Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

December 2012

PCMA Convening Leaders Preview: Politics & People

By Michelle Russell, Editor in Chief and Christopher Durso, Executive Editor

Taking the stage at Convening Leaders 2013: New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, on how That Used to Be Us, and Yum! Brands CEO David Novak, on the importance of Taking People With You.

Thomas Friedman

By Christopher Durso, Executive Editor

Thomas Friedman In the New York Times columnist’s most recent book, That Used to Be Us , meetings and conferences are a constant presence — and a beautiful new convention center in China offers a wake-up call to a complacent United States. 

Thomas Friedman is narrowing his focus. In his 2005 bestseller, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century , the three-time Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist for The New York Times explored globalization with an eye on the leveling effects of the digital revolution. Three years later, in Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution — and How It Can Renew America, he added global warming and population growth to the mix, and urged America to take the lead in addressing these potentially world-destabilizing problems. 

In his most recent book, That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back, Friedman and co-author Michael Mandelbaum, a foreign-policy professor at Johns Hopkins University, zero in on the United States, which they think has lost its way — politically, economically, and even spiritually. They intend That Used to Be Us as “a road map for rising to the challenges and opportunities that will determine whether we remain a country that can continue to pass prosperity from one generation to the next, as we always have, and can continue to play the role of global stabilizer, as we must.”

When Friedman delivers a General Session presentation at Convening Leaders 2013 on Wednesday morning, Jan. 16, he will not be entering a new environment. As this excerpt from That Used to Be Us suggests, he attends a lot of meetings and conferences — and has experienced them as both an incubator of new ideas and an indicator of international competitiveness.

PCMA Convening Leaders 2013 
  • Thomas Friedman will present a General Session at Convening Leaders 2013 next month. For more information, visit conveningleaders.org . 
  • Look for an in-depth Convening Leaders Follow-Up interview with Friedman in a future issue of Convene. 

Sidebar: Book Excerpt 

‘32 Weeks to Build a World-Class Convention Center’ 

Excerpted from That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back,© 2011 by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, published by Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

In September 2010, Tom [Friedman] attended the World Economic Forum’s summer conference in Tianjin, China. Five years earlier, getting to Tianjin had involved a three-and-a-half-hour car ride from Beijing to a polluted, crowded Chinese version of Detroit, but things had changed. Now, to get to Tianjin, you head to the Beijing South Railway Station — an ultramodern flying saucer of a building with glass walls and an oval roof covered with 3,246 solar panels — buy a ticket from an electronic kiosk offering choices in Chinese and English, and board a world-class high-speed train that goes right to another roomy, modern train station in downtown Tianjin. Said to be the fastest in the world when it began operating in 2008, the Chinese bullet train covers 115 kilometers, or 72 miles, in a mere 29 minutes.

The conference itself took place at the Tianjin Meijiang Convention and Exhibition Center — a massive, beautifully appointed structure, the likes of which exists in few American cities. As if the convention center wasn’t impressive enough, the conference’s co-sponsors in Tianjin gave some facts and figures about it. They noted that it contained a total floor area of 230,000 square meters (almost 2.5 million square feet) and that “construction of the Meijiang Convention Center started on September 15, 2009, and was completed in May, 2010.” Reading that line, Tom started counting on his fingers: Let’s see — September, October, November, December, January…

Eight months.

Returning home to Maryland from that trip, Tom was describing the Tianjin complex and how quickly it was built to Michael [Mandelbaum] and his wife, Anne. At one point Anne asked: “Excuse me, Tom. Have you been to our subway stop lately?” We all live in Bethesda and often use the Washington Metrorail subway to get to work in downtown Washington, D.C. Tom had just been at the Bethesda station and knew exactly what Anne was talking about: The two short escalators had been under repair for nearly six months. While the one being fixed was closed, the other had to be shut off and converted into a two-way staircase. At rush hour, this was creating a huge mess. Everyone trying to get on or off the platform had to squeeze single file up and down one frozen escalator. It sometimes took ten minutes just to get out of the station. A sign on the closed escalator said that its repairs were part of a massive escalator “modernization” project.

What was taking this “modernization” project so long? We investigated. Cathy Asato, a spokeswoman for the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, had told the Maryland Community News (October 20, 2010) that “the repairs were scheduled to take about six months and are on schedule. Mechanics need 10 to 12 weeks to fix each escalator.”

A simple comparison made a startling point: It took China’s Teda Construction Group thirty-two weeks to build a world-class convention center from the ground up — including giant escalators in every corner — and it was taking the Washington Metro crew twenty-four weeks to repair two tiny escalators of twenty-one steps each.

More Resources
For more information about Thomas Friedman and That Used to Be Us, visit thomaslfriedman.com

David Novak

by Michelle Russell, Editor in Chief

The chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands and authors of Taking People With You on cultivating a performance-driven culture.

David Novak knows a thing or two about people — what they want as consumers, and how to help them give their best as employees. He’s chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands Inc., the world’s largest restaurant company — with more than 36,000 KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell locations in more than 12 countries and territories. And he’s been recognized as one of the world’s “30 Best CEOs” by Barron’s, one of the “Top People in Business” by Fortune, and one of the “100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World” by Harvard Business Review.

How has Novak achieved such distinction? By leading more than one million Yum! associates around the globe in a way, he said, that gets them “aligned, enthusiastic, and focused relentlessly on the mission.” In his bestselling book, Taking People With You: The Only Way to Make BIG Things Happen, Novak shares the leadership program he’s developed during his 15 years at Yum!’s helm — and he’ll be serving up generous portions when he presents the Closing General Session at Convening Leaders 2013 on Wednesday, Jan. 16.

Recently Novak gave Convene a taste of what will be on the menu for attendees.

You talk in your book about “reframing” — positioning your product in a way that is relevant to whomever you’re trying to influence. Can you explain what you mean by that?

Knowing how people think gives you the insight needed to reframe your product in a way that gets people on your side. Successful marketers enjoy the challenge of uncovering unmet consumer needs, then using those insights in a way that cuts through the clutter to achieve breakthrough results. One of the things I do as CEO is to ask what

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