The emergence of the sharing economy has implications for many industries, with lodging and transportation at the top of the list. Meeting Professionals International tackled the topic at the World Education Conference in August, bringing several speakers’ perspectives to the main stage, including that of Chip Conley, head of global hospitality and strategy for Airbnb. Conley brought a 360-degree perspective to the conference: Before Airbnb, he spent a 24-year career in traditional lodging as founder and CEO of boutique hotel company Joie de Vivre Hospitality. His understanding of the audience and its pain points came through in both his general session and panel presentation, “What’s Mine Is Yours: the Evolution of Travel Through the Shared Economy.”
James Curleigh, executive vice president, Levi Strauss & Co., and president, The Levi’s Brand, joined the company in 2012 to manage the strategic direction of the 150-year-old brand. He delivered the keynote address at Meeting Professionals International’s World Education Congress in August in San Francisco. He has translated his approach to innovation and reinvention into a track record of consistently strong results, treating his company as a 150-year-old startup, and his talk resonated with attendees, many of whom made comparisons to what is happening with the MPI brand. During his presentation, “The Edge of the Modern Frontier,” Curleigh discussed the essential balance between leveraging authenticity and creating excitement with new innovative solutions for today’s lifestyle. His opening rendition of the Bob Dylan classic, “The Times They Are a-Changin’,'' endeared him to the audience right off the bat.
Arianna Huffington, a Greek-American author, syndicated columnist, occasional actor, and co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, brought the crowd at Cvent Connect 2015 in Las Vegas to its feet with an opening keynote on topics that every meeting professional in the crowd could relate to: managing stress and avoiding debilitating burnout. With event planning landing the number-eight spot on the CareerCast 2015 list of most stressful jobs, it’s vital to recognize that walking around in a zombie-like state of burnout is not a sign of success, she said. “The need for downtime is not a bug; it’s a feature of the human system.” Her wakeup call to take back your life, delivered with warmth, humor, insights, anecdotes, and personal stories of the toll stress has taken on her own life and health, felt less like an exhortation than a reality check from a dear old friend.
Represented by Washington Speakers Bureau
After making her mark as the top copywriter in the country at the ripe old age of 24, author and well-known speaker Sally Hogshead, CEO, How to Fascinate, turned her focus from products to people. She studied high performers and how they communicate. And she discovered that the best communicators didn’t struggle to master a particular way of relating to others. Instead, they understood their own natural communication style and embraced it. Hogshead, who spoke at the Financial & Insurance Conference Planners annual conference in November, helps participants discover their unique value and learn how to use it to “fascinate”—to connect, to influence, and to succeed.
Represented by SpeakInc
What do meeting planners have in common with a violin virtuoso? The ability to tell a story through their work, says Kai Kight, who thrilled the audience at Meeting Professionals International’s 2015 World Education Conference with a short but powerful presentation that combined both his performance of an original piece of music and his inspiring personal story of finding his voice as an artist. His message—dare to take risks—is one you’ve heard before, but never with this interesting combination of artistry and passion.
It’s difficult to fathom how one so young can be so poised and well spoken, even in front of huge audiences, but Chelsea Krost is one Millennial who knows her stuff and communicates it brilliantly. What drove the 24-year-old to stand up for Millennials and identify all the good things they should be known for when she was only 16? “Frustration,” she says. All she heard about in the media at that time were negatives about her generation: “We were entitled and lazy,” she says. What are the positives? “We’re entrepreneurial, liberal, brand loyal, socially conscious, and engaged consumers.” She ultimately parlayed her drive to empower her generation and to educate older generations into a full-time business, including public speaking. She is a multimedia personality and co-founder of M Pulse, a digital marketing agency that specializes in creating content to target the Millennial generation. She shared tactics she uses in her own business to market to and engage Millennials with an audience of meeting professionals at the Caesars Entertainment Education Experience, which took place in September at Harrah’s Atlantic City Waterfront Conference Center.
Change is never easy, but it’s particularly hard for successful companies. “Success has its own gravity,” says Bill Levisay. And he should know. Levisay has worked with some very successful companies, including Bolthouse Farms, an organic food and beverage company that he helped sell to Campbell’s Soup Co. in 2012; Coca-Cola Co.; Kraft Foods; and Kimberly Clark. What is hard, but essential, is to question the status quo—especially when things are going well, he told the audience during a keynote at Pharma Forum 2015 in National Harbor, Md. “No company, and no brand, is impervious.” After convincing the audience with case after case of pride going before a fall, he offered a series of “gravity of success questions” that everyone this editor spoke with afterward planned to apply to their business as soon as possible to find new ways to break free of that gravity of success and find new possibilities.
Pamela Meyer’s TEDTalk, “How to Spot a Liar,” has logged more than 10 million views, and she brought her compelling presentation to a session at Meeting Professionals International’s 2015 World Education Conference in San Francisco. Meyer, a certified fraud examiner and author of Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception, discussed the verbal and nonverbal “tells” that serve as red flags of possible deception. With her real-world examples, plenty of scientific research, and a winning presentation style, Meyer got the audience thinking about the lies we’re told—and the lies we tell.
At the Hosts Global Alliance Forum in July 2015, cyber threat analyst Michael Robinson began his presentation by showing a slide to the audience. “Recognize this?” he asked. Everyone did: It was the landing page for logging in to our meeting hotel’s Wi-Fi network, with fields for a guest’s last name and room number. Robinson then said that the page was a fake, one he’d set up within 15 minutes of getting into his hotel room. And with a router the size of a deck of cards, he could have quickly set up a network with the same name as the hotel’s network, and dumped unsuspecting users over to this innocent-looking landing page. No one would have been the wiser, but all their data would be ripe for the picking. In his presentation, Robinson shares not just the scary possibilities but the ways for protecting your organization, your meetings, and your attendees.
Crisis management expert and president of Smith & Co. Judy Smith (inspiration for the TV character Olivia Pope on “Scandal”) wins over attendees from the moment she walks on stage—at the Financial & Insurance Conference Planners Education Forum in June 2015 she interrupted her own introduction, which she thought might be “putting the audience to sleep.” And it just gets better from there, as she tells the tale of ending up in crisis management (instead of at the big NYC firm that had hired her as a fresh law school grad) after being sought out to join the team investigating the Iran-Contra affair, dished (a little) about advising on “Scandal,” and answered any and all audience questions. She’s also got plenty of crisis management takeaways to share.
Represented by Goodman Speakers Bureau
The Monday Morning Wake Up Call, the traditional kick-off for the International Congress and Convention Association’s annual congress, featured Vusi Thembekwayo, a South African-born global business speaker and venture capitalist, as a speaker in November. Widely respected for his coaching skills on Dragons’ Den, an international television show known as Shark Tank in the U.S., Thembekwayo spoke of his decision to support black female entrepreneurs from Africa as chairman of the Watermark Afrika Fund. He is the only South African to speak by invitation at the British House of Commons. His presentation was titled "The Fun-Dumb-Mentals of Modern Business." Represented by Unique Speakers Bureau.
Ron Tite, CEO of marketing agency The Tite Group, is smart and funny as an emcee or as a presenter on branding and creativity. He’s got a ton of video clips and advertising examples at his fingertips to engage audiences while they learn a little something about marketing—and, in particular, marketing in the age of “the expression economy.” This is an economy where everyone’s got an outlet, authenticity is the only thing that will get you an audience, and what you’re really fighting for is no longer consumers’ wallets but their time. His talents were showcased at the Financial & Insurance Conference Planners Education Forum in June 2015.
Represented by Speakers’ Spotlight
A former meeting planner, Juliet Funt’s passion, intellect, and wit earn her an encore spot on our favorites list. Her mission is to help others see how our “culture of insatiability” and obsession with “administrivia” is slowly sapping our thoughtfulness, productivity, and creativity—and, more important, what we can do to create “whitespace” that allows us to let thoughts flow unimpeded. Though it was highly entertaining, her presentation also included specific, practical advice on how we can all bring more whitespace into our work and personal lives. Her keynote at Cvent Connect 2015 in Las Vegas, which had the audience alternatively wincing and laughing out loud, got a standing ovation.
Here is our third annual list of our favorite speakers from the meetings we attended in the previous 12 months. Post a comment and share your favorites, too.
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