Jewels in the Midwest

sheraton westin kansas city

Sheraton and Westin Kansas City at Crown Center are truly the jewels in Hallmark’s Crown Center district, bringing you Midwest hospitality at its finest. Our location has been an asset to meeting planners for years, but it’s also a huge advantage for attendees. In fact, more than 55 million Americans can get to Kansas City in less than a day’s drive. Flying here is even easier as Kansas City International is just a 3 hour flight from each coast and all major U.S. air carriers service KCI with over 400 daily flights.

Connected between glass enclosed and temperature controlled walkways, we also have a direct connection to the Crown Center shops offering a wide variety of cuisine, entertainment and shopping for meeting attendees. Our expansively designed lobbies offer great mix and mingle spaces and branding opportunities and our event space offers some of the best views of the city you can find.

Kansas City has invested billions of dollars to create major new attractions and facilities. This includes the eight block Power & Light entertainment district and the Sprint Center, both near the Kansas City Convention Center. From Walt Disney’s first animation studio to the locally-founded Hallmark Cards, Kansas City has a history of inspiration and innovation we can’t wait to share with you.

Learn more about the Sheraton and Westin Kansas City.

A Worthy Cause

Equipment Connections for Children is proud to support Equipment Connections for Children (ECFC), a nonprofit organization that  connects costly adaptive equipment from special needs children who outgrow the equipment to children who need it.

Adaptive equipment allows for children to play, learn and grow in ways that are so important to their development.  In 2015, the organization received over 419 requests from families in need of this specialized equipment.

ECFC received 203 adaptive pieces through donations and equipped 154 families with the equipment they needed for their children.

We encourage you to support this cause by joining ECFC on May 10th for their annual donation day, called “Connect the Dots”! It is called Connect the Dots because they connect equipment that is not used to children who need it. Every piece of equipment makes a difference for each child.

No matter how big or small the donation is, every donation helps!

Donate here:


ASAE’s 40th Springtime Expo

As everyone in the Association world must know by now, last week’s Springtime was both the 40th anniversary of the iconic event and also its “Swan Song.”

Your intrepid Blogger was there along with staff members Katherine & David Markham, Mara Hill-Buckner and Taffy Rice to bid farewell to this event, long characterized by its partnering of education and networking for the Washington D.C. region’s planners and suppliers.'s Katherine Markham & Taffy Rice chat with an attendee at Spingtime’s Katherine Markham & Taffy Rice chat with an attendee at Spingtime

It will be replaced next year by a new endeavor called XDP. The Xperience Design Project will be held May 23-24, 2017, at Gaylord National® Resort & Convention Center at National Harbor, Maryland.

Needless to say, this announcement leant a certain amount of poignancy to the occasion but in no way diminished the energy level of business being done on the tradeshow floor. While this format appears to be going the way of the Dodo bird, we are ever hopeful that the replacement Business Exchange component of the new event will continue to serve the B to B and Face-to-Face needs of both planners and suppliers.

Among the member partners of exhibiting in the hall were Hargrove, Visit Bellevue, Team San Jose, Delta Air Lines, Little Rock CVB, Visit Anchorage, Providence Warwick CVB, Hyatt Regency Chicago and Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs.

Visit  Bellevue's Booth

Visit Bellevue’s Booth

The Mexico Tourist Board was represented by Elizabeth Melgoza, Manager Group Sales, Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach and Felix Arroyo, Director of Sales, Krystal Hotel, both in Cancun.

Mexico Tourism at the show

Mexico Tourism at the show

ConventionPlanit, Visit Anchorage, and Alaska Airlines also sponsored a Grand Prize for the show again – a trip to Alaska for one lucky planner! Rosanne White, Executive Director of the Technology Student Association was the winner.

Julie Dodds, Director of Convention Sales, Visit Anchorage Carolynn Hoey, Sales & Marketing Manager, Conventions Moi

Julie Dodds, Director of Convention Sales, Visit Anchorage; Carolynn Hoey, Sales & Marketing Manager, Conventions, Alaska Airlines; Moi

We look forward to seeing you all next May at XDP!

Industry Career Opportunities

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to work for your favorite search directory, now is your chance! conventionplanit job openings has openings for the following positions:

Regional Director of Sales

    Sell online marketing solutions to hotels, resorts, CVBs, and other service providers. Position entails phone sales for website listings, advertising and e-marketing features. Additional training will be provided. A minimum of five years of sales experience as well as basic computer skills are required. To apply, or for additional information, please send cover letter and resume to

    Meeting Specialist

    Meeting Specialists present to meeting and event planners and acquaint them with the functionalities and services of the website. The website is free to use, and spans destinations, facilities and service providers. Previous sales experience in the meetings industry is preferred. Applicants must have basic computer skills and be able to comfortably navigate and browse the internet. To apply, or for additional information, please send cover letter and resume to

Marketing Manager

    Working from home as an independent contractor, the Marketing Manager arranges sales appointments with designated hospitality suppliers, i.e., hotel sales directors, VP of management companies, CVB marketing directors, for assigned sales directors to demo and close the sale. This individual may flexibly set their own hours and focus on the best time to reach their clients, given the various time zones. Clients are retrieved from our CMS database as well as specific lists in which special pricing was coordinated. Additional training will be provided. To apply, or for additional information, please send cover letter and resume to

Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI) Expands M&I Global Portfolio To Service Client Needs

jim schultenoverBased on the increasing global needs of both corporate and association clients, Associated Luxury Hotels International(ALHI) selectively added members around the world to provide the same Four- and Five-Star quality hotel and service options that currently define their hotel and resort portfolio for the clients they serve.

As you incorporate international destinations in the rotation for your meetings and programs, a great way to accomplish this is by contacting ALHI, which now offers more than 100 international luxury-level hotel and resort options in 45 countries, among its distinguished portfolio. Significantly, all are high quality vetted hotels and resorts which specifically serve the meetings, conventions and incentive marketplace.

Providing Global Sales services and support to meeting professionals, association executives, incentive travel specialists, convention specialists, and business executives through its 20 Global Sales Organization (GSO) offices across North America, ALHI offers an impressive portfolio that features more than 250 luxury-level, meeting & incentive-focused hotels and resorts worldwide, plus distinctive alliance members to assist planners. Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2016, ALHI is the longest established and leading worldwide independent GSO specifically serving the North American M.I.C.E. marketplace. ALHI is led by CEO David Gabri and President Jim Schultenover, two highly respected executives in the meetings and hospitality industry.

ConventionPlanit spoke with ALHI President Jim Schultenover to learn more about ALHI’s international growth to address the growing demand.

CP: Have you seen an increase in the demand for meetings and programs outside of the U.S.?

Schultenover: Yes, we’ve been experiencing significant growth in the demand for international meetings and incentive travel programs from our accounts, particularly for Europe. Statistics provided by the Incentive Research Foundation reinforce this growing demand, as last year more planners considered international destinations over domestic locations for their incentive travel programs for the first time since the recession. Of course, it also should be noted that incentive travel remains very strong to appealing North American hotels and resorts too.

CP: How has ALHI addressed this?

Schultenover: To address this need, we recently expanded our global portfolio with the strategic addition of 77 magnificent luxury-level hotels and resorts in 31 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Members include the highly regarded Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin, the Hotel du Collectionneur Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok in Thailand. Our portfolio now features the impressive choice of 18 hotels in Western Europe, 13 hotels in Eastern Europe, 26 hotels in Asia, 10 hotels in Africa, and 10 hotels in the Middle East.
Plus, we also provide the very appealing option of conducting programs on a wonderful variety of 23 luxury-level cruise ships – Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Oceania, and Norwegian Cruise Line — suitable for M&I programs at an array of outstanding, memory-making locations around the world. The value, array of experiences, variety of services, and seeing several different locations – while only unpacking once – is an increasingly popular choice for groups.

CP: Is now a good time for planners to book an international program?

Schultenover: Yes! Now is a great time for groups to experience their program, or programs, in a global destination, particularly in Europe, to take advantage of the increased buying power of the U.S. currency, as the U.S. dollar has actually strengthened 21% versus the Euro since 2013. So, appealing and memorable places like France, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland are now very good values compared to prior years. Plus, the strength of the U.S. dollar is also making it more affordable and appealing for U.S. groups to travel to Canada and Asia too.

CP: Are there additional Global Sales services that ALHI provides to planners?

Schultenover: Yes, ALHI also has a strategic alliance with Global DMC Partners with their portfolio of highly qualified and experienced Destination Management Companies (DMCs) in over 100 destinations worldwide. So, collectively, ALHI is prepared to assist accounts with their programs in the United States plus over 90 other countries worldwide. We offer this service as another means to help planners with their programs, as there are many advantages to utilizing the services of a qualified DMC. They can help immensely as local experts, as they have in-depth local knowledge, with a network of local vendors. Plus, they become a single point of contact for a client, which really saves time and effort and keeps all of the off-site details much simpler.
DMCs can assist with an extensive range of services, such as coordinating transportation, teambuilding programs, dine-arounds, tours, and identifying and coordinating unique off-site venues. They also can coordinate catering services, entertainment, décor, themes, spouse programs, translation services, VIP meet-and-greets, community give-back programs and program logistics. Plus, they can leverage relationships and purchasing power to provide the best services in a cost-effective manner.

CP: Earlier you mentioned that the ALHI Global Sales Organization is a one-stop solution. What does that mean?

Schultenover: With one contact, our sales executives can provide hotel, DMC, and cruise options in North America and across the globe. These selective options all meet the quality requirements that have defined us for the last 30 years. Additionally, our membership portfolio ensures meaningful options for our clients to choose from.

For more information about ALHI, to inquire about any program for the ALHI portfolio, and alliance partners, visit and contact your nearest ALHI Global Sales Office, or call the “ALHI Group Desk” toll-free at 866-303-ALHI (2544).

More opportunities and time to do business at IMEX in Frankfurt

IMEX in Frankfurt 2016 strongly reflects the vitality of the industry.

imex frankfurtThe show, which opened today, was packed with opportunities to do business, find new suppliers and prospects, to learn about the latest trends and meet industry colleagues from across the world.

With 3,500 exhibiting companies representing 150 countries, 400+ exhibitor networking events and with over 180 education sessions, the scope for business and learning is greater than ever.

There are 42 new stands and hundreds of new exhibitors at the show this year covering all corners of the globe including Aruba, Catalunya, Guatemala, Kenya, Montenegro, Romania and Sardinia. The growth of technology within the industry is reflected in a 12 per cent growth at IMEX 2016 with Catchbox, Convertio, Digivents and Fielddrive among new exhibitors.

50 established exhibitors have increased their stands including Brand USA, Denmark, Hong Kong, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Qatar and Serbia. Hotels are again well represented at IMEX 2016 with Wyndham Hotels returning to the show and Hilton, Preferred, Titanic and Trump Hotels taking larger stands. The cruise lines area has doubled with Buy the Sea, 3D Cruise Partners and Variety Cruises exhibiting for the first time this year.

More hosted buyer groups

Demand from buyers worldwide continues to grow. More than 20 new hosted buyer groups are attending the show from China, Latin America, the USA and Poland among many. A group of International Special Events Society members from across the globe are also visiting prior to their Global Event Summit in Scotland.

Many buyers will be spending significantly more time on the show floor as a result of two new initiatives this year. While all buyers can now enter the show at 0945 and group appointments now start later and finish earlier, many European hosted buyers have also opted to be at the show for an extra day by choosing the new two night programme which is already available to long-haul hosted buyers.

On the show floor on opening day are also more than 300 international association representatives following the highly successful IMEX Association Day & Evening on Monday, as well as nearly 90 corporate sector buyers who took part in the annual Exclusively Corporate @IMEX event and who together control budgets in the region of US$200 million.

More than 40 politicians and policy makers from around the world including ministers are visiting the exhibition before taking part, with 80 industry leaders, in the 14th annual IMEX Politicians Forum. The main theme is building and sustaining a successful meetings industry with keynote speaker the Hon Minister Stuart Ayres, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events for New South Wales.

At the Opening Ceremony, keynote speaker David DuBois, President & CEO of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events and Immediate Past Chair of Convention Industry Council, highlighted the worldwide impact of the meetings and events industry on the economy and overall marketplace beyond tourism.

In a powerful and engaging speech he said: “The business events industry provides the catalyst for transitioning towards a knowledge and creative society. Indeed governments themselves acknowledge that it takes a meeting or a summit to solve global issues and to avoid catastrophe… and when scientists, medics and technologists meet, they too change the world.”

Education innovations

The IMEX educational programme, based at the Inspiration Hub, will offer over 180 educational seminars and workshops covering ten different tracks to match every need. New this year is a series of short and snappy TED-style talks focused on ‘Trends and Future-Think’ brought by the Swedish Network of Convention Bureaus. The Play Room (by Play With A Purpose) brings its interactive ‘quirkshops’ to IMEX in Frankfurt for the first time. Also on Monday, the successful first PCMA Business School in Europe was a new high-level addition to the range of education at the show.

Sharing economy

The sharing economy is a hot topic at the show this year. To help all sectors of the global meetings and events industry understand the implications of this new business model better, it will be explored through several seminars including a panel session (9am, Wednesday 20th April) with sharing economy pioneers discussing ‘How can we work with the new sharing economy?’

‘Business is Personal’ is a new theme to meet buyers’ own personal development and professional needs, with sessions on leadership skills, developing confidence and fostering strong connections. The show also reflects this with meditation and yoga sessions in the new Be Well Lounge (by InnerSense and supported by Weichlein Tours + Incentives and Munich Convention Bureau), and the IMEXrun early on Wednesday (7am) inspired by Rio de Janeiro.

Ray Bloom, Chairman of the IMEX Group said: “There are countless opportunities for everyone to do business, learn or meet here this week. The thousands of exhibitors, buyers, press and other industry professionals here this week to make the most of these opportunities are testament to the strength, resilience and vibrancy of our important sector.”

Wynn Las Vegas 2016-2017
Hyatt Convention Alliance

SPIN Eliminates Membership Dues & Registration Fees for 2016

senior planners industry networkSPIN:Senior Planners Industry Network announces free membership dues for all qualified members until the end of 2016.

In perhaps the boldest move for any association, SPIN also announces that it will waive registration fees for all member events and activities in 2016, including its annual North American conference; SPINCon. These include SPIN’s online live education (SPIN:LearningLabs), online SPIN:Roundtables, live branch events across North America, and its contractor job board (SPIN:Hire a Planner).

This move will allow all members to enjoy full benefits by removing all financial barriers. “We realize that resources are limited and do not want the cost of membership to be the reason why a senior-level planner does not engage in our unique peer-to-peer community experience,” said SPIN Founder & Chairwoman Shawna Suckow, CMP.

According to Sara Vanderbilt, SPIN’s Executive Director, SPIN has a different financial model than other industry associations with little overhead.  “We are primarily funded by our sponsors.  Sponsors invest in SPIN to increase brand awareness among our 2,500 members.”

Mike Vennerstrom, CMP, SPIN’s Director of Strategic Planning, added, “The majority of the programs we provide our members are created and administered by volunteer members.  As a result, our staff and expenses are kept to a minimum.”

Is it risky? Absolutely, but our members are more valuable than money. 

SPIN continues its history of thought leadership by removing the cost consideration for senior-level planners who wish to continue to grow in their professional and personal lives in 2016.

“This is our way of saying thank you to our current dedicated members and encouraging future ones to join this unique association,” said Suckow. “Our members consistently rave about the value of the SPIN community and our peer-to-peer discussions – our hope is that by removing dues and fees in 2016 we will continue to grow our member engagement, which is the measure of success for us.”

Your BEO Just Got Scintillating

asae springtimeMeetings aren’t just a place for people to meet; they’re key revenue streams, your organization’s brand reputation, and a way for you to keep your members engaged and continually learning. ASAE’s 40thSpringtime Expo will allow you to connect with over 350 solutions providers to help you and your staff team re-imagine your organizations events. This is the one day that you, and your team, can get a year’s worth of business done all at one event!

Join the meeting planner community for the strategic insights you need to elevate your events and be a leader within your organization. Get in on extra education with preconferences on key topics, such as sales skills and the science behind buying and selling on April 27. Then on Thursday, dive into eye-opener sessions and learning labs that discuss negotiations, engagement, innovative learning formats, and marketing for your events.

You’ll really be awed by Game Changer, Adam Braun, best-selling author and Founder of Pencils for Promise and keynote speaker Don Neal, CEO of 360 Live Media. With experts like these you’ll need to grab a seat fast.

With 350 exhibiting companies, getting what you need to succeed at Springtime has never been easier. These are connections that will serve your needs and make you the superstar of your team.

IACC Reveals the Top Meeting Package Trends for 2016

iacc-logoUseful tips for meeting planners and meeting venues contribute towards better meetings and conference experiences

Following research among the 378 members of IACC, the association released its Top  Meeting Package Trends for 2016, which are influencing meeting planners and venue operators across the globe.

The concept of meeting packaging is one where the required components provided by a venue are included in a per person package.  The concept carries different names in different parts of the world (such as Complete Meeting Package, Day Meeting Package, Day Delegate Rate, 24-Hour Rate etc), but the concept is the same throughout IACC’s membership in 22 countries.  An IACC-certified meeting venue must offer a package which includes food and beverage, meeting room hire and basic AV).  See IACC’s Guide to Quality Standards for more information on what it takes to be an IACC-certified venue.

Mark Cooper, IACC’s CEO, commented, “Meeting Planners not only prefer easy-to-manage delegate packages for their meetings, they also expect delegate packages to be creative and fit their specific meeting objectives.  Venues that specialise in meetings, also understand that planners need to be able to buy in transparent and easy-to-budget ways.”  Cooper continued with, “We are seeing some very innovative meeting packages available at IACC member venues in 22 countries across the globe.”

Trend #1    95% of venues have offered non-traditional meeting packages for over 5 years.  IACC member venues surveyed stated that they have been offering flexible and highly creative delegate meeting packages for over 5 years. As a result, they have developed packages over time, which meet the specific needs and requirements of planners and delegates. They are now experts in customising packages.

Trend #2    Innovative packages developed by venues and clients
Two-thirds of delegate packages were crafted and developed by the leadership at IACC-member venues, using their specialized knowledge in selling meeting space in this inclusive and consultative way. At the same time, 1/3rd of those surveyed reported that their planner clients had a direct hand in developing a package that was bespoke to them and their needs. Being able to influence the way a venue packages services and products is a true demonstration of collaboration between venue and client.

Trend #3    Fifty-five percent reported that meeting planners wanted to tailor a package specifically to meet their needs. Offering inclusive delegate packages provides certain differentiation, but being able to tailor a package to the individual client is a further step. With 55% reporting their clients prefer flexible packaging, this is not a rare approach any more. Of the packages offered which include guest room accommodation and meals, 56% of responders cited that these packages were becoming more customised.

Trend #4  Sixty-five percent reported that planners are starting to request new package inclusions.  A significant number of members surveyed reported that clients are starting to ask for packages beyond the normal meeting room, F&B and tech inclusions. The top additional items requested were teambuilding, local cultural trips, coaching and facilitation. Although many IACC venues offer free delegate WiFi, the inclusion of high bandwidth WiFi to support the use of collaborative technologies was highlighted as a growing trend.  The survey also indicated that the inclusion of collaborative technologies such as audience participation and meeting apps, had potential for future packaged pricing.

Trend #5  Top inclusions in customised packages.  Food & beverage enhancements lead the list of inclusions, with 76% of those surveyed reporting they tailor packages with non-standard F&B items.  Indoor teambuilding and meeting room configurations were 2nd at 70% and outdoor teambuilding  was 4th.  Also included in the list of components used to customise delegate packages were AV, WiFi and culinary teambuilding activities.

Trend #6  Delegate packages are good for 3rd parties as well!  Thirty-five percent of the venues surveyed reported that third party booking agents could consider all components of the delegate package as part of their commercial terms with the venue.

Trend #7  Flexible meeting packages are here to stay.  Although flexible meeting packages — where the client can build a package that fits their needs exactly — have only become widespread amongst IACC venues since 2008, all surveyed believe that this is a concept that is here for the long term and demonstrates that they are true partners to their clients and understand their needs.

The concept of meeting packaging is one where the required components provided by a venue are included in a per person package.  The concept carries different names in different parts of the world (such as Complete Meeting Package, Day Meeting Package, Day Delegate Rate, 24-Hour Rate etc), but the concept is the same throughout IACC’s membership in 22 countries, where a IACC certified meeting venue must offer a package which includes food and beverage, meeting room hire and basic AV).  See IACC’s Guide to Quality Standards for more information on what it takes to be an IACC-certified venue.

IACC is the only global professional association, which represents small to medium sized venues focused on meetings, training courses and conferences. All members conform to a comprehensive global set of criteria and standards. The association serves its members by being the global thought-leader in the meetings industry and currently has 355 members in 21 countries in the Americas, Europe and Australasia.

Attracting the Millennials to Your Meeting

Millenials Book ImageIt’s a bit ironic, but when we’re not complaining about the Millennial generation (entitled! flip flops! trophies!), we seem to be falling all over ourselves to attract them, retain them, and, of course, lure them to our conferences and meetings.

This motivation is probably driven by the fact that they are the largest generation in the history of the United States. By my count, they currently number almost 100 million people—substantially larger than either the Baby Boomers or Generation X.

That means they will soon become the largest segment of the workforce, and while they may not yet be the “big spenders” in your membership or customer base—they will be. It’s inevitable. So it will pay to understand them a bit better.

And they are different. They grew up in a different world than previous generations—one dominated by the social internet, where they could reach out to their networks and get just about anything done, on their own. They also grew up in a period of significant material abundance (the United States spends more on trash bags than 90 other countries spend on everything), a period where diversity became the norm, and a period where children got a lot more attention and focus than in previous generations.

That last one gets mentioned a lot as a source of complaints about Millennials—the “everyone gets a trophy” generation—but in fact it just means that they grew up with access to people higher in the hierarchy (adults), so when they show up in our organizations (and at our meetings) they will be expecting the same access. It’s not them being “entitled,” it’s simply their natural reaction to the times in which they grew up. Kind of like any generation, actually.

So what does this all mean for meetings? It means we need to shift. In the research that Maddie Grant and I did for our recent book,When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business, we identified four capacities that organizations need to develop to stay relevant to this generation and succeed in today’s fast-paced environment. They have some important implications for meetings:

Digital. This means not only mastering the technology but embracing a digital mindset, where the users come first, everything is customizable, and innovation is constant. If that sounds like hard work, it is, but that’s what we need to do to stay relevant. Most organizations design their meetings around the needs of the organization or the few people on the committee that organize it. We need to shift and design it around the needs of the users. We have to expect it to change every year, and we have to let different users engage with us in different ways. Welcome to the new normal.

Clear. We also need to be much more transparent. Being clear is about making more visible to everyone in the system in order to enable better decision making. Yet we still offer only a 50-word description of each session that is always in marketing language? We need to find ways to make more details about our educational content visible to attendees before the session to let them make better choices about how to spend their time. In the same vein, we also need to find ways to make information about our attendees more visible to the people who are developing the content.

Fluid. Decision-making systems in most organizations are too rigid, which means the people who are closest to the problem often don’t have the authority to solve it. Fluid systems, however, still maintain a hierarchy but are able to inject some flexibility into it. The right people can make the right decisions at the right time. This is a challenge for meetings that are managed by archaic and rigid committee structures.

Fast. The world is moving faster and changing more rapidly than ever before, yet our meeting schedules are pushing dates farther and farther back, trying to get content submission nine or even twelve months prior to the meeting. The Millennials are not going to tolerate attending a meeting with content that is a year old—and neither should the other generations! We need to figure out how to move more quickly in our decision making to match the speed of what’s happening around us.

Again, the Millennials are still probably a relatively small segment of our meeting attendees—but that’s going to change. The organizations that learn how to inject digitial, clear, fluid, and fast into their meetings will start to leap ahead of their competitors as the Millennials become a larger and larger segment of the customer base. And they’ll also be doing a better job at attracting the older generations, because these trends go beyond just the Millennials. But now is the time to build these capacities internally. The longer you wait, the farther behind you’ll fall.

Jamie Notter is a partner with Culture That Works LLC. He can be reached at