Tag Archives: Tips for Meeting Planners

Meal Planning Tips for Meetings

When it comes to food, it’s personal.  Attendees may not remember the facility, but they always remember the food! How do you satisfy every individual?

Below are some guidelines to consider when beginning to plan your group meals.

1. Decide on a theme that coincides with the destination or type of meal service, i.e., formal linens for a sit down, international food stations or cookout?

2. If the meeting is for a group of strangers, an informal buffet inspires social mingling. If using the same venue for several days, vary the meals between a sit-down and buffet.

3. Be eventful by the 3rd day with a cookout or offer a ‘meal credit’ to eat at the hotel’s restaurant or nearby eateries.

4. Taste everything, including the appetizer, soup, bread, entrée and dessert. Make sure there are healthy options that are fresh and well prepared. Can they accommodate special requests, i.e., peanut allergies, low fat, gluten free, low sodium, vegetarian?

5. Alert the hotel if they can expect a volume of attendees to hit their restaurants all at once. Communicate with an individual on site who is responsible for food and beverage

Questions? Call our free RFP Hotline at 866 922-8988!

New Question and Answer Series

Meeting planners have a wealth of knowledge, and are happy to share it! If  you have a burning question, comment below, and one of your peers will offer some advice!

Question: How can I improve my vendor relationships?

Answer: 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.

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

Maximize Content from Your Annual Meeting

What’s the biggest content generator for your association? 

Nearly every association will quickly answer, “The annual meeting!”

So what are you doing to capture, re-purpose, and distribute that content? If you’re like most associations, probably several things. But are you maxing out this important activity?

Check out these ways you can spread the word to see if there are any untapped opportunities:

Seize the News. When a keynoter or another speaker announces a key piece of news, what are you doing about it? Make sure you capture it and feed it out to your members and external audiences immediately. Delivery methods include e- newsletters, blogs, tweets, Facebook, and press releases. When reaching out to external audiences make sure you highlight the relevance to them.

Record Everything. Capturing all your sessions in either video or audio format ensures a complete historical record and gives you multiple ways to market your current and future meetings. Besides just selling session recordings to non-attendees (attendees should get them for free), make sure you capture video/audio snippets, post them on YouTube, and then share the links on Twitter, Facebook, your blog, and website along with a quick pitch on why people need to see them. When you market next year’s meeting, use the best of these to remind members of the quality content they can expect.

Deliver the Buzz in Real Time. Your meeting is a rich experience filled with content, business opportunities, networking connections, entertainment, and more. Encourage attendees to share all this online. Set up Twitter hashtags and take full advantage of Snapchat, Instagram, and other social media to get the buzz out there. Create a contest for the best member posts and give away a prize at the opening session each morning during the meeting.

Share the Photos. You probably have an official photographer taking thousands of photos. How are you using them? How many of them will see the light of day? Select the best 100 photos each day and put them on a continuous loop on the big screens as people are coming into all your general sessions and evening receptions. Create an online social media forum as well and asked members to post their photos there. This is also a great opportunity for a member contest.

Cover the Sessions. Engage your editorial team and bring in freelancers as needed to cover all your best sessions. Write them up immediately in 600-800 word articles. Use these for press releases, articles in any on-site convention publications, post-meeting coverage, blog posts during the meeting, etc. Share them with the speakers from those sessions and ask them to multiply the exposure. They will be thrilled with this coverage and be happy to do it!

Interview the Experts. Your annual meeting is the one occasion of the year when all the top leaders and experts in your industry/profession will all be in one place. Take advantage of this opportunity to do a quick video interview to pick their brains on critical issues. Set up a video station in the exhibit hall or another convenient location to do these five-minute interviews. Feed them out online during the meeting and throughout the year to drive ongoing discussion. Use them in your association’s online discussion forum too.

Tap the Research. Announce major research findings and release new reports at your annual meeting to draw more attention and news value to the event. Leverage this research throughout the year in a series of releases and news postings about key findings that also mention they were released at the annual meeting.

The plethora of social media and the ability of attendees to spread the word if sufficiently motivated can deliver an exponential impact. Leverage this as much as possible and soon you will find that your meeting content is living a longer life.

Al Rickard, CAE, is President of Association Vision and serves as Director of Communications for ConventionPlanit.com.

Share a Tip & Win

facebook contestAre you a meeting planner with a great industry tip to share?

Visit our Facebook Page and comment with your best meetings related tip to be entered to win a $100 American Express Rewards Card.

The tip with the most likes by the end of the month wins, so tell your friends!
Contest is open to meeting planners who comment and share a tip by September 30.

The winner will be announced on our Facebook page, so “Like” the ConventionPlanit Page to be notified!

To check out past winning tips, visit the Stellar Tips Page on ConventionPlanit.com.

This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Meetings Make Money

Face-to-face meetings are arguably the most cost-efficient form of marketing that exists today.
meetings make moneyConventions, trade shows, and private corporate events are unique 3-D environments, combining elements of marketing, advertising, and sales.  Meetings bring targeted buyers and sellers together at one place, and at one time.  Events facilitate personal interaction, networking, education, branding, and can generate both immediate and deferred sales opportunities.

Meetings are all about business:  they develop relationships, generate leads, close deals, and create new customers.  More than that, meetings impact local economies.  Similar to a sporting event coming to a city (but even more so), meetings draw people to a city.

These people spend money:  according to the US Travel Association, an average attendee at a trade show spends over $1,000.  And that spending creates jobs … lots of jobs!  Not just jobs for most of the people reading this article, but think about all the types of jobs created:  anyone that works at a convention venue (anyone, in any capacity); anyone in the hospitality business that caters to conventioneers (staffs at hotels, restaurants, and night clubs); taxi drivers; meeting planners; meeting suppliers; transportation companies; exhibit designers and builders; association and show managers; corporate exhibit managers … the list could go on and on, but space is limited.

Trade shows and meetings create an enormous economic impact.  In 2012, Boston hosted 245 events at the BCEC and Hynes.  654,119 professional attendees participated in these events.  These attendees came to Boston and spent approximately $656 MIL — this number includes $35.75 MIL in direct taxes.  (Source: massconvention.com).    Direct taxes obviously benefit an economy.  But the benefit is even greater — because the people whose jobs are impacted by meetings, make more money, spend more money, and pay more taxes.  Over time the economic impact multiplies.  The BCEC opened in 2004.  In the past ten years, the BCEC and Hynes has hosted over 2400 conventions, and created an economic impact of $5.3 BIL, which includes $262 MIL in city and state taxes.  These events brought people to the city, and put “heads on beds” – 5.2 MIL hotel room nights.  Over 1 MIL taxi rides and 5300 jobs have been created. (Source:  MCCA.  Economic Impact and Annual Report.  10/02/2014).  In July, 2014, the Governor of Massachusetts signed legislation authorizing a 1.3 MIL square foot expansion of the BCEC.

Okay.  If the economic impact of meetings on a local economy is significant, what is the impact nationwide?  It is more than significant; it is impressive.  Members of the Convention Industry Council commissioned Pricewaterhouse Coopers to audit meetings that occurred in the US, during 2012.  The study, “The Economic Significance of Meetings to the U. S. Economy,” reported:

·         There were 1.83 MIL meetings in 2012.
·         244.9 MIL participants attended these meetings.
·         5.3 MIL jobs were created, generating $234.6 BIL in labor income.
·         $280 BIL in direct spending; another $490 BIL in indirect and induced spending.
·         $508 BIL in federal taxes, and $379 BIL in state and local taxes (total= $887 BIL).

So, how big is $508 BIL (the amount of federal taxes generated by the Industry)?  Well, written like that, it may not seem so big.  $508 BIL is $508,000,000,000.  A billion, in the US, is 1,000 million.  A billion seconds is 31 years.  To count from one to a billion, would take 95 years.  If a billion people stood on top of each other, the line would extend past the moon.  So a billion would appear to be a pretty big number … except when it isn’t — the federal government in Washington DC spends a billion dollars every 8 hours and 20 minutes.  (Source: mathforum.org).  At the rate of one billion every 8 and 1/3 hours, it would take the government approximately 176.5 days to exhaust the federal tax money generated by the meetings industry.

How large is the meeting industry compared with other industries?  It may surprise some to learn that meetings contribute more to the US economy than many other major US industries.

Meetings create opportunities for individuals, and for businesses.  They are an important economic engine and one of the best kept secrets for anyone outside the industry. It is time, actually past time, to share this secret.  The bottom line:  Meetings make dollars and sense.

Bob McGlincy is the Director of Business Management for Willwork, Inc. Exhibit & Event Services, and the author of this article. He can be reached at bmcglincy@willwork.com.

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

Got a Tip? Share and Win!

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

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

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

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

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

Wanted: Best Name Badge Tips


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

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

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

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

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

Navigating Cultural Differences at Global Meetings

When does it matter whether you kiss, bow or shake hands? According to meeting professional experts at the PCMA breakout session on How to Navigate Cultural Differences When Planning Global Meetings, it’s key to understand that in Europe you can kiss once, twice or three times on the cheeks (depending on the country) but in Asia, personal space must be respected by keeping one’s distance.


Planning a global meeting can be nothing like putting on an event in your home country so research is important to ensure the successful outcome of your endeavors.

Timing, negotiations, greetings, gifts, food/beverage and financials will all be impacted to some extent based on the local culture and customs. Following these simple guidelines will help planners who are just beginning to “go global:”

  • Be prepared
  • Be creative/flexible
  • Be patient
  • Be respectful

You can also check the Global Tools section on ConventionPlanit.com for even more tips on arranging an international event. What additional tips would you share?

How to Keep Food & Beverage from Taking a Bite Out of Your Budget

Savvy meeting planners are always looking for ways to keep costs down without compromising quality for attendees. Food and beverage always consumes a large part of any meeting’s budget, but there are ways to help take a “bite” out of this expense.

Meeting planners from across the nation shared their favorite tricks of the trade when it comes to saving on food and beverage costs by posting them on the popular ConventionPlanit.com Stellar Tips list.


*        Serve pitchers of water with and without slices of lemon. Attendees love the twist of lemon and it cuts down on wasted, half-drunk bottles of water and attendees grabbing two or three bottles “for the road” which can add up to big costs. Plus it is more environmentally friendly. (Linda Testa, A O North America)

*        Use self-serve soda stations instead of cans. This saves on waste and also keeps attendees for taking extra cans with them. (Susan Neff, APICS)

*        When serving wine, ask if there is any dead stock, that is, discontinued varieties. They are usually sold at a discount to help clear out inventory. This works especially well when the wine bottles are at the table. No one will know that          different varieties are being served. (Diane Aquino-Medina, Nestle Professional)

*        Ask to be with the beverage manager when the bar count is done. Inform your hotel convention manager in advance that you would like to do this. Being       present keeps the manager honest, especially when having to measure out tenths of bottles (how liquor is measured) and can add up to big savings.


*        If your budget is really tight, consider giving out snack vouchers instead of setting      up a break table. Attendees get a certain amount of money ($3-5) for the snack shop in the hotel. You pay only for the vouchers that are redeemed. (Kathy Craig, Ecumenical Stewardship Center)

*        Don’t be afraid to get creative with banquet menus. Work with the hotel staff to combine items from various menus (lunch, dinner, special events) to create the meals you want. (Carol David, Axcelis Technologies)

·         If you are on a budget and need to plan a full day of meals, provide the total amount you have to spend to the chef or catering manager and request that they customize menus based on the specific requirements for each event. This allows the chef to be creative with dishes and to utilized local products, which should be less expensive.

*        Keep breakfast budgets in check by asking the catering director to cut pastries (danish, muffins, bagels) in half. They go farther and many people want only half. (Laura Johnson, Market*Access)

*        At a reception, pass/butler more expensive items. They will last longer and it will save money. Another trick is to use only napkins (not plates) on the table. This will keep people from loading up a plate.

*        Instead of serving dessert at lunch, save it to serve at the coffee break. This will provide a yummy treat and keep calorie-conscious attendees from indulging in two sweets during the day. This is a good tip if there isn’t enough money in the food and beverage budget for food at the coffee break.


 *          Make sure the banquet or catering manager has the final meeting agenda to ensure   that breaks and meals are in sync with that agenda. (Lori Schwarze, RTI International)

*        Plan ahead with hotel staffing to make sure that bars and restaurants are     adequately staffed to handle attendees during free time, especially if those times     don’t coordinate with normal meal/bar times.

*        Prepare for all special dietary needs. Some people are shy or overly considerate to voice their preferences. Offer lo-carb, vegetarian, gluten free, etc., fare to please all. (Susan Neff, APICS)

Lucky enough to have surplus funds in the F&B budget?

*        Have a continuous all-day refreshment break outside of breakout rooms. This will save attendees from having to search for staff if they need something outside    a scheduled break time and will keep them from going hungry. (Nancy Williams,         Plan Ahead Events)

*        Use the money to combine food with a team-building event such as putting together food boxes for charity, having a wine-making event, or having teams create their own ice cream flavors.

These helpful hints can help to maximize or trim a F&B budget, allowing you to enjoy your just desserts!

Want to make some money? Visit the ConventionPlanit.com Stellar Tip Contest and submit your best tips. If your tip receives the most votes from fellow meeting professionals next month, you will win a $100 American Express Reward Card!