LinkedIn group culling

LinkedIn is a fascinating social media tool, but daily usage can add “noise” (similar to email marketing) that many users are constantly trying to avoid. LinkedIn groups are particular popular, and very useful, but very prone to adding to this “noise”. To avoid this careful management of each groups email setting is recommended, but sometimes this is not enough. Sometime a cull is needed.

Facebook friend culls are increasingly common, especially when users find they have many friends they do not recognize. On LinkedIn having too many contacts rarely seems a problem, but being part of too many groups can be a real issue that requires careful management. Basic accounts are limited to membership of 50 groups, and whilst this may seem a large number, with so many thriving communities this number may be a tough limit to stick to. Nevertheless to actively monitor and participate in 50 groups takes a lot of time.

If or when you decide that a group cull is needed it is certainly worth monitoring closely the activity of all groups so that you don’t miss a potential business opportunity or a chance for some good brand exposure. Several groups become inactive after a healthy start, whilst some change in style or content type over time. For these and other reason it’s worth assessing if all of the groups.

Look out for:

  • Groups that are no longer active (see the dates of the last discussions) or that have very few updates over the last 3 months. There is no point in being a member of an inactive group.
  • Groups that do not offer any value to you. Some groups have so much marketing that their value is questionable.
  • Groups that are no longer relevant. Make sure the groups you are a member of are still relevant to you. If your job or career has changed, then some topics may no longer be on interest to you.

Note: Before removing yourself from any groups, do make sure that you will not want to join them at a later date. In the case of private groups, this could lead to a tricky email request asking to re-join a group.

I have recently culled my group membership from 49 to 36 and will likely reduce this number event more. I only get real-time email messages from groups that I manage and have made most of my groups email silent. These may not be the ideal settings for everyone, but I hope that my suggestion of culling group memberships helps users make the most of their LinkedIn activity.


My advice to meeting industry students

As a recent graduate I am frequently asked for advice for current students. I have therefore compiled a few sentences about this. In tough economic times students need all the help they can get. I hope they find this useful.

This is a people industry above everything else and so the more social and competent you can be, the more you will progress. Ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. Find mentors (a few, not too many), keep in touch with them and ask for their thoughts when you apply for a job or get involved in a new project. If mentors know you and respect you they will always want to help you.

Join associations. I am an active member of MPI, but there are so many worthwhile associations that can offer you connections to industry experts and open your horizons. The membership fee may seem high, but it is a very worthwhile investment. I recommend choosing one association and becoming involved. If the association does not fit your needs, then try a different one. You can normally attend social events for free or a small fee, so do try before you buy. Associations can give you a really valuable insight into parts of the industry, and even other industries, that you may not be as familiar with and are a great way to make new contacts.

Whenever you get a chance, volunteer or offer help your colleagues, teachers and all industry people at events. I know that working for free is hard to do, but don’t think of it as working for free, think of it as on the job experience and education. Make sure that you are working towards the success of an event or project and that you understand the overall event goals. You will meet lots of people, and there is a good chance that asking questions and having a positive attitude will put you forward as a good person to work with and you will get the job offers that you are looking for.

As my good friend Linda Pereira says, “it’s not about who you know, it’s about who knows you.”

Good luck!

Slovenian Love

Slovenia, a small country, part of ex-Jugoslavia with beaches and ski slopes with an educated population and varied cultural heritage. This was the extent of my knowledge about Slovenia before attending Conventa in January. All of the above is absolutely true, however it does not do justice to how much Slovenia has to offer.

Starting with the Conventa Trade Show it is clear that this is no ordinary destination. This part business partnering meeting part trade show was a real pleasure to attend. Just over 100 suppliers nicely laid out in a hall separated by custom wooden crates, that created the visual symbol of the meeting. The appointments were relaxed with plenty of smiles and useful information exchanged. As a hosted buyer I was asked to make 10 appointments for each day of attending the meeting. This may sound like a daunting task, but it was actually very enjoyable. Great food with a customised market style layout, and excellent service made the meal breaks very relaxing and delicious. It also made the breaks another networking opportunity as all suppliers were invited for lunch as well.

Along with the trade show, all the other services experienced were of excellent quality including the Kompas DMC and the very central Grand Union Hotel. Little detials such as water and a dried apple healthy snack waitng for us at airport arrival, as well as custom letters and more healhty fruit waiting in my hotel were excellent touches. These are the type of details that go a long way into transmitting the Slovenian professionalism and quality as a destination.

The other venues visited inlcuded the Cankarjev dom (cultural and congress centre) where a fantasic two part reception and after party showcased the excellent facilites and service of the venue and catering compaby as well as several local musical talents. On the last evening the buyers were invited to taste a bit of traditional Slovenia cuisine and hospitality at a farm house away from the main city. This authentic and very informal experience really made it clear that Slovenia has so much to offer.

My experience of Slovenia, lasting 3 days was rounded up with a tour of Bled. Despite the aggresive name, Bled is a place were traquility, history and beauty co-exist in a dramatic fashion. This calming spa town has been a hot spot of the region’s tourism for centuries and is increasingly a player as a meeting indsutry destination. The highlight of this picturesque lake town is certainly its church topped island, which is immersed in tradition and inspiration.

The capital city of Ljubliana was the final gem in my exploration of Slovenia. This international city of 300, 000 inhabitants has so much to offer is such a small space. The castle, cathedrals, inner courtyards and beautiful bridges house so much history of this city that has over just the last 100 years been a part of 4 different countries. What makes this city one of my favourites is that it seems to have a life of its own that doesn’t depend on foreign tourism to ignite. Even though I experienced it over a few cold January afternoons, I could tell that the city has a healthy cultural and night life of its own.

The 3 day trip was so enjoyable that I would not hesitate to recommend placing meetings in Slovenia. As the politically stable business centre of South-East Europe, and using the Euro as its currency since 2007, the destination is not the bargain it once was, but it certainly falls under the affordable and excellent value for money categories. Perhaps its only draw back is the air lift, which is somewhat limited, having said that this does keep the destination from being mass marketed as a bachelor party experience. There is still much work to be done on improving the general standards if Slovenia is to become a major player in the meetings industry but for gatherings of under 400 people, this is one destination that shines bright.

Land of Opportunities and Possibilities

What is it about a destination that makes it the right fit for any given event? Is it the glorious beaches and fantastic weather? Is it the pristine transport infrastructure? Is it the reputation for quality and excellence? All of these are certainly important, but I would say that above all the desire to host events is the most important factor, especially when it manifests itself in the desire and willingness to learn from more established destinations and recognised experts on industry best practices.

The Polish MPI Club, soon chapter, has with two excellent events done a great service to the Polish meetings industry. It has gathered some of its top stakeholders as well as keen students to learn from and engage with the group of international industry professionals who were present at the recent MPI Poland Annual Assembly and the IMEX/MPI Future Leaders Forum. I was very lucky to be part of this group of speakers who all generously gave their time and knowledge to the audience. The full list of speakers and trainers who took part in these initiatives can be found here: and here:

As part of my travel to Warsaw I was able to experience a sample of what Warsaw has to offer, thanks to the kind hosting of the Convention Bureau of Poland. I sampled wonderful Polish cuisine at several of the city’s top restaurants. I was shown the best of what Warsaw offers by an outstanding tour guide. I also visited the museum of Polish uprising, which provided a very vivid reminder of the atrocities that WWII brought to Poland and just how recent this was. Clearly my favourite was the Copernicus Science Museum, a new facility clearly modeled around the London Science Museum and other “please touch” interactive and educational spaces. The experiments were fantastic, with some possibly not being permitted in the UK with its tight Health and Safety rules. Besides making me feel like a toddler in playground, it also had one quite clever feature: each persons entry ticket was in the form of a magnetic card and was required to access all digital experiments. What this means is that once an email address is associated with each card, the participant will get an email with all manner of experiment results, photos and any other data collected throughout the visit. This really adds to the user experience, in particular to the post-event user experience. 5 stars!

But it’s not only technical innovation that gives Poland credit, to me the whole city and in particular the more visitor directed venues and services all felt very welcoming and demonstrated a desire to host visitors. For this reason alone I am sure that Poland will host more and more events in the coming years. With the Euro 2012 only one year away, Poland has a unique chance to host the world and get on the radar for any and all international events. I for one look forward to returning to Poland, the Possibilities & Opportunities LAND. 🙂

Meeting Different with MPI


As the proud winner of the 2009 IMEX-MPI Foundation Student Scholarship Award, the MPI Foundation was very kind to sponsor my attendance at MeetDifferent in Cancun. On arrival and as expected it was clear that Cancun is a favourite holiday destination for many North Americans, but not necessarily a meeting destination. The custom control is curious to say the least, with a random traffic light signal deciding the fate of your passage through Mexican customs. I have since learnt that this was put in place on request from the US government, so as to ensure that the customs checks are random by removing the possibility of corruption. Less impressive was the number of timeshare sales people waiting for passengers as soon as the doors open, who pose as airport information and drag you in to their sales pitch. I must have looked Mexican enough that I was not hassled, but as soon as I realised what was going on, I made sure to look straight ahead and walk fast.

Ground Services

The Ground services and the hotel check in all worked well, despite the large numbers of attendees arriving, perhaps here again the practice of receiving large numbers of tourists was to our advantage. The Moon Palace Resort presents itself wonderfully, with a variety of large restaurants, spacious bedrooms with in-room Jacuzzis, and of course free flowing alcohol that is typical of all-inclusive resorts. From the first moment in the grounds of the Moon Palace, I knew there would not be a dull moment.

General Sessions

Following a lukewarm off-site reception, the 1st general session started with a fresh faced Jeremy Gutsche, who presented his content quickly and directly almost with a TED style intensity. Jeremy’s main message was “obsess relentlessly about your message”, and he also offered good tips to those of us creating headlines or trying to get messages to members on how to make these “supercharged”. All in all I was quite pleased with Jeremy’s content and delivery. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the remaining two general sessions, the second of which focussed on the spectacular failure of Microsoft Bob, a product that failed so badly no one who I met had ever learnt about it. The last general session was entitled “Viva la Business Revolution”, yet somehow the concept of business revolution seemed to get lost in a very long winded speech which had its highlights in pause slides, where a nice scenic picture would appear on screen and the presenter would pause and have a drink of water. I shall keep these presenters nameless, but I would like to point out that Glenn Thayer our host for all three sessions did an excellent job of interacting and challenging both speakers, and by doing so managed to largely salvage two average sessions.

Knowledge Sessions

With my thirst for knowledge insufficiently quenched from general sessions, I was happy to find that the knowledge sessions offered a variety of topics. Here too not all the sessions were outstanding, but some did indeed stand out. Jim Spellos and Deborah Gardner’s Social Media trial stands out as one of the best. The Social Media trial dealt with serious questions on the usefulness, application and responsibility of social media in meetings (conferences, events etc.) in a very creative way, a mock trial with each presenter arguing their case and Bruce MacMillan (in pre-recorded video format) acting as the judge. This is an example of a great session and if all sessions were this creative and well delivered, I would have remembered them all.

Other highlights of the conference were the excellent illustrations of most of the knowledge sessions by ImageThink. These very talented and creative illustrators mapped out these sessions for our pleasure and you can still find them here:

Overall the knowledge sessions were well attended and largely focussed on each member’s personal development. There were even Spanish lessons available. It is worth noting that this personal focus was different to other MPI conferences, particularly EMEC where I find the focus shifts to more technical aspects of the industry.


Receptions and side events were frequent, at least once a day and many quite extravagant, especially those of competing Cancun properties looking to show off their properties. One factor did seem to bring the magic of the receptions one notch down, that is the free-flowing alcohol and food that was available at the host property. The fact that many of the receptions involved 20m+ bus transfers also made the easy option of some down time very appealing. The on-site disco was also popular, here again detracting from the overall flow of the various events. The closing night party included a faux pas Mexican market and a live band of rockers from 70s rock bands which charmed the MPI only audience and kept the whole resort awake until mid-night. Despite all the distractions there were many good conversations to be had and excellent connections to be made with mostly US based MPI members, but also a handful of Canadians and Europeans.


The Moon Palace’s conference facilities were very impressive, easily putting many European conference hotels to shame. The rooms were standard ballroom style, which unfortunately meant that the wonderful Mexican sun that all the participants enjoyed outside, was hidden away behind air walls and curtains. Technically all the services were adequate, with one in particular standing out as very useful: Free property-wide Wi-Fi. This had a much bigger impact on the conference than I had anticipated. The free Wi-Fi meant that attendees could use their mobile applications and laptops freely and the wealth of knowledge that was transmitted online surpassed my expectations by far. Twitter in particular took on a life of its own, with over 30 very active users constantly reporting on sessions and events during the conference. If I enjoyed my use of twitter before hand, this conference made me realise its incredible power and without a doubt is one of the reasons I actively advocate its use.


All in all I enjoyed attending MeetDifferent 2010 in Cancun very much and I am extremely thankful to the MPI Foundation for making this possible. My overall impression of what we now know was the last educational conference was positive. When asked if we did indeed MeetDifferent my answer is complex, yes and no. Yes, we met different because we tried something new in Mexico and a beach property. Yes, because many of the knowledge sessions had an excellent impact on the attendees. Yes, because twitter made the conference geeks a united MPI front. Of course the real innovation that may be expected with such a suggestive title to the conference in my opinion was not present. As an apprentice of Meeting Architecture I feel the core messages were transmitted in very solid but not innovative nor memorable ways. With the exception of some of the items mentioned here, the sessions involved mostly speaker to audience communication and interaction, the rooms were dark and set in rigid formats, the food was delicious but not very health conscious and most importantly the majority of the sessions were not memorable, and thus ineffective.

We did indeed meet differently in Cancun, but I hope will do my best to urge MPI to practice what they preach and make future conferences memorable and revolutionary.

My ramblings on meetings & events and social media