Tips for Making Hospitality Industry Trade Shows More Impactful

diary-page-1240501-639x506As meeting planning professionals, we need to have a good return on our investment (ROI) when we attend a hospitality industry trade show. Our objectives are simple.

  • Meet with the suppliers of currently sourced programs
  • Meet new destinations/venues for future events
  • Network to grow contact base
  • Attend educational sessions that will enable us to grow as professionals (a solid education format attracts the best attendance)

Choices of Current Tradeshow Formats:

  1. Traditional – a supplier sets up a booth and works to attract customers to visit them.
  2. Appointments (within the traditional tradeshow) – a supplier sets up a booth and works to attract customers to visit them. They add a new twist, by making appointments with key customers (asking them to stop by at a specific time).
  3. Reverse tradeshow – with this vehicle, it is the reverse of the traditional show. The customer sets up the booth and the supplier visits the customers they are interested in doing business with. .
  4. Hosted Buyer – a vehicle that brings qualified meeting buyers and sellers together with a high likelihood to book real business with each other through pre-arranged face-to-face meetings at the show. The meeting planners are sponsored which enables more qualified planners to attend.
  5. Combination of a few of the above

For me, the best ROI has been the trade shows with set appointments whether attending on my own or as a hosted buyer. To ensure the best ROI, I prefer trade shows that enable the following:

  1. Appointments
  1. Open time to explore
  1. Networking
  1. Education / Training

What do you prefer?

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5 Reasons for Meeting Planners to Work With CVB’s and DMO’s

business-meeting-1239197-640x480As an independent meeting planner, I always involve the applicable Convention & Visitor Bureaus (CVB’s) or Destination Management Organization’s (DMO’s) in the RFP process. They can be true partners in the process of selecting the right destination and/or venue when planning and during the operating of an event.The following are 5 reasons why you should consider partnering with CVB’s/DMO’s:

1. Destination experts – they are the experts on their destination and can provide you with all the information needed to make an educated choice. Their knowledge and personal guidance will give you a true understanding of their destination.

2. Collaboration with the planning and operating of your event – they have the tools, resources and expertise to help in the following areas:

a. Lodging options- provide you with a summary of options/costsb. Air access
c. Convention Center
d. Entertainment, dining and attractions
e. Off-site events venues
f. Transportation
g. Site inspections
h. Pre-promotion
i. Speakers
j. Content development
k. Grow attendance
l. Volunteer support staff

3. Financial Support – the destination may be able to offer financial support through one or more of the following:

a. Incentives or subsidies
b. Marketing/Media support to boost attendancec. Help securing sponsorships
d. Local company involvement

i. Sharing with the local community (restaurants and retail) what groups are in town and getting them to offer discounts to attendees.

e. Partnerships with

i. Colleges and Universities
ii. Economic Development Councils

4. The success of the event is a mutual goal– both the organization and the destination have a common goal – driving attendance. Good attendance + a good experience for the attendees = a successful program for the organization, the attendees and the destination.

a. Organization- achieves the objectives for their event
b. Attendees- will feel good about their investment of time and money to attend the event
c. Destination- the group and/or attendees will come back

5. Community Involvement

a. Community service/volunteer opportunities

Let’s work together with our partners to ensure a successful event. I hope these reasons help you decide to work with our CVB and DMO partners.

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Meeting and Event Planners: Industry and Professional Associations

speakingAs meeting and event professionals, one of our goals for the upcoming year should be to get more involved in our industry. I came across this list of industry and professional associations that were shared in a recent publication. This list provides easy access to all the key organizations we should consider being involved with:

American Hotel & Lodging Association
1250 I Street, NW, Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20005

ASAE The Center For Association Leadership
1575 I Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005

Association of Collegiate Conference and Events Directors- International
2900 S. College Avenue, Suite 3B
Fort Collins, CO 80525

Association of Corporate Travel Executives
510 King Street, Suite 220
Alexandria, VA 22314

Association of Destination Management Executives International
P. O Box 2307
Dayton, OH 45402

Center For Exhibition Industry Research
12700 Park Central Drive
Suite 308
Dallas, TX 75251

Convention Industry Council
700 N. Fairfax Street
Suite 510
Alexandria, VA 22314

Destination Marketing Association International
2025 M Street, N.W.
Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036

Event Service Professionals Association
191 Clarksville Rd.
Princeton Junction, NJ 08550

Exhibit & Event Marketers Association
2214 N.W. 5th St.
Bend, OR 97701

Financial & Insurance Conference Planners
330 N. Wabash Ave.
Suite 2000
Chicago, IL 60611

Global Business Travel Association
123 North Pitt St.
Alexandria, VA 22314

Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International
7918 Jones Branch Dr
Suite 300
McLean, VA 22102

International Association of Conference Centres
35 East Wacker Dr.
Suite 850
Chicago, IL 60601-2106

International Association of Exhibitions and Events
12700 Park Central Dr
Suite 308
Dallas, TX 75251

International Center for Exhibitor and Event Marketing
12700 Park Central Dr
Suite 308
Dallas, TX 75251

International Congress and Convention Association
North America Office, Box 6833

International Facility Management Association
800 Gessner Rd.
Suite 900
Houston, TX 77024-4257

International Special Events Society
330 N. Wabash Ave.
Suite 2000
Chicago, IL 60611-4267

Meeting Professionals International
3030 LBJ Freeway
Suite 1700
Dallas, TX 75234-2759

National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners
700 N. Fairfax St.
Alexandria, VA 22314

Professional Convention Management Association
35 East Wacker Dr.
Suite 500
Chicago, IL 60601

Religious Conference Management Association
7702 Woodland Dr.
Suite 120
Indianapolis, IN 46278

330 North Wabash Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611

Society of Government Meeting Professionals
908 King St.
Suite 200
Alexandria, VA 22314

Society of Independent Show Organizers
2601 Ocean Park Blvd.
Suite 200
Santa Monica, CA 90405

U.S. Travel Association
1100 New York Ave. N.W.
Suite 450
Washington, DC 20005
I hope this information helps you check off at least one of your goals for the upcoming year!

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10 Ways to Improve Your Next Meeting or Event

EvaluateSiteInspections_ccMany of us attend meetings, events and trade shows multiple times each year. For those of us that host these meetings and events, we are continuously searching for ways to engage participants and improve the overall experience for our attendees. We strive to exceed their expectations in one or more of these categories:

  • Motivation
  • Training and Education
  • Networking
  • Trade show interaction to improve product or service knowledge
  • Overall value of time spent

How can we achieve these objectives? How can we create a more sensory and interactive experience that someone will tell his or her colleagues about?

The following are some areas to focus on that could help improve your next meeting or event:

  1. Destination: Select a destination that supports the theme of the event.
    Hotel: Select a property with the environment needed for a productive event.
  2. Pre-communication: Create pre-event engagement prior to the event using an event website, social media, mobile apps, video, email, text messaging, etc.
  3. Agenda: You do not need to fill every minute. Leave time for networking and exercise.
    – Change times of events – plan activities when people are at their best.
    – Late afternoon is not a good time for presentations…for these sessions you need to be more
    interactive to keep attention and create a positive learning experience.
  4. Meeting room sets: Try different sets to create a more engaging environment.
  5. Education: Tracks targeted to specific attendees.
  6. Shorter, targeted sessions/presentations: Consider formats like the TED Talks with short, single topic messages. Bring in experts from the field. Also, video is more compelling than a page of text.
  7. Appointments within a trade show or reception: The concept of speed networking helps attendees meet and engage with more people. You should consider holding this at the beginning of the event.
  8. Use the technology that engages your membership:
    Mobile apps
    Advanced Display Technology (3D imaging devices, visual effects)
  9.  Survey your attendees with mobile audience polling devices before, during and after with their expectations.
  10.  Post-communication: Continue the dialog that started before the conference and was reinforced during the conference through webinars, seminars and social media (Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook)

When attendees leave their family and friends to attend our event, we want to make sure there is a return for the amount of time and money invested.

We hope some of the tips presented will help you create a more dynamic meeting or event.

Do you have other suggestions to share?

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Meeting Planning at Month End, Quarter End, Year End

After nearly 20 years on the hotel side of the hospitality industry, I have enjoyed the last 8 years as an independent meeting planner.

The one part of meeting and event planning that I do not enjoy is the rush to sign contracts at month end, quarter end and year end. As a former hotelier, I understand the goals the salesperson, hotel and company need to achieve. However, we have been doing business the same way for years and I keep thinking that there has to be a better way.

Let me share with you one example. Recently, I had to track down a CEO while he was traveling in order to get the contract signed by the 30th. If he did not sign, it was made very clear by the hotel that he would lose his dates. He was going to be back in his office the next day and was willing to put in writing that he would sign the contract, as is, first thing upon his return to the office. The hotel confirmed that this option would not work. Since he was staying at a corporate apartment, he had to go to the hotel next door and ask the General Manager to help him print and scan the contract back to the hotel (a hotel that was not part of his brand by the way). Really…is this the best way for our industry to operate?

There has to be a better way and my top three thoughts for reducing stress and improving this process are:

  1. Hotels and planners work together to establish a realistic timeframe with due dates for both parties (factoring in the site inspection, Board Meeting, travel schedules, etc.).
  2. Set the middle of the month (15th) as the due date so if it spills over a day or two, both parties will still be fine in meeting end of month deadlines.
  3. Implement the same technology the real estate industry has adopted so we can transact business via electronic signatures (i.e. DocuSign).

What suggestions to you have to improve the signing of contracts at month end, quarter end and year end?



Creating Extraordinary Meetings and Events Through Magic Moments

image“Life is about moments; don’t wait for them, create them.” Anthony Robbins

We all want to create meetings and events that our attendees are excited to attend and rave about afterwards. Recently, I have been reading some of Tony Robbins (motivational speaker, personal finance instructor, life coach and self-help author) articles. He has one about creating an extraordinary life which got me thinking about creating extraordinary meetings.

I believe we can create meetings that are extraordinary by creating moments within the event that will make the overall experience memorable. How do we create one or more moments throughout the conference when people say ‘WOW’! My top ideas on how to accomplish this are:

  • Location: pick a unique destination/venue that will inspire attendees
  • Event schedule: get creative…do not do the same schedule as the last event. Also, mix it up from day to day
  • Speaker: bring in an energetic speaker with a message tied to your theme
  • Networking: build plenty of time in for quality interaction with each other
  • Meeting sets: try new sets that will promote the atmosphere desired
  • Technology: engage with the tools that enhance your message and goal
  • Energy: create and maintain a high energy event through the sessions, healthy meals and breaks
  • Takeaways: make sure the attendees leave with lessons or tools that they can implement immediately
  • Community service: tie in a meaningful event that your attendees can choose to participate in pre or post event

As meeting and event planners, let’s strive to create extraordinary experiences at our conferences.

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Hospitality Industry Professionals: Creating a Fear Of Missing Out

FOMO- (1)Thanks to a recent trip with a group of young professionals in the hospitality industry, I have learned a new acronym, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). The fear of missing out is discussed mostly among the younger generations. However, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we all suffer from this fear. We are all afraid of missing out on the party, dinner, game, concert and the fun that everyone will enjoy. In today’s world of social media… we are often reminded instantly that we are missing out.

What does this have to do with the meeting and event planning industry? Imagine if you could create FOMO for every one of the events you plan. Imagine if you had people lining up to attend your events because they did not want to miss out. Imagine if they were telling others and creating a buzz that ‘you have to be at this event’. It can be accomplished because the fear of missing out already exists; we just need to create the experience at our meeting or event that will engage this feeling.

My top five thoughts for creating FOMO are:

1. Establish an overall theme with great content and eye catching graphics to support it
2. Create more than a meeting…create an experience
3. Bring in excellent speakers that support the theme
4. Hold your meeting in a location and setting that supports the theme
5. Use social media (including pictures and videos) to generate excitement before, during and after the event.

Are you creating meeting and events that people are afraid of missing?

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Mergers, Acquisitions and Meeting Planning: Handling Changes

calendarIf you are a corporate meeting planner or a meeting management company that works with corporate customers, you know that outside influences can impact your calendar of events.

A few of my corporate customers have been going through mergers and acquisitions. With these reorganizations, comes the need to change the dates of some events, combine meetings or in the worst case scenario cancel a program completely. These adjustments do cause extra work and additional stress on the meeting planning department.

The keys to handling the changes to the meetings and events calendar are:

  • Communicate quickly and clearly with all parties involved
  • Present all of the facts in a concise manner
  • Offer solutions with the goal of reaching an outcome that works for all parties involved
  • Be Transparent – honest and ethical negotiations are the best way to meet all parties needs

Change is a constant! We need to be ready to do our part to support our organizations and customers when there is a change to their meetings and events schedule to match the overall goal of the organization. It will not be easy, and it certainly will make our jobs interesting. Do you have any additional thoughts to share with your fellow planners regarding mergers, acquisitions and meeting planning?

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How Important are Relationships in the Hospitality Industry?

surfersI have attended several events this year and each presenter has highlighted the value of relationships to your overall success. This is especially true in the hospitality industry as we all need to work together to achieve a common goal…a successful meeting or event.

Last month, I brought my team of independent meeting planners together to kick off the new year. We brought in entrepreneur, speaker and author, Sue Cooper, for our final session. She is the author of the Millionaire In Flip Flops and the owner of Lazy Dog Adventures in Key West, FL. On a side note, I highly recommend you considering her as she was an excellent speaker. One of the key points of her message was on how the relationships we create are critical to our success (both professionally and personally).

Sue shared her message through a series of stories that demonstrated how the relationships she had formed throughout her life have benefited her. They helped her in sports, getting her first job, earning promotions to starting and successfully running several businesses. My two biggest takeaways from her message on how to improve our relationships were:

  • Be authentic
  • Be vulnerable- the more human, the better the relationships

I challenge you this week to get out and focus on relationships with family, friends, co-workers, customers and industry partners. I am confident that strengthening existing relationships and creating new ones will contribute to a successful year!



10 Items That Should Be On Every Meeting Planner’s Checklist

Champagne glasses

I am writing to my fellow meeting planning professionals from the desk in my hotel room while on-site with one of my groups. This client was canceled by the originally contracted hotel and forced to find another location only eleven (11) months prior to their event. As I sit here, I am reminded of the original contract and the protections it provided or the circumstances could have been even worse (trust me, I have made dramatic changes going forward as we did still have to move the program).

This information is not intended to offer any legal advice, only to share with you some of the items that are on my checklist when I am reviewing hotel contracts. This also assumes that you have the dates and meeting space and are now reviewing the points of negotiation within the agreement.

The list of all items is much longer, but the following are my ‘Top 10 Checklist Items’:

1. Room rates

a. Available pre- and post-convention dates
b. Spread between single, double, triple and quad
c. Reduced rate for staff
d. No lower rate clause

2. Concessions

a. Complimentary items- i.e. rooms, amenities, transfers, etc.
b. Upgrades

3. Cut-off Date

a. Number of days (14 is the preference)
b. Name changes allowed after cut-off
c. Group rates available after cut-off

4. Wi-Fi

a. Guest rooms
b. Meeting space

5. Attrition

a. Audit – rooms captured are credited to block regardless of room rate or reservation method
b. Resell rooms – credit for the rooms that are resold

6. Cancellation – it is best to include examples.

a. Liquidated damages- based on profit
b. Rebook
c. Resell rooms
d. Change of owner, brand, management company/Hotel Condition
e. Renovation/Remodeling

Based on my experience, address what will happen if the hotel cancels the event.

7. F&B Pricing

a. Lock into pricing so you can establish a budget
b. Ability to customize menus to fit needs and budget

8. F&B Minimums

a. Fair and based on client program and history

9. Deposits

a. Due dates
b. Amounts that are fair and reasonable

10. Service Fees – Most are not negotiable, however, administrative and other added fees can be addressed:

a. Miscellaneous fees – group not liable for any additional charges after contract execution
b. Right to bring in own equipment at no extra charge

Our story is ending well as the host hotel is doing a great job and our client is very happy (they are talking about bringing their future programs here versus the original hotel).

I hope the ‘Top 10’ list I have shared will help you with your next contract review. What are your top 10 items?

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