Wednesday, November 30, 2011

So how much water should I drink while at a conference?

Last week, I talked about the importance of staying hydrated while at a conference – whether as an attendee or an organizer – and gave suggestions for how to do so. However, I did not mention how much you should drink, which begs the question of what the right amount of fluid intake is for a person attending a conference. The answer is – all together now – it depends.

Your body needs what it needs. This seemingly unhelpful piece of wisdom is actually quite appropriate when it comes to water consumption. Many people still believe that you need to consume eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water each day to stay properly hydrated. However, the science behind that statement is completely lacking and, according to, even nutritionists and physicians who specialize in water and hydration do not know where that “rule” came from.

If you lose 80 ounces of water throughout the day, then, yes, you need to take in roughly the equivalent of about ten 8-ounce glasses of water each day because you need to replace what you have lost. But even that figure is somewhat misleading. After all, (1) it doesn’t need to be water, though that is usually the best option; and (2) you actually can get much of your daily fluid intake from food as well.

How much water do you get from food? According to this article by the Mayo Clinic, your food typically accounts for about 20% of your daily fluid intake. If you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, then you are getting a higher percentage of water from your food than usual. The more water you get from your food, the less you need to actually drink.

What liquids, other than water, can you drink? Just about anything in a typical diet. Coffee, tea, juice, soda, milk – even beer and wine – can all count towards your daily intake of water since they are comprised primarily of water. Now, that is not to say that these are optimal replacements for water, nor should they make up a large portion of your total intake, but they do count towards the total – which is something usually ignored or overlooked by those pushing the “eight 8-ounce glasses of water” rule. Water is still generally the best choice, though: it is “calorie-free, inexpensive, and readily available” (Mayo Clinic; italics are mine).

Don’t forget, too, that other factors come into play as well. How physically active are you on a given day, what is the weather like, how humid is it, what physical conditions do you have, etc. are all key factors. These and other factors feed into the question of how much water you should drink daily. And the answer may be vastly different each day… Pay attention to what your body is telling you and, most of the time, you will be on track to drink enough water

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Monday, November 28, 2011

Event Cost Savings: Signage

Creating signage for events is an easy task that every planner can do with ease. When planning an event, it is important to have the correct information available and an easy-to-read format for attendees. However, the display and choice of materials is widely varied. Often the client budget is a big factor in how elaborate signage is at any given event.

RDL takes pride in working with our clients in all facets of planning the logistics of their meetings, conferences, or events. Client budgets are always very important and looking for cost savings measures for our clients are options that we like to share. Signage can be a huge expense and the message is the same; directions & information for attendees. Signs can be as large as billboards, they can be multiple colors, illuminated, 3-dimensional, magnetic, and in every size and shape imaginable. Banners and large foam-core signs are beautiful and depending on the number of signs needed to assist attendees in getting from place to place and knowing what is happening in each venue can be huge.

Here’s some information for many different and unique options for event signage.

Signage can also be very moderated and still be quite effective, depending on the venue, the client and the number of attendees. RDL planners often reduce the cost of big expensive signs by using slip in sign holders.

The slip in sign holders have borders in many colors that can compliment our client’s theme or colors. These sign holders have a plastic center for a 8/5x11 pre-printed sign. This style sign is easy, efficient and inexpensive for our clients. These slip in signs also have large red arrows to assist attendees with directions to venue meeting rooms and other events. Signage provides directional assistance to elevators, up and down stairs, around corners, and down long hallways.

Just a little bit of information that I thought would be interesting to share. Great to know of something that other planners may not be aware of & to know that this form of signage is cost inexpensive and efficient.

~ Cyndy Hutchinson • Executive Director, RDL enterprises

Friday, November 25, 2011

A New Way to Do Business with the Federal Government

As meeting, conference and event planners, it is always a challenge to find ways to work with the Federal Government. The newest strategy we have seen in requests for quotes has been for NO COST contracting. This means that the planner is required to recoup all of the costs incurred in planning the event, usually including the meeting site costs. This is done through registration, exhibitor, and sponsor fees. The challenge is to determine reasonableness in building a budget based on anticipated costs and projected income, including no charge to government employees. This is, of course, much easier when you have a meeting that will draw your anticipated number of attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors. Sometimes the government gives you a range of attendees, which is another challenge for budgeting.

I know the government agencies are looking for ways to save money, but we must caution ourselves, not to lose money in the process of contracting with the government. One of the recent bids we did required no more than a 10% profit to the contractor. In building a budget, that is easy to project, in reality I am not sure how that works.

We find this to be a new and interesting trend. We have seen it in the private sector for a long time, but now the government is engaging in this practice, without a full understanding of the consequences. When bidding, you don’t have a contract with a meeting site, an audio-visual vendor, a drayage company, or a caterer. This means that much of what you use to determine a registration fee to propose to the government is based on your experience and best guesses as you are projecting costs.

We will keep you posted on how this trend as we continue in our efforts to work with the Federal Government.

~ Linda Begbie • Executive Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Drink Up! The Importance of Staying Hydrated while at a Conference

Most people are aware of the basic facts about water consumption – the human body is approximately 75% water, you lose water throughout the day through normal activities and you need to take in a certain amount each day to replace what is lost, etc., etc. [Dehydration occurs when you take in less water than you lose, creating an imbalance.] However, many people are not aware of just how much even a little dehydration can reduce your effectiveness.

We all know that being thirsty is a sign of dehydration but did you know that even mild to moderate levels of dehydration can result in headaches, sleepiness, physical weakness, or dizziness? Higher levels of dehydration can become dangerous: irritability and confusion, low blood pressure, fever, and even loss of consciousness (Sources: Mayo Clinic and Medicine Net). Since we need to remain healthy and productive while managing an event, hydration is a key component that we cannot ignore.

Of course, you’d never let yourself become so dehydrated that you lose consciousness, right? You’d recognize it right away and drink more water, right? Maybe – but are you even aware of the symptoms and that dehydration is the reason you feel “off”? It is surprisingly easy to reach high levels of dehydration without realizing it – especially at a conference, and especially if you are the one “in charge” of the event. Why is that? I chalk it up to self-perception.

When I am onsite and the Lead for a conference, I become focused on all of the myriad details that need to me monitored to ensure a smooth-flowing event. The more details that need monitoring, the more focused I become on the needs of the event – sometimes to the point of forgetting my own needs (like eating and drinking). My focus (something needed, by the way) can get in the way of my ability to self-perceive my own condition. And this is not just something that I face. I have heard from other planners who have had similar experiences – and seen it occur in others as well.

Even attendees can suffer from dehydration. Have you ever been so busy that you “forgot” to eat lunch? (Be honest!) Conferences can be very busy affairs for the attendees as well as for the organizers. Packed event schedules can make even the most dedicated hydrator forget to drink up sometimes.

So, given that even low levels of dehydration can have negative effects on you, your work, and your moods, what can you do to combat dehydration at a conference (or anywhere for that matter)? Here are just a few ideas…

1. Set an alarm on your watch or phone to remind you to drink (and eat!) something. It does not have to be a lot – just enough to make sure that you are staying hydrated (or fed).

2. If you are onsite with other staff who work with you, remind each other periodically to get something to drink and/or something to eat. You may not realize you need it until someone says something to you. This is a technique my office uses with great success while onsite at meetings.

3. Keep a water station at your registration desk, in your onsite office, or wherever you will regularly see it. Having water in sight serves as a subtle reminder to regularly drink up.

4. If you are able, carry a water bottle with you as you make your rounds of the event, checking details, checking in with vendors, etc. Like having a water station in view, having a bottle of water with you can be a good reminder to stay hydrated. I know many planners who use this technique.

Don’t limit yourself to just these suggestions; find other ways to remind yourself to drink regularly throughout the day. Find what works for you – there is no one “right” way…

One final word of advice: don’t rely on just one method to remind you to stay hydrated. A single technique might fail. You could lose your water bottle (setting it down, then forgetting where you put it – or even that you had it) or miss/ignore your alarm. People can forget to remind you. But, if you have multiple reminders in place, the chances are much better that you will remember to drink plenty of water – and avoid any of the nasty effects of dehydration.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Monday, November 21, 2011

ADA Accessibility & Site Selection

Americans with Disabilities Act has provided guidelines that came into existence under President Bush in July 1990. This important legislation was put in place to extend civil rights protection to people with disabilities.

Evidence of this legislation is everywhere we go: Federal, State & public buildings, medical care facilities, libraries, and public transportation has been modified to accommodate people with disabilities. Curbs have been lowered at corners for easy access to street crossings, ramps have been added to older facilities & to new facilities to allow easy access to buildings where stairs are the main entrance. Railings have been added to buildings and other public places for easy and safe accessibility. Elevators have been added in old buildings, in attempts to bring them up to code for easy access. Public transportation has added ramps and lifts to their vehicles for access and to transport wheelchairs and walkers along with their users from place to place. Parks have added paved or wooden paths for easy access. In fact, if you just look around you – easy public access is everywhere in our daily lives.

As meeting, conference & event planners ~ we at RDL are always thinking about easy access for all attendees to our venues. In choosing an event, special consideration is given to how easily the space is accessible to all attendees. If someone is in a wheel chair, on a walker or using a cane, can they easily get to each room of the venue?

RDL always keeps in mind ~ how accessible are the restrooms and the elevators. How far way are the meeting rooms from the general plenary sessions? Can an attendee in a wheelchair or on a walker or using a cane easily get from room to room in the time allotted for transition from one event to the next? Are the restrooms easily located and accessible? Are the stalls equipped with doors that open out and does the restroom have an area large enough for a wheelchair or walker to easily get in and out?

There are many things to think about when choosing a venue ~ try walking the property through the eyes of someone is a wheel chair, on a walker or using a cane. See how long it takes to get from one area to another in a limited amount of time. Also keep in mind locations and access to various levels, elevators, restrooms, restaurants, public transportation and other public areas.

Finding the right venue in older cities where construction is very old is a huge challenge. Special attention needs to be devoted to easy public access for all. It is important to keep in mind that no one wants to enter an event through a service elevator in the kitchen or through an alley.

For more information ~ here is a link to many more

~ Cyndy Hutchinson • Executive Director, RDL enterprises

Friday, November 18, 2011

A real paperless meeting

In today’s meeting environment we are all looking for ways to be digital friendly. Do we use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or do we look for ways to really use our electronic resources? I have been researching the use of smart phones and tablets by attendees as they prepare to attend an event and while they are on-site...

In my research, I have found applications that can be customized by the planner and allows the attendee to log in and gets all the most up to date information about the event. It can include:
Customized logos
Conference Agenda
Map of the meeting site
Map of the exhibit hall
Special Events
Links to social marketing for the event
Last minute changes to the program
Some events are using Bar Code or QR Code Readers that allows planners to embed a barcode with the confirmation information and email it to the attendee. The attendee can print the confirmation with the barcode, or they can scan it directly from their smart phone. They just needed to scan the code on a Barcode or QR Reader and they get a nametag printed. If the attendee has not registered, they can do so on site and get a bar code generated at that time. The QR Reader could also be used as a sign in for attendees registered for continuing education or special events.
This gives the planner immediate feedback as to who is actually in attendance.

The possibilities are limitless and we have only to challenge our creative minds to find ways to move into the paperless meeting environment.

~ Linda Begbie • Executive Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Exhibiting in a Tradeshow – A first-timer’s view

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to participate in a small tradeshow as an exhibitor. Given that I am usually either attending the tradeshow as a participant or am part of the team organizing the event, being on the exhibitor side was quite interesting. Although many aspects of the experience were not unexpected, I did come away with a new respect for what exhibitors go through on a regular basis.

Setup time for my table was scheduled well in advance of the event start time – but that is nothing new for me. When I am onsite for a conference, I am always there long before the first scheduled activity (including exhibit setup!). Being a first-timer, though, I was paranoid about missing any of the scheduled exhibit hours, so I made sure I was back at my table well before any attendees would be able to come by. I didn’t want to miss anyone!

The evening reception was nice, though I was too busy manning my table to really enjoy the food much, and I saw enough traffic to feel like it was a good use of my time. What I found most interesting was that not all of the exhibitors had arrived and set up yet. Given that the reception represented the single largest block of exhibit time, I was a little surprised that more exhibitors were not present. However, I suspect that they believed that they would get enough exposure throughout the next day’s schedule.

The next day was a full schedule, too. Again, I am used to long hours onsite during a conference, so the early start and length of the day did not concern me. By the time the day’s first session began, all but one of the exhibitors had arrived and set up (I found out later that the one exhibitor missing had car trouble on the way, which is why they were not there). Flow throughout the day was steady, if slow. Traffic picked up a bit during the regular breaks for exhibit viewing and networking but I was amazed how many people skipped sessions to wander through the exhibit hall. As an attendee, I can’t think of a time when I have done that, though I suspect that I would if I was already familiar with the material being presented… The end result was that I did not get to go to many sessions myself – which was OK since I had heard most of the session content at similar previous events.

Was it worthwhile? I don’t know yet; time will tell. I did not feel that it was a waste of time, though. I got several good leads on potential business (I think) and, knowing that the planning cycle can take quite some time before an agency decides to do an event and hire it out, I do not expect to receive any RFPs from these contacts right away. But, if I can build good connections with them, the potential for work is there.

Would I do it again? Yes. (In fact, RDL will be exhibiting for the first time at CalSAE’s Seasonal Spectacular in Sacramento on December 7th – stop by and say “hi” to our owners: Linda and Cyndy!) Having done this once, I feel that we can only get better at our outreach and marketing by adding exhibiting to our efforts.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Autumn’s Song

Autumn has graced her presence on most parts of North America. I’m always amazed at how the seasonal equinoxes and solstices take time to peal back their natural layers. There is rhythm and harmony to nature’s slow process as she takes time to unravel her seasonal song. She sings through the wind, “I am seductive and mysterious and I’ll arrive when ready.” September 20th is the first day of fall. It’s early November and certainly feels like fall more than any other day, previous. Trees shed warm, comforting colors of yellow, red, brown, and orange. The dusty, colorful leaves sway throughout the sky. Autumn’s sound is loud and bustling. Her presence is fierce stating, “I have arrived. Pay attention. Transformation is taking place.”

Autumn is a time of nostalgia and letting go. It’s a turning point. Ana Forrest writes, “As children of the earth, it’s easier for us to make changes if we work consciously with the earth’s changes.” It’s about balance. Nature is cycling, harvesting, and decomposing into the earth. It is a transformational process of give and take, clearing and renewal. Naturally our bodies connect to this quintessential time of year, wanting to remove old behavior patterns and break off dried up beliefs that no longer serve a purpose. Earth eases us to slow down, transform, and nurture each other and ourselves. It’s a time for gratitude, praise, and thanksgiving. During this season of harvest ask what needs self-reflection, release, or both? What are you doing in your life now to connect to the planet, to each other?

During this time of year, as business slows down, we here at RDL reflect on the past year and consider the road ahead. I urge each of us to get grounded and connect to the season of change. Take inquiry of our surroundings and to nature’s beautiful rhythm. This is an exciting time of year. Be grateful for everything! Today I am grateful for breath, creativity, and friendship. Bring attention to whatever it is that brightens your spirit and makes your heart sing. Get curious. I challenge you to do something everyday in November that ignites your spirit, connects to your body, and deepens your breath to finding your authentic self - your spirit.


Walk in beauty,

~ Tess Conrad • Event Planner, RDL enterprises

Note: Ana Forrest is the author of Fierce Medicine and creatrix of Forrest Yoga.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How Food Can Impact Your Meeting’s Success

When planning menus for their meetings, most meeting planners focus on what sounds good to serve and fits within their budget (I am usually one of them, too). Rarely do they put much thought into how what they choose to serve can impact the success of the meeting. However, what meals you choose to provide to your attendees has the potential to affect their ability to learn as much as the lighting levels, type of room seating, and the room temperature. The good news is – you don’t have to be a nutritionist (or even play one on TV) to make better choices in your menu selections. So how does a planner take all of the diverse factors into account (budget, dietary restrictions, service time, etc.) and still support the learning goals of an event?

The old adage, you are what you eat, is quite relevant here. Studies have backed up what people have long believed: what you eat affects your moods. And, in a meetings setting, your mood can affect how well you learn and process information and how you interact with your fellow participants.

We’re all familiar with the post-Thanksgiving Feast lethargy, yes? You eat a huge meal, then want to spend the rest of the day on the couch watching football (or otherwise being lazy)… We want to avoid a similar response after lunch at a conference because that “tryptophan high”, while feeling good, also impedes your ability to receive and process information. So what’s the solution? Reasonably sized meal portions can help make sure that your attendees are not dozing the afternoon away when you want them engaged and learning. Fortunately, most chefs already provide reasonably sized meals (for plated meals) so you don’t need to worry about this one too often. Do keep it in mind, though, as it can be a factor after buffet lunches.

Providing balanced meals are also important because the body requires a variety of nutrients to function properly. If you are missing key nutrients in what you eat, then your body is forced to draw from its own reserves to fill in those gaps. Why does that matter? Well, the brain cannot store food energy as the rest of the body can. This means that, if it needs a particular nutrient, the brain will need to “steal” it from another part of the body. Depending on the nutrient needed, we may feel hungry, depressed, tense, irritable, etc. as the brain sends out signals to the rest of the body with its needs. All of these moods affect your ability to function effectively and, with the “negative” moods, can make it impossible to participate fully in a meeting or conference. As with meal sizes, your catering chef will help you with this as they create meals for you. You might have noticed that plated entrees always include a protein (usually meat), a starch (rice, potatoes, or pasta), and vegetables. This “triangle of food” is a basic, roughly balanced meal. While you don’t have to worry about providing every nutrient the body needs in each meal, the more variety you include, the better the results can be.

Let’s talk dessert. We have addressed desserts before (here and here) but, in this case, we’re more concerned about what happens with your attendees when you serve dessert. First off, it usually means they are eating a larger meal than they otherwise might since most people do not eat dessert after lunch every day. We’ve increased the meal size, which increases the chance they will become lethargic afterwards. Secondly, the sugars in most desserts are, in many ways, junk. Yes, your body “needs” sugar; it makes you feel good and provides an energy boost. However, that boost from desserts is short-lived and the good feelings drop off just as quickly. When combined with a large meal, this can make your attendees very sleepy just when they need to be most alert. Candy and soft drinks, often served at breaks, can also cause spikes in energy as they provide short, quick boost to blood sugar, then fall below normal levels before stabilizing. This is not to say that you need to remove all sugary foods from your menus – just be aware of what affect they can have on your attendees. This is one factor that you have a lot of control over in menu planning.

So, from a meeting planner’s standpoint, three things to focus on when providing meals that can affect productivity after a meal are meal size, meal composition (balance), and sugar content. So why not look further into the chemistry of the mood-food relationship? Well, for one, there is too much info out there to easily sum up here (especially since I am not a nutritionist) and, for two, there is another factor in this that cannot be easily addressed here: the attendee. Every person responds to food differently. Yes, there are general responses and long-term health effects that are true across the board, but those are less true when applied to specific individuals. One person may be greatly affected by caffeine, for example, while another could drink a pot of coffee right before bed and have no ill effects. And, those with dietary restrictions or allergies, such as lactose intolerance or nut allergies, may respond very differently to the same meals as those without the same conditions. The examples could go on forever – but the point is that a general awareness of how meals can affect your meeting participants will go a long way in making sure that you don’t sabotage your own event by providing meals that undermine your goals.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises