Category Archives: Tips for Meeting Planners

Meal Planning Tips for Meetings

When it comes to food, it’s personal.  Attendees may not remember the facility, but they always remember the food! How do you satisfy every individual?

Below are some guidelines to consider when beginning to plan your group meals.

1. Decide on a theme that coincides with the destination or type of meal service, i.e., formal linens for a sit down, international food stations or cookout?

2. If the meeting is for a group of strangers, an informal buffet inspires social mingling. If using the same venue for several days, vary the meals between a sit-down and buffet.

3. Be eventful by the 3rd day with a cookout or offer a ‘meal credit’ to eat at the hotel’s restaurant or nearby eateries.

4. Taste everything, including the appetizer, soup, bread, entrée and dessert. Make sure there are healthy options that are fresh and well prepared. Can they accommodate special requests, i.e., peanut allergies, low fat, gluten free, low sodium, vegetarian?

5. Alert the hotel if they can expect a volume of attendees to hit their restaurants all at once. Communicate with an individual on site who is responsible for food and beverage

Questions? Call our free RFP Hotline at 866 922-8988!

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  

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/

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.

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 know about name badges?

A: The back of the name tag should be the same info as the front.

Why? Because most of the time, when you wear the badge, it somehow faces backwards, and all you see is a blank badge. Printing the same info on back and front avoids this problem!

Submitted by: Abe Korn, Meeting Planner, with Worldwide Meeting & Event Services

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: How can I make a sales award presentation more interesting?

A: Send a 10-question form to the sales reps being honored and ask them to provide 3-5 fun facts about themselves. Pick the most interesting and fun facts and share those as they come to stage.

You can put their sales data on the screen but don’t have to read it. It really gets the audience engaged as they find something they have in common with the award recipients.

Submitted by: Kathleen Zwart, CMP, Corporate Meetings and Events Manager with Florida Blue

What is RFP Organization?

An interview with ConventionPlanit.com Co-Founder David Markham on the creation of RFP Organization

david  markham

What is RFP OrganizationSM and what should meeting planners know about it?

RFP OrganizationSM is a sourcing tool planners use to send their RFP to pre-qualified suppliers and obtain online responses within 24 hours. Traditional sourcing takes several days. Planners must research suppliers, send their RFP and wait for generic proposals to glean specific criteria for comparison shopping. This is exactly what RFP OrganizationSM does, and it’s so simple to use!

Step 1 – Planners send their original RFP.

Step 2 – A courtesy call from our team establishes their preferences and criteria for comparison.

Step 3 – Within 24 hours, all comparative responses are posted on an organized chart.

How is RFP OrganizationSM different from other sourcing tools?

Saving time is important to meeting planners. There’s no training or retyping of the RFP to use RFP OrganizationSM. When it comes to digital options, RFP templates are burdensome. Planners prefer to use their own RFP, and suppliers appreciate the RFP details that enable them to better understand the needs of the group.

There’s a cost factor, too. RFP OrganizationSM  is offered as a free amenity to meeting and event planners, so there are no hidden fees or mark-ups to be concerned about.

How did RFP OrganizationSM evolve?

Everything on ConventionPlanit.com is planner driven. Our Advisory Council and industry feedback is what guided us. Given our national sales experience, we offered a similar service when we started ConventionPlanit.com called RFP Valet®, for personalized RFP sourcing. With the development of time saving, digital applications, we married the two. It’s hi-touch meets hi-tech!

Who uses RFP OrganizationSM?

It’s primarily used by meeting planners who conduct their own RFP sourcing and negotiate contracts. Many independent planners who may be commissionable use it because they prefer a commission-free tool. Executive Directors, meeting staff and non-traditional planners use it too because it’s so easy.

What RFP services does your team offer?

We offer meeting planners free consultation to help prepare their RFP and pre-qualify suppliers, which may include their NSO representatives. We merge their laundry list of criteria and concessions into our comparison platform. We send the RFP to selected suppliers who submit online quotes in minutes to the comparison chart. The planner is provided with log-in credentials to view their response chart which are easy to export to others involved in the decision making process.

Learn more about RFP OrganizationSM.