Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When should I open registration for my event?

Those of you who regularly read my posts can probably predict my answer to this one: “it depends”. You also will know that I usually have a “rule of thumb” that can be used to get you started towards an answer…and, in this case, the rule of thumb is open registration eight weeks prior to the event.

Two months? Really? Yes, really. Two months before the event seems to be an ideal time to open registration for most meetings and conferences. It gives you time to offer early bird rates and still have a registration deadline (if you have one) that is early enough to be valuable to you as the meeting planner without cutting into the registration window too much.

For many events, especially smaller ones, opening registration earlier than two months ahead of time may result in too many people forgetting about the event – unless you constantly pepper them with marketing to keep it forefront in their minds. Opening later (i.e. closer to the event date) may not give people enough time to register before the deadline, make travel or hotel arrangements, or result in conflicts with other personal or professional commitments.

Please remember, this timeframe is not set in stone, nor does it apply to all events. For some events, it simply makes a lot more sense to open earlier. You may need to avoid holiday breaks or just give attendees more time to get agency approval. If that is what you need to do, then do it. And there are occasions when you will open registration later due to the circumstances of that particular event. An event on a recurring schedule (such as monthly or quarterly) may need different lead times throughout the year for each specific meeting. The goal here is simply to give you a starting point. Any adjustments from there are wholly dependent on the needs of your target participants.

Also – just because you are not opening registration until approximately eight weeks out does not mean that you should not start your marketing earlier. In fact, I generally argue that marketing to potential attendees should begin as soon as you know when and where your event will be taking place. Regular reminders can be used to give updates, remind folks of important deadlines, or just to keep your event in the front of their minds when they are considering which events to attend. And, once an event is established for a certain time of year (for example), marketing for it can almost be year-round. Even if you may not have specific dates set, your attendees will still know that it will be “about that time of year”.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Work-Life Balance

Being a business owner & CFO of RDL enterprises is a very fulfilling job. The daily challenges of managing money are challenging. Working with clients is great and our employees are the best. However, keeping a positive balance in the office and in my personal life is what drives me the most. Recently, we had a staff meeting and the, “RDL Talks!” blog was on our agenda. As I was thinking about what to write for one of my next posts, I started thinking about the work & life balance that we all face each and every day. So, I began to do a little research to see what people do to make this all happen and to see if what I was doing was along the right path. First, I looked to Wikipedia to see if there was such a definition of work and live balance. Much to my surprise there was! I found no reason to change what I found, so I am sharing it with you in the original form.

Work–life balance
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Work-life balance is a broad concept which is closely related and derived from the research of Job satisfaction as explained and researched by Farnaz Namin-Hedayati Ph.D from Innovent Consulting a boutique consulting and work-life solutions firm in Orlando, Florida. Within the research of Job Satisfaction, Hackman and Oldham's Job Characteristics Model, had found that there are both intrinsic and extrinsic factors, which affected perceptions of, job satisfaction within individuals. Intrinsic factors referred to job characteristics specifically. However, the extrinsic factors referred to the social and cultural norms the individual holding the job operated by. Hence, Work-life balance was considered one of the inputs of this extrinsic factor. The most researched area of work-life balance and its bi-directional relationship component referring to life-work balance was introduced by Netemeyer et al., which also described the multi-dimensionality of work-life balance (time, strain behavior). One can say that Work-life balance is the proper prioritizing between "work" (career and ambition) on one hand and "life" (pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development) on the other. Related, though broader, terms include "lifestyle balance" and "life balance". This is fine, as long is it is clear that there is a large individual component in that. Meaning, each individual's needs, experiences, and goals, define the balance and there is not a one size fits all solution. Also, what work-life balance does not mean is an equal balance in units of time between work and life.

After reading Wikipedia’s entry – I continued to do more research (the internet is a wealth of information). I found a lot of interesting articles and information that I think is not only informative, but worth a read. This piece below was written by the staff at the Mayo Clinic was one of the articles I found. Check it out, you may learn some interesting tips that you were not aware of before…

Work-life balance: Tips to reclaim control
When your work life and personal life are out of balance, your stress level is likely to soar. Use these practical strategies to restore harmony.
By Mayo Clinic staff

There was a time when the boundaries between work and home were fairly clear. Today, however, work is likely to invade your personal life — and maintaining work-life balance is no simple task. Still, work-life balance isn't out of reach. Start by evaluating your relationship to work. Then apply specific strategies to help you strike a healthier balance.
Married to your work? Consider the cost

It can be tempting to rack up hours at work, especially if you're trying to earn a promotion or manage an ever-increasing workload. Sometimes overtime may even be required. If you're spending most of your time working, though, your home life will take a hit. Consider the consequences of poor work-life balance:

* Fatigue. When you're tired, your ability to work productively and think clearly may suffer — which could take a toll on your professional reputation or lead to dangerous or costly mistakes.
* Lost time with friends and loved ones. If you're working too much, you may miss important family events or milestones. This can leave you feeling left out and may harm relationships with your loved ones. It's also difficult to nurture friendships if you're always working.
* Increased expectations. If you regularly work extra hours, you may be given more responsibility. This may lead to only more concerns and challenges.

Strike a better work-life balance

As long as you're working, juggling the demands of career and personal life will probably be an ongoing challenge. Use these ideas to help you find the work-life balance that's best for you:

* Track your time. Track everything you do for one week, including work-related and personal activities. Decide what's necessary and what satisfies you the most. Cut or delegate activities you don't enjoy or can't handle — or share your concerns and possible solutions with your employer or others.
* Take advantage of your options. Ask your employer about flex hours, a compressed workweek, job sharing, telecommuting or other scheduling flexibility. The more control you have over your hours, the less stressed you're likely to be.
* Learn to say no. Whether it's a co-worker asking you to spearhead an extra project or your child's teacher asking you to manage the class play, remember that it's OK to respectfully say no. When you quit doing the things you do only out of guilt or a false sense of obligation, you'll make more room in your life for the activities that are meaningful to you and bring you joy.
* Leave work at work. With the technology to connect to anyone at any time from virtually anywhere, there may be no boundary between work and home — unless you create it. Make a conscious decision to separate work time from personal time. When you're with your family, for instance, turn off your cell phone and put away your laptop computer.
* Manage your time. Organize household tasks efficiently, such as running errands in batches or doing a load of laundry every day, rather than saving it all for your day off. Put family events on a weekly family calendar and keep a daily to-do list. Do what needs to be done and let the rest go. Limit time-consuming misunderstandings by communicating clearly and listening carefully. Take notes if necessary.
* Bolster your support system. At work, join forces with co-workers who can cover for you — and vice versa — when family conflicts arise. At home, enlist trusted friends and loved ones to pitch in with child care or household responsibilities when you need to work overtime or travel.
* Nurture yourself. Eat healthy foods, include physical activity in your daily routine and get enough sleep. Set aside time each day for an activity that you enjoy, such as practicing yoga or reading. Better yet, discover activities you can do with your partner, family or friends — such as hiking, dancing or taking cooking classes.

Know when to seek professional help

Everyone needs help from time to time. If your life feels too chaotic to manage and you're spinning your wheels worrying about it, talk with a professional — such as a counselor or other mental health professional. If your employer offers an employee assistance program (EAP), take advantage of available services.

Remember, striking a healthy work-life balance isn't a one-shot deal. Creating work-life balance is a continuous process as your family, interests and work life change. Periodically examine your priorities — and make changes, if necessary — to make sure you're keeping on track.

The information in this article, for me, seemed to reflect that I am pretty much on track. I do find that when my balance tips, that is when I feel the most stressed. So, keeping priorities in focus and maintaining those priorities seems to be the key. I always keep in mind that life is not a rehearsal, but a journey; so take time to smell the flowers along the way. Enjoy your day.

~ Cyndy Hutchinson • CFO, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Is the Service Charge hotels charge the same as a Gratuity or Tip?

Many hotels and catering venues include a “service charge” on top of their base prices (which came up in this post last year). Typical service charge amounts range from 18% to 22% tacked on to the base price for food and beverage charges. I have even seen rates as high as 25%. It is easy to assume, since these percentages are similar to what you would pay as a gratuity if you were to eat out at a nice restaurant, that the service charge is the equivalent of a gratuity. This would be a mistake.

In spite of how it may appear, the Service Charge that hotels tack onto the bill is not a gratuity – not even close. In fact, a hotel's own documents often explicitly state the two are not that same (though usually in the fine print). Service charges exist to help cover the indirect costs of supporting your food and beverage functions, such as cleaning, last-minute staffing additions, and replacement for broken or otherwise non-reusable serving items (plates, glasses, etc.). And, while the percentages venues use are in line with what you would add your dinner bill in a restaurant as a tip, the money collected from service charges very rarely, if ever, goes directly to anyone who actually worked your event.

A true gratuity, on the other hand, would go directly to venue staff and you determine who receives how much. In a future post, we'll look at ways to do this after the event has concluded.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why is the transient market important to meeting planners?

You may think that this is a subject that only the hoteliers out there care about but I would argue that it is one that all planners should pay attention to. In my recent post on meeting planning and the economy, I posited that the ups and downs of leisure travel were an indicator of the how the industry as a whole would perform in the future. Why is that? What is my reasoning for taking such a position?

Primarily, it comes down to the mentality of individuals. Since predicting the behavior of individuals can be tricky, though, it is sometimes helpful to look instead at the behavior of masses – in this case market segments. I combine leisure travel and transient business into one segment. Corporate, association, and government are the others that I typically look at when reviewing trends in the industry. These do not encompass all of the possible market segments but they do allow me to view, in broad brush strokes, the landscape of the hospitality industry. However, each segment is usually treated as separate and somewhat unrelated. So why does the transient market have such an impact that I consider it to be an important indicator of economic trends? Why not one of the others?

My stand is that it is the beliefs and attitudes of individuals that drives our industry. If enough individuals believe that the economy is bad and do not want to travel (whatever the reason), those beliefs have a negative impact on each market segment. The same is true if they believe that the economy is good and feel comfortable with travel and going to meetings. Here’s how I see it working…

Individuals have opinions about traveling, be it for personal or professional reasons. When they do not feel like they can afford to travel personally (usually for fiscal reasons), the transient market drops. The more people who feel that way, the more that market segment is affected.

Then, when they go to work, they carry that attitude with them – maybe not consciously but they carry it nonetheless. That affects their willingness to attend conferences (especially if it involves out-of-pocket expenditures) and their perception of the value of meetings and conferences in general. If enough people carry these feelings into the workplace, then it can cause the corporate market to sag. Add into the mix the fact that such feelings usually have some basis in real economic conditions and you have a situation where companies are already beginning to tighten their belts and clamp down on “extraneous expenditures”. Meetings and conferences tend to get eliminated from the budget along with anything else that is seen as unnecessary or wasteful.

Association events tend to weather downturns in attitudes and economies a bit differently. Because many of these events are voluntary rather than having mandated participation, you often see their events get downsized rather than eliminated completely when the economy sours. Those involved have a personal desire to attend and may work harder to do so. However, the attitudes they carry about personal travel certainly still have an impact here.

On the plus side, these same forces work when people believe that they are secure financially. They are more willing to travel in their personal lives, which translates to more willingness to travel professionally. Since their choices affect the transient market first, then the corporate and association markets, I keep an eye on trends in leisure and transient business at hotels to give me an early glimpse of what the future may have in store for my meetings and events.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises