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125 Tips for Today’s Meeting Planner
The industry is different today than it was 20 years ago. In fact, it’s different than it was just a few years ago.
There’s plenty of advice out there about how you can do your job better in today’s shifting world, but instead of
making you look for it in all those different places, we put it all in one place for you. Read on for inspiration,
advice and ideas about programming, budgeting, food and beverage, travel and, well, everything meetings.

MEETING FUNDAMENTALS
Budgets, RFPs, Programs

Keep in mind the things attendees hate: waiting in line, jam-packed schedules, PowerPoint, being talked at by
speakers, bad food, misspelled name badges, bad signage, poor e-mail marketing, websites with no contact info
and having to pay for Wi-Fi.
—Keith Johnston, PlannerWire

When attending events, it’s fine to collect 10 or more business cards, but narrow them down to three or four of
the most important connections you’ve made.
—Bob Littell, NetWeaving

Have a separate room block for exhibitors. If you have space in your regular room blocks and can move them to
the closer hotel, there will be no attrition.
—Janet Graff, CMP, Mednax Inc.




More meeting fundamentals from Monica Compton

A comprehensive Request for Proposal should provide an overall evaluation of your meeting. Think of it like a
resume, which offers job experience, references, history and more.
—Donn Oswald, Greater Phoenix CVB
Early planning is key. Be sure to be specific on your needs and expectations. Leave no detail uncovered or
assumed. Everyone will be happier in the end if you follow these three simple rules.
—Amy Beadle, Springfield (Ill.) CVB

Whenever you need to make a change to some existing system, program, schedule or event, have a pool of
people, or a “consequence team,” that can help you evaluate potential decisions and repercussions. This team
could be other planners, friends, staff or outsiders, but a combination of all would be a great mixture.
Sometimes when we bounce ideas off other planners, they only offer us one perspective, but an outsider may
offer a totally new perspective that we hadn’t considered.
—Dean Jones, Collaborate Marketplace

When branding an event, make it simple. Whittle your message down to the essentials; remove everything else.
—Bruce Turkel, author and branding expert

Stay organized. Ninety percent of my work is done before the group hits the door. The curriculum, recipes, food
cooked—my ducks are in a row so that I can relax and enjoy the group.
—Tami Cecil, chef and team-building facilitator, Woodhaven Farm

Date your ideas, but don’t marry them. Don’t be afraid to take risks, actually do what you say you’re going to
do and think outside the box.
—Billy Kirsch, Kidbilly Music

Think about transportation. Many CVBs provide options for shuttles or ground transportation. Share details
such as shuttle routes, pickup times, cell phone numbers and number of attendees.
—Crystal Morris, Columbia (S.C) Metropolitan CVB

SITE SELECTION AND NEGOTIATIONS
Venues, CVBs, Room Blocks

Reach out and don’t be afraid to go after the city you want, but keep your cards close and do your shopping
first. Don’t declare your top choices right away.
—Stephen Hahn, Marriott International

Don’t base site selection entirely on price. You’ll always find people who are prepared to underprice their
services just to get business. But how good and reliable are they? Next time you’re tempted to make a buying
decision based entirely on price, think again.
—Susan Friedmann, author and speaker

If you are close to signing with a venue or hotel, you might get better pricing and concessions the closer you get
to the end of the quarter and end of the year. Sales bonuses and incentives for most salespersons make year’s
end a great time to ask for those extras.
—Kevin R. Johnston, PlanSmart

Always stop in and check out the public restrooms in the hotel or facility.
—Stephanie Hudson, Providence Events

Before contracting a hotel or convention center, ask if it utilizes a union labor force and specifically which
departments are in the unions.
—Monica Compton, Pinnacle Productions
If a destination or property is new to you, go beyond the site visit tour and really experience a property, putting
yourself in your attendees’ shoes. If possible, visit on your own and spend some time in the lobby.
—Cynthia Rich, independent planner

Do your homework to get up to date on any and all municipal cutbacks on emergency and standard services so
you can be better informed.
—David M. Brudney, hotelnewsnow.com

Contact CVBs three to five years in advance of a citywide event to ensure availability, and choice of hotels and
meeting facilities.
—Crystal Morris, Columbia (S.C) Metropolitan CVB

Rehearse your opening words before negotiations. Your opening words set the tone for the discussions that
follow. Make certain that you know exactly what it is you want to say. Craft the words so that your message is
clear and concise. Then spend time rehearsing your lines.
—Susan Friedmann, author and speaker

PRODUCTION AND PROGRAMMING
Audiovisual, Online, Audience

Make sure your AV partners understand your meeting objectives—your audience, your priorities and your hot
buttons. Always inform them of changes to your program and include them in meetings with your venue.
—Kevin R. Johnston, PlanSmart

It’s the responsibility of planners to create programming that keeps people involved. This is done with active
learning, which is when people are involved in more than just listening to a lecture. When it’s all lectures, the
people who learn the most at your conferences and events are the speakers.
—Jeff Hurt, Velvet Chainsaw Consulting

The coolest thing right now is the ability to bring your online and offline, face-to-face and online world,
together…They drive each other.
—Samuel J. Smith, Interactive Meeting Technology

The younger generation is not really into what Gen X or the Baby Boomers are into. They simply want instant
gratification. Their span of attention is very short, so you need to grab their attention there and then.
—Sahar Andrade, diversity and culture competence consultant

Engaging an audience ensures continuous attentiveness during longer presentations. During a 60-minute
presentation, getting audience feedback after each 20-minute span of time can ensure that attendees’ brains
remain in the “active” rather than “passive” mode so they retain more information.
—Ray Hansen, IML audience response systems

Color is an important component that can tie the meeting together, bringing in all elements from invitations to
flowers, food, linens, gifts and props. Colors can also help maximize budget. For example, you can use bowls of
lemons instead of floral arrangements and pineapple-yogurt parfaits for a healthy, colorful dessert that also
serves as table decoration.
—Diane Budion-Devitt, hospitality professor at New York University

Storytelling is another way to think about how to frame your meeting. Know your message. Then, develop the
story with a plot, a beginning, middle and end. Communicate the story using multiple messages: Theme the
scene, reinforce it with music to create the right moods and immerse your attendees every step of the way.
—Lenn Millbower, Offbeat Training
Create the right physical environment with ergonomic chairs, comfortable room sets and opportunities to move
around, and schedule breaks during programming every 90 minutes.
—Bonnie Wallsh, Bonnie Wallsh Associates

Ideally, people should sit no closer than twice the height of a screen and no farther away than eight times the
height of a screen. So if a screen is 10 feet tall, the audience should sit no closer than 20 feet and no farther
away than 80 feet from it.
—Scott Reagles, Initial Production Group

FOOD & BEVERAGE
Action Stations, Wish Lists, Wow Factors

Let the chef know what you are looking for, but be open to suggestions—especially when it comes to
sustainability—if they can offer an alternative with the same taste.
—Robbie Delaney, chef, Virginia Aquarium

Dessert is a good place to go for the wow factor. Face it, attendees can not like the salad, find the meal just OK,
but if you wow them with the dessert, they’ll remember the whole meal as being fantastic.
—Steve Enselein, Hyatt Hotels Corporation

Move away from lengthy meals to more action stations, where attendees can mingle and sample.
—Giorgi Di Lemis, Gaylord Hotels

Always use a trained bartender. This is not the place to cut corners.
—Bonnie Wallsh, Bonnie Wallsh Associates

Make sure you have a clear understanding of what goes toward your food and beverage minimum. While coffee
breaks, receptions and meals should all be included, try to include such things as hospitality suites and F&B
functions from sponsor organizations (who wouldn’t be there if not for your function).
—John Foster, hospitality attorney

Every destination or venue has its own specialty, sometimes synonymous with the season, the local growers,
manufacturers and producers, or a chef who is noted for a contribution to the cuisine. When it’s a plentiful local
product, hotel chefs and caterers will be happy to match your theme, or you can begin with their specialty menu
items and create your theme accordingly. It also will be cost effective to use readily available ingredients.
—Liz Mitchell, Beaufort (S.C.) Regional Chamber of Commerce

Fresh and locally produced ingredients, intense rich flavors, and, thankfully, the demise of supersizing is where
America’s chefs are trending.
—Robert Zappatelli, Benchmark Hospitality

Any meeting planner who wants to get the biggest bang for the buck should always talk to the chef. And don’t
let any salesperson say you can’t talk to the chef.
—Janet Pickover, Site Inspections Plus

SAFETY AND SECURITY
Privacy, Protection, Legal Issues

In the event of a hotel strike or other event disruption, look into your options for transportation. If attendees
staying at the original hotel need to be shifted to another facility for the event, you need to plan how attendees
will get there as safely and efficiently as possible. You can’t assume the original hotel will take care of these
details for you.
—Philip Farina, Farina and Associates

You might think that trip hazards are things that are in the way of walkways or exits, but trip hazards can also
be considered thing that could be in walkways. Fire marshals may require chairs to be tied or fixed together,
preventing them from being moved into areas where they would be in the way if there was an emergency.
—Scott Reagles, Initial Production Group




More legal tips from Barbara Dunn

A force majeure provision should be included in every contract. It is also important to include a catchall
provision such as the following: “or any other cause beyond the parties’ control.”
—Barbara Dunn, hospitality attorney

Make sure all exits are clearly visible, and all aisles, walkways and exits are clear of obstructions. Make sure all
drapery and scenic material have been fireproofed.
—Scott Reagles, Initial Production Group

Tell attendees about emergency plans during housekeeping sessions.
—Joan Eisenstodt, hospitality consultant and educator

Partner with law enforcement agencies in the early planning stages for a better understanding of any overall
threats, including recent crime information, as well as potential threats directed toward either the event or the
facility.
—Bonnie Wallsh, Bonnie Wallsh Associates

Make sure the hotel and meeting center has a good paper shredder and find out what security measures are
practical.
—Joan Eisenstodt, hospitality consultant and educator

TECHNOLOGY
Texting, Tweeting, Widgets

Create a revenue stream for virtual events by charging for content during and/or after the event. If people really
want the good stuff online, they need to pay.
—Lynn Randall, Maritz Travel Company

As an event planner you come across needs for resources that are outside of your circle. Perhaps you need a
florist in a different country for a client. How would you know who is reliable? With social media, you can now
view websites that rank any company in any industry. You can read feedback that comes from mostly unbiased
reviewers. You can also send a tweet to your community and will likely receive many suggestions.
—Liz King, Liz King Events
Tech tips from James Spellos

If you have decided that you are going to implement an event community, you need to teach people how to use
it. You need to have a session and allow people to ask questions and really be patient, speak in plain English
and not text terms. Do a one-hour Twitter 101 session to really give people an overview; it helps them not only
for the event but it teaches people a new skill.
—Jessica Levin, Seven Degrees Communications

Start simply. You don’t have to bite off the whole world. It does take manpower, and you need to have the right
content for the right audience.
—Kate Spellman, UBM Studios

Provide a website widget of the Twitter hashtag that users can post on blogs, personal pages and websites. This
can be done using Twitter Fall, TwitterFountain, TweetGrid or Widgetbox.
—Jeff Hurt, Velvet Chainsaw Consulting

Use online registration. After the event, you will have a long list of the most active members of your
organization, along with their mailing addresses, home addresses, e-mail addresses and other contact
information. Use this list as a membership database and build on it between events.
—Sarah McNeely, Attendee Management Inc.

COMMUNICATION
Phone Calls, Silence, Introductions

Learn the lingo. It alleviates miscommunication and will add to your professionalism. I learned this lesson when
I asked for a trash container instead of a wastebasket. I was brought a mobile dumpster.
—Dean Jones, Collaborate Marketplace

Today, you have to be transparent and communicate with a level of trust people can respect by telling the truth
even when it’s bad news, by being collaborative rather than hierarchical.
—John Graham IV, ASAE




Jason Ryan Dorsey's tips on communicating with Gen Y
Follow-up is a time-related concept. If you have a conversation with someone, take some immediate action
within 24 hours (e.g., repeat the person’s name, make notes on the back of his or her business card to trigger
what you discussed, especially key points the other person made). Then, within that same time frame, send an e-
mail or personal note.
—Bob Littell, NetWeaving

Exercise Silence. The old saying “silence is golden” is particularly true around the negotiating table.
Negotiating mavens know that when discussing a deal, the first to speak loses. In fact, the more you talk, the
more information you’re supplying your opponents. Your silence will also help create the perception that you
are a thoughtful and methodical decision-maker.
—Susan Friedmann, author and speaker

If you are having a difficult time catching an unfamiliar name at an event, ask the person to spell it. Foreign
names can be especially difficult to pick up, and people will appreciate you taking the time to spell and say their
name correctly.
—Dallas Teague Snider, author and speaker

IN THE INDUSTRY
Questions, Relationships, Travel

Association memberships are expensive. Not only is there a yearly membership fee, but there are luncheons and
other monthly events that cost money to attend. Instead of joining every association that may fit your need,
focus on one that could bring you the most benefit, and once you choose that one association, get involved.
—Christine Doyle, Meeting Planning For You

Many airlines, including Delta, Southwest and American, have re-instituted their meeting/group departments in
order to retain loyalty and fill empty seats. Reach out and partner with the airline that best serves the area where
your meetings are taking place. You’ll find the discounts, perks and benefits are well worth the call.
—Kevin R. Johnston, PlanSmart

No question is a dumb question.
—Sandra Schutrop, Hilton Hotels

Don’t brush off anyone. You never know when that destination or service will turn out to be the exact fit you’ve
been looking for.
—Dean Jones, Collaborate Marketplace

Clean out your computer cache and cookies before logging back into an airline website. Airline ticketing
websites attach a cookie when you search prices, then if you go back in, you’ll find the price went up. I didn’t
believe it myself until we tested it out on multiple sites.
—Loretta Lowe, Meeting Planning and Special Events

When you are introduced to someone, try to use the person’s name three times during your initial exchange. For
example: “Hi, John. So, John, which division do you work for in for Biotech? How long have you been with the
company? Well, John, it was a pleasure to meet you. I hope to see you again sometime.” Using someone’s name
during the exchange should provide ample opportunities to connect something to that person you could recall at
a later date.
—Dallas Teague Snider, author and speaker

Content is king. Everyone wants to know what is going on. They want educational content that helps them sort
through the volumes of information in their field. Where are the frontiers?
—Judy Randall, Randall Travel Marketing Inc.
TRADE SHOWS
Swag, Sponsors, Show Floor

Spend time getting to know convention services managers. They are by and large the best professionals in the
industry. They can really make a meeting planner’s life run smoothly on-site. They’re a wealth of knowledge
and have years of experience and tons of connections.
—Eric Blanc, ACOM and Tampa Bay Convention Center

When it comes to sponsorship, if you don’t have the time to invest in it or don’t have the skill set to organize it,
outsource it.
—Louise M. Felsher, CMP, meeting and event consultant

This positive environment is composed of many small details. Putting down carpet, for example, creates a more
comfortable environment. As a result, they may stay on the show floor two or three hours longer, making them
more likely to spend more.
—Susan Friedmann, author and speaker

With promotional products, buyers sometimes forget that shipping to the company address and then resending
the shipment out to the destination wastes dollars. Do some research into fulfillment options at the event site
and compare costs.
—Marty Bear, Professional Marketing Services Inc.

Ask your suppliers and your attendees what will make your show successful for them. Listen to them. Make
sure the right people are coming.
—Chris Price, Graphic Arts Show Company

Strategic audience acquisition has become a focal point. It’s not enough just to fill the exposition hall with a
large number of attendees; the presence of decision-makers is key. The recruiting process has to be tight and
specific.
—David Ecton, Syscom Technologies

The hanging banner is dead. It’s no longer just about how many people saw it. Rather, it’s about which people
saw it and how long they viewed or interacted with it. Interactive and experiential sponsorships get attendees
involved with brands, products and marketing messages.
—Charles W. Allen, The C.W. Allen Group

SPEAKERS
References, Storytelling, Timing

Headline speakers can end up being a significant cost for an event. Look for local speakers to reduce travel
costs, seek out a corporate sponsor, or try to negotiate costs to save money. Often speakers are willing to reduce
fees for the chance to promote a book or other personal interest.
—Amita Patel, Ontario (Calif.) CVB

Tell a speaker the goals of your program and what you want to achieve. My story is my story. I have my core
speech, but I’m always happy to adapt it to meet the needs of the group.
—Joan Brock, speaker

Ask talent and presenters for their needs and requirements well in advance. This may include Internet
accessibility, specific types of microphones to use, someone to operate a PowerPoint presentation and so on.
And pass that information along to your AV provider.
—Scott Reagles, Initial Production Group
Talk with your speaker of choice about the timing of their presentation. Comedy is useless before 10 a.m. so
don’t even bother earlier than that.
—Anita Renfroe, speaker

Request that speakers send you a list of six people you can call for a personal phone reference. When they give
you the list, be sure to call the last three on the list. This will ensure that you are getting a true assessment, since
most people will list the best references first.
—Dallas Teague Snider, author and speaker

Tell all the speakers one month before, one hour before and just before they speak how much time they have.
Let them know that they will receive a sign (timer) to know when time is up. With prestigious speakers, this
detail is sometimes avoided. Don’t avoid the discussion; they will understand.
—Pegine Echevarria, author and speaker

VOLUNTEERS
Training, Empowerment, Events

There are people who have volunteered for me before, and if there are ones I like, I’ll ask them again.
—Pat Ahaesy, P&V Enterprises

When volunteering, do small projects that make sense for the community and the organization.
—Kimberly Lewis, U.S. Green Building Council

If possible, give a volunteer task that they’re interested in.
—Jo Anglea Maniaci, Special Events Planning

Try to get people within your organization to volunteer. If they have a reason to come and get something out of
it, they will be more likely to be excited about volunteering.
—Stephanie Hudson, Providence Events

Use current volunteers to recruit volunteers. When someone sees that someone else in their industry is willing to
donate their time to the event, it makes it easy for them to do it as well.
—Denise McGinn, Association Guidance

GOING GREEN
Recycling, Teamwork, Goals

Read trade magazines and make a note anytime it mentions a green destination.
—Janiece Sneegas, Green Meeting Industry Council

Don’t go to a venue with a checklist [of green needs]. It’s a give and take. Decide what’s most important to you.
—Martie Sparks, Mandalay Bay

Have processes in place to make sure everyone understands their goals. Document everything you’ve done, the
good and the bad. The most effective learning tools are the barriers and obstacles you’ve overcome.
—Kimberly Lewis, U.S. Green Building Council

To make sure venues meet your green standards, insert an addendum in every contract requesting the venue
adhere to waste management, recycling, energy usage, use of renewable resources and conservation—and be
specific.
—Kevin R. Johnston, PlanSmart
Make sure extra food is being donated and promote that fact to raise awareness among attendees and your
organization.
—Joan Eisenstodt, hospitality consultant and educator

Encourage and award attendees for going green. Hand out “I was caught green-handed” buttons or offer
contests for practices like carpooling and recycling, allowing the winners to go first in the food lines.
—Nancy Wilson and Cathy Kretz, CMPs, from their green meetings webinar

Guests and hosts learned from each other about the growing importance of going green, even in areas that were
previously unknown to the vendor. Anticipate environmental needs, cultural differences and basic hardware that
may be needed when you least expect it.
—Terrell D. Rich, Partners in Flight

Just pick somewhere to start. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Every decision you make comes down to those three
things.
—Amy Spatrisano, MeetGreen

ADVICE
Ideas, Experience, Good Shoes

Good enough is good enough. When was the last time you heard someone complain about the resolution on
YouTube? As Seth Godin wrote, ‘Get it out the door’ already.
—Bruce Turkel, author and branding expert

Be willing to go on a journey. For all of us to stay relevant, it’s critical we stay open to innovation and new
approaches…being able to look at what you do as if you’re doing it for the first time.
—Amy Spatrisano, MeetGreen




More meeting fundamentals from Bonnie Wallsh

Don’t burn bridges. The industry is too tight-knit to harbor ill feelings toward your peers. You’ll end up
crossing paths again down the road.
—Dean Jones, Collaborate Marketplace

Lots can go wrong that you as the meeting planner are the only one that knows about it. I have a new index to
decide how bad something is: Did anybody die? If no one died, whatever it is, I can deal with.
—Garland Preddy, U.S. Marshals Service

Busy planners have many passwords to remember. Agile Web Solutions creates passwords and then stores them
directly into your web browser. You select one of your passwords from a menu, and the system automatically
takes you to the website, securely fills in your user name and password, and logs you in.
—Monica Compton, Pinnacle Productions
A good pair of shoes is a good investment. If your feet are shot, so are you. Paying good money for a quality
pair of shoes is an investment in the success of your event.
—Dean Jones, Collaborate Marketplace

Stop focusing on what you do and start focusing on what your clients want. Unbundle what you have and
deliver it in a different way.
—Bruce Turkel, author and branding expert

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125 Tips For Todays Meeting Planner

  • 1. 125 Tips for Today’s Meeting Planner The industry is different today than it was 20 years ago. In fact, it’s different than it was just a few years ago. There’s plenty of advice out there about how you can do your job better in today’s shifting world, but instead of making you look for it in all those different places, we put it all in one place for you. Read on for inspiration, advice and ideas about programming, budgeting, food and beverage, travel and, well, everything meetings. MEETING FUNDAMENTALS Budgets, RFPs, Programs Keep in mind the things attendees hate: waiting in line, jam-packed schedules, PowerPoint, being talked at by speakers, bad food, misspelled name badges, bad signage, poor e-mail marketing, websites with no contact info and having to pay for Wi-Fi. —Keith Johnston, PlannerWire When attending events, it’s fine to collect 10 or more business cards, but narrow them down to three or four of the most important connections you’ve made. —Bob Littell, NetWeaving Have a separate room block for exhibitors. If you have space in your regular room blocks and can move them to the closer hotel, there will be no attrition. —Janet Graff, CMP, Mednax Inc. More meeting fundamentals from Monica Compton A comprehensive Request for Proposal should provide an overall evaluation of your meeting. Think of it like a resume, which offers job experience, references, history and more. —Donn Oswald, Greater Phoenix CVB
  • 2. Early planning is key. Be sure to be specific on your needs and expectations. Leave no detail uncovered or assumed. Everyone will be happier in the end if you follow these three simple rules. —Amy Beadle, Springfield (Ill.) CVB Whenever you need to make a change to some existing system, program, schedule or event, have a pool of people, or a “consequence team,” that can help you evaluate potential decisions and repercussions. This team could be other planners, friends, staff or outsiders, but a combination of all would be a great mixture. Sometimes when we bounce ideas off other planners, they only offer us one perspective, but an outsider may offer a totally new perspective that we hadn’t considered. —Dean Jones, Collaborate Marketplace When branding an event, make it simple. Whittle your message down to the essentials; remove everything else. —Bruce Turkel, author and branding expert Stay organized. Ninety percent of my work is done before the group hits the door. The curriculum, recipes, food cooked—my ducks are in a row so that I can relax and enjoy the group. —Tami Cecil, chef and team-building facilitator, Woodhaven Farm Date your ideas, but don’t marry them. Don’t be afraid to take risks, actually do what you say you’re going to do and think outside the box. —Billy Kirsch, Kidbilly Music Think about transportation. Many CVBs provide options for shuttles or ground transportation. Share details such as shuttle routes, pickup times, cell phone numbers and number of attendees. —Crystal Morris, Columbia (S.C) Metropolitan CVB SITE SELECTION AND NEGOTIATIONS Venues, CVBs, Room Blocks Reach out and don’t be afraid to go after the city you want, but keep your cards close and do your shopping first. Don’t declare your top choices right away. —Stephen Hahn, Marriott International Don’t base site selection entirely on price. You’ll always find people who are prepared to underprice their services just to get business. But how good and reliable are they? Next time you’re tempted to make a buying decision based entirely on price, think again. —Susan Friedmann, author and speaker If you are close to signing with a venue or hotel, you might get better pricing and concessions the closer you get to the end of the quarter and end of the year. Sales bonuses and incentives for most salespersons make year’s end a great time to ask for those extras. —Kevin R. Johnston, PlanSmart Always stop in and check out the public restrooms in the hotel or facility. —Stephanie Hudson, Providence Events Before contracting a hotel or convention center, ask if it utilizes a union labor force and specifically which departments are in the unions. —Monica Compton, Pinnacle Productions
  • 3. If a destination or property is new to you, go beyond the site visit tour and really experience a property, putting yourself in your attendees’ shoes. If possible, visit on your own and spend some time in the lobby. —Cynthia Rich, independent planner Do your homework to get up to date on any and all municipal cutbacks on emergency and standard services so you can be better informed. —David M. Brudney, hotelnewsnow.com Contact CVBs three to five years in advance of a citywide event to ensure availability, and choice of hotels and meeting facilities. —Crystal Morris, Columbia (S.C) Metropolitan CVB Rehearse your opening words before negotiations. Your opening words set the tone for the discussions that follow. Make certain that you know exactly what it is you want to say. Craft the words so that your message is clear and concise. Then spend time rehearsing your lines. —Susan Friedmann, author and speaker PRODUCTION AND PROGRAMMING Audiovisual, Online, Audience Make sure your AV partners understand your meeting objectives—your audience, your priorities and your hot buttons. Always inform them of changes to your program and include them in meetings with your venue. —Kevin R. Johnston, PlanSmart It’s the responsibility of planners to create programming that keeps people involved. This is done with active learning, which is when people are involved in more than just listening to a lecture. When it’s all lectures, the people who learn the most at your conferences and events are the speakers. —Jeff Hurt, Velvet Chainsaw Consulting The coolest thing right now is the ability to bring your online and offline, face-to-face and online world, together…They drive each other. —Samuel J. Smith, Interactive Meeting Technology The younger generation is not really into what Gen X or the Baby Boomers are into. They simply want instant gratification. Their span of attention is very short, so you need to grab their attention there and then. —Sahar Andrade, diversity and culture competence consultant Engaging an audience ensures continuous attentiveness during longer presentations. During a 60-minute presentation, getting audience feedback after each 20-minute span of time can ensure that attendees’ brains remain in the “active” rather than “passive” mode so they retain more information. —Ray Hansen, IML audience response systems Color is an important component that can tie the meeting together, bringing in all elements from invitations to flowers, food, linens, gifts and props. Colors can also help maximize budget. For example, you can use bowls of lemons instead of floral arrangements and pineapple-yogurt parfaits for a healthy, colorful dessert that also serves as table decoration. —Diane Budion-Devitt, hospitality professor at New York University Storytelling is another way to think about how to frame your meeting. Know your message. Then, develop the story with a plot, a beginning, middle and end. Communicate the story using multiple messages: Theme the scene, reinforce it with music to create the right moods and immerse your attendees every step of the way. —Lenn Millbower, Offbeat Training
  • 4. Create the right physical environment with ergonomic chairs, comfortable room sets and opportunities to move around, and schedule breaks during programming every 90 minutes. —Bonnie Wallsh, Bonnie Wallsh Associates Ideally, people should sit no closer than twice the height of a screen and no farther away than eight times the height of a screen. So if a screen is 10 feet tall, the audience should sit no closer than 20 feet and no farther away than 80 feet from it. —Scott Reagles, Initial Production Group FOOD & BEVERAGE Action Stations, Wish Lists, Wow Factors Let the chef know what you are looking for, but be open to suggestions—especially when it comes to sustainability—if they can offer an alternative with the same taste. —Robbie Delaney, chef, Virginia Aquarium Dessert is a good place to go for the wow factor. Face it, attendees can not like the salad, find the meal just OK, but if you wow them with the dessert, they’ll remember the whole meal as being fantastic. —Steve Enselein, Hyatt Hotels Corporation Move away from lengthy meals to more action stations, where attendees can mingle and sample. —Giorgi Di Lemis, Gaylord Hotels Always use a trained bartender. This is not the place to cut corners. —Bonnie Wallsh, Bonnie Wallsh Associates Make sure you have a clear understanding of what goes toward your food and beverage minimum. While coffee breaks, receptions and meals should all be included, try to include such things as hospitality suites and F&B functions from sponsor organizations (who wouldn’t be there if not for your function). —John Foster, hospitality attorney Every destination or venue has its own specialty, sometimes synonymous with the season, the local growers, manufacturers and producers, or a chef who is noted for a contribution to the cuisine. When it’s a plentiful local product, hotel chefs and caterers will be happy to match your theme, or you can begin with their specialty menu items and create your theme accordingly. It also will be cost effective to use readily available ingredients. —Liz Mitchell, Beaufort (S.C.) Regional Chamber of Commerce Fresh and locally produced ingredients, intense rich flavors, and, thankfully, the demise of supersizing is where America’s chefs are trending. —Robert Zappatelli, Benchmark Hospitality Any meeting planner who wants to get the biggest bang for the buck should always talk to the chef. And don’t let any salesperson say you can’t talk to the chef. —Janet Pickover, Site Inspections Plus SAFETY AND SECURITY Privacy, Protection, Legal Issues In the event of a hotel strike or other event disruption, look into your options for transportation. If attendees staying at the original hotel need to be shifted to another facility for the event, you need to plan how attendees will get there as safely and efficiently as possible. You can’t assume the original hotel will take care of these
  • 5. details for you. —Philip Farina, Farina and Associates You might think that trip hazards are things that are in the way of walkways or exits, but trip hazards can also be considered thing that could be in walkways. Fire marshals may require chairs to be tied or fixed together, preventing them from being moved into areas where they would be in the way if there was an emergency. —Scott Reagles, Initial Production Group More legal tips from Barbara Dunn A force majeure provision should be included in every contract. It is also important to include a catchall provision such as the following: “or any other cause beyond the parties’ control.” —Barbara Dunn, hospitality attorney Make sure all exits are clearly visible, and all aisles, walkways and exits are clear of obstructions. Make sure all drapery and scenic material have been fireproofed. —Scott Reagles, Initial Production Group Tell attendees about emergency plans during housekeeping sessions. —Joan Eisenstodt, hospitality consultant and educator Partner with law enforcement agencies in the early planning stages for a better understanding of any overall threats, including recent crime information, as well as potential threats directed toward either the event or the facility. —Bonnie Wallsh, Bonnie Wallsh Associates Make sure the hotel and meeting center has a good paper shredder and find out what security measures are practical. —Joan Eisenstodt, hospitality consultant and educator TECHNOLOGY Texting, Tweeting, Widgets Create a revenue stream for virtual events by charging for content during and/or after the event. If people really want the good stuff online, they need to pay. —Lynn Randall, Maritz Travel Company As an event planner you come across needs for resources that are outside of your circle. Perhaps you need a florist in a different country for a client. How would you know who is reliable? With social media, you can now view websites that rank any company in any industry. You can read feedback that comes from mostly unbiased reviewers. You can also send a tweet to your community and will likely receive many suggestions. —Liz King, Liz King Events
  • 6. Tech tips from James Spellos If you have decided that you are going to implement an event community, you need to teach people how to use it. You need to have a session and allow people to ask questions and really be patient, speak in plain English and not text terms. Do a one-hour Twitter 101 session to really give people an overview; it helps them not only for the event but it teaches people a new skill. —Jessica Levin, Seven Degrees Communications Start simply. You don’t have to bite off the whole world. It does take manpower, and you need to have the right content for the right audience. —Kate Spellman, UBM Studios Provide a website widget of the Twitter hashtag that users can post on blogs, personal pages and websites. This can be done using Twitter Fall, TwitterFountain, TweetGrid or Widgetbox. —Jeff Hurt, Velvet Chainsaw Consulting Use online registration. After the event, you will have a long list of the most active members of your organization, along with their mailing addresses, home addresses, e-mail addresses and other contact information. Use this list as a membership database and build on it between events. —Sarah McNeely, Attendee Management Inc. COMMUNICATION Phone Calls, Silence, Introductions Learn the lingo. It alleviates miscommunication and will add to your professionalism. I learned this lesson when I asked for a trash container instead of a wastebasket. I was brought a mobile dumpster. —Dean Jones, Collaborate Marketplace Today, you have to be transparent and communicate with a level of trust people can respect by telling the truth even when it’s bad news, by being collaborative rather than hierarchical. —John Graham IV, ASAE Jason Ryan Dorsey's tips on communicating with Gen Y
  • 7. Follow-up is a time-related concept. If you have a conversation with someone, take some immediate action within 24 hours (e.g., repeat the person’s name, make notes on the back of his or her business card to trigger what you discussed, especially key points the other person made). Then, within that same time frame, send an e- mail or personal note. —Bob Littell, NetWeaving Exercise Silence. The old saying “silence is golden” is particularly true around the negotiating table. Negotiating mavens know that when discussing a deal, the first to speak loses. In fact, the more you talk, the more information you’re supplying your opponents. Your silence will also help create the perception that you are a thoughtful and methodical decision-maker. —Susan Friedmann, author and speaker If you are having a difficult time catching an unfamiliar name at an event, ask the person to spell it. Foreign names can be especially difficult to pick up, and people will appreciate you taking the time to spell and say their name correctly. —Dallas Teague Snider, author and speaker IN THE INDUSTRY Questions, Relationships, Travel Association memberships are expensive. Not only is there a yearly membership fee, but there are luncheons and other monthly events that cost money to attend. Instead of joining every association that may fit your need, focus on one that could bring you the most benefit, and once you choose that one association, get involved. —Christine Doyle, Meeting Planning For You Many airlines, including Delta, Southwest and American, have re-instituted their meeting/group departments in order to retain loyalty and fill empty seats. Reach out and partner with the airline that best serves the area where your meetings are taking place. You’ll find the discounts, perks and benefits are well worth the call. —Kevin R. Johnston, PlanSmart No question is a dumb question. —Sandra Schutrop, Hilton Hotels Don’t brush off anyone. You never know when that destination or service will turn out to be the exact fit you’ve been looking for. —Dean Jones, Collaborate Marketplace Clean out your computer cache and cookies before logging back into an airline website. Airline ticketing websites attach a cookie when you search prices, then if you go back in, you’ll find the price went up. I didn’t believe it myself until we tested it out on multiple sites. —Loretta Lowe, Meeting Planning and Special Events When you are introduced to someone, try to use the person’s name three times during your initial exchange. For example: “Hi, John. So, John, which division do you work for in for Biotech? How long have you been with the company? Well, John, it was a pleasure to meet you. I hope to see you again sometime.” Using someone’s name during the exchange should provide ample opportunities to connect something to that person you could recall at a later date. —Dallas Teague Snider, author and speaker Content is king. Everyone wants to know what is going on. They want educational content that helps them sort through the volumes of information in their field. Where are the frontiers? —Judy Randall, Randall Travel Marketing Inc.
  • 8. TRADE SHOWS Swag, Sponsors, Show Floor Spend time getting to know convention services managers. They are by and large the best professionals in the industry. They can really make a meeting planner’s life run smoothly on-site. They’re a wealth of knowledge and have years of experience and tons of connections. —Eric Blanc, ACOM and Tampa Bay Convention Center When it comes to sponsorship, if you don’t have the time to invest in it or don’t have the skill set to organize it, outsource it. —Louise M. Felsher, CMP, meeting and event consultant This positive environment is composed of many small details. Putting down carpet, for example, creates a more comfortable environment. As a result, they may stay on the show floor two or three hours longer, making them more likely to spend more. —Susan Friedmann, author and speaker With promotional products, buyers sometimes forget that shipping to the company address and then resending the shipment out to the destination wastes dollars. Do some research into fulfillment options at the event site and compare costs. —Marty Bear, Professional Marketing Services Inc. Ask your suppliers and your attendees what will make your show successful for them. Listen to them. Make sure the right people are coming. —Chris Price, Graphic Arts Show Company Strategic audience acquisition has become a focal point. It’s not enough just to fill the exposition hall with a large number of attendees; the presence of decision-makers is key. The recruiting process has to be tight and specific. —David Ecton, Syscom Technologies The hanging banner is dead. It’s no longer just about how many people saw it. Rather, it’s about which people saw it and how long they viewed or interacted with it. Interactive and experiential sponsorships get attendees involved with brands, products and marketing messages. —Charles W. Allen, The C.W. Allen Group SPEAKERS References, Storytelling, Timing Headline speakers can end up being a significant cost for an event. Look for local speakers to reduce travel costs, seek out a corporate sponsor, or try to negotiate costs to save money. Often speakers are willing to reduce fees for the chance to promote a book or other personal interest. —Amita Patel, Ontario (Calif.) CVB Tell a speaker the goals of your program and what you want to achieve. My story is my story. I have my core speech, but I’m always happy to adapt it to meet the needs of the group. —Joan Brock, speaker Ask talent and presenters for their needs and requirements well in advance. This may include Internet accessibility, specific types of microphones to use, someone to operate a PowerPoint presentation and so on. And pass that information along to your AV provider. —Scott Reagles, Initial Production Group
  • 9. Talk with your speaker of choice about the timing of their presentation. Comedy is useless before 10 a.m. so don’t even bother earlier than that. —Anita Renfroe, speaker Request that speakers send you a list of six people you can call for a personal phone reference. When they give you the list, be sure to call the last three on the list. This will ensure that you are getting a true assessment, since most people will list the best references first. —Dallas Teague Snider, author and speaker Tell all the speakers one month before, one hour before and just before they speak how much time they have. Let them know that they will receive a sign (timer) to know when time is up. With prestigious speakers, this detail is sometimes avoided. Don’t avoid the discussion; they will understand. —Pegine Echevarria, author and speaker VOLUNTEERS Training, Empowerment, Events There are people who have volunteered for me before, and if there are ones I like, I’ll ask them again. —Pat Ahaesy, P&V Enterprises When volunteering, do small projects that make sense for the community and the organization. —Kimberly Lewis, U.S. Green Building Council If possible, give a volunteer task that they’re interested in. —Jo Anglea Maniaci, Special Events Planning Try to get people within your organization to volunteer. If they have a reason to come and get something out of it, they will be more likely to be excited about volunteering. —Stephanie Hudson, Providence Events Use current volunteers to recruit volunteers. When someone sees that someone else in their industry is willing to donate their time to the event, it makes it easy for them to do it as well. —Denise McGinn, Association Guidance GOING GREEN Recycling, Teamwork, Goals Read trade magazines and make a note anytime it mentions a green destination. —Janiece Sneegas, Green Meeting Industry Council Don’t go to a venue with a checklist [of green needs]. It’s a give and take. Decide what’s most important to you. —Martie Sparks, Mandalay Bay Have processes in place to make sure everyone understands their goals. Document everything you’ve done, the good and the bad. The most effective learning tools are the barriers and obstacles you’ve overcome. —Kimberly Lewis, U.S. Green Building Council To make sure venues meet your green standards, insert an addendum in every contract requesting the venue adhere to waste management, recycling, energy usage, use of renewable resources and conservation—and be specific. —Kevin R. Johnston, PlanSmart
  • 10. Make sure extra food is being donated and promote that fact to raise awareness among attendees and your organization. —Joan Eisenstodt, hospitality consultant and educator Encourage and award attendees for going green. Hand out “I was caught green-handed” buttons or offer contests for practices like carpooling and recycling, allowing the winners to go first in the food lines. —Nancy Wilson and Cathy Kretz, CMPs, from their green meetings webinar Guests and hosts learned from each other about the growing importance of going green, even in areas that were previously unknown to the vendor. Anticipate environmental needs, cultural differences and basic hardware that may be needed when you least expect it. —Terrell D. Rich, Partners in Flight Just pick somewhere to start. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Every decision you make comes down to those three things. —Amy Spatrisano, MeetGreen ADVICE Ideas, Experience, Good Shoes Good enough is good enough. When was the last time you heard someone complain about the resolution on YouTube? As Seth Godin wrote, ‘Get it out the door’ already. —Bruce Turkel, author and branding expert Be willing to go on a journey. For all of us to stay relevant, it’s critical we stay open to innovation and new approaches…being able to look at what you do as if you’re doing it for the first time. —Amy Spatrisano, MeetGreen More meeting fundamentals from Bonnie Wallsh Don’t burn bridges. The industry is too tight-knit to harbor ill feelings toward your peers. You’ll end up crossing paths again down the road. —Dean Jones, Collaborate Marketplace Lots can go wrong that you as the meeting planner are the only one that knows about it. I have a new index to decide how bad something is: Did anybody die? If no one died, whatever it is, I can deal with. —Garland Preddy, U.S. Marshals Service Busy planners have many passwords to remember. Agile Web Solutions creates passwords and then stores them directly into your web browser. You select one of your passwords from a menu, and the system automatically takes you to the website, securely fills in your user name and password, and logs you in. —Monica Compton, Pinnacle Productions
  • 11. A good pair of shoes is a good investment. If your feet are shot, so are you. Paying good money for a quality pair of shoes is an investment in the success of your event. —Dean Jones, Collaborate Marketplace Stop focusing on what you do and start focusing on what your clients want. Unbundle what you have and deliver it in a different way. —Bruce Turkel, author and branding expert