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EcoRooms: Green Meetings = Big Opportunity


August 31, 2007

By Ray Burger

The Green Meeting Industry Council reports 67 percent of meeting professionals take environmental considerations into account when planning a conference.

In Florida, Governor Charlie Crist recently signed an executive order initiating new state energy-use policies, including requirements state agencies and departments to hold meetings and conferences only at hotels with Green Lodging certification starting Jan. 1, 2008.

Even this year’s Academy Awards went green, with the telecast designed to be carbon-neutral and environmentally friendly.

Now, it’s unlikely that a normal hotel is going to be hosting the Oscars, but I think the importance of providing an environmentally friendly meeting room is evident. Green meetings bring environmental benefits, cost savings, competitive advantages in the marketplace, improved image and positive guest experiences. And those hotels that do not put green practices into their meeting rooms and planning will miss out on significant business from the growing number of environmentally conscious guests, associations, businesses and government agencies.

Like we’re seeing with our green hotel partners at EcoRooms & EcoSuites (www.EcoRooms.com), providing green meeting opportunities is a way to increase revenue while cutting down on your costs.

Steps to savings include:
--Offering recycling programs – which is especially important for all those empty soda cans and water bottles leftover after meetings;
--Buying in bulk – which cuts down on the unit price, packaging and transportation costs;
--Saving energy – keep lighting and air conditioning off when meeting rooms are not in use
--Saving paper – for any meeting forms or printouts you do, use recycled paper. And be sure to print on both sides of the page.

If you don’t practice what you preach, the savvy green consumer will see through you, and hurt your credibility in this segment of the population that is ever-growing in size and importance.

EcoRooms: Proven Winners


August 29, 2007

By Ray Burger

As hotel managers discover the increased guest satisfaction and bottom-line savings that green practices can bring, green policies are being enacted everywhere from small, independent hotels to the largest national chains.

For proof, you don’t need to look any further than the Board of Advisors of EcoRooms & EcoSuites (www.EcoRooms.com). To them, being green is so much more than saving dollars. They truly believe in the cause, of changing the way we perceive our relationship with the Earth and the precious natural resources we have been given.

Natalie Marquis, General Manager of Habitat Suites Hotel in Austin, Texas:
“We began our 'greening' process in 1991 we've taken some 225-plus steps forward in advancing our commitment to ecological sustainability.

Our guests appreciate that we demonstrate the 'how to' of being green in ways they can emulate. 

We operate at about 8 to 10 percent higher occupancy than our competitors, and our repeat business accounts for about 85 percent of our clientele.  As an independent, we rely on word of mouth for our advertising, so our reputation with our guests is the best statistic of our ongoing success.

Since 1997, we have seen our operating costs drop by 13% There's no question in our minds that being green supports people, planet, and profit.

Stefan Muhle’s, General Manager of the Orchard Garden Hotel, San Francisco’s first LEED certified property:
“ One of the most difficult changes in going green for the housekeeping staff was replacing cleaning products with ones made of organic and natural ingredients. They told me, 'Stefan, we like the idea, but you really have to show us that if we take away the bleach and we substitute it that our tile will still be clean.' After a few months, they held up their hands and said they were no longer dry, they didn’t get teary eyes, and didn’t have any respiratory issues any more.

And going green makes even more sense, business-wise. The Orchard Hotel is saving 10 to 20 percent on its electricity bill by using a cardkey system, which keeps lights turned off when the room is not in use. businesses can save about 50 cents per square foot by cutting energy use by 30 percent.
Green is not a fad, not a gimmick. This is here to stay.

EcoRooms: Changing the World


August 27, 2007

By Ray Burger

Going green is more than a fad. It’s not going to become passé. Rather, the green movement is going to permanently change the way we all live our lives, from the products we use to the way we design buildings.

The hotel and hospitality industry has the opportunity to be at forefront of the green movement. We’ve already seen how the public has accepted some simple measures a hotel can take to reduce waste and preserve resources, such as reusing towels or installing high-performance showerheads and toilets to conserve water. It wasn’t too long ago when these things were unheard of, but now they are standard. In fact, the latest J.D. Power and Associates 2007 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Study showed that, when they are aware of a hotel's environmentally friendly programs, 73 percent of guests participate.

it’s time for the hotel industry to take green to the next level and watch the world follow. At EcoRooms & EcoSuites (www.EcoRooms.com), we have outlined a rigorous set of seven criteria – we call it the “Significant 7” – that will “Raise the Bar” and establish consistency of ”Green” in the hospitality industry.

These criteria include creating well-defined recycling programs, energy efficient lighting and fixtures, use of refillable amenity dispensers to cut down on product waste and using only environmentally friendly cleaning products, among others. A comprehensive list is available at our Web site (http://www.ecorooms.com/criteria.html).

As guests become accustomed to the policies adopted by hotels during their stays, many will take green ideas and habits home. Meanwhile, more hotels are finding that implementing green practices actually saves them money, by reducing energy, water and cleaning costs. In short, going green is good for guests, good for hotel business and good for the Earth. And that’s exactly why this movement isn’t something that’s ever going to go out of style.

Would you provide a money back guarantee for your conference?


August 20, 2007

By Ed Bernacki

Here is a crazy idea for your conference: guarantee people will leave with ideas worth more than the cost of registration. Imagine a conference with a financial guarantee. Imagine this conference opening:

"Welcome. You have given us $1000 to attend this conference. We want to give you $1000 worth of results or more.

"We know that most people come to these events, take notes and never look at them again. Let's think about what we should record at conferences. The secret is putting a dollar value on these results. It's arbitrary, and yet the dollars count. Consider:

Record Ideas and insights: the 'aha' moments
"The most value comes from ideas that you see as useful. Some are hot while some may seem loony. Ideas are the highest value as they involve many actions: $100.

Record questions as they are a future conversation or an idea deferred
"The best questions are like an 'idea deferred' if you think about it back at work. They offer potential value. Add $25 per question.

Record quotes references, memories
"A 'quote' can be something you hear or read, or a reference to a book or website: add $20. 

Record actions: what can you do?
"Actions are simple: read this, call them, or review something. Make them tangible and practical. Add $20, perhaps $50 if it’s big. 

Remember the people you want to follow up with
Who are they? What is the context of your conversation? Add $20.

"By the end of this conference you need to add up the value you get from this conference. For example, imagine this result:

1.           Ideas - I found 6 ideas: $600

2.           Questions - I have 8 questions I want to consider later: $200

3.           Quotes - I captured 2 quotes and two books I want to read: $80

4.           Actions - I find 5 immediate actions I can take - $100

5.           Contacts: I have 4 business cards of people I want to follow up with: $80

"If you can't come up with $1000 worth of value, our staff will help you squeeze out some extra ideas. If we really can't find enough value, we will refund the difference between what you paid and what you got back."

Would your conferences make a financial promise like this?
If you were accountable for the value people got from an event, how would this impact on the design of the conference?
--Would the relationship and involvement with speakers change?
--Would the learning objectives change to reflect this accountability?
--Would you pay more attention to what people record and how they record it?
--Would you open and close your conferences differently?

It may be a loony idea. How would your participants feel if they left your event knowing that they captured enough value to justify the cost of attending? Would they come back next year? You bet.

Samantha Brown Rocks


August 17, 2007

By Eli Gorin, CMP

In my last post I talked about how TV news creates perceptions that people have locked in their minds about the dangers of even stepping outside of one’s home, let alone going to another country.  That is why people like Samantha Brown, the hostess with the mostess from the Travel Channel, to put it simply, rocks.  I was relaxing yesterday after a very long day of work and was happy to see her most recent program, Passport to Latin America, on television.  I loved watching Great Hotels because she gave great insight into some of the most famous hotels around the world.  She then had some love affair with Hawaii and it seems like she never left the Aloha State.  She then did all of Europe, and so I was eager to see what she came up with for Passport to Latin America.  And she has done the region justice.

Last night’s episodes were on Mexico City and Sao Paulo. I have been to Mexico City, and will be going to Sao Paulo soon… and the information provided in the show is so helpful that I am now very excited to head to Sao Paulo (more than before) and cannot wait to return to Mexico City!  Along with Passport to Latin America, another great show on Travel Channel is 5 Takes: Latin America, where 5 everyday people are given a chance to visit a country and are recommended locations to visit in each country by the viewers.  Some people may call those shows pure paid advertisement, but I say who cares??  They are showing the ins and outs of the cities and give very practical tips and show people things they never knew existed.  I pride myself on knowing about Latin America, but there are things on those shows which I had no clue about. 

I recommend those of you with TiVo’s and digital cable to go to the Travel Channel and look up these great shows and put them on your wish list.  If you are looking to research locations, the websites for these shows offer great information on locations you may have never even heard of.  Other shows which have given other POV’s of Latin America include Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations (great food finds), and if you are feeling really adventurous, Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods (freaky food finds).

Oh and once you are done learning everything there is to know about Latin America thanks to our friends at the Travel Channel… don’t forget to check out Shark Week.

(Mis)perceptions


August 15, 2007

By Eli Gorin, CMP

One of the hardest things about getting people to understand about venturing out in the world, let alone to Latin America, is to get them to overcome the negative perceptions they may have about a certain place.  Unfortunately, people rely way too much on what they see on television news to be the end-all-be-all of that destination.  I stopped watching nightly newscasts a long time ago because I started noticing a recurring theme… the newscast tends to always start off something like this: “Tonight we bring you the latest breaking news… a man was found _____________ in his home this evening.  Police are investigating the motive and looking for suspects.”  Following that would be something along the lines of “And in world news… an explosion near __________ rocked [you name the city]”.  Hearing something like that day in and day out would make anyone afraid of venturing outside of their home, let alone the country!

The biggest concern people bring up when I talk about Latin America is safety and danger issues.  They are afraid of being kidnapped, robbed, or whatever else that would detract people from coming to an exotic destination.  I tend to wonder… where are they getting these perceptions from??  The same news cast that said a man was shot outside his home in a neighborhood a few blocks away?  Did that deter them from driving through that street later on in the day?  Probably not… and why not?  Because people perceive these to be “random acts of violence”.  I am not an expert in security, and I certainly am not naïve… but I think there needs to be more focus on the positive and proactive action to avoid the negative.  What do I mean by this?  Keep the thought in your mind that there are many more positives of these varying destinations that outweigh the negatives.  And if you have concerns over the negative aspects, proper planning can absolutely help in alleviating those fears.  Not too sure about the security issue in a certain city… do the research.  Ask the local tourism board for statistics on crime and any issues with foreign groups coming into their location.  Speak with other planners who may have held a meeting in the location you are considering.  If you are still hesitant, consider the options for hiring additional security to protect your group.  The same proactive actions you would take to protect your group in any part of the United States should be taken when traveling anywhere else in the world.  As I always tell people… show me one major metropolitan city in the United States that doesn’t have a section known for being dangerous.

I think if people work to overcome their fears and misperceptions, they will be one step closer to realizing there is a very big world out there with so much to offer… and in my particular case a wonderful region which is home to so many cultural wonders… including 3 of the 7 new wonders of the world.

MPI-WEC & Globalization


August 13, 2007

By Eli Gorin, CMP

Well this week I have been given the opportunity once again to wow the world with my knowledge on Latin America as a destination for meetings.  However this week I want to change things up a little and vary the topics a little more.  Not just talk about the benefits of Latin America (which I will do at some point of course) but the issues which are affecting the Latin American region’s abilities to see growth with other markets and what we as planners can do to help.

As you can tell from the title of this first post, it’s important to start thinking big and then narrowing the thoughts down.  I haven’t gotten a chance to write on any of the email lists in regards to my experiences at MPI-WEC just yet because I returned late last night, no thanks in part to “weather delays” from a week’s vacation (yes, I said v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n) in Cancun with my whole family… and that’s a whole other story for another day.

This was my third time attending MPI-WEC and the show was very good for me.  I heard some mixed reviews from people on their experiences with the sessions and/or other small details, but overall I found what I needed and did what I needed to do.  Part of that was presenting the first ever session on Meeting Management in Latin America.  Other planners have presented on the topic of international meetings (including Judith Miller who I finally got to meet and adore), but this was the first time Latin America was given its own session and I thank MPI for letting me do this.  I had a decent turnout… about 40 people or so… I think mostly due in part to Rohit Talwar having to turn away about 200 people from his Future Trends session (thanks Rohit!).  While it wasn’t a packed house it was a start.  Little by little you have to work your way up… which is why I commend MPI on their globalization efforts.  I had the opportunity to meet Bruce MacMillan at WEC, along with Angie Pfieffer, and had a moment to discuss the global expansion and how wonderful it is.  However…

Has anyone else noticed that the global expansion just goes further and further east?  What about our neighbors to the south?  We have excellent options in countries which are not far from major hubs in the United States (which you would have learned about had you attended my session at WEC), and offer amazingly affordable options (like $3/pp all day coffee service in a fantastic hotel in Panama… again, something you would have learned had you attended my session). 

I am making it part of my mission to slowly and surely teach people about the wonders of the region.  I am going to do my best to educate the members and leadership of these great meetings organizations on the vast options that are being ignored.  The major issue Latin America faces is one of perception.  I want to hear from you… the planners… who have these “negative” perceptions of Latin America about what I can do to ease your fears and open your minds.  Hopefully if enough of you learn the enormous opportunities that await you in Latin America the big dogs will listen… and possibly even act to make Latin America the next major destination for meetings and events

Risk: Manage and Mitigate


August 08, 2007

By Gloria Nelson, CSEP

Event design and execution has many components, and the more sophisticated the more risk there is of something potentially going "bump" in the morning, noon or night.  So we need to look at each event through a litmus test of where we have potential risk.

Do you wish to eliminate it?  Shift it?  Manage it?  Or...assume it? Dependent upon the degree of risk, an action plan of each event component of risk can then be evaluated in how you will handle it.

Here's some food for thought in just a couple of the do's that will not only help you to be assured your resources are adequately covered, but also how you can have ink set to paper to "shift" the risk (holding breath now), SHOULD an episode occur:

1.)  Certificates of Insurance:  By having a certificate of insurance of all outsourced suppliers in your event file, this will not only allow you to be assured of adequate coverage, but also to be notified in the event the policy lapses prior to your event.  Note, having a copy of the declarations page or a photocopied Certificate of Insurance doesn't provide this protection.  You must have the agent of record place your name in the block of advisement so you will be notified in the event of termination or lapse in coverage.

2.)  Installations: I remember talking to my insurance agent many moons ago and feeling very proud when he asked, "Who gives the final sign-off and approval on the inspection of the items you subcontract that comprise the underpinnings of your events"?  Well, I believe each one of us would have done the same as I proudly announced, "Well...I do"!  That was a wake-up call that I will not ever forget.  When he advised that in having the final sign-off that our company was assuming all the risk....I sat up and listened.  He shared a simple means of "shifting risk" by merely taking the quotes or contracts from each event program and writing in the following text followed by a signature line that is then penned by the lead person on each segment of event installation.   It merely says:  Installed & Inspected By: ___________________________________

These are just two very simple things that can be done as a starting point in looking at and evaluating risk.  Always check with your own insurance agent as not only does coverage vary state-by-state, but it may also change if the state you're executing an event is different than the one where your insurance policy is written.

For a comprehensive look at understanding managing risk, look to the new text soon to be on the bookstands authored by Julia Rutherford Silvers, CSEP, titled, "Risk Management for Meeting and Event Planners".  It's available online at Julia's site by visiting www.juliasilvers.com or through www.amazon.com for pre-orders .  This is a "must have" on any event professionals resource book shelf.

So instead of shifting in your seat over the safety of your attendees, perform your due diligence and when and if possible....shift the risk and mitigate the potential losses to your company or organization!

Certification: The ABC's of a CSEP


August 07, 2007

By Gloria Nelson, CSEP

The hallmark designation of Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP) is bestowed upon industry professionals who have gone through a similar process of other industry certification designations.  The CSEP is awarded by the International Special Events Society (ISES) after candidates have shown
industry commitment through education, performance, experience, service to the industry and also reflects their commitment to the profession of event planning and management through ethics and conduct.

Each candidate must qualify to apply with various criteria and then goes through a three part process including letters of recommendation proving experience and expertise; a multiple choice examination of industry terminology and a three-hour essay examination testing their knowledge by articulating the core competencies of Development, Pre-Production, Production and Post-Production within 47 areas of event management criteria.

One might ask, "Why is it important for me to have or hire a CSEP?", which then begs us to ask ourselves the question if we would prefer to go to a bookkeeper or a CPA at tax time, or a general surgeon or a surgical specialist if one needed to undergo surgery.

In our world of alphabet soup, by adding initials after your name, along with balancing the other acronyms in our industry, what does it really mean to garner your certification and what should it mean when you consider hiring a staff member or a third-party?  Here's a sampling as provided by ISES.

     *  Certification demonstrates commitment to the special events industry. Whether a CEO, department director or newcomer to the special events profession, garnering the CSEP shows your peers, clients, and the public your commitment to your career and your ability to perform to set
standards.

    * CSEP enhances professional image. The CSEP program seeks to grow, promote and develop certified professionals who can stand "out in front" as examples of excellence.

    * CSEP establishes professional credentials. Because the CSEP recognizes individual accomplishments, it serves as an impartial, third-party endorsement to your knowledge and experience. The designation defines you beyond your job description or academic degree.

    * CSEP improves career opportunities. Certification identifies you as one who can adapt to changes in work, technology, business practices and innovation. It gives you the edge.

    * Certification improves your knowledge and skills. Achieving your CSEP shows your competence by confirming proficiency and career involvement, thus assuring knowledge.

    * CSEP offers greater recognition from peers. As a CSEP, you can expect increased recognition from peers for taking that extra step in your professional development.

Robert Sivek, CSEP, CERP of The Meetinghouse Companies in Elmhurst, Illinois shares, "It is important to be recognized as one of the highly qualified people in my field. With many newcomers to the special events industry, I want my clients to know that I am dedicated to the profession." In essence, professionals who have garnered their CSEP in the industry have gone the "extra mile" to stand out amongst their peers after thorough examination with measurable psychometrics administered by a third party testing company. As with other certifications, the CSEP also requires re-certification every five years.

So as we look at all the "C's" in our industry, may this added bit of certification information help you to understand the process, as well as accomplishment, when looking at your own professional path as a planner and also what you may wish to consider when the need to outsource is required. The ISES website (www.ises.com) as a "Finder Service" located under the "Resource" tab also allowing you to search with a CSEP filter.

For those who are interested in the CSEP, visit the ISES website or call the Education Assistant at 1-800-688-ISES (4737).  So that's the ABC's of the CSEP!

What Are Companies Doing to Give Back and How Can I Get Involved?


August 03, 2007

By Alan Ranzer

Companies are doing all kinds of wonderful programs to give back to amazing causes all around the world. From local partnerships with charities at home to pairing up with charities at a meeting destination, corporations are finding ways for their employees to give back. Here are some interesting programs I’ve learned of recently:

**One company gives its employees the opportunity to have paid time off for up to 40 hours of volunteer work. When the employee meets the 40-hour mark, the company will donate $500 to the charity where the employee worked.
**Another company plans community service days for its employees and then allows employees to make financial donations, which the company will match dollar for dollar, through iGive.

An important point to consider while planning a community service experience is that the program must mesh with the intended participant pool. For example, on an incentive reward trip, I would recommend offering a volunteer program, rather than making it mandatory. Some employees might scoff at the idea of having to sweat for others while on a trip they earned through hard work throughout the previous year. Making it a volunteer opportunity gives the employees that want to take part the opportunity to do so, without causing friction. As another example of matching the program with the participants, I wouldn’t have a group of retirees build a playground in tropical heat!

How do you get involved with volunteer opportunities? There are many avenues. First, find out if your company has a social responsibility division, or a department that handles corporate giving. Often times there is at least one person that deals with that on behalf of the company. Find that person and use him/her as a resource! You might find that your company has a separate foundation established to manage its philanthropic activities. Another option is to call your HR department. They’re there for you. See who/what they know! Additionally, you can call a community service based teambuilding company, such as my own, to find out what unique opportunities are out there. Finally, check out what is happening in your local community by using a service such as Volunteer Match, which lists opportunities, community by community, on its website.

The bottom line is this: there are many people/communities in need out there, and corporations are coming to the table with more than just their checkbooks these days. Your next meeting could be a priceless experience for participants and beneficiaries in the local community alike!

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