Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Networking Do’s and Don’ts

Here’s a great quick and easy resource for things to remember when networking (from American Express’ “Open Insight Guide”). Though the Guide is about marketing to the government, the insights offered actually apply to any marketing situation.

Five Ways to Raise Your Profile
  1. Tap into Social Networking
  2. Attend Events
  3. Become an Industry Expert
  4. Join a Local Business Group
  5. Volunteer in Your Community

    Networking Do’s and Don’ts:
    1. Do come with a 30-second “elevator speech” that describes your business.
    2. Do exchange cards with people that you sincerely want to stay in touch with.
    3. Do enter events with a smile on your face.
    4. Do show interest in the person that you are speaking with.
    5. Do listen more than you talk.
    6. Do jot notes on the back of each person’s card for a quick reminder for follow-up.
    7. Do leverage social networking sites to stay connected.

      1. Don’t just try to collect as many business cards as you can.
      2. Don’t isolate yourself in a corner or hang out with friends or colleagues you already know.
      3. Don’t let your mind wander when other people are talking.
      4. Don’t talk about yourself too much.
      5. Don’t monopolize the conversation.
      6. Don’t stuff people’s business cards in your drawer and forget about them.
      7. Don’t send generic email blasts to everyone your meet.

        ~ Cyndy Hutchinson • CFO, RDL enterprises

        Wednesday, May 18, 2011

        4 Advantages of Face-to-Face Meetings

        When the economy is as tight as it is, many companies and government agencies see meetings and conferences as easy places to eliminate spending. Training budgets are slashed and, in some cases, agencies are outright forbidden to attend or support conferences even if there is little or no cost to the agency. However, this approach is rather short-sighted in my view – and not just because I’m a meeting planner.

        True, there is the potential to save time and money by cutting trainings or by reducing or eliminating participation in face-to-face meetings. But, the way I look at it, much more is lost. Here are four advantages of face-to-face meetings that often get overlooked when too much attention is focused solely on fiscal issues.

        1. People prefer to do business – and better business deals are often done – with people they have a relationship with and building meaningful relationships is much better done in person. And, the social interactions that take place during a live event help to build those relationships. In fact, in recognition of the importance of social interactions, many conferences build in time for networking and relationship-building. Yes, you can build relationships with others through virtual events but it takes much longer to accomplish than through face-to-face interactions. How much more time (and money) does it take to find and build new, meaningful, business relationships compared to maintaining and strengthening the ones you have?

        2. Meeting face-to-face allows you to read body language, see facial expressions, and get a better “read” of others present. Non-verbal cues are important to human interaction: you can look them in the eye when conversing, note changes in body posture, observe what they are doing with their hands, etc. When you can instantly “read” the other person, you can react more appropriately to the conversation – and the situation. This is crucial if you are trying to build consensus, lead a group, or persuade potential partners to agree to your position – or trying to build a professional relationship.

        3. Face-to-Face meetings allow participants to engage in more complex thinking, particularly “strategic” thinking, especially when you have more than just two or three participants. In a face-to-face setting, conversation can flow naturally, moving from one topic to another with relative ease as participants share information and build upon ideas and concepts already shared. As the number of participants grows in a virtual meeting, it tends more towards becoming a lecture-style presentation instead of an interactive discussion, which ends up stifling creative and constructive conversations. Conferences, in particular, involve large numbers of people – too many to effectively participate in a virtual event.

        4. Fewer Distractions. This may not seem to be the case but consider how easy it is to “tune out” on a conference call, or work on another project at the same time, or walk away from the conversation. The ability to multi-task is often cited as a reason why people like virtual meetings but turn that perspective around. Do you really want the other party (or parties) to set you aside during the conversation so they can work on something else? When you are meeting with people face-to-face, it forces them to be more engaged in the discussion and it is easier to tell if they are no longer engaged so you can move on to the next issue or shift the discussion as appropriate.

        A successful meeting is dependent on many things but the manner in which the meeting takes place is an important factor. Do you meet in person, or simply connect by phone or video chat? For many things, a phone call or an email may be all that is needed but, if you want to build long-term, meaningful relationships (whether personal or professional), you need to do more than that. You need to be there, live and in person

        ~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

        Wednesday, May 11, 2011

        How can I get free meeting space for my event?

        I love this question! It is a very common one, especially from first-time clients that I’ve worked with. I think that is partially because it is an obvious cost that impacts an event’s bottom line and it is one that many properties are often willing to waive. However, since hotels (and other meeting venues) are in business to make money, the real question to my mind is – under what circumstances would they give me free meeting space? If I can answer that question, then I just might get free space for my client’s event…

        To figure this out, I start with something called the Rooms-to-Space Ratio (sometimes called Space-to-Rooms Ratio). Simply put, this is a comparison of the percentage of guest rooms in the hotel that a group will use, compared to the percentage of meeting space that the group needs. For example, if you are using 50 rooms in a hotel that has 500 total guest rooms, then you are using 10% of the guest rooms. Similarly, if you are using a ballroom that is 5,000 square feet in size and the hotel has 20,000 square feet of meeting space, then you are using 25% of the available space.

        A good rule of thumb is that if your guest room percentage is equal to or higher than your meeting space percentage, the hotel will be willing to give you the space for free (or sharply discounted). The greater the difference is in favor of guest rooms, the more willing the hotel will be to give you the space for free. Now, there are some key modifiers to the ratio (such as the contracted rate for the guest rooms, when you want to use the space, and which specific rooms you want to use) but examining the basic percentages is a good place to start.

        What happens if the group has a poor Rooms-to-Space Ratio (lots of space and few guest rooms)? Now you have to pull out the big guns – and your group history. Show the hotel that the value of your business is high enough and they’ll negotiate with you on the space rental fees. Your group history can give you the documentation you need to make your argument stick. Remember what I said about them being in business to make money? I know of groups who use a lot of meeting space and fill relatively few guest rooms – but they get good discounts on room rental because their planner could show (from their group history) that attendees who did stay in the hotel would spend a lot of money in, for example, the bar and the restaurant. Hotels are willing to take a loss in one area (space rental) to gain a larger profit in another (outlets). Incidentally, this is also why many properties do not charge a room rental if you are doing a lunch or a dinner in the room. The money they make by catering the event more than offsets the money they “lose” by not charging a rental fee.

        OK, so what if the group has a poor Rooms-to-Space Ratio and a small economic impact for the hotel (or no group history)? Here is where you might have to get creative – and flexible with your dates. Can you meet during slow periods at the hotel? This could be a certain day (or days) of the week or certain times of the year. When demand for space is low or nonexistent, a hotel is much more willing to let you have the space for free simply to get some business into the property, even if it is not as profitable as they might like. After all, if the hotel has no events, then those profit centers produce no income at all. Another option to consider is to look for gaps you can fill in the hotel’s schedule. Perhaps they have a group that is using a lot of guest rooms but little meeting space. If that is the case, your large meeting space needs and small guest room requirements might fit perfectly – and they’d be willing to comp the space as an incentive for you to book with them.

        I have frequently heard in industry trainings that “everything is negotiable”. That is true – to a point. There are limits but you can always ask... However, if I know what the other side is able and likely to do, then that does give me a slight edge in negotiating. At the very least, it allows me to understand the constraints that my opposite numbers in sales have to work within, as well as allowing me to demonstrate knowledge that reveals me to be a good partner for them to work with (at least, I hope that’s how they see it). I have also found that knowing what is possible and being realistic about the things I ask for when negotiating with hotels has led to more successful contracts (i.e. getting more of what I want) than starting out asking for the sun and the moon.

        ~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

        Wednesday, May 4, 2011

        Marketing to the Government

        In RDL’s continuing efforts to find ways to work with the Federal Government, we recently attended an “OSDBU Procurement Conference” (Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization) in Chantilly, Virginia. This conference was a national conference that fosters business partnerships between the Federal Government, prime contractors, small, minority, disabled veteran, and women-owned businesses. There were over 3,000 attendees, a number of plenary sessions and breakouts throughout the day, and more than 1,000 exhibitors. All opportunities were definitely beneficial to those attending. Throughout the day, though, the main component was “networking”.

        Prior to attending this big event, we researched the various government agencies represented at the conference, as well as the prime contractors. The goal was to see who had the need to plan meetings and conferences for the year and who had the funding to make it happen. At the end of the day, we walked away with about 30 new contacts. Throughout the day we met people to follow up with and to make part of our social network. We hope that we will be able to establish working relationships that will be professionally rewarding for all parties. The next step is to follow through. Each of the contacts has received an email, a capability statement, and will be added to our Newsletter list. We will use every opportunity to remind them about our services.

        It was a great experience for us to be able to meet and connect with so many large and small businesses across the country. We are all learning that small business teaming together can be awarded Government Contracts where the small business can make a big difference.

        Learn more about Government Contracting at

        ~ Cyndy Hutchinson • CFO, RDL enterprises