Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Five Travel Tips

As a meeting planner, I have made countless trips across the state and the country (and a few outside the US) over the years, and have always found it to be a relatively easy thing to deal with, in spite of the delays and hassles of modern travel. Why? Well, it is partly due to the fact that I like to travel. I get to see new places, re-visit places I have not been to recently, or even just return to old stomping grounds. The main reason, though, that traveling is easy for me is because I have a few things that I do to make my trips more pleasurable. And, having recently returned from a five-day trip to Kansas City, I was considering why I was able to relax amid the stress of long travel days and thought I would share some of those thoughts with you. So… here are five of my favorite techniques for making travel easier.

1) Take a book. It doesn’t matter what you have to read – just have something available. Time passes quickly when you get buried in a good book. I am a book hound and usually travel with two or three of them. If you are not into reading, but have a smart phone, be sure to load up your favorite games, music, or movies to help while away the hours on a long trip.

2) Pack food in your carry-on. As airlines are cutting back more and more, it has become even more important to pack some snacks for yourself. I do a homemade trail mix that gives me some protein, some sugars, and lots of flavor to snack on during long flights. It does not truly replace regular meals, but can be a lifesaver when full, sit-down meals are not an option. Be sure that whatever you take can handle room temperatures without spoiling.

3) Dress comfortably and wear layers. Planes and airports can vary greatly in temperatures, so I always try to layer my clothing. This gives me something I can take off if I get too warm – and something to put on if I get too cold. Comfortable clothing also makes it easier to relax. If you are uncomfortable during your trip, the journey will seem to take much longer than it really is.

4) Give yourself some extra time to get where you’re going. Many people rush to the airport at the last minute, fly along the freeway, or otherwise try to get wherever they’re going in least amount of time possible. While I understand the desire to get to your destination quickly, I find that traveling is much more enjoyable and less stressful when I schedule extra time to get there. When I don’t need to rush to make it on time, I don’t stress about being late or worry as much about delays - and I can enjoy the scenery along the way.

And 5) Keep a positive attitude. This can be particularly hard when there are delays, cancellations, or even (especially!) when you’re stuck next to someone with a massively negative attitude of their own. I try to look at the bright side of the situation and remember that there are very few things about traveling by air that are under my direct control. My attitude, though, is something I can control. If I can “let go” of the things I can’t control, then I can more easily sit back and enjoy the trip…

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Do you have favorite techniques for making travel easier? Share them with us! Send your “ease of travel” ideas to and we’ll share them with everyone in future posts.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

RDL Talks! Completes Its 1st Year!

I am very excited to have completed one full year of posts for our blog – but the future beckons…

To date, the majority of our posts have been generated in-house. We look at our various areas of expertise and the questions and issues we deal with on a regular basis and try to select topics that can be explained without launching into full dissertations. But are we selecting topics useful or interesting to you?

One of my goals as editor of the RDL Talks! blog is to address the interests and needs of our readers more directly – which means I need to hear from you! Please email me with questions or meeting planning topics you’d like to see discussed and I will work to get responses posted. In your email, please let me know if you are willing to have your name and/or company listed in connection with the post (Note: being willing does not guarantee that we will include it…). If you are not willing to have your name listed, that is OK too.

If the topic you suggest is one we have covered before, that is fine with me – sometimes a fresh perspective on an old topic or question can provide new insight.

Your topic ideas and questions can be sent to me at Any other feedback you may have about our blog is also welcome.

I look forward to hearing from you and expect to publish many more posts to shine a light on the world of meeting planning!

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How much coffee do I need for my group?

This is an excellent question, especially for anyone planning a meeting that has an early morning start. Figuring out how much coffee (or tea, or decaf, or any beverage really) to serve a group is one of the most common tasks that meeting planners are asked to do – and the answer can be more art than science.

First, the science…
One gallon (of coffee, decaf, or tea) contains 128 ounces of your chosen beverage. The typical hotel coffee cup is usually either 8 ounces or 6.4 ounces. This means that, on average, you should get 16 to 20 cups of coffee per gallon. If everyone attending your meeting has just one cup of coffee and the coffee cups are 6.4 ounces, then you will need one gallon of coffee for every 20 people attending. So, my group of 100 people needs 5 gallons of coffee, yes? I wish it were always that simple.

Now, the art…
There are many factors that can influence how much coffee you will need but I find that they can be condensed down into essentially three main areas: the time the coffee is being served, the length of time the coffee will be available, and the group’s “coffee preference”.

1. What time is coffee being served? Are you serving coffee first thing in the morning, later in the morning, or at some point in the afternoon? People will generally drink more coffee first thing in the morning than at other times. Afternoons are often the next highest time of coffee consumption as attendees look to combat the post-lunch lull.

2. How long will coffee service be available? If people only have 5-10 minutes to get their coffee, then most people will just drink one cup and may even choose to not have any coffee at all. On the other hand, if coffee is available for a half-hour or more, then your coffee drinkers will go back time and again for refills. The longer the coffee is out, the more refills they can get. A typical break is 15-30 minutes, which is plenty of time for people to have one or two cups of coffee.

3. What is the group’s “coffee preference”? This can be the trickiest to answer. Basically, it comes down to what percentage of the group drinks coffee, tea, or decaf (as opposed to other beverages, like water or juice) and how many cups will the average member of the group drink. I have some groups who drink very little coffee (or tea for that matter), so I adjust the total order for caffeinated beverages downward. For my hardcore coffee fiends, I increase the order significantly since I know that they might average 4-5 cups of coffee during a 30-minute break.

Also consider other possible impacts on your coffee needs… How about the coffeehouse across the street? Or, does your group like to stay out late the night before the meeting?

In any case, the more you know about your group’s behavior and preferences, the closer you will be able to estimate how much coffee you will need to provide to them so that they can be satisfied with the service yet not have a large amount left over.

When I don’t know much about a group’s preferences or behavior – such as when working with a group for the first time – I fall back on the “science”. Using an estimate of one cup per person and 16 cups per gallon gives me a solid number to start with. I can then adjust the figure up or down from there based on the timing of the service and any other information I can glean by talking with my client about the group’s coffee habits.

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

No matter who you are, holidays are important. As a meeting planner, though, holidays take on a whole new dimension. They can be the inspiration for themes, the reason for an event, or even dates to avoid.

When working with any group, it is important to know which holidays you can embrace and which ones you need to avoid. In the United States, for example, scheduling a conference on or near Thanksgiving or Christmas can be very risky. Most people make plans for those holidays that most definitely do not include going to a meeting. However, holding an event in the weeks prior to either holiday (and using it as a theme) can still be successful. The timing of the event is critical. If you are too close to the holiday, you lose participants (mentally and/or physically). And, if you are too far away, then the holiday as a theme becomes less relevant.

Dealing with major holidays is not usually an issue for meeting planners, since the event sponsors are well aware of those dates and want to avoid them also. The tricky part comes in dealing with less well-known or culture-specific holidays. Do you need to avoid Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur? If you have a group with Jewish participants, you may need to. If you have Muslim participants, be aware of the restrictions imposed by that faith during the month of Ramadan as that could have a great impact on what food you serve for your event and when.

So, enjoy this holiday but spend some time learning about how any holiday can impact your meetings and conferences. [Incidentally, May 5th is also Boys Day in Japan. I think I'll celebrate with some sushi...]

- Karl Baur, CMPRDL enterprises