To the Point

From the Red Carpet to the Basketball Court

Looking outside the meeting industry for ideas and inspiration.

The meetings industry is my passion, but like most of you, I try to keep up with corporate America, popular culture, and face-to-face gatherings of all kinds. In this column before, I’ve delved into topics ranging from the Olympics and reality TV shows to the rapid ascent of Android.

While there’s nothing like knowing your own industry inside and out, we all can benefit by looking outside our own worlds to see what other industries are doing to innovate, inspire future leaders, and raise their profiles. What are our attendees talking about around the water cooler? How can we apply others’ great ideas to our own work?

On that note, here are some recent news items that got me thinking.

Live from the red carpet: Were you also struck by the massive amount of media coverage leading up to and following the Academy Awards? It seems to increase each year. Are we that fascinated by celebrities that we will watch six hours of live TV coverage from the red carpet? It seems Hollywood has done an impressive job of keeping the rest of us (well, many of us) clamoring for more about an event that has become less about the movies — which many of us may not have even seen — and more about the event’s cachet. What lessons are there to be learned about creating hype for our face-to-face events?

Talk about innovation: Nike recently unveiled “Flyknit” — its new 5.6-ounce running shoe made from synthetic yarn woven together by a knitting machine. The design was created in response to athletes’ requests for a shoe that is as comfortable to wear as a sock. The Flyknit took four years of R&D at Nike’s “innovation kitchen” and required new manufacturing equipment to be invented.

Thanks to Nike’s perseverance, the result is a shoe that is 19 percent lighter than even the company’s previous best. Needless to say, we’ll see the eye-catching Flyknits on marathon racers at this summer’s Olympics. It’s something to keep in mind the next time you have or hear of a great idea that seems a little too far-fetched.

A one-man brand: Speaking of athletes, the rapid ascent of New York Knicks basketball player Jeremy Lin has a lot of people talking — and I don’t mean just ESPN anchors. Lin’s rags-to-riches success story, not to mention his wholesome image, has attracted the attention of corporate America in a big way. Companies with endorsement offers can’t line up fast enough. And that’s not to mention the positive spillover effect he’s had on the NBA brand.

It’s mindboggling to see how one person can have such a dramatic effect on the public perception of an entire group. We all know the negative impact one event or person can have on an entire industry’s image, but doesn’t Lin show us that it works both ways?

Pinteresting: Facebook brought us “friending.” Twitter got us “tweeting.” And now Pinterest has us “pinning.” Measurement statistics seem to vary by the source, but the bottom line is that Pinterest’s growth has been dramatic and fast. Now many businesses are taking notice of — and are dipping their toes in — this latest social photo-sharing website.

What do you think of it? Is there a way the meetings industry can benefit from a site that is built upon still images?

Deborah Sexton

Deborah Sexton is president and CEO of PCMA.