Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Music Festival Celebration

On June 4, 2011, RDL kicked off the summer by managing their first ever music festival. The air was damp, the American River was breathtaking, and spirits were high at the sixth annual Coloma Blues Live music festival.

The 2011 lineup featured amazing, award-winning talent. Arizona’s hottest blues band The Sugar Thieves, voted best in the state, started the show off with a delta bang! Meridith Moore, lead singer extraordinaire said the band drove up from Arizona the night before. Their grateful presence was exhilarating and got people to their feet to “shake their meat.” They almost stole the show right out of the gate!

John Németh, who recently made the front cover of the Blues Festival Guide*, quickly gathered people to the stage to enjoy his funky, retro-modern blend of blues and soul. The third act and one of the most recognized, award-winning performers, Tommy Castro Band, came out in the middle of the day. His popular performance parted the clouds and stopped the pouring rain at Henningsen-Lotus Park. Hardcore Blues fans by the hundreds huddled around the stage to hear Tommy’s stunning, blues/roots performance. His electric guitar showmanship stole the show during his improvisational stunt coming off the stage and into the crowd, as he ripped and roared through the park playing his famed roadhouse rock. He was certainly a fan favorite! The Taj Mahal Trio undoubtedly filled the sierra foothills ending Coloma Blues Live with a delightful, fun-filled performance. The husky, bear like man shook his booty, telling everyone else to “get wiggling and giggling, dancing and prancing.” A few of the artists shared how much Taj Mahal influenced and inspired the creation of their artistry. You could see through crowd faces how much his illuminating presence inspired everyone, as they watched this legend fill the air with his rich compilation of music and talent.

Coloma Blues Live from start to finish was certainly was a celebration! Everyone involved, from the 150+ volunteers, crew, and the El Dorado Arts Council, who presented Coloma Blues Live, must feel very proud.

~ Tess Conrad • Meeting Planner & Coloma Blues Live Coordinator, RDL enterprises

*Blues Festival Guide is widely known for providing Blues fans with all the happenings in the genre.

All proceeds from the event benefit arts in education.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Advantages of Technology-Based Meetings

Last month, I wrote about the advantages of face-to-face meetings. In all fairness, I must point out that technology-based, or “virtual” meetings also have some advantages as well, especially in certain situations. Here are the main ones I have come across.

  • They save time.
  • They save money.
  • There is more flexibility in the “when and where” of the meeting.
  • Allow for multi-tasking and increased productivity.

Not having to travel to a meeting or conference, especially if it requires air, train, or extensive driving, certainly saves time. The time not spent on travel can be put to use in the office or at the job site working on other projects. It also saves on costs since you are not paying for transportation and, if the meeting requires overnight accommodations, it will save you the cost of a hotel stay, as well as meals and other incidental expenses.

In terms of flexibility for when and where the meeting is “held”, this really only makes a difference when the numbers attending the meeting are low. A Board meeting, for example, or a team meeting might be good candidates for making into virtual meetings. Conferences operate at a different level. Even if you were to make one into a virtual event, the sheer number of “attendees” reduces flexibility when considering “when”. As for the “where”, the participant does retain control over that – they could log into the event from work, home, or any location with the appropriate technology (i.e. a computer with internet access) – so I can see that as an advantage, if the participant is able to stay focused on the meeting…

The multi-tasking and increased productivity issues are, to me, a little harder to justify as being advantages. While people believe that they can multi-task, is that really the best way to participate in a meeting or conference? You only have so much mind-power available at any given time. Attempting to multi-task really means dividing your attention. If your attention is divided, how much of the information from the meeting are you really retaining?

I can see an argument for increased productivity being an advantage but that is mostly connected to the time saved by not traveling. Since it can be difficult to get serious work done while on the road, not traveling can increase bottom line productivity – but this seems to be more a function of the “It saves time” position than an advantage in its own right.

Each time an advance is made in virtual meetings technology, I see articles declaring the demise of the face-to-face meeting – and, yet, those meetings continue to happen. Virtual meetings are great for short meetings with few participants and limited agendas or goals. Face-to-face meetings are usually better when you are bringing large numbers of participants together for interactive sessions or networking. The reality is that there is room for both types of meetings in our industry and neither one can completely supplant the other – so keep your options open and find the one that is right for your event…

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What is “Conference Chicken”? And why serve it?

Planning a small meeting or a large conference can be a challenge when it comes to choosing the correct food & beverage for the event. So many attendees have various and unusual tastes in foods, not to mention sever allergies to certain kinds of foods. Some of these food challenges may include allergies to glutton, sugar, salt, and MSG. Strict diets that some attendees must adhere to, like diabetic, vegan, and vegetarian. Or all the people that have very specific food dislikes. Often clients want to serve their attendees something that they may personally enjoy without taking all of the above into consideration. Usually, fish & red meat are not the best ideas, although clients do choose them.

We often recommend a safer choice that most people will enjoy and that a good chef can prepare in a delicious fashion. That entrée choice is what has become known as “Conference Chicken”! Now, some of you might think that chicken can be boring, but a good chef can do wonders with flavor & presentation of the conference favorite. So, when planning your next event, here are some delicious & fun recipes from Cooking Light that you might want to think of serving your guests – or to use as ideas for larger meal functions. Share your ideas with the Chef as you prepare the menu. They can be very helpful in making your meal wishes come to fruition. Here’s to the success of your meals!

~ Cyndy Hutchinson • Executive Director, RDL enterprises

Ed. Note: Working with the chef is a key component of producing great meals for any event on a budget. For more of a look at that concept, click here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

11 Hotel Terms Every Planner Should Know

In the world of conference planning, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of terms that we need to become familiar with. In a previous post, I shared definitions of 10 of the most common acronyms in the meetings industry. This time, I’d like to get a little more specific and look at some terms that you would encounter primarily when dealing with a hotel…

RevPAR: Revenue Per Available Room. The hotel’s financial department tracks how much money the property is bringing in each night. RevPAR calculations take into account the total number of rooms available for sale, how many rooms were sold, and at what rate those rooms were sold. This term is one that many planners have had to learn in recent years as hotels have tried to become leaner in their business operations. A hotel may decline to bid on a particular piece of business because the projected RevPAR on those dates is too low for them to be able to offer the rate that the group desires or needs.

Room Block: The rooms that are held for your attendees at your negotiated rate for specific dates. They are not typically available to the general public. Usually, your Room Block is expressed as the number of rooms set aside on each date and at what rate(s), as well as the total number of rooms contractually committed.

Peak Nights: The night or nights on which your guest room commitment is highest.

Shoulder Dates: These are the dates in your room block that are at the start and end of your Room Block. Typically, the numbers of rooms held on shoulder dates are lower than your Peak Night(s).

Cut-Off Date: This is the last date (and time) that the hotel is obligated to sell rooms to your group at the contracted rate. Once the Cut-Off Date passes, the rooms are released from your block and made available to the general public. A typical Cut-Off Date is four weeks prior to the first night held in the room block.

ROH: Run of House. This term in a guest rooms contract indicates that, when your attendees make reservations, they will be given any room that is available at the time they check-in. In practice, this means that most of your guests will likely be given the basic room type as the hotel attempts to keep upgraded rooms available for sale at a higher price than your contracted rate.

RTI: Room, Tax, & Incidentals. These are the three types of charges for any guest room. RTI is a shorthand notation that helps the Front Desk, as well as the Accounting Department, to know who is paying for guest room charges – the individual or the group. Room is the base room rate, Tax covers all taxes and surcharges on that base rate, and Incidentals covers pretty much everything else.

TOT: Transient Occupancy Tax. Think of this as being a “sales tax” on the price of a room for the night. Convention and Visitors Bureaus typically receive a portion of their funding from the TOT.

Slippage: This term refers to the difference between the number of rooms you have contracted for and the actual number of rooms that are sold for your group (when the actual number is less than the contracted number). Most of the time, slippage is tracked daily. Most contracts will allow for some slippage in reservations, but most will penalize you in some fashion (usually financially) if you have too few actual rooms sold in comparison to your contracted numbers.

Wash: This is the difference in the number of rooms reserved as of the cut-off date and the final number of rooms actually used at the conclusion of your event. Usually expressed as a number (positive or negative), it can be given as a percentage instead.

Walk: This term describes the practice of a hotel relocating guests to another property. You have a confirmed reservation for the hotel, but they put you into another hotel instead because they do not have rooms available. Hotels really don't like doing this – for a whole host of reasons…

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What are Base Prices and Inclusive Prices?

The simple answer (to me, anyway) is that Base Price and Inclusive Price are on opposite ends of the same equation – with tax and other charges in between. So how does that work if you are catering an event?

On a typical menu with catering pricing for a hotel, you will see a price listed next to each item or package. Often, that price is followed by a “++”. As discussed in my post on hidden charges, the “++” (or “plus-plus”) represents taxes and services charges that are added to the Base Price that is listed on the menu. If you cannot find the rates on the catering menus, ask your CSM for that information – you need to know it!

Now, let’s look at an example (warning – math ahead!)…

I’ve chosen to serve a dinner that is listed as $50 per person on the menu. Remember, that is the Base Price for my choice. For this example, taxes are 7.75% and the hotel will add a 20% service charge to the bill as well. That gives me an Inclusive Price of $64.65/person to serve that menu option. So how did I get to that number? Here’s the equation:

Inclusive Price = Base Price x (1 + Service Charge Rate) x (1 + Tax Rate)

Plugging numbers in yields…

Inclusive Price = $50 x 1.2 x 1.0775 = $64.65

So, if Base Price is the amount without tax and service charges figured in, then Inclusive Price is the amount with tax and service charge included.

Here is a simple price calculator that I’ve cooked up in Excel that you can download and play with. It will calculate either Inclusive Price from a known Base Price or Base Price from a target Inclusive Price. The only other information you’ll need to know is the tax rate and service charge amount and it will do the rest.

By the way, does the Inclusive Price appear excessive to you? If so you’re not alone. It seems that way to many people when they compare it to the cost of eating out. However, the same dynamic is at play there, too – people usually just aren’t consciously aware of it. The restaurant menu lists the Base Price for each item; you pay taxes on top of that, and tip on top of that. If you were to order a $50 meal, by the time you add tax and tip to the bill, your final tab will be similar to the amount calculated above (though, obviously, you can control how much to tip…).

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises