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By Padraic Gilligan, VP, Industry Relations MCI

It started with Rhonda Marko. Pretty quickly Joan Eisenstodt joined in and, more recently, Andrea Michaels. All strong and powerful women. All true icons of the meetings industry. I’m unsure whether they know each other personally but I’m certain they know of each other as all have carved out niches within our industry, each for her own unique reasons. Although they all reside in the US, they each feature in my life on a daily basis. While 6 other women tend to occupy most of my waking hours (see post on Camino), Rhonda, Joan and Andrea give me cause for deep thought and reflection. And sometimes profound irritation. Daily they present me with head wrecking conundra that stimulate and challenge my problem solving skills. For Rhonda, Joan and Andrea are my most consistent and constant “Words with Friends” companions!

“Help me Rhonda!”

I’ve come to understand and appreciate something of each friends’ personality in her playing style and this makes the games even more engaging, particularly when one makes a move out of character. As I mentioned, Rhonda was the first. She introduced me to “Words with Friends” last February during the Association of Destination Management Executives (ADME) annual conference in Memphis. With great prescience she told me that once bitten I’d be an immediate addict. Needless to say she was right. I guess Rhonda always is.

Rhonda is to destination management what Bill Gates is to ICT. She’s a creator, a pioneer, an innovator. She gets it way before the rest of us. She has been honoured both inside and outside our industry, leading her company Destination Nashville into the prestigious Top 25 “Largest women owned business” (perhaps that should read “largest businesses owned by women” but that’s how its described on her website!) This consummate over-achievement comes out in her style of play too. I reckon she has multiple games on the go simultaneously, flitting like a restless butterfly from one to another. She super-bright and quick and, I imagine, sees the words immediately amongst the puzzling anagram of random letters that get delivered direct to your screen.

Rhonda plays a tight, closed game often achieving a devastating 30+ points by slipping a single “x” in front of a horizontal and vertical “I”. She knows all the sly tricks with “q” and “z” and plays them with impunity. With Rhonda it’s really a chess game. You’re can never drop your guard. You need to anticipate the future potential impact of the glorious word that you eagerly wish to play. If that word might open a TL (triple letter) or TW (triple word) for her next move then don’t do it as she’ll punish you mercilessly. You don’t see that ruthless efficiency in her smiling, perfectly choiffued avatar but, believe me, it’s there.

“Joan was quizzical”

Joan Eisenstodt was next. I knew the laughing avatar from her always excellent and relevant Twitter contributions and then, one day, she was on “Words with Friends”. We’ve been playing constantly ever since. I’ve never actually met Joan but, of course, I’ve known her for many years as a fearless, combative industry figure. If Rhonda Marko is Bill Gates, then Joan Eisensdodt is the prophet Amos. Or John the Baptist. She’s the voice in the wilderness, the conscience of the industry. She has been contributing selflessly to our industry for as long as I’ve been married and has assumed leadership roles in MPI, ASAE, HSMAI etc. Unsurprisingly, her altruistic volunteerism has been recognised and rewarded as highly as the scores she regularly achieves on “Words with Friends”.

Joan has a quiet, steady but very consistent playing style. She tends to avoid esoteric, exotic or extravagant play but scores consistently well throughout a game. You sometimes develop the impression that you have the game in the bag but that’s where you’re wrong. Wrong and very stupid. Joan lulls you into a false sense of security and then pounces without fuss or flamboyance to overtake you, with the finish line in sight. You look at that open faced, benign laughing avatar and wonder. How could someone so obviously big hearted, so kind and caring be so clinically effective? That’s how Joan plays “Words with Friends”.

Extraordinary Events

Andrea Michaels is my most recent “Words with Friends” buddy but, of the 3 ladies that I’m writing about, she’s the one I know best. I had known Andrea for quite a long time, mainly through Site, but was lucky to get to know her even better in the early 00s when an opportunity presented itself to collaborate on a project. It was a real breath of fresh air to work with Extraordinary Events, Andrea’s company and I learned so much. Andrea is magnificently creative but magnanimously collaborative and the net result was the creation of an event experience that exceeded all expectations. Our co-creation, “Lore of Ireland”, went on to win 3 global awards. Since then Andrea has continued to take Extraordinary Events to the dizzy heights it now occupies. She is a global, top rated speaker on the power of event marketing and 3 years ago, when our industry was gripped by the low lying clouds of doom and gloom she launched “The Good News Letter”. It arrives in our inbox every Friday and, as my late Mom would routinely say, warms “the cockles of our hearts” with positive, upbeat stories. Chicken Soup for The Meeting Planner’s Soul.

I’m still playing my first game of “Words with Friends” with Andrea. She plays a delightfully open and expansive game, without too much attention to defensive tactics. If she was a soccer team then she’d be Barcelona – stylish, super competent, full of  joie de vivre. She has a prodigious vocabulary playing such obscure words as “tong” and “dex” but does leave herself a bit vulnerable from time to time at the back. A bit like Barcelona v Chelsea. It gratifies me greatly to note that the word “Lore” has been played in our game.

Actually there’s a quartet of bright and clever women with whom I play Words with Friends. The 4th is Nova Story but she doesn’t feature here as she is not in the Meetings Industry. Nova is actually my first cousin but we only met way back in the mists of time, as young children. We re-connected this year as a consequence of my Mom’s death and found each other on “Words with Friends”. With Nova it’s a savage, vicious contest. Gloves off. No prisoners taken. Unhesitatingly Nova is my favourite opponent!

Padraic Gilligan is VP Industry Relations MCI and can be contacted on [email protected]



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