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Behind the Scenes continued


spokenwith only by phone or by email in the course ofwriting stories for Convene. I got a big kick out of having dinnerwith Jeff


Howe,who coined the term “crowdsourcing,” andwho appeared in our September 2010 cover story about howcrowdsourcing canmakemeet- ingsmore relevant to attendees. Jeffwas as down-to-earth as he is brainy—Idon’t know if I would be that unassuming if I hadmade up a word that returns 12million hits onGoogle. Another highlightwas sitting next toTeresa


Alfaro,CMP,meetingsmanager forVolunteers of America, at dinner our second night. In 2009, I calledTeresa out of the blue to ask her about her experienceworking inNewOrleans onPCMA’s Hospitality HelpingHands project to rebuild houses, and Iwas struck thenby hercompassion and generosity.Thatwas typicalTeresa, I learned during dinner. I got inspired just listening to her talk abouthowmuchshe values theworkofVol- unteers ofAmerica and its staff, and appreciates the opportunity to be a part of it. —Barbara Palmer


DURINGTHEPLANNINGSTAGES FOR the Convene Forum, we honed in on a few arti- cles from the past couple of years that had been particularly popular or controversial, and on whichwewanted to base the Forum’s education- al sessions.One of thesewas a story I’dwritten for the June 2010 issue aboutGenerationY, which set out to explode commonmisconcep- tions, bothwithin andwithout themeetings industry, about this youthful cohort (ofwhich I happen to be amember). The anglewas to get the story straight from


GenYmembers themselves, rather than from industry analysts and so-called experts.Thus, the thrust of the educational sessionwas along simi- lar lines: to interviewa fewGenY-ers in a sort of live sequel to the article, about their viewof meetings from the point of viewof both atten- dees and planners. In a further extension of the “live article” for-


mat, Iwas tapped to be the panel discussion’s moderator. Thismademeanxious, as I’d never beforemoderated a session.Of course, I’d inter-


Far from distracting us, the lovely, tranquil setting opened us up; we unwound and settled in, and did a lot of talking and planning.


8 pcmaconvene January 2012


viewed plenty of people in the course ofworking for this and other publications, but never in front of a live audience. Iwas lucky in thatwewere able towrangle


two of themost impressiveGenYmembers from the original article—Belinda Keota,CMP,meet- ingmanager for the Produce Marketing Associa- tion, and Jodi Spivak,CMP, salesmanager at HotelLeGermain inToronto—aswell asDer- rick Johnson,CMP, director ofmeetings and professional development at theNational Associ- ation forGiftedChildren. The four of us had a pre-trip conference call,


andmet up during the Forumitself, prior to the session. I’d also had an idea that Iwanted to pull the discussion off the stage—this always feels alienating tome, as it draws a line between audi- ence and presenters—andinto the crowd. To accomplish this, I decidedwewould place


four highboy tables in themidst of the audience, for the four of us to stand at, in order to better facilitate back-and-forth, cross-pollinated discus- sion, aswell asQ&Afromthe audience. On themorning of the session, Iwas still anx-


ious —particularly about the unorthodox stage set—andworriedwewouldn’t have enough to talk about in our 45-minute session. I couldn’t have beenmorewrong.Oncewe kicked things off, the discussion really flowed; I even found myselfwishing formore time. Furthermore, I felt as thoughmy panelists


hadmore energy and “spark” thanmost pan- elists usually do—perhaps as a result of not sit- ting in comfortable, drowse-inducing armchairs on a stage.On your feet, the blood is flowing more, and you aremore actively engaged inwhat is happening thanwhen you are seated. And the audience really got involved in the


discussion,which pleasedme. I couldn’t be sure whether itwas because of the session’s content —some attendees feltwewere being exclusion- ary and self-congratulatorywith respect to GenYmembers, noting that they dealwith the same problemswe do—orthe stage set, or (more likely) some combination of both. But at leastmyworst fears, of an apathetic


audience and timid panelists—to say nothing of a total crack-up onmy part!—were not real- ized. After all, it’s better to be disagreedwith than to have the audience just not give a damn aboutwhat is being discussed.  —Hunter R. Slaton


www.pcma.org





ASK THE EXPERTS: While the Convene editors are meeting- planner wannabes, as we take part in Convening Leaders 2012 this month in San Diego, we are very much aware that PCMA’s annual meeting is a meeting for people who plan meetings—from soup to nuts—for a living.We thought it would be interest- ing to explore how conferences whose participants are experts in a particu- lar aspect of confer- ences—such as AV professionals, speakers, florists, interactive design- ers, and more—are executed; and what professionals involved in planning meetings for audi- ences of all kinds can learn from them. Read our cover story, “Who Speaks to the Speakers?,” on p. 40.


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