What Can a General Service Contractor Do for You?

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TradeshowsPutting together an exhibition or tradeshow that appears to run seamlessly to attendees is actually the result of maximum effort on the part of many behind the scenes groups. Convention service contractors are this invisible presence.

They are in the business of servicing the needs of event organizers and can provide everything from exhibition management, signage, and booth building, to drayage, shipping, and the latest technology systems, plus much, much more. ConventionPlanit.com is now offering a more robust listing of convention service providers.

With expert knowledge in event and exhibit planning, General Service Contractors (GSC) provide the logistical support to make an event happen, down to the smallest detail. GSCs will help to vet vendors and will often provide recommendations for vendors directly to their clients. Their focus is on everything that makes an event great, especially bringing buyers and sellers together.

General Service Contractors are now going beyond the value proposition of just providing logistics, labor, and decorations for an event. Large event GSCs know that it takes more than just pretty decorations to make a successful event. They know that asking the right questions on the RFP will help them to solve challenges that their clients face. This can be as simple as reworking a floor layout to make a space more useable to knowing what technologies will be most appropriate for their client’s needs.

Bringing the latest technology to the shows improves the overall experience and perception of the show. “There’s an App” for most shows today and GSCs know how to incorporate the right technology to make each event successful. This will also help to build the attendee base.

Convention service contractors are evolving and changing to meet new demands in the marketplace, particularly related to new technology being used in connection with exhibitions. It would be impossible for each company, organization, or association to purchase the latest advances in technology each year, so convention service providers are key to being able to bring the future to their shows.

Getting the physical set up of the show right is just one aspect of the overall event. Managing the people side of the event is equally important. In addition, many events are a combination of both a tradeshow/exhibition and a conference and require extensive coordination of an educational program.  Meeting management companies play an important role in this regard. These companies help clients with site selection, online and on-site registration, speaker coordination, and housing.

General service contractors and meeting management companies can manage most of the details, but there are always the ones that slip by and have to be dealt with personally. Being away from all of the conveniences of the home office can make managing those last minute office tasks difficult. Many hotels have well appointed business centers to help. Premier hotels and convention centers around the U.S. now also have FedEx Office centers that can offer critical business services, including shipping needs. This is always a welcome service for receiving forgotten items or those that may be needed during the course of the show.

Convention service contractors help to make the process of organizing an event highly organized and coordinated.  Their expertise allows for the maximization of resources, while keeping client expectations and budgets in mind. They ensure that their clients are able to focus on their core competencies and don’t sweat the details.  Attendees reap the benefits of these behind the scenes workers and are presented with an outstanding experience, which in turn, helps clients reap maximum profits.

To contact a GSC, visit ConventionPlanit.com.

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A Double Win at the Springtime Expo

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Springtime ExpoStop by and see ConventionPlanit.com at the Springtime Expo May 15 at the Washington Convention Center, Booth 3101.

We’ll be providing live tours of RFP Organization, our time saving meeting planner tool that organizes RFP responses onto a chart (for free!). Plus, you can enter our Grand Prize Drawing, co-sponsored with longtime ConventionPlanit.com member Visit Anchorage. It’s a double win!

The prize, a Big Alaskan Adventure, includes round-trip airline tickets for two from Alaska Airlines; a two night deluxe stay in downtown Anchorage at the Hilton Anchorage; round-trip tickets for two on the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Seward; a Wildlife/Glacier Cruise; passes to the Anchorage Museum for two; passes to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, and much more!

Register for the Springtime Expo here. We can’t wait to meet you!

Spring Meeting Deals

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Most of us expect to pay top dollar when it’s last minute. Yet, you can find special offers for any season you choose on ConventionPlanit.com!

Hotels and convention centers needing to fill certain time frames are extending great deals for your meeting – a virtual win-win. Check out some Divine Deal samples below with special offerings for the upcoming months:

Balboa Bay Resort (Newport Beach, California)

Choose from the following for a meeting from now to June 30, 2014:

  • Daily 30-minute guided Yoga session set among lush gardens, with refreshment station
  • One hour lawn bocce with chips & salsa and wine
  • Complimentary 1-night stay for a future visit for the planner

Plus, receive room rates from $169 for 20 or more room nights.

Hilton Graden Inn Washington, DC/Bethesda (Bethesda, Maryland)

From now until the end of April, win a 42” flat screen TV, round trip airline tickets, or an iPad Mini with group business in APRIL 2014. Call the sales department for more information.

Crowne Plaza Hotel Tampa Westshore (Tampa, Florida)

Get a jump on Spring Training with an all day meeting package, available for groups of 25 or more, through the end of April.

$60 per person includes:

  • Complimentary meeting room rental
  • 10% off audio visual equipment
  • Continental breakfast (chef’s choice)
  • AM break (chef’s choice)
  • Lunch buffet (chef’s choice)
  • PM break (chef’s choice)

Scottsdale Resort & Conference Center (Scottsdale, Arizona)

Meetings at the Scottsdale Resort & Conference Center are always a great value, but now there is more value with their Benchmark Conference Plan (BCP).

Choose up to four of the following:

  • 5% rebate of total guest room revenue
  • 50% attrition policy
  • No cancellation penalty up to 30 days prior to arrival
  • 50% off private dining package
  • Surcharges or 25% off a la carte dining
  • 1:35 comp room ratio
  • No F&B minium
  • One hour Welcome Reception (beer, wine & chef’s choice appetizers)

Some requirements apply. To learn more about these special offers and to see even more great deals, visit the Divine Deals section on ConventionPlanit.com!

Got a Tip? Share and Win!

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pc nametag badgesDon’t forget – there’s still time to put on your thinking caps and share your best name badge tips!

From creative to useful to income-generating, submit your best ideas for a chance to win a $250 gift certificate for anything in the PC/NAMETAG catalog.

Agendas and sponsorship messages are great – but what other practical little “oh, yeah…” detail or “a-ha” ideas have you had about the backside of badges? Enter your tip today – the winner will be announced at the end of April!

The tip with the most votes wins, so spread the word to your industry peers!

Founded by meeting planners, PC/NAMETAG® provides fellow planners with supplies that solve their problems and simplify their jobs. They specialize in exclusive, innovative products that make meeting registration run smoothly. Check them out if you are in the market for their services, and be sure to enter the contest!

The Meeting Planner Inside Scoop: 2013 Takeaways and 2014 Predictions

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meeting planner inside scoopWe recently sat down with seasoned meeting planner Darlene Lyons, President of EzEvents and CP.com Advisory Board member.

We got the meeting planner inside scoop on what lessons she learned from the 2013 meeting season, and what we can  look forward to for 2014.

2013 Takeaways – A Rebounding Economy Offers Pros and Cons

  • Larger Budgets: Lyons found many of her clients in 2013 had larger than expected budgets to put towards their meetings. This is certainly a signal of a strengthening economy!
  • Rise in Demand Limits Meeting Space & Guest Room Availability: Lyons said this happened quickly, and was an unpleasant surprise for her clients, who expected high availability and lower rates. 
  • Increased Lead Times: a direct result of the increase in demand has been longer lead times. Sales staff are inundated with more RFPs to respond to, and planners are experiencing longer wait times. Lyons says that ConventionPlanit.com makes it easy to get an organized search for properties done, as well help to get a response. “Venues respond quicker to ConventionPlanit.com,” she says.
  • More Research: another side effect of the demand, planners are finding it more difficult to secure their first choice destinations. Lyons recommends researching a meeting a minimum of two years out. “We’re having difficulty finding space in high demand destinations such as Las Vegas, but even the top twenty-five spots, like Dallas, are rebounding as well,” says Lyons.
  • WiFi Becomes a Requirement: No longer an option, WiFi is now demanded as a necessity. In face, Lyons said that Wifi was probably her biggest frustration and challenge for 2013. So much that she worked with an audiovisual specialist “to standardize the exact amount of megabits/sec needed per person based on how many devices they were likely to have and for what purposes they would use them,” she says. This way, she could bid out the right amount needed for that meeting so that no one was stuck with a frozen device. You can find out more about how to determine WiFi needs at her website, www.ezevents.net
  • Emerging Technologies: Digital signage, audience polling systems and smart phone apps all grew in popularity last year. Other changes she saw in 2013 included meetings with fewer speakers who talked at their audience and more round table discussions, and the need to reuse or maximize space.

2014 – Positive Expansions

What does 2014 hold for the meeting profession? Lyons is very positive for this year. She expects business to double, if not triple. “Companies are more optimistic, and many are projecting moderate growth. This is allowing them to free up larger budgets for meetings,” says Lyons.

“People still want peer to peer training. They want to network and learn.” She sees a trend for more collaborative type meetings with more audience participation. “Networking breakouts, and Ted-like short talks with a small number of people for a shorter period of time are becoming very popular.”

A final word of advice from Lyons for those who may be starting their careers in the meetings industry, especially those who will be working as independent planners like herself: “Have a solid business plan, have a good contract, find a niche market to work in, and have a good, targeted marketing plan,” she says.

Darlene Lyons is the founder and President of EzEvents, Inc. and has over 25 years of experience in the meeting industry. She has been responsible for the planning and execution of over 5,000 events on the North American continent. She has worked with many of the worlds’ leading speakers and entertainers, and thrives on the excitement of the event industry.

What did you take away from 2013? What do you think 2014 has in store? Comment below to join the discussion!

April Hilton Meeting Giveway

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Are you in need of a home for an April meeting and feeling the pressure? Hilton Garden Inn

The Hilton Garden Inn Washington, DC / Bethesda has availability and will reward you for booking your meeting with them.

From now until April 30, you will be entered to win the prize of your choosing when you book your April meeting:

-a 42″ flat screen TV

-round trip airline tickets, or

-iPad mini

Learn more here or call their sales department at 301-654-8111 for information.

Must book a minimum of 25 rooms including a Sunday and/or Thursday. Based on availability. NOT valid with any other offer. Promotion ends April 30, 2014.

Feel Good/Feel Good VIP (Very Important Planner) Event

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If you’re a meeting planner located in the DC/VA/MD area, this is a great opportunity to give back to the community, receive a makeover and mingle with event professionals!

Join Carrie Abernathy, CMP, CEM, CSEP (and ConventionPlanit.com Advisory Council Member) on April 19 from 12-6 pm at the Westin Arlington Gateway:



Do something good for your community and also reward yourself! Planners will put together toiletry bags using recycled goods from local hotels to give to local DC homeless shelters (Sponsored by Clean the World).

Afterwards, enjoy a gourmet lunch at the Westin Gateway Arlington and head over to the “Zen Den” room to relax and enjoy chair massages, champagne, makeovers by professional makeup artists with eyelash extensions, then treat yourself with a complimentary mini photoshoot.

To receive a link to register, please email cabernathy@practicegreenhealth.org. Space is limited!

CAbernathy Consulting was founded by Carrie Abernathy CMP, CEM, CSEP after she realized that event professionals were looking for more organic ways to meet vendors in the industry besides “forced” networking events and at trade shows.  Carrie’s goal is to match planners with reliable vendors/venues that are looking to form true partnerships and lasting relationships with planners and their companies.

The events are called “VIP (Very Important Planner) Events” and bring together planners and service providers in a fun setting to mingle and start building relationships.  As a rule, there are never any name tags, long speeches, or forced interaction.  As well, each event has a charitable component….making these events have a true “feel good” vibe!  If you’d like to be invited to this event or would like to see a list of upcoming special events for meeting planners, please email cabernathy@practicegreenhealth.org.  

Mexico Planners Receive Sneak Peek of ConventionPlanit LATAM

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Earlier this month, ConventionPlanit.com was again introduced to Latin American meeting professionals, but this time, in Spanish!

Expo Meetings Exhibition

ConventionPlanit LATAM representatives Eduardo Yarto & Sandra Reed

ConventionPlanit LATAM, the Spanish version of CP.com, was very well received at the Expo Meetings Mexico that was held March 5 -7, 2014 at the Centro Banamex in Mexico City. Over 16,000 sq ft of exhibitors, associations and publications were present at this annual event.

ConventionPlanit LATAM was pleased to host destinations such as Tijuana, Mexico City and Chiapas at their booth. Other destinations present at the show were Manzanillo, Yucatan and Guadalajara among others.

A group of buyers from USA, South America and Europe had a chance to take a tour of vibrant and exciting Mexico City prior to the event. MPI and PCMA each hosted a luncheon with entertaining speakers.

Stay tuned later this month for the official launch of ConventionPlanit LATAM!

Choosing a Meeting Destination – Beautiful Views or Business Assets?

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These diverse considerations may not seem important to meeting professionals when evaluating criteria associated with either positioning or selecting a location for an event. However, a panel of global planners and suppliers at last month’s PCMA Convening Leaders Annual Conference thought it important enough to highlight this topic in the education session “Selecting a Destination Based on Strategic Business Intelligence.”

The session was designed to help international planners assess potential destinations based on their commercial assets, as well as to aid guide destinations in positioning these resources to attract meeting business.

According to the German Convention Bureau’s Laura d’Elsa, “It’s not enough for a destination to have natural beauty; smart meeting planners are looking for immersive experiences appropriate to their industry where the conference classroom extends beyond the convention center and into the boardroom or the lab.”

The panel cited examples where local and industry resources were used to attract meetings looking to leverage this expertise to increase the value-add for attendees. Understandably, it also resulted in an increase to the local economy of each destination.

International Forum on Maritime & Port Risk Prevention – held in Nantes, France

Large harbor
University offering a Masters in Harbor Security
Availability of shipping experts from the National Maritime College

Result: In spite of the limitations a lesser-known city like Nantes might have, the local expertise in this field was used successfully to attract the global forum.

International Dairy Federation World Dairy Summit – Auckland, New Zealand   

Technical Excursions
Unique opportunity to tour the best milk powder producing plant in the world
Access to knowledgeable specialists

Result: 45% of the attendees participated giving them a chance to experience something they had heard about but could never tap into on their own.

Planners stand to gain from selecting a meeting destination based on a deeper development strategy…namely a city’s industry, institutions and knowledge economy that will help to achieve event goals. Focus on assessing destinations which match the economic drivers associated with your clients businesses.

Tourism Offices know your city and the surrounding regions. Understand what “makes it tick” from an economic perspective. Who are its innovators, who has a depth of expertise acknowledged by global peers? It requires in-depth research but even leisure destinations can use these tactics to change their image to that of a viable meeting and convention venue.

The panel moderator ended with the following quote from a European meeting planner which seemed to sum up the topic: “Stop putting forward only your tourism assets and tell me WHY I should come to your destination.”

For more tips on planning global or international meetings, check out the Global Tips section on ConventionPlanit.

What other advice would you include?

Wanted: Best Name Badge Tips

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Printing badges? Don’t forget the 12 square inches on the backside, too, that will be in front of your attendee the entire meeting.

Agendas and sponsorship messages are great – but what other practical little “oh, yeah…” detail or “a-ha” ideas have you had about the backside of badges?

From creative to useful to income-generating, submit your best ideas for a chance to win a $250 gift certificate for anything in the PC/NAMETAG catalog.

The tip with the most votes wins – so start sharing the news with your industry peers!

Founded by meeting planners, PC/NAMETAG® provides fellow planners with supplies that solve their problems and simplify their jobs. They specialize in exclusive, innovative products that make meeting registration run smoothly.

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