Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The APEX Initiative

What is APEX? Well, the dictionary defines apex as “the highest point”, which is appropriate for the Initiative but doesn’t really tell us anything about it. APEX, as an acronym, stands for the Accepted Practices Exchange and is an initiative spearheaded by the Convention Industry Council (CIC) to improve the performance of those in the meetings industry. It is meant to take us to "the highest point" of event planning.

For more information about the Initiative or the CIC, please use this link.

OK, so you have the link – but why should you go there? Here are just a few reasons why I keep their site bookmarked on my computer…

1. The APEX Initiative offers sample forms and tools that can be downloaded as PDFs or as Word documents. These can be very useful if you are new to meeting planning but can also help a more experienced planner to bring their own documents in line with industry standards (if they’re not already).

2. The Glossary. This is my favorite part of the web site – and not just because I’m a word geek. If you are a regular reader of RDL Talks!, you’ll know that there are a lot of terms and acronyms that we have to know and deal with in the course of planning meetings. However, even the most seasoned planner will occasionally come across a term that he or she does not know. I turn to the APEX glossary for the answer when I am unfamiliar with a term.

3. As a Certified Meeting Planner (CMP), I also have access to member-specific sections of the web site (not all of which require certification to access). Though I don’t use this section often, it is the section I direct folks to if they are interested in earning their CMP designation.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Building a Reception

Many factors – almost too many to mention – go into creating a successful reception for your event’s participants but there are some key ones to keep in mind. Let’s take a quick look at some of the main factors you need to address in order to set the stage for a successful reception.

Define your goals for the event
Consider this to be your “big picture” starting point – what do you want to accomplish with the reception? Your goals for the event will help create the framework around which everything else will be built. And, they will help you answer questions that will come up along the way. The timing of the event, menu choices, themes, and entertainment options, as well as many other details should all work together in support of the goals for your reception. Even a goal of “we just want to have fun” will help define the event and guide you through the planning process.

Estimate the number of guests
You need know how many people are expected to attend – for planning purposes if nothing else. Is every attendee invited, or only a select few? While this does not replace RSVPs for creating your BEO guarantees, it will give you an idea of the size of event you wish to hold. That information will be of great importance to you during the site selection phase of planning.

When and where will your reception be held – and for how long?
Yes, we all know that receptions are typically held in the evening, but will it take place before or after dinner? Or will it replace dinner? As I discussed in this post, the timing and duration of a reception will affect how much people will eat. Before dinner, people will eat more (if dinner is provided). If you intend for the reception to replace dinner, you had better be prepared with more substantial food options and plenty of it! As for the where, it is generally preferable to host a reception near to where dinner will be served so guests can easily flow from one right into the other. If dinner is not served, you have more options available to you. One more note here: a reception held immediately following a general session will draw more people than one held later in the evening with a break in between sessions and the reception. A late-night reception will typically draw even fewer as many may decide that sleep is more attractive than your event. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and you need to keep the habits of your attendees in mind when planning when and where your event will be held.

Will there be entertainment or a program during the reception?
The presence or absence of an agenda for a reception can make a huge difference in where you hold the event and what kind of equipment you will need for it. A speaker of any kind, even if only for announcements, will need a microphone at minimum. A band or other performing group will have their own AV needs as well that you will need to take into account. Furthermore, including a program of events with a speaker requires people to stop mingling in order to hear the presentation. Similarly, an entertainer will also draw people away from other activities that may be happening at the reception. Not that these are bad things, mind you – they are just items of note to keep in mind as you are selecting the venue and planning the reception.

Choosing the menu!
Once you have the basics out of the way (who, what, where, when, and why), you can sit down to start planning your menus. This is the part that most people like the most and who can blame them? Food is very personal to people and the right choice of menu items can make a statement that is as important as any other aspect of your event. I won’t even attempt to tell you what you should serve, though, as those selections should be tailored as much as possible to the likes and wants of your group and, as I have said many times before, knowing your group is the key to a great event. One group may prefer sushi, while another wants mini corn dogs and sliders. The only right choice is the one your guests will enjoy.

Modifying reception service
OK – this one isn’t really a factor you need to nail down before building your reception. In fact, it is usually done late in the process as you try to get more bang out of your buck. However, knowing what service options exist before you start can be helpful to know as you make other decisions along the way. So, here are a few more posts with additional information for you (if you’re interested): Limiting Menu Options, Open Bars, Ordering Items on Consumption, and Food Distribution and Service Options.

There is one more “factor” that needs mentioning here: the guests. Unfortunately, you can’t really control whether or not they have a good time. Nor can you control whether or not they attend or if they go along with the program as you envisioned it. However, their participation is crucial to making your reception a success. So doing your best to present them with an event that they want to attend and will rave about for years afterwards will go a long way to making your receptions a success for you and for them.

As you can see, there is much that goes into building a successful reception – and this is just the tip of the iceberg! There are two final keys I’d like to leave you with: 1) think ahead – answer as many questions about your event as you can before you begin the actual “building of your reception – and 2) work closely with your partners, be they the hotel, outside caterers, AV companies, or your speakers and entertainers, to make sure that everyone’s issues are addressed as early as possible in the process. Using these keys should help you get off to a great start in producing a successful reception and will make dealing with any changes down the road easier to manage.

Good Luck!

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Placing Images as In-Line Text

Last year, I wrote an article about placing images directly on a page using the InDesign program. Now, I would like to explain placing images as in-line text. This is especially helpful if you have many images within a document and want your images to stay in place with certain text. That way you don’t have to keep moving images around if you are adding or taking information out of your document.

Placing an Image as In-Line text:
To place an image as in line text, you first need to make sure that you know where on your computer the original file is stored. Make sure to give the file a name that allows you to easily distinguish what it is.

Next, make sure that you have selected your type tool from the tool palette.

Place & click your cursor on the page where you want the image to be placed.

Now select File > Place (Keyboard Shortcut: Command +D)

A dialogue box will pop up and you will then need to locate the file on your computer.

After selecting the file you wish to place, click Place in the dialogue box.

The image will then appear. You can use your selection (arrow) tool to move the image up or down within the text. If you highlight the image using your type tool, you can change the alignment in the control palette like you would with type. In some cases the image will be the wrong size, you will then need to resize the image.

To Resize an Image
First, select the image with your selection (arrow) tool.

Next, hold down the shift key and click any corner or the image to either increase or decrease the image size. (Holding the shift key while resizing is important because it constrains the image.)

Be sure to release the mouse before releasing shift.

Now depending on whether you made your image smaller or larger, you will either see some extra white space in your image box or it will look like your image is cut off. This is an easy fix.

Make sure you have your image selected with your selection tool and then select Object > Fitting > Fit Content Proportionally (KS: Shift + Option + Command +E).

Using Text Wrap
In some cases your image my be very close to or overlap text on another line. To fix this, you will need to select the image using your selection (arrow) tool .

Next, you will need to open the text wrap palette, select Window > Text Wrap. The Text Wrap palette will pop up on your screen. with your image still selected, click the second icon in the Text Wrap box.

When you scroll over this it should say “Wrap around bounding box” (This is the option that you will typically select). You can change the offset for each side of the image in the Text Wrap Bounding box as well, by typing the measurements in or using the up and down arrows .

~ Carmen Zorick • Graphic Designer, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Adult Learning Styles in the Context of Meetings and Conferences

While this is not something that many meeting planners need to worry too much about, it is nonetheless an important piece of what we do. After all, one of the reasons people attend meetings is to learn something. In this post, I’d like to take a quick look at adult learning and what that means for training sessions.

There are, essentially, three styles of learning (for adults or children): Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic. Visual and Auditory learning styles are somewhat self-explanatory. These are learners who prefer to assimilate new information either with their eyes or their ears – they want to see or hear the material – and will process information best when it is presented in those formats. Kinesthetic learning is movement based. People who learn this way do best when they can physically interact with the information somehow, such as through discussion or exercises. Sometimes, a fourth style is included: Environmental. Environmental learners do best when they are in comfortable surroundings. How you present material to them is less important that the environment around them when receiving that information.

When I am asked to do a training, I try to make sure that I have, in addition to my lecture (for the auditory learners), handouts or a PowerPoint presentation of some kind (for the visual learners) and, when possible, samples of what is being discussed (for the kinesthetic learners). The environmental learners are harder to accommodate since they may not even be aware themselves of what factors they need to best learn. So I try to make sure that the space in which the training is happening is as comfortable as I can make it – which is tough to do when you may only have folding chairs and limited control of the room’s temperature…

Another piece in all of this that is often overlooked has to do with the differences between adults and children in how they approach learning. Adults typically have substantial experience that they bring with them. That experience shapes how they approach the material. Although they often come to a meeting or training with beliefs and attitudes already set, they can be a great resource for a trainer to tap into. This diversity of experience also allows adult learners to help each other – and not simply rely on the trainer to make it all make sense to them.

Adults also tend to be more outcome-oriented than children. Adults want the training to relate to and address their needs – whether those needs are personal or professional. They also want to see results quicker than children, who are often happy enough to accept the teacher’s word that the information will be useful later.

All of this means, as a trainer, you need to be more flexible in your teaching methods than you might think. Adults come to learning situations with so much more than children – more experience, more beliefs, more tools to learn with, more expectations – and a good trainer will be able to incorporate many of these things into their classes, making the experience more productive for all of the students. They need to be able to find different ways to present the same material since one size most certainly doesn’t fit all when it comes to adult learners. Having said that, keep in mind that everyone is capable of learning using each style. What we’re talking about here are preferences, so if the material is not suited to one style, you don’t have to force it. Prepare for as many styles as you can and be ready to use the knowledge base that your students already have. Your trainings will be more successful the more you can tailor them to the needs of the participants.

At any given conference, you will find each learning style represented. See if you can distinguish what people’s preferred learning styles are by how they approach the sessions, what they say and do, and what they take away. If you can figure out what styles your attendees have, you can help your speakers, presenters, and trainers do a better job of reaching them with the information they have come to the meeting to get.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises