Monday, June 8, 2015

Useful tips for meeting planners contribute towards healthier conferences

1. Look out, here comes Gen Y, The Millennials!  More fluent in technology, this new generation is addicted to social media, is even more environmentally conscious than their predecessors--the Gen Xers, and has high expectations of connectivity, interactivity, and the ability to influence and engage in dialogue.  They know how to seek out free Wi-Fi, and as they enter the workplace and start attending meetings, they expect Wi-Fi to always be free and fast!
2. Think Socialising rather than Networking  Socialising at work used to be frowned upon, taking on somewhat negative connotations.  But increasingly, socialising is seen as relationship-building, and for meetings, conference venues encourage relaxed socialising by providing multi-use spaces for conferees to gather together.  It turns out that conferees actually do talk business in these welcoming environments!
3. Switch up the Mood!  Meeting rooms have seen radical makeovers in terms of design, color and creative seating options of late. New developments in technology have allowed venues and organizers to instantly change the look and feel of a meeting room with user controllable LED mood lighting, high-tech furniture groupings and more.
4. Geofence Your Conference  Important advances in GPS-based app technology enable planners and venues to now personalise a delegates’s welcome and offer other location-based alert notifications upon arrival.  For example, a badge is printed when the conferee enters the geofence (think venue), with notification sent via the app to the badge printing location. Providing useful location information and navigation assistance, the geofence can notify attendees where they are on a map and give guidance on where they wish to go.
5. Conference Networking and Information Exchange  Developments in app-based two-way communication means that with user permission, one’s smart phone can easily transmit contact information, social media profiles, specific meeting room access information, meal tracking, food preferences, and much more. Communication between attendees can be enhanced with notifications, pictures and other information about who is nearby.   Consider the value of automated demonstrations (videos, etc.) for exhibitor products that meeting groups can offer their sponsors as a marketing enhancement.  Instant and targeted contact is king today; new technologies and applications that help foster participant engagement and social interaction will grow in popularity and usage. 
6. The Sky’s the Limit...For Now!  We have seen a dramatic rise in the use of drones in extreme sports -- and now conference organisers are using this affordable technology to capture creative event photos and map out the venue for GPS integrated conferences.  What will “tomorrow’s” technology bring to outpace the functionality of drones!
7. The Days of the Cable are Numbered  Just when venues think their under-counter box of chargers is current and complete, technology moves on and we get closer to a single standard for wireless charging technology, after years of competing standards. Currently pushing for a single standard, QI Consortium boasts wireless charging points in 3,000 hotels.  With large scale furniture makers such as IKEA installing standardized wireless charging into tables and desks they sell, the writing is on the wall for meeting venues to incorporate wireless charging points into bar tops, meeting room tables and guestrooms.  They better do so this year, as 2015 is sizing up to be the year the hospitality industry finally took standardising wireless charging technology and its availability seriously!
8. Meet your Virtual Colleague  There are times when its just not possible to get everybody in the same place at the same time.  Conference venues understand this and are making the virtual attendee experience much better.  How? Venues are developing meeting rooms with multiple ceiling-mounted microphones, high-bandwidth connectivity and advanced software solutions to provide seamless integration into the meeting for virtual attendees, faculty and guest speakers.  Additionally, there is an increase in clients wanting to capture video to send to another physical location, where a second group of participants is gathered.
9. Conference Venues Welcome Streetview Technology  The trend toward part-time meeting planners who are NOT full-time professional planners but may be an executive assistant, marketing coordinator, human resource professional or department head, is on  the increase.  Today's meeting planner, therefore, expects and requires more from their venue partners, in terms of evaluating venues’ capabilities to support their meeting or event.  When a planner cannot conduct an in-person venue inspection, technology is fast evolving using the Google Street View concept to provide valuable virtual venue tours, multiple room images showing different meeting layouts and even property video footage. 
10. Buying Your Meeting Online  More and more clients are using the web as their primary tool for making purchasing decisions. One IACC venue recently reported 70% of all new business comes via online search activities and they expect that number to grow.  The venues that will be the most successful in capturing this business will have websites that serve not only as marketing brochures but as the primary tool for their clients to plan, book, purchase, and engage with them for their next meeting.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

IACC Events Helps Inspire etc Venues Latest Innovations

The 2014 IACC-Europe conference provided one IACC member with creativity in Sweden, which shaped their latest venue opening in London. It's a perfect example of why you invest in membership of associations, to learn, share ideas and improve as a community! For this one member, opening their 15th venue in London, you might think they have learned all they can learn, but this is not the case!

2015 has been a busy year for etc.venues with the opening of its latest venue at Marble Arch. IACC caught up with Alastair Stewart, etc venues CEO about how IACC had played a big part in the inspiration for the new venue.  

“We know that a new generation of delegates are coming through with very different design tastes to their parents, these are delegates for whom fast wifi is more important than 8-hour chairs and they are I think more receptive to a brand and design led venue design.   There is an area in London called Shoreditch which is home to creative and tech industry hubs and you only have to visit their offices to see just how different the working environments are. They have open plan co-working spaces, hard surface floor,  lots of glass, contemporary art and communal socialising spaces.  The challenge for conference venues is no different to offices with venues and offices designed over ten years ago now looking out-dated.

Getting out and about is key to the way we innovate, IACC has some of the world’s best venues in membership and the study tours and conferences have always been one of the best ways to see what others are doing.  In 2014 we went to the IACC-Europe Conference in Sweden which had a big theme around design. They venue had recently been completely rebuilt, following a terrible fire and we were blown away with the work Lotta and Bjorn had done at Sigtunahöjden.  In the new building they had incorporated many of the design concepts we we thinking about.  The way they had remodelled the space to be so open plan and yet intimate, meeting rooms that you actually wanted to be in and the way they changed the guest-staff dynamic through co-working spaces – it was all superbly done (and that from a team that is hard to impress!)".

IACC member Stewart further commented "We’re looking forward to this year conference in Milan, Chateauform' are one of the most exciting venue operators in Europe and there will be lots to learn from undertanding their philosophy and the attention to detail on design.  It’s always a great opportunity to catch up with industry colleagues from across Europe and this year’s agenda looks to be a weekend from which we can take something back to our venues whether on service or design".

Thursday, May 14, 2015

IACC Reveals Top 10 Conference Food Trends for 2015

Useful tips for meeting planners contribute towards healthier conferences 

Following extensive research among the 400 members of the InternationalAssociation of Conference Centres, the organisation released its Top 10 Conference Foods Trends for 2015, which are influencing meeting planners across the globe.

1. Local is Everything  The importance of adding a local feel to meetings has been identified as a major trend by IACC members.  Attendees want to experience as much as they can about the destination they are going to for their meeting or event--and this includes locally-sourced ingredients for food & beverage consumed during their conference.

2. Network Your Heart Out  Small plates of food items, continuously served in a reception format, add a welcome diversion to an extended meeting event and help maintain energy levels.  Hosting networking-friendly dining receptions midway through an event is particularly effective as this provides a great way for guests to pause and meet up in a causal environment, initiate or build relationships, while recharging with exceptional food and beverage. 

3. Small is the New Big!  Bite-size desserts have overtaken larger portions in popularity—if for no other reason than conferees are watching their waistlines and cholesterol levels.  Conference guests have turned their backs on generous sugary sweets, heading instead for easy-to-handle, bite-size desserts that satisfy without packing on the pounds.  Warm miniature house-made donuts, chocolate truffles, French macaroons, mini cupcakes and house-made cookies are top of the list for planners—taste and pleasure without the calories!

4. In with Flavor, Out with Fats!  Healthy choices don't need to resemble rabbit food.  IACC member chefs are working with exciting new ingredients increasingly popular with conferees--including protein alternatives (quinoa, amaranth, tofu, beans), whole grains, leafy green vegetables (especially kale and  spinach), low fat selections and low sugar substitutions.  The result:  healthy cuisine that sustains conferees through the meeting experience, appeals to the eye and satisfies the palate.

5. Making and Breaking Bread Together  Nothing brings a team together more than food.  Having the opportunity to cook alongside colleagues can create a whole new appreciation for the hidden talents within an office environment or at a company outing.  Culinary teambuilding is red hot today as it has all the ingredients to cook up a winning team while bringing out the hidden chef in every conferee.

6. Contrasting Environments  Using outside spaces to create a change in scenery and provide a casual dining experience can revitalise conference attendees, especially during multi-day meetings and events.  IACC members across the globe are rediscovering these hidden exterior gems and using them for light receptions, breakout sessions and informal gathering areas for conferees throughout the meeting experience.
7. Finale, NOT a Gala  Gone are the days when meetings ended with a formal gala.  Today, meeting planner professionals want finales that create a dynamic and stimulating experience for their conferees, which bring people together to celebrate and bond at the end of their conference.  Creativity, room or venue selection, seating layout and dining style are as important to the success of the finale as the menu and beverages served.

8. That's Theatre!  A little drama is a good thing for ratcheting up the conference dining experience.  Adding a chef interactive station accompanied with a highly personable chef can highlight the menu, underscore locally-sourced and freshly-prepared ingredients, as well as invite guest interaction in the creation of unique takes on selections such as a Panini, clubhouse or slider.  Interaction with the chef also engages conferees in focusing on health choices, such as gluten free options on the menu.

9. Go Micro for Max Effect  With the explosive popularity of microbreweries offering brews that appeal to all tastes; often with a local appeal, conference planners are increasingly looking to chefs and sommeliers to provide pre-dinner receptions and speciality dining with microbrews on the menu.  Raise a glass to that!

10. Infused Tea Cocktails  The English are known for their love of it, and increasingly its health benefits are being embraced globally, but drinking tea has never been more fun than with the current trend of tea-infused cocktails.  So after raising a glass of microbrew, ask your mixologist for a hibiscus tea martini!

IACC is the only global professional association, which represents small to medium sized venues focused on meetings, training courses and conferences. All members conform to a comprehensive global set of criteria and standards. The organisation serves its members by being the global thought-leader in the meetings industry and currently has 355 members in 21 countries in the Americas, Europe and Australasia.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Selling as a Community = Increased Productivity

By Cindy Novotny – Master Connection Associates

Selling today has become even more complex than in the past.  Disagree?  Although the Internet has made life easier for some, it has confused the sellers that don’t understand speed and how to compete in today’s hyper fast world.

Master Connection Associates in partnership with IACC spend a great deal of time with meeting planners, corporate travel managers, leisure travel agents and special event planners and without a doubt there are a few essential elements needed to compete effectively.

Here is our list:
  1. Focus your entire attention on the client – don’t create processes at the property that work for YOU – create a seamless way for clients to do business with you easily
  2. Don’t take things too personally.  Sure there is the one client that doesn’t click with you, the one boss who rubs you the wrong way.  Learn to move on and not take things so seriously.  If you are providing excellent service to your clients and bringing in revenue for you property – sleep well!
  3. Thank operations daily.  Yes, it is their job to provide excellent service, but it is your job to keep them motivated to do it every day!
  4. If you work at a resort, conference center or hotel today that is the hottest commodity in town – be humble, be happy and don’t forget that tomorrow what goes around comes around.  Those that treat clients well during the good times and bad end up with a steady stream of new business. 
  5. Inspect what you expect.  We believe that you should convey what you want 100% of the time.  This is no mystery.  Make sure you are clear with clients and operations so that the end result is a win.
  6. You had us at NO.  Learn to love NO…. as you will continue to hear it all your life.  Learn how to overcome objections with class, dignity and professionalism.
  7. There is always room to work with your clients and operations for a win-win.  Always be ready to bend the rules and negotiate to win the business.
  8. Stop multi-tasking – focus on one thing at a time and do it right the first time!
  9. Be kind, fair and professional – ALWAYS!
  10. Never stop selling!

Visit the IACC Institute’s calendar to know more about the IACC-Master Connection Associates training courses and other educational opportunities.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ten Insider Tips for Meeting Planners

By Derek Grimaldi and Al Morgan, Ivey Spencer Leadership Centre.

Chaos is a common scenario for a lot of Meeting Planners. It’s not the easiest job and sometimes you tend to lose perspective. That’s why we picked the brains of several members of the IACC community and came up with some effective insider tips. We only gathered from the best, so use our information wisely!


It is likely that you are a Meeting Planner because of your passion for organising events and bringing people together into an environment where they feel inspired and valued. You will be a 'detail' person and will know that meetings are an opportunity to help people and organisations perform at the top of their game! But can you say the same about the venue and the staff you are working with on your RFP?  Don't be afraid to ask them what percentage of their overall business are meetings and conferences as it will tell you a lot about how they structure and skill their staff.  If meetings are their staple and they value being certified by associations like International Association of Conference Centres, it is a sure-fire indication that they take meetings seriously!  The prominence of the Meeting Information pages on their website is another good way to figure this out!


It’s difficult to always achieve this, but considering that your delegates might have a different view of what the ideal venue looks like can have a number of benefits. If you put a delegate in an uninspiring environment for days on end for a training workshop, expect uninspiring results in terms of their retained learning.  Organisational culture, demographics and even the countries that delegates travel from to attend your meetings will all play a part in their venue preferences. Do you know your delegates this well? See some of the recent research proving how different generations value venues in another way and you will see that we do not all think the same!


It’s not too much to ask and don’t settle for anything less!  You and your delegates should be treated in the way that you treat your delegates. After all, it’s the hospitality industry right? It doesn’t matter how big or small your meeting is. You should leave it feeling like your group was the only one at the venue that day, even if you were one out of ten!  If you do not feel this way, just tell your Conference Planner.  A good venue will want you to walk away feeling completely satisfied and pleased about choosing them.


There is a lot that can be read into the first visit you make to a venue when considering it for your next meeting.  Did you get a guided tour of the facilities with the obvious pointed out? Or did your Conference Planner see this as a business meeting to understand your requirements, before looking to match these with their venue services and facilities?  In other words, did they see this as an opportunity to learn what is important for YOUR meeting, or did you get the same parade that every other Meeting Planner gets? Whether they are organising a training course, board meeting or conference?! Try calling the venue an hour before arrival and leave a message from a fictitious named person and then see how well the message is captured and relayed back to you upon arrival. Communication is an important tell-tale sign of an operationally efficient venue. Just consider the impact of your CEO not getting that all-important message when they attend your meeting!


These days we couldn’t imagine a venue without WiFi anymore and that's a good thing of course.  But now we’re entering into the phase where fast stable broadband is an expectation and the average delegate needs to connect two devices at their meeting, if not three!
Ask the venue what the speed of the WiFi (bandwidth) is and check out what the minimum is that you need for your meeting by using an online bandwidth calculator.  DO NOT settle for less because you don’t receive any complaints.  That will not wash with your delegates when they fail to connect during their presentation and the essential informative YouTube video blocks halfway through...


Social Media Displays are coming into their own right now.  At your next conference, consider that there are many different attendee touch points that can both benefit the conference and attendees, beyond hoping that delegates are tuned into their Social Media App on their smartphone. Creating a “Social Media Hub” display, where all social media platforms come together in one place is exciting. It allows guests to engage with other attendees while sharing the happenings across the venue space! Cvent SocialWall and Eventstagram for live display feeds are worth a look!


A good venue expects to mound its product around a Meeting Planners needs, it’s called being flexible! No two meetings are the same and a good conference centre operates to allow flexibility and creativity to provide the best meeting experiences! Your Conference Planner will want to know about any challenges that you may be having from a services or budget perspective.


Often Corporate Meeting Planners are given a budget by their boss and are told to “Book this for me please!!” Conference Centre meeting planners are happy to help you find the best bang for your buck. For example we might suggest if you are down to your last $300 in your budget and you are planning a dinner for 30, perhaps adding a fourth course to your dinner would have more impact on everyone attending, than four $75.00 centrepieces.  Conference Centres always have something simple that can be placed in the middle of your tables that will fit into the overall look. Ask us for help. As you already noticed, we love sharing our ideas and thoughts.


This is applicable especially if you have a number of guests that are local and are driving to your meeting. If you start at 7:30am instead of 8:30am, you allow your attendees the opportunity to beat heavier city rush hours. Likewise if you start early, finish at 3:30pm. You beat the afternoon rush hour and it will feel like you are giving your attendees an afternoon off if they usually work until 4:30pm. Also, you get the first opportunity to partake in shared coffee breaks and earlier starts might allow you to schedule an 11:30am or 11:45am lunch to beat the rush there as well.


All Conference Centres have their own format of providing you with your final invoice. Ask your Meeting Planner for a face-to-face meeting or a phone conversation to go through the final invoice line-by-line. Email is not as efficient a method to review this matter. Direct conversation is most helpful when dealing with tax structures, gratuities and attrition charges. If you encounter a property that gives you a feeling that they are trying to find a way out of this post event meeting, be wary. Ask them about this meeting when you initially book, just to see what kind of reaction you get. Every professional Conference Centre Planner should be thrilled to have a chance to review the invoice with you as soon as possible after the event is over. It will help with a quicker payment and will facilitate both parties.

That sums up our 10 best Insider tips and we are sure that they can be of value to your work. At IACC we find these kinds of guidelines important, as it makes working as a Meeting Planner easier and more professional. That’s exactly why we don’t mind sharing this essential information. So absorb it, make good use of it and achieve your full potential as a professional Meeting Planner!