Mastodon: Social media for people

April 5th, 2017 @

mastodon join

All the cool kids jump ship from a social media platform once it gets too mainstream or too corporatized. Friendster > MySpace > Facebook > Twitter > Tumblr > Snapchat, and on and on… As a result, investing too much time and resources into developing your presence on such sites can turn into a gut punch when your audience departs for the next big thing and you have to start all over.


This new social platform, which is already being cited as a potential “Twitter killer,” may appear at first glance to be nothing new, nothing special. (Just over a year ago, when I first wrote about Mastodon, it was being touted as a “Twitter killer,” then people—myself included—forgot about it and went back to Twitter. It’s just been appearing in headlines, though, so here’s an update.) Beyond being a platform that doesn’t permit hate speech, the beauty of Mastodon is on the back end. It gets a little technical, but hear me out.

The structure of Mastodon is such that there is no centralized power that dictates how you share and view content. In the case of Twitter, everything goes through Twitter. With Mastodon, users register through any number of “instances,” which are each run independently and provide access to local content on that instance’s timeline as well as the entirety of content across all instances (this is the “federated” timeline).

Think of “instances” as entrances to a convention center. You choose one door to go through and can hang out with the people in the nearest meeting room (your chosen “instance”), but if you keep on walking, everyone ends up in the same grand ballroom (the federated timeline, which includes all of the public content shared on Mastodon).

Talking to Yahoo! Tech, Mastodon’s twenty-something creator, Eugen Rochko, explains it using tech analogies:

There are different ways in which something can be decentralized; in this case, Mastodon is the ‘federated’ kind. Think email, not BitTorrent. There are different servers … users have an account on one of them, but can interact and follow each other regardless of where their account is.”

RELATED STORY: 6 tools to extend the life of social media content

There are countless differences between this newcomer and Twitter (such as a message limit of 500 characters rather than the fewer characters of the bird site), but what offers the greatest flexibility is that ANYONE can set up a Mastodon instance! You want a group dedicated to meeting and event professionals? Well, in a couple of hours, a coder could create as an individual instance—and, get this, everyone you give access to that instance could register their user name of choice…even if it’s taken on another instance! Put simply, I could be @Michael…imagine being able to do that on Twitter—impossible unless you worked for the company on Day 1. All of your group’s communications could then be private and just limited to your users or you could leave it open to leak into the greater federated timeline.

Think one step more…planners could set up instances dedicated to specific events.

While this may sound like a lot of tech work, it’s actually much easier than it sounds—I watched last night as a developer created her own instance of Mastodon (dedicated to cats and cat lovers), and she debuted it this morning. Speaking with her via Mastodon, she shared that it took her about five hours to complete. That’s it—five hours!

MastodonBut why would you want to do all of this work or spend money to make a unique instance for your group or event? It’s run by you! The data is yours! There are no ads! And my favorite: The timelines are chronological rather than organized by popularity, so the user experience is legitimately like that of a chat room rather than a semi-stale social media dumping ground. Perhaps the best reason to set up your own instance—or to at least explore this new domain: What do you have to lose? The answer: Not much. Possible benefit: You just may be viewed as being on the bleeding edge of the most recent social media evolution…no too bad, eh?

Please keep in mind that Mastodon is not the platform you should use to market your event—Mastodon is about people connecting with people, it’s not a business thing. The bright side of that is that users can easily strike up fun discussions with total strangers, untouched by ads, promoted posts, commercials, brand marketing, etc. This platform is 100% human (aside from the bots…but those are clearly labelled as such, and most of them are useful and/or amusing).

Some essential details:

  • A “tweet” in Mastodon is called a “toot”
  • Hate speech is not permitted
  • There are no ads!
  • Timelines are chronological rather than organized by non-human algorithms (so it’s a fluid chat)
  • Forget about changing character limits; Mastodon gives you 500 characters (so you can dump the truncated words and cutesy lingo (“b4,” “cu l8tr,” etc.)
  • Registration with the original instance of Mastodon ( closes periodically when there’s a massive influx of users (like last week)…but there are plenty of other instances through which you can register and enjoy all that the platform has to offer
  • Mastodon was named after a band of the same name…because the founder likes them

RELATED STORY: 6 B2B social media marketing tips for eventprofs

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Category : Blog and Industry News

Do you need armed security at your event?

March 30th, 2017 @

“As a first step, planners should anticipate whether any of their attendees may bring firearms notwithstanding a ban,” says Joshua Grimes, Esq., of Philadelphia-based Grimes Law Offices. “If it’s possible that they might do so, the planner should engage event security to offer to check the firearm at the door. An attendee who refuses to leave his firearm at home or check it, when it is prohibited from bringing the weapon to the meeting, should be banned from attending.”

small gunSo you’ve got armed attendees, logic may dictate the need for armed security as well, right? There are certainly occasions when armed event security is necessary—such as when high-profile VIPs, royalty or politicians are in attendance.

The Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting took place while I was at a conference. So the next day, I queried a veteran security professional who was working the event.

“Would you prefer to be armed when doing security at an event like this?” I asked. An unwavering stare fell upon me as he responded, “How do you know I’m not?”


The ensuing conversation was revelatory. It can be just as strategic for firearms on security personnel to be visible as concealed.

“It depends on the situation,” the anonymous security staffer shared. “If a shooter enters the venue and sees I’m armed, I become the first target. And I can’t do my job and effectively secure the situation if I’m down.”

Thinking back, this logic was presented to me earlier in the year, albeit not as bluntly. In the wake of recent, high-profile shootings at meeting and event venues, security was heightened for the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, to include bag searches, explosives-detecting K9s and more personnel. CES is the world’s largest annual trade show, with 170,000 visitors, and temporarily home to more CEOs than any spot on the planet.

During the event in January, Ray Suppe, senior director of security for the Las Vegas Convention Center, explained some of the challenges and how this year’s CES was different for them—including the strategy behind armed security. The appearance of security officers is cyclical, Suppe said: One year, they’ll be decked out in uniforms clearly representative of security or law enforcement—with a visible sidearm—then that will shift to more relaxed, plain-clothed attire. However, if a high-profile incident takes place somewhere in the world, organizers become more interested in having security donned in severe, tactical gear. It’s an ever-changing, partially psychological strategy that affects the attendee experience: Do you want attendees to see the law enforcement presence (and if so, how extreme?) or is it better to have a force that’s invisible to guests?

These are questions that you need to ask of your C-suite, board, supplier partners and event security to ensure you move ahead with the strategy that best fits the needs of your brand and audience.

“Armed security on site may help, but would likely be an over-reaction for most meetings. Armed security might also provoke or exacerbate a confrontation,” Grimes warns. “As a general rule, I would not recommend armed security unless the activity at the meeting would otherwise make it appropriate for protection, such as when a high-level VIP will be attending, the group is particularly controversial or it has experienced violence in the past.”

Additional education about guns and meetings

Interactive state-by-state map highlighting the impact of gun laws at event venues

Getting a grip on event firearms policies

Firearms at events…and your liability

Essential firearms terminology

Navigating changing gun laws

The post Do you need armed security at your event? appeared first on Plan Your Meetings @ Meeting Professionals International.

Category : Blog and Industry News

5 ways to promote positive conflict in meetings for more effective collaboration

March 28th, 2017 @

There’s a good reason why conflict and collaboration go hand in hand. Always agreeing might be your default when you lack confidence in your idea and want to save face, however, it functions more as a one-way street to boring town. How can innovative ideas find their feet when there’s only room for same-same?

conflict-collaborationFor proactive teams with business wins on the brain, leveraging the power of effective collaboration is essential to making the most of every day and every meeting. Embracing conflict in positive ways is a crucial part of effective collaboration, since the successful collision of ideas and perspectives is where something different and exciting can emerge.

How to handle conflict in a meeting for more effective collaboration

Embracing conflict in constructive ways and knowing how to handle a disagreement with a co-worker will pave the way for a culture in which effective collaboration and brilliant ideas can flourish. Here are some actionable ways to embrace constructive conflict for effective collaboration.

Same goals, same vision: Start and end the meeting with why you’re there

Humans have wandered the earth for a while—thankfully we figured out that after we put down all our pointy sticks and worked together, things were great! Whether we’re trading food and resources or sharing a patch of green, the genius of collaboration functions through working towards the same (or complementary) goals.

Often the key to embracing conflict in positive ways begins long before you’ve even opened your mouths. Effective meetings start and end with stating and then reiterating the broader objectives that bring everyone to the table. With a shared understanding of the goal and what’s at stake, the focus of conflict exploration and resolution shifts. It’s less about the preferences of individuals and more about the collective goal—and what’s best fit to pursue it.

Begin with a straightforward statement that poses the key question you’re trying to answer, in context of how it serves the business’ long-term goals. Conclude each meeting with a summary of the collective answer. Though the answer might not be definitive, more “work in progress,” it can and should give clarity on what are the next best steps.

Listen and always acknowledge the value of someone’s input, along with their goals and concerns

In sales, as in many industries and environments, there’s a misconception that the success of business negotiations depends on the ability of individuals to smooth talk and pitch fast. In reality, the opposite may well be the case.

A lot of people believe that selling requires being a fast talker, or knowing how to use charisma to persuade… In sales there’s a truism that ‘we have two ears and one mouth and we should use them proportionately.’” — Jon Berghoff, Quiet by Susan Cain

Through listening well, and thereby gleaning a better understanding of the concepts and concerns others are communicating, you’re better equipped to inform, persuade and encourage them. You’re conveying respect and building trust, through acknowledging the value each person brings. People want to be heard, so the question of how to handle conflict in a meeting is answered first and foremost through listening. Then the next best steps of approaching disagreement can go along the lines of:

I see what you mean when you say (POINT A)

That’s a great point, because it addresses (GOAL A) in these ways.

However, have we considered (POINT B)?

What would happen if we combined (POINT A) and (POINT B)?

It may help address (GOAL A) in these ways.

When there’s a clear purpose in place, and a healthy respect for individual contributions, a conflict of ideas within a meeting can produce new and even better ideas.

Encourage a culture where people invest time beforehand in their own ideas, before bringing them to the table

You know what they say about assuming… With too many assumptions operating, often unnoticed, it’s harder to break through perceptions of what is, to discover what could be. In many ways, innovation boils down to breaking assumptions and diving into unknown territory. One of the best ways to prevent assumptions getting in the way of effective collaboration and the flourishing of new ideas is through giving ideas the time they need to grow.

Encourage a culture where people bring their best ideas to the table—nothing half baked or based on pure gut instinct and assumptions. Provide the time for team members to ponder discussion points, research opportunities and connect the dots for themselves. This means what everyone brings to the table is less about assumption and more about facts—allowing for more constructive conflict.

This is where the humble agenda comes into play. A handy agenda arrives in advance and outlines the key purpose and discussion points of any meeting. When it’s time to roundtable, everyone knows what they can contribute and are equipped with know-how and insights to share.

Over to you

Truth is, everyday conflict is unavoidable, however chaos and drama are not. Through proactive measures to encourage thoughtful research and respectful discussion, you can embrace conflict in every meeting—to help ideas flourish in the best collaborative spaces. After all, some of the best innovation has occurred simply through teams approaching a perceived need or problem with a shared goal to answer it.

Many great ideas and breakthroughs were achieved without people worrying if they were innovative enough or not. They simply chose to try and solve a problem they or their customers cared about.” — Scott Berkun

What have you found helpful when figuring out how to handle conflict in a meeting?

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Category : Blog and Industry News

Simplified tax deduction available for planners with a home office

March 23rd, 2017 @

tax deductionsAs meeting planners or suppliers, some of you probably have a home office like I do. The IRS now offers a simplified method to give you a tax deduction for it. You might have heard something about the home office deduction in the past. And you may think this might lead to increasing your chances of an audit. As a result, you may not have looked into it even though it can save you money. It’s a popular myth that taking the home office deduction will lead to an audit—but let me give you some info about how the IRS views this deduction now.

In the past, this deduction was questioned a lot by the IRS, but we have Dr. Nader E. Soliman to thank for a change in heart by the IRS—that and the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the IRS in denying his deduction, but then the IRS came up with a simplified method for this deduction.

Beginning last year the IRS announced a new, simpler option to figure the business use of your home—but know that the rules are still the same for qualifying for the deduction regardless of the method chosen.

The rules

1. Regular and exclusive use

You must regularly use part of your home exclusively for conducting business. For example, if you use an extra room to run your business, you can take a home office deduction for that extra room.

2. Principal place of your business

You must show that you use your home as your principal place of business. If you conduct business at a location outside of your home, but also use your home substantially and regularly to conduct business, you may qualify for a home office deduction. For example, if you have in-person meetings with patients, clients or customers in your home in the normal course of your business, even though you also carry on business at another location, you can deduct your expenses for the part of your home used exclusively and regularly for business. You can deduct expenses for a separate free-standing structure, such as a studio, garage or barn, if you use it exclusively and regularly for your business. The structure does not have to be your principal place of business or the only place where you meet patients, clients or customers.

Additional tests for employee use

If you are an employee and you use a part of your home for business, you may qualify for a deduction for its business use. You must meet the tests discussed above plus:

  • Your business use must be for the convenience of your employer, and
  • You must not rent any part of your home to your employer and use the rented portion to perform services as an employee for that employer.

If the use of the home office is merely appropriate and helpful, you cannot deduct expenses for the business use of your home.

The good news

The IRS offers a rate of $5 per square foot of the part of your home used for business. The maximum footage allowed is 300 square feet. The means the most you can deduct is $1,500 per year. Not bad…and so, so simple. Almost no calculator needed to figure this out.

logicYou can choose either this simplified method or the old-fashioned actual expense method for any tax year. This means you can choose each year which method to use on your tax return. (But you cannot change methods in the same year though.)

This simplified option does not change the rules for who may claim a home office deduction; it merely simplifies the calculation and record-keeping requirements. The new option can save you a lot of time and will require less paperwork and record keeping.

You can use the simplified method when you file your 2016 tax return. You won’t need to calculate your deduction based on actual expenses, just multiply the square footage of your home office by the rate (up to the maximum allowed and take your deduction).

If you use the simplified method and you own your own home, you cannot depreciate your home office but you can still deduct other qualified home expenses, such as mortgage interest and real estate taxes without allocating these expenses between personal and business use on your Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. (If you use the actual expense method, you will need to allocate these expenses.)

You can still fully deduct business expenses that are not related to the home if you use the simplified method. These may include costs such as advertising, supplies and wages paid to your employees.

If you use more than one home with a qualified home office in the same year, you can use the simplified method for only one in that year. However, you may use the simplified method for one and actual expenses for any others in that year.

Also, did you know that storing materials in your garage—all those old business cards, floor layouts and vendor materials from a long, long time ago—all qualify for the home office deduction?

Here’s a comparison chart to help with the home office deduction

Simplified Option

Regular Method

Deduction for home office use of a portion of a residence allowed only if that portion is exclusively used on a regular basis for business purposes


Allowable square footage of home use for business (not to exceed 300 square feet)

Percentage of home used for business

Standard $5 per square foot used to determine home business deduction

Actual expenses determined and records maintained

Home-related itemized deductions claimed in full on Schedule A

Home-related itemized deductions apportioned between Schedule A and business schedule (Sch. C or Sch. F)

No depreciation deduction

Depreciation deduction for portion of home used for business

No recapture of depreciation upon sale of home

Recapture of depreciation on gain upon sale of home

Deduction cannot exceed gross income from business use of home less business expenses


Amount in excess of gross income limitation may not be carried over

Amount in excess of gross income limitation may be carried over

Loss carryover from use of regular method in prior year may not be claimed

Loss carryover from use of regular method in prior year may be claimed if gross income test is met in current year

Talk with your accountant to see if you qualify and if the new simplified method for deducting a home office is right for you. Or, check it out yourself by going to and getting publication 587, “Business Use of Your Home.”

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Category : Blog and Industry News

Weekly deals and highlights: March 22, 2017

March 22nd, 2017 @

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Simply complete the survey below and you’ll be entered into a random drawing for a New Braunfels Gift Basket.

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Category : Blog and Industry News