Federal Travel Restrictions Loosened

President Obama has released a memorandum lifting many of the restrictions in place surrounding federal employee attendance at conferences and events.

Since 2012, the process and conditions required for federal employees to gain approval to attend conferences prevented many from attending and properly doing their jobs. The reduction of 25 percent equated to a savings of $30 million.

While regulations will still be in place, the focus will be on federally sponsored or hosted events. Government agencies will now be held to accountability standards, which include publishing information on their public websites about conference attendance with an overall cost greater than $100,000. They must also include the  date and location of the conference, the number of staffers attending, total expenditures, and an explanation of how the event advanced the mission of the agency.

Agencies will now be able to pre-approve attendance at reoccurring events, allowing for the cost savings bonus of early registration discounts and advance travel arrangements. If a conference will cost more than $500,000 for an agency to attend, an agency official must document in writing why the event is the most cost-effective way to achieve the organization’s purpose.

The memorandum says government officials must continue to root out wasteful spending, but it hints at a lesson learned by agencies while they were subjected to such tight controls on conferences. “These changes incorporate the lessons learned over the past several years and recognize the resulting actions that agencies have taken during that time,” the memorandum says, though it also acknowledges that it has impeded the ability of employees to do their jobs to some extent. “These changes also respond to challenges agencies faced as a result of OMB Memorandum M-12-12, including reduced opportunities to perform useful agency functions, present scientific findings and innovations, train, recruit, and retain employees, or share best practices,” the document says.

What’s In and Out for 2017 Meetings

By Al Rickard, CAE

It’s a new year, and the meetings industry is looking ahead to what will make their events compelling in 2017.

Carrie Abernathy, CMP, CEM, CSEP, Director of Education & Events at Practice Greenhealth, predicts more “attendee engagement through technology. There will be a bigger focus on attendee ROI by connecting them to their peers and coaches/mentors and speakers at events. There will be a shift toward using technology to connect people, such as the launch of ‘Brain Dates’ at PCMA’s Convening Leaders. Attendees need to demonstrate immediate ROI when attending conferences and so planners are working to meet those needs.”

“One thing that will always be ‘in’ in the meetings industry is networking and the opportunity to learn from people in a live setting,” says Suzanne Berry, MBA, CAE, Senior Strategic Advisor to the CEO at the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. “You can’t duplicate that type of learning online and capture the insights and nuances of new ideas that you get at an in-person meeting.”

Suzanne and her husband, Peter, spent many years running an association management company and have run hundreds of meetings and seen the results they produce.

Peter Berry offers this thought on what’s “out” for meetings in 2017: “Loud music. People come to meetings to connect and talk to each other, so give them an opportunity to do that. Have the reception and dinner in a relatively quiet space and save the loud music for later at night for people who want to dance.”

Kristin Clarke, CAE, Executive Director of the American Physical Therapy Association Section on Women’s Health, notes, “Sustainability continues to be important operationally not only because of cost but even more so from the standpoint of organizational values and alignment with member expectations. With more than 75 percent of communities engaged in recycling, attendees notice if they can’t find an easy recycling bin or if you serve coffee to thousands using Styrofoam cups.”

What else can you expect to be “In” and “Out” in the meetings and travel industry? Here’s a snapshot:

In Out
Jeans and Casual Dress Neckties
Facebook Live Expensive Videos
Theater in the Round Lecterns and Podiums
Retargeting Ads Mass Marketing
Connection Receptions Sit-Down Dinners
GMO-Free Produce Processed Food
TSA Pre-Check Shoeless Airport Security Check
Calendar Appointment Requests Formal Invitations
Alexa Siri
Phone Alarm Alarm Clock
Real News Fake News

What would you add to the list? Leave a comment and let us know!

Al Rickard, CAE, is President of Association Vision, a Washington, DC-area communications company;arickard@assocvision.com.

The IMEX A to Z of 2017: 5 trends to watch as the year unfolds

2016 was no slouch of a year for the meetings industry nor, indeed, for the world at large. Dramatic forces were at play and many of us shared a sense that, even if we wanted to grasp the pace or nature of change taking place, we barely had the time or the head space to do so. 2016 was pivotal – and it felt like it.

Looking ahead to 2017, IMEX has identified five trends which, starting at A and ending at Z, are anything but simple or linear in the impact they’ll have on the meetings and events industry. In fact, we already predict that by 2018 ‘clarity’ will be the watchword of the moment.

AI & VR

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR) used to be the future. Then, over the last two years, the first VR headsets started to appear at IMEX (Frankfurt and America), with destinations and venues as the ‘early adopters’. By the end of 2016, both technologies had made the final transition from fringe to freely available. The future had arrived.

Grip, the world’s first artificial intelligence (AI) event networking solution won the #IMEXpitch at IMEX America in Las Vegas. Elsewhere, at IBM’s World of Watson conference, AI was the ‘driver’ of a 3D-printed, driverless minibus that toured the show floor, giving passengers restaurant recommendations.

In the world of virtual reality, WorldViz, a behind-the-scenes VR company that’s been working on large-scale, enterprise solutions, launched its new platform for business communication. The project, codenamed “Skofield”, allows remote users to make cross-platform presentations in VR.

Both AI and VR offer exciting new frontiers for suppliers in the meetings and events industry. Expect AI, and especially VR (not forgetting Augmented Reality), to capture both the imagination and the headlines in 2017.

Tech-connecting

One of the challenges of being at a large business event is the lingering sense that there are potential (and great) new contacts all around. But do we all identify, locate and then meet those new contacts? The rise of social media but, more importantly, of networking technologies and apps is fast changing our ability to satisfy that need. This urge to find and connect with ‘the right kind’ of each other at live events is what IMEX calls ‘finding your tribe.’

This trend is about both targeting and personalisation. Witness Loopd, winners of the 2015 IMEXpitch and (once again) Grip, the 2016 IMEXpitch winners. Equally, Zenvoy, partnered with IMEX to provide a pre, during and post-show ‘match-making’ service for buyers/attendees to meet or work with each other; a natural add-on to the show’s core appointment system, which enables buyers to meet with exhibitors.

Witness too the rise of snapchat and private messaging. Many of the big conversations at shows, conferences and other events are now happening online – and in private. Where social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram bring the immediate show experience – and audience feedback – to life in a dynamic way (especially with the advent of Facebook Live), Snapchat and private messaging services allow sub-groups and ‘tribes’ to find each other, talk and make plans in private.

As many of these tech-connecting services race to become the favourite, go-to brand of the moment, expect to see some triumph and scale up to great acclaim, while others simply don’t – or can’t – keep pace.

Disruption

‘Are PCOs and hotels prepared to manage the increasing disruption and challenges in accommodation services for international meetings?’ was the title of a hot-topic discussion at ICCA’s recent Conference in Kuching, Malaysia.

‘Increasing disruption’ aptly sums up the prevalence of disruptive forces not only in the meetings and events industry but also all around us. The ICCA discussion focussed on the impact of booking portals and event scammers with fake websites but Airbnb has similar potential to disrupt the traditional meetings space market.

‘Disruption’ could easily lay claim to being THE word of 2016.  Dr Kaihan Krippendorff’s PCMA Business School session at IMEX in Frankfurt – ‘The Outthinker Playbook – Devising Disruptive Strategies’ drew a large and eager audience, as did Jay Samit’s presentation ‘Disrupt You!’ at IMEX America 2016.

‘Disruption’ also describes the impact of unexpected political results in 2016 – namely Brexit and the U.S. Presidential election. Even though the fallout has so far been short-term, most organisations (in all industries worldwide) are on alert for the long-term consequences. Harking back to a favoured phrase from five or six years ago, 2017 heralds a sense that ‘disruption’ is set to be the ‘new normal’.

Unsubscribing
Last year at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference, Professor Sir Cary Cooper said a compulsion to deal with messages caused UK employees to become less productive than many of their international counterparts.

“For people to be working at night, weekends and holiday on emails is not good for the health of our country,” he told the BBC. “We need to ban emails [sent and received] within the same building,” he said, advocating instead for face-to-face meetings and phone calls.

Independent research by Atos Origin highlighted that the average employee spends 40% of their working week dealing with internal emails which add no value to the business.

Add to that newsletters, social media notifications and e-shots and it’s clear to see why many people are eager to seize back their time.  In effect, this trend is a flight towards more authentic and meaningful productivity.

Expect unsubscribes and opt-outs to rise as individuals reclaim their inboxes, their sanity and their time.

In turn, the purposeful creation and appreciation of ‘no-thing’ time (using planning approaches such as White Space) will win more and more fans in 2017.

Zs

Workplace demographic shifts really gathered pace in 2016, with Generation Z now heading over the horizon.  By the end of this decade Zs will account for around 20 per cent of the work force.

Born in the late 1990s onwards, Zs were the first to grow up with the Internet and portable technology at their fingertips, virtually from birth! According to various research reports, compared with those born in the 15 or so years before them – Generation Y, the Millennials – they are distinctly different (hence their disparaging, alternative label, ‘Generation Snowflake’…because every little snowflake is unique).

From a communications and meetings perspective, Zs are tech-intuitive, tech-based multi-taskers and good at online collaboration but tend to have weaker face-to-face and social skills, are liable to be distracted easily and have a short attention span.

According to the 2015 Way to Work survey by Adecco Staffing USA, as employees Zs want financial stability (a result of living through recession and the burden of student debt), a dream job, entrepreneurial opportunities, a flexible work-life balance, regular face-to-face mentoring and plenty of feedback from the boss. In pursuit of this they’re likely to job-hop in their early years.

As an event or meetings audience Zs are set to place strong, new demands on planners, venues and brands. Whether they prove to be high value or just high maintenance, 2017 should reveal all.

Tips to Manage Risk and Liability When Liquor Is Served

This is a reprint of some of our favorite tips to share during the holiday season. Enjoy and stay safe!

Lawyers will tell you whether you’re giving alcohol away or selling it at an event, anyone who has control over the facility or the event is typically liable if an intoxicated person causes bodily injury or property damage as a result of the liquor served at that event.

The good news is, provided the meeting planner isn’t pouring the drinks, they normally would not be at much risk of being held personally liable. When an employee is acting in the scope of their employment, liability usually rests with the employer, not the individual.

That good news, however, does not typically extend to independent meeting planners or third-party meeting planners who are independent contractors and not employees. In these instances, the meeting planner could be held liable along with the company, depending on the circumstances.

“The only way to eliminate liquor liability is to eliminate alcohol from your event,” says Marilyn Hauck, founder and president of The Complete Conference and a 20-year veteran in the meetings industry who plans, markets, and manages meetings and events of all sizes. “A non-alcohol event is often not an option, so the next best way to reduce your liability is to create an environment that discourages overdrinking.”

Hauck suggests these steps to take to keep your attendees from overindulging and to reduce liquor liability:

Give written instructions to bartenders not to serve persons who are either underage or noticeably intoxicated.

Establish a monitoring system to ensure that minors and intoxicated persons are not served alcohol.

• Designate someone from the planning team to refrain from drinking during the function to monitor the bartenders.

Avoid self-service bars and kegs of beer.

• Control the length of the cocktail reception and don’t announce last call.

• Always provide food and non-alcoholic beverages where alcohol is served.

Arrange transportation – or a place to stay – in advance.

Buy liquor liability insurance if your organization is the server or seller.

• Make sure the group has a standard operating procedure for handling attendees who have had too much to drink.

Since its inception in 1979, the mission of The Complete Conference, Inc., has been to develop and implement high quality cost-effective meetings with professionalism, integrity, customer satisfaction and dependability. The company can be reached at 916-922-7032 or info@completeconference.com.

What are some of your steadfast rules for such events? Maybe we will add your tips to the list!

Berlin Convention Office – We Know all About Arranging Meetings

berlin logoBerlin Convention Office – We know all about arranging meetings
The visitBerlin Berlin Convention Office (BCO) is the first go-to agency for event planners. The BCO offers comprehensive support for the organisation of conventions, meetings and incberlin photoentives in Berlin.Customers benefit from the experienced team, a vast network of contacts and the free-of-charge agency and reservation services for hotel allocations.

Learn more about Berlin.

Open for Business Today. Reimagined for Tomorrow.

Meeting planners are no strangers to the phenomenal sun, surf, and fine dining Miami Beach has to offer. An international, first-class destination, Miami Beach hosts world-renowned festivals such as Art Basel and Maison & Objet. What some might not know is that Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC) is reinventing itself right now.

The $500 Million Facelift.

Through municipal bonds, Miami Beach Convention Center is amidst a magnificent $592 million transformation. Reimagined as a state-of-the-art LEED-certified facility, it is accommodating and attracting new, international, and national events and conventions.

MBCC is open for business and will remain so during most of the process. Renovations will complete in 2018 and future bookings are filling quickly. Last year alone, more than 857,000 delegates met in Greater Miami and the Beaches, and as Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine says, the new facility will be a “center for creative collaboration.” Miami Beach is not only on a path keeping up with demands of a competitive national and international convention community – its new outdoor public spaces will improve walkability for everyone, connecting MBCC and the city’s adjacent historic cultural district and resorts.

-500,000 Square Feet of Exhibition Space
-190,000 Square Feet of Meeting Space
-A New 60,000 Square foot Grand Ballroom

Learn more about the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Meeting Planning Lessons from The Book of Mormon

What meeting planning lessons can we glean from the popular Tony-award-winning Broadway musical, The Book of Mormon?

Plenty, as it turns out.

At a learning lab at the ASAE 2016 Annual Meeting entitled, “What the Musical The Book of Mormon Taught Me About Association Management,“ seven association professionals used The Book of Mormon as a metaphor to offer association management lessons about leadership, membership recruitment, branding, social media, humor, diversity, and yes, meeting planning.

The session was created and moderated by Sheri Singer, president of Singer Communications, and drew about 500 attendees.

Tom Quash, CAE, Vice President, Marketing, Communications & Publications at the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN), encouraged session attendees to script an inspirational story at their conferences, much as the one of the lead characters in The Book of Mormon did as he worked to convert skeptical villagers in Uganda to the Mormon faith.

“At AWHONN, we celebrate the daily work of our nurses and underscore Connection — a core belief that we know our members value,” Quash explained. “We weave the connection messaging into social media, marketing, and speeches throughout the convention. You know the old adage about the elevator pitch: you must simply state your story and build your script around it.”

Cast of Characters

Next, consider your cast of characters.

“Who is responsible for telling your story at your convention?,” Quash asked. “The CEO? The Chair? Both? You can also have dual roles but they should be positioned purposefully and intentionally.”

He cautioned executives to not try to make a storyteller funny if that doesn’t mesh with their mission or style, and instead leverage the talents of each individual to create a great cast.

“Who can speak with authority when necessary?” he asked. “Who can add levity? Which speakers will best support the story? Does your cast represent a fair balance of your membership or constituents? How many industry partners should be represented? Have you considered diversity, in all its forms?”

Quash noted that at the end of a great play, it’s the cast that receives the hearty applause and the standing ovations.

“For example, think about your general session,” Quash suggested. “When that is over, you want your attendees to be touched or re-energized by what they have heard.”

Creating the Stage

“Does the décor on your main stage reflect your brand and your story?,” Quash asked. “Don’t overlook the opportunity to leverage staging, music and lighting to help create a theatrical experience. If you can, consider using what Broadway plays use all the time the ‘Wow’ factor. Think about the chandelier crashing in Phantom of the Opera–that’s a wow factor.

“You may not have a Broadway budget, but you can still make it theatrical. One year, we had a rock-and-roll pit band during the General Session instead of piped-in music. Another year, our Board Chair took the stage from the audience, rather than backstage, followed by dozens of student members to tell that year’s story of our commitment to the next generation,” Quash explained.

According to Quash, like it or not, your association is competing for attention with free and open access to online content, web-based communities, apps, streaming, Netflix, and even Pokemon Go.

“Your story and your stage cannot come across as stale or disconnected with the expectations or even demands of your members,” Quash said. “Your venue, the city, your networking events, your tradeshow, and more are all ‘stages’ for you to support the experience.”

Practice Makes Perfect

Quash is an advocate of dress rehearsals to make sure “the show” flows without a hitch.

“Rehearsals help determine if the timing is right,” he explained. “Are all the cues in place? Where will your VIPs sit? Are your presenters comfortable with their delivery?”

Quash says it’s also important to consider “what if?” scenarios and have a plan to act accordingly.

“What if a speaker doesn’t show up? What’s the plan to communicate this? What if the fire marshal is onsite and shuts down a room due to overcrowding? What if there’s a weather event that threatens the safety of your attendees?” he asked.

While Quash notes that you can’t plan for every conceivable scenario, you can be prepared for at least some unexpected developments.

Selling Your Show

You can’t start too early when it comes to selling your next conference, Quash declared.

“The selling starts at least a year in advance, at your current convention,” he believes. “While attendees are in the midst of a great experience, you want them to get excited for the following year. Talk up next year, as ASAE routinely does.”

Quash says at AWHONN they test story messages to determine what is resonating with their key audiences. They also explore new marketing platforms.

“Direct mail, email and advertising may be effective, but have you leveraged content marketing?” Quash queries. “Do you have a digital marketing strategy? Can you use your chapter or sections to act as champions? Are there bloggers that can help support the conference promotion? Don’t underestimate their reach and impact.”

Be sure that you provide your members, leaders and other stakeholders with the right tools to help you sell the show, Quash suggested.

“With a compelling story, great cast, inviting staging, detailed rehearsals and smart selling, you’ll create your very ownBook of Mormon – a theatrical, memorable experience for your members,” said Quash.

Al Rickard, CAE, is President of Association Vision, a Washington, DC-area communications company, and serves as Director of Communications for ConventionPlanit.com.

SPINCon – An Educational and Entertaining Conference

Leave it to SPIN (Senior Planner Industry Network) to design a conference that both educates and entertains its members!

From the entirely novel concept of a “Sponsor Selfie Trade Show” to Beach Blanket Bingo as an after reception activity, SPINCon 2016, held Nov.13-15 in Fort Lauderdale, had  its attendees actively engaged.

ConventionPlanit.com is proud to be a Strategic Partner of this innovative organization, and  thus we found Maureen Pickell and Sandra Reed of CP.com rounding out the exclusive group of suppliers participating in the event.

Not surprising was the large number of CP.com members including the Newport Beach, Anchorage, Bellevue, Little Rock, Branson, Providence Warwick, Grand Rapids and Wisconsin Dells CVB’s who support the organization.

Maureen Pickell, CTC, receiving the royal treatment at SPINCon

Maureen Pickell, CTC, receiving the royal treatment at SPINCon

And SPIN really treats their sponsors like royalty as you can see by the tiara worn by Maureen as she helps to organize the Networking CSR Activity!

Education partnered with wellness to play key roles in the program.

Tracts were designated by Brain, Body, Being and Business Sessions with topics ranging from” Surviving Life” and “Entrepreneur Forum” to “RFP is Not a Dirty Word” and “No Diet Equals Freedom!.”

Breaks offered Cucumber and Carrots Edamame Humus Shooters and meeting rooms provided roomy couches as well as high top tables for comfortable learning.

Ft. Lauderdale (Meet Sunny) CVB and the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa did a great job of welcoming those from northern climes with a spectacular sunrise Monday morning serving as the backdrop for an Oceanside breakfast.

Attendees enjoy an ocean side breakfast

Attendees enjoy an ocean side breakfast

200 attendees were greeted by the SPIN logo highlighted in the sand and waves lapping on the beach as they started the day.

The SPIN Logo in the sand

The SPIN Logo made its mark on Fort Lauderdale!

As a first timer to this conference, your intrepid blogger is anxious to repeat the experience and looks forward to SPINCon 2017!!