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Market response to green meetings

August 31, 2006

How is the market responding to the concept? How wide spread are green meetings becoming?

Not enough data has been collected to quantify the extent of green meeting practices. However, interest in green meetings is increasing in sectors outside the environmentally conscious industries. More planners are beginning to incorporate “green practices” because they save money, and everyone is interested in the bottom line. An example of savings is having water available from large containers versus individual bottled water. At an event Meeting Strategies Worldwide planned, a client saved more than $12,000 by not serving individual bottled water for a 2 ½ day conference of 1,300 attendees.

Green Meeting Practices: Fringe Behavior or Mainstream Practice

August 28, 2006

By Amy Spatrisano, CMP

Many of you  may understand the merits – economic and environmental – of producing “green meetings.”   You may even be incorporating green practices in your meeting management like requesting recycling at your events, using more technology versus paper, and requesting organic/local food.   But, are your practices or requests consistent from meeting to meeting?   Have you developed or implemented strategies and guidelines to consistently green your meetings?   Do you measure your results to track improvements or economic savings?   Are your members, attendees, clients asking that more environmentally responsible practices be implemented, but you’re not sure how to begin?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, read on to learn how to implement the MeetGreen SM Five Step Solution.   This approach entails establishing commitment, developing guidelines, communicating objectives, negotiating practices and measuring results.

The first step of establishing your organization’s commitment to greening is crucial to how successful your efforts will be.   Begin by understanding how greening your meetings will fit into your company or client’s mission and values. 

The second step is to develop minimum guidelines to incorporate in your meetings.   Criteria should be created for all of the vendors used like convention centers, hotels, caterers, transportation and even convention and visitors bureaus.   The Convention Industry Council’s Green Meetings Report  www.conventionindustry.org offers helpful guidelines in eight areas of meeting management to get you started.

Third, c ommunications, communications, communications should be underscored.   Expectations for your meeting can only happen when there is clear communication, especially if greening practices are new.    Be sure to say the same thing to all of the parties from your own organization to the vendor to the attendees to the media .    Let them know why you’re doing it differently, why it’s important.

The fourth step is negotiating green practices.   Many of your greening practices may be new to suppliers you’re using.   Know what practices you’re willing to compromise on and which ones you’re not.   Also, be aware of which practices are easily implemented and are cost saving or cost neutral.   For example, you may encounter resistance or refusal to donate food by your food and beverage provider.   The fact is that the national Good Samaritan Law was written to support the donation of food in good faith http://www.usda.gov/news/pubs/gleaning/appc.htm .

The last step is measuring your results.   Do not miss this step.   Tracking both your environmental and economic results provides the ability to quantify your results.   For example, track the pounds of waste recycled or how much money was saved by eliminating conference bags. Ask your attendees for feedback. Did the attendees notice and like any of the changes?   Do they have suggestions for next time?

Then, publish what you’ve measured.   People love data.   Tell your attendees, use the information as post press on your website or marketing for next time, share it with your team or organization and tell your suppliers.   Sharing the measured results is a great way to enroll and engage people to want more.

Protecting Your Clients, Protecting Yourself

August 24, 2006

By Jeffrey W. Rasco, CMP

I mentioned I was recently in Boston, but didn't say why. I was asked to speak at Passkey's Group Housing Forum, and I co-presented with their Scott Rudberg on Security and Data Privacy. Doing the preparatory research just about scared the wits out of me!

I came across case after case of security breaches, and some were pretty close to home. A common thread was sensitive customer data being accessed by the bad guys - not from some sophisticated cyber attack, but from simple carelessness or stupidity. A laptop left unattended, passwords shared or left on sticky notes under the keyboard, backup tapes not secured...the list goes on.

If you are in the meetings business and your organization maintains information on your members, customers, vendors, employees, etc., you have a responsibility to protect it. The unofficial theme of our talk was "It's Not Just IT's Job Anymore." Credit card or Social Security numbers and other sensitive data in the wrong hands, especially if not properly disclosed, could bring the organization down, and even send you to jail.

We don't have the time or space in a blog to get into a lot of details, but there are some simple things you can do to safeguard important information. A great resource is the Internet Security Alliance. Visit their site and click on Best Practices. Their "Commonsense Guides" for senior managers, small businesses, and for home and individuals are well-written, full of valuable information and cases, and simple to understand. The "Commonsense Guide to Cyber Security for Small Businesses" is required reading in our office. We've always worked hard to do it right, and we found a number of things that needed tightening.

A quick look at the Internet Security Alliance's 12-Step Program to Cyber Security:

  1. Use strong passwords and change them often
  2. Watch e-mail attachments and Internet downloads
  3. Install/maintain anti-virus software
  4. Install/maintain a firewall
  5. Remove unused software, and especially unused user accounts
  6. Have strong controls on physical access
  7. Backup important files, folders, and software
  8. Keep software and operating systems current
  9. Maintain network security with access controls
  10. Limit access to sensitive/confidential data to those that need to have it
  11. Establish a security and risk management plan, and carry adequate insurance
  12. Get help if you need it

Few of these safeguards cost much if anything, and don't require a computer sciences degree to implement. In other words, it's not just for IT anymore. It's up to all of us.

Don't Write Off Meetings Just Yet

August 22, 2006

By Jeffrey W. Rasco, CMP

I opened the local paper this morning and saw a teaser about web-based conferencing being ready to surge thanks to two things – rising oil prices and terrorism. When I turned back to the business section, the story was about a local company that provides equipment and services for video teleconferencing. The picture of the local business owner at his desk, and his partner projected on the video screen, showed them looking giddy at the prospects of fewer people traveling and more logging on.


I remember in the ‘80’s when the cover of one of the trade magazines featured a row of satellite dishes with a headline that asked something like “The Death of Live Meetings?” Remember the spike in interest in web conferencing after 9/11? Since people would no longer travel by airplane to meet, WebEx and her sisters would flourish. And they have.

I flew to Boston last week (fortunately not from Heathrow), just a couple of days after the British brought down the terrorist cell planning to blow up planes over the Atlantic. Yes, I checked the bag that I would normally have carried on (I like my own toiletries), but every plane was packed. The conference I attended was packed, too. We are learning to live with the world as it (unfortunately) is, and continuing to meet face-to-face.

I have nothing against meeting over the Internet. It is how we conduct our training and make most of our sales presentations at AMi. Web conferencing is an extremely valuable tool in the meeting professional’s toolbox, and knowing when and how to use it is one of the things that sets us apart from “cup counters.” But as long as humans remain the social animals we are, meeting online will continue to grow and flourish, but as an adjunct to physical meetings.

Smile on, video guys, but don’t start writing the obit for meetings just yet.

A Brief History of Life in Technology

August 21, 2006

By Jeffrey W. Rasco, CMP

Why is it that with an intense interest in technology and early training as a writer, blogging comes so unnaturally to me? I’m hoping by the end of this week I’ll have a much higher comfort level, and be a more active traveler in the blogosphere, but I’m counting on you to respond and contribute to the dialogue as we touch on some technology issues over the next few days.

Some history…

I started trying to apply technology to meetings as a planner for a large cancer facility X number of years ago. Our high tech solution at hand when I started was a fleet of IBM Selectric typewriter. We had two fonts in two sizes, four balls in all, and built-in correction tape! Over the years we grew from those marvels to dedicated word processors, to custom programming on the mainframe, to a Macintosh network, and finally to web-based data systems. Each step was a giant one forward.

Managing that office and the technology growth we were fortunate to enjoy taught me many things. One item of great importance – you don’t implement technology for technology’s sake. Every upgrade has to go through a cost-benefit analysis, and changes are made only if justified. As professionals, we have to cut through the “cool” and see if there is a tool that will move us ahead. I am truly fortunate to be asked to speak and write on meeting and event technology often. My primary message is always hinged on common sense learned as a practitioner, not the “wow factor.”

Another thing I learned, and this is the height of practical, is to actually plan training on new technology. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the people who design tech tools are not like you and me. They are smart enough to build the stuff, and basically think we are too stupid to own computers. So everything is “user-friendly.” We have “intuitive design” and “GUIs.” Well this user becomes decidedly unfriendly and says phooey on your GUI. If you don’t plan intensive training time in an appropriate environment for all staff using the new gear or software, your productivity losses can be staggering. Please don’t ask how I became an expert in this…

Finally, before I bring my first blog to a close, when making important decisions (not limited to technology), call on and trust your peers. That is the real value to me of MIgurus and MIMegasite, MeetingNews, Successful Meetings and the other publications, and of utmost importance our industry associations. If I am doing research, I count on the trade press and the great work that they do. With a couple of clicks, I can find in depth articles based on countless hours of research (that I didn’t have to do!). When it’s time to pull the trigger on a decision, I call my friends in the industry and count on their experience. Why learn from you own mistakes when you can learn from others’?

In the next few days, we’ll write on everything from the business of meetings technology to your responsibilities as guardians of data. Practical? Yes. Boring? We’ll see. Hope we can have some fun, and that you chime in.

APEX - Something for Exhibits

August 18, 2006

While much of the work around the APEX initiative has been focused on meeting planners and hotels, there is great benefit for those working in the exhibit industry as well.

What’s In It For Exhibit Organizers:
- Ease in the bidding process and providing work orders saves time and frustration
- Ease of ordering for exhibitors (catering, utilities, A/V) saves time and assists in accurately meeting their needs
- Truncated negotiations with suppliers/hotels/facilities
- Get a better grasp of the value of an event to a city and venue by using the PER
- Get a better handle on the attendees and what they are contributing to the overall value of an event
- Being able to better access venue specification allows faster, easier site selection and enhanced efficiency and productivity in event planning and implementation
- Accurate information that doesn’t have to be re-typed or re-entered gives more time to provide personal service

What’s In It For Service Contractors:
- Proper use of the information will add efficiency and reduce cost while supporting cross communication with facilities
- The ability to transmit and receive data in a standard format simplifies planning and aids in understanding of info and implementing it
- Apply the accepted practices in “booking forms,” ID Signs and updates to them, utility and other forms from facilities, and service manual forms
- A database of accurate information for pre-planning of production
- A savings in T&E would result from accuracy that allows for production efficiency and cost savings
- You could find the information you need without at visit (e.g. marshalling yards, docks, building dimensions, utility capacity, etc.)
- A standard format assures apples to apples bidding and minimizes confusion
- Affords ability to better determine the value of business

APEX - What's in it for Suppliers?

August 17, 2006

Yesterday, I listed some benefits of APEX for planners and their organizations. Today, let’s talk about how APEX benefits suppliers:

What’s In It For Hotels & Other Housing Facilities:
- Most service delivery issues occur because information was not shared, or it was communicated in an unacceptable format. Use of standard event specifications will help customers focus their requirements around the information that you require so that you can deliver a zero-defect experience
- Customers often make decisions based on incomplete information about your hotel. They may not know all the questions they need to ask, resulting in much back & forth prior to presenting a proposal. By completing and keeping current your property’s site profile you will be open to capturing more opportunities (leads) for your hotel, keeping your sales force focused on moving business opportunities from inquiry to tentative to confirmed
- Much time is spent currently collecting information of what the customer needs, in terms of specific requirements rather than understanding what could help you make the sale. By having planners use a comprehensive, consistent RFP, you will better understand the opportunity and make specific recommendations for dates, meeting rooms, and F&B activities which will help you become a consultative sales professional rather than just a processor of dates, rates, and space
- A critical component of sound business evaluation is usually based on three years of historical information. The current state is this information is time consuming to retrieve, and once received so inconsistent that it makes year-to-year comparison rather dangerous. By adopting a standard PER, you can make sound business decisions based on accurate and consistent information, in a fraction of the time.

What’s In It For CVBs and CVB Sales Professionals:
- Accurate updated information will create professionalism in the selling process for future business
- Greater credibility of leads to hotels will provide better member value and demonstrate professionalism
- Time-savings for sales managers (from not having to chase down past history from other cities and hoteliers) leads to better productivity
- When the PER system is in place and hotels “get it,” it will be an easier process for all sales managers to get the room blocks clients need. And, it will be an easier process to get actual numbers on pick up once a group leaves the city
- Housing process should be easier and smoother as databases exchange information, creating a better flow from hotel to client which leads to cost savings in terms of time and manpower
- Terminology is a great tool for new sales managers to be consistent and professional when talking to clients
- Accurate information on clients saves time when setting up sales calls/blitzes. It also demonstrates professionalism and knowledge when sitting across from a client
- Standardization of processes within a bureau’s staff
- Minimization of error
- Allows for faster response to leads
- Capture true economic impact picture for all shows, including “home” shows

APEX - What's in it for you?

August 16, 2006

There are a lot of questions about what value APEX holds for the meeting industry. The short answer is that it will save both planners and suppliers incalculable time, which will allow them to spend time on other more important responsibilities and/or save money because they don’t have to hire extra people to do the repetitious work.

The longer answers are specific to each segment within the industry, so I’d like to share some of the WIIFMs (what’s in it for me) that have been identified by people working in those segments. Today, we’ll start with the benefits from the perspective of the planner and the organizations that employ them:

What’s In It For Planners:
- Demonstration of professionalism & knowledge which can lead to better potential for raises, promotions, and credibility within the company while demonstrating strategic value, not just tactical application
- It is easier to “learn the ropes” within the industry
- Looks good on your resume
- Saves time
- Allows you to spend your time on things like creativity, marketing and strategic thinking
- Consistent information allows for better site selection decision-making by comparing apples to apples, especially in the site profile and RFP areas
- Time is spent with sales people who fit with your business needs

What’s In It For Planners’ Companies & Organizations:
- Standardization within company, particularly if the planning function is decentralized
- Resource savings (e.g. planner time, head count, etc.)
- Quicker, more consistent personnel training
- Consistency in forms and processes will be more likely to protect company because there will be less room for gray areas
- Standardization of the PER helps in defining and tracking ROI
- Benefits attendees by having accurate information on them and a focus on the reason for attending.

August 15, 2006

Thanks for your comments Joan. I agree that in order for APEX to be successful, it absolutely must have the participation of both planners and suppliers. The good news is that the suppliers who really get this are very enthusiastic about what APEX can do for them in terms of savings in personnel time and other resources. The challenge is that they have some hesitation about making significant changes in their systems for something they're not yet sure will stick. However, as more planners become aware of APEX, start to incorporate it into their planning process, and it becomes the norm, the successful suppliers will certainly accomodate their customers. It is not unlike our transformation over the last couple decades as our "rush correspondence" has gone from air mail to overnight mail to fax to email and instant messaging.

APEX - That Thing

August 14, 2006

Recently, the Convention Industry Council did some market research to determine the level of awareness about APEX. It seems that many people in the meeting industry are aware of APEX, but when those people were asked to describe what APEX is, the most common response was, “its that thing”.

I really couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to explain what that thing is!

APEX is...The Accepted Practices Exchange. APEX is an initiative of the Convention Industry Council. It has brought together stakeholders from every segment of the meeting industry to develop and implement industry-wide accepted practices that will create and enhance efficiencies.

Some of the results of accepted practices implementation are:
· Time & Cost Savings
· Eased Communication and Sharing of Data
· Enhanced Customer Service
· Streamlined Systems and Processes
· Less Duplication of Effort and Increased Operational Efficiencies
· Better Educated, More Professional Employees

In short, accepted practices will make the industry more efficient, freeing up valuable time to devote collaborative energies to broader, more strategic industry issues. Can you imagine what you would do with more time to think creatively, less repetitive work to complete, and better relationships with your customers and suppliers?

How can we not love a thing that does all that?? Well, I know that some readers of this blog may not agree that its all that, or maybe you didn't realize what the thing was supposed to accomplish, but I'm hoping that this description might shed a little light.

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