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Know Thy Team


January 31, 2007

By Kelly Rush

"Coming together is a beginning.
Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success."

-Henry Ford

Recently on the MIForum, I posted an answer to questions about writing a service clause into a hotel contract and referenced speaking with the banquet management team to answer questions and concerns regarding service.  I discovered through the course of this conversation that not everyone realizes, or maybe understands, the planning process from a facility perspective, perhaps because, as a client, groups tend to communicate with the facility sales team or the catering/convention services team.  To better meet our goals and objectives of the week, I thought it might be helpful to offer a quick primer to the "who" of making your event happen.  Please keep in mind that job functions vary by property, so the following is a general illustration of how the process flows from the facility side. 

Sign on the Dotted Line
First contact is normally made by someone from the sales team, whether that is a catering sales manager or representative or, for groups, a convention sales manager.  The responsibility of this individual is to solicit new accounts and maintain current relationships to sign repeat business.  It is their job to develop a proposal and food and beverage minimums, room rates, and, at smaller properties, block space for your group.  In short, this is the person who develops, and gets you to sign, a contract. 

Let the Planning Begin!
Once a contract is signed, at most properties, the catering manager (or catering sales manager) retains responsibility for the service and detailing of the entire contract for social business. By detailing the contract, I refer to the process of reviewing the contract details, menu planning, room sets, audio-visual needs and reviewing the status of the rooming block.  For group business, most properties will turn the detailing and service of contracts over to a convention services or conference services manager (the difference in terminology is really semantic, most often reflecting the size of the property, with convention services being used by larger properties) or CSM.  Once the CSM has begun detailing the various group functions, they begin to communicate with the cross-functional teams--banquets, culinary, and set-up--via the Banquet Event Order, or BEO (more about them later this week!).  About one month out, this manager is responsible for distribution of your group resume to all of the hotel departments.  The resume will outline the myriad of details for your group in a broad way and include room pick up and arrival patterns, accounting details such as authorized signature and payment methods, special housekeeping requests, activities (particularly if the property has its own personnel coordinating recreational activities), spa appointments, transportation needs, amenity deliveries, and the outline of meeting schedules and catering functions--including location and number of attendees.  When the group contact arrives, the CSM is responsible for coordinating a pre-con (pre-conference, or -convention) meeting on-site with representatives from each department, usually a day or two prior to the start of your event.  During your conference or convention, the CSM is responsible for checking in daily (sometimes more than once) with the group as well as reviewing billing with the group contact.  Finally (!), the CSM is responsible for conducting a post-con with the group contact to review and evaluate the property and, if all went well, attempt to resign your piece of business (or other, new pieces of your business) for the facility. 

Making It Work
When the Banquet Event Orders are created and distributed, the actual execution of your events are taken over by the banquet management team.  The composition of this team is highly dependent on the size of the facility; some properties may be small enough that only one person--the banquet manager--coordinates the set-up and service of your event from room set to supervising the function itself.  The banquet manager schedules and supervises captains and servers, maintains inventory, and processes billing charges for your events.  At a larger property, the several of the responsibilities outlined above may be delegated to another department--a set-up department, for example, that is responsible for setting up rooms with tables, risers, hardware, or audio-visual equipment.  In short, however, the essential function of the banquet team is to implement the group functions, as opposed to the catering or convention services team who primarily handle the selling and planning chores. 

The last position that I'd like to mention as part of the banquet team, as it's very near and dear to my heart, is the banquet captain.  In a very general sense, the banquet captain is a room manager in charge of the service at a meal function.  The captain typically oversees all activity in the entire function room, or a portion of it, during a meal (Hotel Catering: A Handbook for Sales and Operations, Patti J. Shock and John M Stefanelli, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1992, p. 18).  At smaller properties, the captain may be a lead server who takes over the functions of the banquet manager in dealing with the group contact when the banquet manager is not available.  At larger facilities, a banquet captain is responsible for the execution and supervision of specific events, as opposed to the banquet manager who oversees all events on property.  It sounds semantic, but let me give you an example.  In my current captain's position, I requisition all the flatware, china, glassware, skirting, linens, etc for the set up of an event, as outlined on the Banquet Event Order from our storehouse.  I supervise the assigned banquet staff in the set up of the room or location and coordinate with cross-functional teams such as conference set-up and the beverage departments.  On larger events where we are using outside vendors, I am responsible for ensuring that they are set up on time, in the right location, confer on agenda, etc.  During the event, I control the flow of the agenda, communicate with the kitchen, observe the banquet and bar staff, and check in with guests on their experience.  After, I am responsible for the break down of the function room, making sure that all the equipment we used is cleaned and returned, that all cross functional teams have been notified that the event is over, review service notes with staff, solicit feedback from guests and staff, and submit a report detailing any issues or guest comments at the end of the night.   

I'm guessing that some of this information is old hat to some, but know that it’s new for others.  Understanding how many people are involved in the facility event team, and what their roles are, prepares us, I think, for the discussions that remain.  Tomorrow, I'd like to take this information and start to illustrate why, when an event isn't a success or doesn't achieve quite the vision we hoped, it almost always points to a breakdown in the communication between the various teams, particularly between planning and operations; and suggest some ways around that breakdown. 

Nothing Accidental


January 29, 2007

By Kelly Rush

"Nothing in good writing is ever accidental."  --Dr. Bernie Baker, PhD.

What does this have to do with working in banquets, or the event & meeting planning industry?  Everything!  As a writing and rhetoric major in college, one of the requirements for my senior seminar was to assist incoming college students develop their writing portfolios.  Over and over again the big questions were: "Why do we have to study grammar and spelling?  Does it really matter?"  According to Dr. Bernie Baker, absolutely.  Let me explain—what he meant by "nothing in good writing being accidental" is that when writers break the rules, it’s for effect.  If you don’t know the rules, you can’t break them effectively. 

Our industry is about creating an experience for our attendees and guests.  Like writers of novels, short stories, or poems who create experiences for the reader, we make decisions day in and day out which effect an experience for those who attend events.  Over the next week, I’ll clarify/highlight/illuminate/examine how what we do (or don’t do) during the planning process impacts the outcome for attendees’ experience through an operational lens.  As Patti Shock, professor and chair of the Tourism and Convention Administration Department at the Harrah College of Hotel Administration at UNLV,  pointed out several years ago in an email to the MIMlist [the forerunner of the MiForum List], fewer and fewer catering managers come into their positions from a culinary background.  As this trend increases, catering and conference services managers are selling without a true understanding of what it actually takes to execute their menus.  Similarly, as the meeting industry matures, fewer and fewer planners come to the table with knowledge of facility operations.  Consequently, planners develop assumptions—some correct, some false—about what it takes to execute their requests. 

Some may take this statement as "fightin' words", but the concept of this week, (Re)Visioning Planning, is intended to educate us all by widening our view of the process that allows us to create that moment for each attendee where time and space stand still and leave our events, whatever they may be, with an epiphany—whether that be the thrill of learning a new concept or whether they look at the world around them in a new light. 

Five years ago as the assistant to the event coordinator at the a philanthropic organization in Boston, I began to begin to frame (to paraphrase T.H. White) the big picture of my meeting industry career.  Throughout the numerous discussions and conversations with professionals in the industry, the conversations kept returning to the concept of "knowing the rules.".  Having left my assistant position to return to the restaurant industry that was my home, I decided to move to Chicago to become a conference services manager—that way, I'd learn the "rules" of how hotels do business and what’s negotiable, making me a more effective meeting professional.  In order to do so, I decided that I could take my event experiences and my background as a server in the restaurant biz, and work for the season as a banquet captain—valuable experience for the transition into conference services.  I got stuck. 

I got stuck because I realized that in order to be an effective conference services manager, there was so much more to learn about operational execution—because in order to be truly effective, I had to not only understand my client’s needs, but balance them against the constraints of the operational environment.    I needed to be able to negotiate expectations with knowledge from working on both sides of the industry.

I realized that as a banquet captain, and as an aspiring meeting planner, I can be the bridge in the planning process.  This week, I’ll share what I’ve learned and I hope that we will (re)write some rules together.

Latin America: Gracias Por La Visita


January 26, 2007

By Eli Gorin

I hope the information I was able to pass on regarding Latin America has given people some insight as to what the region is about and what can be expected from hosting groups in the various countries.  I know that one week and five short blog postings doesn't do justice to the myriad of information one can give to truly show the grandeur of our neighbors down south.

Just to recap a few points from this week:

  • Don't be afraid to consider something new, no matter how foreign it may be to you (that pun was absolutely intended)
  • Remember, Latin America is only a short (or potentially long, but somewhat equidistant to Europe) flight away
  • If you do not remember the few words of Spanish you may have learned back in high school, it's okay... English is quite common (and no, adding -O to the end of a word in English does not make is Spanish)
  • Latin American business relationships are about just that... relationships.  Keeps your friends close... keep your CSM's closer.
  • And finally... when in doubt... don't be... you have made a great decision in heading south for your meetings and events!

Thanks for reading and if you are in need of more information or have questions, feel free to contact me at eli@gmeetings.net or 305-735-8375.

-Eli

Latin America: The Sites


January 25, 2007

When I do my research into locations that may potentially be hosts to one of my client's meetings, I look at "wow" factors.  What is it about the location that is different or unique?  What wonders are there to explore?  What is there to do besides go from hotel room to breakfast to meeting room to coffee break to meeting room to luncheon to meeting room to cocktail to dinner to bed?  Well besides the obvious (bathroom break? business center?), what do your guests have to look forward to in their destination.  I recently did a meeting in Cancun which was very tight on time so there was not enough of it to do a true excursion to see amazing sites.  However one of my guests took it upon himself to rent a car and do the 6-hour roundtrip drive to see Chichen Itza.  While that may be a little extreme, there is so much out there for guests to see in terms of culture and natural beauty throughout the Latin American region.  Here are a few examples of some of the more famous wonders and great sites found in various countries:

  • Ancient Mayan ruins in Mexico and throughout Central America
  • The volcanos and tropical jungles of Costa Rica
  • The Panama Canal
  • The coastal towns and beautiful plains in Colombia
  • Macchu Pichu and Cuzco in Peru
  • Vina del Mar and Valparaiso, Chile - home of the Festival Internacional de la
    Canción de Viña del Mar - One of the world's most renowned music festivals
  • The wine country of Argentina, considered by many the Napa Valley of Latin America
  • Cristo Redentor statue atop Corcovado mountain in Rio de Janeiro
  • Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina
  • So much more.....

It's important to really look into the cultural offerings of the location you are considering for your meetings.  For many attendees coming from North America, these are locations that they may not have a chance to go to had it not been for your ingenius decision to host the meeting in one of the many fantastic locations in Latin America.

Latin America: Relationships


January 24, 2007

I recently had the opportunity of presenting on a panel at the annual PCMA meeting in Toronto.  It was a panel of heavy hitters in the industry... and me.  The topic was the Art of International Contracting, a very interesting topic for those who are looking to develop meetings around the world.  I focused my part of the presentation on... you guessed it... Latin America.  The other wonderful panelists that joined me were Carol Krugman who covered Asia/Pacific, Stephen Powell from Intercontinental Hotels who covered EMEA and the hotel side, and we were kept in check, I mean moderated, by Jim Goldberg.  It was interesting to see how different business negotiations can be in all parts of the world.  To me, Latin America still seems to be the most fascinating environment to work with.

When doing research for my presentation, I spoke with some of my sales reps in the region and asked them a few questions in regards to North American based planners and what they request that is just not so ordinary where they come from.  The most common response... too much detail.  Why are we so obsessed with the finer points in a contract?  In fact why are we so obsessed with having a 50 page contract, period.  North American planners are so enthralled with making sure that every single solitary point is within the contract that we don't seem to trust people much anymore.  What I have come to learn in working with LatAm is that the business ethic in the region is one of pride.  There are still so many places you can go where one's word is as good or better than anything written on paper.  It's like the days of old where a handshake really meant something.

Accepting someone's word is not automatic.  Confidence and trust is never just given... it has to be earned.  As such, relationship building is the most important thing that one could ever do when negotiating in a Latin American country.  Get to know the people you are working with.  Get to know the cultures.  Be inquisitive.  Ask about what there is for your group, what makes the destination so fascinating.  Now I am not saying get to know your sales managers on a very personal intimate level, but you are likely to make a friend along the way.  Doing business is not just about closing the deal.  It's about reputation.  It's about respect.  It's about doing what is mutually beneficial for all parties on more than a fiscal level.  If you work on building a great working relationship then you may find some nice surprises.  While the contract may state one thing, generally there is quite a bit of flexibility and hotels are happy to work out whatever is needed to assure that your group has a great experience.

Latin America: The VAT Factor


January 23, 2007

By Eli Gorin

A few months back I began posting to my newly created blog called meetingsBabble (available for your viewing pleasure at www.meetingsbabble.com... but of course only after you read all of the wonderful items that MiGurus and MiMegasite have to offer).  I have unfortunately neglected my blog for quote a few weeks do to an overwhelming amount of work but I will be getting back to it shortly.  In one of my earlier posts, I wrote a topic called "Get the VAT Outta Here".  In yesterday's post I made a brief mention in regards to VAT exemptions in various countries throughout Latin America.  Today I am going to give a brief overview of what is out there in terms of possibilities for saving you even more money.  I will not be giving an economics lecture on VAT taxes and their impacts on any given country's economic stability as a result of market fluctuations and increased/decreased currency flow through mid-market level exchanges brought on by sudden shifts of demand due to a decrease in supply.  As you can tell just from that one sentence alone, I am not an economics guru.  HOWEVER, I will tell you this though... VAT ("Value Added Tax" for those not already in the know...) is referred to as IVA in most parts of Latin America... and that's the most statistical lesson you will get from me today.

Mexico has one of the best known policies for VAT exemption in the region.  The "Tasa Cero" initiative (or "Zero VAT") has made Mexico a very popular destination for groups and meetings travel.  And all this time I thought it was the great beaches, friendly atmospheres and amazing food.  I guess I had no clue at all.  The initiative allows qualifying groups (meaning meetings and conventions and other such groups... incentives are not yet considered applicable for this exemption) to save 10% on their meetings right off the bat.  Once qualified by your sales manager, you will not be required to pay the VAT on your groups for various items, including hotel, F&B, transport to/from your hotel, and other items consumed towards the master account.  More details are listed here.

Other countries, including Uruguay, Colombia, and Chile offer similar exemptions to foreigners.  Each country has its own version of VAT exemption, but what I have noticed is that the value is truly there.  I am in the midst of quoting a group in Uruguay with a strict budget.  One of the reasons we have chosen Uruguay is because we are able to save 14% on our room charges and nearly 23% on our F&B charges.  By packaging room rates together with food and beverage, the 23% VAT on F&B drops to the 14% rate percentage which is discounted completely... so there you go... zero VAT.  Doing some simple math, let's take these savings for a spin:  Imagine you get a room rate of $150/night single occupancy and about $50 per person in meals per day.  By not paying any VAT, you are paying $200 per person per day.  Should you not be exempt from the VAT, you would end up paying $232.50/per person per day.  Figure 100 people in your group for 3 days/nights, that's nearly $10,000 in savings. 

Now there are always exceptions to the rule.  First and foremost, the VAT exemption is stricly limited to foreigners, so if you have attendees coming in from the host country, then you will be required to pay VAT on their stay and consumption.  This is checked by the hotel having to verify travel documents (such as passports and tourist/visa cards).  Countries may restrict what is and is not included in the VAT exemption as well (i.e. coffee breaks, room rental, etc.).  But the fact of the matter is, you get wonderful savings off the bat.  No need to fill out forms and hope to get your money back.  There is no reclaiming involved.  It is important to note that you should always check which countries do and do not have these exemptions.  I am currently compiling a list of what exemptions you can find where and will try and have that available to those who need it.  But even in the countries that have no exemptions, as mentioned yesterday... the value for your money is a tremendous "bang for the buck."

The Case For Latin America


January 22, 2007

By Eli Gorin

I live in a city known lovingly as “La Republica de Miami” (the Republic of Miami).  Miami-Dade County, home of… you guessed it… Miami, has roughly 2 million residents and based on recent census data is approximately 60% Hispanic in population.  So when I mention to people here that I am a meeting planner and focus my meetings within Latin America and LatAm divisions of companies, the response is generally one of understanding in regards to doing business within Latin America.  As far as explaining to them what a meeting planner does, well, that’s a whole other story.

However, when I step out of the comfort zone of “La Republica” it becomes apparent that Latin America is a destination for meetings that most people restrict to locations such as Cancun, San Juan, and Miami (well at least based on the aforementioned demographics…).  All are fantastic locations for meetings and events, but just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the wide and varied options out there for planners and guests to explore!  For the purposes of this week’s MiGuru topic, we are going to define Latin America as countries in the Americas (North, Central and South) and the Caribbean with Spanish and Portuguese as the principal languages. 
                                                                                                                           
So what is stopping you from going?  Is it the distance you have to travel to get there?  Concerned about the safety of your guests?  Could it be the cultural/language barriers?  Or are you concerned that you will be way out of budget?  Well how about I tackle each of these points individually…

Travel:

New York to Paris averages 7.5 hours, while it takes merely 5 hours to get to Panama City, Panama.  Hop on a flight in Dallas and arrive in Madrid 11.5 hours later… or you can hop on a flight to Buenos Aires and get there an hour earlier.  Miami to London is 8.5 hours… the same time it takes to get to Santiago, Chile.  Flight times are relatively equal when comparing travel between major US cities and European and Latin American destinations  Frequency of airline schedules is quite good as well.  But best of all, the jet lag is considerably less.  Current time difference between the east coast and Buenos Aires is only 2 hours.

Safety:

“But I hear that ______ is so dangerous and thieves target Americans/foreigners.”  I challenge anyone out there to give me a major destination city in which there is no “dangerous” sector.  Some countries in Latin America can be considered not “as safe” as other locations where many people are generally used to traveling.  No matter where you travel, it is important to do your research and look into the safety situations.  Do your due diligence and If you are truly concerned with the possibility of something occurring to one of your groups, look into security options.  However, no matter where you go in the world, it is always wise to stay sharp.  You can get pick-pocketed as easily in Sao Paulo as you can in Florence.

Cost:

To me this is a no-brainer.  When traveling to Europe and Asia, the US dollar is at a disadvantage.  The buying power of the dollar in comparison to the Euro, Pound Sterling, or Yen is weak.  When compared to the various other currencies throughout the Latin American region, the US dollar is at a great advantage.  In other words you get more “bang for your buck”.  Prices in major cities are generally quoted in US dollars, and in at least one country (Panama), the US dollar is the official currency.  Hotel rates are lower, F&B is lower, transportation costs are even lower… oh and did I mention VAT exemptions in quite a few locations?

Language Barriers:

In Germany, they speak German.  In France, it’s French.  In Italy it’s… oh you get the point.  But what do you hear when you travel to Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile?  Yes, that was a rhetorical question.  Spanish is the prominent language throughout the entire region, and for the most part, the official language in many countries.  Brazil’s main language is Portuguese but Spanish is common.  Now while there may be varying accents and dialects and differing uses for certain words (more about that in a future posting), a basic proficiency in a language that many people grew up taking classes for in high school will go a long way.  And fear not… English is not as foreign as one may think.

This week I hope to convince you to take a very good look into the possibilities that exist in Latin America.  Open your eyes to what our neighbors to the south have to offer.  You will be amazed with what you can find.  I look forward to your questions, your perceptions, and your experiences.  And by the end of this week expect you to be one step closer to booking a meeting in Latin America.

First Do No Harm...


January 18, 2007

Having recently executed an event in

Milwaukee

at the House of Harley, I asked the onsite event sales account executive if she would please provide the location, phone numbers and response times for both fire and police along with their average response times to their location.  Additionally who, if any, additional staff at the site were CPR or First Aid Certified by a bona fide organization such as the Red Cross or the local fire department.  Are you a card carrying member and do you practice CPR periodically to remember the protocol?

The event with only 40 or so attendees had a five page policy and procedure document given to each team lead to read, review, contribute to and share with their staff so we were all on the same safety/risk management page.  For anyone who has heard either Joan Eisenstodt or Julia Rutherford Silvers, CSEP speak on the topic of risk management, one would NEVER attempt to even venture out of bed, or at the best their home, much less attempt to coordinate a meeting or event!  But life must go on and so much the show….

Are we doing all we can to ensure the safety of not just our attendees, but our team members of staff and strategic partners as well?  Are we engaging them in the active process of planning and GAP analysis to see if we’ve missed anything?  It might sound silly, but I sincerely believe that each planner has equal responsibility in assuming a Hippocratic Oath to “first do no harm”.  It’s always better to be safe vs. sorry.  What say you?

Have you any experiences good, bad or ugly you’d like to share? 

Cheap Chic?


January 17, 2007

More and more frequently, we are being challenged to find cost cutting measures that deliver the WOW factor for either the same as the previous year's investment allocation allowed OR, possibly even less.  Many times as professionals, we think the HR Department is misguided by managers who fail to include "magician" in the job posting.  How many times have you felt like you've been charged with pulling something out of thin air?

Moving from a major metropolitan area to a much more conservative market that not only perceives events differently, but lacks the ability to hop in the car and drive to the wholesale fabric mart or a wholesale floral house or design house was a major adjustment.  However, when we stop and think for a moment about what other resources are now available online AND also in our own backyard, we get to thinking out of the box and can truly surprise ourselves.  Having a list like MiForum and other professional environs to "bounce" creative concepts or resources is always helpful too.  Here's a few of the ones that I've used that are reasonable and accessible:

  • Goodwill Industries Retail Shops (or local thrift shops):  Great for finding anything from costuming to containers for floral/centerpiece structure(s).    You never know what type of 3-D props you'll find either.
  • Hobby Lobby and Ben Franklin:  These stores can many time have clearance items available for less than wholesale!  Don't be afraid to do some mixing and matching either as an eclectic look, so long as it's within the same design element family is really fun.  So grab what you need in combos of low lotus dishes, 12" cylinders or if they're REALLY a good buy....grab some of those tall long neck 24-36" vases.  You'd be very surprised how inexpensive they can be.  Combined on a 12" mirror tile that you can get in twelve packs from Home Depot or Menards (this may not be the retailers across the nation, but they're regional in the Midwest), you can bounce anything with added candlelight and make a table look breathtaking.
  • Surplus Stores:  If you're doing anything that is jungle themed, MASH-oriented or a team event that you want inexpensive "uniforms", I've found the local Army/Navy store to be a treasure trove.  I located a 20x30' camouflaged net to use on a pipe and drape backdrop and got green t's and pants for the entire band and event staff.  It was a great value and the client realized quickly when being quoted fees that even while we were "buying it", it was far less expensive than utilizing a prop house for this particular theme.
  • Oriental Trading:  You'd be amazed at what little treasure troves you can find in this publication along with other novelty websites.  If it blinks, flashes or glows....it's HOT!  Make sure your lead time is ample so that you can "sample before you buy" in the quantity you'll need.  Buying a sample ensures it is up to your esthetic standards. 
  • eBay & Online Auctions:  Having recently done a private social event, we themed the evening as a Flight of Fantasy in celebrating a 40 year birthday for someone who had survived a brain tumor and now has two little beautiful girls...and his wife wanted it special.  She said her husband loves planes....so off and running went the creativity with the team.  I have the tendency to also like "authentic" design elements, so we created a departure gate, a passenger lounge and a faux airplane setup.  I actually found the oxygen mask and seatbelts used for safety instruction on eBay. This made me realize there's not only a market for what we need here, but I can always unload it and get money BACK if I don't want to inventory something!  Come to think of it, we haven't used those green uniforms from the remote landing strip theme.....maybe there's a listing on the horizon and some return revenue.

I hope these tidbits help stir some of your creative juices...and please, post other favorite finds to share.  As our dear friend Richard Aaron, CSEP, CMP says, "It's okay to steal ideas.....emulation is the most sincere form of flattery".  Designers in fashion do it every day....so lest share and recycle what works and where you've found those treasures!  ~GN

Special Effects: Are they really special?


January 16, 2007

By Gloria Nelson, CSEP

The incorporation of special effects can be very dynamic, but are planners reluctant to use them because they perceive them to siphon off too much of the investment allocation?  One of my personal favorites are FlutterFetti wands that are tubes filled with tissue or mylar confetti and start as inexpensively as about $1.00 ea.  These are GREAT for themed events that have moments of involving the attendees, whether it's to honor someone's achievements, a company's goal that's been hit....a myriad of reasons.   Special effects can be very simple or as sophisticated and "high tech" as what you'd see on Broadway, at a rock concert road show or at the Academy Awards.

What are some of the basics?

  • Balloon Drops/Walls (Walls are exceptional in tandem with some type of reveal.)
  • Confetti/Streamers  (Strategic time and placement is imperative and they can be self-launched through the purchase of a system, or integrated through your production company.)
  • Dry Ice or Chemical Fog (This infuses either a stage or even areas where foods are served giving the environment an ethereal feel.)
  • Pyrotechnics (For both indoor and outdoor use and includes anything as simple as a flash pot box or a gerb to categorized "shells", but always use caution and work only with insured and licensed tried and true suppliers.)
  • Flying  (This has nothing to do with planes, but everything to do with bringing in an object or a person from the air.  This is not to be confused with the term "flying" when suspending speakers from trussing or rigging points.)

Why use special effects?  They add drama and create emotional impact.  Within the realm of the "experience economy" and a definite part of today's marketing mix, this is becoming more and more the norm in our worlds of edutainment and infotainment.  When used properly, they'll bring your event or meeting "over the top" without taking your investment allocation down the stewardship drain.

Special effects should be used:

  • To support the goals and objectives of your program.  They should be seriously considered and evaluated based upon ROI during the design/planning phase of your project.
  • They should have a dramatic effect and be used at what David Spear, CSEP would say in his world of pyro, "poignant moments" to create an emphasis within your program.
  • Integration in appropriate proportion to the overall event mix.  In other words, have a balance in the program, but think of how effects support the entire design and marketing commuinications message concept(s).

What do you want to watch out for in the process?

  • Use caution when sending out RFP's.  Don't be stingy with information as the more you share in collaboration with your potential strategic partners who handle these aspects of your event and are open for their feedback of how to make your program better, you and your ultimate "end user" will gain the greatest benefit and accolades.
  • Make sure all your suppliers are appropriately licensed and insured.  Note that if you want proof of insurance with an insurance certificate, which is appropriate, this will advise you along the way between contract and deposit to the date of event if the status of the insured changes.  However, if you wish to be added as an additional "insured", this could result in additional fees dependent upon the rating and escalated risk and this cost will be passed along to the end user.
  • Be cautious with quotes or proposals that come back imbalanced in comparison to others.  These items should raise red flags if their "overloading" you with their "stuff".   It is within the norm, however, to have a strategic partner put together their proposal and also offer "additional options" you may wish to consider if your investment allocation permits, that make sense within your event or program.

Please feel free to share some of your treasure trove and challenge cups here in what you've incorporated, what worked, didn't work and why so we can experience the benefits from peer-to-peer sharing!

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