Author Archives: Ashley Chalmers

About Ashley Chalmers

Hi there! Your blog moderator is Ashley Chalmers, the Director of Operations for ConventionPlanit.com. ConventionPlanit.com is a free search directory, offering property information and allows planners to send RFPs easily (without any hidden fees or commissions). Planners are guaranteed to receive responses to their RFPs within 24 hours!

I’d love to hear from the readers of this blog – I encourage comments on posts, post ideas, and conversation. I can be reached at ashley@conventionplanit.com.

Planners Helping Planners: Green Meetings

Welcome to a new series on the blog where your meeting planning questions and dilemmas are answered by experts – other meeting planners! Comment below with your own questions. 

Q: How can I make my meetings more environmentally friendly?

A: To always be prepared, create an event kit to bring on site. 

Visit the Green Meetings Resource section on ConventionPlanit.com.

This resource section is full of information specific to meeting planners on how to make your meetings more environmentally friendly. Venues are getting on board, too – when searching on ConventionPlanit.com, check off the green initiatives box to view properties committed to improving their environmental footprint.

Selecting the Right Venue for your Meeting

The most important step before selecting a location or venue is to understand the overall goals, objectives and outcomes desired at the end of your conference.  Is the purpose to incentivize or reward?  Is the goal to strategize and plan? Or, is the goal to educate and train?  The answer to these questions may assist your organization to select the right type of venue and location.  Though budget is always a factor; the desired outcomes should be the first consideration.

Cities and resort destinations are often the first locations considered for sales launches and incentive trips.  These destinations are convenient to attractions, dining and shopping.  If building a cohesive sales team is important to your organization, then perhaps other destinations and venue types should be explored.  Conference centers are often overlooked because they do not provide a traditional hotel experience.

Most conference centers are dedicated only to meetings.  Your attendees are not competing for attention with other leisure travelers and non-meeting guests.  If your conference center is a member of   IACC, the International Association for Conference Centers, then that conference center has implemented a set of benchmarks within their venue to reflect the highest standards, facilities, technology, and are modeled with strong corporate social responsibility in mind.  Conference centers simplify the buying process through offering a CMP, or Complete Meeting Package, to encompass meals, breaks, meeting room rentals, basic a/v and internet.  Many items such as executive board chairs often come standard.  Less add-on fees and fewer hidden charges are assessed.

Conference Centers provide an environment for learning, networking, and team building.  The open spaces and wide variety of meeting and event space provide near limitless opportunities for you to create a meeting that achieves your objectives while creating a memorable and meaningful program for your attendees.

Content courtesy of The National Conference Center  

Behind the Scenes with The National Conference Center

In only 18 months, one of America’s largest conference centers is emerging with a striking new design, revamped services and facilities and a fresh new branding strategy. The multimillion dollar project has transformed the 65-acre campus and its six connected buildings into a warm, functional and cohesive complex, elevated by a brilliant and inspiring design.

“We are extremely proud that this challenging task was accomplished so quickly,” says Geoff Lawson, general manager of The National Conference Center and West Belmont Place. “It is certainly a record in the conference center industry.”

With Management oversight provided by LaKota Hotels & Resorts, The National Conference Center is one of the largest meeting, training and event centers in the nation and the largest on the East Coast.  The property is located on a 65-acre campus just outside Washington, DC, in Leesburg, Virginia, just 12 miles from Washington Dulles International Airport.

“The National” provides 1.3 million interior square feet in six connected buildings. It houses 917 guestrooms, and over 265,000 square feet of meeting and group function space. Supporting outlets include a 900-seat Dining Room, the 200-seat Black Olive Bar & Grill and other new guest-centric outlets creating a warm and engaging atmosphere. Learn more.

Planners Helping Planners: Your Questions Answered

Welcome to a new series on the blog where your meeting planning questions and dilemmas are answered by experts – other meeting planners! Comment below with your own questions. 

Q: What should I include in an emergency kit?

A: To always be prepared, create an event kit to bring on site. 

Items to include: batteries, flashlight, markers, tape measure, cell phone charger, assorted cables, assorted charging cords, extension cords, flash drives, post it notes, stapler, tape, shipping labels, box cutters, and a basic first aid kit

Submitted by: Kim Marenus, Director of Events, City Chic Events

Meeting Planner Summer Camp

Learn and play with a purpose at the Reston Herndon Meeting Planners (RHMP) summer camp 2017!

The camp takes place on July 27th in Leesburg, VA and will have lots of fun, professional development training, and the opportunity to learn about managing interactive traditional and non-traditional meetings.

The event is free to planners!

To register and additional details, visit http://www.rhplanners.info/

Prague Wins the Prestigious Top Meeting Destination Award Again

Representatives of the Prague Convention Bureau received the 2016 Top Meeting Destination award at the annual Conventa trade fair in Ljubljana, Slovenia on January 18, 2017. The prize is awarded by Slovenian Kongres magazine to the destinations from Central and South East Europe region since 2011, in accordance with the evaluation based on destination’s infrastructure, marketing activities and other indexes. Prague thus follows up on its achievements in previous years: the city occupied the second position in the Meeting Star contest twice, and in 2013 it even won the first prize.

The Kongres magazine expert jury evaluated 68 destinations from 19 countries of the Central and South East Europe region, based on the following criteria: natural and cultural factors, general and transport infrastructure, tourist infrastructure, meetings infrastructure, marketing buzz, ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association) index, quality of life index, global peace index, and subjective grade. The top grade for each assessed section was 5.

The Czech metropole received the overall destination grade of 4.51 from the expert jury. The overall grade is a result of combination of the following individual grades:

  • natural and cultural factors: 4.54
  • general and transport infrastructure: 4.59
  • tourist infrastructure: 4.90
  • meetings infrastructure: 4.65
  • marketing buzz: 4.85
  • ICCA index: 4.12
  • quality of life index: 4.10
  • global peace index: 4.25
  • subjective grade: 4.61

In the top 5 ranked also: Istanbul on the second place with the grade of 4.39; Budapest on the third with 4.37 points, followed by Athens and Ljubljana.

Maximize ROI from your RFPs

Meeting planners who have been told “those dates are unavailable” are often surprised to learn that some suppliers may instead simply not be interested in their business.  Suppliers are focused on maximizing revenue within their available timeframes, and if your meeting does not fit the bill, you may be on the receiving end of that dreaded phrase.

If you’re looking to receive competitive proposals from suppliers (and let’s face it, who isn’t?), it all starts with the RFP. Investing a little more time to market your meeting to suppliers is all it takes.

The following guidelines will help make your meeting more desirable to suppliers and help you maximize the return.

Pre-Qualify the Hotel

Narrow your search to a short list. If the hotel is right for your group, the group is likely right for the hotel. Narrow your search to the type of hotel that suits your meeting and can accommodate your space needs.

Avoid Duplication

While suppliers will not take your meeting seriously if the odds of booking your meeting are 30:1, the reaction tends to be similar if they receive your RFP from multiple sources. Be respectful of the suppliers’ time (and your own) and send your RFP to each supplier once.

Friendly Competition

Encourage hotels to compete for your business by letting them know who’s on the short list. No one likes to ‘lose’ the business to their biggest competitor across the street!

History

Present the facts to make your meeting appealing. Include information like the total spend, including previous rates x room nights + F&B and the room pick-up over the last 5 years. Name drop other hotels within a comp-set.

Attendee Profiles

Regardless of what you contract with a hotel, your attendees also have spending habits that may be of interest to the hotel. Will your attendees be doubling up in the rooms or ordering suites?

What are the spending habits of your attendees? Are they on expense accounts taking clients to dinner, or will they frequent the cocktail lounge?

Want more RFP tips? Contact the ConventionPlanit.com RFP Hotline 866-922-8988 for personalized assistance.

Six Trends in Experiential Learning

The National Conference Center – one of the nation’s largest conference centers and the largest on the East Coast – with its partner The Browne Center, has observed Six Trends in Experiential Learning for 2017.

Experiential learning presents a highly unique growth opportunity for participants, and a tool that planners can use to achieve a specific outcome.  Differentiated from the more traditional teambuilding, experiential learning uses a blended approach to learning, integrating activities, exercises, adventure elements, quiet time and ongoing post-event coaching to create powerful programs of leadership development, strategic planning, mentoring and coaching, communication, feedback & observation and enhancement of behavior styles.

Six Trends Observed in Experiential Learning:

  1. Barrier Free Learning … Take away the white classroom tables. Barrier free learning is hands-on training in a lab-like setting verses the traditional meeting room or classroom. For example, The National has created an entire workroom and lab for simulation or scenario training for a top major client to deliver new skills, taking away the barrier of the ‘white table’ with attendees learning in a lab or open space area.
  1. Learning By Choice … Mixing classroom training with outdoor activities. The Challenge Course at The National has high and low rope elements, and increasingly facilitators are using a Challenge-By-Choice approach. Learning Programs are designed to meet the variety of goals unique to each client, whether conferees make use of the elements of the high or low course, or none at all. There is a role for everyone in the training, even if individuals choose not to physically participate.
  2. Learning By Shared Experiences … Creating ‘shared experiences’, such as a building project, where everyone is involved collectively – from C-level executives to assistant managers – taking each participant out of their comfort zone and into a creative problem-solving task to construct the future.
  3. Learning By Silence … Groups are increasingly exploring the power of silence in a high-speed, technically dependent world. Facilitators are allowing more time for conferees’ solo quests, reflection, meditation time, and movements like yoga that can provide powerful reconnection with the natural world, and the true inner self, opening new channels of connection and learning.
  1. Learning By Doing… Learners participate in carefully chosen experiences that are supported by reflection, critical analysis and synthesis. It engages the learners to be in direct experience, to be doing something that connects to an area they hope to improve or develop. The learner is actively engaged in posing questions, investigating, experimenting, being curious, solving problems, assuming responsibility, being creative, and constructing meaning.
  1. Learning Through Application … Historically, debriefing was a structured process facilitated by a skilled professional throughout the process and at the conclusion of a program. This still occurs, but today a post-program debriefing application assists participants over time with how learning translates back at the office. There are a number of strategies that can be arranged to help facilitate this continued learning process. These include, self-directed debrief meetings, professional coaching sessions by phone or in person, or follow up, mini sessions at the one, two or three month intervals. These sessions can be highly productive and fun, assisting the participants in real time learning application issues. They can be on the participants’ work site or scheduled as an offsite.

The National Conference Center installed a state-of-the-art challenge course last year to provide additional training and learning opportunities for their clients. The National Challenge Course consists of five low elements plus many portable options, which are weight bearing problem solving activities that can accommodate 15 or more people at any one time. Also six high elements can be done with two or more solo, or with many other climbers simultaneously. All high elements are dynamic relays where participants hold the rope for one another.

For more information on the Six Trends in Experiential Learning for 2017, contact Denise Benoit at 703-919-1589.  For information on meetings at The National Conference Center, call Sales at 800-640-2684.

About The National Conference Center

Located in Northern Virginia 12 miles from Dulles International Airport and 35 miles from Washington, D.C., The National Conference Center is one of the largest and most comprehensive conference centers in the nation. With 917 guest rooms and over 265,000 square feet of meeting and group function space, including the West Belmont Place catering complex with its 16,552 square foot ballroom, The National has become the nation’s headquarters for productive meetings and West Belmont Place the hub for Loudoun County and surrounding area social functions.

West Belmont Place was named 2013 Best Venue by the International Special Events Society. The National Conference Center is also on the GSA schedule. The National is owned by NCC PS Enterprises LLC, a venture between PCCP, LLC and Stoneleigh Capital, LLC., which retained LaKota Hotels & Resorts to oversee all aspects of the day-to-day operations. For information call 800-640-2684 or visit www.conferencecenter.com and www.westbelmontplace.com.

Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa

hyatt regency maui resort and spa

Surrounded by 40 stunning oceanfront acres of Ka’anapali Beach, the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa’s outstanding meeting facilities offer exactly what is needed for any successful gathering. Discover the premier site for your Maui event, with 100,000 square feet of indoor-outdoor event space, experienced meeting planners on staff, extensive onsite recreation, award-winning restaurants and unique Hawaiian cultural activities, including Maui’s most exciting lu’au.

Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa recently unveiled all newly renovated meeting and event space. Plan one of the first events on the new breathtaking Halona Kai event lawn, situated above the stunning free-form resort pool with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and palm-fringed Ka’anapali coast, and accommodating up to 500 people.

Host your event in the brand new Monarchy Ballroom, offering over 18,000 square feet of flexible function space, a clean and upscale design, new connecting outdoor terrace, and floor to ceiling windows inviting in natural lighting and landscaping to capture the essence of Hawaii. Guests will also enjoy the new state-of-the-art Regency Club with patio seating and ocean views.

Meeting planners searching for meeting space and exceptional group value in Maui need look no further than the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa.