Tag Archives: meeting ideas

Planners Helping Planners: Your Questions Answered

Welcome to a new series on the blog where your meeting planning questions and dilemmas are answered by experts – other meeting planners! Comment below with your own questions. 

Q: What should I know about name badges?

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

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

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

Planners Helping Planners: Your Questions Answered

Welcome to a new series on the blog where your meeting planning questions and dilemmas are answered by experts – other meeting planners! Comment below with your own questions. 

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

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

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

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

Planners Helping Planners: Your Questions Answered

Welcome to a new series on the blog where your meeting planning questions and dilemmas are answered by experts – other meeting planners! Comment below with your own questions. 

Q: How can I improve my vendor relationships?

A: It’s never too late to start forming good relationships with the facilities where you conduct business. 

For example if you are on a tight budget and are holding your meeting at a facility that is potentially oversold on housing, you have a great chance of negotiating an arrangement that is beneficial to both you and the hotel.

Contact your sales person or CSM and tell them you’ve heard they may be having some housing challenges and you’d like to offer them some help. If you are holding upgrade rooms, tell them you’d be willing to exchange your upgraded rooms for standard rooms in exchange a meeting comp. Suggest something you know the hotel will not cost them out of pocket (i.e., in-house technology, waiver of nonunion labor/delivery charges, comp room rental). Most of the time the hotel will be more than happy to negotiate because they will be able to happily accommodate both (or all) of their clients.

Submitted by: Tina Buehler, CMP Conference Planning Manager, with Q Center

Creative Conference Gift Ideas

Ever joked about “gifts that keep on giving?” Sometimes you don’t want certain gifts to keep on giving, but in the case of members attending your conference, you do want the gifts you give them to mean something and leave them with fond memories of your event.

So what’s appropriate? What’s unusual and memorable? And what won’t break the bank?

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

What Can You Buy for a Buck?

Not much, you say? Maybe not, but add up some dollar-priced items and you may soon have something worthwhile. Denice Cajigas, Executive Assistant with the Crop Insurance Research Bureau, has learned how to work this angle.

“Purchasing gift baskets for your meeting guests can be quite expensive, not to mention the baskets just never seem to have the variety/quantity or theme you may want for your meeting, or fall within your budget,” she says. “At our meeting I shopped at one of the local dollar stores and purchased the following items to make 65 gift baskets for our Southwestern Theme meeting: China dinner plates with a festive southwestern design; large cans of Arizona Iced Tea (2 for each basket); large bags of Dorito chips; large jars of salsa; bags of assorted mini-chocolate candy bars; and colored party plastic wrap and ribbon. I loaded them in my vehicle, returned to the hotel, and assembled the gift baskets for our guests in my room. Avoiding the $3/$5/$10 delivery room charges that a hotel/resort charges, I borrowed the bellman’s baggage cart and delivered the baskets to our registration table where the guests could receive them. Total cost of 65 ‘awesome’ guest gift baskets: $196.75. The baskets were definitely a hit, and the China southwestern platter could easily be wrapped up to fit into your suitcase to take home with you!”

“Regifting” in a Silent Auction

Did you think that Denice Cajigas (who offered the tip above) had only one idea? Hardly! Here’s her tip on getting some free gifts to then auction off in a Silent Auction:

“A good tip for meetings/events that are planning a silent or live auction as part of their activities is to solicit area vendors in the area (provide vendors with your organization’s mission/purpose and event info). You can request a complimentary gift certificate/tickets/coupon from their establishment (i.e., hotel/spa amenities, restaurants, mall stores, theatres, museums, excursions). You’d be surprised the vendors that will oblige!”

Reward Your Hospitality Partners

The hotel staff at your meeting site work hard to help your meeting succeed. So why not reward them with a few trinkets from your hometown?

“No matter where we travel, in the United States or outside the United States, we try to bring small gifts of thanks from Chicago or Illinois for the bellman, wait staff, the administrative staff and even our sales manager,” says Susan J. Rosen President of In the Event, based in Palatine, IL. “Nothing says ‘thank you’ more than something from your own home town! No matter how small the token – a key chain, a t-shirt or a coffee mug – it has always been appreciated!”

Submit a Card, Get a Gift

“All of us in this business want feedback on our events especially so we can calculate the ROI,” explains Vicki Corson, Senior Events Planner with EDS. “At my company we work very hard to get our subject matter experts as speakers on conference agendas and we want to know what the audience thinks of them. One very successful tactic I use is to distribute comment cards to the attendees at they enter the room (or place them on the chairs). The card includes the speaker name, topic, time, etc. and 3-4 evaluation questions about the speaker. Then I ask for attendee information; the kind of information you would collect from a business card or scanned badge.

“Stated on the card is ‘Turn in this completed card for a free gift.’ I also add that if any required fields are left blank they’re not eligible for the free gift. The gifts are usually a business item such as flash drive, journal/pen combo, etc. My return rate on the card is around 95 percent. I’ve accomplished two goals: feedback on the speaker and contact names for our sales folks. I’ve tried a few variations. Instead of handing out the gifts as they leave the room, sometimes I’ll ask them to return the card to our exhibit booth so that our sales folks can speak with attendees directly. Or I’ve entered the cards into a drawing for a higher-priced gift such as an iPod, iPhone, GPS, etc. The most successful is the immediate gratification – turn in the card, get the gift. Make sure you look at the cards and don’t be shy about asking people to complete all the required fields.”

Scavenging for Gifts

Just like asking attendees to fill out a feedback card, they might be willing to do a little searching to get their gift.

Al Rickard, CAE, President of Association Vision, offers this idea: “Have a quick scavenger hunt during meeting breaks that prompts people to walk around a certain area looking for hidden gifts – some of the gifts might be in other people’s pockets, so it encourages conversations to ask if they have them. Put attendees in teams of three or four to enhance the networking.”

Turn Gifts Into Lower Room Rental Rates

“Improve your ROI by negotiating deeper discounts on room rates,” suggests Paulette Miklas with M&T Bank. “If the Sales Manager is willing to give you a few special concessions (VIP gift baskets, comp dinners, etc.), instead request a further discount on room rental rates from the price you’ve already negotiated. Depending on your room block size, you may receive an even greater cost savings (versus the VIP gift basket). Plus you hopefully helped yourself in establishing a good rate for the next time your group returns.”

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!

Meeting Planning Lessons from The Book of Mormon

What meeting planning lessons can we glean from the popular Tony-award-winning Broadway musical, The Book of Mormon?

Plenty, as it turns out.

At a learning lab at the ASAE 2016 Annual Meeting entitled, “What the Musical The Book of Mormon Taught Me About Association Management,“ seven association professionals used The Book of Mormon as a metaphor to offer association management lessons about leadership, membership recruitment, branding, social media, humor, diversity, and yes, meeting planning.

The session was created and moderated by Sheri Singer, president of Singer Communications, and drew about 500 attendees.

Tom Quash, CAE, Vice President, Marketing, Communications & Publications at the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN), encouraged session attendees to script an inspirational story at their conferences, much as the one of the lead characters in The Book of Mormon did as he worked to convert skeptical villagers in Uganda to the Mormon faith.

“At AWHONN, we celebrate the daily work of our nurses and underscore Connection — a core belief that we know our members value,” Quash explained. “We weave the connection messaging into social media, marketing, and speeches throughout the convention. You know the old adage about the elevator pitch: you must simply state your story and build your script around it.”

Cast of Characters

Next, consider your cast of characters.

“Who is responsible for telling your story at your convention?,” Quash asked. “The CEO? The Chair? Both? You can also have dual roles but they should be positioned purposefully and intentionally.”

He cautioned executives to not try to make a storyteller funny if that doesn’t mesh with their mission or style, and instead leverage the talents of each individual to create a great cast.

“Who can speak with authority when necessary?” he asked. “Who can add levity? Which speakers will best support the story? Does your cast represent a fair balance of your membership or constituents? How many industry partners should be represented? Have you considered diversity, in all its forms?”

Quash noted that at the end of a great play, it’s the cast that receives the hearty applause and the standing ovations.

“For example, think about your general session,” Quash suggested. “When that is over, you want your attendees to be touched or re-energized by what they have heard.”

Creating the Stage

“Does the décor on your main stage reflect your brand and your story?,” Quash asked. “Don’t overlook the opportunity to leverage staging, music and lighting to help create a theatrical experience. If you can, consider using what Broadway plays use all the time the ‘Wow’ factor. Think about the chandelier crashing in Phantom of the Opera–that’s a wow factor.

“You may not have a Broadway budget, but you can still make it theatrical. One year, we had a rock-and-roll pit band during the General Session instead of piped-in music. Another year, our Board Chair took the stage from the audience, rather than backstage, followed by dozens of student members to tell that year’s story of our commitment to the next generation,” Quash explained.

According to Quash, like it or not, your association is competing for attention with free and open access to online content, web-based communities, apps, streaming, Netflix, and even Pokemon Go.

“Your story and your stage cannot come across as stale or disconnected with the expectations or even demands of your members,” Quash said. “Your venue, the city, your networking events, your tradeshow, and more are all ‘stages’ for you to support the experience.”

Practice Makes Perfect

Quash is an advocate of dress rehearsals to make sure “the show” flows without a hitch.

“Rehearsals help determine if the timing is right,” he explained. “Are all the cues in place? Where will your VIPs sit? Are your presenters comfortable with their delivery?”

Quash says it’s also important to consider “what if?” scenarios and have a plan to act accordingly.

“What if a speaker doesn’t show up? What’s the plan to communicate this? What if the fire marshal is onsite and shuts down a room due to overcrowding? What if there’s a weather event that threatens the safety of your attendees?” he asked.

While Quash notes that you can’t plan for every conceivable scenario, you can be prepared for at least some unexpected developments.

Selling Your Show

You can’t start too early when it comes to selling your next conference, Quash declared.

“The selling starts at least a year in advance, at your current convention,” he believes. “While attendees are in the midst of a great experience, you want them to get excited for the following year. Talk up next year, as ASAE routinely does.”

Quash says at AWHONN they test story messages to determine what is resonating with their key audiences. They also explore new marketing platforms.

“Direct mail, email and advertising may be effective, but have you leveraged content marketing?” Quash queries. “Do you have a digital marketing strategy? Can you use your chapter or sections to act as champions? Are there bloggers that can help support the conference promotion? Don’t underestimate their reach and impact.”

Be sure that you provide your members, leaders and other stakeholders with the right tools to help you sell the show, Quash suggested.

“With a compelling story, great cast, inviting staging, detailed rehearsals and smart selling, you’ll create your very ownBook of Mormon – a theatrical, memorable experience for your members,” said Quash.

Al Rickard, CAE, is President of Association Vision, a Washington, DC-area communications company, and serves as Director of Communications for ConventionPlanit.com.

Share Your Experience

Do you have something to say? blah blah blah

ConventionPlanit is now accepting articles for publication in the e-Alert, a biweekly e-newsletter for meeting planners.

Suggested topics may include what’s trending, challenges or success stories. We’re open to new ideas!

This is the perfect opportunity to promote your personal brand or share your wealth of experience with other planners.

ConventionPlanit was designed by meeting planners for meeting planners – so let your industry peers hear from you!

Comment below with a topic you would like to contribute and we’ll be in touch!

 

Innovation + Silicon Valley = San Jose

San Jose is an emerging destination with an influx of urban development strengthening the city’s walkable downtown core and has earned a reputation as a happy, cool and smart city. Team San Jose is one of ConventionPlanit’s newest members, and we couldn’t wait to tell you a little more about what the city has to offer meeting planners.

San Jose

In 2014 The Today Show dubbed San Jose as the smartest city in America, Forbes listed us as one of America’s coolest cities in 2014 and National Geographic recently ranked San Jose as one of the top 10 happiest cities in the world. The city is home to over 6,600 technology companies and has become a global epicenter of innovation, harvesting thousands of innovative technology companies including Adobe, eBay, Cisco, Netflix and TiVo.

As a result, the Capital of Silicon Valley continues to produce world-class technology and Team San Jose’s recent partnership with the City of San Jose to launch Wickedly Fast Free Wi-Fi in the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. The Wi-Fi service compliments the city’s free Wi-Fi at Mineta San Jose International Airport and throughout downtown.

Attendees will experience a range of post-convention activities in Downtown San Jose with over 200 dining and lively nightlife options, contemporary museums, edgy galleries, and vibrant performing arts and entertainment – all within walking distance from the Convention Center.

Other must-sees in San Jose include the weird and wacky Winchester Mystery House, interactive TechShop and the geeky Tech Museum of Innovation.

San Jose is also a sports savvy destination with Avaya Stadium (home of the MLS’ San Jose Earthquakes), SAP Center (home to the NHL’s San Jose Sharks) and nearby Levi’s Stadium (home of the San Francisco 49ers and future events such as WWE WrestleMania 31 and Super Bowl 50).

Have you attended or organized a meeting in San Jose? Comment below and share your experiences!

Get Organized

checklistA successful conference needs a highly organized meeting planner running the show. Make sure your event is up to par and ensure no detail is overlooked by making an event binder. This will be your lifeline onsite at the event. Below we share some of our must-have items to include in your binder. Be sure to let us know what you would add!

 

  • Schedules
    • Personal Schedule: day-by-day works best for larger conferences
    • Meeting Schedule: be sure to include room numbers
    • Staff Schedule: include who is working check in, registration, etc. and the shift time
  • Venue Information
    • Event Contract
    • Venue Contact List
    • Rooming List: ask for an up to date list on arrival day
    • Room Set Ups: highlight any changes from the version the hotel received
    • Food & Beverage Order Forms
    • Hotel Floorplan
    • AV Requests
  • Exhibits
    • Exhibiting Company Lists: alphabetical & by booth number
    • Exhibitor Contracts: include copies of check or credit card numbers
    • Set-Up Instructions: include all drapery colors and any other set-up details sent to the venue
  • Signage: a list of all signs and placement locations
  • Speaker Information: contact information and arrival times
  • Additional Details
    • Last minute action list
    • Security schedule
    • Insurance certificate

    What additional information do you include in your binder? Send a tweet to @conventionplani with the hashtag #cpeventbinder and let us know!

     

    Information compiled with the help of the National Council of Teachers of English

Meetings Tech Expo Hits NYC

Meetings Tech Expo

ConventionPlanit attends many tradeshows throughout the year, and the Meetings Technology Expo this October was a must on the list.

MTE is the first and still the longest-running conference and expo focused on meeting & event technology, and will take place October 28 in New York City.

In its 10th year, MTE will feature CMP and CAE accredited sessions, over 50 tech demos, and play host to dozens of 1-on-1 meetings between tech vendors and tech-buyers. Receive the hands-on education you need to make an informed decision when selecting new technologies for your meetings and events.

As part of your registration you’ll have the opportunity to sign up for 1-on-1 meetings with any MTE exhibitors. The pre-arranged appointments are made to fit within your schedule and help get the most out of your time while at the show.

Plus, learn from your peers what tech solutions have worked for them and share your own tech experiences at the Networking Breakfast & General Session, Networking Luncheon & Tech Round Table Discussions, and Post-show Networking Reception.

Register to attend the Meetings Technology Expo. We hope to see you there!