Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hybrid Meeting Strategies and The Conference Center:

SIGN UP TODAY for Samuel J. Smith’s December 8 Webinar

It isn’t too late to sign up for IACC’s Bright Ideas webinar on hybrid meetings, one of the hottest new trends in meetings and events.

By attending this special IACC webinar, you’ll learn how to add a virtual element to the unparalleled face-to-face experience your conference center already offers.

If you sign up by December 5, you’ll receive an exclusive list of five top best practices in hybrid meeting design, prepared with the assistance of our webinar presenter, Samuel J. Smith.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Study Reveals Insights About Face-to-Face Versus Online Events

(Published in Corporate & Incentive Travel magazine)

On July 18, the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), UBM Studios (a UBM company), and the Virtual Edge Institute (VEI) released a joint report, “Business Motivations and Social Behaviors for In-Person and Online Events.” The report, which surveyed 479 marketing and event professionals, sought to understand how digital technologies can be best used within the framework of a work environment, answered questions regarding in-person and online events including why individuals attend, what business goals are achieved and how participants engage within these environments. Key findings include:

• People are social creatures in-person and online. More than 80 percent of respondents are comfortable/extremely comfortable connecting and networking with strangers regardless of the setting — either physical or virtual.

• People share information via social media. 41 percent of online delegates and 51 percent of physical delegates respectively have tweeted and texted to share event information to their entire network.

• People will pay for virtual events. 25 percent of respondents will pay the same fee as an in-person event, and 74 percent will pay less at an in-person event.

• People are multitaskers. Compared to their online counterparts, in-person participants are nearly as likely to be checking email (81 percent versus 83 percent) or leave a meeting/session for some reason (65 percent versus 68 percent).

• People want accessible content. Respondents seek access to content online or via mobile before, during and after the event.

The full report is available at: http://bit.ly/pmksCr.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

5 Lessons From the TED Conference

There is a great article in CORPORATE MEETINGS AND INCENTIVES well worth reading.

5 Lessons From the TED Conference

Definitely thought provoking.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

11 Take-Aways from IACC 2011

The 30th annual conference for the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC) was held at The National Conference Center this past week. Each year, a chosen conference center hosts the annual IACC conference, we were honored to host the 2011 IACC conference. Here are 11 take-aways from the 2011 IACC Conference:

•Social media makes a large breakthrough – at the IACC conference before, during & after. The twitter hashtag #IACC2011 made its debut in February and gained momentum in the days leading up to the conference. During the first session which featured a web-casted Thought Leaders Panel discussion, tweeps could direct their questions to panelists by tweeting to @IACCthought. Throughout the conference, attendees and non-attendees tweeted about sessions using the hashtag #IACC2011 or tweeting discussion questions to @IACCconfcenters.

•Apps are used to engage attendees – aside from engaging attendees through social media such as LinkedIn questions and Twitter walls and hashtags. IACC members on-site could play SCVNGR, a Google app with challenges. IACC developed their own SCVNGR game where attendees could interact and meet others with challenges, points, and rewards on their smart-phone.

•ARAMARK Executive Chefs know how to impress! – On the opening night, 7 Executive Chefs came together to create the IACC Road Trip: A Taste of ARAMARK. The National Tour showcased items specific to regions around the United States including West Coast, Pacific Northwest, Southwest, New England, Deep South, Bayou, and Chesapeake Bay. Pictured above is Executive Chef Rannae Hamlet’s Smoked Canadian Salmon and Idaho Trout with Smoke Bacon Foam, Fresh Dill, over Quail Egg.

•5 Stages of Meetings – From the Thought Leaders Panel discussion,the panelists discussed 5 Stages of Meetings. Attract, Entering, Engaging, Exiting, and Extending all which make up the 5 key concepts conference centers should know in creating compelling meeting experiences for clients.

•IACC Copper Skillet Judges awards U.K. Executive Chef - In an intense competition, IACC Executive Chefs from around the world competed for the title of “2011 Chef of The Year.” With 15 minutes to review their ingredients, 5 minutes to brainstorm, and 30 minutes to cook, the 7 Executive Chefs raced to create the best dish and become the 2011 IACC Chef of the Year. Executive Chef Jamian Lewish of the Devenport House in the U.K. was awarded this year’s title.

•A Universal Conference Center Goal - as best stated by Joan Einsenstodt, a 30 year veteran of the meetings industry, a portion of meeting planners and event professionals aren’t aware of the benefits a conference center; they may mistake a conference center as a hotel with meeting space. However it shall be every conference center and meeting planner’s goal in 2011 and beyond to explain the conference center value and the 32 universal criteria of IACC.

•Join the #eventprofs community on Twitter – coupled with Joan Eisenstodt’s statement about educating on conference centers, joining the #eventprofs on Twitter is another strong suggestion from Joan. As discussed during the “Joan Eisenstodt Show” with Camille Paluscio from VW and Bill Reed from Experient at the IACC conference,by joining in the #eventprofs conversation, you’ll increase the ROI of your conference center. ROI is not only defined as reducing costs – “It’s the value delivered. If that means understanding the product better such as a conference center, then that’s also the ROI [with using social media].”

•Technology and Room Set-Up Play Key Roles – Design of a room can be the biggest factor in the success of a meeting. Meeting projectors should be set in the left corner of a room, with the speaker presenting in the middle and the entrance/exit at the back of the room. Distraction-free meetings that are appealing to the eye and the mind.

•Apps will make a breakthrough – Apps in the hospitality industry are becoming increasingly popular. As hotels develop their own apps as a channel of customer service, those who seek real-time information on their smart phones are early adapters of this technology trend. Conference centers should be next to pick up on the trend with property information, shuttles times, meeting agenda, and more.

•Food is where the mind is – Andrea Sullivan of BrainStrength discusses her compelling research on how food affects the mind by enhancing mood, performance, and learning. Attendees created their own meeting menus for successful learning and discovered what works best for meetings and what should be avoided. For instance, honey helps memory and garlic and ginger create clarity. Andrea recommends using all three!

•Award Wrap-Up – The following awards were given during Thursday night’s evening reception. The Pyramid Award Winner was Melissa Fromento, Group Publisher of MeetingsNet, Award of Excellence was given to Robert Sanders of Hospitality Resource Group, Conference Center Industry Award 2011 awarded to Leah Bernick from George Washington University, Doris Sklar Award to EJ Lee, and last, congratulations to Joan Eisenstodt of Eisenstodt Associates who received the Mel Hosansky Award – the highest honor in IACC.

What was your favorite session from IACC 2011? If you didn’t attend this year, we hope to see you in 2012!

Article and photos reposted with permission from the National Conference Center's blog post "11 Take-Aways from IACC 2011."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Harvard Study Shows Face-To-Face Meeting Value, Rising Virtual Interest

by Jay Boehmer in Successful Meetings magazine.

"A Harvard Business Review study of 2,300 business leaders in the United States, Europe and Asia released last month confirmed that face-to-face meetings remain essential to doing business and are preferred by executives over remote alternatives for many business interactions. Despite those sentiments, however, a couple of recent studies show companies increasingly making use of remote conferencing technologies and other communications tools."


What do you think?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


by Timothy Schneider, Publisher, Association News

Los Angeles, CA
– February 2011 – The good news revealed by Meeting
Professionals International’s annual FutureWatch study for 2011 includes the findings that the number of meetings, meeting attendance and overall spending on meetings will all increase in the coming year. According to the study of 459 MPI members, the overall number of meetings planned in 2011 will increase by 8 percent and the average amount spent on those meetings will increase a healthy 5 percent. The study, which surveys both meeting planners and industry suppliers, also revealed that the role of business meetings will continue to face tough scrutiny.

Being There

by Susan Adams, Forbes

Companies are spending billions on sophisticated teleconferencing systems, but
it still pays to meet in the flesh.

Sitting in a top-of-the-line $600,000 Polycom teleconferencing room feels a
little like watching the movie Toy Story. The guy you're talking to looks
impressive as he walks, life-size, across the room, projected in high definition
on the giant screens that cover the wall across from your conference table. The
vase of red flowers on the table appears so lifelike it almost seems to levitate
off the screen. But then you realize this isn't real life. It's a virtual
approximation.  READ THE ARTICLE

Monday, February 28, 2011

How NCC and IACC are Incorporating CSR into the 2011 Annual Conference

“Rev It Up” at this year’s annual IACC conference. After the meetings industry experienced a hard hit with the economy, conference centers will get ready to “Rev it Up” for expected business growth in 2011. To emphasize the theme of the annual conference, The National Conference Center has purchased an Linhai Electric 500 scooter, valued at $1765. Eco-friendly on the environment and theme appropriate, this electric scooter will be raffled off on the March 25th. This year IACC has adopted the Habitat for Humanity chapter in Loudoun County as the CSR project. March 23-25th attendees at the IACC annual conference can purchase raffle tickets to enter into the scooter drawing and all the proceeds will benefit the Loudoun Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity is based on Christian principles and provides adequate housing for its citizens in need. Every dollar the chapter receives enables them to help eliminate poverty housing within the county. The National Conference Center will ship the scooter to the lucky raffle winner. Play to win at the 2011 IACC Conference and help poverty-stricken citizens.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

BrainStrength at a 2011 IACC Session You Won't Want to Miss

If you’re a meeting or event planner and have an interest in food and meetings, this is an event you won’t want to miss! In our previous post, “Food for Thought: A Conference Center’s Corporate Social Responsibility” we discussed the responsibilities of providing brain enriched foods to meeting attendees. Customized menu options have always been a high ranking priority in the meetings industry. However, more than ever as venues offer sustainable options and farm-to-table dishes, the appeal of “brain food” has become increasingly popular.

The word is out for this year’s IACC Annual Conference. All meeting planners and event professionals are invited to a “Meeting & Eating” session, where Andrea Sullivan a well-known organizational psychologist who studies the brain will discuss menu choices for enhancing mood, learning and performance in meetings. Through her company BrainStrength Systems, Andrea Sullivan works with corporations and organizations alike to assist in menus for training and learning designs.

What will the session include?

• Admittance to the Brain Food Keynote Speech with Andrea Sullivan as she explains basic brain chemistry, how food create certain emotional states, timing of food offerings, foods that improve learning, memory, performance and enhance your mood as well as a wrap-up special activity.

• You’ll have full access to the Industry Roundtable where experts in the industry will discuss the hot topics in Food for Thought.

• Tickets also include lunch with specially prepared entrees for your own brain and seats at the 2011 Copper Skillet Competition, where Executive Chefs from conference centers around the world will compete for the international title.

• "Taste of IACC" event where you can treat yourself to dishes suggested by the competing chefs of the IACC Copper Skillet Competition

• Gifts included in a special raffle and send-off goodies

• Earn (3) Continuing Education Credits by attending

The event will be Thursday, March 24, 2011 10:00 am – 3:00 pm at The National Conference Center in Leesburg, Virginia (40 minutes from Washington D.C. and 10 minutes from Dulles International Airport). Interested in tickets? Register today as tickets are limited and going fast!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Learning Delivery 2011: Classroom Is Still King

Interesting article in Chief Learning Officer magazine by Mike Prokopeak — mikep@clomedia.com

Despite the continued growth of e-learning and newer technology-driven delivery methods, classroom learning remains resilient and dominant, especially for developing soft skills. But the other methods are gaining in influence. Read about it as part of our special coverage on learning delivery this month.  To view the entire article, go to http://clomedia.com/articles/view/4078

What do you think?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Food for Thought: A Conference Center’s Corporate Social Responsibility

Most conference attendees and meeting goers may not recognize healthy food options as part of a company’s corporate social responsibility. Hospitality leaders such as The National Conference Center participate in “Food for Thought,” a program in which meal and snack options are given a hard consideration before serving. Similar to starting your day with a balanced breakfast, certain foods are believed to help your brain absorb the most information – making the most productive meeting possible.


What are Food for Thought items?

• Fruits, vegetables, and snacks that are known for increasing blood flow, cognitive memory, and alertness – also known as a healthy afternoon boost and a meeting planner’s dream.

How is Food for Thought done?

• By sourcing the best products from local vendors, conference centers can ensure they’re receiving foods with the most nutritional value.

• Once you receive the product, it’s about how you treat the product, if you’re taking care of it, and how you’re storing it.

• If the item requires further preparation, cooking for shorter periods of time allows the vegetable or fruit to maintain the most nutrients possible.

What results do guests see?

• Prior to the program, guests felt afternoon fatigue and sleepy during their meetings. Now with food for thought, guests maintain a mid to high energy level based on the lunch meals and break station snack options.

To learn more about food for thought, The National Conference Center’s Executive Chef Craig Mason shares food for thought tips, recipes, and more on the Conference Center Blog.

Written By:
Sarah Vining
Marketing Assistant
The National Conference Center

Monday, January 24, 2011

I’m Being Audited – so now what?!?!

IACC by-laws state that all active member facilities are to be reviewed and audited at least once every four years to determine their level of compliance with the Universal Criteria. IACC Audits are not just a one-sided test-results process provided by the auditors. Ok… so I’m being audited, now what?!
The first questions to many managers new to the audit process are a) what exactly is the audit? B) how does this work? It is quite simple: 
  • Compliance Audits are evaluations that IACC requires to ensure continuous conformity for members.
  • Locations are to be divided into four evaluation groups and one group will be evaluated per year. IACC notifies members in January with an intro letter which will include all pre-audit paperwork.
  • The audit provider will make contact with each member to collect location information as well as explain to you the audit process and what will be expected of you and your staff during the audit.
  • Each audit will take approximately 3-4 hours. A “home base” work area will need to be provided for each auditor.
  • Each auditor is trained to accommodate the property as much as possible, and work around groups as needed. So putting off the audit for a “less busy” time is not needed.
  • Each auditor has a list of questions they need to complete as well as do facility testing.
  • Auditor recap and that is it!

Sounds simple! Ok, so what exactly is expected of you?! In order to ensure that everyone is on board with the understanding that this is a partnership, many things will need to come into play in order to have a successful and smooth audit. Below is a summary of what is to be expected of each manager:

  • Setting aside a 3-4 hour window to be of assistance to the auditor while they are onsite. This includes making sure their “home base” area is adequate, pre-audit questions are answered and your availability is not an issue when it comes time to site inspections and tests.
  • All pre-audit paperwork that has been supplied to you prior is filled out in its entirety and ready to be given to the auditor upon request at the start of the audit.
  • Each manager is required to participate in light and sound measurements as well as taking of pictures in three dedicated conference rooms.
  • The auditor will need some time to prior to and following the debriefing to complete the on-line portion of the survey. It is requested that you stay within the facility and be available for additional questions should they arise.
  • Final recap: (almost done!) You will meet with the audit at the end of the process to discuss any unanswered questions, any question marked as NO and to receive any final location manager comments.
  • The results will be available to the property however, the auditor is not permitted to discuss “passed” or “failed” audits with you.

The intent of this blog is ensure that members are prepared for their audits with the realization that the process is a partnership to ensure full member compliance across all conference centers. Congratulations! You just successfully completed your IACC Audit!

IACC Audits

IACC by-laws state the all active member facilities are to be reviewed and audited at least once every four years to determine their level of compliance with the Universal Criteria. BARE Associates International has been designated as the provider of audit services for IACC to ensure continuous compliance for members. In order for members to be better informed about the reasons and expectations for the audits, BARE has assembled a pre-audit power point for member review. The intent of this document is to ensure that members are prepared for their audits with the realization that the process is a partnership to ensure full member compliance across all conference centers. This document will be sent along with the confirmation of the scheduled audits to help members re-fresh their memory of the process and ensure swift completion.




Monday, January 10, 2011


...and the winner is...Jason Weaver, Executive Chef, La Torretta Resort & Conference Center.  Check out the blog entry of a Columbus, Ohio native


Congratualtions Chef Jason!

Friday, January 7, 2011

11 Food Trends for 2011

Looking for some new ideas to freshen up your food and beverage offerings?  Read through the following trends that can help you make a lasting impact on your conference center guests.


1. Local Meats, Eggs, and Seafood-- More and more consumers want to know where their meats, eggs, and seafood choices come from, and they even want the opportunity to visit those farms.  Local food benefits the community, the diners, and also the business.  Make it part of your property's CSR strategy and contract with local farmers to get the freshest products available.

2. Half Portions -- Offering half-portions of salads, sandwiches, and entrees can be a great win-win for both diners and businesses.  Some pros of this strategy include diners eating more reasonably-sized meals (can help lead to healthier weights) and less food goes to waste.  A creative marketing blitz showcasing smaller portions could lead to great business.

3.  Mini Desserts -- I personally have received many requests for mini desserts and cookies at various events and receptions.  It seems that guests would rather have a little sample of multiple types of desserts rather than a bigger portion of one type of sweet.

4. Great Grains -- Break out of the basmati and brown rice mindsets and provide more varied grains as side items.  Quinoa, Asian noodles (such as soba or rice noodles), and farro are all interesting and healthy items that can catch diners' eyes.

5.  Food Truck and "Street Food" Appetizers -- By this, I mean more casual and ethnic-themed appetizer options.  What do you see offerred on the streets of NYC?  Falafel, kabobs, tacos, Korean barbecue.  Food truck popularity has also risen magnanimously in the past year.  Use the energy behind that trend and try to incorporate classic food truck or street food appetizers into your menus.

6.  Superfoods -- Acai, blueberries, and goji berries have all been labeled "superfoods" or "superfruits" in the past.  Diners like seeing them because they offer an immediate association with health, vitality, and vitamins. 

7.  Local, Artisinal Cheeses -- Check out your local farmers market to see what specialties small farms have.  You may discover some fabulous goat cheeses (even a goat gouda!), and can then sell a locally-sourced cheese plate as an appetizer.

8.  Creative Vegetarian/Vegan Entrees -- Grilled portabello mushrooms get boring after awhile.  Try to surprise and elate vegetarians (or those that just wish to eat less meat) by offering unique vegetarian and/or vegan entree options.  There are many amazing cookbooks available that may be useful to chefs with limited experience in these realms, such as Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan

9.  Nutiritous Options for Children -- Startling research about childhood obesity and Mrs. Obama's campaign to combat the disease will continue to affect food and beverage operations nationwide in 2011.  Make sure to stay on top of this trend by offering whole grains, fruits and vegetables as side items for children's meals.  Also, think about offering special salad entrees for children. 

10. Beer and Food Pairings -- If you already offer wine-and-food pairing dinners a few times a year, think about supplementing with beer-and-food pairings.  The market for craft beers has exploded in the past couple years, so you have a good chance of finding a local brand of beers to provide alongside locally sourced dishes.  There's even an iPhone app to help you Find Craft Beer!

11.  Gluten-Free Options -- Providing a gluten-free menu or a list of meal choices that are conscious of food allergies will impress and relieve guests that worry about what to eat when they go to conferences.  Celiac disease affects more than 3 million Americans (1 out of 133 people), meaning you will probably have guests with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivities stay at your property.  Even Subway is testing two gluten-free products at some restaurants.

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

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, New Trends

Here is a list of trends that will carryover into the meetings industry for the new year as listed by PRWeb.  This list came out in September, but I think all of these categories will definitely be significant in 2011.  After each category title, I included a brief explanation but refer to the original article for more insight.

1. Customizable Mobile Apps - Mobile apps will continue to grow in importance to the meetings world in that they make the lives of event organizers and attendees easier.  Some apps serve as a mobile checkpoint for attendees needing to learn the newest updates on their meetings.  Other apps encourage participation during meetings by involving audiences in presentations. 

2.  Hybrid Meetings - The mixing of virtual and live meetings will continue to grow this year as this trend tends to lead to cost savings.  The best way to adapt to this trend?  Learn how face-to-face meetings can be enhanced through digital means and how it benefits your customers.

3.  Comprehensive "Green" Meetings - This means that multiple or all aspects of the meeting planning and execution are eco-conscious.  This includes everything from the type of travel to and from airports to the type of notepads used in the conference room.

4.  Social Media Interaction - Interaction of meeting participants will grow through social media outlets (such as through Twitter streams during conferences or Facebook pages created for special events). Social media will also help planners, clients, and customers communicate faster and more effectively.

5.  Corporate Social Responsibility - This is the "Grandaddy" of the above trends.  How do you use your company's resources to better your community, the environment, and the lives of your stakeholders (including your employees, customers, and clients)?  More teambuilding projects with a CSR focus may be seen in 2011, such as having a volunteer outing during one day of a conference.

6.  Luxury Meetings Return - Do you agree or disagree with this trend?  I think the industry will see an increase on spending in 2011, but am not certain that resort-type destinations will see much benefit of that.  I do believe that more money will be spent on certain "luxuries" that have been absent at many meetings during the past couple of years (such as VIP amenities).

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