Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ten Rules for Traveling Safely [Part II]

Last week, I presented the first five of my "ten tips for traveling safely", along with reasons for each rule. Here are the final five:

Rule #6
Pack lightly. Minimize your suitcase to essentials only. Carry a suitcase that you can lift over your head, so you can carry-on. Most airlines carry-on measurements are: 45 linear inches or 9” H x 14” W x 24” L. You can also find more information on the carriers website or by calling.
Reason: You don’t have to pay baggage fees and you can quickly get through the airport check in. You also have the relief that your items are with you and will not get lost in transition.

Rule #7
Carry a pen light with you.
Reason: You’re in a hotel and the lights go out and it’s the middle of the night. Having a light included in your luggage gives you a safe way to find exits, stairs, etc. It is helpful to have a light on you in any case.

Rule #8
Travel lightly. Dress in natural fibers and cover as much of your body as possible including closed toe shoes.
Reason: One, for comfort and two, in case of an emergency evacuation. Open-toed shoes can be hazardous to your feet if you have to walk across uneven surfaces that may or may not be clear of debris. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Rule #9
On the airplane, sit where you have options. Familiarize yourself with the seating rows and emergency exits.
Reason: The airplane experiences an emergency landing and you have to exit quickly. The safest seat is the one with the most options.

Rule #10
When on board, put your cell phone on airport mode.
Reason: Airport mode prevents the phone from making or receiving calls or data transmissions while still allowing you to enjoy music and watch videos (depending on what phone you have). This also allows you to comply with FAA regulations, while still having quick access in case you need to text or call someone in the event of an emergency, as it is easy to switch this mode off/on for most phones.

Thank you for flying with us. Enjoy your next flight and remember to always travel safely. See you again soon!

~ Tess Conrad • Meeting & Conference Planner, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ten Rules for Traveling Safely [Part I]

When traveling, here are a few planning tips to consider before leaving the house, getting to the airport, and boarding the airline. I’ve included a reason for each rule to help nail down why it’s so important to plan safely… Safety comes first!

Rule #1
Make two copies of the contents in your wallet. Leave a copy at home and take a copy with you.
Reason: Your wallet is stolen and you can’t remember what was in there. Americans tend to keep up to nine credit cards in their wallet. It’s best to take the card most used and leave the others at home.

Rule #2
Carry your passport with you, even for domestic travel. Also, follow rule # 1.
Reason: The airplane’s engine is experiencing trouble and needs to land immediately. Most airlines travel over water and can cross into a country border. When your citizenship can be easily identified, you are able to reach your final destination much sooner.

Rule #3
If traveling internationally, make sure your passport is current. The expiration date should be at least 6 months after your dates of travel.
Reason: Several countries will not permit travelers to enter the country unless their passport will remain valid for at least six months after their scheduled departure.

Rule #4
Send your travel itinerary to at least two people.
Reason: In case there is an accident or you lose your documents.

Rule #5
When traveling with your laptop, put your business card inside.
Reason: Your laptop is mixed up in security and disappears. At least there is a way to identify your laptop from someone else’s. Or if you’re traveling with co-workers and you all have the same laptop, yours can be easily identified.

Next week – Rules 6 through 10…

- Tess Conrad • Meeting & Conference Planner, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The 2x8 Rule of Screen Placement

Have you ever gone into a theater and sat so close to the screen that you felt like you were at the base of a cliff? Or maybe you’ve been at the back of a room trying to watch something on a small TV screen?  Both of these situations make it difficult for you to enjoy the presentation – and we, as planners, want our attendees to be able to comfortably see and hear the presentation.  So how do we do that?  Well, in the world of meetings and conferences, there is actually a rule that guides planners (and others) towards rooms sets that do not place an audience too far from or too near to the screen for a presentation.  It is called the 2x8 Rule.

The 2x8 rule states that the first row of the audience should be seated no closer to the screen than twice the height of the display (which is usually the same as the screen height).  The second part of the rule says that the last row should be no farther away that eight times the display height.  So, if we are using a screen that is ten feet high (and filling it with our display), then the first row should be at least twenty feet away and the last row should be no further than eighty feet away. Simple, isn’t it?

This rule can be used with any type of seating, from theater to classroom to rounds.  Your Convention Services Manager and the AV technicians will automatically work to make sure your audiences are appropriately placed relative to the screen but it is useful for me to know what ratios they are using as I work on the room set ups with them.  I have found this to be an important tool in my meeting planning toolkit.

Now, there are always exceptions out there to any rule and this one is no different.  I have had groups that wanted closer or more distant seating and I’ve worked in spaces or with special sets that did not allow me to apply the rule effectively – but it at least gave me a place to start and I knew when I was creating a set that included less than optimal seating.  Even if your group falls into one of the exceptions, though, I recommend keeping the 2x8 rule in mind anyway.  Stick to the rule as much as possible, and your audiences will have a much more comfortable view.

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Creating a Wonderful Dining Experience on a Budget

So, you’re on a limited budget but need to create a menu that will blow your attendees away? The hotel’s set menu just doesn’t cut it for you? And with so many food and cooking shows on TV nowadays (and whole channels devoted to them), it seems as though everyone has become a food critic and more meeting attendees are expecting more from meals at the events they attend. So what can you do about it?

I have just four words for you: Work. With. The. Chef.

The Chef can design a menu for you, based on your budget and your group’s dietary needs, which will impress your guests while providing a balanced meal – but you have to ask. By bringing the hotel’s Executive Chef into the discussion early, you can get a fabulous meal for your attendees that is within your budget. The key items to share with the Chef are your budget, the “goals” of the meal, and any special dietary restrictions for your group.

Sharing your budget is simple (but may not be easy!) and can be given to the Chef either as a per person cap or as a total amount that you can pay for the entire meal or event. He (or she) can then give you some preliminary ideas of what meals he can create within that amount.

The goals of the meal can include food themes (Southwestern, Asian-Pacific Rim, Locally Produced Foods, etc.), what you want people to feel (full, satisfied, impressed, etc.), or your event themes. I also include in this category the types of people who will attend. Are your guests used to steak and potatoes or do they prefer certain kinds of fish, or are they epicureans who prefer new flavors and combinations? All of this is useful to a creative Chef.

In terms of dietary restrictions, the most common one for a general audience is vegetarian and the Chef can easily include vegetarian options in the menu. But what if your group is predominately vegetarian? You need to make sure the Chef knows that, as he will plan a different meal for you than if only a few of your guests are vegetarian. Other meal concerns that I have incorporated into or used as the basis for menus include: vegan, diabetic, gluten-free, food allergies, organic, and kosher. Occasionally, certain food groups might be “off the table”. [For instance, one group I worked with could not have any grapes anywhere in the food or used as garnish. This was to protest the use of pesticides in the production of the grapes, which was harming the field workers.] You must let the Chef know of any such restrictions before he begins planning your meals or you will not be happy with the outcome.

Working with the Chef is just one way to get a provide a wonderful dining experience for your attendees - but it is probably one of the most important ones.  Remember, too, that this is an interactive process. You need to be willing to take the time to sit down with the Chef to go over options, discuss your wants and needs, and listen to the Chef’s concerns and ideas as well.

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Who Staffs Your Event?

Last week, I shared the “1 per 100” rule, a method for estimating how many staff you should plan to have to handle the registration desk and, by extension, how many staff you will need to manage your event. So, now that you have decided how many people you will need to have helping you, “who” are they?

To begin with, you need to decide what jobs need to be done while you are onsite for your event. Each of those jobs will need a different type and level of expertise. Some jobs, such as passing out nametags, can be done by folks with little training and knowledge of meeting planning. Others, such as audio-visual sets, require specialized knowledge that not everyone possesses. And, of course, there are also those jobs that require a lot of knowledge about your event and all of the details that went into putting it together. Make sure you have people with the skills to handle the jobs you are assigning to them and your event will go much smoother.

When were planning staffing levels for events we produce for clients, we start with the “1 per 100” rule and then look at the tasks that need to be handled. The numbers and assignments will be different for each event, but here is one example…

We once did a conference for 900 people that covered two days and had eight concurrent breakouts happening at different times throughout the conference. Registration/check-in opened the day before the conference began (they had pre-conference sessions), so about 200 people would arrive that day. Approximately forty speakers would take part in the program over the course of the conference and we needed to collect presentations from all of them. The program also included an exhibit hall and a high-tech “show” to open the conference.

The “1 per 100” rule would suggest nine staff, but the complexity of the program indicates a need for a couple more than that. But did all of the staff need to be trained meeting planners? Nope. For this event, we scheduled 2 meeting planners and needed 9 other positions to cover the conference. We filled the non-planner positions with temps hired though the local CVB and with trained support staff. Here’s how it broke down:

1 Lead Planner (this person is the one who planned the event – they know everything! – they work with the client and handle any tasks they do not specifically assign elsewhere, such as the caterer)
1 Meeting Planner (to process onsite registrations and collect fees – this involves handling money and requires a higher level of responsibility)
1 Trained Staff (to interface with speakers and the AV company)
1 Trained Staff (to interface with exhibitors and the drayage company)
1 Trained Staff (to oversee the registration area staff)
6 Temps (to hand out conference materials and welcome people to the event – they only stayed until noon the first day. Once the majority of registrants showed up, we were able to manage from that point on without them.)

Now, this doesn’t cover every single job that needed to be done during the conference, but should serve to illustrate the types of jobs handled and what level of training or knowledge is needed for each one. We also had volunteers for the conference, but they were on board specifically to monitor the workshops and take care of any issues that came up during sessions, so I’ve left them out of my counts above (though we did train them!). If we’d been responsible for monitoring the sessions, we’d have had to provide the staff to do that as well.

This subject is too complex and varied to effectively cover in the short amount of space I have here to deal with it but I hope this brief overview is enough to get you started. Just remember the “1 per 100” rule and you won’t be too far off.

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises