Friday, December 24, 2010

CSR - Holiday Style!

Happy Christmas Eve to those of you celebrating in the States and merry Christmas to those that are a few hours ahead of us around the world! 

It's been a while since that last corporate social responsibility post, but now is the perfect time for a quick update.  One way that my property participated in CSR recently was by "adopting" two families in need for the holidays and hosting a drive for gifts and money.  The families were different -- one was a single dad with a young daughter and the other a young family with three children all under 10 years old. 

A few photos were hung in the employee break room along with a sign advertising what these families needed and wanted the most for the holidays.  Clothing and diapers were among the more popular items, but books and a bike also made the list.  Announcements were made at our monthly property-wide meeting in which employees who organized the drive spoke about the good that could come from donating.  (Note -- it was not management that organized this drive, but housekeeping staff!  Talk about engagement as a bonus to CSR!).

Adopting families in need is a pretty common CSR practice that many companies participate in during the holidays, but it is still a good one to share.  One way to find families in need is by contacting local organizations, such as the Salvation Army, YMCA or United Way.  Local homeless shelters may also provide contact information with individuals that need a little extra help. 

Here's to hoping that the holiday spirit of generosity continues throughout the rest of the year and 2011!  Happy holidays to you and your families!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tips for Managing Older Employees

As a Millennial entering into a workforce and property of employees that were mostly older than me (both in age and seniority at the property), I felt a lot of pressure.  Pressure to perform.  Pressure to fit in.  Pressure to prove that there was a reason I was there.  One of the biggest pressures I faced (and still do) was managing employees older than myself.  It's not the easiest task to take on, yet it's not impossible.  Age does tend to bring wisdom, and many companies still value seniority and longevity over expertise or compatibility for future goals.  There are pros and cons to both sides of that argument, but that's for another post.

Since more individuals are continuing to work well into their 50s and 60s, the trend of young employees (again, both in terms of age and years of service) is not going to go away.  Many Baby Boomers still work now, and some that retired may enter back into the workforce if they haven't already (thank you, recession!).

I think that I've grown since taking on my current role and have learned how to relate, communicate, and listen to employees from all different age groups (Millenials, X'ers, Boomers).  I still learn how to be better at this every day, but can think of two things that have helped me the most in being successful with this challenge.  Hopefully other individuals that are new to managing older employees will find them useful as well.

1.  Listen -- It is the best thing you can do for your employees and yourself (both professionally and personally).  Listen to their experiences.  Listen to their individual needs.  Listen to their complaints and concerns.  Listen to them talk about their kids or grandkids.  Don't interrupt -- just listen and think about what they have told you.  Each time employees reveal something to you about themselves, it is an opportunity for you to learn from them, understand what truly motivates them and how to inspire their best work.

2.  Do not be anyone other than yourself -- I've found that the longer an employee has worked for a company or property, the more skeptical they are of new blood.  I may be wrong, but it has been my experience that older employees will test you to see if you do know what you're doing and if you do it well.  So when you start managing more senior staff members, do not try to be something you're not.  They will see through you.  Chances are, they've seen a manager before you pretend to be someone he/she was not in order to win over employees.  Senior employees can and will spot a phony in two seconds. 

If you don't like the way a food is presented or a napkin is folded on a table, say it.  Have a reason for your preference and stand behind it.  If you can show that you are true to your ideas and explain why you feel a certain way, the more your employees will respect you and learn to follow you.

Monday, December 6, 2010

CR and Sustainability at Sundial Group’s UK Meeting Venues

Over here in the UK, corporate responsibility and social awareness among meeting venues continues to be a major talking point. As with all such topics, some ‘discuss’ in more depth than others while others just get on with it. The line between genuine concern for the environment or simply paying lip service to today’s latest trend is blurry. Our economy is, by nature, demand-led, therefore suppliers must respond to customers’ requirements or face an uncertain future. In the middle of the noughties, therefore, businesses up and down the country were clamouring to show us how warm and fluffy they all were. What happens when customers’ requirements change though?

This may seem controversial, and I may be wrong, but anecdotally the perception I have is that venues’ green credentials have not, over the last year, been as important to buyers as they once were. Sad as that may be, the economic climate, rather than the earth’s climate, has been the one whose change has preoccupied budget holders the most of late. Large tender documents, although still asking for extensive evidence of environmental policies and programmes, have given greater emphasis to price since the credit crunch. Beforehand, “green” was the new gold standard. In a recession, it seems, not so much.

Like many other businesses, we decided to document the things we do at our venues to be better citizens, so a few of us got together to produce not only a range of formal policies in line with our values, but also our detailed environmental action plans and we have published these on our website for over three years now, updating them periodically so that they remain current. In total, we identified 75 actions that we either do already, or aim to implement. Some were quick and easy to identify and implement – it didn’t take us long to implement a policy of switching off printers and computer monitors when not in use, and after a few months we had, by and large, replaced all our light bulbs with energy-efficient equivalents. We contacted local councils to ensure we were recycling all that we could and we reviewed the timer settings on exterior lighting and all thermostats so that we were reducing the amount of energy we were using. Some of the venue-based initiatives that we identified were things we were doing already – like making sure our fridges and freezers are defrosted regularly and waiting until a washing machine was full to run it.

Other items took a bit longer – for example we decided that we should network our photocopiers as scanners so that the amount of paper being passed our office was shifted onto the email server instead. However previously-agreed contracts meant we had to wait until early last year to be able to replace the equipment. Likewise our shift to ‘green’ electricity suppliers required existing contracts to expire. Some of our agreed actions have not yet been achievable for us – the investment that would be required to install new boilers, for example, has (if you’ll excuse the pun) been put onto the back burner.

At the corporate/policy level, we had always incentivised car-sharing amongst employees for business travel, but we decided to try and find a way to encourage our customers to join in, so we launched our Green Meeting Package, an optional, zero-additional-cost (we wanted to push against the profiteering we had seen on environmentally-friendly options) enhancement to a company’s Complete Meeting Package. Part of this includes an incentive to residential delegates to car-share or use public transport to get here; if they do so, they get a credit of £5 to spend in our bar.

The critical factor, however, to achieving success is employee engagement. To get this, we said that our CSR efforts should be spearheaded by our Managing Director but that our Green Teams should spread throughout the business and every department should be represented. Further to this, we integrated sustainability as a measure on our Balanced Scorecard, so that our performance and success in reducing our environmental impact will affect our employees directly through their evaluations and through the company-wide bonus scheme. This alignment of personal and corporate goals makes it all much more real for everyone at Sundial Venues, instead of it just being something that comes from head office but has little or no meaning on-site.

Written by:
James Bland
Marketing and Communications Manager

The Sundial Group
Highgate House

Monday, November 29, 2010

Green Ideas from the Emory Conference Center

Emory Conference Center was recently named Atlanta's first LEED-certified conference center hotel.  Recent articles about the center's success listed off a few green and CSR ideas that you may also be able to implement at your own property!

As listed in the article by Hotel News Resource

  • Supplying kitchen oil to Emory University's shuttle bus service to reuse as biodiesel
  • Using single stream recycling processes, "where paper fibers are comingled, allowing an increase in the amount of materials recycled."
  • Sending partially or unused soap samples (from guest rooms) to Haiti as part of a hygiene-focused group called Clean the World
  • Giving partially used shampoo and conditioner samples to a local church

Do any readers have new or additional ideas to add to this list?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Marketing Committee Update

The Marketing Committee held a conference call on November 16th and discussed many topics including Customer Round Tables, webinars, and two upcoming editorials in Successful Meetings.  Read on to see what's going on in IACC!

Customer Round Tables
- opportunities to host the events awarded to 25 conference centers
- not all will likely happen, but it will provide a very large sample of customers
- first one was 11/17 in Arizona, then Stamford on December 8
- they will continue through February 5, 2011
- information and results will be presented at the annual conference

- to be posted on the IACC website for all to access
- purpose: selling the conference center concept
- working with Master Connections
- Length of the webinar: 90 minutes, but could be as long as we want
- targeted to beginning sales managers: selling on the benefits of IACC standards and the CMP
- material used would be from work done with HRG last year

Value difference between hotels & conference centers
- research being done
- spread sheet to be created to plainly show comparisons as well as intangible differences
- may work with Dana Communications to create
- will also want to post it on the website
- side topic: how to sell conference center concept to a potential client on a phone call – will need to follow the guidelines of being shopped

Successful Meetings – two upcoming editorial topics:
- How to manage your budget
- Corporate social responsibility – green isn’t gone

Annual Conference Updates
- working with MPI and STMP to coordinate a “bring your client” event on one day of the conference– feature is Copper Skillet event at lunch. Trade show booths in the afternoon. Hoping for 100 customers. Info going out soon.
- CSR component: raffling a scooter and making donations to Habitat for Humanity

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Corporate Social Responsibility....A New Emerging Trend Series

Corporate Social Responsibility. CSR. You’ve heard the acronym before, but do you really understand what it encompasses? This was a hot topic at the most recent IACC-Americas Board of Directors meeting as it may be the next large trend meeting planners and conference centers will face.

Before you start questioning what CSR is, whether it is worth your time, and how you may handle new requirements set by clients, take a step back. Chances are you are already doing many things that fall underneath the large umbrella of CSR.

According to a CSR Trends 2010 report created by Craib Design & Communications and Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP, Corporate Social Responsibility is, “A company’s commitment to operating in a socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable manner, while recognizing the interests of its stakeholders.”

An easier way to think of it is as the triple bottom line: People, Planet, Profit.

If you implemented reuse/recycling programs at your conference center or requested them in RFPs, you participated in CSR. If you spent a day volunteering at a local community center with your co-workers, you participated in CSR. The challenge coming to the industry is how to expand these practices at conference centers in order to benefit stakeholders, and how to show potential customers that you provide exceptional CSR opportunities they can work into their meeting schedule.

While we have not measured how strong this trend is for our industry, Corporate Social Responsibility does seem to be gaining traction as a global business standard even in these tough economic times. The Craib study found that “addressing issues the once took a back seat to financial results… has become critical to a company’s credibility, transparency and endurance.” Of the 423 companies surveyed, 81% provide information on CSR on their website. 28% of companies utilize social media outlets such as Facebook or Twitter to relay their CSR message, and 28% maintain company blogs. This shows that communicating activities about CSR is just as important as being socially responsible.

Due to the complex nature of this topic, the Emerging Trends Committee will spend a month discussing CSR. Committee members will give personal examples of what CSR systems are in action in their workplace, give ideas of how to incorporate new practices in your conference center, and discuss what steps IACC is taking to promote CSR throughout its membership. We will also consider ways to communicate these opportunities to clients and the world. What can we do to improve that triple bottom line? Stay tuned…

For more information on the Craib study: CSR Trends 2010, visit:

Written by:
Kasey Snyder and Meghan Bollenback

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Social Media -- Go It Alone or Hire a Specialist?

A hot topic at the latest board meeting involved the pros and cons of hiring a specialist to manage all social media aspects for your conference center versus assigning the duties to a member of your already-established management team.  It was a great discussion and valid points were made for both arguments.

To me, the greater benefit and ROI would come from hiring a specialist to handle social media.  Managing Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, LinkedIn or StumbleUpon can be very time intensive.  It requires a person that is willing to dig in and play around with the applications.

I understand that many conference centers or businesses are hesitant to outsource their social media to another company or hire a full-time employee due to budgetary constraints.  However, here is a short list of options to make it work:
  • Use your interns  -  Younger employees are most likely active in social media already and would have few problems creating new accounts and monitoring the activity.  The downside is that interns typically work for 10 to 12 weeks during the summer or winter, so you must have a strategic plan when that time comes and delegate these responsibilities to someone else.
  • Hire a part-time specialist - This person could work from home or come into the office a few days each week to make sure he/she is accomplishing the goals determined by the management team.  Many marketers, independent contractors, and PR-specialists have the skill sets needed to manage social media outlets, so look online at Monster or LinkedIn for individuals looking to pick up some extra work.  You would save money (such as in benefit costs) as this person would not be full-time.
  • Re-distribute tasks within your marketing team - Think wisely before simply adding "Social Media" to the list of one of your marketing staff's daily tasks.  Adding to that person's workload will add stress unless you relieve him/her of other job duties.  It will also produce ineffective results in your social media strategy in that not enough time will be spent managing the accounts.  If hiring a new individual is absolutely out of the question, re-evaluate how your marketing team operates and creatively design a way to make it work.  One more thing to note -- make sure the person is interested in social media and willing to get his/her hands dirty.

Lastly, save time and money by focusing on one or two social media outlets.  Facebook and Twitter may be the most obvious options, but Tumblr is a great resource as well you may not be familiar with.  It's a simple way to blog and share information about your property on a daily basis and may fit your property well.

In all, take your time in researching your options, form a strategy, and then move forward on hiring or assigning the job of monitoring social media to the right person. 

Written by:
Meghan Bollenback
Food & Beverage Manager
R. David Thomas Executive Conference Center

Friday, October 29, 2010

How to Make Videos That Sell

Have you seen the promotional video for IACC-America's next Annual Conference?  If not, you've been missing out.  Catch up now!

The video does an excellent job of showcasing the property (the National Conference Center) and the theme of the conference -- Rev It Up!  It incorporates humor, good supporting music, and an entertaining lead actor.  These components are elements that can help any business video you make a success.

Videos are a modern tactic that many companies use to promote their products and services.  Making them go "viral" (meaning that viewers pass them along to friends and contacts -- basically "word of mouth" marketing on the Internet) is sometimes difficult, but it doesn't have to be.  The key is to identify just who you want the video to go viral with, and then make a goal plan on how to do so.

If you have thought about making a video for your property or to market special deals you are promoting, now is the time to test it out!  This Open Forum article goes into greater detail on ways you can try out this trend, and also save money while doing so.  Making just one video could help you reach sales goals or spread your marketing message to a wider audience. 

The Annual Conference will be held March 23 - 25, 2011 at the National Conference Center in Leesburg, VA (just outside of Washington D.C.).  Registration opens on Monday, November 1st, so make sure you Rev It Up!  and register early!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Carbon-Neutral Meetings...are they prevalent in the U.S.?

While talking to a family friend this morning, I learned about an organization at the University of Florida called Neutral Gator. "Neutral Gator is an initiative of Earth Givers, a non-profit focused on reducing carbon emissions through energy conservation and carbon sequestration projects. Neutral Gator is dedicated to eliminating Gainesville’s contribution to global climate change by supporting the University of Florida in reaching carbon neutrality by 2025 and by reducing the carbon emitted by the local community."

Neutral Gator specifically works with UF's athletics department.  Through carbon-reduction projects that focus on the local Gainesville community (such as planting trees), the group successfully developed the first carbon-neutral athletic organization in the country and first carbon-neutral football season.  Talk about amazing! Just consider how much air and land travel is required to get all the necessary players, coaches, support staff, media, and equipment to each game.

All of this new information led me to think about carbon-neutral meetings. That was a big buzz-phrase when Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth came out in 2006. To me, it seems as if this movement has fizzled a bit in the meeting industry in the United States. Maybe I'm wrong (and please leave comments if you are seeing RFPs for carbon-neutral meetings), but I can list the number of carbon-conscious groups I've served in the past year on one hand.

That being said, I think the force behind this movement is going to make a comeback very soon in the U.S. The world's first carbon-neutral conference/convention center just opened in Ireland. Everything from the concrete foundations to the insulation of the Convention Centre Dublin was designed to be sustainable, carbon-neutral, and minimize overall energy consumption. Also, the facility provides guidance to groups wishing to offset their carbon emmissions (caused by travel to the CCD) through the purchase of carbon credits.

What's your opinion on carbon-neutral meetings? Are organizations wishing to offset their carbon emmissions, or are they more focused on other green initiatives, such as recycling programs, at conference centers? If you work at a conference center property, do you offer guidance on how to offset carbon footprints to groups? I'm interested to hear what the trends are like around the country.

Written by:
Meghan Bollenback
Food & Beverage Manager
R. David Thomas Executive Hotel & Conference Center

Friday, October 15, 2010

Follow Up to Exciting New Meeting Apps!

As a follow up to the last post, the creaters of wrote a more-detailed description of what their web portal offers! If you are a meeting planner, you must check out their website as you will find tools to make your job much easier.  Read on to learn more about this exciting technology... is the World’s First Portal for Meeting Apps. This site enables planners and tourism industry professionals to quickly locate iPhone, iPad and BlackBerry apps related to the meetings and events industry. The apps on are categorized by useful headers such as: Air Travel, Conferences, Convention & Visitors Bureaus, Green Tools, Hotel Search, Meeting Management, Food & Wine, Venues and much more. There is no fee to use the site and the apps are listed at no charge. This portal was built for the purpose of making it easier for meeting and event professionals to quickly find the apps needed to plan and operate meetings, events and travel programs.

Our directory currently lists BlackBerry and iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch meeting apps. Android apps are in development and will be listed before the end of year. New meeting apps will be continuously added to, keeping planners up to date with the latest developments. Planners will be able to not only easily search for meeting apps, but will also be able to rate apps and read reviews and articles on app technology on our site.

In addition, global planners and hospitality partners can now sign up for App Alert to receive the best free apps related to the meetings and events industry. There are thousands of free apps currently available, but only a few that will be selected based on their functionality and relevance to meetings and events. Our goal is to save planners and hospitality partners research time and make their lives a little bit easier. At no cost, anyone interested in finding out about the latest meeting and travel apps can join at:

For anyone developing a new app for their venue, hotel or convention center, please check out existing apps at:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Exciting new Meeting Apps! is a relatively new web portal where users (ideally, meeting planners) can learn about various applications that are specific to the meeting insdustry and how they can make their jobs easier and more efficient.  In addition to being available for purchase on this site, also lets users review the apps which can lead to improvements from web developers. 

Read on to learn about some of the newest meeting apps and how they can benefit you!  These apps are currently only available for Blackberry and iPhone users, but Droid models are in the works.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Here are some great tips for developing a social media program as authentic and unique as your property:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

HVS Issues Revised Forecasts for the US Lodging Industry

Super Sustainable Seafood (now say that 5 times fast!)

Sustainability -- you know the word, but can you define it in reference to our fishy friends?
This is a "green" detail that I am seeing more and more requests for made by meeting planners and groups.  Not only are people wanting to green their meetings by reducing paper and plastic waste, they also wish to eat food that was obtained through measures that did not harm the ocean environment (I'm sure we all agree that there has been enough of that this summer with the oil spill).

A recent article on's food blog website, Eatocracy, defined what "sustainable" actually means and went into greater detail on sustainable seafood efforts within the United States.  "In a nutshell (or clamshell, in this case), in the context of seafood, 'sustainable' means harvesting and consuming at a rate that will not deplete fish and other marine life faster than their populations can replenish - and there are plenty of factors that weigh into this...[such as] overfishing, climate changes, physical damage to the environment..." 

Two key organizations that educate fishers, buyers, and consumers on how to make sustainable choices for seafood are the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Seafood Choices Alliances. 

To keep your property in line with the desires of clients, encourage your chefs to download the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch application to receive notifications and e-mails about what seafood is a good, sustainable buy for the current time of year. 

Written by:
Meghan Bollenback
Food and Beverage Manager
R. David Thomas Executive Hotel & Conference Center

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Few More Excel Basics...

Written by James Bland
Group Marketing Manager
The Sundial Group, Highgate House

Having looked at manipulating text-based information in the last Excel post; names, addresses and suchlike; this time I want to quickly introduce a few numbers into the mix…

Bringing Order to Chaos

So your booking/sales/CRM system will export orders/sales/enquiries in a big list with dates attached, but you’re currently ploughing through that manually to obtain monthly totals.

You’ll get more than the data below, of course, but for the sake of this example let’s say your columns go as such…

• A: Customer Name

• B: Value of Order

• C: Date of Order

So long as the dates are properly formatted and Excel recognises them as such, using the formula =MONTH(D1) with return, numerically, the month of the year in which the date in Cell C1 falls. Repeat down the column to begin your categorisation. When complete, use the expression =COUNTIF(D1:D100,1) to count the number of orders placed in January, month 1. Change the number in the second part of the expression to view for February, March etc.

Your “COUNTIF” function though doesn’t have to just work with numbers. You could count all of the people named “James Bland” in your customer list by simply changing the column it looks at from D to A, and then changing the number 1 to “James Bland” (include the speech marks – that’s quite important when ever you want to look at text within a formula instead of numbers)

Show me the money…!

Having obtained in column E the numbers corresponding to the months in column D, you can then acquire your monthly order totals. Use the expression =SUMIF(E1:E100,”=1”,B1:B100) to do this. In the first segment you are telling the formula to look in column E, where your monthly classification numbers reside. In the second segment, you are telling it only to find orders where the month is January (=1) – increasing this number will interrogate your other months. In the third segment, you tell it to take the order values from Column B.

Your “SUMIF” function can again count the value of orders that “James Bland” has placed. Again, change the column initially interrogated from E to A, and then change “=1” to = “James Bland” (again, remember to include the speech marks). Your column B data will have to be numerical though – Excel cannot add letters to numbers!

A Little Pointer

It’s a bit manual this one, but let’s say you’re the sort of person who likes writing telephone numbers without spaces. Or maybe you need them like that to upload them into a SMS transmission system. When you type a string of numbers into Excel, it quite rightly thinks it’s a number, so it suppresses leading zeros – hence the telephone number 01604731850 becomes 1,604,731,850.

The difficulty with Excel is that when you begin to overtype a cell, the previous contents disappear instantly, meaning you have to remember the number that was there initially. One way is to repeat it back to yourself so it stays in your immediate memory, but eventually your co-workers will get annoyed, or think you strange, or both.

A quick way to sort this out is to go into the cell and just type an apostrophe in front of the number, ‘01604731850. The apostrophe tells Excel that whatever follows is to be treated as text. This does mean, however, that you now cannot add two telephone numbers together, but why on earth would you want to…?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Quality Committee Update: Members React to Quality Audits

When they’ve undergone Quality Assurance Audits this year, member conference centers have raised a few questions. Most commonly they wonder, “Why aren’t the Quality Assurance Checklist and Pre-Audit paperwork identical to the documents that the BARE auditor uses?” During my property’s recent audit, I puzzled over some of these differences, too. Though the variances were not so striking that I couldn’t answer the questions, I thought it might be a good topic for the Quality Committee to consider. And, in August the subject appeared on our agenda. The committee determined that we’d like to close the gap between the two sets of questions and began considering ways we might accomplish that aim.

Let me offer a couple examples of the sort of questions we’re talking about because we understand that members might not immediately see their relevance to our Universal Criteria.

(1) “How many meeting suites does the facility have?” The Criteria don’t make any direct reference to meeting suites (or guest suites that can easily be converted to meeting space). However, when you look at criteria numbers 5 and 33 you can see the validity. These criteria concern the separation of dedicated conference rooms from living and leisure areas. So, the Auditor asks about meeting suites in order to ensure that members do not typically allow meetings outside of the conference center.

(2) “How many portable sound systems does your property have?” This question directly correlates to criterion number 18. “Do all meeting rooms larger than 1,000 sq. ft. have built-in voice reinforcement sound systems?” If you answer “no” when this question comes up, the auditor must determine the extent to which that’s true for the whole facility because IACC may allow for less than 100% compliance as long as you have enough portable sound equipment to accommodate client needs.

In any case, IACC’s Audit only scores members according to their compliance with the Criteria. Any questions that don’t directly relate to membership criteria either supply facts to support determinations about compliance or provide data that refer to IACC’s Recommended Guidelines. And neither of these types of question count toward or against a member’s Audit score.

When the inspection occurred at my property, the auditor mentioned how pleased she was to see all of the pre-audit paperwork completed as BARE instructed. Shortly after the audit, we received our preliminary score and I feel confident that the audit went well overall.

Despite the positive outcome, most of us find audits and inspections daunting, regardless of what organization conducts the review, but IACC audits can be very instructive. When we become overly comfortable, even complacent, about our properties and their fitness as conference centers, we may miss things that customers don’t overlook. In the course of our daily routines, we don’t always recognize that a little extra touch could make all the difference for some customer. Audits provide fresh eyes. They keep us on our toes and give us the opportunity to correct potential issues. In particular, IACC Audits ensure our clients that they can expect the best possible meeting experience at a member conference center.

Next Quality Committee meeting: September 30.

Written by:
Michael Blackley
Banquet/Conference Center Manager
Hilton Washington DC/Rockville Executive Meeting Center

Monday, September 20, 2010

IACC to host 2011 Client Roundtables

Based on the overwhelming success of the discussions held in 2010, IACC will be conducting a second set of International Customer Roundtables. These events will be held from November 2010 through January 2011. Small groups of current conference centers clients and non clients will be coordinated at varies IACC certified locations in the United States and Canada.

These intimate gatherings provide insight into the priorities and preferences of professionals in the meetings industry. Planners are offered questions related to their vendor selection process as well as the benefits and detriments of meeting venues. The roundtable discussions also allow the participants to review the differences in the experience at certified conference center versus a traditional hotel.

Focus groups are an easily implemented method for gathering research. They allow a diverse group of individuals who share a common interest to provide feedback on a range of topics. Often the group dynamic encourages participants to speak more freely, and triggers thoughts that they may not previously have considered voicing. Facilitators also have the advantage of observing non verbal cues, which cannot be gathered in surveys or phone interviews.

For more information on participating in an upcoming IACC International Customer Roundtable, please contact:

Kasey Snyder
Sales Manager for Destination Hotels
New York/New Jersey Area
Main 973.301.9716
175 Park Avenue
Florham Park, NJ 07932

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Package Pricing vs. A la Carte Pricing

Written by Neil Pompan, CMP, Chairman & CEO of Pompan Hospitality Global and IACC-Global President.

Package pricing continues to be mysterious and threatening to may meeting planners. Resistance to package pricing stems from a number of common misperceptions such as that packages contain many things that the planner does not need, or that because of the all inclusiveness of packages, the price must be greater than if the components are purchased separately. Many planners also resist using conference centers because they feel a loss of control over the experience. This last point is ironic because conference centers pride themselves on creating a meeting environment totally dedicated to supporting the outcomes of a meeting.

But of all the reasons planners have for not using conference center, the number one reason is price perception. The fact of the matter is that if a planner were to total all of the elements of a complete meeting package using the a la carte pricing of a traditional hotel and then compare it on a per person basis to a competitive conference center in the same market, the conference center will be less expensive 99% of the time. This calculation is quite east and a free tool exists for planners to use assist them in the analysis. This tool can be found at

Most planners will argue that they do not need all the items in a complete meeting package. Perhaps they would not normally purchase three meals a day, or maybe they will bring their own LCD projector, etc. When a planner uses this tool, they can input only those things they would normally purchase at a hotel for their meeting. By inputting only those items, they can then compare the prices apples-to-apples and make an informed decision as to which venue. If the prices at the conference center are more per person then at the hotel under consideration then it is likely they are not including a great man of the all inclusive items.

In this situation one of two possible decisions can be made. First, the meeting under consideration may not be right for a conference center and should therefore be booked at a hotel. Second, the added value of a conference center may be worth a few extra dollars per person. The added value is all the elements that provide the best possible chance of successfully achieving the outcomes of the meeting. These elements include dedicated meeting space reserved on a 24 hour hold, ergonomic chairs and hard surfaced tables, tackable surfaces and meeting planner tool kits – all things that help promote a distraction free environment. Added value is also achieved thought the gift of time. At a conference center meeting planners do not have to spend time on menu selection and because they have a single point of contact, a single phone call or e-mail can handle all of their requests. This time can then be devoted to the important job of planning the content and taking care of the participants. Conference centers pride themselves on removing the drudgery of meeting planning and servicing the all inclusive product they promote and sell – a total meeting experience.

Pompan Hospitality Global, Inc. is a one-stop hospitality consulting firm that supports the business objectives of developers, owners, asset managers, independent and brand operators and meeting professionals around the world. Specializing in the Total Meeting Experience™, PHG, Inc. draws on the talents of a core group of hospitality and meetings industry leaders to serve the needs and demands of today’s global hospitality market. For additional information about Pompan Hospitality Global, visit the website at or call 610 252 8511.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Few Excel Basics...

Written by James Bland
Group Marketing Manager
The Sundial Group, Highgate House

I’m always wary of sentences that start with “I’m no expert…but”, but then that’s because I rarely use them. However, I’m going to make an exception and share a few pointers on Excel that make my life as a marketing manager easier. When I was studying for my CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing) qualifications, a few of my classmates, all experienced marketing professionals, recoiled in horror at the sight of a number, fled for coffee when shown a spreadsheet and I’m pretty sure one lady fainted when talked through a simple DCF analysis, so I’m fairly confident that a good number of marketers won’t know their way around Excel. None of the below is any big secret, and Googling most Excel questions will give you plenty of really well-constructed guides, but the ones I list below have helped me out of many a hole in the past!

So, I’m no expert, but…

We’re Better Together

Let’s say you have a mailing list where First Names and Last Names are stored in different columns (A and B) but you really want one column to have people’s full names in. The formula that you type into column C is…

=CONCATENATE(A1,” “,B1) – where A1 represents whatever is in that cell, likewise B1, and whatever is inbetween the speech marks is inserted inbetween. You could put any text or number you want in there, but I wanted a space so that’s what I typed.

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Maybe though, you want to reverse that procedure, because cell A1 contains “Mr James Bland”, but what you want to do is address a letter “Dear James”. Slightly different process this one – first you have to make sure that the next three cells (B1, C1, D1) are empty, because otherwise you could overwrite something important. Then, highlight Cell A1 and go to “Data”, “Text to Columns”. For this example, you want to choose the “Delimited” option, and then choose “Space” as your delimiter. By doing this, you tell Excel that a space marks where the cell should be split. Then hit finish and the job is done. If you’re doing a big list, be careful with the number of specific words though. “Mr James Edward Bland” will spread into column E1, again potentially overwriting something important. For lists containing names like these, best make yourself plenty of empty columns and then go back over the list using CONCATENATE to re-attach the two bits of someone’s surname.

Don’t Lose Your Head

A word of caution here, Excel saves a Cell’s formula, not necessarily its text content. If you had CONCATENATE-d two bits of a name together and then wanted to delete the old individual columns, doing so will empty your combined column do, as Excel will be referencing empty cells. To get round this, save your file as type “*.csv” (comma separated variable), close the spreadsheet, and re-open the CSV file. The contents of the cell will be ‘banked’ and you can delete at will. A word of warning though, if you have made pretty patterns using bold type or coloured backgrounds, that information is not saved in a *.csv file, so it will have disappeared when you reopen the file.

Say What You Say…

And, of course, a personalised letter is so much more powerful than a generic one. But when I say “personalised”, please don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just putting my first name, or company name, into the middle of a sentence is going to cut it. People are generally savvy enough to see right through that gimmick. Thankfully, using Excel and Word to mail merge, you can customise whole paragraphs of text to fit what you need to say. There’s nothing particularly difficult about this either – all you need to do is put a longer string of text into your spreadsheet in a designated column for “Comments” or “Extras”, and then merge this field into your letter like it were a postcode. You can then add a line or two of customisation really quickly into Excel, and the mail merge process will guarantee it gets attached to the right letter! Pioneering schoolteachers have been using this technique for years when formulating school reports for classes of thirty kids or so. Much better than just noting “Could do better” each time.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Foursquare, Facebook Places, and the Future of Location-Based Social Media

Just last week, Facebook launched a new application called Facebook Places and entered the world of geo-location social media.  This type of social media has been growing in popularity in the past year, mostly due to another brand of this application called Foursquare.  The main idea behind this social medium is that app users can "check-in" at businesses using their cell phones, PDAs, and othe rmobile devices and thereby show to friends and family where they are at any given moment.

As described in this Open Forum article, Foursquare " part social tool, part applications enable users to connect and compete with friends by updating their location (pinpointed via satellite) in real time. Members earn points and unlock badges by 'checking in' at places ranging from restaurants, museums and nightclubs to florists, grocers and gas stations — otherwise known as your business."

Now you may be thinking, "This can't benefit me as I'm at a professional conference center and market to specific clientele.  I don't get foot traffic like stores and restaurants do."

Not the case, in my opinion.  To me, this is a win-win for both conference centers and meeting planners.  Many meeting planners and site-specialists work remotely and are not on-site to greet participants when they arrive at their chosen conference center.  Imagine how easy it would be for that planner to know all of her participants had arrived safely if she just requested that they all check-in using Facebook Places or Foursquare.  On the other side of this, conference centers would receive free publicity on those sites once the meeting participants disclosed their location.  This could incite more business (or at least website traffic for your center) as the participants' contacts on Facebook and Foursquare would see where they were checked in and grow curious about the location.

Before jumping onto this new train of social media, it's necessary to do your homework.  Facebook Places and Foursquare are not the only geo-location social media sites.  Google is a top leader in this technology with Google Places, as is Twitter and Gowalla also feature similar applications.  You need to do your research.  Facebook's websites is a great place to start.  There is a full page dedicated to Facebook Places that explains what this application is and how to use it in full detail.  You can access it by going to the Help Center when you are logged into your account.  You can also visit to see what their application model is like.

Lastly, another blog posted about this trend last week in an article entitled "What Your Business Should Know About Facebook Places," which you can read by clicking here.

Written by Meghan Bollenback
Food & Beverage Manager
R. David Thomas Executive Hotel & Conference Center

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Importance of Meeting Planner Feedback in Today’s Economy

By Joan King

Although booking events continues to be a vital source of revenue for hotels and resorts, meeting planners today have increased bargaining power. So getting those bookings is more challenging—yet it’s only half the battle: since today’s discounted rates increase the cost of customer acquisition, keeping the business is now more critical than ever. As planners lock in attractive rates, exceeding their expectations becomes paramount.
The one common denominator among venues that deliver consistently successful events is having the ability to take the pulse of their customer at any time. Acquiring knowledge about the meeting planner’s experience is an ongoing process that enables critical issues to be identified at any point in the event timeline. This capability enables you to see where revenue is at risk and take action; otherwise, when customers are dissatisfied, few complain and the rest go elsewhere.

Behind the scenes of any great conference event are the savvy venue personnel that plan and host the event, and know how to properly execute from start to finish. Typically that process begins by capturing feedback prior to the event and taking immediate action that will positively impact the client’s perceptions. In fact, much can be learned by getting online feedback before, during and after an event, so that when the next group arrives for the pre-convention meeting, everyone has already stepped up their game.

If an event host does their part and keeps customers happy, that increases the probability that they will book repeat business, in spite of price wars. One way for a hotel or resort to equip their venue for ensured success is finding an advanced online feedback system that streamlines communication, analytically correlates all aspects of service delivery and provides historical data capture for trending and strategic planning—all of which cumulatively enhance relationships with meeting planners.

Bottom-line: Look for a system that can help your organization compete in the meetings business, capture market share, effectively deliver impeccable service and execute service recovery quickly if something isn’t just right. The more advanced systems available today are sophisticated and customizable technologies that are already in production. In addition, having such a system in place enables you to have a repository of valuable competitive intelligence.


Today meeting planners are under pressure to spend dollars wisely and will only patronize hotels or resorts that truly pay attention to their needs and requirements. Today’s more advanced online survey approaches capture continuous feedback and produce actionable information in the form of “hot button” reports—useful information about how venues can improve the service experience, from first contact to event delivery—even in first-time-business situations.

Remember, if you take care of meeting planners, you will be protecting a vital revenue stream that you can’t afford to be without, recovering possible lost revenue and getting an unmatched ROI.

Joan King is Managing Director, Loyalty, for UniFocus. She can be reached at or by phone at 972-512-5169.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Benchmark Hospitality International's Top Ten Beverage Trends for 2010

Chief Sommelier Mary Watson One of Few Woman Wine Experts in US
The Woodlands (Houston), Texas, August 2010 ... Benchmark Hospitality International, a leading US-based hospitality management company, has just released its Top Ten Beverage Trends for 2010. The beverage trends were released in response to requests following the distribution of the company’s popular annual dining trends this past June.
“This is an exciting time for the beverage industry, with lots of positive changes occurring,” said Mary Watson-DeLauder, chief sommelier for Benchmark Hospitality International. “Some of the changes are economically driven, some taste oriented, and still others created out of necessity in response to changing palates and a new generation of consumers.”

To see the trends:

Are Concierges Obsolete?

Now that travelers and conferees have instant access to mobile apps and mobile-compatible web sites packed with information normally dispensed by the capable concierge, is this position going the way of the dinasaur? Not so fast, says "Hotel Interactive:"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Didn't your mother teach you to share?

One thing that I love most about the IACC website is the Resource Library Guide.  There have been many times in recent months that I've refered to it for best-practice guidelines to help on projects at work.  This has ranged from buffet set-ups, to wine tasting ideas, and  to helping the Sales team at my property try and book more CMP business.  It's an excellent resource for both operations and sales (definitely check it out and spread it around your property if you haven't done so!).

The basis of the Resource Library comes down to one central idea:  sharing.  This is something that we're all taught when we're young -- share your toys with your siblings, share the sandbox with other pre-schoolers, share the cookies that just came out of the oven and so on. 

I think hospitality is one industry that does an excellent job of sharing information, particularly best practices.  Maybe it boils down to personalities that you often find in the industry -- friendly, welcoming, and always trying to satisfy others.  That being said, I'm a firm believer in continuous improvement.  If you take a look at the Resource Library, it hasn't been updated in quite some time, and I'm sure that you and other team members have generated some fabulous best practices in the past year.

So, I invite you to share new practices!  What are some things that you've done at your property that you think could benefit others?  No, I'm not asking you to share trade secrets about your company -- just new operation or sales ideas that have been implemented that made you as a property and management team perform better.  Sharing ideas is one way to help progress the meeting industry's rebound that I reported on a week ago and also make IACC even more useful to you.

On a separate but not entirely different note, I also just read a blog post that discussed how Millennials love to share.  Whether is updating a status on Facebook, posting pictures of a recent vaction on Picasa, or Twittering what the plans are for the night, Millennials like to let others know what they are doing and learn how others are staying busy.  This trait has carried into the workplace, and more than likely will not go away as they age.  Read on here to learn more about this trend.

I found this particular comment from one of the blog's readers quite interesting:

"As a Gen Xer I have been slow in coming around to social media. I don't have a Facebook page and for years I have only read blogs. Recently I started my own blog to explore the potential of virtual collaboration. The experience has been liberating. I liked it so much I started a site at work to narrate what I do. The impact has been incredible. People who never would have considered using social media have created their own sites to facilitate collaboration."

So, let's follow suit of the Millennial generation and open up.  Sharing ideas throughout the workplace leads to more innovation, happier customers, and hopefully more business.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Written by:
Meghan Bollenback
Food & Beverage Manager
R. David Thomas Executive Hotel & Conference Center

Monday, August 23, 2010

Intern Models are Coming to IACC!

The Emerging Trends Committee is currently developing two internship models for IACC properties to utilize:  a rotational internship model and a departmental internship model.  In the former, the goal is for the intern to intensive management experience in various conference center departments (F&B, Sales & Marketing, Reservations, Accounting, Conference Services, and more) by spending anywhere from one to three weeks per department.  The latter model is designed for properties that would rather have an intern focus on a specific area and then receive a broader knowledge base regarding other departments.  The models will provide goal tasks that the intern should experience and also list ideas for internship projects, which many college students must complete in order to receive credit for their internship.

These models will not only help IACC properties make themselves more marketable to college hospitality and management students, but will also raise awareness of IACC within the univeristy system.  A key concept in both of these models is to teach the interns what the IACC difference is and how it does make a difference in the effectiveness of groups' meetings. 

In case you are on the fence about whether an intern program at your property is a smart move, here's an article that lists 10 benefits of bringing on interns.  And while most internships take place during the summer, there are many universities that give students the chance to take a full fall or spring semester off to intern.  There are many options out there to make internships work at your property.

Keep checking back for more updates on the models!  The next Emerging Trends call will take place on August 31st.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Meetings Industry Making a Comeback?

There's a good chance that you've already seen this article, even though it was just published yesterday.  However, reading it again will probably make you smile since the article suggests that the meetings industry is bouncing back and is on the rise.  Though the article focuses mostly on major hotel companies like InterContinental and Marriott, the findings provide a positive outlook for conference centers and meeting planning professionals alike.

Are you seeing a similar rise in group business at your properties?  Are you also seeing a rise in transient business?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Here's a teaser for the full video that can be viewed on the VIDEOS page of the association website at

For more information, please contact Jerry White at

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Quality Committee Update

Outstanding service is a vital element of any successful operation. Everyone has experienced a conference where the facilities, surroundings and food were astonishing, but lack of service shattered the overall experience. The Quality Committee held their June meeting on July 1 and hopes to elevate the IACC experience for conferees by greater focus on service. Through the Universal Criteria, the committee already ensures that conference centers users can access facilities and other tools needed to enable the most productive meetings.

Now, we’re beginning the process of developing service recommendations that should assist members who operate high-quality meeting venues to provide their conferee guests with world-class service, too. The next meeting of the Quality Committee is scheduled for July 29.

Written by:
Michael Blackley

Banquet/Conference Center Manager
Hilton Washington DC/Rockville Executive Meeting Center

Friday, July 9, 2010

Green Initiatives from Wyndham

Per a reader's request, here is a post of green initiatives taking place in the conference center industry.  This post focused on Wyndham Worldwide and how they are not only bettering the planet, but also satisfying their clients and guests through their efforts.  We welcome any feedback about other companies' efforts and will continue providing suggestions in the future.


Wyndham Worldwide, was ranked among the top 100 greenest companies and it is part of every hotel's goal in the brand to come up with more green initiatives and implement all those that are mandated company-wide.

Right now, The Wyndham Virginia Crossings Hotel is Green Certified and we are working on a few strong initiatives including buying local food & beverage products in our "buy fresh" program. In addition, we have an internal "Green Committee" comprised of 10% of the employees. They are responsible for leading our team towards green standard maintenance and creatively incorporating new green ideas into our everyday operations.

We find more demand now from meeting planners required to book their events exclusively at Certified Green Properties. In fact, green certification is one of the initial questions we, as sales managers, receive when responding to inquiries from planners.

Please feel free to read more about our Green Initiatives at Wyndham with the links below:

Written by:
Kristen Parr
Sales Manager
Wyndham Virginia Crossings Hotel & Conference Center

Monday, July 5, 2010

JW Marriott, Morton's, and Cisco -- They're Embracing Virtual Meetings. Is Your Property?

If you thought virtual meetings only took place in a boardroom, think again.  I found an article this past week that highlights JW Marriott hotels and Morton's Steakhouses, and discusses how both chains are adapting to a decrease in business travel by embracing virtual meetings. 

The technology that is discussed in this article is not the latest and greatest, yet the idea of implementing it into JW Marriott hotels and Morton's restaurants is new.  Both companies are eager to find ways to help the business travelers they do receive at their properties have a more productive stay.  They want their guests to be able to do more, even if they cannot meet face-to-face with their business partners.

While no prices are quoted for how much it cost to build these "GoThere" meeting suites at the JW Marriott properties, I'm sure it is substantial.  These rooms are very high-tech and outfitted by Cisco, which has built a thousand of similar rooms at its own offices.  Marriott's investment in these rooms shows that they feel virtual meetings will continue to increase at their properties, and they are among the first to give the public this opportunity.

What I would personally love to see is the new Cisco Suite at the JW Marriott Union Square.  According to the article, the suite "recreates an intimate, face-to-face meeting that can link multiple locations.  The room has six large leather chairs arrayed in a semi-circle facing three large screens. Each of those can link to another suite, and the people there appear life size."  The other suites that the room can link to are all over the world at other JW Marriott properties.

The article is called "Hotels, even restaurants, embrace virtual meetings as way to profit from business’ lower appetite for travel," and it was published in the San Francisco Business Times.  I encourage you to read through it, see what these companies are bringing to the table in terms of technology competition, and think about where you want to see your conference center in two or three years from now.  Yes, more and more research shows that meeting face-to-face is more beneficial and productive than virtual meetings, however, data also shows that most companies are still cutting back on business travel. 

Leave feedback as to how your conference center is embracing (or not) virtual meetings, and whether or not you can see this type of technology at your property. 

Also, happy (late) 4th of July!

Written by:
Meghan Bollenback
Food & Beverage Manager
R. David Thomas Executive Hotel & Conference Center

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Statements to Avoid In the Workplace

May and June college graduations have come and gone and a new round of Millennials are looking to join the working world (or some may have already joined).  Since the positions they acquire will most likely be their first "real jobs," it is imperative to show co-workers and bosses that you are serious, willing to work, and are a team player.  There are many stereotypes about the Millennials, including that they are lazy and feel entitled to not work as hard as others.  To combat those stigmas, here is a short list of phrases to avoid using in the workplace.  They are part of a list of 18 statements to avoid in general conversation, recently released by Real Simple magazine.

From Real Simple's "18 Common Phrases to Avoid in Conversation":

"Don’t say: “That’s not my job.”
Why: If your superior asks you to do something, it is your job.
Instead say: “I’m not sure that should be my priority right now.” Then have a conversation with your boss about your responsibilities.

Don’t say: “This might sound stupid, but…”
Why: Never undermine your ideas by prefacing your remarks with wishy-washy language.
Instead say: What’s on your mind. It reinforces your credibility to present your ideas with confidence.

Don’t say: “I don’t have time to talk to you.”
Why: It’s plain rude, in person or on the phone.
Instead say: “I’m just finishing something up right now. Can I come by when I’m done?” Graciously explain why you can’t talk now, and suggest catching up at an appointed time later. Let phone calls go to voice mail until you can give callers your undivided attention."

Do you have any other suggestions to add to the list?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Re-tweet this!

ReTweet this! They may be on Facebook, but they’re not really looking for us…

Meeting venue customers, like just about everyone it seems, have infiltrated social networks fairly heavily, but most of them are not looking for their next venue there. At least not yet.

As part of my MA research project I surveyed nearly 600 meeting venue customers to gauge the extent to which online meeting booking has penetrated the meetings industry. One section of my questionnaire asked respondents of four different generational cohorts to consider their usage of social networks and I think the results should provide pause for thought for venue marketing teams planning and implementing social media strategies.

On average, I found that 69% of respondents operate one or more social networks. 29% of these ‘follow’, or ‘like’ organisations that they have bought from in their personal lives, but only 19% of these use these tools to follow suppliers of theirs from work.

My findings suggest very strongly that social networks are to be considered personal space, and that suppliers are not particularly welcome there. People just don’t seem to want to receive advertising in their personal time in this way. I’m not entirely surprised though, neither do I, if I’m honest.

Of the ‘big three’, Facebook was the most popular amongst the my respondents, with 56% saying they maintained accounts. LinkedIn is used by 36% with Twitter accounts held by 15% of the meeting venue customers surveyed. Other social networks were mentioned occasionally, but none achieved more than 1% penetration.

As might be expected, the highest level of engagement was seen within the youngest cohort, Generation Y, 91% of which operates one social network or more. Although usage of these websites declines as age increases, when it comes to liaising with workplace suppliers, actually, a larger proportion of the so-called ‘Veteran’ generation interact with their business suppliers using social media.

That one did seem unusual, I admit. But perhaps they have only joined these networks recently to see what all the fuss is about. They’re in the unusual position of having less experience of this than their younger colleagues do, so they’re signing up to everything they can to try and absorb as much as possible. Also, fewer of their friends are available to them, so they have more capacity available.

So what are the implications to those of us building a social media strategy? Well, I think they’re pretty clear and quite simple. Work out how your customers want to stay in touch, and make it easy for them (and you) to do so. Some will want emails, some like the telephone, and some like social media, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket and don’t try and force people down a road they don’t want to go down. By all means operate a social network, but don’t be surprised if four out of five people don’t want to join it and don’t dedicate your every waking moment to cultivating it. Take care with LinkedIn too – would you want to share a network of your customers with a network of your competitors, however well you may get on when you meet?

Written by:
James Bland
Group Marketing Manager
The Sundial Group
Highgate House

Creaton, Northants, England

Monday, June 14, 2010

What Goes into Your Recycle Bin?

If your hotel and conference guests are offered a container for recycling their waste, do they know what to recycle? Do you?

Many recycling regulations vary by state, or even by county. Aluminum soda and food cans are readily accepted by recycling facilities practically everywhere, so recycle away! Newspapers, notebook or printer paper, and small cardboard can also be recycled everywhere. Be sure to communicate to your guests the best way to recycle these items, as they are bound to be used during conferences and meeting events.

Some areas define what types of plastic are recyclable by the small numbers printed on the bottom of the containers – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7, with 1 and 2 being the most abundant. Plastic numbered with a 1 is the easiest and most common recycled plastic, as its plastic makes up beverage and medicine bottles and is re-purposed to make winter jackets, comforter fills, and life jackets. Number 2 plastic is usually a thicker material, found in laundry detergent containers and shampoo bottles, and can be recycled to make toys, plastic lumber, and rope. Plastic number 6 is easily made into Styrofoam, packing peanuts, and disposable cutlery.

Other areas forego the number categorization entirely and create new regulations. In Forsyth County, North Carolina, for example, plastic with a “neck,” or any tapering at an end, is recyclable, and the numbers make no difference. Find out what types of plastic can be recycled in your area and mark it clearly on containers located within your establishment. Mostly everywhere, plastic bottle lids are not recyclable and must be discarded, as they are made of a different plastic, so make sure your bins make this clear.
Knowing what should be recycled and what to throw away will be especially helpful for guests visiting your location from out of town.

Written by:
Alison Shermeta-Gentry
Special Events Account Manager
Graylyn International Conference Center

Monday, June 7, 2010

Has Your Property Ever Been Affected by a Natural Disaster?

The oil spill that started off the coast of Louisiana in May is affecting hotels and conference centers all around the Gulf Coast.  The Knowland Group recently conducted a survey (of only 50 Gulf Coast hotels) and found that 42% were experiencing meeting cancellations.  Most cancellations are for the next 6 months, so there may be ways for these properties to maintain their sales and revenue in other ways. 

This is a huge environmental disaster and unfortunately it is not something that can be cleaned up in a matter of months, or possibly even a few years.  It made me wonder if any IACC properties are being affected by the spill, or if any properties have been affected by similar natural disturbances.  Leave a comment about your experiences and any suggestions to help replace the cancelled meetings. 

Monday, May 31, 2010

Do We Live In An Age of Distraction?

On May 9th, President Obama gave the commencement address to graduating seniors at Hampton University.  The main topic of his speech was the importance of using the technology we have available as a means to make ourselves and our world better, rather than just a form of entertainment.  He called our current time an "Age of Distraction" in which cell phones, TVs, laptops, and iPods all demand portions of our time each day. 

This topic is one that greatly affects the conference center and meeting industry.  Faster, better technology is constantly demanded in RFPs, and it will only continue to grow.  As industry professionals, how can we ensure that we provide the technology that is necessary to make meetings smooth, current, and efficient, but also effective?  Is there such a thing as too much technology use in a meeting?

Read through this commentary, "Meetings in the Age of Distraction," and leave comments!

Also, Happy Memorial Day and thank you to all veterans and those currently serving our country! 

Written by:
Meghan Bollenback
Food & Beverage Manager
R. David Thomas Executive Hotel & Conference Center

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Telephone Tips

Seeing as the Emerging Trends Committee has a conference call scheduled for today, I thought this article was quite timely.  The following tips provide some good guidelines for how to hold more effective calls that maximize input from the group and minimize lost time.  Tip 5 caught my eye as there has been so much talk recently on how technology is changing the way we meet.  These are good things to share with clients and co-workers alike.

10 Rules for Effective Conference Calls
Written by David Lavenda

1. Keep statements short and ask for frequent feedback

When many people participate in a call, it is easy for minds to “wander.” Keep your statements short. Ask for feedback frequently. Ask direct questions. Don’t ask, “Are there any questions?” but rather, “Dan, what do you think about this phase of the project plan; are we under-budgeted?”

2. Don’t use slides if you can avoid it

Looking at slides laden with text is really, really boring. You can easily kill a discussion with slides. And worse, you can’t even control what people are looking at – most of them are skipping ahead to see how much pain they will have to endure. The smart ones will clock the amount of time spent on each slide, then extrapolate to calculate how long the torture will last.

3. If you must show slides, don’t send them ahead of time.

Don’t send slides ahead of time. You blow all your ammo before you get your partners on the phone. They will probably have gone through the deck before they get on the line – freeing them up to read email, news, or play Solitaire while you drone on and on.

Even if you don’t send slides ahead of time, try not to subject people to slides via WebEx or GoToMeeting either. Rather, use primary sources of data. For sales calls, show real product demos, for project meetings, show project graphs, high-level financial information, etc. If you must show slides, limit them to just a few and make sure that these rock. Slides aren’t a crutch for not being prepared. Rather, they are an aid.

If participants want the slides, send a set that summarizes the call, after the call. This will serve as a meeting protocol. Even if they don’t look at them right away, it represents a good summary for future reference.

4. Send out an agenda ahead of time and stick to it

Whether a sales call, status meeting, product feedback meeting, support call, etc. – make sure you have an agenda so everyone knows the purpose of the call, approximately how long it will last, and what they are expected to prepare before the call. This reduces anxiety for all. When people dial in to an audio call, they don’t have the visual cues that are present with a face to face meeting – the added clarity of the agenda makes the call go smoother.

5. Use video if possible


Frank, what do you think?

(No answer.)


Is Frank still on the line.

(More silence…)


(Fumbling to unmute his phone)

Oh, sorry, did someone ask me something? I had the phone on mute.

Since you don’t have visual cues on audio calls, people mute their phones and tune out. Then they do really important things, like play video games, carry on parallel conversations, or just sleep. Providing visual cues through video keep participants engaged. Skype and other VOIP services offer video as a basic service – there is no reason not to take advantage of it.

6. Let the participants know if you are recording the call

Some companies record calls for a variety of reasons (to retain summaries, for training purposes, etc.) – if you are on the call with people from other companies, make sure you let them know you are recording the call…and make sure they are okay with this.

7. Start on time


Is Bob on the line?

(No answer.)



(Very long silence.)


Can someone call Bob on his mobile and see why he isn’t dialing in?

If you calculated the amount of time wasted waiting for people on conference call in your company, you would be amazed. 6 people waiting 10 minutes, is 1 hour of productivity in the toilet.

8. Make sure the moderator dials in early


Hello? Anybody else there?

Anybody there?


Yoo hoo?

(All three wait on the phone, listening to the Scorpions’ ‘Still Loving You’ loop over and over, until the moderator joins.)

9. Don’t dial in from a mobile phone

Don’t dial in from a mobile phone or from a land line in a noisy place. If you must call from a mobile phone, make sure you are in a quiet spot, that you have good cell coverage, and that you have a full battery (or a recharger). There is nothing more annoying than background noise on a call. It’s hard enough to concentrate on a clear line, with many people on the line.
10. Set limits on call duration

This is even more important than setting time limits for face-to-face meetings, since the amount of energy lost in a call exceeds that of meetings. The lack of feedback is a huge energy zapper. Limit calls to reasonable lengths so folks know what to expect.

Do you have any additional tips to add to this list?  Or, any funny stories from conference calls gone wrong?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Gen Y Stereotypes

At the Annual Summit in March at Eaglewood Resort & Spa, I attended a workshop entitled "Get Wise With Gen Ys."  It was a great class that centered around the three main generations currently represented in the workforce -- Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y (or Millennials). 

The facilitator went through a series of Powerpoint slides that showcased the major social, technological, and cultural impacts that influenced each group.  Later on, we discussed stereotypes that the generations are associated with.  Stereotypes for Gen Y were that we are lazy, do not react fast enough to problems, and do not seem to show enough emotion or care in the workplace.  Being a member of this generation and knowing my own work ethic, I disagreed.  But, many of the Generation X'ers and Boomers alike continuously mentioned these descriptions, so obviously there must be some truth behind them.

This blog post, "Do We Get Gen 'Why?'",came out on May 20th in the Harvard Business Review and divulged other Generation Y stereotypes.  Please read through and leave some comments as to whether you agree or disagree with the sterotypes presented.  I know that many IACC properties now have Gen Ys working at their properties, and I am curious to hear about how they come across to other generations.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tips for Mentoring Millennials

According to an article in the most recently published Harvard Business Review, “in four years, millennials — the people born between 1977 and 1997 — will account for nearly half the employees in the world.”

Does this make you nervous?  If so, you're not alone.  This change of generations in the workforce will affect many common business practices, one being mentoring.  Typically when one thinks of "mentoring," the thought of an older, wiser professional molding a young protege to be his or her successor comes to mind.  The Business Review's article challenges organizations to break through that old stigma, and to focus on generating more creative ways of mentoring.  The goal?  Making Millennials feel valuable, letting them share their fresh outlooks on their workplace, and providing personal and career development.


The following are the three different types of mentoring suggested in the article:

1. Reverse mentoring -- Let the young employee teach the old dog some new tricks.  Millennials can offer new insight into workplace processes and provide input on how to make things better.

2. Group mentoring -- With a smaller amount of more experienced professionals available (due to the Baby Boomers retiring), this can provide Millennial employees with the mentoring experience they desire in the form of a peer group.  One senior employee can host roundtable discussions or a forum for multiple mentees at once.  To me, this sounds like a great idea since Millennials are very social and like to give and receive feedback from many individuals.

3. Anonymous mentoring -- This is new to me but sounds very interesting.  Matching companies conduct behavioral tests to match Millennial employees with an anonymous mentor outside of their organization.  One benefit of this according to the article it "ensures mentors have an agenda-free interest in the mentee’s professional development."  On the flip side, the younger mentee may be more willing to open up and discuss problems and uncertainties they experience due to the anonymity. 

Do you have any tips about how to mentor Millennials?  Feel free to leave any ideas or comments!

Written by:
Meghan Bollenback
Food & Beverage Manager
R. David Thomas Executive Hotel & Conference Center

Monday, May 10, 2010

Generation-Based Catering

Having worked with multi-generational meeting planners and attendees I have noticed there are distinctive trends in their conference needs;

The Generation “Y” conferees :

• F&B - Healthy protein rich foods are a first priority for this generation. Power bars, fresh fruit and crisp greens keep these conferees satisfied and their mild appetites assist in maintaining a healthy food cost for proprietors. I mean come on they are really still on liquid diets (i.e. red bull, mountain dew, smoothies, starbucks and of course MGD or a good glass of vino)

• Internet & Technology - Internet access is a must! Generation “Y” conferees must have uninterrupted lightening speed access to fulfill their connection needs.

• Conference Start times– When hosting a generation “Y” conference be sure to schedule some conference staff late to host what we call the “Night Owls”. This generation likes to work late until their “juices” get flowing after they’ve rushed back to the center after cocktail hour. They treat set up like college finals and burn the midnight oil to be prepared for the next day’s events.

• Recycling – Meeting planners are extremely concerned with recycling programs for their conference. They require recycling stations conveniently located to their meeting and often request pitchers of water versus bottled.

• New on the forefront-“Edutainment”- Some of my Generation “Y” colleagues are even requiring that “entertainment” learning tools are placed at the break stations and on the tables next to the pens and mints. One meeting requested that we have silly putty on each table so that the participants could expand their thoughts.

The Baby Boomer conferees:

• F&B – Delicious comfort foods with elaborate presentations are often a requirement for this generation. Unlike Generation “Y” this group would be more satisfied with a lunch buffet to include pasta, fried chicken and sweet treats for dessert.

• Internet & Technology – While internet access has recently become a standard demand generally Baby Boomers still only need it at their breaks as 40 percent of them are checking “blackberries”. The other 60 percent are looking for bathrooms and really using the time to person to person connect.

• Conference Start times - This group prefers to have early set up times (and they pay for them) so that any additions or set ups can be correct by 6pm at the latest so that all is right in the world when they set foot on the conference floor at 6am SHARP!!!

• Recycling-While many in this generation started the movement many are still lukewarm to the cause. We see fewer requests for sustainable options. They are good with recycling bins, but there is still cache in having “bottled water” (especially if it’s sparkling) at the meeting sets. This is not to say that they are not excited when the salesperson walks them thru our “green” efforts.

Written by:
Mike Blackley
Banquet/Conference Center Manager
Hilton Washington D.C./Rockville Executive Meeting Center