Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

August 2012

Innovative Meetings: The Meeting Within the Meeting

By Barbara Palmer, Senior Editor

- whenever and wherever a tightly packed knot of people gathers, I’m curious to know why. 

When we spoke with Kopcinski a few weeks after the meeting, evaluation forms had not yet been compiled, nor had MDRT had time yet to conduct any one-on-one meetings with exhibitors.  But the organization already was considering making changes to the ConneXion Zone for next year’s Annual Meeting, including adding presentation time for sponsors and tweaking the floor plan and schedule to create a tighter integration of the elements.  “All in all, however, we are very pleased with our first ‘run-through’ with the ConneXion Zone,” Kopcinski said, “and feel our attendees were well-served with its offerings.”

One very satisfied attendee was Paresh Shah, a representative with the Forest Hills Financial Group, in Queens, N.Y., who just happened to be walking through the ConneXion Zone when he saw the opportunity to sit down and talk to the sales superstars in the Great Conversations area.  A day later, he was still marveling at the opportunity to be on the receiving end of their wisdom. 

Shah has been attending MDRT’s Annual Meeting for five years, and during that time, he said, his business has grown as a direct result of the ability to “grab somebody and sit down with them for half an hour.” MDRT introduces new concepts, Shah said, and “runs with them hard.  Within two years, they become a model for everyone else.” 

Sidebar: Prizing Creativity

How do you prepare first time attendees for a gathering like Million Dollar Round Table’s Annual Meeting, where nearly two dozen of the world’s top motivational speakers are scheduled to present?

At MRDT’s 2012 Annual Meeting in Anaheim, the answer was graffiti artist Erik Wahl, whose presentation, “The Art of Vision,” at the orientation session was so dazzling, it drew gasps from the audience.  During an hour-long talk, Wahl told the audience how, after being told by a teacher that he wasn’t meant to be an artist, he put away his brushes and worked for 20 years in a corporate environment.  He eventually failed miserably, and at a friend’s suggestion, turned to painting again.  Eventually he developed the dramatic style in which he works today, frenetically applying paint to canvases using brushes and his hands to create images that reveal themselves to viewers only as Wahl adds the final strokes of paint.  At MDRT, Wahl created a graphic image of the singer Bono during the time it took to play the U2 song “Beautiful Day.”

Wahl’s message is that everyone is innately creative - at corporate retreats, he’s been known to insist that any notes be taken with crayons.  His emphasis on breaking through traditional boundaries extends to the unique way in which he distributes his artwork - none of it is for sale.  He does donate pieces to charity; at a recent event, the singer Pink paid $10,000 for a painting of Marilyn Monroe, which Wahl created in three minutes. 

When speaking, Wahl donates paintings to the organization that hired him, and then conducts “Art Drops,” hiding them around the meeting venue and broadcasting clues about where they can be found.  At MDRT’s orientation session, Wahl announced that clues for the Bono painting’s whereabouts would be released via the MDRT meeting hashtag during the opening-night reception. 

Wahl posted the clues on his Facebook page, and it took only two hints to lead Peter Winovich III, a financial adviser from Toledo, Ohio, to the Bono painting hidden on a stairwell in a nearby hotel.  “I found it first,” Winovich later tweeted, “only sprinted 200 yards and 8 flights of stairs to get it, tho.

Sidebar: Breakout

Twitter Tutors MDRT was founded on peer-to-peer learning - a principle that carried through to the “Tech Zone,” a laptop-equipped area within the new ConneXion Zone at MDRT’s 2012 Annual Meeting where attendees could drop by for hands-on training in using Twitter.  The tutors were all MDRT members. 

Who better to talk about the benefits of actively using Twitter at the meeting than someone who was already doing it? Liana Blum, MDRT’s website coordinator, recruited more than a dozen of the organization’s most prolific Twitter users to volunteer for short blocks of time during several “Tweet Team” sessions throughout the four-day meeting.  And a large plasma screen displaying a live Twitter stream with the conference hashtag provided instant gratification to the new Twitter users.

More Resources
Read more about how MDRT mobilized attendees to teach others how to use Twitter at the Tech Zone at convn.org/tech-zone.  

Innovative Meetings is sponsored by the Irving Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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