Author Archives: Muzette Randall

About Muzette Randall is a complimentary search directory and RFP portal for meeting planners. This blog will feature meetings industry tips and news geared toward meeting planners and an inside look at the trade-shows participates in.

IMEX Round Up & Future Leaders

The 11th edition of IMEX America held in Las Vegas recently saw an overall participation of 12,000 attendees, of whom over 4,000 were buyers and 2,500 were suppliers representing 150 countries. Between the easing of travel restrictions and 40% of returning exhibitors taking more booth space, this year’s version was 45% larger than last year’s. And, IMEX Chairman Ray Bloom was very proud of the fact that “hundreds of students, our future leaders, have been here learning and experiencing the industry first hand and in full color.”  

Each year, proudly hosts buyers at IMEX. This year we were fortunate to include a number of student interns from the University of Las Vegas at our stand. As future meeting and event planners, the experience provided ULV students with an overview of the marketplace and current meeting planning priorities.    

The traditional excitement, business and sheer energy that are hallmarks of IMEX were combined with a program attuned to addressing today’s realities.  Along with the themes of sustainability, diversity and service levels, those of wellbeing and mental health were factored in as important considerations. Demonstrating these topics were several of the innovative engagement strategies positioned throughout the exhibit hall. 

One sponsor brought in trained dogs for attendees to pet and scratch for stress relief between educational sessions and show-booth interactions. Taiwan used an inflatable room complete with a faux campfire and a video screen providing over stimulated planners with a cozy presentation space. And CoralTree Hospitality won friends and influenced buyers with a foot massaging station complete with your choice of an essential oil to take away for an aromatherapy jolt to be applied when energy was bound to flag!

IMEX America offers an incomparable opportunity to make connections in the meetings, events and incentive industry. Mark your calendar and see you next year for IMEX America #12 – to be held October 16-19, 2023 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

Relief for Airline Passenger Inconveniences Has Arrived!

Along with the myriad of challenges today’s meeting participants must overcome in deciding whether or not to attend an event, air travel (and its repercussions) presents one of the more formidable issues to consider. 

TSA screened 8.76 million air travelers over Labor Day weekend beating out 2019’s pre-pandemic number by 2%!

Whereby statistics like this were normally used to describe a holiday weekend, an ordinary mid-week, off peak time to fly now has passengers experiencing a significantly increased number of fellow flyers. Along with this higher traffic volume comes more delays and/or outright cancellations. Historically, deciphering obscure rules as described in the Contract of Carriage relating to restitution due passengers has been the norm when an airline failed to provide the service paid for through no action or fault of the consumer.

However, help is on the way! In late August, the Transportation Department introduced an Airline Customer Service Dashboard which allows passengers to see what each carrier is committed to doing for them in cases of “controllable” (meaning their fault) cancellations or significant delays.

Re-accommodation can range from handing out food vouchers in case of long delays, providing a hotel in case of an overnight cancellation/delay to rebooking you on the same airline at no additional cost, or even on a competitor’s flight. However, not all airlines will offer the same levels of re-accommodation with the ultra-low-cost carriers less amenable to some of the above mentioned entitlements.

Now passengers can consult this simple dashboard rather than trying to read through the excruciatingly small print of the aforementioned Contract of Carriage on an individual airline’s website to find out what they are entitled to – or not. What the Transportation Department is saying now is that more focus in dealing with the aftermath of delays and cancellations is long overdue and they are laying down the law.

Hopefully this will help to eliminate the attendee’s question of “should I or should I not rely on an airline to get me to my meeting, event or convention on time and unstressed?” 

Submitted by Maureen Pickell

Forty Years of Serving the DMV and Beyond!

After 40 years, the Association of Meeting Professionals (AMPs) continues to stand strong. Founded in Alexandria Virginia, it sits alone as the premier local organization of powerful DC, VA, and MD meeting professionals and supplier partner members from around the country.  Even through the height of the pandemic, AMPs was solid in its footing and did what it does best…provide education and networking opportunities to its members. I recently had the opportunity to speak to Annette M. Suriani, CMP, CFMP, DES, Business Events Strategist, AMS Meetings Solutions, and AMPs’ Executive Director what kept AMPs going.

As the Executive Director, what is your vision for AMPs?

My goal is to move forward the mission of the organization and that of our current Chairman’s vision.  I believe the passion our leadership and volunteers have for this organization is its driving force.

What is AMPs’ purpose and what makes it so unique?

It is a true community of industry meeting and events professionals that gather for quality educational opportunities and networking with peers and suppliers. We make it affordable so planners who join the organization obtain complimentary registration for our quarterly education meetings. Because we’re an independent organization, we do not have to get approval from a “corporate office” on initiatives that make sense for our members. The Board is strategically made up of planners and suppliers that have a deep understanding of what our members face on a daily basis.     

How did  AMPs cope during the pandemic?

It was hard, especially for smaller organizations like AMPs.   We held monthly virtual education programs to stay connected.  When we couldn’t meet in person, we held 5K fun runs/walks. Everyone enjoyed the camaraderie and just being outside even though we required them to wear masks! AMPs truly is a community in unity.

Who can join AMPs and how do they sign up?

Anyone in the meetings and hospitality industry can join.  We are very affordable and don’t charge extra for most of our programs.  Just visit or email us at  We have a very active committee scene and we’re always looking for members to join and provide new ideas and insight.

Advocate for the Meetings Industry

Maintaining a thriving meeting industry is a personal passion for Annette M. Suriani, CMP, CFMP, DES, Business Events Strategist, AMS Meetings Solutions, and Executive Director for Association Meeting Professionals (AMPs).

As PCMA’s Capitol Chapter President in 2015, Annette reinstated the government relations committee because she saw a need to educate our representatives and even those in our industry of the importance of the meetings and events industry.  Who knew how much more important this committee  would be in 2020?

According to Annette…“The meetings and events industry provides a major impact for local, national and global economies. Yet, we are often overlooked when it comes to legislation that can help us. In the most simplistic terms, It is incumbent upon all of us in this industry to stay on top of our elected officials and educate them on the numbers of jobs that employ their constituents, let alone solutions and discoveries that are made when people collaborate when they meet face to face.

IMEX supercharges show learning programmes with appointment of industry veteran

The IMEX Group is set to remodel the professional learning programmes delivered at both of its global trade shows with the appointment of Tahira Endean as Head of Programme.

Vancouver-based Tahira’s new role signals a new era for IMEX. A three-year education strategy will capitalise on IMEX’s free to attend programming to meet the industry’s thirst for knowledge and continuous development while embracing a growth mindset.

Tahira Endean, Head of Progamme, IMEX Group

The IMEX education programme was envisioned and developed in 2005 by Dale Hudson, Knowledge and Events Director. It has grown in size and quality over the last 15 years, adding substantial value to the visitor experience. Tahira’s addition to the team will build on that legacy. She’ll work with both the IMEX Marcomms and Knowledge and Education teams to design learning programmes that enrich the show’s value proposition and deliver measurable business benefits.

Tahira explains: “We’re focused on designing learning with buyer requirements in mind first and foremost as we want them to have meetings that are enhanced by education at the show. Our combined aim is for attendees to leave each session with tangible takeaways that also support their meetings onsite. IMEX’s legacy of tailored education that meets the particular needs of agencies, associations and corporate event professionals has always been strong; we’re looking to build on that too.”

“As a veteran of the MICE industry and self-confessed event nerd, I recognise IMEX as the professional home for our global industry. The opportunity to provide knowledge that helps us all develop and grow through turbulent times is important and to do it with a team as committed, passionate and talented as IMEX is really exciting.”

Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group, adds: “We’re delighted to welcome Tahira to our team. Her extensive industry experience, large network of contacts and fresh approach supports our aim to keep on innovating and provide powerful, purposeful and multi-faceted experiences for all attendees.”

Changes to education programming are already in place for IMEX America which opens with Smart Monday, October 10 in Las Vegas. IMEX has announced an education theme for the 11th edition of the show – ‘Pathways to Clarity’. Its learning tracks have been consolidated and redesigned. Details will be announced in the next few weeks.

IMEX America 2022 takes place at the Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, and opens with Smart Monday, powered by MPI on Monday October 10, followed by the three-day trade show October 11-13.

Tahira, former Head of Events at SITE, is currently studying for a MSc in Creativity and Change Leadership. She lives with her family in Vancouver, enjoys cooking and immersing herself in nature.

Press information, please contact: Emma Blake:

Data Summary: Analysis of Current Trends & Challenges

Best Business Practices Between Meeting Professionals and Hospitality Sales Executives

Another year has passed and with the marketplace in constant flux. We decided to survey our network again to gain an updated understanding of the current trends and challenges to provide up to the minute helpful advice.

The four questions we asked in our survey:

  1. What kind of salesperson are you today as compared to a year ago?
  2. What do you see as the biggest challenge in responding to inquiries?
  3. What’s your biggest obstacle while adding new clients?
  4. What was the biggest hurdle in contract negotiations?

We are happy to share the responses today compared to a year ago indicate that salespeople are feeling positive and optimistic, they are truly ready for customers. As a bonus, they feel they are more personable and better in their roles overall.

We have compiled and analyzed the data and have shared the results in the form of common themes and experiences, as well as our recommendations with you below.

Positive Changes

  • More personable and understanding of how to navigate the current climate and COVID-19 requirements
  • Improved sales skills overall and are more optimistic in booking business
  • No barriers or obstacles when it comes to growing client list or negotiating contracts

Relationship Building

  • Willing to spend time building relationships and seeking aligned clients
  • Employing people skills to work within shorter timeframes and smaller budgets
  • Transitioned from reactivity to proactivity, particularly as it pertains to maintaining relationships and earned trust of clients
  • Communication has transitioned to email and away from verbal communication or in-person meetings
  • Building capabilities to respond to inquiries in a faster manner, clients are becoming increasingly time sensitive
  • Increased emphasis on contracts and conditions with COVID-19 making it difficult to predict and navigate potential cancellations


  • Challenges arise with delayed responses and inquiries which are more general in nature
  • Pressure on resources as calendars are becoming increasingly full
  • Client budgets and expectations don’t match the value provided
  • The need to move towards more digital resources as manual processes including credit cards, estimates and contracts are now inconvenient

Job Performance

  • Increase in diligence and determination to close sales
  • Realizing and adjusting to the time investment required to respond to all inquiries
  • The need for creativity to ensure potential client replies and increased communication

Professional Knowledge and Skills

  • Higher focus on problem solving and negotiating skills
  • Spending the time to go through processes thoroughly
  • “Soft” skills like patience and understanding are more valuable in client and supplier communication
  • Lean staffing levels pose a challenge

Values, Perceptions and Thoughts

  • Overall feeling more hopeful as to the current and future state of the industry
  • Increased need to balance flexibility with forward planning as event calendar fills
  • New entrants into event positions sometimes mean communicating with less experienced potential clients and contacts, requires thoughtfulness and patience
  • Finding creative ways to understand a potential client’s vision for an event via written forms of communication, previously was easier via in-person meetings or phone calls

Flexibility and Adaptability

  • More in tune with the need to pivot and provide virtual content and services
  • Clients require more consultation to understand needs and move towards being ready to book
  • Shifted from administration to the need for marketing with the increasing need to identify buyer audiences, purchasing habits, preferences, and unique needs
  • Determining the best practices to qualify leads for best use of time and resources
  • Adapting to the short-term nature of more opportunities compared to last year
  • Still navigating how to be flexible and adaptive during COVID-19 times and potential last-minute cancellations

Intuitiveness and Awareness

  • Sales professionals are realizing they are now more cautious while others are experiencing frustration, and for some they have learned to become patient

Given the responses to this year’s survey, we have revised our recommendations to remedy some of the challenges and issues.

All themes explored in the survey play an important role in each person’s development as they reassess their skills to move forward effectively. A noteworthy observation is that goals are shorter than they have ever been before and that the market and environment have truly changed.

Contract negotiations are becoming more tedious making salespeople stressed as clients strive to cover every little detail, particularly as it pertains to COVID-19 regulations. This has meant that contracts take longer to finalize. We highly recommend ongoing contract reviews for both sides to identify realistic terms and conditions with a quarterly review before negotiations are final.

When it comes to building better relationships, flexibility and adaptability are key skills that require continuous improvement to have the ability to fulfil each client’s specific needs on an ongoing basis; this will be a major factor in negotiations and successfully securing business.

If you’re interested in learning more about securing and growing your business in these new economic times, please feel free to get in touch with us at, we are more than happy to chat to you about how we can help.

Presented by:

Lynne Wellish, CMP, CHSE Sales Activator with a focus on unique boutique businesses in the Hospitality Industry.

LoriAnn Harnish, CMP, CMM, CED, CTA Strategic meeting professional.

Both are life-long learners and hospitality educators at Scottsdale Community College. Each year they collaborate on a survey to stay current with trends as they update and curate content for their students. Please email your experiences regarding the survey results or to inquire about customized recommendations to help grow your business.

Hilton New Orleans/St. Charles Ave

When you want your room cleaned every day – it matters where you stay.

When you stay at the Hilton New Orleans/ St. Charles Avenue hotel, you can rest easy.

For your comfort and safety:

  • Daily housekeeping service
  • Adequate staffing
  • An ideal location, steps away from the French Quarter – but far enough away from the noise for a good night’s sleep

For your food and beverage needs:

  • Restaurant Luke serves three meals a day, room service and meets all of your catering needs

Enjoy mindful meetings:

  • Healthy Menu Options
  • 24-Hour spacious fitness center
  • Nearby trail access

Because cost matters, we are offering cost savings for qualified groups

  • Discounted Group Rates – for 10 rooms per night or more, based on availability. Book by August 31, 2022 and meet anytime in 2022.
  • 2% Rebate to master account, give back to your meaningful organization
  • 3x Hilton Honors Points for the meeting planner upon conclusion
  • Complimentary Beer & Wine for 30 minutes during dates of your meeting

Book Now and Save

‘Milestone moment’ – IMEX America honoured at AEO Awards

The IMEX Group has won Best International Show – Americas at the recent AEO Excellence Awards. The awards, held last Friday (24 June), honoured IMEX America 2021 which took place in November last year at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas.

Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group, explains why the show was a milestone moment for the team and the wider industry: “IMEX America 2021 was our first show in over two years and enabled us to reunite with our events industry family – we’re delighted to commemorate it with this award. 

“IMEX America was the first international event on American soil after the US government lifted travel restrictions – in fact, the show took place on the day the borders opened.

“Organising a show under these challenging conditions took a Herculean effort from the team, but the appreciation and elation of the global industry who joined us onsite made it all worthwhile.”

Registration has formally opened for IMEX America, October 11 – 13 2022 at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas. Attendee registration remains free for all buyer and supplier types: 

Rants of an Old Independent Meeting Planner

By Barry Zidel, Principal at Meeting Connections, Inc. 

Genesis: How did the events and meeting planning industry really begin? 

In thinking about this wild, wacky, and wonderful industry in which those of us find ourselves, it must have come into being by pure happenstance…rudimentarily perhaps by an executive of a company asking his assistant set up the conference room so he or she could comfortably address either a potential client, or to address internal personnel with, let’s say a somewhat formal or informal luncheon…… something to impress! 

As do most things, those instances can become quite successful, if even by accident. This happenstance bore fruit based on someone’s creativity and labor. My oh my, how this “accident” has grown in global proportions! From these humble beginnings with a singular individual and some creativity, it grew into small independent event and meeting planning companies worldwide! In today’s world there are tens of thousands of these companies in every corner of the globe. 

Of course, beyond these independents, there are in-house corporate and association planners. Make no mistake, these planners are just as sharp and adept as the independents. In fact, there are various degrees of reliance of independents from the in-house planners. Independent planners, by the nature of their existence and potential growth, are exposed to multiple industries and disciplines. My feeling when I got involved in this industry was that one either got it right away, or one did not and honestly never would! There’s no mystique/ It involves: a bit of creativity, psychology, and knowledge of just about everything, and certainly a lot guts! 

So here comes the “rant”. Evolution occurs in every walk of life. In this business “in the beginning” our working tools were lined pads of paper; pens, you know those things you sometimes pickup at tradeshows; pencils that are virtually extinct, an electric typewriter, a high-end “toy” called a telex machine; and of course, a telephone. I found the telephone was a special means of communicating with other human beings, who by the way, were also eager to converse with the caller! 

Now, with all these tools at hand, we were off to the races! We made appointments, had face to face meetings, developed business relationships and sometimes even friendships. From that point, we knew every element we had to deal with and oh my, if we had questions, or better ideas to make a meeting more effective, all we had to do was pick up the telephone to discuss what was necessary and the betterment of the project. Our job, and still is today, is to make our clients look great! 

We understood everything because beyond that old-timers’ stuff, relationships were at the very core of how we conducted this odd-ball amazing business. Generations change of course. Technology really evolves at a more rapid pace than ever before. That doesn’t mean that we, at any age, and for anyone who really cares about this business, have the pride and fortitude to aim for perfection can just not give care about developing relationships at every level of what we do.  

The growth of this industry is thanks to businesses like our small independent planners, corporate and association planners, hotels, a/v companies, off-premises food and beverage companies, airlines, multi-media companies, digital marketing companies, and on and on!  

It’s all about service, knowledge and connections! 

The U.S. no longer requires inbound air travelers to test negative for COVID-19

The U.S. no longer requires inbound air travelers to test negative for COVID-19. The testing mandate is due to end at midnight on Sunday,  June 12, 2022, according to a report from CNN

The Biden administration is expected to make an official announcement on Friday afternoon.

The move follows calls from the travel and hospitality industries to end the requirement, seeing it as a major setback for the recovery of the U.S. travel industry despite a huge demand from travelers. The mandate, which had been in place since January 2021, required all inbound travelers to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, regardless of their vaccination status. Other countries, including the U.K., Italy and Germany, have already lifted similar requirements. 

“Today marks another huge step forward for the recovery of inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the United States,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow, in a press statement. “The Biden administration is to be commended for this action, which will welcome back visitors from around the world and accelerate the recovery of the U.S. travel industry.

“International inbound travel is vitally important to businesses and workers across the country who have struggled to regain losses from this valuable sector. More than half of international travelers in a recent survey pointed to the pre-departure testing requirement as a major deterrent for inbound travel to the U.S.”

Dow also said that new data shows that “repealing the pre-departure testing requirement could bring an additional 5.4 million visitors to the U.S. and an additional $9 billion in travel spending through the remainder of 2022.”

Zane Kerby, the president and CEO of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), also responded to the news. “We are thrilled to see the end of the CDC’s inbound testing rule, which has been standing in the way of our industry’s recovery for too long,” Kerby said in a statement. “Since the start of the year, ASTA has been engaged in a multi-layered advocacy campaign to get to this point, including direct lobbying of Congress and Administration officials, grassroots action and pressure through national and local media. We commend the Biden Administration for taking this long-overdue step and thank ASTA members across the country for their hard work in helping get this across the finish line. While plenty of challenges remain in terms of rebuilding the travel agency business, today is a great day.”

Lorine Charles-St. Jules, the CEO of Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, is already hearing a sigh of relief from both travel advisors and travelers. “While most countries, like Saint Lucia, have made it seamless to schedule Covid testing before departing for the U.S., there is always uncertainty in travel,” Charles-St. Jules said. “Eliminating the testing requirement could spur further growth in international travel for Saint Lucia, the Caribbean, and all international destinations that appeal to the American market.”

For more travel news, click here

Solutions for Today’s Challenges

As meetings and events are resuming, new challenges are emerging. David Markham, co-founder, sheds light on the most frequent sourcing concerns challenging meeting professionals today and how RFP Valet® is especially helpful.   

What challenges are you hearing from meeting professionals today? 

Staffing! Both meeting and hotel sales departments likewise are understaffed, causing communication bottlenecks. Hotel revenue managers typically approve room rates quoted which also stalls the process. We can minimize this by extending the RFP response. Recognizing that limiting the number of destinations in order of preference from which to obtain quotes can be effective for both parties.

Limited Space! In many areas, it’s a sellers’ market because of the rebooking of previously cancelled meetings. Hotels are being careful with room blocks and rates. We emphasis why an RFP should be considered and responded to promptly. To obtain the approval of the hotel’s revenue manager we suggest providing food & beverage guarantee numbers. The more ammunition we can uncover and convey to the hotel, the better.

Where are the opportunities right now for planners to get what they need? 

Flexibility! Understanding that hotels have need periods and everyone has preferred dates, we advise that when putting together the RFP, meeting professionals should first clarify within their organizations what alternate dates that can be considered, including a flexible arrival/departure pattern. These steps can avoid going back a second time to check availability.

Consider both shoulder and valley dates and destinations which may not have been previously considered.  Airlift into select destinations in North America has actually increased over the past several months. Conduct research online and compile a short list of specific properties or destinations prior to going out to bid.

How can RFP Valet® help planners navigate through RFP sourcing in today’s unique landscape? 

Our experienced team consults with planners and distributes their RFP to designated suppliers, including NSOs. Suppliers complete requested bid criteria via email to the planner. Quotes and concessions are automatically compiled onto a comparison chart with attachments to download, forward or print out their results to present at a meeting. It’s all about service, which is so rare today.

What is is an easy-to-use search directory and RFP portal that has been serving meeting professionals since 2003. Designed with input from our Advisory Council, our website empowers executives and meeting planners who source their own RFPs and negotiate their own contracts with time saving tools, industry resources and services. There are no commissions or hidden fees to worry about.  Paid advertisers are showcased, making the tools and services completely free.

Why should a planner use 

Having an advocate in today’s new landscape is especially helpful today. We provide a powerful means of communication between the buyer and seller.  It saves valuable time finding what’s needed to plan meetings and events. Planners have the option of using RFP Valet®, for tools and services with suppliers, or use the search directory to locate destinations, facilities and service providers. Each listing provides direct contact information, so buyers are in touch with the appropriate sellers.