Category Archives: General

COVID-19: Trust, Information, Solidarity and Change

Originally Published Meetings Today

COVID-19: Trust, Information, Solidarity and Change

One of my favorites was posted by my friend, and sometimes quoted source for Meetings Today, Bob Witeck, on Facebook:

Overheard in someone’s kitchen: “My husband purchased a world map and gave me a dart. ‘Throw this and wherever it lands, I’m taking you for a holiday when this pandemic is over.'”

“Turns out we’re spending two weeks behind the fridge.”

If only that were the most difficult choice to make….

Some topics about which I write are easy and joyful. Last month’s praise of CSMs/Event Managers was pure joy. Even writing about the option for sabbaticals was interesting research and those now on “forced sabbaticals” (aka furloughs) may find ideas to use.

I’ve delayed writing this blog as long as possible. My notes from WHO press briefings and articles and emails fill pages. By the time you read this, the information that changes hourly on who is impacted, where COVID-19 has reached new levels, and what is being done to protect healthcare providers, emergency responders and the public will have changed dramatically. [I updated the blog draft on Monday, March 30, after the governor of Virginia, issued a Stay at Home Order until June 10. Maryland and Washington, D.C., are doing similarly. CapitalPRIDE in DC has been postponed. Nothing is what or when it was.]

This is far worse in scope than anything most of us have experienced, even our on and post-9/11 time when many of us were away from home and others, like I, couldn’t get home for a week. COVID-19 remains under study and while it is, it is spreading.

Most importantly: Stay informed from your local government and trusted sources like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or agencies in your country or in the countries to which you would like to travel, have family or may hold meetings.

I like knowing what WHO says because we live in a global society, connected by business, travel, trade and interests. We depend on each other, and in a crisis, stopping COVID-19 in one place helps stop it in another.

Many friends and acquaintances, colleagues and strangers who populate our industry are furloughed with “indefinite” dates of return. When I saw the March 26 PBS NewsHour segment (at about 12:21—though watching the entire show is edifying and critical, including a segment on potential family and other abuse while people are staying at home), I gasped: I had talked with one of those whose story appears not long ago when hopes were high. Then, learning friends’ mother-in-law and aunt had died, one in Jamaica and one in England, and of course no one can travel, hurt me more.

There are the “crystal ball predictions” clients and others want me to make—and which, again, on WHO’s press briefing, the doctors reiterated they do not know when this will end or when even the curve will flatten and not rise again. I can’t predict.

When Did We Know and How Did We Know It?

On January 12 of this year, WHO first reported information about this virus, now referred to as “novel [meaning new] coronavirus,” or COVID-19.

At the time, it was thought to be confined to one area of China.

In an early WHO press briefing, in which I participate regularly for Meetings TodayDr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s executive director of health emergencies, was asked if the smart phone tradeshow scheduled in Barcelona should be held. He said groups should add this new virus to contingency plans as we would an outbreak of food poisoning, etc. I smiled, sadly, thinking, “If only all events had contingency plans.”

That show? It was canceled on February 12, the first of many meeting and show cancellations around the U.S. and world.

It was then I began posting on social media about the risk this virus posed. It was then I was countered by those who said, “Still meet,” “It’s confined,” “It only hits people older than 80,” which was then revised by posters to “over 65.”

Now we know that as this has moved around the world, those who are younger than 40, even teens and children, are contracting COVID-19—some cases are mild, others require hospitalization. This virus doesn’t seem to understand it’s not to discriminate based on age and borders, income or circumstances.

Even earlier than January 12, and quoted from the Charleston, SC, Post & Courier: “Mike Schmidt, an epidemiologist in Charleston, had seen it coming. On New Year’s Day, he was at home, going through emails when a report caught his eye: an outbreak in China. Probably a new coronavirus. That could be bad, he thought.”

With such easy access to news, many more could have been aware. Those who create contingency plans would have looked for what might impact them or their events.

Facts = Knowledge; Our Responses Are Tested

As I posted facts, I was accused by some of “causing fear”. Some who said “keep meeting” were praised for their posts of encouragement. I am a fact-based person and someone who looks broadly at the “what-ifs.” Others seemed to want to say, as my sweet maternal grandmother (z”l) in a saying oft quoted, “See the pretty birdie,” meaning: “Let’s not look at what is painful or bad; just smile and move on”.

How can we responsibly plan without information and forward-thinking?

I posted data gleaned from pages of notes taken during the press briefings and from websites and articles read. It was scientific and medical data presented by those who are in the middle of fighting this new, and currently unreliably treatable, virus.

We know trials on treatments and vaccines are being tested around the world. Scientists and doctors are cooperating to try to find how to stop this. We as an industry are hit horribly—in every single country—and want to stop this. We can’t if we ignore data.

Strangely, in an industry that relies on data for how hotels make money, how those in revenue management determine the value of meetings and how ROI is measured for meetings, this was a cause to put one’s fingers in one’s ears and say, “Nah-nah-nah.”

A Personal/Professional Decision

I was long-ago contracted to fly to Oregon on March 7 to speak at an industry conference. In consultation with many, and discouragement by family, I still chose to honor my commitment.

I knew the facts: Four airports, one for a total of 16 hours on the roundtrip because of layovers; four planes; time at a conference with people from a state that at the time was hardest hit. I knew how to physically distance (social connections are encouraged through safe means) and I knew that groups had not yet decided to put room between participants in sessions.

With a compromised immune system, I weighed my risk. If I’d been advising a client, I’d have said, “Don’t go.” I chose to go.

Was I afraid? I don’t know. I was cautious with hospital-grade wipes, latex gloves and distancing. I came home and self-quarantined for 14 days. So far, kinehora—the Yiddish equivalent of “knock wood”—I’m ok. I am grateful that ExhibitorLive, a show at which I’ve spoken for years, postponed from late March to August although I am guessing that too may be in flux.

The choice to fear came because so many were countering facts and echoing some that were bogus from heads of state. In a number of recent WHO press briefings came questions from Brazil about their country’s leader’s calling for mass demonstrations—that is, not physically distancing. WHO is careful not to take positions that appear political. Instead on this and like gatherings, they “just say no”.

When I first drafted this, the U.S. president wanted to partially reopen the U.S. economy by April 12. That changed, before this will be live, to April 30, and by the time you read this, it may have changed again.

The D.C. Metro area (which includes the states of Virginia and Maryland) where I live is on stay-at-home until June 10. The curve is not flattening and the numbers of confirmed cases in the U.S. and around most of the world are rising. We don’t know how many cases there are or were; too many can’t be tested because there are not enough test kits nor labs to process them.

We’re not ready to reopen. Even in China’s Wuhan province the government is prohibiting outside people from coming in and reinfecting the population.

Industry’s Mixed Messages

Somewhere, the industry organizations must be having conversations about a concerted effort to rethink how we do business and meet.  I’ve tried to find more words of caution and all I can find are words reflecting a positive outcome—that we’ll come through this, that we are resilient.

We are and we will. We just don’t know when. Until then, we must make contingency plans for meeting and for trade shows.

One of the worst emails sent was this one: “As safe as riding a bus,” because riding a bus apparently wasn’t and isn’t safe, let alone meeting in groups of more than…well, the numbers kept changing: in D.C., first 1,000, then 250, then 10. I like Germany’s 2.

On March 20, I was glad MPI published this article from The Atlantic. It was much more clear about what should be done.

I’m Ok. Our Industry Could Do Better

Here’s what we need and can’t seem to find. I thank the colleague who first suggested some of these on ASAE’s Collaborate, to which I added: “Let’s come up with more. We now have time, working at home, or sadly furloughed.” [In the comments please share your stories, and if you know of organizations to which we can donate to help colleagues, please post the information.]

From DMOs, on your web pages we need accurate information on the policies for “stay at home” business operations (especially for hotels and food service, updated as changes are made). (I did find that the US National Governor’s Association has a great matrix.) We still need DMOs’ help on their sites.

For example: (date, time, cause/claim/grounds and references the source):

  • March 12, 1:00 p.m.: The mayor claimed a state of emergency.
  • March 14, 1:00 p.m.: Governor declares no gathering of people larger than 1,000.
  • March 16, 1:00 p.m.: Governor declares no gathering of people larger than 25.
  • April 27, 1:00 p.m.: Governor declares you can now gather up to 1,000 people.
  • Dates when the orders were first issued by states, cities and countries, and changed as updated.
  • Hotels open and hotels closed, with their current projected reopening dates, again, updated as changes occur.
  • Plans for convention centers and hotels that are being or may be used to house those who are either housing insecure, first responders, medical personnel and mild or quarantined COVID-19 cases.
  • Capacity of local hospitals and health care to test, quarantine/isolate and treat the local population and an influx of visitors. (I think Austin, Texas, made a great decision to cancel SXSW. Sure, it’s a pain in the tush. What if an outbreak of COVID-19 occurred?)

From hotel owners, management companies and brands, we need:

  • How owners, management companies and brands are determining which hotels to close and for how long.
  • Hotel closings and current projected reopening dates or permanent closures.
  • The process to notify clients with meetings between closing and their events, especially for those to be held between now and August 31, 2020.
  • Which staff positions are furloughed and expected date of return.
  • Staff positions eliminated and process to refill.
  • Process to reopen hotels and timing including bringing staffing back to contracted or site-inspection levels.
  • How are you factoring physical distancing for staffing? Room sets? F&B? Trade shows—booths and foot traffic?
  • If renovations were in progress, what the new projections are for completion.

These are my starter lists. I’ve not even posted questions for AV, production, decorating, exhibit design, etc., companies. Add your questions in the comments. I’d like the industry to speak to us and us to join in with a voice of concern for our colleagues who are, like many planners, furloughed, and some who will lose everything during this time.

In researching more for this, I am also grateful to David Eisenstadt, of Jerusalem, Israel, a tour executive, who provided insights, though not written here, about the state of tourism in their country at a time – Passover, Easter, and the beginning of Ramadan – when it would be flooded with tourists.

5 Ways We All Can Help

1. Stay at home if you are able. Community transmission is the greatest danger. You may be or think you are healthy, but you may also carry COVID-19 to others.

2. Read even if you feel afraid of what you will learn. Information is power and until we know more about COVID-19 and what our industry partners are doing, it is tough for us to make decisions.

3. DONATE to help others. A list follows with a few suggestions. Add your own in the comments. The more we can help others, the better we will all be.

4. Call it what it is: COVID-19 or Novel Coronavirus. It is not Chinese flu. Period. This is stressed by WHO and others. Please read what my friend, and frequent Meetings Today contributor, John Chen, of Geoteaming has provided in part 2 of this blog. For all the industry organizations that have stressed inclusion and diversity, we need your help in being explicit about this virus and taking away the hate some have inserted in naming it or blaming the spread of it. Note that Italy and now the U.S. have more cases than China did. Viruses know no borders. Stop the hate.

5. Relook at sponsorships for national, international and chapter industry meetings. Hotels have furloughed people who need jobs. Asking for money for booze and food or to sponsor entertainment or to provide rebates for anything by our own industry seems incredibly selfish. Let’s learn to have self-reliant industry meetings and help our partners recover.

I close with thoughts first of wellness and safety for each of you, for all who are part of our broad industry including restaurants, and entertainment venues, and all around the world. We are interconnected and must remain so, selflessly and safely. This is to help you via the UNWTO and its Global Crisis Committee:

#TRAVELTOMORROW: By staying home today, we can travel tomorrow.

“Coordination is paramount. Tourism has proven in the past to be a reliable partner to lead recovery for societies and communities, but only if the economic policies of governments and the support packages of donor and financing agencies reflect how the sector touches on every part of society.”

Postscript

If you are a U.S.-eligible votergo to this link and register or check your registration. Many U.S. states and territories have “cleaned” their voter registration rolls. Check, too, to see if in fact you are registered and where you should vote.

Vote in upcoming primaries and national electionsThere are ballot issues and people running for office who will impact what we do in this industry. On Twitter at @meetingstoday, we post links to issues in upcoming elections that impact our industry. Voting is a precious right fought for by many. It is a responsibility of us all. Because of COVID-19, many US states and territories have changed their primary dates and/or have added special elections. Please check your state’s or territory’s dates at their board of elections.

Instead of Job Burnout, Try This

Originally published Meetings Today

Instead of Job Burnout, Try This

All who work in any part of the meetings/hospitality/tourism industry experience face often unrealistic deadlines and people and events outside of their control that pull in competing directions.

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • Competition between quality meetings and service versus budgets.
  • Long and irregular hours.
  • Failed attempts at work-life balance.
  • Commuting.
  • Technology, that while helpful, keeps us always available.
  • The exhaustion of travel and onsite meeting and event management.

It’s nearly impossible not to feel burnout!

Meeting planning—or as defined by studies as “event coordinator”—has been listed as one of the most high-stress professions.

Other jobs in hospitality must suffer a similar level of stress and burnout, such as hotel and venue sales, with constant revenue goals and wrangling contracts, plus evenings entertaining clients; and convention services, because there are too few people working in these positions, which take on the stress of facilitating what salespeople sell.

Burnout results in not just the need for time off. It results in a dearth of new ideas because we can’t see, well, the trees for the forest! (Yes, I intentionally reversed the adage.) With that comes meetings that look and feel way too alike.

We are overworked, overwhelmed and in need of being refreshed in body, mind and spirit. We want to bring back the energy we felt with a new job or new concept with fresh insights. When people talk about managing burnout, they speak of time away from work…time away from all responsibility.

Is a Vacation Actually Enough Time Away?

I’ve long said I want to find a way, like what I want in my next reincarnation (a super-fan of the film Defending Your Life, I believe the possibility), to enjoy days with zero responsibility to clients, the industry, learning, my spouse and family, my beloved cats, home, etc.

Then again, I love learning, so maybe it’s that I want time to learn without other responsibilities.

I do not believe that vacations alone can renew and refresh. They are too short or not taken at all. This Travel + Leisure story cites statistics that reveal one-third of all Americans haven’t taken a vacation in more than two years.

When people do take vacation, the planning alone, especially for those in our industry, feels like work!

You probably saw US Travel’s National Plan for Vacation Day and, like I, chuckled that there are now guidelines to plan a vacation. Sheesh, most of us are asked to do so by others.

In the last months, the number of industry professionals I know who retired was mind-boggling. The numbers plus the aging of meetings and hospitality industry professionals led me to write the December “Friday with Joan” about those who are feeling “aged-out” of the industry.

Not one of those who had or were planning to retire soon expressed regret. Suzette Eaddy expressed it well—not having to be somewhere and do something specific every day. Sandi Lynn said she “rewired” instead of entirely retiring, which has elements of the alternative you’ll read about below.

This op-ed about the so-called “Megxit” decision by the Sussexes was a big AH-HA. The first line reads, “Step back is the new Lean in, and I am here for it.

It went on to describe what the writer, Michele L. Norris, believed it meant: “I am going to assess the landscape and figure out how to move forward on my own terms—or figure out whether the prescribed path is even the best fit.”

It screamed “SABBATICAL!” to me.

Colleagues Share Their Sabbatical Stories

Jean Boyle, whom I met through MPI years ago, was someone I remembered had taken a sabbatical. When I asked her, I learned that she had taken two sabbaticals in her work history.

I reached out in various industry groups via social media and to specific colleagues to find out if others had taken sabbaticals or if they were an offered or negotiated option.

In a wide-ranging conversation with Shelley Sanner, M.A., CAE, senior vice president industry relations at McKinley Advisors, about how associations can easily align their missions with a sabbatical, she said she took a sabbatical in 2017 and alas, said that no one at their company has since. A shame, we both agreed.

Sanner said all the pieces must be in place, including who will pick up one’s work while away and if that means hiring others or providing training to staff currently in-house, before someone goes on sabbatical. As others, and in particular, Amanda Cecil, said, one must step totally away from one’s job in order to use time on a sabbatical well.

Mike Gamble, president and CEO of SearchWideGlobal, said one of its employees was on the verge of quitting. Instead, they negotiated time to travel, about which you can read here. It was clearly a sabbatical that benefitted the person and company, broadening their scope of knowledge.

As sabbaticals are more common in academia, I reached out to Professor Deborah Breiter, PhD, CEM, at The Rosen School of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida (UCF), also profiled in the December “Friday With Joan,” remembering that she had taken one.

During hers, she wrote:

I used the time to edit a book of event case studies with Amanda Cecil, earn my CEM, and create a series of videos for one of my online classes. I took two semesters off at three-quarter pay. I could have taken one semester at full pay.”

Deborah told me that Amanda Cecil, PhD, CMP, professor, Department of Tourism, Events and Sports Management, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) had also taken a sabbatical, about which you can read in the next part of this edition of “Friday with Joan.”

It made sense and fit with what I’d wanted to do years ago: Have a select number of senior D.C.-area planners rotate jobs for a period of up to six months to learn what other organizations do in order to refresh and renew thinking, to bring new ideas back to their employers and work.

Many of us believe we are indispensable. We’ve fed that assumption by keeping much of what we do and know “in our heads.” We talk about what would happen if any of us were “hit by a bus,” believing that no one could ever manage without us. (Okay, yeah, they probably couldn’t, but if we burn out and can’t function, isn’t that almost as bad as being hit by a bus?)

In my conversations and reading, I learned of all the potential sabbaticals offer to any profession. Sadly, what I also learned is that many so-called “sabbaticals” are really extended vacations without a specific purpose.

Even more sadly, I know how little money is set aside for industry colleagues for professional development and fear paying someone to learn for longer than a few days will be pooh-poohed. If we can incorporate different thinking, we can change this.

I asked those with whom I spoke if they thought sabbaticals were feasible for those who work in our industry.

Deborah Breiter Terry wrote:

“I think sabbaticals are feasible for any professional employees (as opposed to hourly) who have been with an employer for a certain number of years (probably seven). They would have to go through some sort of application process and show how they would use the time and what the eventual benefit to the company would be. Perhaps somebody wants to take six months to go to school or maybe they want to be a visiting lecturer or executive in residence at a college or university.”

From Mike Gamble:

Work life balance is now a competitive advantage, and companies who truly ‘walk the talk’, will recruit and retain the best talent. Sabbaticals are one way to reward tenured employees and show them that you care about their health and well-being.”

Jim Zaniello, FASAE, president of Vetted Solutions, told me that he’s seeing more associations offering sabbaticals in their hiring of senior level positions:

Associations should offer all staff—not just the CEO—a sabbatical for a significant tenure, say, their 10-year anniversary. It’s a great employee retention incentive as well as an investment in employee wellness.”

This 2017 article makes the case for associations to provide sabbaticals. In emails with Ernie Smith, the author, I learned he’d not heard from any associations that had implemented sabbaticals.

This article from Inc. details companies that offer sabbaticals. In checking with someone with the parent company of Kimpton Hotels, I was unable to learn if they in fact still offer them and what the guidelines are. Stand by—once learned, I’ll add to the comments to the blog.

Ask yourself the following questions when considering any kind of sabbatical:

  • How then do you decide if you want a structured sabbatical v. more vacation time?
  • What guidelines could and your employer develop to justify sabbatical, with pay?
  • What benefits would you ascribe to you and to your employer?
  • What are you willing to do in order to avoid (greater) burnout and instead focus on new learning to enhance your thinking and energy?

Rosen College of Hospitality’s Sabbatical Guidelines

How can you structure the sabbatical application and process?

With permission, linked here are the full guidelines from Rosen College of Hospitality Management University of Central Florida SABBATICAL POLICY. [Note that numbers and letters are not in order. We left them as they are in the policies to maintain the integrity of the document.] Where it refers to “this college,” translate that to “organization” or “company” for the purposes of thinking about what your organization could do. I’ve captured a few sections of the entire body here to add to the questions above.

”Based on the University of Central Florida Sabbaticals and Professional Development Programs as stated in Article 22 of the most recent version of Collective Bargaining Agreement, the following sabbatical policy has been developed for the Rosen College of Hospitality Management.

A. Purpose

Policy. Sabbaticals are granted to increase an employee’s value to the University through opportunities for research, writing, professional renewal, further education or other experiences of professional value. While such leaves may be provided in relation to an employee’s years of service, they are not primarily a reward for service.

B. Types of Sabbaticals

  • (1) Type I Sabbaticals: Each year, each college shall make available at least one [Type IA] sabbatical, either at full pay for one semester or one [Type IB] at three-fourths pay for one academic year, for each 20 tenured and tenure-earning employees, subject to the conditions of this Article.

C. Eligibility for Sabbaticals

  • 1. Full-time tenured and tenure earning in-unit employees with at least six (6) years of full-time continuous service with UCF shall be eligible for sabbaticals.
  • 2. No paid leave(s) or family and medical, parental, administrative or military leave(s) will be considered a break in continuous employment.

D. Application and selection [See full policies for more.]

a. Faculty must have served in the college for at least six continuous years since the year of hire and shall be eligible for a subsequent sabbatical six years from the completion of a sabbatical. Previous sabbaticals will be taken into account when ranking sabbatical proposals.

b. Proposed sabbatical projects shall show connection to the UCF mission as well as the Rosen College of Hospitality Management’s mission, goals and strategic directives.

c. If seeking an affiliation with an organization, faculty should include the project description and a letter indicating acceptance by the organization.

d. Faculty projects that designate measurable outcomes will be given priority in selection.

e. Upon completion of the sabbatical, the faculty member must submit a report of the project within 30 days. The report is subject to review by the College Sabbatical committee, the department chairperson and the Dean of the College.

f. Successful completion of the sabbatical shall be taken into account for the faculty member’s annual evaluation.

(8) In ranking the applications worthy of a sabbatical, committee members shall consider the merits of the proposal and the benefits of the proposed program to the employee, the University, the college and the profession; and the length of service since previous sabbatical. Committee members shall not disadvantage an applicant due to his/her academic discipline.

(10) In the event of an exceptional opportunity for an employee to participate in a prestigious academic award/activity for which deadlines prevent application during the normal application process, the dean may award a sabbatical outside of the above defined process. All employee eligibility requirements must be met and all sabbatical terms defined below apply.

E. Terms of Sabbatical Program

  • (1) The employee must return to the University for at least one academic year following participation in the program. If the employee fails to return to the University for at least two consecutive semesters (excluding summer) following participation in the program, all salary and fringe benefits received during his/her participation in the program must be repaid to the University within 30 days of resignation or job abandonment. If the employee makes little to no effort to complete the project described in the application, the employee shall receive an “Unsatisfactory” overall annual evaluation and will be ineligible to apply for a sabbatical for ten years.
  • (4) Employees shall be eligible to apply for another sabbatical after six years of continuous service at UCF are completed following the end date of the previous sabbatical.
  • (5) University contributions normally made to retirement and Social Security programs shall be continued during the sabbatical leave on a basis proportional to the salary received.
  • (6) University contributions normally made to employee insurance programs and any other employee benefit programs shall be continued during the sabbatical.
  • (7) Eligible employees on sabbatical shall continue to accrue leave on a full-time basis.
  • (8) While on leave, an employee shall be permitted to receive funds for travel and living expenses, and other sabbatical-related expenses, from sources other than the University, such as fellowships, grants-in-aid, and contracts and grants, to assist in accomplishing the purposes of the sabbatical. Receipt of funds for such purposes shall not result in reduction of the employee’s University salary.”

What’s Your Take on Sabbaticals?

If you’ve taken a sabbatical, want to put together a proposal for one, or if you think, “No way will this work,” tell me about it! You can write to me at FridaywithJoan@aol.comI’m glad to publish your comments anonymously.

And finally, a special note:

I’ve voted since the very first time I was eligible to do so which was, then, 21 years of age. If you are a U.S.-eligible voter, go to this link and register. Many U.S. states and territories have “cleaned” their voter registration rolls. Check, too, to see if in fact you are registered and where you should vote.

Vote in upcoming primaries and national elections. There are ballot issues and people running for office who will impact what we do in this industry. On Twitter at @meetingstoday we post links to issues in upcoming elections that impact our industry. Voting is a precious right fought for by many. It is a responsibility of us all.

The views expressed here are those of the author or those interviewed and may not express the views of our publisher.

Related content from the February 2020 edition of Friday with Joan:

20-20 Hindsight Becomes 2020 Vision

Originally Posted Meetings Today

20-20 Hindsight Becomes 2020 Vision

You know what? Even though I’ve said “2020” repeatedly in conversations and in correspondence, I didn’t actually hear it. Or, I didn’t hear it as “20-20” in how that term relates to vision.

A colleague in a social media post asked how many among the group were, even though it was “punny,” using the term “2020 vision” as a theme for their conferences next year. Oh, you bet I “SMHed” (which means “smacked my head,” in one of the truncated parlance usages of the day)!

Evidently, “the vision thing” will be in for the coming year. I am surprised that I’ve not yet heard a candidate for office or a product ad campaign play on it as we end one year—and one decade—and start the next.

In the December Friday With Joan, I wrote about age and what we who continue to work past a “certain age” bring to the table in the way of knowledge of industry and history.

We all move so quickly and with such urgency that we too often do not stop to review what has been and how past actions or inactions, past purposes, goals and outcomes impact us and our work. What is often called “hindsight”—or for sports fans, “armchair quarterbacking”—is necessary before rushing ahead, especially headlong into a new year.

I’ve written Friday With Joan since 2015 as well as other articles for Meetings Today. Prior to that, for many years I wrote for another meetings industry magazine. (Alas, none of those are digitally available and all my copies are in storage.) I see so many of the same issues resurface without new solutions offered.

Take time to read or reread these 2019 Friday With Joan highlighted blogs for some insights into your vision for you and the industry for 2020:

See what strikes you as still relevant and what the industry has done to operate smarter or differently. You might even, as I did, go all the way back to 2015 and find this blog, A Proposals Is Not a Contract, as relevant now as it was then—especially in another December of year-end contracts.

Still relevant are webinars others and I have presented or co-presented for Meetings Today. This one on site selection with accommodation and ADA as a focus continues to be an issue. Take from it hints for your next site inspection and remind your hotel partners, too.

Another very relevant issue is our responsibility as meetings and hospitality professionals to advocate for our industry. I teamed up with Voices in Advocacy’s Roger Rickard for this SOS! Industry Advocacy Needs Your Help! Meetings Today Podcast that explores the important issues that impact our industry and how all of us can affect change.

By highlighting some of what I thought were the most impactful 2019 blogs for the first Friday With Joan of this new year and new decade, I ask you to:

  1. Read or re-read past blogs or listen to the linked podcast above.
  2. Reflect on the impact the issues addressed had on you and how they may impact you in 2020.
  3. Consider what actions you and those with whom you work or interact might have taken differently in 2019.
  4. Register to vote, become informed on issues that impact you personally, impact our industry and our world, and then vote.
  5. Determine actions you can take moving into this “vision” year and new decade to strengthen the perception and reality of hospitality and meetings.

We begin this new year remembering those we lost in the past year, whose vision and knowledge will, we hope, live on in our actions. May this new year and decade be one of peace and good health for us all.

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.

Do You Feel “Aged-Out” of the Meetings Industry?

Originally Posted Meetings Today

Do You Feel “Aged-Out” of the Meetings Industry?

20 in their 20s. 30 in their 30s. Even 40 in their 40s. And then the lists recognizing those who are doing good work in the meetings and hospitality industry seem to stop.

Where, I wonder, are the 60 in their 60s, for those who were still working at 60 or even 65-plus?

Howard Feiertag is among the oldest and most active in our industry. He astounds me with his energy and willingness to continue to learn, strengthen our industry with up-to-date knowledge and with historic knowledge on which we all continue to build.

Patti Shock was among those who, though officially retired from UNLV, continued to teach virtually and through the International School of Hospitality (TISOH), and also via her contributions to industry publications such as this one and on social media.

Patti, who died November 22 at just barely 78, was an example of those of us who continue to learn and contribute. I have no doubt that she’d have kept going much longer had her death from surgery not occurred.

I was grateful to another industry publication that recently named me a “legend” among influential industry people. The legends? Three men and me. The men are all still working, and at least two of whom are older than I. Those three are, I am pretty sure, much wealthier than I and could afford to retire quite comfortably.

Since I’m often still asked to work for “the exposure,” and because I love learning, applying that learning to work with clients and helping others learn, I continue to work into my 70s.

In the era in which I grew up, I remember stories of the “gold watch” given at retirement to those in white collar jobs who worked for companies for many decades. Yet there was little recognition of those who toiled long into their post-60s at blue collar jobs, often working because their income had not been enough to sustain them in retirement.

In my family, many of those, of blessed memory and including my grandfathers, father, uncles and some cousins, worked until they literally died on the job. My dad, just short of his 65th birthday, would have, I am sure, continued working in sales much longer had cancer not killed him. His dad, my “Papa Billy,” with no college education, retired from a long career in the insurance industry to work elsewhere. He died on his lunch hour. We think he was about 85 years old.

My dad’s brother, a doctor, would have still worked had he not gotten sick. In fact, he continued to practice at least three days a week until shortly before his death at almost 86.

I have no role models for retirement.

Why do some continue working while others retire? Would more people retire, generally and in our industry, if they could afford to do so? Are some forced to retire because their value is not seen and instead companies hire two lesser experienced and lesser paid workers to “take the place” of the senior worker? Would people continue working If they and their talent were valued in their companies and in the hospitality and meetings industry?

A dear friend, a CPA and attorney, was forced to retire at 62 by the firm for which they worked as a partner. One can imagine at the founding of many companies when the lifespan in the U.S. was much lower than 62 might have been ancient. Compare it to today and wonder why anyone is forced to retire if one is still productive. There are many years left in which to provide one’s knowledge.

A recent, though I hear fading, “cool” putdown is “OK Boomer” used against those of us who are in fact of the Boomer generation. How then does that differ from the ageism and discrimination leveled at Gen Y, considered by some for being slackers when it comes to their work ethic? Is forced retirement a form of ageism?

In our industry, those who are older than 40 have a difficult time getting jobs, or worse, maintaining jobs as they age regardless of their knowledge and abilities. Do we value the knowledge of those who are older than even 40, let alone those of us in our 60s or 70s or older? Does history matter, in that we can bring to the table information no one else possesses?

Athletes are forced to retire from their initial endeavors often due to injuries sustained during their careers. Many go on to careers in broadcasting. Older actors and performers, on the other hand, are valued more today than they have been in a long time. (If you’ve not read or heard 83-year-old Glenda Jackson’s successes on Broadway in the last years, do so here.) Then there’s Mick Jagger, after illnesses that have scuttled the careers of many, he’s still performing!

This article from Fast Company is one of many articles and papers I have read about the value of retaining older workers. Is the hospitality and meetings industry not aware of our value?

It was interesting reading what those still working and those retired had to say. I wonder how many more of you are out there and willing to “out” yourselves as being 65-plus and still actively working in the industry. And of those of you retired, what do you miss, if anything, about working? Or did you, like Sandi Lynn, “rewire” after you retired from another job? Or like Keith Sexton-Patrick, take on a part-time job at which he still uses the skills spent in his many years in convention services?

Long ago, a friend, then in hotel sales, said that if I should ever retire, I should call my final column “Life Without Amenities.” I don’t see that happening: one, because I’m not planning to retire, and two, because I’ve turned down amenities regularly. That said, others I think miss the attention and perks that our industry gives to those who continue to work.

Will you tell us why or if you feel valued for your knowledge or dismissed because of your age, whether it’s 40 and younger or 60 and older? You can do so via the poll or in the comments.

If you’d prefer to have me post what you have to say without identifying you, email me at FridaywithJoan@aol.com and I’ll post in the comments without your name or identifiers. And yes, I will understand, as will others, why you do not want to be identified.

Thanks for reading—whether you are doing this while still working or in retirement or contemplating retirement. As we wind down the year, some of us frantically working on year-end contracts, I am grateful to still be part of this industry, working to make meetings and hospitality better.

We have been asked by many about donations in Patti’s honor. Two suggestions:

1. PCMA, which is how I first met Patti, will continue to help students. Visit here, put in the amount and then click where it says “Dedicate my donation in honor of or in memory of someone” and add the name “Patti Shock,” it will be to help students.

2. Or you may donate here, through NACE, which will go to the TISOH scholarship.

THANK you. It will mean so much to family and friends to help others in honor of Patti’s life of educating others.

Related content from the December 2019 edition of Friday With Joan:

[Read more content in the 12.06.19 Friday With Joan newsletter]

From Volunteer to Meeting Professional

Originally Published Meetings Today

From Volunteer to Meeting Professional

I’ve been in the meetings and hospitality industry for more than 50 years—and if you count my very early volunteer experience, more than 66 years, 38 of those with my own company.

I would not be who I am or have the skills I’ve developed had I not been a volunteer beginning early in my life.

Prior to working formally in the industry, I was a volunteer for an art museum in my native Ohio, where I helped create and manage citywide events in the museum and on its grounds; organized U.S.-wide conferences for an organization for which I was a spokesperson; and volunteered for public television, coordinating on-air auctions.

In fact, as I thought about the subject of volunteerism, I realized how so much volunteer experience prepared me for the work I do now and added to the skills I have used throughout my career.

My Volunteer-to-Meeting-Professional Path

Long before I was honored for my work and giving back by volunteering in the industry by induction into the EIC Hall of Leaders, recognized by PCMA’s Foundation with a lifetime achievement honor as an educator; by IACC, HSMAI and NSA (speakers not spies!) for contributions to education; by MPI as International Planner; and often being included as one of the 25 most influential by an industry publication, recently as an influencer “legend,” I volunteered.

I began volunteering around age 6, campaigning to teachers for a U.S. presidential candidate on my grade school playground using the information my parents discussed and I learned from watching the news.

Around the same time, I created street fairs to raise money for polio research, a result of my next-door neighbor and friend, Alan, contracting polio. (We were among the test cases for the new vaccine. Alan, unlike I, received the placebo and contracted polio. He did live, overcame the illness, and was a star-wrestler in high school.)

These weren’t fancy street fairs—we had marble-shooting games, bobbing for apples and other simple games and prizes—and it meant creating, marketing and running events from which I gained experience.

In grade school, I also served as student council president. In high school, I was an active Y-Teen volunteer, which allowed me to attend statewide gatherings at which I gained leadership skills. I was also part of a city-wide teen human rights council and a high school service club.

During each of these opportunities, I gained skills and connections in areas that were then and are still my passions: social  justice and education.

Though I attended college for just one year, that year was a banner one. I was elected as our dorm’s freshman representative to the inter-dorm council where again my leadership skills were enhanced.

Unable to afford more-formal education, and having learned I was not good at learning in structured settings that were unlike my the experiential high school learning I’d enjoyed, I returned to Ohio where, in addition to working a variety of jobs, I sought new volunteer opportunities including working at the local art museum, while also working at a paid, full-time job.

At the art museum, I helped coordinate volunteers for the gift shop and for exhibition openings. My proudest achievement was helping create and then coordinate citywide events where there were visual and performing arts in each gallery, changing every hour, open to the public, over weekends. Public television seemed a natural, too: I helped with fundraising events including on-air auctions.

I joined a new national organization and found myself not only a spokesperson on national and local radio and television programs, I also helped plan national conventions. Laughing as I write, I don’t know how I did it—finding the hotels, booking speakers, and helping create logistics guidelines—I had no idea it was a profession.

Then What?

Before deciding to move to Washington, D.C., from Ohio, I interviewed for a job as a volunteer coordinator for a D.C.-based national association. The D.C. job I so thought I wanted was to coordinate the association’s volunteers throughout the U.S. I flew back and forth numerous times to interview. Alas, I wasn’t hired.

Not being hired for that position was a good thing! To deal with the disappointment, I moved to D.C. without a job, stayed with a friend for a few weeks until I found an apartment, and volunteered for the organization that didn’t hire me, and for another one, while I interviewed for jobs. Through all the volunteering, I gained valuable contacts and experience.

This was in the summer of 1978. MPI was new and PCMA was unknown to me.

While volunteering (I stuffed envelopes—ah the glamour!), the executive director of the association that didn’t initially hire me referred to my past experience—much of which had been volunteer aside from working in an elementary school, selling poultry and books (not in the same store!), and writing ad copy at a newspaper—and said they wanted to hire me to be their first meeting planner to plan their 10th anniversary meeting and events. (In my head, I thought “Call me anything—just hire me!”)

I began work almost immediately, and through a contact from the U.S.-wide conferences I’d help organize, found the Potomac Chapter of MPI. At my first PMPI meeting, the wonderful, now late, Bill Myles, saw me, the Introvert, standing against a wall. He introduced himself and upon learning I was new, asked me to be on the membership committee. Like now, I was not good at saying “no.”

That lead to so many opportunities: serving on committees, on the PMPI Board and as chapter president two years in a row. Through all of this, I learned meeting and program skills that I’d employ in my job and later as a consultant in the meetings industry.

One of my first experiences as a professional planner taught me about contingency planning.

For this 10th anniversary celebration took place in the winter in D.C., the keyunote speaker, was who was to travel from New York to DC by train fell and broke her leg on the way to the train in New York. We had to find a like-stature speaker, and we did.

We planned a live auction to raise funds. For that, I used my public television fundraising experiences to solicit items for donation.

The association couldn’t keep me on full time, so during the months I wasn’t working for them, I found contract work that lead to more experiences and contacts.

I commuted to and from New York to work and learned much more about how to negotiate hotel contracts.

One interesting learning experience was when I dealt with a member of the U.S. Senate who was to be honored and speak at a meeting in Texas and who, at the last minute, had to stay in D.C. for a critical vote.

This was all before Skype and other electronic means of presentations—even before FedEx! By working with others, we made it happen to have a tape (Yeah, I know—long ago!) to play of the acceptance and of the senator’s speech.

I’ve often wondered where I’d be were it not for all my volunteer experiences, through which I gained skills and contacts that all lead to other opportunities.

Skills Gained as a Volunteer

In each volunteer position, I gained skills that I used to enhance other volunteer and paid-work experiences. Examples include:

  • People management
  • Logistics
  • Budgeting and financial management
  • Persuasion
  • Creativity
  • Risk and contingency management and planning
  • Education design

Through volunteering with our MPI chapter, I was able to hone my ability to create educational programming that was not the usual “sage on the stage” program. The people I met became friends who helped me learn with them.

Since then, my energies as a volunteer have been directed to community, educational and environmental organizations, in politics, and for our industry. In our industry, I’ve served on and chaired chapter and international boards and committees.

Of all these, those from which I gained the most notable experience were:

  • serving on PMPI’s (then) Program Committee allowing me to create and deliver different education models;
  • as a member and then chair of  ASAE’s Ethics Committee where my understanding of ethics lead to a greater passion for how our industry and business can operate ethically and still enhance the bottom line;
  • and as MPI’s representative to the (then) Convention Liaison Council (now the EIC) Board, and to the industry-wide Unity Team that researched best practices in diversity and inclusion. During all of these experiences I learned more that I could bring to my work and thus enhance what clients experienced.

As you’ll read here, I did use my volunteer experiences on my resume to show what I’d done. The experiences were all relevant and have led me, as it has others interviewed, to what they do today and how they give back.

Please, in the comments, add the experiences you’ve gained as a volunteer and how you have put them to work in our industry to provide other examples from which we can all learn.

Finally: With this blog, I honor chef José Andrés and World Central Kitchen (WCK). If ever someone in our industry deserves to be honored for giving back, it is chef Andrés and those who volunteer with WCK. We all would do well to emulate, as best we can, the generosity of chef Andrés, and many other chefs, restaurant owners, cooks and others in disaster areas who have given so much to help those who have suffered.

Related content from the November 2019 edition of Friday With Joan:

[Read more content in the 11.01.19 Friday With Joan newsletter]

And a personal note: My long-time, amazing editor, Eric Andersen, has moved on. I miss him lots. He “got” me! If we have a few glitches along the way as we adjust to new systems and people, forgive us. We’ll get back to the Friday With Joan from which we hope you learn.

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.

The Power of Reading Books: Life, Spirit and Knowledge Enhancement

Originally published Meetings Focus.

The Power of Reading Books: Life, Spirit and Knowledge Enhancement

In the Grant Snider illustration, “the beloved book,” we are shown the life cycle of a treasured book, perhaps like one of your own—from its yellowed dust jacket, to the inscription by a loved aunt; scribbles in the margins, frayed pages and cracked spine; the old book smell and perhaps a missing page but you still know it by heart and pass it along to another generation.

I prefer print books—the touch and feel, the sense of holding words in my hands. The ability to pass along a beloved book to someone else to love and share then with others.

It continues the cycle of learning and reading.

And I realize that not everyone can read, either at all or in print.

While thinking through this blog’s contents, I wished I could remember, or had a family member to ask, how and when I learned to read.

It must have been a miraculous occurrence. I think it might have been akin to what Beth Cooper-Zobott describes in her responses to my questions to colleagues.

Reading has helped me grow in empathy for others and provided new concepts for use in my work. I remember the joy experienced as I walked to my Dayton, Ohio, library, where I picked up stacks of books to bring home and devour in my attic bedroom.

(Joan’s Note: If you’re interested, “my” library, now empty except for the memories of so many, is for sale. I’ve tried to think how I could buy and renovate it to live in that beautiful building).

I don’t remember the first book I held. I have always written in my books. My friend, Layne, said she never can or would write in a book—that it would be desecrating them.

My margin notes are reminders of what I’m learning or sometimes a thought to pass on. It feels like love to me of the words written and the ideas shared by the authors.

One of My Favorite Books

A favorite quite-worn book in a purple silk cover, The Heart of New Thought, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, belonged to my maternal grandmother. It was signed in the front with her maiden name and the year 1907, shortly before she married. My grandmother, Jewish by birth and practice, clearly saw something in this book that touched her.

A cousin of my mother acquired it; her daughter gave it to me.

For her 30th birthday, I gifted it to my oldest niece who I hope will pass it on to her sons, both younger than 10 and readers.

There are lots of reasons to read, and especially, to read books in print.

Many others have written the whys—a simple search of “why read books” will take you to articles like “12 Reasons You Should Read (at Least) 12 Books This Year” and “10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Dayand many more justifications.

In questions answered by colleagues and authors, they too make the case for reading.

For me, books provide an escape, a way to learn. They provide a look into lives, current and past, real and created, unlike my own, and through reading I increase my empathy for others. The U.S. could do much better at teaching literacy.

As of 2018, roughly 32 million Americans couldn’t read, according to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy. The Pew Research Center reports on who is reading books and who isn’t. The numbers surprised and saddened me.

Our industry could do a better job of providing suggested reading for each session presented at an industry conference. Imagine the impact of pre-session reading or a list of books, fiction and non- that link to the subject matter for reading later.

Meetings Today has a limited number of suggested books in its bookstore.

What I’m Reading Now, What I Just Read, and Why

Both for personal interest and to prepare for a session on inclusion, I’m reading:

The knowledge gained will add to understanding and to what I hope others can learn about inclusion for the session I’ll facilitate at the Sunshine Education Summit (SES) presented by MPI chapters in August 2019 in Orlando (Additional incentive to attend the session: I’ll give away books, as I often do when presenting to further one’s learning).

The Shape of IDEAS: An Illustrated Exploration of Creativity by Grant Snider (creator of Incidental Comics) is pure delight!

If you are stuck on a problem, pick up this book and open to any page for inspiration—just as I began this blog post with one illustration by the author.

Author Priya Parker’s The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters should be as high on your list to read as Dr. Paul O. Radde’s Seating Matters: State of the Art Seating and Why It Matters. Both books can be a little weighty because they are research-based.

Both are superb to help create better meetings and gatherings of all sorts. In fact, if you want to give a gift to a supplier friend, these two should be among those considered.

Guy Kawasaki’s Wise Guy is his latest book of ideas and life-lessons.

I swear that my receiving a signed copy of the book was illustration of his concepts in Selling the Dream which is all about how to promote your products and companies! The difference? I’d read all of Guy’s other books and would have happily purchased this.

In fact, after I’d read it—and marked it up!—I sent copies to others I thought could benefit from and enjoy Guy’s life, wisdom, and willingness to keep trying new things.

(Joan’s Note: Read more about my connection to Guy and why you too should reach out to the authors you like in my related Q&A where I did just that).

Books I Read and Will Read Over and Over

No doubt you’ve heard me say or read how well I think of Daniel H. Pink and especially of one of his early books, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.

In that book, I learned how to better use off-site venues, especially museums, for more than social events (If you’re a podcast listener, try the Pinkcast for more of Dan Pink’s thinking).

Some years ago, I conducted book club-like sessions at various meetings using the book and chapter exercises to help others move their thinking forward.

With Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind, StrengthsFinder and the inventory that goes with it made a lasting impression, so much so that I revisited it in this March 2016 blog post.

Today, still, both enter my thinking when working with groups and engaging others in the meeting planning process and the outcome of meetings.

A memoir, three works of relatively recent fiction and one children’s book have stayed with me for many reasons, the greatest of which for me has been honing my empathy for those in other circumstances. We do not choose the circumstances into which we are born.

These four books, among many I’ve read, have become roadmaps, with Blind Spot noted above, for rethinking how I see others and what I believe can be done to support others in their endeavors. For anyone in the meetings and hospitality industries, empathy is a key to listening and moving relationships and conversations forward.

It is “The ‘soft skill’ that engages the whole brain.

More Recommended Reads

Memoir: My dear aunt Ann sent Educated by Tara Westover, to me. I’ve found that each person who has read this book had a different experience—based, as was mine, I’m sure, on our sense of place and family and circumstances into which we are born.

Ms. Westover’s experiences show the ability to go beyond where we begin.

More, she shows the critical importance of mentors, formal and informal, and the influence of those in our lives who chose to help us overcome obstacles.

Fiction: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad: A Novel was riveting. I could feel the tension of those traveling and the sense that the underground railroad was in fact a real railroad. Whitehead’s writing allows us to step back in history and realize the sacrifices so many made.

The writing of Thrity Umrigar, interviewed here, was recommended to me by friend, and fellow reader, Donna Brandwein. I’ve now read almost all of Ms. Umrigar’s books.

Two books in particular—The Space Between Us and The Secrets Between Us—impacted me in ways that I find difficult to put into words. Set in India, they could easily be in any place showing how class can separate us as much as education and income can.

It in fact, can define us and define the circumstances in which we live and never leave.

Funny, as I write this blog, tears spring back to me about the lives of the characters and their striving. Beautiful writing that delves deeply into relationships among and between those of different classes and circumstances and shows what we can do to help lift each other.

Children’s book: Malia the Merfairy and the Lucky Rainbow Cake by Jamie A. Triplin creates a world for children and adults where anything is possible. Like Jeff Hurt, I love to read children’s books. Malia made me smile for so many reasons.

 

Morgan McIntyre Posing Proudly Holding a Copy of Malia the Merfairy and the Lucky Rainbow Cake by Jamie A. Triplin [Joan’s Note: I gifted this book to my young friend, Morgan McIntyre (pictured here), who also very much enjoyed it! There’s no better gift than a good book.]

 

It is delightfully illustrated and teaches lessons about racism that are often missed by all of us. Seeing in a story a princess who looks like, well, not the usual blond, blue-eyed ones too many of us are used to seeing, is like going into a hotel and finding that many different people work behind the front desk, in management as well as in the heart-of-the-house.

It helps us learn what it it’s like to be different in a world where so many look the same.

As the industry again focuses on inclusion, this book is a good way for you to learn what the children in your life already know.

The Power of Good Books (and Authors)

I have lots of favorite authors other than those cited here. Among them:

  • Harlan Coben because trying to figure out crimes is like trying to solve the puzzles of putting a meeting together;
  • Anne Lamott and her most recent Almost Everything for its hope and humor with chutzpah;
  • Keith Knight, gentleman cartoonist, whose books are as engaging as his cartoons and talks about police brutality and racism and his marvelous illustrations that use topical issues and illustrations to highlight contemporary issues with which we deal.

I’ve often said that if I were to retire, I’d like to “just” read—the stacks of books that surround me, the ones at the library and the ones still to be written.

Except that’s not entirely true: I want to read and find applications for what I read. Sharing these ideas with you is another way of broadening ideas and reading.

You probably saw one or more of the lists of “summer reading” or “beach reading,” perhaps putting some books aside (or on your electronic device) to be read if you are taking a vacation or going to the beach or for a long flight for work or just as a break.

Good books and the authors who write them transport us to new dimensions in such a way that you might even feel you’re at the beach even if you aren’t!

What Are You Reading?

What are you reading and why? It’s not a book club; it is a way for colleagues to share what we love to read and the impact it has on us. Read on!

Are There Stupid Meeting Questions? It Depends!

Originally published Meetings Today Blog

blog post and also share your “silly” or “stupid” questions in the comments below.

We won’t judge and the more examples we see from each other, the better!

*If you’d like to be among those asked for your input for future newsletters, please email me at FridayWithJoan@aol.com with your name, your title, employer, years of experience, and any topics about which you know lots and/or have strong opinions about.

I would to help get your thoughts included, attributed or not.

Hearing experiences and opinions of a wide-variety of current and retired industry practitioners is a value to readers and to me.

**Participants at meeting or events are still called the “audience” or “attendees,” which means we really don’t want them to be involved.

***If you’d prefer your comments posted unattributed, please email them to me at FridayWithJoan@aol.com and I’ll post without your name or identifiers.

Safety and Inclusion Tips for Meetings in Troubling Times

The last few weeks have been especially difficult.

It’s not just client deadlines, illnesses of those I love, and the normal stress of a year coming to an end. It’s the horrific acts of hate in the United States and around the world.

You, before reading on, want to know what this has to do with our industry and your work?

Stay with me, please. I’ll show you.

It’s difficult to know where to begin with what has caused so many of us to grieve and to, as one colleague said, know how to direct sadness and rage.

I am so grateful to so many people who have reached out to me because I am Jewish in the belief that the terrorism at The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh had caused me the most pain.

It was one of the many “final straws” in the last few weeks. It piled on to the items that follow and the many that preceded that, in my lifetime and long before, known because history taught us.

In these last weeks, we’ve experienced or heard more about:

The starvation in Yemen, reported as potentially the worst incidence of starvation in history.

The death of Jamal Khashoggi and the demand for knowledge of what happened echoed from many corners of the world, its implications weighing greatly on relationships among countries and on the need for a free press.

Pipe bombs targeting people because of their views. Though a suspect was in custody, one more pipe bomb was found. One can hope there are no more from him and that “copycat” acts will not follow. I fear they will.

Murdered—two African American grandparents, out shopping with their grandson in Kentucky because someone who had expressed hate on social media couldn’t get into a church to murder more. It might have been more like the 2015 massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., the victims for whom I still mourn.

The caravan of people—a caravan for safety in numbers, reminiscent of the scenes from “Fiddler on the Roof” of those escaping pogroms in Russia, escaping hate and violence in Central America leaving all they know and family and friends continued on to the United States where they hoped we might understand their needs and ours and accept their pleas for asylum.

The U.S. Government spoke of “erasing” people who are transgender, throwing many, including some of our friends and families, into panic and many of us into action because we must support those we love.

Matthew Shepard’s ashes were interred at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., a place that is far from his parents’ Wyoming home but safe from haters who, like those who killed him because of his sexual orientation, might cause harm to any memorial there to honor his life.

Then, on Saturday, October 27, 2018, the murders at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, during Shabbat services, committed in the name of hatred of Jewish people and of HIAS, an organization that, since the 1800s, has helped refugees of all kinds settle in the United States where they hoped to be safe.

Quoted in The New York Times and other news sources, “The suspect in Pittsburgh posted a message on social media about the [Central American] caravan shortly before the massacre, accusing Jews of bringing in ‘invaders’ that were killing his people.”

Interestingly, the congregation at Tree of Life were preparing to read from the Torah that morning how Abraham and Sarah opened their tent and welcomed strangers, just as the Jewish community has done for millennia since and for which George Soros, a target of a pipe bomb, himself a Holocaust Survivor, has been criticized for funding (he hasn’t) the caravan. [Check snopes.com for more].

There’s much more and there is much that isn’t new news—African Americans and Latinos are being targeted for being. Literally. This story from Detroit about a man and his garden is indicative of hate and distrust of others.

Muslims and Sikhs have been targeted for years and ever-more after 9/11 and after the 2016 election when a “Muslim ban” has kept people from traveling to be with their families.

This Guardian article, from 2012, is as true today as it was then.

Maybe among your colleagues, friends and family none of these instances had any impact.

Not so for me or my family and friends. My Facebook pages were filled with memorials, notices of how to sit shiva to mourn and honor the Tree of Life victims.

What does this all have to do with the hospitality industry?

Safety and Inclusion Tips for Meetings and Events

I’ve written and spoken often that as a child I believed that—because my maternal grandfather (z”l), a Russian immigrant, resembled Nikita Khrushchev—I was sure if I, at 12, could only talk with Mr. Khrushchev, we could make world peace.

I was called a “Christ-killer” on the playground of the Ohio public school I attended. In my adult years, I heard “Jew you down,” a bigoted slur as horrific as using the “N” word, in too-many-to-name negotiations with hotel salespeople.

I’ve heard asked by others “why do ‘they’ (African Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ and others) need their own organizations” in our industry with no understanding of what it’s like to not be accepted and included by the majority of the “mainstream” industry organizations.

I’ve repeatedly called out industry organizations and supplier partners who hold events over some of the holiest days in Judaism and other non-Christian religions believing it’s perfectly appropriate though they would never hold events on Easter or Christmas.

In the codes of ethics of many EIC member organizations for those that have them or sometimes in their mission statements if an ethics code does not exist, is language similar to that in MPI’s Principles of Professionalism: “Embrace and foster an inclusive business climate of respect for all peoples regardless of national origin, race, religion, sex, marital status, age, sexual orientation, physical or mental impairment.” [I’d prefer that the word “impairment” be changed; it is inappropriate].

Read more on the use of impairment, disability and handicap here.

Diversity and inclusion are again topics of interest in the hospitality industry and should be in the companies and organizations for whom you work and are your clients.

1. Consider the demographics of those who will participate in or exhibit at your meetings and what days may be important to them and those in their lives, and over what dates having a meeting may pose a religious or other similar conflict. (Read more here in a previous Friday With Joan article).

2. Advise clients, after consulting calendars, of holidays—religious, federal, local—that fall over those great dates with great rates you are offering. Ensure there is knowledge of the times being booked.

3. Be aware of laws that are being considered and the impact they may have on groups considering your destination. We’ve written about that here and here.

4. If you must have meetings over holidays that impact travel, meals, or entertainment, consider the impact on those who will attend and the accommodations you can make.

Or consider how to expose others to the practices of others. In our November 2018 Friday With Joan sidebar, Jordan Rudner provides a great idea for meetings often held in the Spring.

5. Choose images carefully to market meetings. Show the diversity you have and want to attract.

Inclusion Tips When Convening and Educating

I still believe “if we all could just talk or learn about each other—we could perhaps figure this out” is not necessarily realistic. A colleague with a different point of view of a candidate went to a rally to engage with those who didn’t believe as she did. She is not sure anyone’s mind was changed.

She at least attempted to understand the different points of view. I do believe education and exposure to people unlike us can help with well-facilitated conversations.

Here are some questions to consider when planning or hosting your next meeting or event.

  1. In what ways will you build your diverse audiences to ensure appropriate engagement?
  2. In selecting speakers and entertainers, in what ways will you influence a diverse representation of people and ideas to expose those who participate to people who may be unlike them in some ways and have information from which they can learn?
  3. In selecting cities or states for your meetings, how will you try to ensure that those attending your meeting feel and are safe from attacks by authorities?
  4. What are your organization’s values or the values they wish to convey and how are they expressed in what people see?
  5. Will you, when you hear a “joke” or comment made that objectifies women, slurs others, and is harmful or hurtful or hateful, speak up and express that it is inappropriate?

I promised a second part of our discussion on ethics and it will be posted either later this month, or the first of December 2018—the season of giving and receiving gifts—just in time for you to consider what you will give and accept from those with whom you do business.

This blog post you are reading right now does tie into ethics. The quote I use on one of my email signatures is indicative of ethics and inclusion: “The first step in the evolution of ethics is a sense of solidarity with other human beings.” – Albert Schweitzer.

Thus, we’ll call this part 1A of my ongoing ethics posts with part 2 to come. For now, be kind, be safe, VOTE [heeding these words from before the 2016 U.S. election from industry leaders] and pay attention to what you can do to create a more accepting, peaceful world.

I add this NPR article Six Words ‘You’ve Got to Be Taught’ Intolerance about a song from “South Pacific” that expresses what we can do. If you’re not familiar with it, please read the article and then the lyrics.

In the additional article included with the November 2018 Friday With Joan newsletter you will read words from Jordan Rudner who works in Anchorage at Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis, helping victims of domestic violence and abuse, and from Sherrif Karamat, CEO of PCMA. Of the many wonderful posts of hope, these two, because of who wrote them and what they said, made the most impact on me to send.

There are so many more. If you’ve not seen them and want to, ask and I’ll post. If you have seen good words, please post in the comments. And be sure to take the poll and write to me at FridayWithJoan@aol.com with thoughts you might want posted anonymously.

I’m glad to post in the comments for you without your name and to hold your comments in complete confidence.

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.

Related Reading From the November 2018 Edition of Friday With Joan

Click here to view additional content in the 11.02.18 Friday With Joan newsletter.

Our Industry’s Reputation and Yours Are at Stake: Help Is Needed!

Originally published Meetings Today Blog

Our Industry’s Reputation and Yours Are at Stake: Help Is Needed!

When the meetings industry first introduced the CMP—referred to as “Certified Meeting Planner”—it was to help ensure that those who planned meetings be considered professionals.

As the program evolved, it became possible for suppliers in our industry to be tested and to receive the designation, which as a result was changed to “Certified Meeting Professional.”

For most of the years I’ve been in this industry, I’ve questioned the business practices that are considered “standard” or “normal” and sought evidence of those practices being ethical and professional.

I’ve looked to other professions—accounting, medicine, law, journalism, association management, counseling, among them—and saw that there were standards of conduct that must be adhered to in order to maintain one’s license to practice in that profession.

No such thing exists for planning, sales, or convention services in our industry.

In preparing to write this blog post—one of two (or more) that will look at practices and perceptions of those of us who plan and supply services and venues for meetings—this part of the definition of “professional” struck me:

characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession.”

In fact, in the 9th Edition of the EIC Manual,  subtitled “A working guide for effective events, meetings and conventions”, there is no separate chapter on “ethics.”

Instead, it is included in “Domain J: Professionalism” where “Sub Skill 30.01” is “Demonstrate Ethical Behaviour.”

Relaxing Standards in the Meetings Industry

APEX, The Accepted Practices Exchange Initiative, and the CMP give us the technical “standards” of the profession. To be a member of the Events Industry Council (EIC)(founded in 1949 as the “Convention Liaison Council,” then renamed “Convention Industry Council”), it was, for years, a requirement to have a code of conduct or ethics.

Now, it is required to submit a code but it is no longer a requirement for membership. No one could tell me when and why the requirements for membership changed.

In talking with staff of a number of EIC member organizations, I learned that some don’t have codes of conduct or codes of ethics at all.

And if they do, many, like that of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE)are, for all but Certified Association Executives (CAE), aspirational. Only for CAEs is there an enforceable code of conduct referred to as “CAE Standing Rules and Policies.”

If one has attained and maintained the CMP designation, one agrees to abide by the CMP Code of EthicsBut (and I do mean “but” not “and” as improvisation teaches) it is rarely used to strip someone of their CMP for unethical behavior.

I was told by EIC that the ethics complaints are almost always about a person using the designation who has not been attained or maintained and not for behaviors that violate the code as I believe those in the stories below do.

Who’s Enforcing Our Industry’s Ethics Policies?

In e-mail exchanges and voice conversations with staff members of EIC member organizations, there seems to be little done now if there are ethics violations.

MPI, which used to have an enforceable and lengthy code of conduct, changed it years ago to the Principles of Professionalism for which there is no reporting body.

It seems, an already existing program—MPICares—was created to advance service projects and report and examine issues of sexual harassment and ethics violations.

(Interestingly, featured in the news recently and also reported on this week by Meetings Today was the MPI Foundation Executive Director who has been accused of a crime, who has since resigned from her position but claims innocence).

There is a fine ethical/legal line that I am sure will be sorted out as this proceeds.

Why write now—again—about these issues?

Why I Choose to Write About Ethics

There are multiple reasons:

1. I’ve been asked repeatedly what I want my legacy to be. I hope that a) it’s that we learn to create interactive, well-conceived and executed meetings with no more theatre or schoolroom sets, and really, b) we all agree to operate in a manner that reflects well on us individually and on our profession which, I believe, means working ethically.

2. Colleagues and strangers have for years and continue to contact me to sort out ethical issues. Most recently, some have discussed the quid pro quo of booking meetings: suppliers want their numbers to gain their bonuses or keep their jobs. Planners or others who sign meeting contracts are often willing to sign multi-year or exaggerated room-block contracts or make up fake and contract meetings to “help a seller friend” achieve their goals to earn more money or bonuses, knowing full well that what they both are doing is not ethical and may, in fact, be illegal.

Strangely, the example most often cited as unethical behavior in our industry is of sellers who offer and planners who accept familiarization (“fam”) trips (or hosted buyer invitations) for destinations and/or properties the parties know are not in the pipeline for use, justifying that “someday” they may work elsewhere or that “someday” they may convince someone to book the city or site because they were once there.

Forget that the wining and dining and gifts that come with many of these trips may have dollar values above what one’s employer’s code of ethics note is permissible.

Real-Life Examples of Questionable Behavior

Over the many years I’ve worked in the industry, I’ve seen the results of unethical behavior and the cost to organizations as a result.

Here are but a few specific examples, never reported to the CMP Board, in which planners and suppliers who were CMPs (or in one case a CAE) were involved.

Story 1: Full-time planners at an organization created their own side company to receive commission on meetings they booked for their employer. The commission agreements were inserted after the contracts were signed. Adding to the behavior, the planners often used the CEO’s electronic signature to sign these bogus contracts.

The hotels? They got the numbers they wanted as did the sales people who received their bonuses. The planners? Perks for getting the business signed and an expectation of commission.

Though these planners were eventually fired when an audit uncovered the fraudulent meetings, I know the planners were hired by others because, by law, a past employer cannot ask about such behaviors. Because nothing was reported to the CMP Board, even the CMP designation wasn’t stripped.

Story 2: An organization’s CEO, a CAE, and planner, a CMP, booked a future meeting with a vastly inflated room block. The contracted block was not remotely achievable given the group’s pattern and expectations. The hotel salesperson, if history had been submitted by the group or checked by the hotel, would have questioned the numbers.

What did the CEO and planner receive for contracting this meeting? Super Bowl tickets and other perks.* What happened to the organization? They paid more than $100,000 in attrition and almost went bankrupt. The salesperson? Bonus and promotion based on the nights booked even though they were never actualized.

[Yes, this is a discussion for another time—how our industry sets up conditions for incentives for salespeople. It was a conversation, in research for this blog that surfaced with many hotel personnel.]

*Both were eventually fired though no charges were brought. The planner went on to tout expertise in the job and was praised by suppliers for good work.

Story 3: A planner wanted to help a supplier partner who was having trouble booking enough business to meet their year-end goals. The planner made up multiple meetings that were not on anyone else’s radar—basically fake business.

The planner, a CMP, received trips and other perks for themselves and for their family. The supplier? Made their numbers and received a bonus. The organization? Hefty legal fees, some cancellation fees, and a new meeting created to mitigate what would have been additional millions of dollars in cancellation fees.

Uncovered in an audit and review of emails, the planner was fired.

When the action was reported to the hotel company, despite their ethics’ code, the salesperson remained on the job.

Story 4: A planner needed promotional products (aka “tchotchkes”) for a meeting.

When ordering it was not specified that the items could not come from China—just that the price had to be “the lowest.” The lowest priced items were made in China and were ordered by the promotional products company.

When received, the planner told (not asked!) the supplier to remove all labels on boxes and other packaging indicating that the items were from China. It was the supplier who came to me with the story of the issue and the dilemma: does one report this action to an employer or to the CMP ethics review board and risk losing a good client or comply?

[I know the outcome—I’ll let you suss this one out and consider what you’d do].

There are many more situations I’ve seen and about which others have told me. Included in the current issues are those about third parties who receive commissions and about which I wrote previously for a Friday With Joan newsletter and blog post.

I was told directly by someone doing this that they and others are going to the franchise properties’ owners and demanding the higher commission and in some cases getting it.

In talking with an industry attorney, I was told that in an audit, when discovered, the franchisee could be in jeopardy.

Among stories known to many are those surrounding what U.S. government planners faced over one particular Las Vegas meeting that was reported in national news and by our industry’s press. As a result, all of our industry and all meetings were made to look like boondoggles.

Advancing Integrity in Our Industry

Where do we go from here?

If we are to be thought of as professionals, regardless of our job titles or in which industry segment we work, is it appropriate to look more closely at behaviors?

Consider, as you chew on the stories noted above and your own experiences, these questions:

  • What do you do when a client or employer asks you to do something that violates a specific written code or your own moral compass?
  • What guides you ethically in life and in business?
  • When you heard Jiminy Cricket say “Let your conscience be your guide,” did you consider what that meant and what to do if your conscience and “standard practice” were in conflict?

Will you help me and help our profession? Either in the comments section below or in the comments area in the sidebar interview with Paul A. Greenberg who is a professor of journalism and was in our industry, or to me personally at FridayWithJoan@aol.com, write and tell me what guides you ethically. Answer the poll questions.

Read the codes of ethics for the industry segment to which you belong. And watch for the continuing discussion based on input from a variety of industry professionals in the next weeks about hiring and interviewing with ethics in mind, specific language and reaction to that in the CMP Code, and more.

If we can’t get this right, what then is the point of pretending to be professionals?

And Just One More Very Important Thing!

November 6, 2018, is the U.S. midterm election.

I, and those affiliated with Meetings Today, encourage you to vote. There are issues on ballots throughout the U.S. that will impact meetings including taxes and initiatives important to how and where we do business.

There are elections of individuals who you may want to question at town hall meetings about their stands that impact your particular employer or clients and their meetings.

Having written about what happens when laws are passed that cause groups to reconsider where their meetings are held, it’s a time to be more informed. For those who are not U.S. citizens, we encourage you to vote in elections of your own countries.

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.

Related Reading From the October 2018 Edition of Friday With Joan

Click here to view additional content in the 10.05.18 Friday With Joan newsletter.

Participant Safety Above All Else: On Water, Land or in the Air

Originally published Meetings Today blog

Participant Safety Above All Else: On Water, Land or in the Air

Immediately upon hearing about the Branson, Missouri, duck boat catastrophe, in addition to feeling a profound sadness for the families, my risk management thinking went into high gear.

Tyler Davidson, content director with Meetings Today, and I agreed that something must be written to help us all grasp the responsibilities in what we review—for our individual leisure plans, and for the activities often enthusiastically suggested to us by a hotel concierge or convention services staff.

Not to mention additional recommendations from DMOs, DMCs, colleagues or salespeople.

An additional note: if any of the quotes transcribed within this blog post are in fact or concept incorrect, I take responsibility.

Mr. Loebl also suggested the following:

“The most useful resource I’ve found to determine a specific state’s boating requirements is the U.S. Coast Guard Mobile App. [See the website for a] description and links to download to your phone.”

Although mainly geared to recreational boating, the information is still useful.

“The website that belongs to the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) has a page with links to a [boating laws] reference guide for each state with a number of questions related to boating safety public laws,” Loebl continued. “There is also a breakdown by topic area.”

“Not every [boating law administrator] regulates commercial vessels on its state waters, so it is a mixed bag,” he added. “If more specific info is needed about a particular state, [it’s] probably best to go directly to that state [boating law administrator], which is easily done using the USCG mobile app.”

An additional note: if any of the quotes transcribed within this blog post are in fact or concept incorrect, I take responsibility.

Mr. Loebl also suggested the following:

“The most useful resource I’ve found to determine a specific state’s boating requirements is the U.S. Coast Guard Mobile App. [See the website for a] description and links to download to your phone.”

Although mainly geared to recreational boating, the information is still useful.

“The website that belongs to the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) has a page with links to a [boating laws] reference guide for each state with a number of questions related to boating safety public laws,” Loebl continued. “There is also a breakdown by topic area.”

“Not every [boating law administrator] regulates commercial vessels on its state waters, so it is a mixed bag,” he added. “If more specific info is needed about a particular state, [it’s] probably best to go directly to that state [boating law administrator], which is easily done using the USCG mobile app.”

I’m also grateful to a duck boat franchise that provided answers to questions I had about safety and operations. Respecting its privacy, I am not including the contact’s name or the location of operations.

“I certainly understand the hesitation [about riding duck boats after the accident]. What happened in Branson was so unfortunate and has sent shockwaves throughout all of the duck companies nationwide.

“[In response to your query about the photos on the website] the reason you don’t see anyone wearing life jackets … is not because we don’t have them. At any time during the tour you are welcome to put one on. If you want to put one on, you can. The pictures on the website are from a photo shoot last year. And no one [among the passengers at that time] wanted to put their [life jacket] on.

“I cannot speak for what the Branson ducks did, but here’s what we do and what we have done for the past 15+ plus years [that I’ve been associated with this company, although it has been in business longer].

“Every morning, the captains come in at 7:00 a.m. The first thing they do is pull up the weather.

“In my opinion before Branson and after Branson, our master captains (all of them have a masters’ captain license) are better meteorologists than those you see on TV.

“Weather is what our captains deal with every day. There is ALWAYS a captain set aside to watch the weather. That’s all they do that day. No tours, just weather watching.

“They have two computers, one TV and four phones. They are obsessed with the weather.

“The other captains scheduled on that day then do two pre-trip inspections. One that is DOT required and one that is Coast Guard required. Any discrepancy, the duck doesn’t go out. Any issue, the duck doesn’t go out.

“We don’t go out when the wind is high. We don’t go out when the tide is high. We don’t go out when the tide is low. We don’t go out when there is lightning and thunder.

“And no captain works for more than 12 hours per DOT rules.”

Use the above responses, in addition to the checklist questions that accompany this blog post as a separate article, to ask about the duck boat or other like operations for a personal or group activity.

Given this information and what was said in interviews with the survivor, Tia Coleman (that the passengers didn’t have to wear life jackets), and from emails and posts on social media from friends and colleagues who have been on duck boats, and in looking at photos on websites of different cities’ duck boat operations … I am not confident that it is suggested that one wear life vests aboard all duck boats.

Pay attention to the follow-up articles and read what the investigator from the NTSB said about the storm that was predicted. Note the mention of another duck boat that went out about the same time and returned before the storm worsened.

And here’s a former NTSB Chair calling for a duck boat ban.

Read the list that Tyra Hilliard, who shares my passion about risk and contingency planning, and I compiled of questions to ask before taking part in any sort of boating or other water-based transportation activity. Think how these or like questions apply to any form of transportation or venues you book.

Consider that what happened in Branson could have happened to you or your family while on vacation or to those attending your meetings whether as a sponsored activity or as one recommended by you. If not recommended by you, maybe by your supplier partners with DMOs or hotels or DMCs.

In the initial Meetings Today article, we shared five key areas to consider when assessing transportation risk (with questions). Those are now expanded in the accompanying checklist presented in the Friday With Joan newsletter. Please add your safety precautions for any of these areas in the comments. We all are safer because of the experiences of others and by sharing information.

Be safe. If you are out on the water, wear a life vest or jacket. If you are on land and riding a bicycle or motorcycle, wear a helmet. If you are planning to be in or hire land vehicles—car (private or contracted) or bus—ask if they have a seat belt, then tell your participants to do what you do: wear seatbelts. When you are on a plane or a train, no matter how many trips you’ve taken, put down your reading materials and listen to the information about safety. In a hotel or other meeting facility? Count the steps from your guest room to the nearest evacuation area; look for evacuation and shelter-in-place areas.

Pay attention to all that will keep you and your participants safe.

As you inspect the car services and other companies with whom you contract, channel me! Each time I ask and want to contract safety issues, I’m told “no one has ever asked that before.” It is high time others did ask! In talking with industry attorneys, it was said that yes, those who hold designations such as CMP are likely to be held to a higher standard in the due diligence they perform in their recommendations.

CMP or not, make it safe for everyone.

I offer my continued condolences to those so horribly impacted by this tragedy—the families, their friends, the employees of the franchise and all others. How can we help but feel for them?

As I reflect on all the life-ending events suffered in our world and in our industry in particular, I ask as I have for years: How can we not put safety first in all we do as professionals on any side of this industry?

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.

Related Reading From the August 2018 Edition of Friday With Joan

Click here to view additional content in the 08.03.18 Friday With Joan newsletter.