FICP – Day 2 by Padraic Gilligan, Managing Director, Ovation Global DMC
I’m not going to lie. The transfer from San Antonio to Knibbe Ranch was very, very long. At first it was long enough for me to desperately want a beer but then it became long enough for me to be glad I didn’t have one – the male bladder at aged 50+ doesn’t have the capacity or control that it used to have! I sat with David Hainline of CSI DC (DMC, not TV series!) and we discussed a lot of things, both personal and professional. It was great to catch up and to have “quality time” as these events can be so fast moving and dynamic that you end up with a bunch of superficial connections.
Knibbe Ranch is a real working ranch that hit most of the 5 senses as soon as we emerged, free and frolicsome, from the buses. It was worth the long transfer and more. We encountered Texas Longhorns, Armadillos, Corn Bread with Butter and Honey, line dancing and authentic country tunes. And, as beautifully stated next morning by Greg Schwen, the somewhat anachronistic relaying of the Packers Game on monster flat screen TVs!
The evening at Knibbe Ranch was kindly sponsored by Marriott Hotels and Resorts and provided the non-US FICPers, in particular, with a little of the cowboy culture from those US imported TV shows of our childhood – Bonanza, The Virginian and The High Chaparral. There was even a live rodeo complete with flag posting, the singing of the National Anthem and the intoning of the Rodeo prayer. Deep. In the Heart. Indeed.
Next day I dragged my bruised body, still suffering from ½ Marathon exertions, through the super-early morning half light to look again at the historical Sunset Station before joining slightly late for breakfast and Tuesday’s plenary address by journalist Lisa Ling. MC Greg (now he sounds like a rapper!) woke us all up with a great “highlights” of day one. Our Marriott partners showed an engaging and compelling brand DVD entitled “A Brand New World” and Todd Zint turned thespian to reveal, to great audience delight, that Hawai’i will host the FICP Annual in 2014.
Then Lisa Ling appeared and put everything into perspective. She captured our souls with a perfectly balanced but profoundly polemical narrative around what’s happening today in the world and, in particular, in America. She fearlessly raised many taboo issues, always trying to provide context so that the full complexity of the issue could be grasped. She was gentle yet strong, non-judgemental yet emotionally engaged, fair yet frank working from a core belief that “the more we are aware, the better people we can become”. Big kudos to the FICP Conference Chair and Committee for their courage and vision to bring Lisa Ling to this event.
This day also featured a lot of activity around the Silent Auction table where folks hovered surreptitiously to guard and protect their latest bid on a nice selection of items including a great 4/6 night Ireland programme (thanks Ovation!), a magnificent 6 night China programme (thanks Eldridge) and a tasty weekend in New York City (thanks Cosimo). All proceeds from the Silent Auction go to the extremely worthy Family Violence Prevention Services (FVPS) who offer programmes for women and children on low incomes.
Again today my breakout experience was somewhat marred by the laughter and high jinks bleeding in from the adjacent room although Diana Oreck from the Ritz Carlton Leadership Training Centre did a wonderful job at holding my attention for the 90 minutes or so of her presentation. Entitled “Radar on, Antenna up”, Diana shared some of the service secrets that have made Ritz Carlton the company it is today. And Diana was quick to demythologise it all, stating that service was about “ordinary people doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” She encouraged us to turn every customer interaction into a “defining moment” and shared with us some of the famous and great service stories that set Ritz Carlton apart – like the Wedding Proposal involving banners in Central Park, telescopes and hidden Champagne celebrations.
From this post prandial session onwards most folk were focused on the Gala Dinner, sponsored by Hyatt with great branding and a pre-event gift of a CD by performing artist Michael Cavanaugh. Cocktails were served immediately outside the Grand Hyatt in a newly designated civic space that adds a significant additional footprint to the meetings and banqueting product at the hotel. We were then serenaded by Italian tenors on each floor as we proceeded back to the 4th floor to a transformed interior.
The Italian theme was graciously carried through the table design and the menu of the evening presented from the stage by the Executive Chef. Despite spelling mistakes on the menu card (sorry to be picky!) this was a delicious banquet with a particularly nice Tuscan red. Conversation with my cruise buddies Sean Mahoney (Silverseas) and Tanya Barnette (Seabourn) was highly entertaining and, once the music started, Allison Hall and I (who share a birthday and a love of all things Italian) hit the dancefloor where we remained until Michael Cavanaugh could, literally, give no more! It was a hot and crowded dance floor upon which David Smart of Alfa Insurance gave a magnificent Johnny Castle style display of real dancing with Penny Parr of Pacific Life aka Baby Houseman having the “time of her life”.