Archive for the 'Meetings' Category

12
May
15

Left brain vs. right brain: Which wins the event planning game?

Brain hemispheres sketchSo apparently I’m right brained. At least according to this test.

I guess that’s not surprising considering I’m a writer. But I’m also extremely detail-oriented and analyze everything, so I think I’m a good mix. Yeah. I’ll go with that.

While most people think with mostly their left side or mostly their right side, it’s crucial to have a bit of both.

And so, I encourage you to take the aforementioned into account after reading this sentence: New research by London and Partners, the official convention bureau of London, and MICEBOOK.com indicates that event planners aren’t as creative as they thought.

Yep. Research suggests the event management industry is filled with left-brained thinkers.

Samantha Whitehorne recently wrote an enlightening Associations Now blog post on the research. And I encourage you fellow right-brain thinkers to get a chuckle from it.

For the study, more than 400 event planners had their brains analyzed to see if they’re more “rationale left brained” or “emotional right brained” thinkers. And while most felt they performed their jobs creatively, only 39 percent were indeed considered creative thinkers.

Maybe that’s because, according to the study, only 34 percent of respondents said they’re given time to think out of the box and only 32 percent said creativity is rewarded. Furthermore, more than half of the respondents said the budget just didn’t support risk taking.

2000px-Rubik's_cube.svg“Ours is an industry within which logic and in-depth planning are absolutely critical to successful outcomes,” said Tracy Halliwell, director of business tourism and major events at London and Partners. “Creativity and innovation are growing ever more important as clients demand event activations that set them apart from their competitors and deliver enduring memories for consumers. The experience itself is now what drives the event, but it’s only by combining pioneering ideas with concrete solutions that we can truly surprise and delight.”

So what does the right brain vs. left brain debate mean for event planning?

Here’s a good summary from Cathy Key in a recent Event Manager blog post:

Left-brained people tend to be detail oriented and thrive on data. So event ROI is important. Also, they don’t like to take risks, so most likely, they’ll create a road map for events.

In contrast, right-brain thinkers bring to the table a flare for ingenuity and creativity. They look at the big picture and thrive on feedback and emotion to measure success. Event ROI is less important to right-brain people, who are willing to trust their gut instinct.

“While we need the analysis and fact-finding powers of the left brain, when it comes to motivating our team, ourselves and our attendees, we need right-brain thinking,” Key wrote. “We need to have an emotional connection to our events if we are going to really enjoy our work. When we are connected to WHY we are involved with an event, working late nights and pulling out all the stops is natural. Without the WHY all you have is hard work.”

Another way to look at it: The left side of the brain sets the goals and the right side finds the purpose.

creativity2But a good event planner needs to think with both sides of the brain. While creativity reaps huge rewards, we need left-brain thinkers to keep us in check. And so, event management teams should comprise both types of thinkers.

“While time constraints and restricted budgets can sometimes hinder creativity, a balance is always needed between the creative and the logical,” said Chetan Shah, founder and CEO of MICEBOOK.com. “Great teams bring together a mix of personalities, approaches to work and creative or logical attributes. Whether someone is left or right-brained, their attributes and strengths should be encouraged and nurtured to ensure their events are spectacular, both rationally and emotionally.”

Take the test and let us know. Are you left- or right-brained?

05
May
15

20 reasons to book within the official group block

PS_Hotel_KingRoom_newWith unprecedented access to vacation rentals through websites like airbnb and VRBO, as well as the availability of discount hotel stays through websites like Priceline and Orbitz, it’s no wonder organizations are having difficulty filling their group room blocks during in-person meetings, conventions and exhibitions.

A quick survey of industry professionals via ASAE’s Collaborate turned up the following 20 reasons (in no particular order) for booking within the official group block. Consider customizing this list and sharing it with your members and attendees via marketing materials (e.g., brochure, website and social media) prior to your next big event.

  1. Official hotels are inspected by the organization prior to your arrival.
  2. Greater informal networking opportunities exist in hotels within the group block (as this is where a majority of attendees are staying and frequenting).
  3. It will take you less time to travel from the meeting to your hotel room, making it easier for you to adjourn to your room to nap or work during down time.
  4. The important announcements and information the organization may need to share with attendees when they check-in are provided only at those hotels within the group block.
  5. Any room drops arranged by the organization or its exhibitors are only available to those staying at hotels within the group block.
  6. The organization is able to conduct high-quality meetings at desirable sites for a reasonable registration fee because a significant block of hotel rooms is reserved for meeting attendees.
  7. Friendly booking terms (e.g., no full pre-payment) are negotiated as part of the organization’s hotel contract.
  8. Meeting attendees receive a reduced rate (negotiated by the organization) for their sleeping rooms.
  9. Low group rates are guaranteed prior to the established cut-off date and are usually extended three days pre- and post-event.
  10. Attendees receive the negotiated benefits and amenities contracted for the group room block (e.g., fitness center or bottled water).
  11. Reservations within the group block are protected from hotel relocation (also known as walking).
  12. Complimentary shuttle service may be provided (e.g., to/from the airport, conference center or local attractions).
  13. The size of the official room block determines priority status for function space. By booking rooms outside the block, the organization may not get its preferred dates/function space on a first option basis.
  14. green_moneyIn exchange for filling the required number of sleeping rooms, the organization is permitted to use the hotel’s meeting space at no/reduced cost.
  15. The organization is penalized financially for not filling a minimum number of contracted sleeping rooms.
  16. Securing a smaller room block makes it more difficult for the organization to gain favorable hotel services, concessions and function space both this year and in future years at new/different properties.
  17. The hotel provides certain concessions to the organization based on filling the group room block (which help to offset registration rates).
  18. Helping the organization meet its room block obligation allows the event to earn reductions toward the overall master bill (e.g., comp rooms, commissions or rebates.)
  19. Future housing and registration rates can remain low when a majority of attendees book within the official group block.
  20. Booking within the group block is the right thing to do both to support the organization and to ensure the event remains financially viable.

Tell us in the comments what other reasons for booking within the official group block you would add to this list.

28
Apr
15

Good news foodies: Conference venues are listening

small_plates_of_foodAt a conference dinner earlier this month, a bunch of us, hungry and tired, sat at the table joking that chicken was most likely on the menu.

And it was. But we had salmon, too. And vegetables, rolls, rice, salad and dessert. Sounds about right for a conference, yes?

So imagine our surprise when the rest of the meals didn’t consist of the typical conference grub, but instead included fancy finger foods, fresh vegetables, flavorfully spiced meats and beautiful presentation. It was straight out of Pinterest or my “Cooking Light” magazine.

For the most part, everything was fairly healthy (except for the desserts). But more importantly: There were options.

According to a new list by International Association of Conference Centres, such palate-pleasing spreads will soon be the norm.

The global organization recently released its Top 10 Conference Food and Beverage Trends for 2015, and healthy tops the list. Farm-to-food eating is gaining popularity across the globe, so conference venues are taking note.

“Recently, there has been an enormous shift toward health and the impact that food can have on concentration and productivity,” said Mark Cooper, CEO of IACC. “The trends identified in our research take this knowledge to the next level and will help meeting planners to deliver the ultimate experience when it comes to catering for conferences.”

Here’s IACC’s list:

  1. Local is everything – The importance of adding a local feel to meetings has been identified as a major trend, as attendees want to experience as much as they can about the area they’re visiting for their meeting or event.
  2. Network your heart out – Small plates of food, continuously served in a reception format, add a nice break to an extended event. Another popular choice is to hold a more substantial networking-friendly dining reception midway through your event, as it provides a great way for guests to meet up in a causal environment and build relationships while enjoying great food and beverage.
  3. Small is the new big – Bite-sized desserts have overtaken larger portions in popularity. Conference delegates are turning their backs on the big slice of cake and heading instead for the signature bite-size desert station. Warm house-made donuts, chocolate truffles, French macaroons, mini cupcakes and house-made cookies are top of the list for planners.
  4. In with flavor, out with fats – Healthy choices don’t need to resemble rabbit food. Conference chefs are increasingly working with exciting new ingredients, including whole grains, protein alternatives (quinoa, amaranth, tofu, beans), green vegetables (kale, spinach), low fat and low-sugar foods that sound, look and taste great.
  5. Making and breaking bread together – Nothing brings the team together more than food. Having the opportunity to cook with someone can unveil a new hidden talent not seen in an office environment or company outing.
  6. Contrasting environments – Utilizing outside space to create a change in scenery and a casual dining experience will revitalize attendees, especially during multi-day meetings and events.
  7. Finale, not gala – Make sure the last night of your event has all the components to create a dynamic environment and brings people together to celebrate the end of a great conference. Be creative and choose your room seating layout and dining style to deliver that finale.
  8. Theatricality – Adding a chef-run interactive station can also highlight the menu with fresh prepared items (Panini, clubhouse or slider). Remember to ask for gluten-free options.
  9. Go micro for max effect – With the explosion in microbreweries offering brews that appeal to all tastes, ask your conference planner if he or she can make pre-dinner drinks a local affair.
  10. Infused tea cocktails – The English drink a lot of it and now the world has caught on to the latest trend: infused tea cocktails. Combine this with trend nine and you can have a double brew at your next reception.

NXT-CRAFTYBEERDRINKER-TBFood and drink bring people together. Case in point: Think about your last gathering. Did everyone congregate around the food, in the kitchen?

Try to create those same casual, memorable experiences at your next gathering. While education and professional development will draw your participants to your event, networking – especially over crisp wine and trendy appetizers – will bring them back.

17
Mar
15

Your next event needs its own War Room

This month’s guest blog post is by Jordan McArthur, content marketing manager and event tech specialist at Guidebook Inc., which specializes in providing app technology for events. It was originally posted on the Guidebook Resources blog.

Jordan McArthur

Jordan McArthur, content marketing manager and event tech specialist at Guidebook Inc.

As we discuss ways to make events extremely personal and give our attendees true experiences that exceed their expectations, it’s hard not to wonder, “What do the actual logistics of something like that that look like?”

That’s where the concept of The War Room comes into play. That’s right – we’re talking about a central command center where all hell can break loose if it needs to. Just like in the movies.

A war room might be metaphorical at your next event – the name of your emergency game plan, for instance – but we’re suggesting you strongly consider an actual room. Choose somewhere out of the way – a utility closet, a hotel room, a conference room in the next building over – where a team of first-responders can work without the distractions of the event floor.

You’ll also want to make sure you’ve limited access to (and knowledge of) the room itself. This is not the place for the CEO – that will only cause major distractions and may entirely derail the whole operation.

Let’s be clear what we’re creating here. A war room exists at your event for the benefit of your participants. It is solely focused on making sure that the product you’re providing them is seamless, meaningful and tailored to their specific needs. A war room is a nerve center that can immediately and efficiently address the needs of your attendees and/or exhibitors, and it has grown out of an ever-growing expectation that events and meetings will be engaging, dynamic experiences.

Let’s take a look at the type of war room you might want to set up at your next event.

The Social Media Command Center

Your event will be social whether you plan for it or not. The fact of the matter is that people talk about their experiences on social media – all of their experiences.

Establishing a Social Media Command Center means that you’ve embraced social and taken a proactive role in guiding the conversation, rather than falling victim to it.

Talk to your participants

Conversation tracking can be done as simply as establishing an event hashtag to as robustly as using detailed visualization software (such as Buzz Radar). The key, however, is staffing people who are primed to respond no matter the circumstances.

Negative social conversation can alert you to a small problem before it becomes a big problem. For example, your attendees are likely to be the ones to tell you first if it’s too cold in the keynote. People may be discussing confusing traffic patterns or a lack of trash cans – all things that can easily be remedied.

But just as important as tracking the negative is responding to the positive. Liking, commenting on, favoriting and retweeting sentiments from your attendees will create a positive feedback loop and encourage more and more of your attendees to join in on the love fest – and that’s good for you, your brand and your ROI.

PrintCustomize your content

Now here’s where you can really take things to the next level. What if the social conversation started shaping the content of your event? With your Social Media Command Center in place, you have the ability to start dynamically integrating your attendees’ real time conversations into the event itself.

Knowing what’s being said means that a mainstage presentation can suddenly become interactive with immediate audience feedback – or that you could actually start shaping content on the fly based on what people want to hear about. Let your attendees vote on a session’s topic, or really live on the edge and leave a blank spot in your speaker schedule to develop a day-of session based on hot topics at the event. At the very least, curate the best of your social shares on a large screen in plain view so that people are inspired to join in.

The Crisis Management Center

There are going to be mistakes and mess-ups. Let’s all just admit that now and move on with figuring out the best way to handle them.

A Crisis Management Center is the most covert of all the war rooms. Its existence is known to few, and some of your most trusted people are there to make sure that anything that goes wrong is immediately taken care of in a way that draws little to no attention.

A Crisis Management Center will need a direct line of communication with the show floor. (May we suggest the app Voxer?) Once they’ve been linked in to monitoring the most important aspects of the event – time, flow, social, etc. – they should have the authority to make judgment calls as incidents arise.

One of the most powerful responsibilities of the Crisis Management Center will be the ability to actually change the program of your event. It may be as simple as a session time change, but it could be as complex as scheduling a completely new session and alerting attendees of its existence.

For this reason, it’s imperative that the Crisis Management Center has access to updating your event app. By doing so, attendees will always have the most up-to-date information and the team can send push messages as necessary to alert folks of the changes.

The Concierge Center

War rooms aren’t just for immediate reactions and handling problems – they’re also great for making the experience of your event excellent for everyone involved. A proactive mindset can go a long way toward making sure your participants are receiving the personal, experiential treatment.

Happiness on-demand

One possibility for a Concierge Center would be to create an on-demand service for your exhibitors using your event app. It’s inevitable that someone’s going to forget his or her charger or need a roll of duct tape. Allow yourself to save the day by being the provider of such things. Create a feedback form within your app where exhibitors can request commonly misplaced or forgotten items.

You could even take a cue from Uber and deliver fun items for a much-needed mid-show reprieve. Uber made headlines with its insanely popular kitten delivery and on-demand ice cream. Just imagine the wave of positive feelings that instant chocolate delivery would induce in your exhibitors, all at a relatively low cost to you.

banner_customer_serviceContests with purpose

Contests are a great way to get people engaging as well. You might try gamifying your event app in order to get people to follow a particular pattern around your show floor. Another option is to gather prizes beforehand that you know you will give away during the event. Then use your Concierge Center to identify certain objectives you would like people to complete and offer prizes for doing so. Use this to bring foot traffic to a dead area or engage with a sponsor that’s not getting enough love. It’s all about flexibility.

Unparalleled experience

The bottom line is that personalized events take resources. It’s going to cost you a little time, money and manpower to pull off any sort of hyper-personal experience. The payoffs in participant happiness and ROI, however, will be well beyond the upfront costs. Consider the war room structure at your next event and you’ll be looking at unprecedented satisfaction.

03
Mar
15

11 ideas for partnering with local venues

UnknownWhen’s the last time this happened to you? There’s a highly recommended, world-class speaker you’d like to feature at an upcoming program. She’s perfect for your event in every way, except for the associated price tag. After much negotiation, you’re able to secure the “friends and family” discount; however, it’s still more than you’ve budgeted.

If your meeting comprises a qualified audience of planners or other decision-makers, you might consider an in-kind sponsorship with a local hotel or conference center. Following are 11 ideas for partnering with local venues:

  1. Select three venues that might like to showcase their property and reach out to them directly with the understanding that this partnership will be secured on a first-come, first-served basis
  2. Allow venue to give tours/sales kits following the program
  3. Encourage two to three venue staff to participate in the program and to be available during registration, breaks and meal functions to engage with attendees
  4. Recognize venue as the title sponsor in promotional materials (e.g., print, website, social media, magazine, email)
  5. Give venue a couple of complimentary registrations to parcel out to potential clients; venue could make these VIP experiences with a complimentary overnight and breakfast before/after the program
  6. Give venue the complete participant list before/after the program
  7. Allow participants to register at a discounted rate if they complete a brief meetings portfolio survey that is then shared with the venue
  8. Allow venue to set up a booth near registration
  9. Allow venue a three-minute introduction, video or slideshow to kick-off the program
  10. Encourage venue to host breakfast/lunch; during this time, a venue representative should be assigned to each round to meet and engage with participants
  11. Ask venue what other deliverables they would like to receive [perhaps association-related products and services] and do your best to share whatever you can

What other ideas do you have for successful partnerships between venues and associations?

10
Feb
15

Our screwed up thinking about creating conference experiences

This month’s guest blog post is by Jeff Hurt, executive vice president of education and engagement for Velvet Chainsaw Consulting. It was originally posted on Jan. 28.

Jeff Hurt

Jeff Hurt, executive vice president, education and engagement, for Velvet Chainsaw Consulting. Photo courtesy of Jeff Hurt.

As conference organizers, we need to learn about the power of experience.

Well, we already know about experiences. We have them all the time.

We’ve had experiences with our families and friends. We’ve had experiences with work. We’ve had school experiences. We’ve had experiences with institutions and organizations. We’ve had vacation experiences.

Unfortunately, we’ve made some very faulty assumptions from our own experiences. And we’ve even institutionalized some defective planning processes based on those experiences and what serves us best in our practice. Not what serves our paying attendees best.

For instance, we assume that if we secure experts to tell attendees what to believe, attendees will believe it.

Then we expect that attendees will adopt the experts’ beliefs as their own. Thus, those beliefs result in actions that lead to positive results. So attendees leave our conferences changed for the good.

All attendees have to do is register, pay, show up, sit quietly and listen. The rest occurs like a magical mental assembly line.

But that’s not how it works! At all! Ever! I mean infinity-ever!

The truth about experiences

Our experiences actually form our beliefs.

Our beliefs form our actions.

Our actions create results.

Our family experiences shape our beliefs about family. Our school experiences shape our beliefs about education. Our relationships form our experiences about friendship and love.

Our own past experiences shape how we plan and create conferences. We bring our beliefs from our experiences with other institutions into our conference planning process.

Our own beliefs of what a conference should look and feel like actually limit our ability to create authentic, engaging new experiences. And in doing so, we have created experiences that now frame how our attendees view conferences.

rear-view-mirrorLooking back to move forward

We need to explore why attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, volunteer leaders, conference planning teams and conference hosts feel the way they do about conferences.

We’ve got to understand how we got where we are today.

It’s only in looking back that we can move forward. Then we can point to where we need to change directions. Then we can create new archetypes for exemplary experiences.

At its core, conferences are about people. Regular conference attendees perceive other conference attendees through interactions at the conference. The power of experience reveals a lot.

Turning nostalgic down conference lane

Let’s take a nostalgic mental journey down conference lane.

Visualize yourself walking down a traditional city street lined with various buildings. Each structure houses a different institution.

What do you see? Which of these buildings might be the perfect metaphor to describe your conference?

  • The Theater
  • The Boarding School
  • The Rigorous Academic Ivy League University
  • The Library Of Yesteryear
  • The Police Department
  • The Mayor’s Office
  • The Funeral Home
  • The Quaint Archaic Museum
  • The Political Action Committee
  • The Courthouse
  • The Church Or Synagogue
  • The Sports Stadium
  • The Department Store
  • The Local Bar And Pool Hall
  • The Mall

What type of city building best describes your current conference experience? What type of metaphor would you like to describe your future conference experience?
Editor’s Note: We encourage you to visit the original blog post to leave your comments to Jeff’s post!

03
Feb
15

A night away? We sure did pay.

detail-of-young-businesswoman-opening-door-to-hotel-room-with-key-card-2The last time I booked a weeklong family vacation, I was shocked at the prices of hotel rooms. We weren’t looking for anything fancy, but those prices sure did crimp our style.

And we’re not the only family of five suffering from hotel sticker shock.

According to a new report by STR Inc., a hospitality research firm, hotel rates in 2014 were the highest they’ve ever been, with an average of $115 per night – that’s a 4.6 percent climb. And rates are expected to rise an additional 5.2 percent by the end of this year.

In addition, according to a LA Times story, this year hotels will tack on guest charges, such as early check-in fees.

According to the STR report, New York City boasted the highest room rates in 2014, where hotel guests paid an average of $263 a night. The next three top-dollar locations: Oahu Island in Hawaii ($221 a night), San Francisco ($207) and Miami ($185). And Nashville, Denver and Atlanta were the hotspots for revenue growth in 2014.

Not surprisingly, higher-than-history hotel rates translate into unprecedented revenue for hotels. On average, they netted about $74 per room.

But even though hotels are earning more profit, guests shouldn’t expect a break, said Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management.

On the contrary, hotels may very well implement new fees this year, such as a charge for requesting a specific type of room, he said.

All this said, consumers don’t seem to mind, which is good news for event planners.

Money in the form of many large billsDuring 2014, hotels sold more rooms than ever (1.1 billion), according to Hotel News Now. In fact, the occupancy rate in 2014 rose 3.6 percent to 64.4 percent. Atlanta and Denver experienced the highest jumps in occupancy rates, according to the report.

“The U.S. hotel industry experienced a great year and ended 2014 on a positive note,” said Amanda Hite, president and COO of STR Inc. “The year’s performance broke several records thanks to continued strong demand.”

So what does this mean for your organization as it plans events for 2015? It looks like your guests could be paying more. The STR report indicated group rates rose as well, and with higher occupancy rates, it could be harder to book affordable rooms for your event.

All the more reason for your organization to take another look at the ROI of its events. If people will be forced to pay more for their rooms, they’ll want more from their programming – and perhaps expect you to offset the increase with a less expensive event.

Oh. And it seems three event hotbeds – Miami, Denver and Atlanta – may crimp your style. Will this lead to more events in smaller, less desirable cities? Time will tell, so stay tuned.




meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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