Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Energy Efficiency for the Holidays and Beyond…

During the holidays, our energy consumption usually increases significantly as we add lighting to our homes, offices, and businesses. Thankfully, there are ways to be energy efficient and protect the environment during the busy holiday season (as well as during the rest of the year).

For inside or outside holiday lighting, you can buy Light Emitting Diode (LED) just about anywhere. They are energy efficient, more cost effective, reduce fire risk, and are long lasting. According to PG&E, LED lights reduce energy consumption by as much as 90% compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. Over time, this can save consumers a substantial amount of money. In addition, you’re making a conscious choice for the environment and collectively to the planet.

By now, most people know they can save energy and money by replacing their Compact Florescent Lights (CFLs) and incandescent bulbs with LEDs. CFLs are a temporary solution to energy efficient lighting. Where can you get rid of CFLs and incandescent lights? You don’t have to throw them away, which is harmful to the environment. CFLs contain a small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing and should be disposed of properly to avoid contaminating the environment.

To recycle CFLs and incandescent bulbs, you can mail your lights to a recycling program such as this one:

Attn: Recycling Program
118 Rosehill Dr., Suite 1
Jackson, MI 49202

You can also take them into a local Home Depot, which is the first major retailer to offer free collecting/recycling program for CFLs. To learn more about Home Depot’s Eco Options, please visit this site.

[Incidentally, if you should have a CFL break in your work or home, here is a handy two-page document, courtesy of the EPA, that will help you know what to do.]

Contact your local city, county, or solid waste agency to find more options about recycling. You can also visit or Where You Live at

“Change a light, Change the world.” Energy Star

- Tess Conrad • Meeting Planner

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ten Things You Can Do to Make Your Office Greener (continued)

Last week, I listed the first five of the ten ideas from staff to reduce our impact on the environment and help make the workplace a bit greener. This week, I present to you the final five, thus rounding out our list of ten ideas. And, as a bonus, I have added a special tip for anyone traveling to a destination in California. The bonus tip (with link) is included at the end so, without further ado, on with the list…

#6. Don’t print emails unless absolutely necessary. How many times do you print an email, only to throw it out a short time later? More and more people are asking readers of their emails to “think about the environment before printing”. Join the thinking crowd and consider whether or not you really need that email in hard copy form.

#7. Use electronic documents whenever possible. This is not just an extension of number 6. Nearly any document that needs to be reviewed or edited can be sent electronically or shared over a network, so why not save your paper and ink just for those jobs where it is absolutely necessary to have a hard copy?

#8. If you do need to print a document, print on both sides of the paper. Many software programs are capable of printing documents double-sided. Check your printer to see if it can do this – more modern printers are able to do two-sided printing, especially office models.

#9. Recycle used printer paper. If you can only print one-sided on your printer, don’t throw out old printed documents – reuse them! In our office, we have a printer that is dedicated to using just recycled documents. We take junk faxes, draft documents, and other non-sensitive printed materials and use them in that printer, especially for in-house, working documents. Of course, once you are done with the second use of the sheets, don’t forget to add them to the recycling bin! [See Idea #1 from last week’s post.]

#10. Spread the word! The more people who take even these simple actions, the more we can reduce our impact on the environment. Many small actions add up to large results…so what will you do?

And the Bonus Tip: For those of you planning a meeting in California (or even just traveling for fun!), use a participating hotel from the California Green Lodging Program. Many of the “small” ideas I’ve listed above are included in the requirements of their hotel certification program – and can make a big difference when implemented by a large business such as a hotel chain. For a list of participating hotels, click here.

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ten Things You Can Do to Make Your Office Greener

With all of the focus on the environment and climate change these days, “going green” is not something that can (or should!) be ignored or put off. And while “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” may seem like a quaint and outdated phrase, the concepts embodied within it are as solid as ever. Using those concepts, though, can sometimes be overwhelming to us as individuals and it often feels like we can’t make a difference – especially in the workplace. Here are the first five ideas our staff suggested that can make a difference. They may seem like small things but remember: a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…

#1. Set up recycling bins for glass, plastic, paper, cardboard, aluminum – whatever your office uses in quantity. Make recycling these items a habit and it will become an easy thing to maintain.

#2. Re-use plastic water bottles. Don’t throw out a bottle just because it’s empty. Clean it out and use it again! Once it is no longer re-useable, then it can go into the recycling bin. With simple cleaning, bottles can be re-used many times before they reach that stage. Better yet, don’t use disposable bottles at all! Keep a ceramic mug or a plastic or metal sports bottle at your desk for drinking water (or other beverages of choice) throughout the day. Hydrate while minimizing your carbon footprint.

#3. Replace incandescent bulbs with energy efficient bulbs. CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) last longer and use less energy than standard incandescent bulbs. You can do this for a personal desk light or workspace light even if you can’t get the main room lights changed.

#4. Turn off lights in unused rooms; turn them on only when needed. The reduced power use could save you some green as well as helping you be green. Installing timers or motion sensors on the lights can be a good backup as they can turn the lights off when people forget to do so or after a certain period once the motion in the room ceases.

#5. Make sure your computer is set for maximum energy savings. Most people know about these settings for their laptops since they are trying to eek out every last bit of power from the batteries – but did you know that most desktop computers can also be configured for energy efficiency? Change your settings so that the monitor goes to sleep after a few minutes of idleness instead of always being on and the hard drive goes to sleep as well after a certain period of inactivity. Ask your IT person about this if you are not comfortable doing it yourself.

Next week – the final five, plus a bonus tip…

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

How many people will that room hold? – Revisited!

Back in July, I posted a piece talking about how to roughly calculate how many people a room could hold. (Click here to read the original post.) Given the popularity of that particular post, I decided to do this follow up – and include a free cheat sheet (link at end of post) for quick reference. This one page document gives me an easy way to know ahead of time how much space a particular event is likely to need.

Once again, here are the approximations I most frequently use:

Banquets (60” or 72” rounds): 15 square feet/person
Classroom (18” tables): 15 square feet/person
Classroom (30” tables): 20 square feet/person
Theater or Reception: 10 square feet/person
Hollow Square: 40 square feet/person

If you use my numbers and compare them to most space calculators, you will find that the calculators will usually give you more people in the same square footage than my estimates. This is because most calculators do not take into account audio-visual equipment – mine do. I also try to make sure that my attendees have enough space to be comfortable, instead of squished together as tightly as possible. My approximations take this “comfort factor” into account as well.

Please note that, if you have extensive audio-visual requirements or elaborate sets, you will need significantly more space. As always a property’s Convention Services Manager will be able to help you determine the best fit for your event in the spaces they have.

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Download Cheat Sheet (PDF)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How Do Meeting Planners Get Paid?

There are essentially two ways for a meeting planner to be paid for their services: fee for service or through commissions.

Earning a commission is a very common way for meeting planners to be paid for their services. Their fees are typically determined as a percentage of the guest room rate negotiated with the hotel or hotels that are hosting the event – and the hotels pay that percentage directly to the planner after the conclusion of the event. So, with a 10% commission and a negotiated rate of $150 per night, the planner would earn $15 (from the hotel!) for each night someone paid to stay at the hotel. For small groups, this does not usually result in a very large fee but, with large groups, this can add up to quite a tidy sum for the planner. A major advantage of this fee structure is that the client does not pay for the planner’s services out of their event budget, which can help their event’s bottom line.

“Fee for Service” is the other method commonly used and it can be calculated either on an hourly basis or for the whole project.

A planner who is paid by the hour simply determines an hourly rate for their services, which may vary by service or be a set amount across the board. In either case, there is a menu of services for clients to choose from. The main advantage here is that it is easy for the client to approximate the planner’s fees even before putting the project out to bid. They can also easily compare those costs against the staff time they would have to allocate to the project if they were to do it in-house.

Planners who are paid a fixed amount for the project determine how much to charge for a given event based on the size and complexity of the project – each job is different – and then works with that client to refine the scope of work and the fee until both parties reach an agreement. Though determining the final fee and scope of work for the project can be tricky, once they have been determined, an agency then knows exactly how much they will be paying for the planner’s services and exactly what those services will be.

While this brief overview does not give all of the ins and outs of each method, it is worth noting that most planners will work with you to find the approach that is right for you and your event. RDL typically sets a fee for each event or series of events that we do for our clients. However, we do still work with hourly rates and, occasionally, commissions to create the best fit to our clients’ needs.

Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Virtual Trade Show Booth…? What is That?

According to an article in the July issue of Forbes Magazine, Virtual Trade Shows are a way to generate leads for your business without spending a significant amount of time and money. You can build your own trade show booth in about 30 minutes or use one of the on-line booth designers to build it for you. The booth can be interactive by being logged on to your site, or you can set up a virtual chat rooms you can interact with visitors in real time. Many businesses have been turning to the virtual world for ways to market their business, generate leads, and save money – and Virtual Trade Shows are one more way to do this.

We are building our first Virtual Trade Show Booth in preparation for a Virtual World Trade Mission beginning December 2nd. This event is sponsored by the ASTRA Women’s Business Alliance and will run from December 2nd to January 30th.

The booth is created largely with tools you should already have for your business – such as brochures, business cards, company websites, blogs, and the like. It is a different way to participate in a trade show and we are curious to see how this will ultimately play out.

If you are interested in seeing how a virtual trade booth works, come join us on December 2nd at 8am for the ribbon cutting ceremony. The first four hours (8am – 12pm PST) will be live and after that, we will be available for on-line chats. To log-in as an attendee, click here.

Once the Trade Mission is completed, we look forward to sharing our experiences with you.

Linda Begbie • Executive Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Database Creation & Management for Meeting Planners

A Philosophical Approach to the Basics

How many of you reading this use at least one database in your work? Most of you should be raising your hand right about now as databases are an inseparable part of meeting planning. If you don’t believe me, I have just one word for you: Registration. For you suppliers, thinking this doesn’t apply to you… think again. You, too, use databases on a regular basis – just check out your contact lists or the programs you use to check what space is available when planners send you an RFP. All of these are databases and, if you use an off-the-shelf program like Microsoft Access or FileMaker Pro, there are a few strategies and techniques to bear in mind to make the final “product” user-friendly and effective. In this column, we’ll take a quick look at some of the basic concepts of database Functionality, Structure, and Appearance.

Functionality Step One: Put Down the Mouse! That’s right – put it down! Most people want to start right away and get to work, making it look good right off the bat. However, before you begin typing, you need to do some thinking. Functionality is the first thing to address. It is primarily about purpose, but does need to take into account who will be using it – so your two basic questions at this point are: what do you need it to do and what is the user’s skill level/comfort level with the software? Each of these questions can lead to very different databases depending on the answers you come up with. A registration database that has to be regularly updated to track payments, purchase orders, menu and workshop selections will be quite different from a database set up to track your CD collection. Similarly, a database that my great aunt Helen would be comfortable using would look very different from one set up for my brother, the computer programmer. Just remember that the only “right” answers to these questions are honest answers.

Once you have decided what the database needs to do for you and who will be using it, you can begin to build the Structure that will support the final product. Again, spend some time thinking about this before you begin actually working on the computer with the software. The single most important item that exists in any database, regardless of the software, is “the field”. Fields are where your data will actually go once you start using the database. How they are set up and how they are named (yes – named!) can make or break the file for you. Typically, you can set up fields to contain text, dates, numbers, or even pictures. If you are not sure what you need a field to be when you begin, it is usually best to leave it as text, which is generally the default type. The software program you are using will dictate what you can set up fields to be and how that needs to happen. Of more importance, though, is the naming of the fields. My two rules for naming fields are: 1) Make it Short, and 2) Make it Obvious. If I use the field names FN, LN, O, and A, I have definitely made them short. Are they obvious, though? You might recognize them as First Name, Last Name, Organization, and Address – or is it First Notice, Last Notice, Order and Agency…? You may not think this is a big deal, but consider what might happen if you have a large database and many people entering data. Even if you are the only person who will be using the database, you may forget after a month what the field names meant. [Note: my usual field names for these four are FName, LName, Org, and Address.] If you make the field names too long, it may distort how you view or print records from your database.

Now that you have created your fields, you can begin making the database “look pretty” and work on its Appearance. The key thing to keep in mind here is: how does it “flow”. In other words, is there a logical progression in how you maneuver through the database, or does hitting the tab key just cause the cursor to jump around the screen. I like to group data together into coordinated blocks of information on the screen. I’ll put all of an attendee’s contact information in one spot, their payment information grouped together in another, and correspondence tracking in yet another grouping. This allows me to look at an attendee’s record and quickly find the information I am looking for. I also make sure that fields are placed in an order that makes sense to me (and, hopefully, other users). The field that is for someone’s last name follows the field that contains their first name, and so forth. If the database flows well and makes sense to you and others, it will be much easier to navigate through and makes finding specific information a snap.

Fancy extras like scripts, buttons, calculations, and alerts are wonderful tools that can certainly make things easier for the average user but they do require a bit more knowledge and understanding of the software to use properly. If you remember some of the basics, you will be in good shape no matter what software you are using. Even if you are not the one creating the database, knowing what it was built to do and who was intended to use it is helpful – especially since not all database designers talk to the people who will actually be using the file! Knowing the structure will help you to make changes later (or suggest them to the designer). Keeping field names short and obvious means that anyone (including yourself) can understand what you have created. Having notes actually included in the database is also a good way to remind yourself of what you did in certain places. Finally, making sure that the database “flows” well will make even the most complicated file easy to manage.

Function, Structure, and Appearance form the basis of every database. What we’ve gone over here is just the tip of the iceberg and, if you are interested in learning more, there is a wealth of information out there about every database program on the market. If you work with a custom database, designed just for your company, talk to the designers if possible and get your information from the source! Remember – no single program can be everything to everyone. This is why most database programs are customizable by the user (that’s you!) and partially why there are so many options to choose from. If you are in the market for a new database program, take the time to learn about what the software can do – don’t just grab the first box you see that has a cool cover! Decide what you need it for, who will be using it, and how flexible it will be to your changing needs. If you already have database software, which most of us do, then you are ready to jump in and start building the database. Just remember to keep Function, Structure, and Appearance in mind as you do so…

Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

This piece previously appeared in the September/October 2007 issue of the Pony Express, the newsletter of the Sacramento chapter of SGMP, and is used with permission of the author. – ed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

“Surviving the Holidays” Business Strategies

The holidays are a funny time for Meeting and Conference Planners. The typical client does not want to plan any type of a business event (other than a Holiday Party!) between Veterans’ Day and New Year’s. Normally, this is a time for many meeting planners to wind up their fall events and start preparing for spring events. In the current economy, though, it is important to look at ways to keep clients coming to your business year-round. Here are a couple of ideas to consider:

One is to offer a ten percent (10%) discount on your services to anyone who, for example, books their 2010 event by the end of 2009. This may motivate those who know they need to have an event to move beyond the “thinking about it” stage and get a meeting planner on board to get things moving for them (site selection, etc.) so they can relax and enjoy the holidays.

Another strategy to keep clients thinking about your business is to offer holiday specials for any events they are planning during your slow periods. Even those planners who do not specialize in holiday parties can handle those types of events – and, if this is not currently a service you offer, you really should consider adding it!

Not every approach or strategy is right for every business. You need to take your own particular circumstances into account but, even if you only use these suggestions as seed ideas, you can generate strategies that are right for you.

Do you have a unique approach to motivating clients to use your services? If so, please share your thoughts and leave a comment. We’d love to hear how you “Survive the Holidays”.

Linda Begbie • Executive Director, RDL enterprises

As you may have guessed, both of the options presented are ones that we offer – not just to our current clients, but also to new clients. For more information about the 10% discount or our holiday specials, please email Linda Begbie with the subject line "Holiday Special". – ed.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Planning a Gala Event

I recently finished planning an annual conference in Washington, DC. The last day of the conference my client held a gala dinner for 200 people. Being their conference planner, I coordinated the gala logistics including; venue location, contract negotiation, room arrangements, décor, transportation, audio-visual, food and beverage arrangements, tracked the budget, and hired a DJ, just to name of few responsibilities for this type of event.

During the planning stages, the venue required an itinerary so their staff can accommodate the flow of the banquet dinner. In this case, my client wanted to do an awards ceremony, announcements, fundraise, and a comedy show. The comedian was also our emcee. It takes time to coordinate the minute details for the agenda to maintain the quality and value of the event.

Here are some tips to create a program and schedule a flow for the event…

In creating the program handout, it’s important to thank all of your sponsors. For the content of the program, start with the title of the event and whom it is hosted by. Use a classic font like, Lucida Calligraphy or Monotype Corsiva. Then, start with the timing of the event. 7 pm is typical for gala dinners and would start with a welcome cocktail hour. Next is dinner, usually an hour after the welcome reception. At 8:00 pm, we moved them into the ballroom or main function area where the presentation begins and the first course has already been pre-served. Then, it’s on to the awards ceremony, a comedian skit, and a special guest presentation. At 8:00pm the entrée was being served. That can take up to an hour. Following the banquet dinner, we had our presenter’s finish off the awards and make a short fundraiser speech. Coffee and dessert were then served during the last presentation. Around 10:00 pm, we closed with a thank you and reminded everyone to stay and celebrate. This was the entertainment part and included a DJ for dancing. During the program schedule, when there were gaps, the DJ would play background music to comfort the silence.

If you can believe it, this type of event has its share of anxiety. The part that has a certain level of stress isn’t selecting the venue, or arranging of the gala agenda and who goes where, what time is what, do we have awards, no… It’s when it all goes live. It’s crossing your fingers the schedule of event works and works with the venue staff. If the hors d’oeuvres are exactly the way you ordered them, if the food is going to taste good, and mostly, if people show up. Then, are people going to show up? Are we ready for them to show up? Will there be more people that show up? Will there be fewer? Did I order enough food? Did I order too much? Make sure to smile. Are we within budget? Does the DJ have the agenda? Do I need to feed him or her? All the while, making sure to greet everyone, including the VIP guests. Can you imagine the pressure?

Indeed it is a lot of anxiety and you barely get to enjoy the great meal but that’s the life of a planner. We wear many hats and put out fires when no one is looking. In the end, the Gala was a huge success and people had fun. That is the reward. Being organized is one of the key elements of planning a successful event. Although, you can’t expect it to go perfectly, you can manage whatever gets in the way of running a smooth event. When all is said and done and someone says thank you, you know you did a good job.

Tess Conrad • Meeting and Conference Planner, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Client Relationships in Today’s Business Climate

As I network with other business owners in our field, I find we are all in the same position. Our long term clients are no longer able to fund meetings or events. They are told that if they do any meetings they will be planned ”in-house”. Whether the client is corporate, government, or association, the answer seems to be the same. In this economic climate, no one is spending money on meetings.

I talked with a representative from CISCO who told me their solution was to do their annual meeting using video conferencing. She said it saved them thousands of dollars. When I asked about what kind of feedback they got from those attending the video conference, she said they “did not like it” and that the typical response was that they missed the networking component of getting together. It was too impersonal. There is a message to all of us in this as we keep hearing that video conferencing is the wave of the future.

So what does this change in the elimination of meetings and conferences mean to us? It means that instead of relying on our old tried and true method of marketing (referral from a satisfied client or attendee), we need to dig in and learn how to market our services. That means we need to be the ones networking, getting involved, and following up with potential leads. In the past a lead usually meant a potential new client, now we talk about soft leads, warm leads, and hot leads. It is also teaching us patience. We need to develop relationships with potential new clients and keep our name in front of them as often as possible.

Another thing that we are doing is ensuring that we have all the certifications we need to keep us viable and visible. Things like being federally certified as a Small Business, a Women Owned Business, and as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (because we are women, if you can imagine that!). We are registered with the State and the Federal Government, signed up as vendors with the major corporations that need to have set-asides for small business, women owned, etc., and we are marketing to those companies that require those set-asides.

Most importantly, we are not forgetting our loyal clients – those relationships are as critical as ever! They can’t use our services today, but the economy will change and will they will once again require our services and support. We don’t want them to forget us. It is always about RELATIONSHIPS!

Linda Begbie • Executive Director and Meeting Planner at RDL enterprises.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pillars are Killers

In a previous post,I mentioned briefly the need to be aware of the actual shape of a room when deciding how many people could fit into the space. Just recently, I had this come up in a project I was working on with on of our meeting planners…

We had booked a room for a client’s reception (as part of a larger program), which was located a short distance away from the bulk of the meeting space assigned to our client’s conference but still within the hotel. The distance was not a problem, since folks would have a break between the end of the last session and the start of the hotel. Besides, the room had great lighting and ambiance, overlooked the pool, and was close to the bar – all advantages for this particular event. The room also had pillars, which was not an issue as people would be mingling and, apart from a few announcements that would be made throughout the evening, there was no program to speak of. In fact, the pillars could be used to good advantage in this case. We could decorate them to reflect the theme of the evening, we could place food around them to make natural “centers” around which people could meet, or we could even combine the two approaches.

As happens frequently in the run up to a conference, plans changed… the reception needed to move to a different room (for various reasons) and we started considering the room as a place for lunch. Great idea! People would love the natural light the room offered and there was plenty of space for everyone to fit comfortably. The speaker would have a great backdrop to their talk and…wait a sec…did we just say “speaker”? Yes. The Keynote Speaker would be on right after lunch, with slides… This is not good. The room has pillars, several of them, spaced fairly evenly throughout the room. This would mean that many people would not be able to see the slides (or the speaker) and the speaker would not be able to see most of her audience. We quickly re-looked at our space and found a much better alternative for them to use.

As the meeting planners for this client, we had done a site inspection of the hotel, where we physically looked at the space and walked through the areas we would be using. We were aware of the advantages and drawbacks for the space – the location within the hotel, the room size, the existence and placement of pillars and windows, etc. – and could work around that, finding the best fit for our client’s program. What was a non-issue, or even a plus in one instance, would have been a liability in another. By knowing the space in more detail beyond what was listed on the hotel’s spec sheet, we avoided a potential crisis long before it could become a problem.

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How do I make sure that people who come late to my reception still get something to eat?

This can certainly be a problem with some groups. I used to work with one group (no names!) where, if all of their food was put out at the beginning of a two-hour reception, it would all be gone in the first 15 minutes. When you do not have the budget to simply add more food, this can be a serious problem. Here are a couple of ideas for dealing with that…

My favorite tactic is to distribute the food service throughout the evening. Instead of having the hotel put all of my reception items out at the start of the reception, I will have them put out one half or even one third of the total out at the beginning. Then, at previously determined intervals, the banquet staff brings out more food. This gives the illusion that you have added more food and forces people to slow down a bit in their consumption, allowing the latecomers to have a chance to try all of the wonderful items the hotel has prepared. You, as the meeting planner, do have to monitor this process closely as you may need to adjust the timing and/or amounts of food that are brought out each time.

Another solution is to have servers circulate through the room with your hors d’oeuvres on platters. This approach also has its advantages over the “put everything out at once” method. You can control how often the servers make their rounds of the room and you can have them make sure that they get to everyone. Another benefit is that people tend to take less from a server’s tray than when they can simply walk up to a table and load up a plate. This is partially due to the fact that there is an “observer”, which makes people more conscious of how much they take, but is mostly due to the fact that the attendee typically does not have a plate, so they are forced to eat items as they pick them up. By the time they have eaten the items they have selected, the server has moved on to other guests. As an added bonus, your guests have the treat of having someone serve them, which always makes a good impression for your event.

Notice that, in both cases, we did not order more food. We can ensure that more people get to sample the food provided…without spending more money on the reception. And our clients’ guests still experience an enjoyable reception. However, these tactics do not work 100% of the time. There are times when we are still stuck with either purchasing more food for the reception or telling people there is no more food to be had. In spite of this, we have used both approaches successfully on many occasions and they remain strong tools in our toolbox. Do not leave them out of yours!

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Digital Publication Comes Online for SGMP!

SGMP, The Society of Government Meeting Professionals, has launched the inaugural issue of Government Connections – as a digital publication.

In this exciting new offering from SGMP (and, yes, I am a member), readers can access the association’s newsletter at any time through their computer. This offers several advantages over printed distribution. It is environmentally friendly – you read it on your computer and only print out the pages you want. And no waiting for it to arrive with the mail – you can check for the latest issue at your convenience (SGMP members get email notifications).

It also is more visually appealing than many online publications I’ve seen. Where most groups just upload an electronic version of their physical publication or re-format it to look like a web page, this publication actually looks like a magazine right in your browser! The system allows for searching of content, zoom presets, single or double page viewing, and many other features. You can also download a PDF version of it to your computer to peruse at your leisure. All in all, it seems to be a pretty good setup. I am looking forward to checking it out in greater depth and seeing everything this has to offer me as a reader.

If you are interested in seeing the current issue of Government Connections for yourself, click here and dig in!

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Should I order a break package or should I order items "a la carte" for my Break?

The answer, as with so many things in this industry, is “it depends”. Both methods of ordering F&B (Food & Beverage) service for your event have their advantages and drawbacks. Which one you choose depends on your specific circumstances and needs.

A service package from the hotel gives you a set menu for a set amount of time for a set price (typically per person). For example, a hotel might offer a “Chocolate Lover’s Break”. For the price listed, you would get chocolate chip cookies, brownies, chocolate bars, coffee, tea, decaf, and sodas for, say, half an hour. They pretty much guarantee that there will be enough food for everyone. They will maintain enough food and drinks (within reason) for everyone to partake the duration of your break. When the time is up, everything is removed. Using packages can be a huge time-saver for the meeting planner. The hotel does all of the calculations for how much to serve and the planner knows that there will be enough food for everyone. This approach also works well in situations where you do not know the eating habits of the group or there are enough people eating so as to even out the variations of individual preferences. Please note, though, that ordering a package does not allow you to get more than you pay for. If you guarantee for 75 and 100 people show up, the hotel will only put out what they calculate to be enough for 75 – unless you increase your order to 100.

If you were to order the same break a la carte (or “in bulk”), you would specify to the hotel exactly how many cookies you wanted to have served, how many brownies, how much coffee, and so forth. The hotel would not set out any more than what you ordered (though you could always order more). This approach works well if you do not want all of the items in a set package or if the hotel does not have a package that has the items you need. It does require a little more work from the planner as well. You need to figure out exactly how much of each item your group will consume and order accordingly. The plus side to this is that you can tailor your break (in this case) to be more in tune with what your group actually wants. If my group doesn’t eat brownies but loves cookies, then I can order just cookies – instead of having a lot of brownies left over after the break is done (which then might just get thrown away). You can also have your food and/or drinks out for longer than you might get with a package.

When deciding which approach to use for my groups, I look at several factors: how well do I know the food preferences of the group, how large is the group, and (most importantly for groups on a tight budget) which is the better price value. If I know the group well, then I lean towards a la carte ordering. If it is a large group with diverse preferences, I look to packages to provide what I need. Ultimately, though, I sit down and do the math. I will calculate the total cost of the break both with the package and with the a la carte items I would provide if I were to order in bulk. This takes a bit of time to work out but allows me to know if the package is cheaper, more expensive, or the same cost as my expected bulk order.

Ultimately, though, my final decision is based on the needs of the group and which approach is the best way to fulfill those needs. But, by spending the time to compare approaches, I am better able to determine whether I should order a package or a la carte for my client’s food functions. I am also better able to work with the caterer/hotel to ensure that my group gets the best food options possible at the best price I can arrange.

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What is a Hybrid Meeting?

The dictionary defines a hybrid as a mixture, a combining of two elements to produce a whole new thing.

When someone uses the word hybrid, what images or ideas does it bring to mind? You may think of your pretty Prius in your garage, or maybe that tomato variety you just planted in your garden. Perhaps you think of your bicycle – not a sturdy mountain bike with wide, knobby tires, yet not a road racer with skinny, slick tires.

Here’s something new to think about – Hybrid Meetings. They take the elements of a live meeting and a meeting via the internet and combine them to produce a whole new kind of meeting. The participants sitting in the meeting room and the participants sitting in front of their computers are “attending” the same event. They may both participate and interact together and with the presenters. While this may sound like a Webinar, it is not. Usually, a Webinar is simply a presenter, alone in front of a web camera, presenting to “attendees” exclusively over the internet.

Here are a few ways that an organization can take advantage of the Hybrid Meeting format: (1) a situation where the conference has drawn less than the expected numbers of attendees; (2) for large associations with thousands of members but only several hundred can physically attend the annual conference; and (3) a situation where a conference is sold out and cannot accommodate any more attendees at the physical event. The online participants register for the event just as the “in person” attendees but with a different fee. This has the potential to really boost participation in and revenue for your event. It can even allow you to build interest virally online and build interest for future events. Archiving is another benefit of Hybrid Meetings and can produce residual revenue for the organization if you make conference presentations available after the event has concluded.

Most experts don’t foresee them replacing live, in-person events, though. People will always benefit from the face-to-face networking opportunities that internet-based meetings can’t fully provide. While there are quite a few companies out there to assist with the technical and production aspects, Hybrid meetings don’t eliminate the need for extensive planning and a cohesive team headed up by an experienced Meeting Planner.

- Ginger Myrick, Meeting Planner

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ordering Items "On Consumption"

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned a few ways to gain a measure of control over your F&B budget at your meetings, conferences, and events. Ordering some of your items “on consumption” is another easy way to manage your costs.

“On consumption” is a term that essentially means that you only pay for what your attendees actually take or consume, instead of paying for everything that the hotel puts out for them to choose from. When you order sodas “on consumption” for your group of 40 people, for example, the hotel might put out 40 cans but, if only 15 sodas are taken by your participants, then you only pay the hotel for those 15 instead of the 40 they put out on the table. When you scale this up to a large event, the potential savings can be huge. But, before you get too excited about the possibilities, please bear in mind that there are a few limits as to what this can be applied to.

This approach really only works with pre-packaged items that do not spoil or otherwise become unsafe to serve again at a later date. For example: bottles or cans of soda, water, or other beverages; candy or snack bars; ice cream bars; or bags of chips or nuts – these are all good candidates for being ordered “on consumption”. The hotel can take any "left over" items and sell them to another group. Whole fruit is also often a viable possibility as well (they come pre-packaged by nature) as there are many uses for fruit that the hotel can take advantage of before they spoil.

It cannot be done with items such as pastries, breads, carving stations, coffee or tea, fresh-baked cookies, etc. These items, once made for you, are yours. The hotel cannot repackage them to sell (or give!) to another group – in fact, in many cases, they legally are forbidden from doing so.

So what about the other end of the spectrum? What if the group decides to take a lot more that what we can pay for? Let’s use our group of 40 people as the example again. To prevent our example group from taking way more than what we are prepared (or able) to pay for, we set an upper limit with the hotel. By instructing them to put out no more than 45 sodas, we have effectively capped the total amount that we would have to pay for these drinks – which means we can know with certainty how much of our budget is committed to this item.

As a meeting planner, wise use of “on consumption” can really help you to manage your F&B budget – but you have to ask for it. Few catering departments will offer it to you. As always, though, the hotel is your partner in this. Work with them to determine which of their F&B items are best suited to order “on consumption” and which items are best suited for your group and their needs.

- Karl Baur, CMP, Project Director

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

So what is it exactly that Meeting Planners do?

I encountered an interesting situation over the holiday weekend that kind of surprised me. A long-time friend was asking about how my job was going and, after we chatted about that for a while, proceeded to ask what it was I actually did. She knew what my job was in a general sense but did not know specifics…

Meeting Planners actually perform a wide range of duties that can be hard to sum up quickly. The Employment Development Department for California, though, actually has a nice overview document which divides the work of a Meeting Planner into these general areas of responsibility:

Program Development
Marketing and Promotion
Site Selection
Travel Arrangements
Entertainment and Speakers
Food Arrangements
Trade Show Management
Guest Programs
Reservations and Event Registration
Audio-Visual Equipment
Public Relations
Program Evaluation

I would also add Onsite Staffing to this list, since that not only encompasses many of the areas above but also requires a different set of skills and knowledge - and comes with many additional responsibilities. Many things can happen onsite (good and bad!) during an event that a meeting planner is eminently suited to handle.

Some meeting planners specialize in one of a few of these areas while others handle all of them. Most, though, cover the majority of these areas and leave one or two to other specialists or to the sponsoring agency to handle. In my 15 years of meeting planning, I have done everything on this list at one time or another. However, I would not consider myself a specialist or an expert in Public Relations or Guest Programs, for example (I do think I’m pretty darn good at the rest, though).

The other interesting thing about my conversation was the misconception that, as a meeting planner, I only did events from the very beginning to the very end. In fact, a good meeting planner will tailor the services they provide to each individual client’s event. If a conference only needs assistance with their registration process, we can do that separately from every other task. If they just need onsite staffing support for while the conference is “in session”, that can be provided separately as well.

For more information about what meeting planners do here is a one-page brochure describing what RDL enterprises does. We also address some of the more common questions about meeting planners at the bottom of this page.

- Karl Baur, CMP, Project Director

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Quickie Guide to Room Sets

There are many approaches to setting up a room for an event but, if you think about it, there really are only so many ways that you can fit people, chairs, and/or tables into any room. So what are the common types? Let’s take a look at the five standard sets…

Banquet Seating: This one seems pretty self-explanatory; people sit around a table and eat. Yes, that is true, but there are other possibilities. Typically, a 60” Round will seat eight people and a 72” Round will seat ten (60” or 72” refers to the tables diameter). This is a good style to use for banquets, hence the name, but can also be used for meetings where you might have to have people work in small groups. Each table forms a pre-made "group". This style of seating is also often used when a planner wants to have a meal function in the same room as the meeting. A common variant is something called crescent rounds. This uses a standard round but seats fewer people around it. I will usually use a 72” Round to seat 6-7 people, removing the chairs that have their backs facing the front of the room. This allows everyone at the table to face the presenter, yet still be in a small group for planned activities.

Classroom (or Schoolroom) Seating: Again, a fairly obvious description. In this case, you are providing long tables (18” or 30”, referring to the depth or width of the surface rather than the height or length of the table) at which chairs are placed along one side. All of the chairs face the front of the room, with the tables providing a space on which to work. Tables are typically either 6’ or 8’ in length.

Theater Seating: This is simply using rows of chairs, all facing the front of the room. And, just like going to the theater, you do not usually have a surface to write on. This style maximizes the number of people that you can fit into a room for a session.

Reception Seating: Huh? A Reception has seating? Sometimes, yes, it does. When I provide seating for a reception, we’re typically talking about a mix of tables. “Highboys” stand waist-high to chest-high and provide attendees with a place to set their drinks and snacks while socializing. I’ll often provide a few regular Rounds as well for people who wish to sit down rather than stand the whole time. In both cases, the number of “seats” is generally far less than the total expected attendance. Among other things, this helps encourage mingling.

Hollow Square: This is a rectangular formation of tables (not necessarily a true square) with chairs spaced along the outside, all of which are facing inward. This style is great for board or committee meetings. However, it does use a lot of space and can become a bit unwieldy when your numbers grow beyond about 20 people or so. A variation of Hollow Square, called Conference Seating, is often given its own category. It is typically a single table with seating for 1-2 people at either or both of the short ends and the rest of the chairs along each long edge.

I have seen many more seating arrangements than just these five – and I’m sure I haven’t seen every possible combination either. Some groups use just one kind of seating for their events and others mix it up from one event to the next, while some mix styles within the same room – whatever they need to use to support their program effectively, really. However, you don’t need to know every possible set or style to be an effective meeting planner. As long as you keep this basic set of five styles in mind, you can find an appropriate seating style for nearly any meeting.

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A New Direction for RDL?

As independent meeting planners, we are all wondering “where is all the money that used to go into meetings and conferences?” More state agencies are doing meetings in-house and, even in the private sector, companies are cutting back on the number of trainings and events that they are doing. So is anyone still doing meetings…?

I recently spent three days in an intensive training on how to find opportunities to work with the one sector that seems to have money to spend – the Federal Government. Not having done much work with the Federal Government before, there was a lot to learn! Once we learned how to navigate the government websites and received the correct codes and labels, we began searching for agencies looking for meeting planning services. To our surprise (and great pleasure), several opportunities have already come up in the short time we have been searching. They are still doing meetings and hiring meeting planners to do them!

We’ve also learned that the government expects you to do a lot of work before you can even submit your bid – and that work has to take place in a very short amount of time. Unlike most of our clients, where fees and event costs are separate, the entire cost of a federal event is included in the bid and if you underbid, then you pay the difference. This means we do a great deal of research, gathering numbers, looking for available meeting sites, hotels, etc. prior to putting the proposal together. Most of the time, writing up the scope of work for the bid is the easy part.

We have not yet had any success in this new endeavor but we are looking forward to beginning work with the Federal Government and expanding into this new arena. Though taking RDL in this “new” direction could certainly change our business to some extent, our core services will remain unchanged. And, no matter what new path we follow, we will always be meeting planners.

- Linda R. Begbie, Executive Director & Meeting Planner

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Quick Tip...

for reducing your meeting’s food and beverage bill.

Serve dessert at your afternoon break.

It is such a simple concept, yet it is one that is often overlooked by novice planners. Indeed, most planners I work with when they are new to the field tend to treat each meal function as a separate event, unconnected to any other on the schedule. Although this is true to some extent, when it comes to breaks, you have a golden opportunity to save some money while providing timely snacks to your group.

I have often seen draft agendas that have lunch from 12:30 – 1:30, with a break (including more food!) set to occur at 2 or 2:30. Now, I love to eat, especially when someone else is paying for it, but this is a lot of food in a very short time. Your attendees will have just had lunch, including dessert, and you are now offering them more food – which is likely to be just as sugary as dessert…

Some planners believe that, in a situation like this, people will self-regulate and eat less at the break than they would if the break were served later. From my observations, though, that does not seem to generally be the case. People still pile up their plates with cookies (or whatever else is served). They then snack on the pile for a while and end up leaving most of the plate sitting on a table somewhere – uneaten! Not only have we failed to have people take less food but we have also generated a lot of wasted food – and spent a fair amount of money to do so.

The two primary solutions I offer to clients are (1) to change the time of the afternoon break and/or (2) to serve the dessert from lunch at the afternoon break. If they also need to rein in their budget, then I really will push for option #2. In fact, I will often recommend option #2 even if the break is or can be scheduled at a later time.

Serving dessert at the break instead of immediately after lunch helps spread out the meal a bit. People eat a bit less (or there is less wasted food) at lunch and their stomachs will not be as full – they will be ready for dessert when you serve it later. And, since dessert is typically included in the price of the lunch you provided, you are not spending more to have it brought out at the break. [So long as this option is arranged ahead of time, most hotels are quite willing to work with you on it and do not charge extra for serving dessert separately.] So… not only have we saved some money by not serving a whole new set of snacks but we will also, hopefully, find ourselves with less food left over both after lunch and after the break.

While this solution does not work for all groups in all situations, it is one more option to be aware of that you can use to trim your food costs while still providing your event’s participants with an enjoyable conference food experience.

- Karl Baur, CMP, Project Director

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Budget Busters 101: Open Bars

Those are two words that can make your meeting planner cringe – especially if you have a limited budget for your event. Legal issues aside, having an open bar means that you have relinquished control of your budget and placed it the hands of your guests. They will decide how much money you are going to spend, not you, and they (typically) care the least about the final bill.

But, you say, my folks won’t order many drinks, so I can easily cover them. Perhaps, but many people will get more of something when it is free (to them) than if they have to pay for it. I have seen a lot of people who would normally buy just one drink have four or five drinks when someone else is picking up the tab. Get a large enough group of those people together and say good-bye to your budget…

The easiest way to control this is to simply have a “no-host” or “cash” bar instead of an open bar. With this method, your attendees pay for their own drinks. At most, you may have to pay a bartender fee (if your group orders very few drinks). And, if they do drink more than you expect, that may even result in the bartender fee being waived.

Now, I know what some of you are going to say, that you want to make your reception guests feel particularly welcome and that you do not want them to have to pay for their drinks. There is a way to accomplish this, too, without giving up control of the purse strings: tickets. This is a hybrid approach in some respects. What you do is give each attendee one or two tickets. They then use those tickets to “purchase” drinks at your event. Sometimes, the price of a soda or bottled water is one ticket, while alcoholic drinks are two tickets. Other times, one ticket buys you any drink of your choice. If an attendee wants to have more drinks, they can either purchase them from the bar or go to a ticket station to purchase more tickets. Exactly how this is set this up is not the key – that you set it up is the key.

We typically recommend to clients who want to have alcohol at a reception that they go with a cash bar as this has the least financial impact on their budget. But when we have clients who do want to have an open bar, we encourage them to use tickets instead. It allows them to still be a “good host”, providing a drink or two to each of their guests, while still keeping the event budget under control. They go into their event knowing the maximum number of drinks they will be paying for and, since we negotiate for it ahead of time, how much each drink will cost them.

- Karl Baur, CMP, Project Director

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Thoughts on Collaboration and Cooperation

In these challenging times in which we find ourselves, it is more important than ever to work together to achieve not only our own goals but really keeping in mind the helpful, service-oriented attitude to help the other person or organization reach their goals as well.

As John Donne wrote back in 1624, “No man is an island ...” So while the “power of one” can and has accomplished seeming miracles, consider that the “one” was actually standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before.

By blazing your own trail you may just end up in the weeds or even off a cliff! How much better to have a map and some companions (or experts) to bounce around ideas with! Self-confidence is a great thing but use your wisdom and sensitivity to guide yourself away from arrogance.

You may not think my reflections apply to you but I’m just saying…

- Ginger Myrick

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Budget Busters 101:
Look out for hidden charges!

The specific charges I want to discuss in this week’s post are the infamous “plus-plus” charges. Now, I know these are not really “hidden” in the sense of planners not knowing about them but, if you forget about them as you are planning your event’s food budget, they can quickly break the budget.

So what does “plus-plus” mean? Plus-plus refers to service charges and taxes. These fees are added on top of the base price for, say, the per person cost of that banquet you are planning to serve to your top sales people. Menus for catering typically list the base price with the plus-plus added on. It usually looks like this: $35++. When my wife and I were looking at catering for our wedding, she was amazed at how deceptive that little “++” could be. It seems so easy to just plug that $35/person into your budget and know how much your banquet would cost – but you would end up with the wrong number. This is one place where novice planners and those who do not usually handle catering often get into trouble.

Service charges vary by specific property, though the different hotels within a city or geographical area typically have similar rates. (20% is a common rate in larger cities such as San Francisco.) Remember, too, that service charges are taxable. Taxes are set by cities and states and are one of the few items that hotels really cannot negotiate away – after all, they still have to pay those taxes to the city or state whether they collect them from you or not (unless you are lucky enough to be tax exempt). There are many others areas they would prefer to negotiate on instead. And, if you cannot find the specific numbers, ask. You need to know them.

So, let’s look at our example banquet at $35 per person (base price) again. If you are feeding 100 people and have a budget of $4,000, it looks like you are OK. However, remember that the rate is actually $35++, so you have to take service charges and tax into account to know if you are really under budget. If we assume a 20% service charge and 10% in state and local taxes, then the total for your dinner is not $3,500 but would be, instead, $4,620 – a difference of over $1,000! That represents a huge amount to a group on a tight budget and even large events with much larger food budgets can get into trouble if the planner forgets to include tax and service charges in their budgeting.

Keeping an eye on your food budget can be tricky with any group but, if you remember to budget for the plus-plus, then at least you won’t find yourself tripped up by these “hidden charges”.

- Karl Baur, CMP, Project Director

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Reception Tip

Limit the number of different items that are served at your reception.

In an earlier post, I gave a brief response to the question of how much food to serve at a reception. Once you have determined how many “pieces” you need to have at your reception, you can start deciding what to serve at your reception. Most hotels and caterers have an extensive selection of reception items available to choose from and it is easy to go overboard and serve a little bit of everything. Resist that temptation!

One of the interesting things about receptions is that when you give your attendees a lot of choices of what to eat, they tend to choose everything. If you have ten different items to choose from, people will walk away from the food table with at least one of each item served on their plate. After they have nibbled on those items, they will go back for more of the items they particularly liked. Sometimes, they even do this without having finished what they took the first time! As the organizer, that can be very frustrating to see. To minimize this, we recommend that our clients limit the number of different items served at their receptions, usually to no more than four or five. That allows for a nice variety of items to be served, while reducing the “take one of everything” mentality to manageable levels.

For a small group, we’ll usually go with one meat item, one vegetarian item, and one cheese and crackers “item”. As the group increases in size, we’ll expand our choices from there to include one or two more items. No matter how large the group gets, though, we typically do not have more than five different items available. We would rather have more pieces of fewer items (so everyone can get some) than fewer pieces of many items (that the early birds are going to pick clean before everyone can get some). And, of course, what we choose to serve a particular group depends heavily on the preferences of that group. After all, you want the group to enjoy the food you’ve chosen for them, so don’t serve a meat item to an all-vegetarian group – no matter how much you may like meat dishes!

- Karl Baur, CMP

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

So how many people will that room hold anyway…?

Many experienced planners can just look at a meeting room and make a fairly accurate estimate of its capacity (without looking at a capacity chart) – which is, admittedly, a cool trick. But how do they do it and how do they know how large a room they need to begin with? They had to figure it out somehow, right? Right. Well, it all comes down to math…

Different room sets use different amounts of space and there are generally accepted guidelines as to how much space is needed per person for each type of seating. So, once you know how many square feet a room contains, it is a fairly easy matter to then figure out how many people it will hold. For instance, I assume that I will need 15 square feet of space for each person attending a banquet. If the room is 4,000 square feet, then I figure I should be able to get about 260-270 people in comfortably. This (very rough!) estimate includes space for servers to access the tables once diners are seated, space for people to sit and move about easily, exit aisles, and so forth. I also include space for the common audio-visual equipment that might be needed for the program in my estimate since I would rather have slightly too much space for my group than not enough. Great. So what about other types of seating? Here are the approximations I most frequently use:

Banquet (60” or 72” rounds): 15 square feet/person
Classroom (18” tables): 15 square feet/person
Classroom (30” tables): 20 square feet/person
Theater or Reception: 10 square feet/person
Hollow Square: 40 square feet/person

It is important to note that these are not formal space requirements. I’ve rounded up the industry standards so as to make the math easier for me to do a quick estimate. If you don’t want to do the math (and have access to the internet when you need the estimate), here is a site offering an online space capacity calculator ( that will help you get a more accurate estimate of a room’s capacity – and it can run calculations for the most common room sets all at once. Tools like this are a great addition to your meeting planning toolkit but, when I really need to know exactly how many people can fit, I work with my Convention Services Manager (CSM) and the hotel’s room specification charts to get actual capacities. Each room is different – you need to take into account the shape, the locations of doors/exits, existence of pillars or other obstacles, and so on. What fits into one space may not in another, even though they have the same square footage! Your CSM will have the experience and knowledge to help you get the most out of the space at his or her property.

As always, the specific needs of your group will have a huge impact on how large of a room you need – but these estimates should at least give you a place to start. One thing to always keep in mind: City Fire Codes are the final arbiter of a room’s maximum capacity. So, just because you could fit more people in based on your calculations doesn’t mean it is legal or safe to do so.

- Karl Baur, CMP

Note: To work it the other direction and figure out how much space you need for a group, you simply multiply the number of people by the per person approximation to get a rough estimate. If I need to serve 300 people in a banquet (which needs approx. 15 square feet per person), then I should be looking for a room that is about 4,500 square feet.

Ed Note: Given the number of people still referencing this post, I have decided to add one more element to it - a downloadable PDF. You can download a one-page PDF "cheat sheet"for looking up various seating capacities based on a room's square footage.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Tips

Reduce, reuse, recycle. Three powerful words in today’s economy. As a nation, we are trying to become more eco-friendly by learning ways to reduce our carbon footprint. Here are some easy tips for everyday use.

It’s really quite simple if you can believe that. At the office or at home, instead of printing on a fresh piece of paper, reuse paper that was going in the trash anyway. The backside is just as fresh as the front. Buy recycled paper when ordering supplies. Have a recycle container next to the printer. Go through old binders or clean out your work tray and use those papers for recycling. It helps lighten your load and you feel more organized. As a meeting planner, we have a “recycle printer” to use for documents that are important for saving but couldn’t be avoided for the printer. Be mindful of what you are printing. Don't print at all if you can avoid it. If you need to print two pages, use both sides of one page. It’s easy and only takes a few more clicks in the printing option to reduce.

Bottles and cans are one of the easiest ways to recycle. At the office, have a recycle canister in one location and when it’s full, take it home and give it to your neighbor who collects, crushes, organizes and takes the materials to a recycle location. If you’re lucky, you can trade with your friendly neighbor and have them bring you fresh fruits and vegetables by giving them the recyclables.

The going green movement is also helping industries to reduce and save money. What a revelation! Some nice examples include the hospitality/service industry and the meeting planning industry. Paper registration that is faxed or mailed is just wasteful. That is a piece of paper, plus the cover letter that you’ve used, then faxed (which is a small fee), and two or three more pieces of paper for the coordinator to stamp and file. What a time commitment you’ve added for everyone involved. Online registration is a one-stop shop and you get your confirmation receipt emailed immediately afterwards. How simple and has absolutely no waste. Partner with businesses that are also going green. Order food that is organic and locally grown. It gives the city an economic boost and you put a much lighter carbon footprint on the earth. For more tips click here.

We are on our way to becoming a paperless nation. It is our responsibility to be conscious of mother earth. There is much more work to do and we can’t save the world alone but together we can have a conscious effect on the planet and there is no better time than the present.

Click here for more information on how to green your business.

Peace and love,
Tess Conrad, Meeting Planner

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

iPhone Apps

Are you busy traveling from meeting to meeting? Do you happen to be one of the world’s 22 million iphone users? How does one keep up with all the apps that are released each and every week? It’s a big job for sure!

This month’s Travel and Leisure Magazine (online version) includes a featured slide show showing some of the most common apps for the busy traveler and meeting goer. This article by Jason Cochran talks about a number of “must have” apps that are featured to make your travel life simpler. Check them out and see what you think.

I currently have the Gasbag app (it's one he talks about) on my iPhone and it is great! It helps locate gas stations and prices for gas. It also helps me track how efficient my 4-Runner is when I travel. I don’t like being late for anything, especially a meeting or a big conference! Just be careful when using the Gasbag app – the information you get is only as efficient as the user who enters it.

- Cyndy Hutchinson, Meeting & Conference Planner

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Receptions Q&A: “I want to have a reception during my conference. How much food do I need to serve?”

This is a tough one to answer concretely since much of the answer depends on knowing the group of people who will be attending. Fortunately, there are some guidelines that we use to give us a ballpark estimate of how many hors d’oeuvres need to be served at a reception.

Let’s assume that your reception will be going on for one hour and that you are serving dinner afterwards. A range of five to seven pieces* per person is considered moderate consumption, so a reception for 100 people would need 500-700 pieces. Write that range down! 5-7 pieces/person. This is where you begin.

If you are doing a reception/dinner combination, then you could simply stop there. However, many receptions do not fit that model completely, so let’s look at two other factors that we need to also take into account.

Length of reception: For any reception under two hours, we do not need to make any adjustment based on this factor. So what about receptions longer than two hours? My rule of thumb is to increase the amount of food served by 50% for each additional hour, to a maximum of +100%. So, if our reception for 100 people was scheduled to be three hours long, I would need to order 750-1,050 pieces.

Dinner not provided: If you are not providing dinner following a reception, many attendees will make it their dinner! This means that you need to plan for more food. I usually increase my order by 50% when dinner is not provided, which means 7-11 pieces per person.

Once you have taken these two factors into account, you still are left with a range and not a single number. This is where you adjust for the specifics of your group. A group that wants a heavier reception would be at the top end of the range (if not beyond it!), while a group of light eaters would be at the lower end of the range.

This is just a quick overview of food ordering for receptions. In future installments, we’ll look at tips and tricks for getting the most out of your reception budget.

- Karl Baur, CMP, Project Director

* A “piece” is usually defined as a single item, often bite-sized, that a guest would take to eat. So, if you order five dozen eggrolls, each eggroll is considered to be a piece and you would have sixty “pieces” in your order.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Meetings are still relevant!

I’ve just returned from an educational conference and tradeshow put on by the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) called Affordable Meetings. It was held June 10-11 at the convention center in San Jose and was attended by approximately 450-500 meeting planners from many different organizations of every type and size, including associations, corporations, government, military, religious, incentives, social, ethnic, special events, sports and educational groups.

Exhibitors at the tradeshow (200 of them!) included hotels, university conference centers, unique meeting sites, convention and visitor bureaus, transportation companies, software companies, audiovisual companies, destination management companies and other meeting and convention suppliers.

In the seminars and on the tradeshow floor there was the expected talk of business slowdown from both the planners and suppliers, however most everybody was upbeat and hopeful about continuing to do business together, which means – having meetings and conferences!

For another take on the importance of meetings, check out this video from CBS News by Ben Stein.

Staying current is critical in these rapidly changing times, knowing the latest in legislative mandates and travel restrictions is so important when considering holding a conference or meeting. By networking with peers and attending educational conferences such as HSMAI, meeting planners can be equipped with the information necessary to coordinate successful and cost-effective events.

I definitely learned some new tools and tricks that I will be sharing with you in the weeks ahead to make your Food & Beverage budget go a little farther, how to think clearly under pressure, and more!

- Ginger Myrick, Meeting Planner

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Everyone is for it, everyone professes to do it, everyone agrees it is vital to business.

But what is it really? Is it sharing information? Is it being pro-active in office manners? Is it treating colleagues with respect? Is it being truly fair?

Yes, all of this and more.

It is more than just a word to be bandied about. It is about morale.

Teamwork is self-explanatory. It means helping your co-workers, sometimes before they ask for help. It means deep listening; understanding them, getting vested and caring. It means respecting your co-workers. It also means understanding various ideas around a subject and being mature enough to not take rejection personally.

Each individual is a unique being, yet all are brought together into a specific environment to work: to pull in the same direction, to give up personal conceit for the common good.

Teamwork means treating all employees with equal dignity and attention.

Teamwork means follow-through: it means being dependable.

Too easy it is for all good will to be swept aside in the jumble of the day. Do unto others, not as has already been done to you, but how you would be done to in a perfect world.

Talk to your colleagues. It shows you care.

Look at yourself with fresh eyes.

Here is the link to a wonderful article that gives 8 steps to building teamwork in the office.

- Alex Zabelin, Meeting Planner

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Leading by Example: Recycling in the Workplace

It is sometimes uncomfortable to constantly be telling people to recycle their paper, cans, and plastics. You may come across sounding as preachy. There are ways to introduce changes in the workplace without irritating your co-workers. Lead by example. Create a recycle center in your office. Label containers for paper, plastic, and aluminum. Mention to staff members that you put them in a specific location, and ask them if they would mind using them. Then, make sure you use them, especially when your co-workers are in that area. If they see you using them, they will follow your example.

As the cans, and plastic fill up, take them to the recycle center, cash them in for $$. Once you have collected a fair amount of $$, use that money to bring in treats for the staff, mentioning that you bought the treats from the recycle dollars.

This takes very little effort, but has an effect on the environment, as well as promotes a fun work atmosphere.

- Kelsi Brewer, Meeting Planner

Editor's Note: Kelsi's point about "leading by example" can also be extended to events of every kind. While it is great to talk to folks about reducing, reusing, and recycling materials, it can be so much more powerful to simply do those things. When others see that good things come from your actions, they can be inspired to follow suit. The meetings industry generates a lot of waste. Think about all of the handouts, give away items, and other disposable goods (plates, cups, etc.) that you see at a typical event which end up in the trash and consider how we, as planners, can reduce or eliminate the environmental impact of the events we produce. It can be as simple as following someone's example...

- Karl Baur, CMP

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Model Policy for Meetings, Events and Incentive/Recognition Travel for Those Businesses Benefiting from TARP Funds

The meeting and travel industry has developed a Model Board Policy for meetings, events, and incentive travel that is designed for businesses receiving TARP monies. It is recommended that any agency receiving government monies consider adopting guidelines similar to these.

The guidelines clearly emphasize that meetings, events, and incentive/recognition travel serve legitimate business purposes and are cost-justified. They propose that any meeting exceeding $75,000 must have a written justification. It also suggests that at least 90 percent of the incentive program attendees shall be other than senior executives from the host organization. The U.S. Travel Association has published these guidelines along with examples of legitimate business purposes for meetings, events and travel. If your business expects to receive TARP monies, you should definitely look to have a policy in place to address meetings and conferences. To get started, you can download a copy of the guidelines here.

- Linda Begbie, Meeting & Conference Planner

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

RDL enterprises is "on the air"!

Welcome to our brand new blog, written by the staff of RDL enterprises. We will be posting items of interest weekly from the world of meetings and conferences.

For those of you who travel frequently, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) guidelines for fliers are probably fairly well ingrained by now and even those who fly only on rare occasions are becoming savvy about what they can and cannot take through security. However, some of the new data requirements for passengers under the new "Secure Flight" program might surprise you...

Beginning May 15th, according to a TSA press release, the name that appears on your ticket must be the same as it appears on your government issued ID (such as your driver's license or passport). Though this does not affect everyone, be careful if your name is "Michael" and you usually book your tickets under "Mike". And, while the TSA has said that small differences should not be an issue, you could still run into problems getting through security under the new rules.

The second phase is scheduled to begin August 15th, at which time passengers will need to provide their gender and date of birth as well when booking airline flights. As with your name, this information should be the same as it appears on your ID.

In both instances, the TSA recommends that all travelers aim to be consistent with the information that they have on their government issues ID and that they use while traveling. For more information on the TSA's travel rules, please visit the TSA website.

- Karl Baur, CMP