Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Things we have learned since getting onto the Federal GSA Schedule

It has been quite the learning curve, figuring out the best ways to market to the Federal Government, as well as learning how the GSA process works. Here are some of the things we have learned so far…

1. You do get to see bid opportunities prior to the general public, although sometimes they have a short turn around time
2. Your questions often get answered immediately
3. You still have no guarantee of winning the bid
4. You can still ask for a debrief if you are not awarded the bid
5. If you have a positive relationship with a contracting officer and the bid is less than $15,000 they can send the request for a quote out to three organizations on the GSA Schedule and select one of them for the award
6. Relationships, relationships, relationships - they are always the answer for growing your business, even with the government

If you are already registered to do business with the government and are interested in getting onto the GSA Schedule as a small business, check out There are many businesses that will write up your application for you for a fee, but if you want to do it yourself, there is help. We used the local Federal Technology Center and the gentleman we worked with was more than helpful. It took over a year to finally get approved but it finally happened. It is now up to us to keep up with all the different ways to find opportunities to work with the government. They include:

• Contacting contracting officers who have sent out bids for services similar to what we offer
• Researching the budget forecasts for agencies that plan meetings and events

If you are thinking of working with the Federal Government, there are some new programs that are being targeted for woman owned small businesses that are designed to be set-asides for those services and products where women are underrepresented. Check with your local SBA office and they can you started.

~ Linda Begbie • Executive Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What is a Post-Con?

This may seem pretty self-explanatory. After all, if a “Pre-Con” is an event that takes place before a conference or convention, then it stands to reason that a “Post-Con” is an event that takes place after a conference or convention. But, if that’s all it is, then why am I even bringing this up at all? Because that is not all that it could be; there is another use of the term that, just like a Pre-Con, has a particular significance to meeting planners – one that is just as important to what we do.

A Post-Con, in this context, is a meeting between the venue and the meeting planner that takes place right after the event is concluded in which a couple of general areas are typically covered.

Group Performance/Summary of Charges: When I do a post-con, the hotel will typically present me with an up-to-date count of the number of hotel rooms used on each night my group was in-house. Sometimes, I will also get a delegate report listing the names of everyone who stayed that the hotel. In addition, if I have not received them already, I will also get copies of all of my banquet checks to review and sign. Any miscellaneous charges that have been placed on the master account are also reviewed for accuracy. The purpose of reviewing all of these documents and reports is to ensure accuracy in billing. It can be very difficult to correct an error after you have left the property, so anything you can do to minimize the possibility of errors will make your life much easier later on.

Venue Performance: Think of this as an evaluation of the property. How well did they perform for your group? Did meal functions take place as ordered (correct food and times)? If the hotel provided audio-visual equipment for you, was that service provided promptly and accurately? The list of potential areas that you can review here is nearly endless but you can narrow it down to those items that are the most important to you or your group. If you already have feedback from your attendees (good or bad), this is a great time to share that – while it is still fresh.

Although I mentioned that this takes place right after the conclusion of an event, the reality is that many planners are more than ready to hit the door and be on their way home at the conclusion of the event – so it may not happen until after the planner gets back to their office. Even if you cannot (or will not) take the time to do a post-con before leaving the venue, make sure that you do it as soon as you can. The longer you wait, the harder it will be for you to recall details (unless you took extensive notes) and the harder it may be to contest questionable charges on your bill.

Doing a post-con is also a key component of planning for the group’s next event. It is a great opportunity to build history for the group as well as to honestly evaluate how well the group and the venue fit together. This open exchange can bring to light group preferences or behaviors that you may not have previously known about, or point out areas of service that the hotel can improve upon – or it could just confirm that everyone did a great job in supporting your event!

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Risk Management

Part of the RDL team recently returned from the University of California’s Annual Risk Summit, which was held in Los Angeles this year. As you might imagine, there were workshops on topics spanning all types of Risk Management from Worksite Wellness to Driver Distraction to legal and contractual issues. As the meeting planners for the event, I wonder if there was an adequate assessment of risk for the event itself. We seldom encounter emergency situations but even a “small” emergency such as an attendee experiencing the onset of a mild asthma attack, as happened at this year’s Summit, needs to be handled quickly and knowledgeably.

It could all be a bit overwhelming to think of every possible area of event management. Enter the EMBOK, which stands for Event Management Body of Knowledge and is a project developed by Julia Rutherford Silvers ( There are five areas of management for an event of any kind, whether it is a music festival, training meeting, a large conference, or tradeshow. They are:

    Each of these five management domains has what Silvers calls “classes” or subdivisions. Each one of these needs to be considered in a safety plan or risk assessment.

    As the meeting planner, it may not be our role to make the decision to evacuate a building but it is our responsibility to have an emergency plan in place. By asking “what if…” or “what could go wrong?” in each of the areas of event management and documenting it, will be crucial in case anything does go wrong and evidence of this consideration is needed in court. Ask the question, “have we done our due diligence?” and discuss this with all members of the planning team, including the venue.

    As a natural optimist, I don’t personally look to what can go wrong in life. But as a professional meeting planner, I see this as an important and necessary part of the planning process in which we need to always be thinking two steps ahead. As Silvers states, “We cannot control things; the only thing we can truly control is our ability to respond if problems occur.”

    ~ Ginger Myrick • Meeting Planner, RDL enterprises

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    Five Types of Vegetarians that Planners Should Know About

    If meals are provided as part of your conference or event, you should make sure that, somewhere on the registration form, there is a place for attendees to notify you of their dietary preferences. The typical meal at a conference will include a protein (such as chicken, beef, or fish), a starch (potatoes or rice are most common), and a selection of vegetables – but that won’t do for everyone. Though there are plenty of diets out there that all planners should be aware of (and I don’t mean diets to lose weight…), the vegetarian varieties are among the most common. Here is a brief description of each type.

    Vegetarian: At this point, I think everyone knows about this option. Essentially, vegetarians do not eat meat but will consume eggs and dairy products. Sometimes, this type will also be called “lacto-ovo-vegetarian”.

    Pescatarian: This is a person who abstains from eating animal flesh (meat), with the exception of fish. Depending on the individual, they may or may not eat eggs or dairy products.

    Lacto-Vegetarian: A lacto-vegetarian does not eat meat or eggs, but will consume dairy products (such as cheese or milk-based dishes).

    Ovo-Vegetarian: This diner does not eat meat of any kind, nor dairy products – but does eat eggs.

    Vegan: A vegan avoids meat, dairy, eggs, and every other animal-based food product. Most of the time, they will also avoid eating any food that contains an animal-derived ingredient as well.

    The very short list above is hardly the end all be all of dietary restrictions. Add in food allergies such as nuts or gluten, and religious strictures such as those for the Jewish and Muslim faiths, and the list of diets that a planner may need to accommodate at their event can grow considerably. However, becoming familiar with the five types of vegetarians listed here will be a good place to start.

    There was a time in our industry when the vegetarian option for a conference was just a plate of pasta in a cream sauce or steamed vegetables on a bed of rice. As diners (and Chefs!) have become more sophisticated, many more options have become available to planners for their conference menus. Use their expertise and let the Chef come up with something brilliant for you – but be sure to ask your attendees ahead of time what their preferences are…

    ~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

    Ed. Note: Check out these related posts for more event dining ideas.

    Creating a Wonderful Dining Experience on a Budget
    How to Lower Costs for Small Group Meal Functions
    Healthy Meeting Options – Meals & Snacks