Category Archives: Industry Insiders

catch-up-with-some-well-known-industry-insiders

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.”

IMEX America: An Interview with Chairman Ray Bloom

IMEX AmericaOver the past several years, IMEX has become the world’s largest hosted-buyer meetings industry trade show, attracting over 8,900 attendees each year to its annual event in Frankfurt Germany, to be held this year from May 25-27, 2010. ConventionPlanit.com has been active for several years in bringing hosted buyers to this show.

The really exciting news this year is the upcoming launch of IMEX America, which will be held in Las Vegas,Nevada at the Sands Expo Convention Center at the Venetian/Palazzo October 11-13, 2011.

Ray Bloom, the Chairman of IMEX, is the driving force behind this new venture, which he expects will rival the success of the longstanding Frankfurt show. ConventionPlanit.com asked Bloom to talk about IMEX America in this exclusive interview.

Ray Bloom

Ray Bloom, the Chairman of IMEX, is the driving force behind IMEX America.

What inspired you to launch IMEX America?

As the industry well knows and understands, we have a strong track record of launching and developing successful trade fairs with widespread industry support. The idea for IMEX America developed over the past couple of years. It was clear there was pent-up demand in the market, and that American exhibitors and suppliers were keener than ever to develop stronger trade links with buyers from other parts of the world; as well as international suppliers wanting to access the U.S. outbound market.

The IMEX brand benefits from excellent goodwill across the world and there was a strong business case to launch in 2011. We know that the U.S. market fully supports and wants such a show – one with a strong and proven business pedigree.

Other than the new location, in what ways will IMEX America be different from IMEX Frankfurt?

There will be slight differences but, in essence, we have an “IMEX model” that is proven, successful, and enduring. For that reason, IMEX America will follow exactly the same mold, allowing for some cultural and business preferences.

For example, the IMEX model is to leverage multiple, high-level partnerships and to pursue an uncompromising focus on business with our hosted buyer program at the core of the show. Additional elements such as our comprehensive seminar and education program – and what we call our New Vision initiatives – provide added value, but IMEX is always, always about maximizing business opportunities between buyers and exhibitors.

We are forecasting 2,000 hosted buyers, making this the largest ever hosted buyer program to be seen at a U.S. trade show and unique in the market. Of these, 80 percent will come from North America, with the balance attending from around the world. Qualification for places on the program will follow the strict guidelines that have been used to build the authority and credibility of IMEX in Frankfurt. The program will bring top-quality association, corporate, and agency buyers from every corner of the meetings and events industry onto the show floor to do business with exhibitors. We work with all the big names already familiar to the U.S. meetings and events industry to ensure their strong and visible presence at the show. In addition, the IMEX model has proven that these hosted buyers will spend longer periods of time on the show floor meeting exhibitors compared to non-hosted trade show attendees.

How do you envision the profile of exhibitors changing by holding IMEX in America? For example, do you envision a greater number of U.S.-based exhibitors?

We definitely expect to see more U.S.-based exhibitors at IMEX America who want to reach an international market as well as raise their profile among topU.S. buyers. We will guarantee that buyers who come to IMEX America from outside the United States will have a special interest in U.S. suppliers and will also spend three full days on the show floor meeting exhibitors. In addition, both the U.S.-hosted buyers, as well as other U.S.-based trade show attendees, will be placing business domestically.

Our confidence in delivering exceptional levels of new business to all our exhibitors in Las Vegas is based on a sound pedigree and a proven formula. For example, IMEX views every single exhibitor as a business partner, not simply a company that takes a booth at our show. The support we offer exhibitors in terms of tailored and detailed pre-show marketing guidance, online buyer appointments, the virtual exhibition, online diary management, online training, and our “Contact the Buyers” facility is genuinely unique, and extends all year round. What’s more, it is all included in the exhibit fee. In short, our aim is to help all our exhibitors achieve an unfair advantage over their competition.

You are planning to work with both the American Society of Association Executives & The Center for Association Leadership (ASAE & The Center) and Meeting Professionals International (MPI) to offer education programs in connection with the show. How will these programs be different and how will they complement each other?

MPI, ASAE & The Center, the Society of Incentive and Travel Executives, and the Professional Convention Management Association are just some of the most important organizations we will work with in the United States to develop educational platforms. They know and understand our unique model and are highly committed to it. Already we have over 40 educational events and forums planned around IMEX America.

ASAE & The Center will organize dedicated association-led education on the day before the show as a part of the IMEX America Association Day program. MPI, as part of our strategic partnership, will no longer hold its MeetDifferent Conference, nor its tradeshow at the World Education Conference, but will put the collective buying power of MPI members behind IMEX America. As part of this, MPI will also deliver dedicated high-level education for corporate buyers on the day before the show, as well as on each morning of the show.

Partnerships like these create very exciting possibilities for IMEX America and ensure a strong foundation for mutual cooperation, education, and marketing in the future.

One thing is clear: It is the “IMEX way” that educational events must not take buyers away from the show floor during business hours. We are uncompromising about this, so you will find that all our education programs will take place on either side of the show’s opening days or at the start or end of each day so as not to interfere with business. As in Frankfurt, we will have an Education Pavilion called the LearningCurve Zone offering short workshops and seminars at the center of the show floor, but these sessions will be short drop-ins.

What is the greatest value that buyers will take away from IMEX America?

More business! In practice that means more appointments with more motivated exhibitors and all business conducted in the fastest and most efficient way possible. We appreciate that hosted buyers and other trade show attendess generally have to justify time out of the office for meeting suppliers face-to-face. However, we also know that despite all the attractions and advantages of the internet, doing business at a live event is more valuable than ever – especially in a communications and experience-based industry such as the international meetings and events market.

In addition, the enormous range of educational activities means that at the same time buyers can learn, develop professionally, and discover new trends and innovations.

What will success look like for IMEX America?

We have a clear vision of what success will look like for our exhibitors, trade show attendees, and buyers and we have a clear plan for bringing that vision to life.

In brief, it will be a trade show floor brimming with exhibitors, the loud buzz of conversation and business being done and fast feedback that both buyers and exhibitors have exceeded their business expectations. We always delight in stories, and there have been many, where exhibitors tell us they have signed as much business in the first few hours as they expected to sign over the full three days. That will definitely be a key measure of success.

How do you think the Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club will do this year? (Ray Bloom is a dedicated fan who attends nearly every game of this soccer team based in his hometown.)

If only I knew…

Jonathan Tisch: What His Name Can Do for You

Jonathan Tisch, CEO of Loews Hotels, offers industry advice

Jonathan Tisch, CEO of Loews Hotels, offers industry advice

Jonathan Tisch is well-known as a top meetings industry leader and CEO of Loews Hotels, which owns and/or operates 17 hotels and resorts in the U.S. and Canada.

Now his name is worth even more to meeting professionals who simply say, “Jon sent me” when calling any Loews Hotel and booking business by December 31, 2009. Through the Loews “Flexible Meetings” program, planners can negotiate competitive rates and get an additional 10 percent of the total room revenue in value-added savings from a range of services. These include food and beverage, audio-visual, health spas, business centers, meetings internet packages, airport transportation, VIP amenities, and more.

But there’s much more to Jonathan Tisch than just a ticket to excellent discounts. Besides his leadership of Loews Hotels and his role as Co-Chairman of the Board and a member of the Office of the President of Loews Corporation, the hotel chain’s parent company and one of the largest diversified financial holding companies in the United States, he is Chairman Emeritus of the United States Travel Association, a Trustee of Tufts University, Treasurer of the New York Giants Football Team, and a Board Member of the Tribeca Film Institute.

He’s also a prolific author, having written the Wall Street Journal besteller The Power of We: Succeeding through Partnerships and Chocolates on the Pillow Aren’t Enough: Reinventing the Customer Service Experience.

ConventionPlanit.com sat down with Tisch at the 2009 ASAE Annual Meeting to talk about some of his many ventures and his views on the meetings industry.

What’s new with Loews? Tell us about the new Loews Atlanta Hotel scheduled to open next year.

The Loews Atlanta will be our 19th hotel, scheduled to open April 10, 2009 in the midtown section of Atlanta called 12th and Peachtree. It is a great opportunity in this current environment because it provides real value, and at Loews we think value is the new luxury. This new property and other Loews Hotels can help meeting professionals get to destinations they may not have thought about or thought possible. It is important for us to help planners understand their opportunities and instead of cancelling meetings to have meetings that are affordable.

You were part of a group of top travel and meeting executives who met with President Obama in March about how the industry can help the economy. What are your impressions of the President and his commitment to supporting the industry?

We were quite surprised as the President spent as much time as he did with us – 30 minutes. We discussed what our industry means in terms of jobs, revenue, and tax dollars to so many destinations. This meeting took place at a time when meetings were being demonized. But when the President took the initiative to meet with us it showed that this administration has as open ear.

How do you see the recovery of the meetings and travel industry unfolding during the coming months?

CEOs and executive directors are taking their cues from the consumer, and the consumer is still under tremendous pressure so there is a lag to the recovery. It may take another six months or more – if you look at other recessions it generally takes six months for a recovery to take hold.

Tell us about your “Beyond the Boardroom” program that you host on Plum TV.

It is the only show on television where CEOs are interviewed by another CEO. We learn how these captains of industry started their careers and achieved success. I’ve dealt with the same issues, so that it a unique aspect of the show – peer to peer discussions. The program currently airs in eight markets on the Fox Business Channel and can be viewed online at http://www.plumtv.com/topics/beyond_the_boardroom.

You are becoming a prolific author, and are working on your third book, Citizen You: Doing Your Part to Change the World. Tell us what that is about and when you expect it to be published.

This book is coming out in May 2010 and will be a discussion on civic engagement and roles and responsibilities in society. It will talk about how people can get involved in their community and demonstrate caring. This started with my role as chair of the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

How will the New York Giants do this year?

We are very optimistic that we can put together a lot of wins to get back to the Super Bowl, which will be in Miami Beach. It’s very hard to get to the big game, but we think we can do it.

Travel Editor Peter Greenberg Weighs In on Meetings Industry

When Americans want commentary on the travel industry, they often tune in to ABC’s Good Morning America or NBC’s Today show, where Peter Greenberg has been a travel correspondent and editor for more than two decades.  He was also just named CBS News Travel Editor.

CBS Travel Editor Peter Greenberg offers his insights on the meeting industry

CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg offers his insights on the meeting industry

He is also host of the nationally syndicated Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio show, heard live each week on more than 150 stations from a different remote location around the world. Greenberg is also Travel Editor at Large for AARP, Contributing Editor for Men’s Health magazine, a contributor to The New Yorker magazine, and a guest on the The Oprah Winfrey Show and The View.

We wanted to know what he thinks about the meetings industry, so ConventionPlanit.com interviewed Greenberg about his views and experiences in this area.  Here’s what he had to say:

In all your travels you have no doubt attended many meetings, large and small. What is your main impression of how meetings are conducted today?

Nobody is thinking outside the box at most meetings.  They have motivational speakers who are not very motivational.  If people weren’t motivated they wouldn’t be at the meeting in the first place!  Meetings are also full of PowerPoint presentations which are coma-inducing.  I have told people that if I ever do a PowerPoint presentation I want to be euthanized.  You don’t need a PowerPoint to make your point.  It’s a ridiculous crutch.

What trends do you see in meetings?

What is changing is the location of meetings.  I was with the folks in Mobile, Alabama recently and they said they were doing great.  There’s no perception problem with meeting in Mobile.  This economy is sending meetings to places like Wichita and Mobile and many parts of our wonderful country that many people have never seen.

What’s your biggest pet peeve about meetings?

People who shouldn’t be speaking feel like they have a platform to get up and talk.  If someone is going to speak at a meeting make sure they have something interesting to say.  Associations also have to hear from outsiders – too often they are talking to each other like a bad fraternity party.  They have to make it an information-rich party that relates to your business.

Do you have a good war story about a meeting?

I was recently a keynote speaker at a meeting and I was asked to give my overview of the travel industry.  When it came time for me to speak, I got about two minutes into it and the person who introduced me interrupted me and said, “I don’t want you to talk about that, I want you to talk about this.” He wanted me to talk about the sponsors.  He asked for my opinion, and my opinion was to tell him to sit down.  If you are going to invite someone to speak to your group, let them speak.

How can meeting planners make traveling to and from meetings easier for attendees?

We’re talking about airfare, hotel, and ground travel.  Air travel is tough because of rising airfares and more limited options. Don’t depend on airlines. Think about other options to get there.  On some routes, consider Amtrak.  No one ever considers Amtrak.  You can actually start the meeting on the train – you have people already on the car.  And it might be less expensive.  If you are flying, look at alternate airports.  You don’t always have to fly through the major hubs.  For hotels, realize that you can now negotiate a lot of things you couldn’t do before.  Forget about negotiating room rates. Instead, negotiate for free parking, free Internet, a free breakfast, etc.  People have to stop being so focused on negotiating room rates — those are discounted already — and instead focus on value.

Will Web-based meetings eventually usurp most in-person meetings because of the lower cost and time commitment?

The great thing about meetings is it gives you the opportunity to have face time. I am not a fan of teleconferencing.  It might work for occasional internal company meetings, but for big-picture stuff and industry-wide meetings nothing beats face to face.  And sooner or later, if you really want to get things done, you need to meet in person.

Keep America Meeting Drives Industry Forward

Nationwide Rallies Spark National Tourism Day

The entire meetings industry has galvanized its effort to promote the value of the industry in the face of tough economic times. TBA Global, LLC, played a major role by launching the “Keep America Meeting” campaign.  Alison Smith Jenks, Vice President of Marketing for TBA Global, offers her views on the program in this interview.

Why did you launch Keep America Meeting?

In January, all of us at TBA Global were really frustrated by the way mainstream media was portraying the meetings and events industry. All the coverage was one-sided and negative, and it felt like no one was speaking out about the benefits of meetings and events and incentive travel.

We wanted to create a forum where everyone could come together and voice their opinions in hopes to change the criticism of our industry. Our strategy for “Keep America Meeting” was to keep it simple. We centered it around an online petition that would deliver two messages: Meetings and events are important to building successful businesses, and that they are a critical part of the American economy.

We invited the media, associations, and all industry companies to join the effort as ‘official endorsers’ and asked them to promote the campaign to their networks. We made this easy to do by posting all logos and banner and print ads on the website (www.keepamericameeting.org). From there, it took off like wildfire as everyone seemed to understand the urgency of this message.

What are the results of this campaign?

We believe Keep America Meeting succeeded in galvanizing the entire meetings and events industry around this critical issue. We are thrilled by the success of the campaign!

More than 21,000 individuals signed the petition and it received support from people in all 50 states, and even around the world. It was signed by people employed in all facets of the events, meetings and incentive travel industry, including caterers, décor companies, event producers, meeting planners, hotel managers, and numerous local small business owners. The petition was also signed by family members concerned about the loss of meeting and event revenues and the impact on their lives.

The campaign helped to support the U.S. Travel Association’s press outreach, and we saw that mainstream press coverage became much more balanced. On May 13, 2009, the Keep America Meeting signatures were delivered to the Senate Commerce Committee to continue our industry’s advocacy efforts.

What are the next steps for Keep America Meeting?

Now that the petition signatures have been delivered, we hope people will remain connected and involved. The silver lining in all of this is that our industry has come together like never before, and we hope everyone will stay engaged by joining our “Keep America Meeting” groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (@keepmeeting) to continue our discussion about the importance of meetings and events.

Many hospitality organizations supported your cause during National Tourism Week and especially on National Tourism Day, when many rallies were held across the country. What were a few of the highlights of these rallies?

May 12th was an incredible day – there were more than 40 cities across the country that united to make a bold statement that travel matters! Each event was unique and included industry leaders with a unique twist, such as a parade in New Orleans and a skyline view with the White Sox mascot in Chicago. All of the rallies delivered a common message about the impact that travel has on each city’s economy, businesses and community as a whole. We connected all these events digitally through Twitter, letting technology enhance the power and reach of the local events. This is a great example of how technology won’t replace meetings, but it will broaden the reach! I think we counted 500 Tweets that day.

Amsterdam Hospitality Offers Personalization, Flexibility

Blake Danner, Executive Vice President, Sales & Marketing at Amsterdam Hospitality

Blake Danner, Executive Vice President, Sales & Marketing at Amsterdam Hospitality

T. Blake Danner was recently named Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing at Amsterdam Hospitality, a small hotel company with several unique properties. ConventionPlanit.com caught up with Danner to talk with him about his new position.

Why did you join Amsterdam Hospitality?

I saw an opportunity to join an up-and-coming, entrepreneurial company that had just recently successfully repositioned several of its hotels and was looking to do more and open new projects in key destinations such as Los Angeles.

What is the biggest brand attribute that makes Amsterdam Hospitality hotels stand out from the competition?

The size of the company allows each hotel to keep its individual personality and ethos.

Give us one line for each of your hotel properties and what makes them special.

New York City:

The Marcel at Gramercy – newly completely redesigned, great location, intimate service, can host events up to 150 with a lush rooftop terrace.

The Bentley – located adjacent to diplomatic and medical communities on upper east side, newly opened meeting space with natural lighting and a rooftop event space with panoramic views of New York City’s east side.

The Ameritania – located adjacent to the Ed Sullivan Theater, in the heart of midtown.

Amsterdam Court Hotel – located in the heart of Times Square and the theater district. The perfect location to experience New York City.

Moderne – Modern, comfortable, and stylish, a true intimate experience with 34 rooms and suites.

Empire Hotel – recently redesigned, located at fashionable Lincoln Center, with dedicated meeting space for groups of up to 200. New York City’s hottest rooftop event space and pool deck.

New Jersey:

The Berkley – Asbury Park, New Jersey – located on the famed Jersey Shore, adjacent to the boardwalk. Perfect for corporate retreats, weddings, social events, religious celebrations, etc. Over 20,000 square feet of dedicated meeting space.

North Carolina:

The Blake – Charlotte, North Carolina – newly completely redesigned, specializing in large groups with over 52,000 square feet of meeting space.

When a meeting planner is finished holding a meeting at an Amsterdam Hospitality hotel, what will they be most pleased about?

The level of personalization and flexibility we provide to them.

What plans are ahead for Amsterdam Hospitality?

We will continue to grow the company in key destinations such as our property opening in 2010 in Los Angeles, reposition our remaining hotels, and continue to focus on providing very individual experiences at each hotel.