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Items for Your On-site Management HOT List…

June 29, 2007

By Arlene Sheff, CMP

Lights, Camera, Action! It’s time to manage your meeting on-site. Your HOT On-site Management checklist is in hand, so you know everything will run like clockwork.

Here are some HOT on-site management items that you might want to add to your list.
1. Attend the pre-con (pre-convention) meeting to review final meeting details.
2. Do a walkthrough of the chairperson, meeting host or other VIPs rooms.
3. Review food and beverage guarantees and recheck daily.
4. Tape or lock down the meeting room doors to prevent a noise when opening/closing.
5. Pick up parking stickers/stamp.
6. Pick-up keys to rekeyed meeting space and distribute. Check back-of-house doors to make sure they are securely locked.
7. Distribute radios/walkie-talkies by tracking ID numbers and obtaining signatures.
8. Collect non-disclosure forms from production team, if applicable.
9. Obtain room service menus for staff meals prior to food service days.
10. Take action to prevent any individual who has consumed too much alcohol from driving; a hotel room may be needed.
11. Review ‘no show’ list daily and determine if it’s necessary to reinstate someone who may be delayed.
12. Review banquet checks daily.
13. Test all phone and fax lines before distributing numbers.
14. Check the lectern (many times called podium by mistake) light and provide room temperature water for speakers.
15. Test all audiovisual equipment.
16. Put out place cards, tent cards or reserved signs, where needed.
17. Make sure the ‘bladder’ on air walls (rubber at the bottom) is down.
18.  Locate the control switch for lights/music.
19. If purchasing soda, water, packaged snacks items ‘on consumption,’ verify count of left over items with banquet staff.
20. Contact AV or Engineering to unscrew the light bulb over the screen, if there is too much light on the screen
21. Do final walkthrough of meeting space to check for taped down cords, clean and pressed table linens, burned out light bulbs and squeaky doors, etc.
22. Confirm that all eligible comp rooms are being utilized.
23. Sweep meeting rooms immediately following sessions for items or confidential papers left behind.
24. Designate a specific place for meeting staff to write down ‘Lessons Learned’ throughout the meeting.
25. Check meeting rooms doors to make sure they are unlocked while meeting is in session.
26. Check the facility’s Reader Board/Function Board/Directory to confirm that meeting name, location & times are posted correctly.
27. Write housekeeping announcements which may include: location of emergency exits, location of restrooms, where to store luggage on last day (if meeting ends after check-out time), remind attendees to protect their possessions by not leaving them unattended, etc.
28. Drink water and eat protein throughout the day to maintain energy.
29. Keep your sense of humor!

Surprise Charges for your HOT List

June 28, 2007

By Arlene Sheff, CMP

If you’ve ever been surprised by a hotel charge, then welcome to the club. Perhaps you forgot to ask about resort fees or porterage fees. Or did you receive an unexpected charge for electricity? Reading your hotel contract carefully can eliminate many surprises. Making a HOT list of charges NOT to be surprised by might help to eliminate the balance.

Here’s a list of items you may want to add to your HOT list.

1. Electrical usage (AMPS) charge to run audiovisual equipment
2. Cost to change meeting room door locks, if you need to secure rooms. Some meeting space cannot be totally secured, so security may be required
3. Resort fees
4. Porterage fees (bellman service charge per guest).
5. Housekeeping fees
6. Extension cord or power strip usage – can be $25.00 per cord/per day
7. Service charge added to meeting room rental charge
8. Service charge added to audiovisual charges
9. Fee charged for NOT using the in-house audiovisual company
10. Surcharge to serve a buffet for less than a specific number (sometimes 25)
11. High speed internet connection lines charged per IP (email) address. Fee may be a few hundred dollars for the first line, plus an additional amount for each IP address that hits the line.
12. Additional charge to have hors d’oeuvres passed by a waiter.
13. Use of heath club
14. Early departure fees
15. Fee to charge bill to a credit card
16. Surcharge on phone calls made from hotel phones
17. Acceptance/storage of boxes shipped to the hotel. Some hotels charge per box or envelope. (Note: Try negotiating comp acceptance of boxes addressed to the meeting planner)
18. If you forget to add the word ‘cumulative’ to your comp room clause, you may not receive your 1:50 comp rooms if, for example, only 49 rooms are booked per night. If the word ‘cumulative’ is added, you can add up all the night stays, then divide by 50.
19. Charge to store flowers so they can be reused the following day.
20. Charge to rent additional transportation if complimentary airport transportation cannot accommodate the size of your group.

Develop a HOT List for the Planning Process

June 24, 2007

By Arlene Sheff, CMP

Have you said “OH MY GOSH, I should have thought about that” or “OH MY GOSH, I should have remembered to do that” lately?

Everyday in the planning process, meeting planners strive to produce problem-free meetings. Sometimes, things just happen to fall through the cracks. By developing a checklist of those HOT questions to ask, HOT things to look for or HOT things to do, you can prevent adding items to your Lessons Learned list, after the meeting.

Here’s a list of items you may want to add to your HOT list.


1. Include ‘24 hour hold’ on any meeting space that you don’t want to vacate at the end of your scheduled event. Forgetting to include these simple words might require you to tear down your AV equipment and vacate the room for another group’s evening event - then reset the room late at night for your next day’s program.
2. Allow enough time for AV set-up and tear down. Check with your AV/production company for their requirements.
3. Include rehearsal time in your contract. Presenters may need to familiarize themselves with the equipment or your entertainment may need time to rehearse.
4. Your contract is not binding until both parties sign the same document and initial all changes.
5. Establish credit with the hotel/venue/supplier by filling out a credit application or credit card authorization form. Allow time for processing.
6. Take shipment tracking numbers on-site and collect the same from anyone shipping to you – but prior to that, confirm with the facility how many days prior to your meeting they will accept boxes – and request the preferred way to address shipments.
7. Ask what other groups will be in-house the same time as your group, their number of attendees and what will be going on in the rooms that share your air wall.
8. Check a calendar to avoid booking meetings on conflicting dates, whether industry-related or religious. (Note: all Jewish holidays start at sundown the night before the date listed on most calendars.)
9. Consider renting radios/walkie-talkies to communicate on-site with your staff and/or hotel contact.
10. Develop a plan with contingencies for emergency situations.

My next column will include items for your HOT list of Surprise Charges, followed by items pertaining to On-site Management.

Coping with illness

June 22, 2007

By Joan Eisenstodt

Imagine you are sick with cancer, depression, Crohn's disease, or even a cold.  Imagine that you are also responsible for taking care of another or others - parents, spouse or partner, children - while you continue to work.  Imagine you are in an industry that expects you to entertain or be entertained as part of your job, to work longer hours because of deadlines or increasing responsibilities due to cut backs in other staff.  Imagine the stress of having to do it all, and in some cases, while hiding your illness or that of a loved one from your colleagues and employer or clients.

In each session we've done on this subject, two of which Jaimie, the young colon cancer survivor, and Beth, the brain cancer survivor (although now dealing with her third round of cancer), we heard from so many people who were the sole providers for their families; from those who were terrified that their employers would find out their personal medication costs and thus know that a person was ill; from those who had days when it was impossible to work because their illness or that of their loved one was so overwhelming. 

These are our colleagues who struggle each day with who to tell and when and the implications of telling.  These were managers who wanted to know how to ask the right and sensitive questions in order to be more supportive of those with whom they worked who were ill or caring for an ill loved one.

Each illness is as different as each person.  There are no perfect questions to ask nor perfect answers to provide to talk about one's own illness or that of someone for whom we are caring.  We can create an atmosphere in which honesty is appreciated; where confidences are kept; where the value of a human being is far beyond the illness.  We can suggest policy changes in our work places and in our professional settings that are more humane and allow time for those who are caregivers or those who are sick.  We can be supportive of colleagues when they are going through a tough time.

At this summer's MPI WEC and again at the Exhibitor Show in March 2008, we will again delve into these issues.  Join us to continue the conversation so that we can bring illness and caregiving out of the closet in which we found too many who were HIV+ or had AIDS.  Join us as we look at how we can be supportive.  Let's practice our hospitality toward our colleagues.

With What Are We Coping?

June 19, 2007

By Joan Eisenstodt

In each of the programs, the stories told were stunning in their simplicity and more stunning in the need to talk and to share.  No doubt each of us who were part of these sessions had others in our lives with whom the pain, fear, and anxiety were shared.  Yet, to be with peers, in an industry where 'perky' and 'upbeat' are operative words, and to talk about the difficulty of getting up each day or going on the road while in mental or physical pain, was clearly a relief to each person who attended.

At one meeting, a woman I'd met earlier in the week at another session walked into the session about illness and when asked why she was there - after being so positive and outspoken and strong in the other session - said "I'm going to have a mastectomy this coming week and I'm terrified."  Another spoke about her difficulty dealing with her own depression while helping her husband cope with a major illness about which his employers were unaware.  Another woman of a 'certain age' spoke of her leukemia and the cost of her monthly medication, living in fear that her employer would find out she was the one who might be driving up the company's health care costs and be fired - and be left with nothing.

A man spoke about losing his wife suddenly and then suffering a heart attack himself and his feelings of depression.  There was the young woman whose mother was homeless because of bipolar disease and how she, the young woman, feared 'getting' the illness. 

The stories went on and on about our own illnesses and those of loved ones.  Worse was hearing the fear of losing a job or losing benefits with no safety net.  Or was it worse to hear that those in sales positions were forced, by virtue of our industry and their employment, to take clients out when all they wanted to do was go home to help their loved ones or themselves?

This might be a time to talk about the inadequacies of the healthcare systems in the US and in other countries.  It is though more than I can take on.  Easier for me is to help our industry - an industry that has expectations of perfection in looks and performance, where having a tough day and not wanting to be around others is not acceptable - continue these conversations.

In the coming days, we'll talk more about care-giving, grieving, and managing illness or the diagnosis.  Please add your stories - and send them to me at eisenstodt@aol.com if you'd like them posted anonymously.  If we talk about the issues and personalize them, we will make our industry better and each of us may be able to manage with some semblance of peace.

Living and working with illness

June 18, 2007

By Joan Eisenstodt

In the '80s, I asked an industry association if I could moderate a session to talk about AIDS and our industry.  Too many of my friends and colleagues were HIV+ and some were dying; our industry was not talking about the personal and professional impact.  The room was packed with industry professionals anxious to get the topic out of the closet so that we could address what it meant for individuals and our industry.

For many years, the "C" word (cancer) was whispered.  There was a sense that if one said it out loud, you'd 'catch it' just like you'd 'catch' AIDS if you said the word or were around people who had it.

We who were hospitable were reticent to show vulnerability when it came to illness and our work.  It was believed that if one were sick, and others knew, it would be the end of a career.

About 3 years ago, two industry friends, one an ovarian cancer survivor and another a multiple cancer survivor, suggested we do a session at an Meeting Professionals International (MPI) conference to talk about living and working while undergoing treatment for cancer or other major illness or being a caregiver for someone while also working.  It was initially done under the MPI Women's Leadership Initiative and was stated for 'women only.'  We thought that if we could provide a safe atmosphere in which women could talk about intimate issues without fear we could begin to dispel some myths and offer a support network.  These friends asked if I would moderate the session and I readily agreed.  MPI agreed that it was an important topic and the session was held.

Into that session came many woman, one of whom had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and hadn't told her employer, another, a woman who had undergone brain cancer and was in recovery, and others who were in various stages of various illnesses, and still others who wanted to hear what was said to be personally and professionally prepared. 

Two men also came in and asked if they could stay.  One, Jaimie, was a young colon cancer survivor; the other, Chuck, was someone caring for a friend with a major illness. 

What resulted in and as a result of that session was the ability to talk about working in an industry where we all believe we have to be upbeat all the time - we are, after all,  about hospitality! - whether we feel well or not.  Many people shared their personal stories about employers who were great and allowed time off; others, and in particular the woman who was just diagnosed with breast cancer, who needed to know how to talk about it in her employment situation where she was the only woman. 

We cried and we laughed. We shared and we discussed the importance of early detection.  I shared my story of having my first colonoscopy just before my 50th birthday and the diagnosis: the discovery of 3 very small polyps with the highest level of pre-cancerous cells that, had they not been found and removed,  would have resulted in full-blown cancer in months. 

It was the first time that many revealed their vulnerabilities and their fears and where others talked about how to manage illness and work.

From that session, came opportunities to re-create the experience at another MPI meeting and at the 2007 Exhibitor Show.  Again, this July in Montreal, the session will be held at MPI's WEC where different people will talk and share and learn how to cope.

In MiGuru this week, you'll get to hear the voices of some of those who were part of these sessions and read about the experiences and the need for these discussions.  We are only as good professionally as our health allows and our employers or clients understand.  If you have a story to tell, add your comments to the end of the Guru section.  If you'd like me to post it without your name, email me at Eisenstodt@aol.com and I'm glad to post it without your name and hiding your identity.

We still need to do lots of work when it comes to healthcare and our attitudes about those who are sick and want to work.

Virtual Events Deliver an Excellent Buzz—And Results!

June 15, 2007

By Brent Arslaner, VP of Marketing, Unisfair

In my last article, I promised a case study on Virtual Events. Well, the timing couldn’t be better. Unisfair was one of the sponsors of Marketing Profs’ B-to-B Marketing Conference 2007 Virtual event held on June 13, 2007. It is still accessible on-demand at: http://events.unisfair.com/mktprofs/microsite/index.asp?code=Direct%20Access. Please stop by and check it out.

Marketing Profs is an online publishing company that serves marketing professionals at both large and small companies. Marketing professionals from IBM, HP, Cisco, FedEx, Kodak, Siemens, Volkswagen, Coldwell Banker, Intel, Sun Microsystems, Best Buy and the Houston Rockets were among the over 500 visitors of our booth during the live event.

I can’t speak for Marketing Profs or the other sponsors (although a few did come into our booth and thanked us for a successful event – booth reps in the virtual world swap stories just as they do in the physical world), but I can share our story.

This was a one-day, six-hour event. Keynotes and presentations by people from the likes of IBM and Google brought in fantastic crowds – easily in the thousands. We were one of many sponsors with virtual exhibition booths.

I was able to customize our virtual booth with our colors, signage, logos and much of the collateral in about an hour. We loaded up the booth with PDFs of our collateral, flash demos of our products and links to other external virtual “marketing collateral.”

The show started 7am pacific time. After making some coffee, I simply went into my home office and logged into my booth rep admin console. With the booth admin console I am able to see who comes into my booth and key details like their company and title. We proactively engaged visitors with greetings and offers of help, and attendees could approach us directly with questions.

By 7:10 am, ten minutes after the start, I was very sorry I only had two of my colleagues staffing the booth. We were overwhelmed with booth visitors. By the time the first session started at 8am the show and the booth visits reached an ideal rhythm.

The net for us was that well over 500 people came into our booth (and I have the names and contact info for each one). We set a half a dozen meetings in real-time for the following days with some very impressive prospects and are following up on well over 100 direct requests for further information.

As a Marketer, you recognize the “buzz” of a successful physical event—this was quintupled. I will have our inside sales and major account reps busy for the rest of the summer!

Virtual Events Checklist

June 13, 2007

By Brent Arslaner, VP of Marketing, Unisfair

I promised more information on what a virtual event solution should deliver today. A virtual event solution should provide the following:

1. Ease of Accessibility – your attendees must have instant access. Register; click on a link; enter the virtual event; and use the mouse to get around.

If an attendee has to download an application, dress up an avatar, and learn new commands – your registration-to-attendee ratio will suffer miserably.

2. Professional Networking – as you know the top two reasons people attend events is to gather information and to network.

Your virtual event solution should take all the business-applicable aspects of web 2.0 and “social networking” and apply them to fit the needs of today’s busy businessperson.

3.Unified Experience – a virtual event environment should include a conference hall that supports multiple sessions, an exhibition hall with exhibitor booths that support a variety of rich media that attendees can download, and there must be live interaction between attendees, sponsors and presenters.

Most importantly, it should all occur in a unified environment. If the virtual environment is cobbled together with disparate applications, it appears very clunky to the attendees and results in poor user experience.

4.Marketing Intelligence – for events used for lead generation purposes, marketing intelligence is especially critical. Unified virtual events should be able to supply the organizer and its sponsors with the richest marketing data available from any marketing vehicle.

It should track and report on all attendee activity and then rank this data so the organizer and sponsor can identify the hottest leads, at the push of the button.

5.Best Practices – this is critical for those event planners entering the virtual world for the first time. Find a solution provider that can offer you the best practices for content creation, audience generation, event management and post event reporting in the virtual world.

In an upcoming article, we can review a couple of case studies for various lead generation, sales training and user group virtual events.

Use Virtual Events to Deliver More Value

June 11, 2007

By Brent Arslaner

The truth is I have not talked to an event planner that is actually “afraid” of the growing use of virtual events, but it seems others are afraid that you are afraid.

Quite to the contrary, the events professionals I have spoken with are embracing the idea of virtual events. Admittedly, this is because Unisfair is in the business of delivering virtual event solutions for our clients and the professionals that we encounter are coming to us to use these services.

An events “expert” (not an actual events professional) I was speaking with one morning about this very article said, “be careful, you don’t want to scare them with virtual events.”

After I heard that again—yet having never heard it from an actual events professional—I changed the title of this article.

Use Virtual Events to Deliver More Value
Virtual Events will never replace face-to-face or physical events (even if they did, you still need event professionals to plan, produce and execute the virtual events, but I digress).

Event professionals are increasingly using Virtual events to augment f2f events. They are easy and fast to pull together; they conveniently pull in geographically dispersed audiences; they can augment the physical event by forward promoting and extending the value of a physical event; and the technology has advanced to such a state that you will most likely be “wow-ed” when you see what a virtual event delivers.

Here are some of examples of events that take place within a virtual environment:
Sales Training – especially for geographically dispersed sales force
User Groups – increase your customer loyalty from the hundreds of people that can afford to attend, to several thousand people
Conferences/Seminars – either for educational or lead gen purposes
Job Fairs – gives companies with a competitive job market a global edge
Lead Generation – virtual events are ideal for marketing lead generation activities

Any event you can conduct physically you can hold virtually. There is a time and a place for each, and when you use them together, you greatly increase the value delivered to all audiences.

Virtual Events Defined
We both know that you are not afraid of virtual events, but I would be willing to bet that many of you have yet to see the recent advances in the world of virtual events. I will take some time in a future article to detail what virtual events can deliver today.

Until then I will leave you with this one thought since I know you all read the cover story about Second Life in the March edition of Successful Meetings. There is a distinct difference between Second Life, designed for gamers, and virtual events designed for the business world.

Reading the online story by Don Salkain “Behind the Cover” (http://www.mimegasite.com/mimegasite/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003564137) highlights the difference.

To sum it up, access to a virtual event for business people must be quick, easy, painless and scalable. It must be a place to quickly share and gain information, and it must facilitate networking with other professionals.

Look for a detailed definition and explanation of what virtual events can and should deliver in a soon-to-come article.

It’s Not What You Serve but How You Serve It

June 08, 2007

By Michael Green

Seven Simple and Low-Cost Ways to Turn Your Dinner into an Experience

Let’s face it – sometimes there is not much you can do about the quality of food and drink at a hotel banquet hall or conference center – or even at a restaurant. Sometimes your hands are tied – maybe there are budget issues, perhaps the host does not want to go off-site or maybe there is a lack of quality restaurants in your conference region.

Fret not! Here are seven things you can do to transform the “rubber chicken” dinner into something special:

1) Opening Numbers. Greet guests with a specialty cocktail to begin. Rather than having guests cue up at an open bar, create and brand a drink with your company name or corporate culture and have servers offer it to your guests by its name. For example, “The Competitive Edge” or “World Domination.” If the drink is especially yummy, you can give guests the recipe as a takeaway.

2) The Power of Words. Make sure the menu card takes full advantage of the evening. Even if it is a rubber chicken dinner, where did the chicken come from? What type of goat cheese was used? Are the carrots organic? “Otter Farm Raised Braised Chicken Breast” and “A Selection of Artisan Cheeses from Pleasant Ridge” sounds better than chicken and cheese. List wines with vintages and places. Be specific. Brand the menu with your corporate logo and tag line. Proof and proof again.

3) Get A Room! Eating certain foods can be daunting and are best enjoyed with friends and family in the comfort of your home. Don’t turn the very act of eating into a culinary comedy. Your guests want to come off as polished and professional and they want to make a favorable impression. Do you really want guests to run up a dry cleaning bill after the meal? Avoid soups, long pasta, excessive spice and anything with bones or shells (quail and lobster).

4) Cold Shoulder. Select a first course that can be served cold or room temperature. If your opening remarks go on too long, or if your guest are slow in sitting down, servers will not need to make a mad dash to get hot food out to your guests.

5) Flower Power (or Not!). Money spent on flowers can be out of control and often not necessary. You can create other low-cost options. What about a potted-herb centerpiece of the herb used in one of the dishes? Beautiful bunches of grapes? Perhaps an elegant bowl containing a selection of seasonal fresh fruit. Keep the centerpieces low and avoid anything that is aromatically intrusive. A selection of wine glasses, votive candles and a creative solution can go a long way.

6) The Right Mix. Music can set the tone and brand the night. Don’t leave it to chance. Make your own mix. What songs are appropriate to your meeting goals and corporate culture? Make copies for a low-cost, high-impact gift.

7) The Seventh Inning Stretch: Pass mini desserts or set up an elegant, easy-to-navigate dessert buffet. Towards the end of the evening guests will want to stretch and mingle. Keep desserts small and easy to eat – one-bite delights.

Have an idea? Email me at michael@michaelgreen.com with your easy and low-cost entertaining tips; the three most creative submissions sent before June 15 will win a free subscription to Gourmet magazine.

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