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by Padraic Gilligan, VP, Industry Relations, MCI and VP, Ovation Global DMC

A perfect job

Many of us would like to be Kevin Kirby. Kevin has had a series of very fun jobs – Universal Studios, Disney and, for the past 6 years, Director of Global Sales for Hard Rock Café. He obviously understands the magical, superhero powers of the DMC community because he and some property based colleagues sponsored the opening night reception and dinner for ADME at the Memphis edition of Hard Rock Café on Beale Street. Needless to say his event was a spectacular success with great food and drink, a kick-ass live band and a take home amenity for all attendees. The deep fried banana and peanut butter sandwich – apparently a favourite of Elvis himself – was worth every single one of the 10,000 calories it probably contained. Thanks Kevin for making me fat!

Million Dollar Quartet

Anxious to immerse ourselves as much as possible in the fabric of the destination, Patrick and I (and our new friend Faith Moore from FM&A, Boston) headed to the nearby Orpheum Theatre where Million Dollar Quartet was playing. Set on that famous night in Dec 1956 when Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis staged an impromptu session together at Sun Studios, the musical has already been on Broadway and the West End. Catching it on its homecoming to Memphis, however, was special. There was a palpable frisson of excitement throughout the packed crowd of Memphians, many of whom looked old enough to have been there on the night in question. Then, for the encore, the appearance on guitar of Carl Perkins’ son, Stan, was the perfect ending. Lacking, perhaps, the slick production values of Jersey Boys, Million Dollar Quartet compensates with top class musicianship and exuberant, energetic performances.


When I read the title for Friday’s opening session at ADMEI – “Motivation to the Max” – it had as much appeal to me as a visit to my dentist for a two hour root canal session. In general US motivational speakers don’t really “connect” with non-US audiences – call us negative, unwholesome and cynical, if you must, but that’s how it tends to be. However, Don Hutson’s session was a truly compelling presentation on entrepreneurship and value selling. Full of well-rehearsed “spontaneous” one liners (Heck, if they laughed the last time, chances are they’ll laugh this time too!) the serious substance to Hutson’s presentation was slickly juxtaposed by his light-hearted play acting. An acclaimed author and sales trainer, Hudson focused on useful techniques from Murray Raphael’s “loyalty ladder”, through the 5 step sales evolution process to the 7 ways to achieve differentiation. It was a wonderfully comprehensive recap for any of us in a client facing role and Don’s southern politeness, garnished with some twinkle-eyed humour (is Don secretly Irish?) made it an extremely worthwhile, highly entertaining and, yes, motivational session.

ADME Education

Big respect and kudos to Jean James of Capers DMC and the ADME Education Committee (which includes my good friend Ben Baker of MAC Meetings and Events) for pulling together a really worthwhile educational programme. There were no lowlights and plenty of highlights including sessions on technology (Good one, Jeff Volmrich!) and social media and a real live buyers panel with 5 heavy hitting corporate and association meeting planners. The session on social media and blogging, moderated by the dynamic Cindy Lo, was worth the registration fee alone. With expert input from Cindy herself, from on-line PR specialist Amy Howell (of Howell Marketing Strategies) and from Memphis CVBs Regena Bearden this was always going to be an impactful session. However, the CVB’s GenY social media specialist Kerry Crawford was the real rock star. The bureau set out to recruit someone who “didn’t look like us or speak like us” and found someone deeply passionate about Memphis and savvy on the new means by which to channel it. As a result of Kerry’s activities local Memphians are re-engaging with their city while a growing global on-line community is kept up to date on everything the city has to offer. A traditionally conservative hotel and hospitality sector is getting behind the initiative and now it’s producing amazing results. Genius! Other CVBs and Tourist Boards please copy!

Behind the Scenes at FedEx

We were very fortunate to have a behind the scenes tour at the FedEx Hub (Thanks Bobbi and Eric!) Founded in Memphis in 1973 and now employing well in excess of quarter of a million people worldwide the FedEx facility in Memphis still processes a huge percentage of all the packages, parcels, documents and letters distributed by the company in North America. The tour commences at 11pm and provides an astonishing glimpse of the operation. Nightly, over 5000 people and thousands of expensive technological gadgets combine forces to ensure that millions of packages and documents are delivered to the correct destination, on time. The facility is run with military precision with a huge focus on security and on employee health and safety. Night shift workers arrive at 10:30 and are shuttled from the car park to a security building where they check in before being bussed again to their posts. It’s like Grand Central Station at rush hour where the overall appearance is one of chaos and disorder but, in truth, everyone knows exactly what they’re doing and where they’re doing it. It’s truly mesmerizing. FedEx employees volunteer to act as tour guides and convey a truly authentic sense of pride and belief in the ethos of their organisation.

Memphis for Meetings and Events

While the presence of FedEx in Memphis puts the city at the very heart of a global transportation and logistics network, this super-connectivity to the world is not, regrettably, replicated for passenger airlift. This lack of access will limit Memphis’s appeal as a meetings and events destination. And that’s a huge pity – the extensive range of quality, unique visitor experiences available in the city – Sun Studios, Stax Records, the Gibson Guitar factory, the Lorraine Motel, the Civil Rights Museum, the River front area, Rendezvous, the Peabody Hotel etc etc etc – puts many 1st tier locations in the shade and is more than sufficient to attract meetings business from all over the global. However, if you cannot get there easily then decision makers will decide to take their business elsewhere. On the plus side there’s a deeply committed and very smart local community of meetings and events entrepreneurs in Memphis – the Brewers at Destination King, Doug Brown at the Peabody, Kevin Kane at the Memphis CVB. These guys, and the many others like them, know exactly what they need to do. Maybe now  is the time to bring your meeting to Memphis because once these guys get really rolling there won’t be a bedroom available anywhere in the city!

Pádraic Gilligan is VP, Industry Relations at MCI, a global live events and communications agency. He also serves as VP for Ovation Global DMC, the destination services division of MCI. He shares both these roles with his business partner and best friend Patrick Delaney.

Pat and Padraic were in Memphis for ADMEI, the Association of Destination Management Executives International and would like to thank the Executive Director of ADMEI, Fran Rickenbach and the ADMEI Board under the current leadership of Susan Gray of MAC Meetings and Events for their commitment and resolve to put the “I” in ADME and make it global!


One thought on “Memphis lives! Final tales from ADMEI

  1. Kelley Bolender says:

    Thanks for posting! I unfortunately was not able to make the meeting, but I heard great things about it and your re-cap confirmed! I appreciate you taking the time to fill in everyone that wasn’t able to attend.

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