meeting planners, plus in-depth personal interviews with the industry’s leading executives as well as focus groups consisting of corporate and association executives, business travelers and professional meeting planners. According to the research:

  • Face-to-face meetings build trust and relationships;
  • Education and training are more effective in a live setting;
  • Live meetings actually save time and money;
  • Live meetings result in a more effective exchange of ideas;
  • Face-to-face meetings provide the human connection that powers business;
  • Face-to-face meetings create jobs and powers the economy.

After wrapping up this entry, I was reading the MPI PlusPoint blog, and found it interesting to note…

Social Media Helps Well Being…
New survey findings [from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project] show that use of social networking sites is growing and that those who use these sites, especially Facebook users, have higher measures of social well-being.

This survey also showed that more people are using social networking sites–the figure is now 47 percent of the entire adult population, compared with 26 percent that was measured in our similar 2008 survey. Among other things, this means the average age of adult social networking site users has shifted from 33 in 2008 to 38 in 2010. Over half of all adult social networking site users are now over the age of 35.

Celebrating Our Members

Last night was the MPI Northeastern New York awards celebration. The MPI NENY Awards Celebration is the culmination of the chapter’s year and was definitely an evening filled with celebration, as we recognized the talents, skills, accomplishments, and dedication of our members and industry colleagues.

As part of last night’s ceremony, I had to give a speech.  Truth be told, and despite what others might tell you, I did not spend a whole year writing this! I spent at least 2 months, and then changed it two days before the event.  And then added more stuff two hours before the event.  I was so nervous the night before and the day of, I really thought my stomach would revolt. It didn’t help matters that I was speaking last.  But a glass (or two o)f wine later, and I’m good to go. We had a special guest, MPI Chairman Eric Rozenberg (@Yoda18), who flew in from Belgium.  It was our very first international guest speaker.  And if you haven’t heard, he’s on his farewell tour.

As odd as this might be, I wanted to share my speech with the world.  And share a very special video from MPI President & CEO Bruce MacMillan (@BMACMPI) who generously recorded a special message for us about WEC11.

A few words from the new President…

I would like to thank everyone once again for coming out tonight.  The June awards celebration is truly a special time for our Chapter and our members as we recognize their accomplishments.  Congratulations again to all our award winners this evening.  Your volunteer efforts are truly appreciated and I look forward to working with you this year.

Thank you to Eric Rozenberg for coming all the way from Belgium to speak at our event tonight; making our Chapter the last stop on his farewell tour as MPI Chairman. It was an honor to have you here.

Here I am at the beginning, the beginning of my term as President.  I’ll admit this is scary; public speaking hasn’t been my forte.  But Jack Roddy gave me some words of wisdom…I should pray for inspiration or at the very least I should just picture everyone naked and I’ll do just fine.

As I transition into the role of President, I would be remiss not to thank Doug McPhee.  During my time as President-Elect, Doug has truly been an inspiration to me.  He has helped me to listen first, consider all sides, and then make a decision.  He has encouraged and supported me; he is and will remain my mentor.  Thank you again Doug for all that you have done for our board, for our Chapter and for me.  But just so you know, and as Jack can attest, you aren’t off the hook yet.  I’ll have many projects for you going forward!

We all know the saying less is more.  And we also know, good communication is a key aspect to our industry, but do you have the feeling that email is taking over the world?  Or at the very least, it’s replacing the phone call? I’m guilty of emailing my own co-worker while we are in the office at the same time.

In an effort to save your sanity (and mine), one of our goals as a chapter moving forward is to cut back on our emails to you.  The last thing we want is for you to delete an important email or for your server to mark us as spam!  The monthly newsletter will soon turn into a bi-monthly one, with more focus on articles, members, newsworthy items.  We will create a weekly email blast; similar to ones you may receive from International, which will provide links to upcoming events, important info you need now, etc.; condensing our event invites and reminders into one weekly email blast.

We encourage you to utilize our website more.  We will be posting the information you need, the events you want to attend, the people you need to contact, etc. online  Every link you click on will bring you to our website for more details – and for every question you have, as Cindy tells me… It’s on the website.

You may not have heard yet about my love for social media.  Yup, I’m the nerd in the front of the class, waiving her hand frantically to answer the question.  Social Media isn’t just for nerds!  I want everyone in this room to consider for a moment their own social media presence.

Social media IS your friend. No really, it is.  Yes, privacy settings exist, you can block people, you can lock down your profile – but then I wonder, why did you set up an account to begin with?

As a strong proponent of social media, I encourage all of you to follow us on Facebook, to stalk us on Twitter and to speak your mind in our LinkedIn Group (MPI NENY). I don’t expect everyone to be a part of every social networking group available, but business is being done within the social media arena, and you may want to consider being a part of a few (or at least one) – as they aren’t going away any time soon! Some of the best info and networking opportunities I’ve found, I’ve found on Twitter.

I just read this morning that: 56% of those who follow a brand on Twitter indicated they are “more likely” to make a purchase of that brand’s products compared to a 47% lift for those who “Like” a brand on Facebook.  AND Twitter is viewed as the medium in which consumers can directly communicate with the stewards of the brands they are most interested in. (But I digress…)

Keep in mind when deciding which networking communities to join…. “It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure!” We are very busy people, so it’s okay to be picky!

Our Chapter is all about Education – consider our chapter slogan, MPI NENY is the bridge to innovative knowledge and connections!  We’ve listened to you, we’ve taken what you’ve said into consideration, and our 2011-2012 educational plan is a strong one.  Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the education committee, led by VP of Education, Deb Goedeke, you will be pleased and surprised with what we have in store for you.  Remember to complete the membership surveys as they come in, as feedback is what drives YOUR education direction.

With your education in mind, I would like to turn to now to the World Education Congress and the MPI Foundation.

Many of you may know about this little conference in Orlando, FL that’s coming up in July.  If you don’t know, you probably should!  This will be my third year attending WEC, and believe me it provides some of the best professional development and education around.

Another great MPI element is the MPI Foundation.  For 25 years, the Foundation has been investing in the people and programs that shape meetings and business events into a $100 billion industry.  With generous donations from MPI Members, the Foundation is able to provide access to grants and scholarships.

The Foundation is there for all of you in this very room.  Recently, one of our very own members was awarded a scholarship to attend WEC.

Life is funny sometimes, and this member would have missed the opportunity if she hadn’t checked her junk mail.  After perusing the “junk mail” she came across an email from MPI whose subject was “Need Financial Aid for WEC?”  The deadline to apply was less than a week away!  Perhaps we should all be checking quarantine more regularly!

She completed the application over the weekend, faxed it in on Monday morning and by 2 PM that day, she was notified that she had been granted the $2,800 scholarship that includes housing, airfare and conference registration. She will also take the CMP exam at the conference.  How fantastic is that? What a great benefit as a member to have access to a scholarship like this.

Join me in congratulating the WEC scholarship winner – Trina Avalos!

To close things up, what’s the deal with WEC?  You might be thinking why should I attend this year?  What’s in it for me?

Let’s hear it directly from MPI International President & CEO, Bruce MacMillan who has recorded a special video just for us!

I Was a Virtual World Speaker

This update comes a little on the late side, but I figure it’s still important enough to share!

I gave my very first presentation in the MPI NENY Virtual World (The Easy Button) in November, where I shared tips on how to run a smooth and successful event.  Now, I’m not the world’s greatest public speaker. I get butterflies, talk too fast, and I am pretty sure gibberish becomes my native language.  On the other hand, social media comes naturally to me; I enjoy interacting with online communities.  I blog, chat and tweet; I have a Facebook and a LinkedIn account.  I thought presenting in the Virtual World wouldn’t be too hard.

Like any F2F (face to face) event, there were technology issues. It was a speaker’s nightmare when my power point presentation with a YouTube video would not load properly.  Thankfully, with the help of savvy tech support, it was corrected in time.

My power point presentation wasn’t the only technical setback.

  • Attendees needed extra time to become oriented and customize their avatars, which consequently caused the presentation to begin later than expected.
  • There were several headset and microphone issues. Some people could hear us, but not speak. Some could speak, but not hear us. The worst issue to arise was that some participants couldn’t interact at all and subsequently logged out entirely.

So here I am, standing on a virtual stage in front of a small group of avatars.  I begin my speech, which opens with a funny YouTube video.  Unfortunately, I can’t tell if anyone is laughing or groaning.  I continue on.  I talk with my hands to my computer screen, I laugh at my own jokes.  I’m probably talking too fast, but I can’t see the audience’s reaction to what I’m saying.  Ten minutes later I come to the end of my presentation and ask if there are any questions.

Bueller? Bueller?

It has been said that a virtual audience is limited to your voice and your slides so you must make an impact with both, and this is no different from an in-person delivery.  That statement may true, but speaking from my own experience, I was unable to tell if an impact was being made at all, as the audience’s reactions were missing.  I couldn’t see them.

You might be asking yourself, then why even hold a virtual world event?  What is the point?  I still believe the virtual world is a viable solution to those who cannot attend a F2F event.  Offering a virtual platform for professionals to attend large events such as MPI’s World Education Congress (WEC), or small meetings, such as an MPI local chapter board or committee meeting, allows professionals to participate and stay in touch, even if they can’t be there in person.  It is a tool, albeit not a perfect one, that gives us one more way to meet, to learn, and to communicate ideas.

As public speakers, we also need to adapt to the Virtual World environment. Speaking to your computer screen instead of an audience you can see and hear – well that’s a big learning curve for anyone. You have to readjust your expectations and presentation style.

I firmly believe that virtual events won’t replace F2F events, but as technology continues to grow, virtual events can only continue to become a more viable solution.

About the MPI NENY Virtual World

MPI Northeastern New York has a Virtual World.  If you haven’t seen it, visit the website at http://www.mpineny.org for more information. In 2008, the MPI NENY Chapter launched this cutting edge technology initiative to benefit both planners and suppliers and grow chapter membership. It was the first MPI chapter to offer this unique web-based program. Virtual participants can attend events, network and explore member products, all from the comfort of their office (or sofa). Our main objective is to offer an environment where chapter leaders and industry colleagues from all over the world can connect with others without having to travel.

Vision, Mission, Value

Vision, Mission & Value: Do you know the difference?  I thought I knew, but many of us are guilty of blurring the three into one and using them interchangeably. During the 2010 MPI Chapter Business Summit, which was held in Dallas, TX in September for the MPI Chapter Leaders, we discussed the differences.  Who knew how drastically different they could really be!

Here’s the run down:

  • Vision: What will we look like in the future?
  • Mission: Why are we here?
  • Value: What solutions are you providing; who do you solve it for; and why is this solution different (or better) than the alternative?  This can become the foundation for your brand!  Why are we the better choice than the competition, what makes us stand out?  What is distinctive about us?


    By Nina Matthews Photography

To bring a little clarity into the room, know that everyone wants to matter.  A value statement can provide meaning to a volunteer (and a member). Belief in a purpose gives volunteers a reason to stick with it, and in turn helps to prevent volunteer burnout!

  • Understand your assets and relevance (strengths)
  • Matter on what matters

It’s Time to Create Your Value Statement!

We are all chock-full of good ideas.  It’s fun to come up with new ideas for our chapter and members.  The problem becomes instituting those ideas, committing to them, and following through.  All the new ideas become moot, if they are not taken seriously, or if there are too many ideas on the table and not enough manpower (or need) to really make those ideas come to life.

What’s next? So you have a list of good ideas and you want to implement them, but are they all necessary and something desired by your membership. Take a moment to think about two things that can improve the direction you take and refocus on membership needs.

  • What do we do first? (What will you start)  Okay, you have a list – but you need to prioritize and choose that one thing that you believe in, that you really want to focus on.  Pick something that matters to your members.
  • What do we stop now? We all love to buy new things, that “ooh shiny” feeling.  It makes you feel good right?  Well, a little retail therapy always helps me, but then I find I have a pile of things and I haven’t replaced the old with the new.  When I buy something new, I need to get rid of something old.  Try to keep things in perspective; the same can be applied to your Chapter/Association.  If you’re going to start something, and really focus on it, you should also pick something to throw out.  What’s NOT working or just isn’t in your power to maintain effectively?

You might be wondering now what have I done, or what has my Chapter has done, with all this information?  Well, we created a value statement! MPI Northeastern New York is the bridge to innovative knowledge and connections.

With that value statement in mind we decided that we need to focus on which forms of communication (social media) work best for us and which of those applications our members are actually using. My chapter is lucky to have so many board members who are tech-savvy and comfortable with the ever-changing online communities that are available.  It has made keeping up with the “Online Jones” pretty easy.  This won’t last forever!  Sooner or later our savvy board members will move on, and while we hope the next generation will be as techie, it is not a guarantee.   The same goes for our members, not everyone is a “techie” or social media guru.

Our plan is to narrow the playing field to the top five social media tools that work best for our members, (MPI NENY Website, Virtual World, Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn) with emphasis on the website!  While it’s possible to sign up for every social media outlet available, this does not mean each tool will be used effectively.  Consider your audience! Is your audience listening and engaged; which tools are they using?

Okay, you’re thinking – so you stopped something, reduced the number of social media tools.  But what will you focus on – what will we “start”?   I’m going to quote directly from our President, Doug McPhee, CMP, CMM:

Leadership is about commitment and competence. We are leaders not just volunteers. All the chapters are looking at member growth, engagement and strong educational programs, especially for planners. Succession planning is obviously important for all chapters. How do we engage our members?  ASK them to participate. We know that people become involved and attend things because they are asked. When recruiting for committee positions consider strengths that will enhance the committee.

As the new year approaches and the nominations process begins, we will add Director positions to our Board so that we can divide up responsibilities and take the pressure off the Vice Presidents!   We are a small Board – currently there are only eight of us.  Did you know that 89% of members access MPI through their chapters? (Bruce MacMillan, MPI President & CEO) By adding Directors to the Board, we will more effectively engage our members, provide leadership roles for volunteers, and gain new insight as to what our members need and want from us as a Chapter.

Now I ask you:

  • What what will you start and stop this year?
  • Do you have a value statement?