5 Ways Face-to-Face Events Are Like Family Reunions

January 13, 2012


This week, I attended my fourth Virtual Edge Summit and my second PCMA Convening Leaders. The two events were collocated with one another at the San Diego Convention Center. As I made my way throughout the event, I kept noticing the same thing: people embracing one another in enthusiastic hugs.

I noticed the hugs just about everywhere: in the hallways, on the elevators, on line for coffee and in the session areas. I made the realization that members of an industry comprise a family – and with our busy schedules these days, the “family” may see each other a few times per year. Or perhaps, a few times every five years!

Let’s consider how face-to-face events are like family reunions.

1) Scheduled time together.

At a family reunion, there’s the luncheon, picnic or perhaps a tea party at grandma’s house. There’s the obligatory group photo. Face-to-face events are largely defined by their scheduled activities: sessions, demonstrations, meals, classroom learning and evening networking events.

2) Unscheduled time spent in smaller groups.

A face-to-face event is wonderful at creating serendipity and somewhat random encounters: running into an old colleague while walking from one session to the next; meeting a like-minded professional on the food line; bumping into your former boss on the elevator.

While an event’s scheduled activities are valuable, a lot of enjoyment comes from the meetings and interactions we have during the unscheduled activities, which we tend to experience in smaller groups. Family reunions are similar. The one-on-one time with a cousin or aunt are great, as you reminisce about the “good old days.”

3) Nothing’s the same as face-to-face.

Families have Skype, Facebook and email to stay in touch. Industries have blogs, online communities, Twitter and Google+. All of these tools are very effective for keeping up with one another and staying in touch.

But nothing can reproduce the experiences, dynamics and value of meeting face-to-face. I’ve developed relationships with others online, but it’s not until I spend time with them face-to-face that I truly feel like I “know” them. Industries, like families, need to convene face-to-face from time to time.

4) You realize how quickly the kids grow up.

Kids grow up way too quickly. Go two years without seeing a young niece, nephew or cousin and you may not even recognize them. With business moving as quickly as ever, our friends and colleagues may get promoted or switch jobs without us knowing (although LinkedIn does a great job about letting us know!). It’s at events that we can see how the kids (and colleagues!) are growing.

5) It’s hard to say goodbye.

It’s hard to say goodbye at the end of a family reunion. After spending 2-3+ intense days at a face-to-face event, it’s equally tough to say bye. You’ve spent hours speaking, learning, (hugging) and socializing with a close-knit group of individuals. When it’s time for everyone to head to the airport, you wish that the event lasted one more day.


I had a great week with “family” in San Diego. For some, it’s my hope that I’ll see them again during 2012. For others, I may have to wait for 12 months. Perhaps I’ll combine the face-to-face event with a family reunion – Convening Leaders 2013 takes place in Orlando.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .

10 Lead Generation Tips for Digital Events

January 12, 2012


At Virtual Edge Summit / PCMA Convening Leaders in San Diego, I gave a Learning Lounge talk titled “Digital Events: 10 Tips for Generating Leads for Your Exhibitors.”

Ten Lead Generation Tips

My ten tips are:

  1. Content Marketing (You).
  2. Content Marketing (Your Exhibitors).
  3. Social Media (You).
  4. Social Media (Your Exhibitors).
  5. Leverage Speakers for promotion.
  6. Utilize social sharing buttons.
  7. Start promoting early.
  8. Leverage your partners.
  9. Issue a press release.
  10. Supplement with paid media.

The Presentation

Here are the slides from my presentation.

Pondering The Future With PCMA, VEI and … Event Camp?

October 16, 2011

Note: The thoughts expressed in this post are my own.


Recently, the Virtual Edge Institute (VEI) announced that it received a strategic investment from the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). Michelle Bruno, in her Fork In the Road blog, provided some great insights on this partnership, in a posting titled “Why PCMA’s Investment in the Virtual Edge Institute Means More than Just Cash.”

Michelle commended PCMA for endorsing an open source model “to unlock the innovation around virtual and hybrid event technology.” I think PCMA should create a trifecta by making a strategic investment in Event Camp (EC). Commenting on this point via Twitter, Michelle tweeted, “Agree. Event Camp Europe gave me the idea about open source innovation in event context.”

Let’s dive into the potential benefits.


Event Camp has achieved great things to date. They’ve used their own hybrid events (“Event Camps”) to experiment and innovate on meeting and event planning. They’ve reached these heights primarily from the passion of their volunteer organizers and secondarily from supporting sponsors.

And while I believe that innovation can result from budgetary constraints, imagine the possibilities with an investment from an organization such as PCMA. I believe that a stronger financial foothold will create ever more innovative and engaging Event Camps.


Event Camp meetings would have a lot to gain by colocating with PCMA gatherings, in the same way that Virtual Edge Summit benefited from its colocation with PCMA Convening Leaders.

In the future, this trifecta could kick off the calendar year with colocation of three events (in one): PCMA Convening Leaders, Virtual Edge Summit and Event Camp National Conference. Given that several PCMA members are key contributors to Event Camp, colocation makes all the more sense.

In addition, there are additional PCMA events that may stand to benefit from VEI and EC involvement, such as the mid-year PCMA Education Conference.

Feeder Organization

Talk about synergy. Event Camp can spin out innovation via experimentation. The innovation fostered is then fleshed out, refined and documented. In this way, Event Camp becomes a feeder organization into Virtual Edge Institute’s certification programs and PCMA’s educational programs.

Open Source Innovation

Jenise Fryatt (@JeniseFryatt) did a great interview with Nick Balestra (@nickbalestra) about Event Camp Europe titled, “Using Open Source to Remix Your Event.” According to Balestra, “creating events can be somehow similar, so taking an open-source approach while thinking about your events can lead to  smarter ways to create them.”

As Michelle Bruno stated in her piece, PCMA and VEI are supporting an open source model for the benefit of the entire events community. Event Camp, with their model built around “innovation from experimentation” would be a perfect fit for this open source event model to further grow and flourish.


I have a dream to one day visit every major league baseball park in the U.S. and Canada. On the meetings and events side, perhaps I’ll one day be able to attend PCMA Convening Leaders, Virtual Edge Summit and Event Camp in one fell swoop. As for the MLB parks, that’ll have to wait till retirement.

Related Posts

  1. My Thoughts: Virtual Edge Institute’s Digital Event Strategist Certification


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