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FICP Day 1 by Padraic Gilligan, Ovation Global DMC

On Sunday 13 November the Grand Hyatt in San Antonio dispatched its share of the 30000 participants at the city marathon and prepared for the arrival of 800  demanding, discerning FICPers. It’s the meeting from hell – you’re simultaneously playing host to your competitors and your best customers, there’s a big city-wide in town and your turn around time is virtually zero. Big kudos and respect to Tom Netting and the team at this 2 year old, 1000 room hotel for pulling it off so seamlessly.

FICP11 kicked off with a very upbeat and interactive Marketplace during which a simple dance card system ensured that all Hospitality Partners managed to get some FaceTime with Planners. International HPers  were giddy with excitement to discover they were front and centre, recalled from the Siberian exile of previous years. The Starwood-sponsored hors d’oeuvres  looked really appetising but, having visions of removing food particles from Lynne Schueler’s eye, Darlene and I ate nothing out of respect for our guests. We did, I’ll admit it, take an adult beverage or two.

The high energy feel-good factor spilled over to the Opening Social event which took place, conveniently, within walking distance of the hotel. Sponsored by Hilton whose Palacio del Rio property is a veritable icon on the Riverwalk, the historic Sunset Station at St Paul’s Square was a perfect venue. Dating from the early years of the last century Sunset Station is part of a magnificently restored 10 acre historical site that can host up to 20,000 for an event. FICPers enjoyed some wonderful folkloristic performers recalling the Mexican and Spanish culture of the city. Paul Eder, Allison Hall and I, meanwhile, discussed the relative appeal and merit of international v domestic destinations.

The FICP Annual got off to a formal start early Monday morning with the customary roll-call of hotel sponsors all of whom greeted us and showed us their latest DVD. I was very struck by the excellent new brand architecture at Ritz Carlton. In ways this is a radical departure from what has been before with a true re-definition of the “Ladies and Gentlemen” concept for the GenX demographic that is now our collective target audience. Well done to Pam Ferguson and the team at Ritz.

We were also introduced to our new MC, Greg Schwen, who took the baton from the excellent Dale Irvin and delivered a tour de force right off the blocks. Todd Zint, current President of FICP, reported on the incredible growth in FICP during 2011 much of which can definitely to attributed to his strategic, visionary approach. As he said “FICP is a niche organisation that has become a very important voice in the meetings and events industry”. Steve Bova, Executive Director, noted the strong financial performance of FICP and acknowledged the vital, indispensable contribution of the Hospitality Partners to this fact. Thanks Steve!

Most of us will remember the “Nothing Box” and the “Happy Place” from Pastor Mark Gungor’s extraordinary opening plenary. Most of us, that is, who are male. Pastor Mark did more to support, explain and validate the “Male Condition” than Henry Kissinger did for world peace. Thank you Mark, most sincerely, on behalf of the (very)minority audience at FICP. I now have full permission to regularly revert to that “glorious vegetative state” you mentioned. I’m taking this as God given as, after all, you are a Pastor!

While the opening session unfolded an increasing number of us broadcast every single unfiltered thought, unresolved emotion and useless factoid to the world and to #FICP11. Big, big respect to Sam Stanton and the RedButton team for making this happen and for providing a relatively safe outlet for those of us with ADD. Thanks, too, for applying the delicate art of censorship and keeping us all on message. And a big call out to Tahira who always manages to out-tweet me!

I participated at 3 excellent breakout sessions but, in each case, the laughter and applause from the rooms next door always left me wondering whether they were having a better time there? In particular, however, the Case Study on Hybrid Meeting presented by Stef Pfeilsticker of Thrivent Financial was a wonderful testimony to the talent and vision that we have within our industry whereby a new idea picked up at an MPI event brings about transformational change within the conventional meetings structure. Big respect too, to Dan Young who leads this team at Thrivent for his leadership and, pure and simple, for getting out of the way! Stef was aided and abetted in her presentation by Sam Smith of InteractiveMeetingTechnologies, a true pioneer in our industry and wonderful partner to Thrivent in the delivery of this very successful initiative.

And after that we showered, changed into our denim and diamonds and spend 6 weeks getting to the evening social. But that’s another story!


One thought on “FICP – Day 1

  1. Samuel J Smith says:

    Hi Padraic,

    It was great to meet you yesterday!

    Thanks for coming to our session on the Thrivent Financial Hybrid Meeting and blogging about it! The Thrivent Financial story is a great example of how a non-tech company can use technology to transform their meetings.

    We need more examples like this on our industry.

    – Sam

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