James Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II, authors of The Experience Economy, the 1999 book that argued that businesses of all kinds must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, recently published a new work, Authenticity. This new book takes their business theories further and could help meeting planners to not only make their events experiences, but also to make them real experiences that will resonate with attendees. When CMI asked them how, here's what they said.
CMI: Meetings by their very nature are contrived. We take people out of their normal environment. How can you make an inherently fake experience a real one?
GILMORE: It's no longer enough to just offer an experience. The definition of a meeting's success is whether people define it as real or not. Before that can happen, you first have to be true to yourself.
PINE: And be true to your organization. When I sign books and I don't know who's going to get them, I say, “Be real. Be you,” which is great advice for meetings. You have to know who you are and what you're about so that you don't do things that are inconsistent with that.
GILMORE: If you suddenly switch gears to try to be more authentic, people will say, “Where did that come from? That's not this company.” So part of it is accepting who you are, then figuring out how to render that more real, not trying to be authentic on someone else's terms.
CMI: Can you create an “authentic” meeting anywhere?
PINE: We recently did our ThinkAbout meeting in Nashville. We had found an old hotel that reeked of authenticity, The Hermitage. But because they couldn't give us enough rooms, we decided to go to Opryland, which is contrived, from the singing frogs on out.
GILMORE: We thought, The Hermitage isn't going to satisfy everyone's perception of real. But in Opryland, everybody will view it as fake. Which was perfect: Because we're talking about authenticity, let's go somewhere fake. Find a juxtaposition that makes what you're dealing with seem more pronounced.
CMI: You talk a lot about rendering authenticity through oppositions, like a meeting about authenticity in a fake place. How else could that work?
GILMORE: The most extreme example I can think of is our ThinkAbout University event this year, where we reversed everything. Instead of checking into the hotel first, Joe and I stood outside and matriculated people first as ThinkAbout U's deans, then gave them their “dorm rooms.” Instead of the usual hour and a half of presentations with a 15-minute break, we had an hour and a half of break with 15 minutes of doing exercises. Those conversations during the break are where the real learning happens.
CMI: How can planners create authenticity in an incentive environment?
PINE: One thing to recognize is that authenticity is about conforming to one's self image. Particularly when it comes to incentives, it [the event] has to be customized to come off as real.
GILMORE: Give me something that's customized to my personal tastes, and provide access to that interest in ways I couldn't or wouldn't do on my own.
CMI: How does originality fit into the authenticity picture?
GILMORE: Find ways to take what's already there — name badges, for example — and use them in a different way. For our events, we don't call them name badges, we call them “admission passes.” It forces us to think differently about how to use them.
PINE: They don't have to be something just hanging around [attendees'] necks. Use them in some way that makes the badge their own.
GILMORE: This year, we focused on the five genres of authenticity in our ThinkAbout conference. So we had [attendees] write on their name badges the genre that most appealed to them, and then what their company should be using. Then we had a mixer where people found others who had answered the same way they did. It worked great.
The Travel Industry Association, the Travel Business Roundtable, and the Discover America Partnership announced that they will merge by 2009.
The Convention Industry Council has named Heather Doughlin, CMP, the new director of the Certified Meeting Professional program. She joins CIC after 25 years with Hyatt Hotels Corp.
NEW HOTEL BRANDS SINCE 2005: 34
NEW LUXURY HOTEL BRANDS SINCE 2005: 18
LUXURY HOTEL BRANDS INTRODUCED IN 2007: RITZ-CARLTON RESERVE (Marriott International);
SLS HOTELS (SBE Entertainment Group);
THE GALLERY (Remington);
BACCARAT (Starwood Capital);
THE ROCCO FORTE COLLECTION (Rocco Forte Hotels);
CANDELA (Candela Hotels)
A new credentialing program for continuing medical education professionals, administered through the National Commission for Certification of CME Professionals, is expected to begin its pilot program in May 2008.
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National Business Travel Association President Kevin Maguire, CCTE, and Vice President Michael Lyons, CCTE, have launched a blog, At the Gate, available through the NBTA Web site, www.nbta.org.
On November 20, Japan began fingerprinting and photographing all foreign visitors older than 16 upon arrival as part of new antiterrorism security measures.