Five Reasons to Hold Your Meeting in Virginia

1.) Virginia Green
Virginia Green is a voluntary program sponsored by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the Virginia Tourism Corporation, and the Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association. It is a network of tourism-related organizations and programs that are committed to protecting and promoting the environment.

Virginia Green Lodging was the first established program in the Virginia Green Network, but criteria are now developed for all sectors of the tourism industry! Minimum “core activities” have been developed for each of these sector categories, and they are encouraged to become as “green” as possible! Virginia Green “profiles” are developed for each facility so you can then choose to stay at a facility which offers the “green” amenities that you value!

2.) New Convention Centers
Richmond expanded its convention center to include more than 180,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space with more than 32 meeting rooms, and will soon have a new 250-room Hilton Garden Inn Hotel just steps away. As part of their redevelopment plan, Richmond will boast a new performing arts complex as well.

Virginia Beach is home to a new convention center with a 37,000 square-foot ballroom, 150,000 square feet of exhibit space, and over 25,000 square feet of additional meeting space. Hampton is also home to a new convention center with more than 344,000 total square feet and a new adjacent 300-room Embassy Suites.  Meeting attendees can walk to the center through a covered walkway from the hotel. Wytheville, in Virginia’s Blue Ridge region, also has a new convention facility with 24,000 square feet of functional meeting space and an 8,500 square-foot banquet hall. Nearby hotels will have more than 1,200 rooms.

3.) Unique Virginia Meeting Spaces
As Virginia moves closer to the forefront of American winery states – the Commonwealth is now fifth in number of wineries – so too do the gathering and meeting spaces at many Virginia wineries. From space for up to 2,000 people to intimate rooms for a smaller corporate or other gathering, many Virginia wineries offer unique and modern facilities for your meeting.

Specialized facilities such as Primland Resort, Marriott Ranch and Hylton Memorial Chapel and Conference Center can give attendees a unique experience. Whether it is having an outing or event at a fabulous museum or historical site or taking your group to the beach for a team-building event, Virginia has many unique venues to choose from.

4.) Conference Centers
As for existing state-of-the-art venues, Virginia’s roster is seemingly endless. From Norfolk’s Waterside and Portsmouth’s Renaissance Hotel and Waterfront Conference Center, to the Blue Ridge region’s Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, and Northern Virginia’s National Conference Center, Virginia offers it all.

Resorts and specialized conference centers such as the Homestead, Lansdowne, Airlie Center, Chesapeake Conference Center, The Tides Inn and Wintergreen cater to all sizes of meetings. Colonial Williamsburg and Kingsmill, Boar’s Head Inn in Charlottesville, and Mountain Lake, Natural Bridge and Hotel Roanoke in the Blue Ridge/Shenandoah Valley as well as conference facilities in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax and the rest of the Northern Virginia region offer matchless attractions as well as first-class meeting amenities. Convenient air service is available to most of these facilities; others are accessible through expanded road services.

5.) Virginia’s Historical Attractions and Natural Beauty
Home to eight U. S. presidents, seven signers of the Declaration of Independence and countless other national patriots, Virginia’s history is America’s heritage — from the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown in 1607 to the training of the original seven American astronauts at NASA Langley.

The Commonwealth is home to eight Indian nations represented in the eastern and western areas of the state, as well as to more than 120 farm and estate wineries and more than 220 golf courses that enhance visitors’ stays. Shenandoah National Park, as well as Virginia’s state parks – voted the best in the nation by the National Sporting Goods Association’s Sports Foundation Inc. – offer splendid mountain retreats, water vistas and serene getaways as well as unique meeting sites.

For pre- and post-meeting venues, meetings and conference attendees enjoy hundreds of miles of lookouts over spectacular scenery on Virginia’s 105-mile Skyline Drive, which joins the Blue Ridge Parkway at Waynesboro and rides the crests of the Blue Ridge Mountains. More active travelers experience the camping, hiking and other activities accessible just off these premier scenic drives. From the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay coastline to Northern Virginia’s worlds of horse country and high-tech to the Heart of Appalachia at the far western corner of the state, year-round special events including indigenous music, cuisine and heritage, attract visitors from around the world.

Let us help!

More than 52 of Virginia’s towns and cities have well-trained meeting professionals on hand to assist with every meeting planner’s needs.  Reach each of Virginia’s convention and visitors bureaus here or directly through their own website. CVB meeting professionals can assist with familiarization tours of their area as well.  The Virginia Tourism Corporation also has a national sales manager, Joni Johnson, who can assist. Call Joni at 804-545-5544 or email jjohnson@virginia.org.

Five Ways to Win in Any Business Situation

Want to know who’s right?

Well, determining the best approach to any business relationship or negotiation is very much situational, but still, relatively straightforward.  Whether it’s a job opportunity, a consulting opportunity, a potential vendor or customer, an internal relationship, whatever, it’s more common sense than you think.

That said, it does confuse and confound a lot of people, even senior executives and business leaders.  For example, a post by Niland Mortimer on BNET starts out like this:

The rules of business decision making more often than not are based on the principle of “I win.  You lose.”  Companies, and their employees, proceed invincibly down the path of unilateral rightness.  Compromise is out of the question.  Collaboration is tantamount to defeat.  I win.  You lose.  Damn the consequences.

Now, I’m not going to say “I win – you lose” never happens.  Sure it does.  In fact, it makes complete sense … in certain situations.  For example, it’s the only way to approach competitors because market-share is more or less a zero-sum game.  But otherwise, that’s neither the way to win nor the way it works in the real world.  Frankly, I don’t know where Mortimer’s assertion comes from, but it’s not consistent with my experience.

So, to clear up all the confusion and distinguish between the different approaches, here are 5 Ways to Win in Any Business Situation:

  1. Internal relationship between coworkers. Win-win, collaborate, all the way.  Anything else is dysfunctional.  Sure, the dysfunctional stuff – back stabbing, taking credit for someone else’s work, sugar-coating BS, CYA – all exists, but don’t fall into that trap.  You either have to play it smarter or find a company that doesn’t accept that kind of crap. 
    Goal: Win-win
  2. Boss-employee relationship. Again, Win-win, collaborate, all the way, same as with coworkers.  Companies don’t exist for you, your boss, or your employees.  They exist for two reasons: to provide a product or service to customers, and to provide value to shareholders.  All employees at every level should be aligned to do that, simple as that.
    Goal: Win-win
  3. Competitors in the marketplace. I win – you lose.  Period.  Market competition is a zero-sum game, simple as that.   To suggest otherwise is idiotic.  And yes, you should befriend your competitors, call them frienemies, hang out and party with them, anything you like.  Just listen more than you talk.  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, right? 
    Goal: I win – you lose
  4. Customer-vendor relationship. Customer-vendor relationships should always yield the perception of a win-win, especially if you want an ongoing relationship.  That said, when you approach negotiations, your goal is to get the better deal while the other guy thinks he did okay too.  I think of that as “I win – you don’t lose.”  Camp provides a pretty good approach for doing that.  It’s not easy at first, but you do get better at it with experience. 
    Goal: I win – you don’t lose
  5. Job or consulting opportunity. It’s important to note that, in this situation, you all have to live with each other after the fact.  So, whichever side of the equation you’re on, don’t overpromise and risk underdelivering or underplay your hand and risk losing the gig.  Best to be genuine.  That said, when it comes to negotiating dollars and cents, it’s the same as customer-vendor. 
    Goal: I win – you don’t lose

Hope that helps clear things up.  Now go negotiate something!

Reproduced with permission from author Steve Tobak from BNET’s The Corner Office blog, www.bnet.com/blog/ceo

Networking for Introverts

Networking is an essential activity in the meetings industry. It’s often the value-added aspect to a meeting that attracts attendees and helps them learn and build business relationships outside the formal education sessions. Networking also extends well beyond meetings themselves, and is an integral part of success in the business world.

But networking is mainly for extroverts, right? Not always.  Plenty of people are introverts (including lots of people in the meetings industry), yet they can succeed just as well in networking by employing strategies that work for them.

Vinay Kumar, a self-described introvert who is a first-generation immigrant from India, has written about the ways he has successfully leveraged networking to get ahead in the association community.  He currently runs Vinay Kumar Associates, a firm focused on helping small women-owned and partnership-based service businesses as well as associations increase profits and productivity while improving quality of life.  His mission is to help build healthy businesses and healthy relationships.

“Lacking the gift of the gab, I am poor at making small talk,” Kumar says.

“If you were to look up the words quiet, dull, and boring in Webster’s, you’ll probably find my picture right next to them.  Furthermore, being on the quiet side, one of my biggest fears in taking a client out to lunch is what if we have total silence and I don’t know what to say.  Yikes!  Talk about sending chills up my spine!”

But the success Kumar has achieved belies his self-deprecating style.  

He offers these tips to his fellow introverts:

  • Be clear on what’s comforting for you. For example, if you don’t like hanging out at the bar, then don’t take your clients there.  Your discomfort will come through.  You will not enjoy it nor will your client.  I select places that suit my style as often as I can.  Also, I only ask individuals out to lunch with whom I am comfortable.  If I do have to take someone out to lunch and I have a strong feeling it’ll be uncomfortable, I’ll ask a colleague to join me, someone whom I feel will get along well with the client.
  • Plan something unique and memorable. When I discover someone likes Indian food, I’ll often take ‘em to some hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant that sells tasty Indian cooking, a place a non-Indian would probably never discover or go on their own.
  • Always be on the lookout for challenges, personal or business, your clients may be having. For example, over 15 years ago, one my clients had adopted a daughter from overseas, who was having trouble learning English.  Once I understood the challenge, I realized it’s very similar to what my daughter had faced.  To help her learn, we had purchased a series of cassettes, which had helped her immensely.  As my daughter didn’t need them anymore, I hand delivered them to my client, and they helped her daughter immensely, too. Today, even after all these years, every time I run into this client, she makes it a point to update me on her daughter’s progress and thanks me for the tapes.  She still remembers.  I feel happy that I made a difference, and it’s been good business too.
  • Send out, by snail mail, handwritten thank you cards. They are so rare these days, making them even more special.  In today’s time where nearly everything seems to quickly become a commodity, standing out from the crowd becomes an increasing challenge.  Sending out handwritten cards really helps you stand apart and makes you memorable.
  • Send information such as articles that you may have read that will be of interest to your clients. Again, by snail mail whenever possible, with a short handwritten note, saying something like, “Hey Myron, thought this might be of interest to you – Vinay.”  It demonstrates to clients you’re thinking of them, which you are.  By the way, this doesn’t have to be just business-oriented.  It can be of a personal nature also.  Again, the key is to be authentic and from the heart.
  • Send white papers and articles that you have written. If you haven’t written any, I urge you to do so.  It’s one of our top-secret weapons to sales success, especially for us introverts.  In the end, no matter how much you and the client like each other, the client has to find business value in the relationship.  Of course, many such relationships turn into lifelong friendships. First, however, is providing the business value.  By sending out such materials that you have written, you are positioning yourself as the expert in the field, and that’s something we introverts do so well.  So leverage it to the max.

“Look, my fellow introverts, we may not be the life of the party,” Kumar says.  “We may not be the ones going to games screaming for our teams, and we may not be the ones who can easily ‘wow’ folks at a gathering.

But when people know you can help solve their problems, that they can count on you, that you’ll take the time to truly listen, they’ll be heard, and you take the time understand their challenges and then help them solve them, you’ll be well on your way to making your relationships strong, baseball tickets or not.

The key to success is to continually add value to other’s lives.  As you do that, many will do the same for you.  That’s the key to success and fulfillment.”

International Travel Safety Tips

It’s been more than nine years since 9-11, and Americans are accustomed to “threat levels” and warnings of potential terrorist attacks.

But what should people do if they hear that the threat level is elevated, particularly for international travel?

When vague warnings were issued late in 2010 about potential terrorist attacks in Europe, travelers generally carried on as usual.  Europe is a big place, some reasoned, and the risk to any one individual seemed rather low.

“U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling,” the U.S. State Department said.

That’s probably good advice to follow anytime.  Regardless of the threat level, here are some common-sense precautions that all Americans should take when traveling abroad:

  • Register with the U.S. State Department. It allows you to record your trip information so the government can help you and your family in case of an emergency.
  • Stay vigilant and keep your eyes open: pay closer attention to public areas that do not have a large amount of formal security.
  • Beware of unattended packages and loud noises: and move away quickly if anything unusual begins to occur.
  • Do not dress in a way that could mark you as an affluent tourist.  Expensive-looking jewelry, for instance, can draw the wrong attention.
  • When attending a meeting, don’t wear your badge outside the hotel or convention center since it identifies you as a visitor and a potential target for crime.
  • Always try to travel light.  You can move more quickly and will be more likely to have a free hand.  You will also be less tired and less likely to set your luggage down, leaving it unattended.
  • Carry the minimum number of valuables, and plan places to conceal them.  Your passport, cash and credit cards are most secure when locked in a hotel safe.
  • When you have to carry valuables, put them each in a different place rather than all in one wallet or pouch.  Avoid handbags, fanny packs and outside pockets that are easy targets for thieves.  Inside pockets and a sturdy shoulder bag with the strap worn across your chest are somewhat safer.  One of the safest places to carry valuables is in a pouch or money belt worn under your clothing.
  • If you wear glasses, pack an extra pair.  Pack them and any medicines you need in your carry-on luggage.
  • To avoid problems when passing through customs, keep medicines in their original, labeled containers. Bring copies of your prescriptions and the generic names for the drugs.  If a medication is unusual or contains narcotics, carry a letter from your doctor attesting to your need to take the drug.  If you have any doubt about the legality of carrying a certain drug into a country, consult the embassy or consulate of that country before you travel.
  • Bring travelers’ checks and one or two major credit cards instead of cash.  Leave a copy of the serial numbers of your travelers’ checks with a friend or relative at home.  Carry your copy with you in a separate place and, as you cash the checks, cross them off the list.
  • Pack an extra set of passport photos along with a photocopy of your passport’s information page to make replacement of your passport easier in the event it is lost or stolen.  Also make two photocopies of your passport identification page, airline tickets, driver’s license and the credit cards that you plan to bring with you.  Leave one photocopy of this data with family or friends at home; pack the other in a place separate from where you carry the originals.
  • Put your name, address and telephone numbers inside and outside of each piece of luggage.  Use covered luggage tags to avoid casual observation of your identity or nationality.  If possible, lock your luggage.
  • Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends at home in case they need to contact you in an emergency.
  • When you leave the United States, you are subject to the laws of the country you are visiting.  Learn as much as you can about the local laws and customs of the places you plan to visit.  Check with embassies, consulates or tourist bureaus of the countries you will visit.
  • Avoid public demonstrations and other civil disturbances.
  • Keep a low profile and avoid loud conversations or arguments.
  • Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers.
  • Avoid scam artists by being wary of strangers who approach you and offer to be your guide or sell you something at bargain prices.
  • Only take taxis clearly identified with official markings.  Beware of unmarked cabs.

Tips to Increase RFP Response Time

Frustrated by slow response time to your meeting RFPs?  Wish you didn’t have to keep calling to find out whether a property is going to respond?

It’s not that hotels don’t want your business – they do!  They want to make sure they respond quickly to potential buyers, but they are often inundated with incomplete RFPs that need to be qualified, or RFPs get buried in their systems.

Meeting professionals can help themselves by following these 10 tips to increase RFP response time:

  1. Do some homework and narrow your search to a short list of qualified properties.
  2. Include a reasonable range of preferred dates and be clear about which dates are the first, second, or third choices.
  3. Provide complete information about the number of rooms, number of attendees, overall meeting requirements, etc.
  4. Send a verified room block history so the property can see a strong track record for the meeting.
  5. Create a deadline for the response and a realistic timeframe for the decision.
  6. RFPs are taken more seriously if you avoid looking as if you’re fishing around for rates.
  7. Provide rate thresholds for rooms and information on how the rooms will be fulfilled and paid.
  8. Indicate how the decision will be made, including the steps properties can anticipate in the process.
  9. Call the hotel sales department to ask about the status. Properties interested in landing business should have procedures in place to respond quickly to phone requests, especially if a planner is following up on a previous communication.
  10. Consider using an online search directory to distribute the RFP and ensure that properties respond. ConventionPlanit.com offers an RFPValet® service and guarantees that properties will respond within 24 hours to say whether they will send a proposal and when the proposal can be expected.

Meet Healthy for Attendees

There is a lot of talk in the industry about green meetings that are good for the environment. But how about healthy meetings that are good for your attendees?

Many meeting professionals are paying more attention to this area. They recognize that a little exercise is not only healthy for attendees, but also keeps them awake by oxygenating the brain as well as muscles.

Planners shared their best ideas for healthy meetings in the Stellar Tips section of ConventionPlanit.com.

Scott Ludwigsen with Phoenix Marketing International suggests scheduling a walk around the hotel/conference center into meeting breaks. “For those attendees that actually take the walk, reward them by handing out tickets at the far end of the building,” he says.

“Prior to the next health break, draw a ticket for a prize and you will see the number of walkers increase dramatically during each subsequent break. Net effect: people come back from their breaks ready to listen, look, and learn!”

Another exercise incentive suggested by Al Rickard of Association Vision is to have a quick scavenger hunt during breaks that forces people to walk around a certain area.

“Put attendees in teams of three or four so they can meet new people in the process,” he explains. “Give away some small prizes for completing it. Then set up a table with prizes displayed for those who complete the hunt and a big sign that says “Free Prizes.” Prizes can be small gift certificates for local shops, local trinkets, hotel certificates for a free massage at the spa, or a free breakfast.

Alicia Dahill with Oliver Wyman offers this idea for squeezing exercise into meetings: “Hire the hotel’s fitness trainer to come in for the first five minutes of your morning and afternoon break to provide attendees quick stretches and movement with the focus on things attendees can do in their own office. This will help attendees feel more energized and awake during the meeting, and they will appreciate your efforts to incorporate fitness into the meeting.”

Use your imagination to go beyond walking and stretching. For example, the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) & The Center for Association Leadership placed stationary bikes in the main gathering area during its Annual Meeting in San Diego two years ago. Rickard also suggests making large exercise balls available.

Meeting attendees, presenters, exhibitors, meeting staff, and others also spend a lot of time standing or walking, especially at large meetings with trade shows.

Eleanor with Symantec Corporation recommends having acupressure foot masseuses on hand.

“Even 10-minute sessions can relieve feet tired of walking long distances to get to and from different meeting rooms, not to mention presenters who stand for hours doing their sessions,” she says. “Foot massages are also good to boost energy.”

There are also other novel approaches to staying healthier by relieving both the physical and mental stress of meetings. Sybil L. Simons with Group Travel Advisors recommends a program called “jokesercise.”

She explains, “’High-Powered Howard,’ a comedian and personal trainer, offers half an hour of exercise punctuated with comedy. Attendees will love it! My groups do.”

Of course, providing healthy alternatives to meeting attendees extends beyond what they can do with their bodies to what they can put intheir bodies.

“Keep your attendees hydrated and energized by providing a variety of unique soft drinks such as pomegranate-flavored soda, green apple iced tea, peach iced tea… something different in addition to water and coffee to add an unexpected gourmet twist to your meeting refreshments,” recommends Sharon Naylor with Sharon Naylor Wedding Books.

Kathleen Zwart with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida offers a tip with a double benefit — better health and a cost savings. “For an all-day meeting with lunch and an afternoon break, I hold back the dessert from the luncheon and serve it during the afternoon break,” she says.

“Your attendees aren’t tempted with two sweets in a short timeframe and you save money by not ordering a separate item for the break. You can include something non-sweet also, like fruit, nuts, or popcorn.”

For more advice that can help you in all areas of meeting planning, visit the Stellar Tips section of ConventionPlanit.com.

Fly High with Airline Savings

While some airlines have dropped out of the meetings business, others haven’t. Those that remain – including American, Delta, and Continental – each have special offers. They include:

American Airlines

Groups of 10 or more traveling to the same destination can take advantage of special discounts. If travel dates are confirmed, the airline can guarantee a fare up to 11 months in advance, block the space, assign seats, and delay ticketing requirements. American also guarantees competitive fares from different geographic originations to one destination.

American Airlines destinations include more than 250 cities in 40 countries where American, American Eagle® and AmericanConnection® fly across the country and around the globe. The airline is also a member of the oneworld® Global Alliance and can arrange group travel discounts to more than 700 destinations in the oneworld network.

Groups can also receive reduced rates for Avis® car rentals.  Click here for more information.

Delta Air Lines

Through its Delta Meeting Network®, this airline offers discounts off published fares and competitive Zone Fares for groups of 10 or more on all Delta, KLM/AirFrance and Alitalia “Delta coded flights”, Delta Connection Carriers and “Delta coded” code-share partners AT/OK/UH. Discount rates can be used three days before/after a meeting for events in the United States and Canada and up to seven days before/after a meeting in all other countries.

Discounts can be based on single events or multi-meeting agreements. Delta also awards one free ticket for every 40 tickets purchased. Zone Fares offer flexible rules and make it simple to manage airline costs.

With its unsurpassed global network, Delta and the Delta Connection carriers offer service to 369 destinations in 67 countries on six continents. Click here for more information.

Continental Airlines

Continental’s GroupWorks program offers special benefits for groups of 10 or more passengers traveling together. GroupWorks provides a flat rate for the group, priority check-in, priority boarding, and priority baggage service.

Continental’s MeetingWorks program offers special discounts to attendees of conferences, meetings, or events with 20 or more passengers traveling from multiple origins to one destination. MeetingWorks provides percentage discounts off airfares and credits redeemable for travel certificates, upgrades, and more.

Continental Airlines is the world’s fifth largest airline. Continental, together with Continental Express and Continental Connection, has more than 2,600 daily departures throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia, serving 132 domestic and 137 international destinations. Continental is a member of Star Alliance, which overall offers more than 21,200 daily flights to 1,172 airports in 181 countries through its 28 member airlines. With more than 40,000 employees, Continental has hubs serving New York, Houston, Cleveland and Guam, and together with its regional partners, carries approximately 63 million passengers per year.

Continental consistently earns awards and critical acclaim for both its operation and its corporate culture. For nine consecutive years, FORTUNE magazine has ranked Continental as the top U.S. airline on its “World’s Most Admired Companies” airline industry list. For more information, click here.


A Sophisticated Meeting Destination In a Caribbean Paradise

Puerto Rico offers an exciting combination of first-class meeting facilities and the natural beauty and rich cultural heritage of a major island bordering the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

Its infrastructure is as sophisticated as it is extensive, with nearly 14,000 hotel rooms, excellent transportation, and far-reaching support services. Featuring a diverse culture, molded by Spanish, African, Indian, and U.S. influences, the Island offers a central location where North American, Caribbean, Latin American and European visitors will feel equally at home.

Puerto Rico’s average temperature is 82° F. Trade winds keep coastal towns cool and the temperature decreases higher in the mountains.

As a U.S. Commonwealth, no passports or visas are required for U.S. visitors; foreign nationals should have valid passports and visas as required. Puerto Rico uses U.S. currency, phone, and mail services and both English and Spanish are official languages.

For meetings and conferences, Puerto Rico offers the most sophisticated technology and telecommunications available anywhere in the Caribbean. Satellite feeds, high-speed Internet, video conferencing, and many other services are readily available across the Island.

The Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, is an architecturally dynamic structure that recalls the shapes and colors of the Caribbean in an elegant, modern style.

Designed to accommodate groups from 2,500-10,000 attendees, the Center is the largest in the Caribbean with more than 580,000 sq. ft. of space, including a 152,700 sq. ft. exhibit hall, 15 meeting rooms (28 breakouts), a 39,500 sq. ft. ballroom, 96,000 sq. ft. of pre-function space, and 200,000 sq. ft. of support and service area.

The Puerto Rico Convention Center and the surrounding area offer everything meeting attendees expect from a top-notch destination. The Convention Center’s development is part of a 113-acre urban development project – the Convention Center District. Once complete, the District will include residential, office and retail space, restaurants and entertainment complexes, as well as three hotels.

The 503-room Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino serves as the headquarters hotel for the Center. With its contemporary styling and urban resort feel, the property also offers 35,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Plans and development of two additional properties within the District include a 300-room Marriott Courtyard Convention District Hotel and a 252-room Aloft property.

For special events and pre- and post-conference excursions, Puerto Rico offers many options, including the historic sites of Old San Juan and its surrounding forts, the natural beauty of the El Yunque rain forest, 14 championship golf courses, and much more.

The entire island of Puerto Rico, with its diverse geography, also offers many more recreational and sightseeing opportunities.

Puerto Rico is also a haven for shoppers from all over the Caribbean and beyond. Quaint shops in Old San Juan abound with jewelry and handcrafted items, locally made musical instruments, and more. The Island also boasts shopping malls and outlet stores such as Plaza Las Américas, the Caribbean’s largest shopping complex featuring nearly 300 stores.

Learn more about Puerto Rico.

Handling Crisis Situations for your Meetings

A blizzard shuts down transportation routes across the nation, stranding attendees and exhibitors in distant cities as a convention is scheduled to begin.

A shuttle bus runs over and kills an attendee in front of a hotel.

A bomb threat empties a convention center in the midst of the busiest day of a major tradeshow.

These and other crises can wreak havoc on any type of meeting planned by an association or corporation. Even worse, meeting-related crises occur at a time when staff and volunteer leaders are already stretched to the limit with onsite responsibilities.

How does an organization respond?

“It’s a challenge,” says Al Rickard, CAE, president of Association Vision, a Washington, DC-area communications company. “Meeting crises call for a special type of crisis management and communication.”

Rickard offers this meeting-specific advice:

• Anticipate that a crisis may occur and designate a high-level executive to lead the response.  Develop a plan to delegate this person’s meeting-related duties to others if needed.

• Bring the crisis management plan with you in hard copy and electronic formats and make sure key staff and volunteer leaders have a copy. Review the plan briefly before leaving for the meeting.

Create a local media list for the city where the meeting will be held so you can quickly send them information if needed.  While you’re at it, update your trade press media list.  Have them loaded and ready to use on a moment’s notice.

• Create a master list of contact information for all onsite staff and top volunteer leaders, including cell phone numbers, emails, hotel information, and onsite schedules.

Locate the nearest emergency facilities to your meeting, including a hospital, fire station, and police station and have their contact information readily available.  Make sure contact information for key staff at the meeting facility and all official meeting hotels is also available.

• Develop a plan for quickly communicating with all attendees if necessary, even if they are not at the meeting facility. Twitter and Facebook can be very useful tools as long as attendees know to consult these sites to check for news and updates.  Broadcast emails can be used, and hotels can also place messages on room phones.

• Identify and brief a few staff who are not at the meeting on the crisis management plan and provide them with all critical information. They can be valuable assets in a crisis since they can work remotely away from the crisis scene.

• Take advantage of having your top leaders together in one place and meet as needed to develop response strategies. But make sure you designate a single spokesperson.

Rickard has also published 17 Commandments of Crisis Communication, and Association Vision is listed on ConventionPlanit.com.

CVBs Bring Strong Value to Meetings

It’s not often that something really valuable is available for free. But when it comes to Convention and Visitor Bureaus (CVBs), it’s usually true!

Just think of the many services that CVBs provide for free to meeting professionals. Even experienced planners don’t always know everything they provide.

“When I worked for a CVB, I was amazed at all the services we provided that were just there for the asking,” says ConventionPlanit.com Co-Founder and Principal Katherine Markham, CHME. “I was always urging my clients to take advantage of them. Some did, but many did not. I think they missed out on some easy ways to make their meetings better.”

They can’t guarantee that it won’t rain during your event, and every CVB offers a different package, but here are just some of the free or low-cost services that CVBs typically provide:

Recommendations of reliable suppliers for everything from bus transportation to local caterers

• Extensive knowledge of unique local offsite locations for special events

• Assistance in identifying and booking hotels in the destination

• Coordination of site visits to hotels and other venues

• Collateral information on local attractions

Onsite assistance with registration and local information booths

• Public relations and local media contacts

Videos of the destination for promoting your meeting

• Welcome packets

Discounts to local restaurants, shops, and other attractions

• Welcome letters and appearances by local leaders

• Ideas and programs to make meetings greener

• Social responsibility programs such as volunteer opportunities at local charities

Many CVBs are listed on ConventionPlanit.com, making it easy to connect to some of these resources.