The Americas Incentive, Business Travel & Meeting Exhibition (AIBTM) opened yesterday at the Orange County Convention Center to a strong turnout for its Knowledge Programme.

Hosted Buyers registered to attend over 1,500 multiple sessions during the day which represented a variety of topics including updates on new technologies, meetings management and innovation to name a few.

Meeting professional Sharon Fisher attended the morning’s “Apptastic! 60 Apps in 60 Minutes” session calling it “an absolutely fantastic session. Jim Spellos made it work for everyone. He is surely the best technology speaker I have ever heard.”

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Mid-day, Keynoter Michael Hoffman, president of Igniting Performance, gave a dynamic address on how to become a person of influence during his presentation “Becoming #1…On Purpose! Igniting a Culture of Success and Mastering the Tornado!”

The tornado, he defines, are all the factors that affect meeting planning like cost pressures, tight deadlines, last minute changes to event plans, working with many people, all with different personalities and the list goes on.

He then discussed how meeting professionals could influence positive changes and make great teams by building confidence and competence. Confidence, he explained, grows when teammates thank and appreciate each other. Employees’ competence develops as leaders provide encouraging feedback on their work output.

“The number one thread that runs through all great people is making a choice to play,” said Hoffman. “Don’t be a victim of the tornado, become the master of the tornado…on purpose.”

Following the keynote, Jim Austin, principal of Decision Strategies International, kicked off this year’s Meetings Leadership Summit, which set out to give senior executives insights into key ways to grow and move forward in today’s challenging business environment.

Noting reasons why it’s so hard to stay at the top like corporate arrogance, insufficient attention to weak signals, lack of vision and risk taking, and trapped in yesterday’s business models, Austin defined a four step approach to driving growth: 1) improve decision-making; 2) balance “core” with “innovation”; 3) seek innovation from the customer’s perspective; and 4) drive change.