Posts Tagged ‘meetings’

Dirty Laundry

June 4th, 2010
fam1Got the latest dirt on the floods, the oil spill, hurricanes, the tornadoes, the fires, murders, strikes, earthquakes? Does news need to be sexy, shocking or shameful to attract your interest? Will you read a positive message that lacks a little sizzle? It is no secret that our economy is struggling, there have been some horrific natural disasters and now more than ever we need positive, uplifting, inspirational, spirited information that strengthens our bonds to one another.
I attended a meeting this week on the preparation that Florida businesses are dealing with the potential threat from the BP oil spill. First, the beaches are magnificent and we have not seen any impact in the state. Neighboring states have not been so fortunate but the areas of impact are in the wetlands, which is even more difficult to clean up.  Each area is trying hard to keep the news productive without sensationalizing the story. I am proud to be a member of the meeting and tourism industry in the state of Florida. In order to keep the Florida meeting and tourism industry up to speed on key developments and important information related to the Gulf oil spill, VISIT FLORIDA has created the following format for a weekly update. For more up-to-the-minute details, go to – VISIT Florida’s official corporate blog.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to change your meeting site based on a natural disaster regardless of the destination, I would be happy to work with you to be sure all parties are managed in a way that limits liability and damage and the losing party has the ability to recover at a future date. When we treat each other with care, we all win. Contact me at          
I can remember when I first decided to leave the great white north and live in paradise that I searched several islands before settling on the SW coast of Florida. Each area I visited paled in comparison to the dream of living on a Caribbean island. When I discovered Sanibel Island I knew I had found my home. I enjoyed the serenity of that wildlife sanctuary for 22 years while working for 2 of the most famous Florida resorts on the gulf coast. I remember when Hurricane Andrew came through and drove business from the east coast and I really believed it could never happen to Sanibel. Eight weeks after selling my home on that island, Hurricane Charley came in quickly and stopped time in the busy lives of everyone in that area. Tourism suffered for 2 years with devastating storm one behind the other. Four quiet years later, everything has been refurbished or rebuilt and new construction has replaced some of quaint memories of days gone by. New companies have come in to do things their way and some of the changes are great and many will mourn what they once were.
The point is that change comes whether it is planned or forced by nature and sometimes good things come from the greatest despair. Take a look at Punta Gorda, FL six years later. The old barn like convention hall has been replaced with one of the most magnificent state of the art structures with incredible light, sound and production capabilities in the state. Two beautiful, new beautiful hotels grace the waterfront and the town is bubbling with energy, live music, shopping and activity. Support our industry friends when times are dark and know that you and your meeting attendees will feel good when they can return with good news rather than the sensationalism that sells. You will find the hospitality warm and sunny as usual!  

Membership – Do you BELONG or just carry the card?

May 15th, 2010
Meeting Professionals International (MPI) helps over 24,000 worldwide members thrive by providing connections to knowledge, relationships, and marketplaces. People do business with people they know, like and trust. Lifelong friendships are born in membership organizations were you meet people with common professions, interests and goals. Meeting planning is my business so it makes sense that this organization is my primary membership commitment but I also belong to several others as networking is such an important aspect of building business contacts and meaningful relationships.
We all have the same 24 hours in a day and it seems like it just doesn’t last long enough so we are faced with choices as to what we value most in our lives. There are times when our friends, family and selves forget what we look like and who we are because our priorities get juggled so make sure you put your BIG ROCKS in the schedule FIRST. As you consider memberships to professional, civic or social groups think about the time you will need to devote to that organization or cause to really BELONG.collaboration
Many of us join a group with good intentions and the passion dies or conflicts arise that pull us away. That makes a statement to other group members. You don’t get what you want out of the group because you are not involved and others see it as a lack of commitment so it can be very damaging to sign up and not belong. So what does it mean to belong? Is it enough to just attend the meeting and or social events? I would say that makes a statement too. It says I am in this for ME and I will take those things I like and leave the rest behind. Personally, this type of member does not offend me as long as they are not critical about other members or group leaders but I may not do business with them.
When you think about joining a group for professional or social reasons, know what you want to get out of the group and more importantly, what you are willing to give both financially and of your time and talent.
• Contribute to discussions in a way that moves the group to a higher level
• Participate in surveys that offer a form of constructive feedback
• Don’t just say you didn’t like the speaker, format or topic. (SWAMP talk) Suggest speakers, format or topics that will engage you as there is a good chance it will engage others.
• Provide leads and referrals to active group members
• Show up ON TIME with cell phone on vibrate
• Volunteer your time and talent at least once per quarter for personal growth as well as growth of the group and its members
• Be an ambassador and connect others that may benefit by belonging to the group
I am extremely proud to be a member of the Tampa Bay chapter of Meeting Professionals International and even more proud to be the incoming Vice President of Education within my first year of membership. Assuming a leadership role is a commitment and it is my goal to engage current, past and new members. I am not asking you to join, I am asking you to belong.
P.S. JOIN US for an exciting dinner meeting on May 19, 2010 at TPepin Hospitality Center where we are cooking up a great time Building a Better Menu: Understanding Food and Beverage Issues with Chef Marco Ferraro and several local celebrity chefs.

Challenged to produce a meeting on a budget?

August 6th, 2009

Quick tips on how to save money on your meeting …

  • Find great hotels in Second Tier Cities or find great hotels near a major city with easy access to downtown. Center city hotels tend to charge higher rates and often there are additional taxes to consider which increase the overall cost with no added value. An added benefit is that a second- or third-tier city may need and want your business more than the most visited cities. Additionally, their cost of doing business is often lower for ancillary items so they pass these savings on to you.
  • Work with the destination Convention & Visitors Bureau. Ask the CVB for free collateral and discount coupons to area attractions. They may also be able to add value in the form of sponsorship of transportation, promotional mailings, a meal function, airport greeting, tchotchkes, etc.
  • Consider alternate patterns. Resorts are busiest on weekends and city hotels are busiest mid-week. Find the best pattern for the venue to secure the best rate.
  • Be flexible! One of the most powerful negotiating tools in this environment is your flexibility with dates, space and city. Even in the tightest market hotels will have holes to fill so openness to suggestions about items such as location, room configuration and date pattern, can save bottom line dollars.
  • Ensure guests are checked in under your room block to avoid attrition penalties. Organizations are going as far as penalizing attendees for not checking in under the group room block. If an association gets hit with a high bill for attrition, it could force them to lose a substantial amount of money and possibly increase membership rates to compensate for it. This is a good incentive for attendees to book rooms properly.Have the hotel check your registration list to see if there are members booked outside of the block so you can identify offenders and request credit toward attrition.
  • Hotels on a regular basis send “Hot dates” to us. They need to fill and usually offer incredible incentives to clients for booking over those needed dates.
  • Save on meeting room rental by serving food in the room or allowing the hotel to book an evening meal function in that room. Think of every inch in the hotel as real estate and know that revenue is expected to be generated for that space.
  • Get sponsorship from vendors who add value to your meeting attendees.
  • Buying in volume can save. Find out what other groups may be ordering for meals to save on preparation and it should also provide a savings. The same may be true for renting furniture, linens or AV. See if other groups are using similar equipment on days prior or following to save on set up or tear down time and fees.
  • Get multiple bids. Let your hotel salesperson know what other hotels within their competitive set have received your lead. They tend to get highly competitive when they know others are involved in the bidding process. Be clear on your wish list to see who is really listening and wants to “ease your pain”. The bid process will give you hints on attention to detail that make a statement on the projected outcome of your meeting.
  • Get outside quotes from other vendors. Often an outside contractor may quote a lower rate to get in the door. Outside quotes may be matched to keep the revenue in house and it really provides a smoother flow for your meeting.
  • Get your speaker’s AV needs in advance and have them sign off on it. Send them an update prior to the meeting to make sure that there are no changes before they land on site.
  • Purchase supplies and other items on site to cut down on shipping costs. Check with the hotel to see if they provide a meeting planner toolbox with office supply items such as scissors, packing tape, stapler, markers, etc. Consider printing items at the end destination and having the printer deliver them to the hotel. Files can be sent electronicly and collated and ready for your arrival. We always take a portable printer and laptop for last minute meeting needs.

  • Negotiate important concessions into your contract. Do not assume the hotel is going to offer the same things that you may have received prior. VIP amenities, upgrades to viewed rooms or suites, late check out, staff rooms, etc may be items on your “wish list” that need to be communicated prior to signing a contract. Negotiate for a higher guest room minimum percentage and “comp” room’s ratio.

  • Make sure that your attorney or legal staff reviews all binding agreements. Most employees are not equipped to deal with contracts, agreements and the host of signed documents necessary to produce a quality meeting. While your meeting planning staff is well versed in protecting your interests, make sure that you have consulted with your legal department or procurement group before signing legally binding documents. The extra step will prevent problems down the road that could cause major roadblocks in producing a successful meeting.

  • Carefully manage your guarantees for food & beverage. Often, planners or clients will over-guarantee the number of attendees, in effect throwing money away. If you have a solid group history, this can be like gold when it comes to mining the data necessary to figure out how many people will actually be served. It is also important to consider the time and location of the function in determining the appropriate guarantee. And don’t forget, venues always allow for an overset of 3-5%, which should also be taken into account.

  • Lock in your contract now. Travel costs are rising but meetings are going strong. Work with your planner to do a thorough site selection and lock in your contract now to protect against the projected future increases. Consider multi-year contracts with performance clauses. Hotels would rather have contracts in place than trade for higher room rates closer in so use that to your advantage.

  • Hold pre and post convention meetings. Meet with the credit manager on a daily basis. Review your reports every morning to make sure there are no surprises.

  • Call A2Z Meetings & Events to negotiate your contract so you are sure to get the best value with service assurance agreements for your next meeting!
As seen in Smart Meetings Magazine