In early September the Convention Industry Council was set to send a promotional brochure inviting industry professionals to attend its annual one-day Summit in December in Chicago. The meeting focuses on critical issues facing the industry. But in the days following September 11, CIC moved swiftly to change the content.
The original issues (see next page) were modified to include recovery, cancellations, and security related to meetings, conventions, and exhibitions. Those of us at CIC knew the December program had to be a meeting where planners and suppliers could work out long-term solutions that would help rebuild the industry. The timing was perfect for a summit.
Creating a Blueprint
The goals, design, and implementation of CIC's Issues Summit had been carefully crafted months earlier. In early 2001, the two co-chairs, David Dubois, CAE, CMP, and William H. Just, CAE, CMP, created a task force that set out to engage the audience in a compelling, hands-on environment that would lead them to build their own blueprint for how to enhance the meetings industry.
It was determined that the program would be fully participatory. Each breakout group's discussion would be facilitated by an industry leader equipped with PowerPoint. Discussion results would be summarized for the entire group and displayed on a central screen. Outcomes would be posted on the CIC Web site so that those not attending could benefit. There would be diverse participation. For example, one of the original topics was the discussion of age-group management. Instead of just discussing the issue, CIC planned to involve multigenerational participants, including students. This would allow immediate cross-generational insight.
When we changed the program, we didn't alter the interactive design, and we still encouraged a broad cross-section of participation. The final attendance (160 registrants) included a range of professionals at different levels of experience, and nearly every type of planner and supplier.
One Room for All
The challenge was to design and conduct an interactive meeting that would empower the various attendees to contribute direction and purpose to the gathering. The Summit Task Force decided to use a format similar to the one used at the Tomorrow's Solutions event sponsored last year by Meeting Professionals International and the Professional Convention Management Association. The result was an interactive environment where attendees found it easy to collaborate.
Participants gathered in the center of our 6,000-square-foot ballroom to listen to and interact with speakers and discussion group leaders. After the plenary session, attendees were divided into 10 smaller “response groups,” which met in partially closed-off breakout areas at the periphery of the ballroom. Each breakout area had a table with a PowerPoint-loaded computer and a preloaded data projector.
As the response group discussed a topic, ascribe converted discussion points into bullet items on a PowerPoint slide. The final slide presentation included that group's recommended strategy for the topic.
The key issues for discussion were the following: 1) promoting face-to-face meetings, 2) ensuring safety at meetings, 3) designing crisis management programs, 4)flexibility between planners and hotels, and 5) marketing in the new economy.
After the groups rejoined in the central “theater zone,” each team leader recapped the main findings of his or her group. To assist with these recaps, leaders had instant access to their PowerPoint presentations.
The program ran from 8:30 to 5 p.m., with a break for lunch. A “town hall” session ended the meeting, followed by a reception hosted by Hyatt.
The layout, with open spaces, a central meeting area, and convenient breakouts, played a significant role in contributing to the success of the program.
Because the entire meeting took place in a single large room, there was no loss of community. At the same time, participants could form in smaller groups in partially closed-off areas to explore key issues in-depth.
Our goal was to generate recommendations for the meetings industry, producing ideas to present to CIC delegates, and initiating industry projects and research initiatives. We not only made recommendations, but we came up with strategies for achieving them.
The ideas generated during CIC's Issues Summit are still posted on CIC's Web site (www.conventionindustry.org). As a follow-up to the program and to continue the dialogue and community that was created, CIC created an online discussion area, called WebBoard.
CIC also launched a marketing and public relations campaign at the Issues Summit that will specifically target corporations with the message that meetings are an essential conduit for business success. Issues Summit participants provided feedback on the direction and strategy of the campaign, which will debut as an industrywide marketing push in early 2002. The campaign, the brainchild of an industry coalition, will influence CEOs, CFOs, and executive management to encourage meetings as a means of reaching their business and professional goals.
Coalition Task Force co-chairs, Edwin L. Griffin Jr., CAE, president and CEO of Meeting Professionals International, and Steven Hacker, CAE, president of the International Association for Exhibition Management, lead the CIC initiative. The campaign will express the value of face-to-face meetings and importance of personal contact.
The event produced favorable evaluations from participants. The only thing we would change about the event would be to include an electronic polling system for immediate feedback from the entire group.
The Issues Summit and Coalition Campaign represent new initiatives that will define a new CIC and allow it to continue programs that benefit all aspects of the industry. It's really amazing what can be accomplished in one room in one day.
Mary Power was appointed president and CEO of the Convention Industry Council in 2001 after a 20-year career in the hospitality industry.
Original Issues for the 2002 Summit:
Trust and Ethics in the Workplace,
Human Resources: How to Keep the Right People, Foster Diversity
How Technology Is Changing the Way People Meet and Interact
Issues After 9/11:
Industry Unity and Resolve: Representing the Industry with One Voice and Maintaining a Positive Message
Working Together to Rebuild
Restoring Confidence and Stability: Meeting Safety and Preparing Attendees for the “New Rules of Travel”
Exploring New Flexibility in Facility
Reviewing Crisis Management
Discussing New Barriers to Meetings
Best Practices Today
Convention Industry Council
The Convention Industry Council consists of more than 30 industry groups in the meetings, conventions, incentives, expositions, and travel industries. Its purpose is to promote the value of these activities and to engender the professional development of meeting professionals. CIC created and administers the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) program and sponsors an industry economic impact study. Contact CIC at 8201 Greensboro Drive, Suite 300, McLean, Va.; (703) 610-9030; www.conventionindustry.org