Tag Archives: Event Industry Networking

Receptions as Fundraisers, Family Events, and More

networking By Al Rickard

Networking is an essential part of every major meeting, and arranging a comfortable venue with the right atmosphere, food and drink, and the ability to foster meaningful connections is important. Adding a theme can make them memorable, some can serve as effective fundraisers, and many can even help foster a family atmosphere at conferences where attendees bring their kids. At the same time, controlling costs is also critical.

Industry professionals who use ConventionPlanit.com posted some of their own pointers for receptions in the Stellar Tips section of the ConventionPlanit.com website. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Fundraising Leverage

“ASAE has created a powerful fundraising reception with its popular ASAE Foundation Classic event that attracts a sizeable number of annual meeting attendees each year, who pay extra to attend,” says Al Rickard, CAE, of Association Vision. “It even has a VIP pre-reception event for an even higher fee. They bring in big-name entertainment and make it memorable experience, providing a strong event that fills a key night at the meeting, brands the Foundation, and raises significant funds for it.”

Rickard adds, “Receptions are also ideal venues for silent auctions, as PCMA and other associations have done successfully. They add an interesting dimension, spark friendly competition in bidding on popular items, and raise money for worthy causes.”

Family Affairs

Many major conferences have become “family events” as attendees bring their kids and turned the trip into a vacation.

“Since our convention has become a family vacation, we created a teen hospitality suite and program,” says Kristin Lewis with the Washington Defense Trial Lawyers. “The first night – during the welcome reception – we have a teen activity such as bocce games, croquet or wii bowling so the kids get to know each other, and then each teen gets a key to the teen hospitality suite where they go to load up on snacks and sodas, play video games, watch movies and hang out (the suite is attached to a staff member’s room so they can check on them). It keeps the teens entertained and connected and they want to come back every year to see their friends again – bringing their parents along.”

Watching the Bottom Line

Karin Soyster with the American Bakers Association has this advice: “If you have attendees who travel with children for meetings, consider having a pizza party for kids during the opening reception. Have an age restriction (over 6) and consider charging a nominal fee ($10). Many resorts and hotels have kids programs anyway. Parents can drop off their kids when they go to the reception, and kids have something to do.”

“For welcome receptions and tradeshows, I arrange to have some food passed by the servers (the most expensive stuff!), rather than leaving it all out,” says Marion Fuller, CMP, with the Canadian Medical Association. “The food can then be distributed as attendees arrive and also enables attendees to move around exhibits, talk to each other and network without diving immediately for the food tables. The server can also explain what they are serving.”

Debbie DeJacques with the Grocery Manufacturers Association adds, “If you’re having a reception, pass/butler the more expensive items (you’ll be able to make them last longer and save money) and don’t set plates on the display table – use only napkins (this will ensure your attendees get to sample all the offerings but won’t walk away from the display station with a mound of food). Also stick with beer and wine at the bar.”

Mark Gable with the Federal Business Council also has this cost-saving advice: “When planning a reception menu, do not order hors’ d oeuvres by the piece because they are eaten rapidly, and can quickly become very costly. Order items that are carved (turkey, ham, etc) and chef stations (pasta, Mexican, etc.), because people won’t fill their plates as full, making the food last longer. Sheet cakes are also a good dessert for the same reason.”

Promoting Upcoming Destinations

Many associations like to close out their conferences by promoting the next one and a reception can be a great way to do that.

“Hold a destination luncheon or reception during your current conference,” advises Angela Orlando with the American Society of Home Inspectors. “Drum up support from next year’s host city by bringing in a destination specific band, decor, food, etc. A sign or banner may work, but why stop there? You’ve got a captive audience…give them the whole experience!

ASAE Annual Takes Over Detroit

If it’s August, it must be time for your intrepid blogger to head out to the 2015 ASAE Annual Conference & Exposition. Detroit was the fortunate city this year to host 5,300 attendees anxious to network and attend educational sessions positioned to help them:

  • Grow globally
  • Build relationships with board and staff
  • Create a marketing strategy
  • Boost a career
  • Expand creativity
  • Achieve work-life balance

Coinciding with the Annual was the launch of a six year, $279 million renovation of the Cobo Center in downtown Detroit. The new and improved meeting venue boasted expanded meeting facilities along with 30,000 square feet of contiguous floor space presenting attendees with views of the Detroit River and Canada through floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

ConventionPlanit & SPiN team up. Carolyn Pemberton, Muzette Randall, Sara Vanderbilt, Maureen Pickell, Katherine Markham

ConventionPlanit & SPiN team up. Carolyn Pemberton, Muzette Randall, Sara Vanderbilt, Maureen Pickell, Katherine Markham, & Catherine Jensen

Most importantly for a venue this large, were the staffers positioned throughout the building to point you in the right direction and even help you up the escalator with excess baggage when necessary! All in all, Cobo Center did a great job with its first major post-renovation convention!

Carolyn Pemberton & Katherine Markham ConventionPlanit enjoy Detriot's Greektown

Carolyn Pemberton & Katherine Markham ConventionPlanit enjoy Detriot’s Greektown

Reunite With Industry Friends

During each ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition, thousands of association leaders come together to reunite with their favorite industry friends, connect with new and impressive professional peers, participate in advanced education from progressive thought leaders, and celebrate the industry at a number of networking and recognition events.

At the 2015 ASAE Annual Meeting, August 8–11 in Detroit, MI, join 5,000+ of your colleagues from across the country for three full days of powerful networking, thought-provoking education sessions, and innovative business solutions. Register today to enjoy the $150 early bird savings!

There are hundreds of reasons to attend this year’s ASAE Annual Meeting. What’s yours?

Learn more about & register for the ASAE Annual Meeting.

Be sure to visit ConventionPlanit.com in Booth 934 and participate in the onsite Stellar Tip Contest!

A Round Rant

Enjoy a special guest post from Al Rickard, CAE, President of Association Vision, a communications company; arickard@associationvision.com.

Seating

Try to envision the next convention experience for your attendees: Your members stream into the packed opening session to a drumbeat of lively music. They reconnect with friends and colleagues. The stage is set with elegant lighting and exciting graphics. The speakers deliver their messages with energy and connect with the crowd. Everyone has a positive takeaway as they anticipate the rest of the meeting.

Then the crowd disperses to several concurrent breakout sessions. But the rooms are relatively dark and devoid of energy. The speakers are hard to see from the back, and there is no lighting on them. The room is set mostly (or entirely) with rounds with chairs on all sides, forcing half the attendees to turn their backs on the tables and block the already tight walkway space. It also prevents attendees from using the table space for their laptop or to take notes.

More people pour into the rooms (especially for the more popular sessions) and the limited seating at the rounds is quickly filled. Staff members scramble to cart in more chairs to build a couple rows in the back of the room. But it’s not enough – dozens of people are left standing or sitting on the floor in the back. Anyone arriving a little bit late takes one peek into the room and bails out to try to find another session they like. And they paid a big registration fee for this?!

Sure, it’s hard to predict how many people might attend each breakout session. But this scene is repeated over and over again at major conferences. Just dividing the number of people at the opening session by the number of breakout sessions should yield an appropriate number of chairs that will be needed. But somehow the formula usually doesn’t work (or is not being applied).

The oft-repeated rationale for setting breakout sessions with rounds is that it promotes attendee interaction. That’s fine for the 10 minutes before the session starts, but after that, attention is focused on the speakers, and side conversations are distracting at best and rude at worst. Most of the space in the room is occupied by large tables that position attendees further from the speakers and waste most of the space. Meanwhile, dozens of people are sitting on the floor in the back of the room trying to make themselves comfortable.

It’s 2015, people! Can’t we do better than this?

What are the alternatives? Crescent rounds (with seating only on one side of round tables) solves the backs-to-the-table problem, but it also cuts the number of seats nearly in half. Classroom-style seating might seem stuffy and formal to some, but it can double the number of chairs in the room and position people so they are facing the speaker. Theater-style seating increases capacity exponentially, albeit while sacrificing table space. Combinations of seating configurations are often appropriate as long as the necessary seating can be provided.

In his book, Seating Matters, Paul O. Radde, Ph.D, presents a compelling case for improving seating at meetings. He advocates curved-row seating, among other approaches, to improve the attendee experience. While straight tables make this challenging, they can be positioned at an angle on each side to make it easier to see the speaker without turning too much.

In his “Audience Member’s Bill of Rights,” Radde notes that attendees should have a clear, close, and unobstructed view of the presentation and that seats should be facing forward within 5-12 degrees of the main focal point of the presentation. Do breakout sessions at your meeting meet this standard?

If all this seems elementary, it is! Yet this seemingly simple seating problem continues year after year at meetings everywhere. Round tables have a purpose – they are ideal for meals and small discussion groups. But for breakout sessions, they are just “out of round.”

What do you think? Comment below and let’s fix this problem!

Networking Experiences Multiplied

Networking is always a key element of a successful meeting, and increasingly meeting professionals are looking to exciting offsite locations for these events. These can include a wide variety of venues, many of which can provide unique experiences for attendees.“I’ve always been a big believer in giving people a great experience and good food to help them connect and engage at conference networking events. When you give people a fun location and/or an engagement opportunity outside of the convention center/conference location, then you find that organic relationships are built, says Carrie Abernathy, Director of Education and Events at Practice Greenhealth.Consider some of the adventurous and exciting offsite venues highlighted on ConventionPlanit.com:

L.A. Live
Looking for the ultimate entertainment destination, maybe with a bit of star-sighting? That would make a great networking activity. L.A. Live in Los Angeles is a genuine world-class sports and entertainment destination. Located in the center of the entertainment capital of the world, the 5.6 million square foot L.A. Live mixed-used development on 27 acres is the primary “content campus” and event center for Southern California.

Some of the many venues include the Conga Room – the premier Latin and world music venue in Los Angeles – which features live performances from the hottest Latin music acts along with authentic Latin cuisine, cocktails and dancing. The GRAMMY Museum® is an interactive celebration of the power of music with four floors of cutting edge exhibits, experiences and films. The Nokia Theater is home to the EMMYs, ESPYs, American Music Awards and American Idol Finals.

Universal Studios
Universal Studios Hollywood has activities that can get everyone talking. Popular venues include their show pavilions such as the Globe Theater, Animal Actors Pavilion, and the Special Effects Stage.

Up Close With the Monuments
On the East Coast? Check out the The American Pharmacists Association’s headquarters, known as the American Institute of Pharmacy on the National Mall. Located on Constitution Avenue, the event spaces include two connected buildings with ground-level indoor and outdoor areas and a spacious rooftop deck.

The original building was designed by renowned architect John Russell Pope, whose work includes the National Archives and the Jefferson Memorial. The expanded building, completed in 2009, is LEED certified, boasts a rooftop terrace with unparalleled views of the National Mall and beyond. The rooftop is seasonally tented and available for corporate and private events March to November.

On the Track
Some friendly competition is a good way to break the ice and make connections. Pole Position Raceway in Jersey City, New Jersey, is a state-of-the-art indoor karting center. They work closely with planners to ensure a customized, memorable networking experience.

Back to Nature
More into nature? Cibolo Creek in Marfa, Texas is a 30,000 acre ranch that offers ATV rides, horseback riding to view Native American rock art and its own ghost town. Rafting trips through the canons of Big Bend National Park are also a great way to get adventuresome networkers to do some bonding.

Check Out the Ranch
The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland, Colorado hosts automotive shows, animal and livestock events, and concerts. Getting away from the normal stress and hectic schedule of meetings to go kick up some dust will definitely let attendees relax and connect.

Tri County MPI EdCON Recap

CP Regional Director of Sales Deborah Shepard attended the Tri County MPI EdCON last week, and provided us all of the details!

MPI EdCON is an education/conference/exhibit full day program, put together by the Southern CA (LA/Las Vegas) chapter, San Diego and Orange County chapters.

It moves from host chapter to host chapter, and is now in its 3rd year. There were about 60 exhibitors plus a successful hosted buyer program the day before.

Deborah caught up with a few of CP’s member suppliers, and of course we wanted to share the photos with you!

Team San Jose_Christine Davidson

Christine Davidson, National Sales Manager with Team San Jose

ALHI and Langham

Associated Luxury Hotels International  Regional DOS Amber Voelker with the Langham Huntington’s Group Sales Manager, Nima Javadi

VisitNewportBeach-EdCon

Visit Newport Beach had a very professional set up with a double booth. This photo does not do it justice!

Springtime Expo Part 2

The Expo Hall at last week’s Springtime Expo was packed with excitement from the moment I descended the escalators and had my first peek.

show floor

A view of the expo hall at the beginning of the Springtime Expo

Your eyes are not playing tricks on you – yes, that is a  massage station on the right hand side! By the end of the day, there was quite a line of attendees and exhibitors looking forward to a few moments of pampering.

The ConventionPlanit Booth was full of excitement, with many of our staff popping in and out throughout the day.

Me, Regional Director of Sales Carolyn Pemberton & Co-Founder Katherine Markham, CHME

Me, Regional Director of Sales Carolyn Pemberton & Co-Founder Katherine Markham, CHME

Later in the day, I left the booth intent on discovering the most unique booth displays and visiting with our member facilities, destinations and service providers, who did not disappoint with their displays!

Team San Jose's Charging Station

Team San Jose’s Charging Station

Team San Jose‘s booth was as welcome as an oasis in a desert. They were clever enough to include a cell phone charging station, complete with bottles of water and fresh flowers! Needless to say, their booth was quite popular.

The National Conference Center at the Springtime Expo

The National Conference Center at the Springtime Expo

The National Conference Center‘s booth staff was as friendly and welcoming as can be – and we couldn’t help but appreciate their great coordinated outfits! Located in Leesburg, Virginia, the venue boasts a 265,000 square foot live and learn facility, a challenging ropes course, team games and more, only a short distance from Washington, DC.

The Tropicana Las Vegas, a Doubletree by Hilton

The Tropicana Las Vegas, a Doubletree by Hilton

The Tropicana Las Vegas, a Doubletree by Hilton had much to celebrate in their booth. The hotel is the recent recipient of several Best of Las Vegas awards, including Best Hotel Rooms, Best Hotel Room Value, Best Hotel Suites, and many more!

ALHI's Luxury Lane

ALHI’s Luxury Lane

Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI) had the most inviting looking sitting area with custom pillows. The perfect spot to take a load off before journeying down the Luxury Lane of ALHI properties present at the show. ps – learn about their latest Caribbean luxury properties in our recent article!

Rachelina Bonacci, Chief Executive Officer & Amanda Hof, Partnership Promotions Manager for Howard County Tourism & Promotion

Howard County, Maryland was well represented at the show, and had the benefit of promoting a destination that is a short distance from Washington, DC, giving it great appeal for meeting consideration from the local attendees.

The show floor was full of exciting displays. There were 468 booths in total – no wonder the planners were worn out by the end of the day!

IMEX Frankfurt Hosted Buyer Opportunity

IMEX FrankfurtIMEX Frankfurt is gearing up to be the largest yet, and qualified meeting planners can attend for free.

If you are responsible for placing two or more international meetings annually (away from the US, Canada and the Caribbean), join ConventionPlanit.com at IMEX Frankfurt 2015 via the Hosted Buyer Program.

IMEX returns to Frankfurt May 19-21, 2015. Don’t miss your chance to be part of our Hosted Buyer Program and join this group of valued meetings organizers as a guest of IMEX. At IMEX Frankfurt, you’ll meet suppliers from across the United States and around the world under one roof. Along with conducting business with them, you will be able to benefit from tailored education and peer-to-peer networking.

What is included?

  • Roundtrip airfare
  • Accommodation at one of our partner hotels
  • Airport transfers
  • Access to the Hosted Buyer Lounge with phone charging stations, free luggage storage and complimentary WiFi
  • Dedicated Hosted Buyer team to support you and your clients

Bonus – our Hosted Buyer group is led by my colleague (and fellow blogger) Maureen Pickell. Her company always promises to be entertaining!

For more information or to register, please comment below with your contact information and a member of our staff will be in touch with details about the application process!

PCMA’s Convening Leaders Starts January Off Strong

pcma convening leaders

Neither snow falling from above, slush building underfoot or wind catching one in the mid-section prevented over 4,000 participants from gathering  Jan. 11-14 for the 2015 PCMA Convening Leaders meeting in its hometown of Chicago. Your intrepid ConventionPlanit.com Blogger (no stranger to this type of weather) was one of the attendees’ intent on beginning the New Year by joining colleagues for 3 days of education and networking.

PCMA kicked off on Sunday with the Opening Reception held at the prestigious Museum of Science and Industry which was transformed to display Chicago neighborhoods. Food stations showcased yummy tidbits from around the globe while entertainers mingled with the attendees (I nearly became a participant in a Tango demonstration moving around the floor!)

pcma opening reception

PCMA’s Opening Reception

I caught up with CP.com suppliers Julie Dodds from Visit Anchorage, Gerry Kingston from Delta Air Lines and Jane Schuldt with World Marketing Group as well as Advisory Council member David Williams from IEEE attending with his family. His daughter is looking to join the hospitality industry upon graduation…what an intro to our world!

IMEX America Wrap Up

I found a few more photos floating around on my devices that I wanted to share with you all. The third and final day of the show, I had a chance to check out some of CP’s partners amazing booths.

Associated Luxury Hotels International had a very large space at the show, and with 160+ member hotels, it was easy to see why the extra space was needed!

ALHI's Stand

ALHI’s Stand

One of CP’s newest CVB members, Team San Jose, had a great display. Stay tuned to learn more about their great destination on CP.com!

San Jose Stand

Team San Jose Stand

Visit Anchorage was busy with appointments when I stopped by, but rest assured, their booth was filled with their famous adorable stuffed moose giveaways.

Visit Anchorage

Visit Anchorage

Los Angeles had an amazing display of photography at their booth that showcased some of their great attractions that make the city so unique.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Maureen attended the IMEX America Closing Press Conference, which this year expanded to include the three representatives pictured with their partner, Ray Bloom. Obviously the 4th edition of IMEX America surpassed all records previously established.

Allow me to share some year over year statistics with you:

  • Exhibiting companies representing 240 countries  (13% increase)
  • 2900 hosted buyers (8% increase)
  • 53,000 one-to-one business appointments (6% increase)
  • 1250 group appointments attended by 10,600 hosted buyers (12% increase)
IMG_0075

L to R: Cindy D’Aoust – COO of MPI; Chandra Allison – Vice President of Sales The Venetian|The Palazzo; Cathy Tull – Senior V.P. Marketing, Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Association; Ray Bloom: Chairman of IMEX

Maureen also had a chance to explore some of the other stands, and wouldn’t you know, she decided to take a nap! The Delta Air Lines stand brought all the comforts of flight to Las Vegas with this plush bedding and seat.

A Delta flight attendant tucks Maureen in

A Delta flight attendant tucks Maureen in

Last, but certainly not least, I wanted to share a picture of the “Three Amigas” as we dubbed ourselves – the ConventionPlanit IMEX America 2014 Team!

Ashley, Maureen, Sandra

Ashley, Maureen, Sandra

Mark your calendars for October 13-15, 2015 for the fifth anniversary of IMEX America!