Saturday, March 9, 2019

Why I’m So Jazzed About Blockchain

It’s 7:32 and my son’s school starts at 8:15. I'm trying to squeeze in a doctor’s appointment for him. Instead of being greeted by the receptionist like we were supposed to, however, we’re sitting in the parking lot of an empty office building. My son, seven-years-old, wants to know what’s going on. I envision the doctor, nurse and everyone circling around the waiting room waiting for me and my son, wondering what to do with this coveted spot reserved for us, perhaps give it to a parent who cares.

I look down at my phone at the address on Google maps. It is one of those instances where reality and technology are blending. I’m not sure which to believe. How could this happen? I dial the number listed next to the address.
“How did this happen?” I ask the receptionist. "There's nothing here."
"We’ve moved."
My son and I arrive twenty minutes late. It seems she's already heard about their listing on Google maps and takes her headset off. “Upper management has been in touch with them more than once and have been unable to resolve the issue."
With that answer, the issue has been put back on my plate. I put my elbow down on the counter and lean across so we’re looking more eye to eye. I wear an imaginary upper management hat. I tell her I understand how it could happen. I know from my years in the publishing business how hard it is to keep information up to date.
After a few minutes, I let her in on what I think the answer is.
"What?" she asks.
"Blockchain. It's time to join a blockchain," I repeat. I stand straight up and look around before taking a breath wondering if I could even explain blockchain.
I'm still thinking that personal experience is the best type of research while striking up a conversation with the barista wearing a green apron behind the counter at Starbucks.
I mention the 4500 stars that’s supposed to come with the Starbucks credit card I signed up for and ask what it will get me.
She spins around and a manager steps forward. “36 food or drink rewards.” 

“Any food or drink?”
I smile. “Do you mind if I take a picture?”
“Wouldn’t it better to trade?” I ask after snapping a picture.
“What if I could use the rewards for my trip or an Uber ride. I could trade my 36 Starbucks sandwiches," I said. "You can only eat so much."
There is a hint of recognition and smile, a bit of excitement.
“A blockchain would make short work of this possibility.”
He stays with me a moment longer but I can tell I’ve lost him, because he’s picking up the crate and talking to another person in line.
“Maybe I’m just not in the mood for more Starbucks – or magazines – or Walmart or whoever is offering rewards,” I say over the glass display case with cake pops on top.
No one else seems to be listening. A person politely circles around me.
I look back up the line in search of possible converts, blockchain developers, marketing professionals. There's a few millennials glued to their phones.
It’s not either of these uses that got me started on blockchain in the first place. I see it as a way to help meeting planners, the bane of my existence. As amazing as they are, meeting planners are some of the most uptight people because the deck is so stacked against them.
When I started in this business, event planners, hoteliers and convention bureaus worked together using fax machines. They would send in completed forms to check for hotel and even city-wide availability. Twenty years later, they are using the same survey forms, except they are being filled out online. They must send in their RFP form and wait. There is no way for meeting planners or convention bureaus to see availability otherwise. 

Yes, technology has made it is easier to send a half-dozen or dozen requests for pricing at once, but this has just clogged the system. This is a big reason so many meeting planners rely on third-party intermediares for help. 
With a blockchain, a convention bureau or meeting planner could check availability and return to their boss with an honest answer – in seconds. They could do their job so much better. With a blockchain, loyalty rewards could be used by meeting planners in a variety of new ways - like rewarding attendees who book within the official room block with offers they can use at any of the hotels or airlines even. Negotiating time would be cut way down with contracts that don’t have to be reviewed every time a group books. They could be stored on the blockchain ledger, immutable, there for all to see. Imagine the hours this would save and the free flow of commerce if meeting planners could explore prices with a few clicks and see what a hotel, convention center or city even has available.
So it’s not just for my own reasons that I’m so jazzed about blockchain. There are hundreds of reasons.
END: This piece originally appeared on LinkedIn -