The Meeting Planner Inside Scoop: The Return of Face to Face Meetings

Comments Off

meeting planner inside scoopWe recently sat down with seasoned meeting planner David Williams, Executive Director for the International Association for Energy Economics and Advisory Board member.

We got the meeting planner inside scoop on his perspective on the meetings industry’s past year and what 2014 may bring.

As with most industries, 2013 was a little slower than expected, but Williams was pleased that the Energy Economics Industry, which is a recession resistant industry, saw good turnout at conferences and a strong membership. “Overall, however, the meetings industry is lagging the general economy. We have slower growth, but slow growth is better than no growth,” says Williams.

In fact, with a rising membership, the IAEE has had its largest conferences ever, and has been able to draw attendees to the conferences by being able to host them in first tier destinations such as New York and San Francisco. He says, “We are now quite good at running meetings efficiently so it is easier to maximize savings and revenues and still get into the top tier locations that attracts more attendees.”

One challenge Williams sees in the meetings industry is sponsorship. “Sponsorship is a shrinking commodity,” he says. “We are going to wrestle with this for a while. With consolidation happening in so many industries, the pieces [of sponsorship] are getting smaller. It’s getting harder to sell and show value to companies for their sponsorship. And as all industries cut all portions of their budgets, sponsorship money gets cut as well.” Williams feels this will continue throughout 2014. In fact, most conferences now hold sessions on how to raise additional sponsorship money. Williams says that these sessions are always packed.

Williams sees several trends for 2014. Of course, eco-friendliness is always trendy, and he sees more and more strides being made. He says, “Good strides are being made to move away from paper. Many meetings, ours included, are no longer putting together registration bags. We are just giving out a name badge and a program. Those packs are being replaced with brochures on tables so fewer are needed and fewer are thrown away.” Technology is still a huge trend. “Technology will make or break us,” says Williams. “It will always be present. Meetings needs tweets and apps, it’s just the way it is now.”

One trend Williams sees happening and would love to hear findings from other planners, is the decline in webinar participation. He has a feeling that this form of meeting may be over, as more people want to get to back to face-to-face meetings. “I get the impression that folks find that participants are not really engaged and aren’t dialing in to webinars anymore.”

When asked about what advice he has for those entering the meeting planning industry, Williams said, “Learn how to negotiate. Learn and refine those skills. They are critical to your job. And remember that it never hurts to ask. You just have to keep at it. Ask for a little more each time. You don’t learn the whole industry overnight, you just keep asking, and learning, and learning from your mistakes.”


Add To

Capital Region Meeting Planners Go Loco for HoCo

Comments Off

Known affectionately as HoCo, Howard County was the backdrop of a recent FAM tour put on by the Howard County Office of Tourism and Promotion on May 15-17. The event gave 30 meeting planners the chance to experience everything the centrally located county has to offer. 

An ideal location due to its proximity to Baltimore and Washington D.C., HoCo had no shortage of other amenities to offer these planners.

FAM group shot smallThe FAM kicked off at Turf Valley’s annual Preakness Balloon Celebration on Thursday, May 15. After tours of the property, planners were whisked off to a VIP reception for food, drinks and a chance to meet and mingle with their fellow FAM participants. Afterwards planners headed back to their rooms at Turf Valley, Holiday Inn Columbia-East Jessup and the Sheraton Columbia Town Center.

Friday started at the Sheraton Columbia Town Center with a small tradeshow of 17 area hotels, restaurants, event spaces and service providers. The group enjoyed breakfast while touring the booths and learning more about Howard County. After breakfast, everyone grabbed a seat to hear several presentations about the current plans for development in downtown Columbia and historic Ellicott City.

After a short break, the group sat down again for an engaging keynote from Billy Kirsch, an award winning song writer who uses his expertise to help folks rediscover their creative side. There was a lot of great audience participation and by the end of Billy’s hour long presentation, the group had written the first verse to a song all about Howard County, MD and their experience so far! It was a very memorable session for those in attendance and the lyrics are included below.

Loco for Hoco
Other places are so-so
Come visit us anytime
A jewel between two cities
WOWard County is so pretty
Having a FAMulous time
Loco for Hoco
Where we’re happy as a dog drinking wine

The gravity-defying swing at Terrapin Adventures

The gravity-defying swing at Terrapin Adventures

From the Sheraton the group headed to Historic Savage Mill and Terrapin Adventures where Howard County continued to make an impression. Terrapin Adventures treated all willing participants to some fun team building exercises and rides on their giant swing and zip line. After swinging through the trees, the meeting planners enjoyed a tour of Savage Mill, cupcakes from The Factory Grill and a seasonal cocktail out on the patio at Ram’s Head Tavern. On Friday night, the group headed to Maryland LIVE! Casino for dinner at the buffet, entertainment and fun.

Saturday started in historic Ellicott City where the group took guided tours of the B&O Railroad Museum and the charming mill town itself. Then after some time for shopping and exploring on their own, headed to one of Columbia’s newer restaurants, Petit Louis on the Lake, for lunch. The restaurant treated the group to a delicious meal, complete with wine and macarons.

Barbara Kellner of the Columbia Association gave a brief but informative talk on Columbia’s founder Jim Rouse and explained how his ideals for the city are still very present in the community today. Wine was on the agenda for the afternoon too. After lunch the group ventured to Maryland’s largest wine festival, Wine in the Woods.

Saturday evening started at the Holiday Inn Columbia-East Jessup. Property tours led to a jazz reception and the hotel bar created a special cocktail for the event, the Loco for Hoco. The fizzy drink was concocted in honor of the song created the day before.

Planners at the Holiday Inn

Planners at the Holiday Inn

From the Holiday Inn, the group ventured to Robinson Nature Center. After a walkthrough everyone enjoyed a review performance by the Young Columbians, dinner courtesy of The Shanty Grille and some libations from Heavy Seas Brewing Company and Linganore Wine Cellars. The evening and weekend were capped off with a unique and interactive drum circle experience with the Fun Drum Company.

Planners at the Robinson Nature Center

Planners at the Robinson Nature Center

This was Howard County Tourism’s first meeting planner FAM tour, something that Director of Sales, Taffy Rice had been working on since she joined the office back in 2011. If any of these experiences or venues are of interest to you or a group you’re working with, please feel free to contact Taffy at 410-294-8302 or

1st Annual ASAE Foundation Bike Ride

Comments Off

Mark your calendars for the 1st Annual ASAE Foundation Bike Ride!

Sunday, September 21, 2014 | Berryville, Virginia

We’re supporting our friends at the ASAE Foundation and participating in their 1st Annual Bike Ride this fall. It’s an opportunity to do good for yourself and the association profession by riding 25, 30, 50, 65, or 100 miles in the “Back Roads Century” cycling event! (Don’t worry if you are not an avid cycler. For most people, cycling 25 miles is similar to running a 5K).

The event is sponsored by Potomac Pedalers, a Washington, DC-area cycling club. Organizations and individuals will ride in the event to raise money for the ASAE Foundation. Individuals must raise $100 each and organizations must raise $500. Organization teams can include up to four riders.

Want to sign up or learn more? Email!

Anchorage Visits Washington, DC

Comments Off

Yesterday, Co-Founder Katherine Markham, CHME attended a luncheon sponsored by Visit Anchorage in Washington, DC.

Our friends at Anchorage, always the most gracious of hosts, put on a wonderful presentation showcasing all of the exciting activities available to meeting planners who are lucky enough to hold a meeting there. Advisory Council Member Lesley Zeck with Visit Anchorage's Julie Dodds and CP Co-Founder Katherine Markham Advisory Council Member Lesley Zeck with Visit Anchorage’s Julie Dodds and CP Co-Founder Katherine Markham

IMEX Wraps Up

Comments Off

Well, it’s wrap up day for IMEX Frankfurt 2014! Ray Bloom in his closing press conference described it as “a more positive and buoyant business mood than we’ve seen for some time.”

There are always lots of numbers that get thrown out after this show validating its relevance to our industry, but perhaps the most interesting was not a statistic, but news of an historic collaboration between the Joint Meetings Industry Council, the World Travel & Tourism Committee and the UN World Travel Organization.

Representatives of these groups met in Frankfurt to work on a joint declaration for the alignment of efforts to further the cause of the entire meetings and travel industry. This understanding would be seen as a first and significant recognition of the meeting industry’s status as an economic driver at a global level.

Not a bad note to leave IMEX on!


See you at IMEX America…mark your calendars for October 12-14, 2014 in Las Vegas!

IMEX Provides Everything Planners Need

Comments Off

IMEX is all work with some “play.” hosted buyers Marianne Van Wagner of the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society and Alison Watson of Society Offices relax at a dinner hosted by supplier member ACC Liverpool.

The weather has been lovely in Frankfurt so outside restaurants are very popular after a long day sequestered in Hall 8 of the Messe!



IMEX has been described as “a crash course on what the world has to offer.” Two major examples of the type of education provided are the programs presented during the “Exclusively Corporate @ IMEX seminar and the traditional Association Day sessions.

From discussions of issues that are challenging many parts of the meetings industry to how to juggle being creative as well as compliant, corporate and association planners found the programs to be perfectly targeted in providing useful tips.

One planner put it succinctly, “I only attend IMEX and no other shows, it provides everything I need.”

Yesterday, me and the hosted buyer group ended the group appointment component of the show at the stand of our supplier partners The Malaysia Tourism Board and the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

Speaking of appointments, there have been more than 60, 000 individual and group meetings at the show.  No wonder it’s been so hard to navigate the aisles of the Messe congress center!

IMEX Frankfurt Opens

Comments Off

If it’s May it must be time to head to Frankfurt for the annual pilgrimage to IMEX! Your intrepid globe trotter/blogger arrived in Germany’s IMEX Europe along with 6 hosted buyers to join in the  action.

IMEX in Frankfurt opened Tuesday in Messe Frankfurt’s Hall 8 with the announcement that the leading trade show for the international meetings, events and incentive travel industry has grown again in 2014. New stands, stand increases from existing exhibitors, the biggest education programme ever and the scale and diversity of the hosted buyer programme are the defining features of this year’s exhibition.

64 new stands join the line up of 3500 exhibiting companies on the show floor so our buyers will be busy making the rounds!

140520_002On Day 1 of the IMEX Marathon, hosted buyers enjoyed a presentation by the Philippine Tourism Board to kick off their appointment schedule.

The video showed great festivals, impressive meeting venues and beautiful beaches but they also made a point of demonstrating their “sense of humor” while portraying their 7,000 islands as a destination that prides itself on its hospitality.


What Can a General Service Contractor Do for You?

Comments Off

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. 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

A Double Win at the Springtime Expo

Comments Off

Springtime ExpoStop by and see 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 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

Comments Off

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!

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!

Older Entries Newer Entries