Category Archives: Future Forecasting

2017 Meetings Industry Hopes & Predictions

Originally published Meetings Today Blog

Predictions and resolutions are the stuff new years are made of. In the last days of 2016, on Facebook and other social media sites, after the deaths of beloved celebrities, many said they wanted 2016 over; that “enough was enough.”

Keith Knight, known mainly for his cartooning but to me known as a brilliant speaker on police brutality and race relations, got it right in his Jan. 1, 2017 cartoon.

Others of us, in reaction to the election results in the U.S. and elsewhere, to the horrors against humanity in so many countries, including the United States—the killing and homelessness and poverty of so many—wondered if we could just hold on to 2016 to get it right before we started again.

2017, alas, is here.

At the end of 2015, I wrote a predictions blog that I never posted. I reviewed it at the end of 2016 and found, much to my dismay, too much was still true.

Instead of revising that, I started over, seeking, before I wrote, input from colleagues in a variety of positions in our industry. My thanks to those who were able to respond; to those whose lives made it impractical, I hope, when you read this, you’ll add what you might have said if you had been able.

The questions I asked of colleagues and my responses follow. Add what you hope and predict for our industry—or more broadly, for our world—in the comments below. And please answer the poll questions too so we have a sense of what you, our readers, think.

The world is in a great deal of flux. What is your hope for meetings and our broader hospitality industry for 2017?

I hope that we…

  1. Remember that hospitality and meetings are about people, bringing them together to solve problems, learn and take the results of those interactions back to their work places, communities, homes and to renew body, spirit and knowledge.
  2. Look at technology as a tool not as a solution at and for meetings and at and for facilities—that replacing people’s jobs (concierge, room service, front desk, restaurant servers and perhaps meeting professionals since anyone, right, can take forms and complete them to arrange a meeting, etc.) with robots or other technology may not be the best thing for our economies and for what may soon not be a relationship industry.
  3. Help build on the diversity and recognition of those over-represented but not recognized or in positions of authority (women and people of color) and people of more diverse backgrounds through more conversations like the one used here. Also that hotels stop giving excuses for not being really accessible while pretending to be in compliance with the ADA (Watch for an upcoming newsletter on accessibility, personal experiences and what you can do).
  4. Take our responsibilities as industry professionals seriously and learn more about how meetings can be different than they have been. (You know my stand on awful room sets. If just one hotel or conference center could please have an ad or website with a room set that is audience-centric…).
  5. Act against laws in states like Texas where they are likely to enact a law similar to that North Carolina passed and that caused meetings and business to cancel. If you can’t see it as a human rights issue, see it, as diversity is always positioned in our industry, from the business case (If you read this before or during PCMA in Austin, head on over to the State House for the opening of the Legislature on 1/10).

If you choose to do so, what are your hopes for the world for 2017?

My hopes are not much different for the world as for our industry and mirror many of those expressed by my colleagues in what I call “Part 2” of the Jan. 6 newsletter.

As a child and still as an adult, I’ve always believed if we could just talk with each other and see life from each other’s points of view or experiences, we might make peace. So the optimistic idealist (or pessimistic optimist) in me wants to believe that in spite of the dictators and torture, in spite of the pretense of getting along when we don’t, we might find common ground (See the link above and here again for an example).

What is your prediction for one area of meetings or hospitality for 2017?

If the new U.S. President and his Administration make it more difficult for people who are Muslim or who reside in Muslim-majority countries to come to the United States, meetings—scientific and medical meetings in particular—will suffer the lack of broad input leading to a loss of research and solutions to serious problems. Just as the cutback in the ability of U.S. scientists and others to attend conferences when the scandals about meetings hit, a ban on those who can attend conferences will hurt us all.

Of course, the cutback on U.S. government meetings is likely to remain in the wake of budget considerations and the President-elect (or President, depending on when you are reading this) calling for agencies to shut down and people to be laid off. I can only imagine more U.S. government meetings being hit. Not good for any of us! But then perhaps it won’t happen if we speak up about the impact it has on people and business.

Most of all, I will try to write about things that stimulate conversation and thought and hope you will provide input so I know what you need/want to make our industry better.

On a personal note: at the end of this year, two people important to me died: one, an association stalwart, Ed Able, once CEO of the American Association of Museums, and the other, the young husband and father of a meeting planning friend and colleague, Shira Kundinger. Other friends suffered cancer and other illnesses and were hospitalized. And we observe at the first of the year the yahrzeits (death anniversaries) of dear friends and colleagues, Laurie Meyer and Stan Aaronson.

I thus wish each of you a healthy and safe new year.

May you find purpose to act on what’s important to you, may you find a way to be inclusive in your actions and thoughts, and may you help make the world a better place.

 

Pokémon Go (or No-Go) at Meetings

Originally published Meetings Today

Person Using Pokemon Go App

Nope, I’ve not used Pokémon Go and don’t intend to.

It’s not the privacy issues as much as the “why-do-I-need it” issues. It may be harmless—though like anything where one’s head is down while walking or driving (Does it work in cars? I fear it may), the possibilities for accidents are great. Of course, my always-seeing-risk-for-meetings brain wonders if there is liability if we haven’t warned against or prohibited its use!

Even an adult gamer friend and my spouse, also a gamer, have said “no” to it!

In D.C., the Holocaust Museum and other locations have said “no.” Local and national news are stressing the privacy issues. If you search the term “Pokémon Go robberies,” you’ll find far more than you probably have yet heard. And there’s no doubt there will be even more news.

If you have an upcoming meeting or conference, will you have a stated policy about its use? Next up for the industry: ASAE’s Annual Meeting (I’ve already posted a note to find out). Those of you involved with IMEX or the CIC Hall of Leaders event may want to ask there too. I envision new inductees at the latter with a creature on their heads or on the lectern as they deliver thanks!

Will they have a stated policy about its use? Speakers and trainers and facilitators: what about you? An announcement at the start, in addition to the one about emergency exits and not recording your session? Or do you see Pokémon Go as a fun way to engage participants, creating ways to tie the use of the app into your meetings or even to a site inspection at your hotel?

Could Pokémon Go be useful in an exhibit hall?

Every day brings some new and interesting challenge, eh?

When Laws and Meetings Collide: Go, Stay or Boycott?

Originally published Meetings Today

Years ago, working in-house as a planner and later in my own business, I worked with groups whose policies sometimes conflicted with laws or social justice issues, in locations under consideration or under contract for meetings. It was important to the groups to know the laws that might impact their meetings and whether or not they should even consider a destination.

I worked with an attorney to develop clauses (sadly, lost to the ages since they were on paper, not even on a floppy disk!) about how the group and hotel would handle these issues if laws were passed after a contract was signed. It was not an easy negotiation but usually, once explained, it was possible to negotiate and contract fair conditions for the parties.

I think about those days often as companies and associations continue to look at similar types of issues and decide where they will spend their money. Then, like now, it was all about where to hold the meeting and what food to serve. During the years of the boycotts brought on by the work of the late Cesar Chavez and United Farm Workers, a number of clients were specific in their contracts about the source of the food served. There are a number of groups now that, like then, determine where to go based on the status of organized labor in the destination and venues.

Most recently, so-called “religious freedom” laws like North Carolina’s HB2 and Tennessee’s counseling law (seen as anti-LGBT) caused meetings and concerts to cancel. Companies like PayPal decided to not open a new operation in North Carolina costing the state jobs and income. When Georgia was considering a bill similar to the one passed in North Carolina, even the NFL said they would relook at Atlanta as a site for future Super Bowls.

In the not distant past, a client, because of bylaws and mission, had to decide if they would hold a meeting in Arizona after that state passed SB1070 (also known as “Papers Please” law). Others have faced similar issues over reproductive laws. You might remember a certain hotel company that was boycotted because of apparent racial profiling (one that I thought was out of business but is still around and running into similar issues again), the states avoided because they flew a Confederate flag, and groups that won’t book a specific hotel company because they don’t allow AEDs in their owned, managed or franchised hotels.

Each group—corporate or association, not-for or for- profit—has to determine what issues impact their decisions about what hotel company or hotel owner with whom they will do business, what local or state laws will be in sync with or in opposition to their mission, bylaws and polices, and what will impact the organization’s image.

In an article in the April issue of Meetings Today and a subsequent webinar about site selection, a number of concerns were discussed, this among them. It certainly seems that the “religious freedom” laws have caused the most angst lately for groups (See this month’s Friday With Joan interviews and links of “must read” articles in the newsletter for more on those).

In many discussions about boycotts, issues explored include those of the legal termination of a contract, the moral (are we hurting more people by terminating a meeting or boycotting a city/state/company than we are by going?), and the tactical (is there time and ability to move a meeting?). Do boycotts change things? Sometimes. Certainly Rosa Parks’ actions did. And in other cases, they hurt as they are at Malaprop’s Bookstore & Café in Asheville, N.C.

I don’t have answers about what is right, wrong, moral, ethical or legal. When you read the interviews, use them to start or continue a conversation in your organization about where your meetings are held. I recently made a personal decision to teach for UNCC and provide education for a client in North Carolina. I can use these laws as discussion points to help others learn what we must consider when we book or terminate meetings.

What I know we have to do:

  1. Be aware of the news, pending laws (on issues, on taxes), and other conditions (infrastructure) that impact where and how we hold our meetings.
  2. Know your organization’s mission, bylaws, policies, ethics and other principles to know what would cause a conflict in where you book.
  3. Include contingency planning on what to do if laws are passed after contracts are signed.
  4. Follow @MeetingsToday‘s tweets and other news sources and know what matters to your employer or clients so you can be the source for information.

As always the views expressed are my own and may not reflect those of the publisher, Stamats, and the publication, Meetings Today. For comments, email me at FridayWithJoan@aol.com or respond in the comments section below. Also check out my related Q&A with legal experts.

Click here to view (and share) the full July 2016 Friday With Joan newsletter.

Work Ethic and Work-Life Balance Disconnect

Originally published Meetings Today

When I read this article in the Sunday, June 19, 2016—Father’s Day—Washington Post business section, it reminded me so much of time with my dad, of blessed memory, schlepping around the state of Ohio to sell chickens! Like the younger Ted Gup’s experiences in helping at his Dad’s store, I too worked in the family stores—the Joe O. Frank Co./Tasty Bird Farms (also in Ohio)—where I learned to cut up chicken in no time flat and measure, from a huge block of Oleo, any amount requested … skills, alas, I’ve lost over the years but the work experience stayed with me.

My “work ethic” derives from many family members: my grandfathers, one of whom retired and then started another job, dying on his lunch hour at 85; my dad, who, drafted from college into WWII, returned and went to work versus finishing college and even through a cancer diagnosis, continued to work; and my own work, first as a babysitter and then, at 14, a mandatory-my-parents-said work permit and work after school and on weekends, and almost always since then with a few times of unemployment but not since 1981 when I created my consulting company have I not worked.

When I read that definition of “work ethic,” I cringed. It makes it sound as if one were lazy or lacking in character if one didn’t possess what someone thought how you worked was the same as theirs.

Recently, in work for a client, one of the stated goals was to look at who was working how and to figure out how to help the meetings staff find work-life balance. If you’re a meeting planner/professional, you’re reading that and guffawing, right? As a planning professional (and vendor to our industry), do you think you can advance (in whatever way you see it) or even get a job if you believe that balance is more critical than “work ethic”?

As I read all this and conducted the work with the client, it occurred to me, as I am sure it has to many others: Boomers and Xers talk about Millennials and their “work ethic”—well, they criticize Millennials (aka “Gen Y”) for not having a work ethic! (Worse [to me!] the Millennials themselves say it.)

So what is work-life balance? Doesn’t it depend on the worker? Is it necessity or desire that makes us work more? Certainly, many people are working two or more jobs to support themselves and their families.

From Forbes and Yahoo! are these articles about how different generations view work ethic:

This, about paternity leave, from the Brookings Institution confirmed that in the US, we talk about a work-life balance and don’t mean it to be for everyone.

We’re connected 24/7 and thus, I think, these words from that article, sum it up:

“In it [the study], we found that nine out of ten millennials say that they can access information whenever and wherever they are, and that 73% are expected to be contactable at any time of day or night. So tell me how are we to find balance if we are expected to be ‘on call’ all the time? Friends tell me that when they go on vacation, if they even take a day off, their emails are overwhelming even if they have an out-of-office message!”

If we really believe in work-life balance, shouldn’t GI Gens, Silents, Boomers and Xers stop the negative comments about Millennials and the belief they have no “work ethic”? If we really believe in “work-life balance,” shouldn’t we pay a living wage so that people don’t have to work multiple jobs?

What do you think? What’s your take on “work ethic” and generational differences? Work-life balance? Is it bunk? Oh and did you know what Oleo was without clicking the link?!

5 Meeting Functions Enhanced by Knowing What’s in the News

Stack of newspapers

We’re all busy. The news is often painful to read, watch and/or listen to, but our work is so impacted by what’s in the news and the potential consequences that if we are not paying attention, we are negligent in our duties. It’s all part of life-long learning*, which many, after they secure degrees or any letters after their names, forget.

Here are five areas of conducting meetings that are impacted by what’s in the news and why you should pay attention. In the comments, add yours and your sources—newspapers (print or digital), periodicals and other media go-tos (including social).

1. Destination Selection and Use: The greatest buzz (groan … I know!) is about the Zika virus, its origin, where and how it’s spreading, and what is being done to stop the spread of the virus. Airlines are issuing waivers to passengers and changing some employees’ schedules of those who are afraid of traveling to areas where Zika-carrying mosquitoes are prevalent. PCMA’s Convene had this to say about it.

Knowing what airlines are doing and the impact that may have on the accessibility of all destinations, especially second and third tier ones, matters to our selection and use of those destinations. Cleveland, that was for years a Continental hub and then a United hub, has cut back more nonstop flights to numerous destinations. One wonders what the impact will be on the Republican National Convention to be held in Cleveland this summer. Perhaps, if gas prices continue to be low(er), more will drive.

(I’m not saying don’t go; I’m saying be aware, informed, and plan for contingencies … whether they are health related or otherwise).

2. Site Selection: Will our choices narrow because of the mergers noted in No. 3 below? Will you have the information you need about labor contracts? What about the impact of fire safety if you hadn’t read about the fire and investigation of a hotel in Las Vegas? Or if you had not read my blog about safety, you might not have asked about the presence of AEDs or other safety features. You might not know that many hotels are considering eliminating in-room phones (you’ve noticed how there are fewer in rooms now, right?), which may be a safety hazard or are considering using robots versus people to serve.

3. Hotel ContractsIHG (InterContinental Hotels) merged with Kimpton; Fairmont and Raffles merged. From what these hotel CEOs say … there will be more. What is the impact on contracts in place of these mergers and those upcoming? Or future contracts? Are you aware of who owns the hotels (the buildings) and who manages them as well as the brand on the door?

What are you following to keep up with all that may change and the impact on your contracts and contract negotiations? (On April 27 and August 31, I’ll do webinars for Meetings Today—the first on site selection; the latter on contracts for accommodations. You can also find past webinars at that link). Clearly the industry press is covering these mergers just as they are with the airlines. (After UA and Continental, American and US Airways, who will be next?) Follow the business press too. I subscribe to the print editions of Bloomberg Businessweek and Fortune, local business journals for cities to which clients are considering or taking meetings, hotel-related reading, Crain’s for various cities, and more. You can read online or in print. Just read!

And then there was this that should be a concern for all planners, Starwood employees, and individual hotel owners about what Starwood’s new CEO says about the safety of most Starwood brands under a Marriott merger.

4. Meeting “Stoppage” and Individual Cancellation Plans and Policies: If, because of a pending snow storm or other weather issue, the airlines start to cancel flights days in advance (follow Joe Brancatelli, @joesentme, on Twitter) … or if because of the Zika virus people decide it is not safe to attend a meeting you’ve planned or one you plan to attend … or if, like in Cleveland, an airline pulls flights and it’s no longer easy to get to and from the destination without multiple plane changes, a person says “enough” and wants to cancel attendance, what are your policies? What’s in your contracts with venues and vendors about stopping the meeting?

Is it force majeure if a storm hasn’t hit and you cancel a meeting? What about Zika which reports say is spreading, but like SARS, may not actually impact the meeting? All the things that could impact a meeting being stopped—by the venue or by weather or by an individual who just doesn’t want to schlep more than she’d planned—are impacted by what’s in the news. To not pay attention means to be caught off-guard or to make assumptions and we know what that does!

5. Liabilities and Meeting Risk: What if you had been, as part of your job, responsible to send people on an incentive cruise and they’d been on this ship? What if you book a group into a Zika-infested area and someone needs, for reasons unrelated to Zika, a blood transfusion? What must you consider when updating your risk and emergency plan for each meeting? What in that destination or facility might cause harm for which you must plan?

I know that there are those who think I overthink it but here’s what I know: to under-thinking and under-planning puts people, the meeting sponsor, and you at risk. And if you’d like the table of contents to a risk plan, go to the “Resources” section of my website or email me at FridaywithJoan@aol.com for a copy.

Another thing you might also like: if you don’t read, you wouldn’t know about the wearable chair, which seems a perfect thing for exhibitors at tradeshows, or that two songs in popular use finally settled a copyright case (Hint: one is sung at least once a year to or by most of us).

And an asterisk to the title: learning from lots of different sources enhances your life. You are able to start and continue conversations with almost anyone, enabling lots of opportunities; you gain insights about your life and you continue your education.

*In the February 8-14 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, quoting Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel-winning economist at Columbia. “He says societies need to emphasize life-long learning not just school.”

6 1/2 Practical Steps to Emergency Preparedness … Right Now!

Originally published Meetings Today 

Right, there are many more steps that should have begun at the destination and site selection phase and while you planned your program. But we’re about to have a blizzard in the mid-Atlantic and northeastern regions of the United States and I’m guessing that some of you are both personally not prepared and, in my opinion, worse, have meetings that are going on now or scheduled over the weekend or early the week of January 25 and aren’t prepared.

Your local media have told you some of the logical things—stock up on batteries, keep flashlights at the ready, have plenty of bottled water and blankets; if you live where you’re responsible for shoveling or putting out de-icer, be ready to do so. If you aren’t listening or reading local media or social media, here’s a great U.S. government resource where you will find more information.

For your meetings going on now or early next week (or the next time a weather or other emergency happens):

  1. People First: Whatever you do, consider people and their safety first. Nothing is more important! How you will shelter in place or how you will help people depart—or not arrive if your meeting is upcoming—is the most important part of what you will do. Because you follow my blogs and those of others like Tyra Hilliard, you made an emergency/contingency plan long ago … right? … and know this. In case you didn’t, you will put into place the following aspects and people will be foremost in your thinking and actions.
  2. The Show Will or Will Not Go On: Discuss the alternatives with management or clients, with your venue(s) and vendors. Remind them “People First” as you plan. Decide now—and I mean right now—if you will attempt to get people out of harm’s way now or postpone the arrivals for next week or plan for people to not arrive at all and what the contingencies are for each potential action (See item No. 4).
  3. Communicate!: As soon as you’ve determined No. 2, communicate in all ways possible (in person at face-to-face meetings today, via email, phone, text, via app if you have one for the meeting) your recommendations for those who are at a meeting or those planning to travel today, tomorrow, or in the days following the emergency, in this case, the blizzard.

    If your office/agency didn’t make individual’s travel arrangements, communicate via email and text and app (multiple ways not just one assuming people will see it) how and what people should do regarding leaving including contact information (airline, rail and bus company phones and URLs), best methods to get to their mode of transportation. If people drove to the meeting, provide information about road conditions and do not send people on their way if there is a better than 30% chance they will be in harm’s way.

    Recommended: follow tweets for local police, municipalities, and travel providers. I like Joe Brancatelli (@joesentme) because he has lots of good information about airlines and trains.

  4. It’s Not Force Majeure If It Hasn’t Happened: Postponing a meeting today for next week is pre-mature if you hope to invoke force majeure. Nothing much has happened. In D.C., where I live and work, we had the “rehearsal snow” last night that caused icy roads, road and school closures or delays. (I’ve not checked to see if there were flight delays and cancellations last night or this morning).

    If you have a meeting for which people plan to travel beginning Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday—or even Tuesday—you should talk with the hotel and other venues and vendors immediately to determine what considerations there are for all parties. After a blizzard, nothing will operate immediately. Making plans for postponement or holding a meeting with fewer people (including speakers who may be unable to arrive) is a plan to put in place.

  5. Work On Shelter-in-Place Plans: It’s possible that people will have to stay longer at the hotel in which your meeting currently is being held and locals may also want to stay there, taxing the facility and staff and their supplies. Determine what rates will apply to those who need to stay longer. Those “three days before and three days after” clauses may not help because their conditions may not apply in an emergency or they weren’t specific enough (This, we’ll discuss later in a webinar on contracting for accommodations!).

    Find out what supplies the hotel has ordered in today, before the blizzard, and how they plan to accommodate staff who volunteer to stay in the hotel to serve guests or what their plans are if staff cannot arrive. Reconfirm (because you asked at site selection, right?!) what their back-ups are for power and water. Find out what emergency plans the city has. News stations here reported that in Omaha, Neb., the other day, police stopped responding to emergency calls unless people were injured, so bad were the conditions (It is expected in the D.C. area that we will have winds up to 50 mph and severe conditions and though the sun is shining as I write this, I’m a believer in what the forecast says).

    If you’re in a hotel that doesn’t allow AEDs, and if you think that emergency responders may not be able to get there, see if you can—if you don’t already travel with one—find an AED to purchase at a local store to have on hand just in case. It’s the one item that may really save a life in an emergency.

    Oh and don’t think that serving alcohol freely to those who are sheltered is a good idea! During one emergency (a tornado) a facility at which I did training did just that in the one building where they had an operating generator. Drunk people in emergencies are potentially more dangerous to themselves and others. You too need a clear head!

  6. Don’t Leave Without Ensuring Every Detail is Covered: One of my best learning experiences was when a colleague left without telling me and I had to handle arrangements for a class on 9/11. YOU have a responsibility to the people and meetings you plan. Don’t leave without ensuring all things are in place to protect people and property, or put in place plans for what may happen for next week’s meetings.

    I know you’re worried about yourself, family, friends. You want to get home or to the grocery store to get supplies. But if you are on-site today reading this or you’re getting ready for a meeting for next week, put all plans in place for the people who count on you.

6.5 And when this blizzard is over, you’ll revisit your contingency planning and start again to fill in the blanks for what wasn’t done and what you can do better, beginning with site and destination selection. Be safe. Be careful.

Check in here via the comments or on Twitter @meetingstoday to let us know what you do, did, and how you are. Ask your participants to do the same when they are safely home.

32 Questions About the Industry

Originally published Meetings Today

There are so many things about which I wonder—and guess you might too—regarding our profession, industry, hotels, air travel and service. Ending the year and starting a new one with questions will stimulate our brains and perhaps give us new information in the answers some may have. If you have an answer to any of these questions, please share in the comments!

Hotels and Decor:

  1. Why do hotels do cute flowers folds with facial tissues? Who uses the tissues that are in the folds? If they are all thrown away, isn’t this an anti-green practice?
  2. If the table/desk is right under the flat immovable TV screen, does anyone watch?
  3. What decorator thought this giant clock on a wall of a hotel room was a good idea? (Right … I thought the same…).

Hotels and Service:

  1. What will it take for CSMs (or Event Service Professionals as they are now known) to a) be given recognition? b) receive better compensation for rebookings since we know it’s their service that brings us back and not the sales?
  2. In what ways can planners encourage the hotels with which they work to have the Event Service Professionals join ESPA? Would you negotiate it into contracts?
  3. When and why did hotels start outsourcing bell service, security and housekeeping? Does it matter to you?
  4. Housekeepers work very hard especially with the better (heavier) mattresses. Why are they not compensated well for this hard work? Would you do this job for less than $20/hour? Until what age? And why don’t guests say anything pleasant to housekeepers they see in the hotel hallways? (Do you?).
  5. What percentage of guests do you think tip housekeepers? Does this surprise you? Do you encourage meeting participants to tip? (Also see story in the question No. 9 below about what guests tip … at a luxury hotel). What do you tip?
  6. Do you think this hotel—touting their service—compensates its service workers better than others?

Hotels and Amenities:

  1. Why are bathroom products highly scented? Why not unscented ones that anyone, especially those with chemical sensitivities or allergies, can use? Why is there a “war” on bathroom products?
  2. About that non-dairy liquid “creamer” for the in-room coffee, what is it really?
  3. First it was in-room irons and ironing boards which were, if you’re new to the industry, not a standard in hotel rooms. Then “amazing” mattresses. Then flat-screen TVs. Then cooler tech. What’s the next cool thing that will be useful for all? Is it no tables or desks in rooms?
  4. And as a colleague asked, where will one eat? On the bed? And if on the bed, who will change the sheets and covers when something is spilled?
  5. What’s the one amenity (rechargeable flashlights? Clorox or other wipes for the remote and hairdryer?) you still want in a hotel room?

The Meeting Profession:

  1. Who started the rumor—and when—that this (planning) was a glamorous profession?
  2. If this is glamour, how does it compare to other professions that are also considered glamorous?
  3. Andrew Young said, at an MPI meeting many years ago, there had to be a planner for the Last Supper! Who were the innkeepers and planners then and what did they do? How have the professions of innkeeper (hotelier) and planner evolved other than use of technology?
  4. What keeps us doing this year after year? At what age do you think a meeting planner/professional should retire?
  5. What do you prefer to be called: meeting planner? meeting professional? supplaner (with thanks to Charles Chan Massey)? Other?

Meeting Logistics:

  1. Why have the inventors of “air walls” not been held criminally accountable?
  2. Do any hotel bars have lower areas to accommodate people using mobility devices? Where are these places?
  3. In what year do you think hotels will begin to set rooms to maximize education and learning and interaction versus basing space allowance on numbers?
  4. How many planners, in addition to me, have gifted “Seating Matters” to hotels, conference centres and convention centres to ensure learning and interaction matters? (Disclaimer: I wrote the foreword for the book and was not compensated nor am I compensated for recommending it or its sales).

Travel:

  1. When you think of early days (’50s) of commercial air travel, what do you think most people remember? (Me? Dressing up. Walking out on the tarmac to board the plane).
  2. What’s the liability for airports that serve alcohol unmonitored and flight attendants who serve liberally, especially in First Class, when a passenger misbehaves on a flight or harms her/himself after deplaning?
  3. When did the custom (law?) for traffic to stop for funeral processions end and why?
  4. We tip “redcaps” who take us to trains and tip service personnel on trains. Why don’t we tip flight attendants?
  5. And did you know that flight attendants are paid hourly and that layovers are not paid time? (Thanks to my friend flight attendant, Tim, for sharing all about this).

Sharing Economy:

  1. Would you share a hotel room with a stranger?
  2. How can meetings capitalize on the sharing economy other than reusing flowers from another meeting? Or piggy-backing on a tradeshow for carpet use? Could two or more groups work with hotels and do (continuous) breaks like conference centres?
  3. Will your group(s) book more rooms with Airbnb than hotels?
  4. How are corporate and association policies changing to accommodate use of sharing economy services?

After going through the Chief Question Officer training, my SOP became even more about questions than answers. If you have more questions—or answers and resources—to share, drop them into the comments and refer to the question number to make it easier for others to follow.

Watch for “Friday With Joan” on Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, along with a link to the Meetings Today #Meetings2016 trends survey results. And in case you missed it, here’s a full recap of the 2016 Meetings Trends Twitter Chat, which I moderated for Meetings Today.

Here’s to a healthy, safe new year of learning and supporting each other in the profession we’ve chosen or that chose us.

Stand Up For OUR Industry!

I come from a history of grassroots activism: my parents were active in our neighborhood in the ’50s organizing against redlining and blockbusting. I listened closely to news and read newspapers and got involved, campaigning for presidential candidates on my playground!

Later, I was active in Y-Teens (through the YWCA), the Junior Human Rights Council, and Community Chest (now United Way) and other community organizing and grassroots efforts for wide-ranging causes, in my home town of Dayton, Ohio, on my college campus (Drake University) and then when I moved to D.C. in ’78, inspired by the late great Josephine Butler, an early proponent of D.C. statehood, active for our rights.

I was active in the civil rights movement and saw how individuals, alone and together, could make a huge difference if they’d just step up.

I’ve seen and always believed that one person—one vote—does make difference.

In our industry, I think we could do so much more to explain and influence those who hold office and make policies that impact our industry, directly and indirectly.

Sure, there are lobbyists constantly “on the Hill” (in D.C.) and in state capitols working for the hospitality industry. If you search, using “hospitality industry lobbyists” you’ll see the who and how many, almost all of whom are big companies that supply goods and services for our industry.

If there is so much influence and money expended on hospitality lobbying, why is it meetings are still questioned? And why do so many of my colleagues, especially on the meeting creation side, take a back seat? It’s not that we’ve never done anything! There was action years ago when New York City raised the hotel taxes to over 20% and we wanted it lower!

When ASCAP and BMI learned there were meetings and started fining those organizations that didn’t pay licensing fees (for people to listen to music at meetings and tradeshows), the industry associations banded together to negotiate flat fees (Thanks, Corbin Ball, for a great timeline).

I’m guessing there are newer planners who don’t know, and more senior planners who don’t remember, the brouhaha over music licensing.

I served on the CLC’s (now CIC’s) Board for MPI when this was a hot issue and remember sitting, on the return flight, next to one of the lawyers who’d spoken at our board meeting. I learned much more, though planners continued to fight the idea of paying for music to be heard.

Recent history gave us Muffingate (2011) and the uproar that erupted in local and national media criticizing what was spent on continental breakfasts. After that, the GSA-Vegas meetings “scandal” (2012) where I thought meeting professionals would be so outraged at what was done—apparent unethical behavior on the part of the meeting organizers and the hotel partners that colluded to meet the demands—and written that they’d use that angry passion to write to their local and national representatives and the media. Clearly too little was done to correct the images of meetings and our industry! Look what was written in April of this year, still criticizing meetings.

On July 10, 2013, Meetings Focus (now Meetings Today) published this blog—“Who speaks for our industry?”—that I thought might move people to action.

Meetings Mean Business was formed to provide a framework and tools for organizations and individuals to take action. MMB has been promoted at various at industry events and, I’ve been told, promoted the many toolkits (scroll down on its site) offered for advocacy by organizations and individuals.

The events held on 2014’s North American Meetings Industry Day (NAMID) are pictured here and there is information about what you can do in 2016 as the event expands to be Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID).

Good work and yet, here’s what we’re missing:

  • Images matter. What I see and what I remember pictured in photos from the various industry organizations’ NAMID events—people socializing and drinking—are exactly what has been criticized about meetings! I’m all for fun and yet, we have to show and be shown in situations in which work is being done not just drinking, being entertained and partying.
  • One day a year is not enough. We should mobilize those in our industry and those impacted by our industry the same way political and social justice movements do: one person at a time, engaging them in what’s needed and helping them make a difference for more.
  • Passion! Enthusing individuals in our industry the same way other movements (see my book review of “Frank” for other links) begin, thrive, and enthuse people to carry on individually.

So who speaks for our industry? We all do. We cannot depend on the CIC or each of the CIC member organizations to talk about meetings and the process of planning them, the value of holding them. We each have an obligation to understand our work’s complexity and to speak out.

Actions You Can Take:

  • Register to vote. If you missed it, this past week in the U.S. there were elections where issues that will impact our industry—related to taxes, anti-discrimination and others—were on ballots around the U.S. Yet voter turnout is consistently low outside of major elections.
  • Become informed about issues in your community and in the communities in which you’ll hold meetings. Subscribe to alerts about infrastructure, convention centers, hotels and all subjects impacting your meetings and the industry as a whole.
  • Be(come) Passionate! And keep informed about what you and I do. If you’re looking for an issue, here’s one on safety.
  • ACT by voting and writing about meetings, whether local, national or international, with words of common sense about both the dollar impact on communities (the main focus of MMB) and more so the impact on lives and productivity of those who attend, and do so before we have to react to another “scandal” about our industry. Proactive is better than reactive.
  • Remember that images matter: if you are part of an industry organization, check the images on the web pages and in print to ensure that what is seen is more than people drinking and partying and being entertained. Show learning and engagement … that can be sexy too!
  • Take the poll linked in today’s Friday With Joan (Question 1, Question 2) so we know more about what you care about. You can view the results for Question 1 and Question 2.
  • Read my interview with Roger Dow and Roger Rickard for more information about industry advocacy through MMB and other resources.

I know that my examples are U.S.-centric. This is where I live and where I do the majority of my work. I’ve tried to find examples from Europe, especially now during the refugee crisis, and was unable to find those of the industry working together to solve a serious problem that impacts many lives. I hope you’ll post examples of what’s been and is being done in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere around the globe.

If you’re reading this in another area of social media, please also post responses at the Meetings Today blog site so we can consolidate for greater impact and action.

Here are some recent blogs to help you think through issues impacting meetings and the hospitality industry:

And here’s some related Friday With Joan e-newsletter content to go with this post:

You can also view the 11.06.15 Friday With Joan newsletter in its original format.

Got comments? Add below or email me at FridaywithJoan@aol.com. If you’d like your comments posted anonymously, I’m glad to do so.

Why Aren’t Meeting Breaks More Fun?

Originally published Meetings Focus Blog


(Photo Credit: Reiko Renee Tate)

Here’s how this blog came to be, and came to be the inaugural blog for Friday With Joan*: I saw this Washington Post article about the global dominance of Oreos and was fascinated. It caused me to make a puzzled face and wonder why I’d never (ever—in 40 some years!) seen Oreos on break tables at meetings or conferences, even at IACC conference centers!

That lead to some thinking and research about Oreos (do a search; the supply of links is endless!) and breaks at meetings; an interview with Patti Shock, hospitality F&B guru, an Oreo tasting for neighbors; and more thinking about why breaks are neither real breaks nor do they provide anything fun that could, in fact, be a great icebreaker!

Really? Can you eat or watch someone eating an Oreo and not wonder why they are eating it “that” way, which is clearly either different than what you do or the same?

Years ago, I wrote in another industry publication about why we scheduled at most 15-minute versus 30- or 45-minute breaks. Oh, I knew the answer then and do now; we want to cram the agenda with content, forgetting that one of the main reasons people attend meetings is to learn from peers, which we sometimes call “networking,” but we don’t give people adequate and appropriate time to do so.

I still and will forever question how a speaker/facilitator of learning, audience member or entire audience can stop what they are doing, gather their stuff, leave a room (because it’s needed for the next session), find and use a restroom, refresh with a nosh, talk with colleagues about what was learned, find the next session, and sit down again … in 15 minutes! Worse, today, no one looks up much—their noses, at breaks and at other times, are bent into their electronic devices rather than having a conversation.

And that nosh? I remember when Danish were cut in half to save money! In a lengthy discussion in ASAE’s Collaborate (for ASAE members and in this case, those in the meetings industry), it seems association planners are balking about paying hotels for coffee for breaks and are instead purchasing Starbucks—and they were specific—cards to give to participants to use at outlets versus providing any beverages or food at breaks. Talk about more time needed for people to get to the outlet and back to the meeting. Penny wise and pound foolish? The results aren’t in.

Jeff Hurt, Adrian Segar and I have written lots about meeting design. Andrea Sullivan—who will probably gasp at the idea of Oreos versus a nice healthy break snack—talks in this Meetings Focus article about the need for real breaks. And I am pretty sure we’d never have had Harrison Owen coin the term “Open Space” had we had short breaks and electronic devices in 1985!

But I deviate slightly from the topic of Oreos. When I asked a director of catering for a major convention hotel in D.C. why they didn’t serve Oreos, he said … he wasn’t really sure! He did comment that the new DC Trump Hotel would likely not serve them.

(Will that cause those who might have wanted to meet at a Trump hotel to boycott because there are no Oreos?! See my previous blog for reference.)

Here’s what I think we need to do at meetings, conventions and conferences:

  1. Put more white space in the agenda and hold that space as if it were sacred. Don’t agree to adding “just one more session” if it takes time away from breaks.
  2. Use that white space for breaks for refreshments, quiet time, thinking, discussing what we learned with others, and of course, biological and business functions.
  3. Serve foods that are healthy and that are fun. Oreos can be one of the choices because they are fun, create conversation and, in small packages, are portable for later.

Even if you’re not on board with the idea of serving Oreos during your next meeting break, there’s lots more that can be done to make the overall experience more interactive and enjoyable. Tell us your ideas and practices to create better breaks in the comments below, or even share your meeting break wish list!

Oh, and in case you missed them above, here are links to my related content and research:

*Friday With Joan will be accessible and sent the first Friday of each month.

It is an opportunity for us to engage in discussions about serious issues and some that are lighter, like this inaugural topic. And while this is lighter—than say contracts or ethics or risk—it is relevant. I promise to try to make all the blogs relevant to those in our industry and the work we do and the outcomes of what we do.

Why start the newsletter series with a lighter topic? Two reasons: First, it’s the start of the “school year” and that should always be fun; Secondly, from years (23) of engagement in online communities, more than 15 years moderating virtual groups, and as a facilitator of group process, I know that people engage more with comfortable, familiar topics and ones especially in which they know (or hope) they won’t be judged for their experience or opinion.

This will do it! As always you can weigh in or email me at FridaywithJoan@aol.com with comments you want posted as an anonylister (c) Eli Gorin. I promise to keep those notes confidential. Also if you haven’t already done so, click here to subscribe to Friday With Joan.

Not Your Elevator Speech – Your Story!

This article was originally published on Meeting Focus Blog.

An article, an obituary, a cartoon and a class contributed to the thinking behind the creation of this blog. And more, to thinking about our individual stories.

The article: From The New Yorker, Mary Norris’ story “Holy Writ”, tells of her winding road to becoming the “Comma Queen” at that publication. The telling of her story and the story itself delighted me! (OY! Am I missing necessary commas?).

Her early life, her decisions, the chance encounters, her risks, and opportunities, are like many of ours. Perhaps the difference is that, in her story, she took advantage of the un-outlined chapter. Her moniker, too, made me think of my story and when Jim Trombino, president of the MPI Board when I served, gave me the moniker “Conscience of the Industry.”

I don’t remember why; I do know it stuck.

One obituary: Philip Levine, US Poet Laureate, 2011 to 2012, died recently. His story is so rich and not one that most consider to be that of a poet, is inspirational.

Others’ obituaries (and cities’ stories): I’ve read obituaries for as long as I can remember. They tell great stories about individuals and communities. When I travel, the local newspaper (if there still is one), in print, is preferred reading.

From a local paper’s stories, I get a feel for a city, learning what political and business decisions may impact the meetings my clients might book; from the obituaries, a picture of the community that I cannot get in any other way, emerges (With all due respect to DMOs, your stories would be made richer if they contained stories from and about the people of the communities you represent).

The cartoon: Colleague and friend Gary Jesch posted the following cartoon on his company’s Facebook page. I shared it and wrote that a) it provided the impetus to “unfriend” those who aren’t my “real life” (What is that any more?!) friends, and b) to remind my dearest friend and my husband that there are to be no straight rows for seating at my memorial service.

The class: On Feb. 21, 2015, I taught all day in the meetings and events certificate program at UNCC. Each person in the class had a different story that brought them there, like all who populate the diversity of our universe: the former teacher who now organizes events for a charter school and wants to do more; the reluctant law student who knew she wanted to do something more than law and learned in the class about hospitality law (watch her story change!); the person who works in a church and is responsible for the logistics of weddings and other events and wants to take it further; another whose background in training and facilitation is under-utilized.

The stories of those in the class made me think of the stories of industry colleagues who became friends like Arlene, the “Queen of Everything” for her knowledge of everything; Amy, who was a meeting professional, then worked for a DMC, and then became an award-winning health educator, ran for office, and now looks at how her story will continue; and friend and sometimes co-presenter, Niesa, whose story includes theatre, meeting creation, training, teaching, and now single parenthood.

My story is long, shared in bits and pieces with newer colleagues and students, and known more fully to people like my friend of more than 60 years, Kathy, or to my friend of less time but still great intensity, Paul, whose own story is amazing (journalism major, catering manager, newspaper book reviewer, teacher). My story still has chapters left to write and perhaps an additional moniker to earn.

What’s your story? Will you share it with us? Which paragraphs and chapters surprised you? Who gave you a moniker, why, and what? Just as you were inspired by others’ stories, your stories, told orally or written here, will inspire, inform, encourage, caution, others.

Share them, please.