Author Archives: Joan Eisenstodt

Professionalism Includes Speaking Up

Originally published Meetings Focus.

Professionalism Includes Speaking Up

There’s a lot on my mind.

The impetus for this edition of Friday With Joan included news stories that made me wonder why I could find little about stances and actions taken in the meetings industry.

And when I’m talking about the meetings industry, our industry, I’m also referencing the individuals within it. How easy it would be to add our voices to the millions of others.

Coinciding with the start of the Jewish New Year, a time of reflection and renewal, I’m no doubt doing what is considered to be, at least around a family table, not easy.

I’m talking about politics and religion.

Stay with me. It’s about policy and actions. It’s about understanding our industry’s impact around the world, and the impact we could have if more acted.

Why Are We Talking About Religion?

The start of the Jewish New Year plays in because the liturgy always gives me pause.

This year, at the Reform Judaism service in D.C. sponsored by the Sixth & I Synagogue we heard from—in words and song—our usual and special thought-leaders, David Altshuler and Doug Mishkin, with the added joy of hearing Rabbi David Saperstein whose passionate leadership in areas of social justice for people and planet has inspired many.

(If you are not familiar with any of them, and in particular Rabbi Saperstein, who has spent his life as an activist and moving others to action, I hope you will read more at the links).

Chuckling as I write: yes, dear Gina Glantz and GenderAvenger, this year, other than the Torah reader, it was all men leading the service. It isn’t always, I promise.

In fact, the senior rabbi for Sixth & I is a woman who leads a different service

The words of and conversations with thought-leaders—and others in our industry who are listed in greater detail below—led me to think about the issues in which I wish more would speak up. Issues that impact meetings, tourism and all of hospitality.

Here are just some of those issues that I believe require not only words, but action.

Issue No. 1: Inclusion

Years ago, I chaired the first task force on diversity for Meeting Professionals International (MPI). The industry’s associations have had committees, task forces and other efforts to discuss diversity. Now, I’m told, the focus is on inclusion.

When U.S. President Donald Trump insulted Baltimore—a city near and dear to my heart—and the Honorable Elijah Cummings, the person who represents much of it in the U.S. Congress, with what seemed to me and others racist stereotyping

I wanted our industry to speak out.

Oh I didn’t expect, although I hoped, we might discuss racism (and other “isms” of exclusion) in our industry. I hoped that the voices of other DMOs (aka CVBs) would speak for Baltimore as they did in support of Las Vegas when former president Barack Obama said not to go to that city (or even have lavish meetings).

Something our industry still references to this day.

Baltimore’s government and its DMO (Visit Baltimore) did a great job of countering the insults by taking out full-page ads touting all the great attractions and people of their city.

Where were the voices of our industry in support of Baltimore? In talking with some in the DMO community, I learned that it was really up to Baltimore to defend itself.

I still don’t get it.

If our focus is on “economic impact,” the words said about Baltimore certainly could have an economic impact. And to insult a sitting esteemed Member of Congress who is African-American just seemed to be, well, not inclusive in thinking or actions.

How about we hit some issues squarely and have industry discussions about the “isms” as we look again at inclusion? How about we defend the people and cities in which we meet and the diverse populations who attend and serve our meetings?

Issue No. 2: Ethics

The news from Las Vegas, about which Jeff German, investigative reporter for the Las Vegas Review Journal, has written and tweeted extensively, has both ethical and legal implications. Lawyers will work out the legal. We can look at the ethics issues.

The latest, although not the first of its kind, news from Las Vegas is the use of airline vouchers by Las Vegas CVA staff and about the perks the LVCVA Board received.

There is much more to be read as this moves forward. The links will get you started.

If you want to learn more, follow Mr. German on Twitter.

Why is this an ethical issue? In researching, I learned more about the accreditation program of Destinations International. It is a lengthy and involved process.

Those DMOs that achieve accreditation are bound by a code of ethics.

As a customer who believes strongly in the work of CVBs and DMOs and those who work for them and thus for us and their communities, I know the importance of the actions they take and the perception of the governments that oversee them.

If we believe that our industry should be perceived as professional, we must act ethically. We must ask those with whom we work of their ethics policies and disclose our own.

And then we must abide by those policies.

Whether you choose to call out unethical behavior is an individual choice. Consider it.

Issue No. 3: Climate

As young people lead the way on September 20 for a world-wide day of climate strikes, I tweeted and posted elsewhere in social media asking who had organized strikes.

More specifically, I was reaching out to the EIC member organizations and asking: Which hotel owners or brands, which DMOs, which chapters of industry groups, had organized strikes or gave employees time off to join in demonstrating in support of fixing our climate?

Note that if you think this is the effort of children only, and this dissuaded you from joining in, realize that there are plenty of those who are much older that are joining this fight.

I was heartened to learn from 21c Museum Hotels representative Kelsey Whited, Public Relations + Influencer Manager, the following:

“We did not take any actions specific to #ClimateStrike such as allowing time off for employees to participate, but we hosted free and open to the public screenings of Anthropocene: The Human Epoch at four of our locations, scheduled to align with the timing of the Climate Strike, which were well attended. More information here.

Though not currently on view, The SuperNatural is a traveling 21c Museum Hotel exhibition that will open at 21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City this spring 2020.

(If your hotel or DMO or other hospitality/tourism/meetings company participated as an entity or gave time off for #ClimateStrike actions, please post below and/or write to me via email at FridayWithJoan@aol.com and send me photos if available for possible use).

The reports are frightening.

Even if you prefer to think that this is “just” cyclical and it will correct itself, for those of us booking meetings even a year out, paying attention to the implications right now of drought—which can lead to catastrophic fires, lack of available food or potable water—is important.

Then there’s the cycle of storms and hurricanes and the ensuing devastation they cause on and to places like Puerto Rico, Houston, much of Florida, the Carolinas, and the Bahamas. This has to be considered for the, again, business case for our industry.

In Europe there is #flightshaming—companies are restricting plane travel for many. If meetings can’t be held virtually, then employees are to take buses and trains.

Is there such an effort in the United States? Do we not see the implications on planet and business of these changes?

These businesses closed and participated in the #ClimateStrike.

Patagonia, with a mission that supports the environment, ran a great ad.

Our industry could have planned and done the same.

There’s time for GMID to take action for April with ads or even combining art and creativity for making our voices heard like these murals in San Francisco.

Climate issues are not going away!

Wait, We’re Not Done Yet! More on #ClimateStrike

In an article linking to a blog post explaining the company’s position, Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario wrote, “Our customers are demanding we act—this generation of youth is not backing down and neither should we. Sharing this common challenge gives us hope.

“We need to step up, to move forward with optimism and American innovation and ingenuity to invest in solutions and fight the fight of our lives to save our home planet.”

H&M will help you recycle your clothing. That seems a pretty easy step for a chapter of an industry organization to collect clothing—slightly used or new for those without, used for recycling by taking it to H&M. Make it another CSR project.

Shawna McKinley provided specific information about climate issues that are impacting U.S. meetings destinations like Las Vegas where heat is causing people to not go outside.

Definitely read this article from The Guardian:

From the article: “The coroner’s office in Clark county, which encompasses Las Vegas, often records heat as a contributing factor to accidental deaths.

“There are hikers succumbing to lethal temperatures in the surrounding desert and heat-related deaths in cars and homes when occupants forgo cooling.

“Roberts has seen homeless people with post-mortem burns from collapsing on hot streets.”

It goes on to say: “Las Vegas is the fastest-warming city in the United States, its temperatures having risen 5.76F since 1970. A June study of coroner data by the Las Vegas-based Desert Research Institute found a correlation between heatwaves and heat-related deaths in southern Nevada, both of which, they say, are on the rise.

“And a recent Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report warns that without global action to reduce carbon emissions, the city will probably experience 96 days of heat above 100F by the end of the century, including 60 days over 105F, and seven “off the chart” days that would break the current heat index.”

Where were we as an industry with banners and signs to let people know we understand the implications and are willing to act? Or were we still focused on patting ourselves on our collective backs because we’ve eliminated paper handouts and plastic straws at meetings?

And that the hotels we use have implemented “green washing” by asking us not to have our rooms cleaned—which has economic implications for staffing and in fact, does little to be sustainable—or switching from small bottles of amenities in hotel rooms?

Paul Salinger, a corporate marketing colleague, wrote:

Greta Thunberg—We all admire her, I admire her. The big question for all of us is how can we help her and let her go back to school, back to having a childhood.

“What actions are we all taking? Yes, she is addressing political leaders, but she is really addressing us all. Did you walk/bike today over driving?

Did you skip flying just one time this year, even if it meant foregoing another conference or event or speaking engagement or vacation? Are you pushing the company you work for to move away from fossil fuels and to clean energy? Did you donate to an organization that is planting trees on a massive scale to help capture carbon?

“Did you write your legislator at any level demanding action and change? Etc., etc., etc. Less conversation and admiration and more action!

“If you’re not doing something to help, then how dare you just sit back on social media and admire her. Get to work people!”

What Does This All Mean? Why All the Politics?

Maybe this blog is my form of tashlich (alternatively, tashlikh) for our industry—the casting off of sins or transgressions** for the new year.

Maybe by writing this and asking others to comment (although some were unwilling to go on the record—see Susan Sarfati’s comments; she was willing and wonders the same as I) I am hoping to start this new year by prodding our industry to do more and better.

Perhaps Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID), sponsored by Meetings Mean Business, an arm of U.S. Travel Association, will mandate that education and voter registration be part of every single event rather than celebrations.

Perhaps days of action could replace the GMID celebratory parties. We all are grateful to those groups that band together to present education.

In talking with some who have created that education, they concur: more education, less partying, will bring our industry forward on issues.

What I want is for my—our—industry to educate and move people to act in the interest of our industry, our world and our planet and its people. I want to ensure that all of those reading this will think about what we can do, beginning with registering to vote.

Roger Rickard and I concur on this one even though on some issues we disagree, politely!

How will you join me?

*Thanks to Those Who Inspired This Content

I am grateful to, and inspired by, those with whom I communicated as I researched the content for this blog post and the Friday With Joan newsletter content.

I’ve been stewing about issues that impact our world and thus our industry.

My frustration with a lack of attention to, and action, about many issues, some of which I included in this blog post, by our industry associations, companies, and individuals that can influence issues that impact meetings, tourism, and all of hospitality; who could write and speak, and encourage action (registering to vote and voting, for example), is great.

Among those, in no particular order, whose voices and ideas helped me think:

  • Zoe Moore
  • Patti Shock
  • Paul Salinger
  • Nancy Zavada
  • Shawna McKinley
  • Susan Sarfati
  • Paula Stratman Rigling
  • and Roger Rickard.

My invaluable colleagues—who represent different positions and areas of interest in our industry—provided ideas that may lead to suggested actions, some of which are included in the blog post. Others are referenced in the article related to this blog post.

And to Tony Cummins and those in his class at Richland College for their ethics discussion with me the week of September 30, I am especially grateful. Students in hospitality have lots to say and need to be at more tables in discussions.

Just as Greta Thunberg inspired many millions of young (and not-so) people to work to make a better environment, hospitality and meetings students are needed as we talk about the issues. They will carry on this industry’s work.

OK. Ready? Join the discussion here, in agreement or not, and in your workplace, in industry organizations and at the chapter level, in your homes and communities.

**Susan Sarfati suggested a different form of thinking of tashlich—that is an action of doing a responsible action versus casting off of sins. Like doing something for lent versus giving up something, it is a better way of thinking for me.

 

Planners: Get the Respect You Deserve!

Originally published Meetings Focus.

Planners: Get the Respect You Deserve!

Do you ever feel like you are caught in a time warp?

In discussions among meeting and event planners on social media and face-to-face, there are things being said that have been repeated for as long as I’ve been in the meetings and hospitality industry, which is a very long time!

We use our left brain (logical) and right brain (creative) sides to create budgets, meals, decor, select speakers and develop education. We use both sides of our brain to negotiate contracts worth thousands to multi-millions of dollars.

Our brain is crowded with figures and facts that allow us to communicate all that’s needed to co-workers, committees, management and business partners. And we do not give ourselves credit for the amazing brain power we have and use.

Stuck in the ‘Cost of Coffee’ Loop

When serving on the ASAE Meetings and Exposition Section Council in the 1980s, the cost of coffee and other items to support meetings was discussed at our meetings.

There was always a request for comparison of what “deals” the rest of us were getting for our meetings. I knew then like I know now that:

a) you can’t compare apples to wrenches because every meeting even at the same property—even your own meetings in different years—may be differently priced.

…and b) too many factors impact costs.

[Related Content: 4 Keys to Greater Success As a Hospitality Professional]

The charges for coffee and the cost of food and beverage were the subjects of the August 2019 Friday with Joan content, which included a blog post and more.

And as long as I’ve been in this industry, and at those Council and other industry meetings where I met with colleagues, the words of the late Rodney Dangerfield (“I don’t get no respect”) have been echoed by planners.

I’ve taught about it, and for Meetings Today, written directly about it and included the subject in a blog post about reading and this one among others.

Meeting Planning Is More Than Rocket Science

I have frequently said that what we do is more than brain surgery or rocket science because of the complexity of all that goes into planning meetings and events including budgets, content and learning, safety and contingency planning, and so much more.

Despite years of discussion on the topic and various industry association initiatives, we seem to still “get no respect” or at least not the respect we truly deserve.

That being said, I think we are part of the cause of the (perceived?) lack of professional respect for meeting and event planners individually and collectively.

[Related Content: Not Your Elevator Pitch—Your Story!]

Despite the goal of “achieving a seat at the table” that Christine Duffy, then with Maritz and now CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, made part of her platform as MPI President (2005-2006), and all the work done within our industry to promote the profession—including Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID)—we are clearly “not there” yet.

I think our profession and work are not understood, partly because few are documenting their accomplishments and/or taking credit for what they do.

GMID is celebrating in the industry while externally we’re not known.

Sometimes You’re a Leader and Other Times ‘You Are Like A Hostess’

To wit: recently written in a social media group of industry professionals:

What I find frustrating about being an event planner is that on one end of the spectrum you have high-level responsibilities and on the other end of the spectrum you are like a hostess at a restaurant. Does anyone else feel this way?”

[Related Content: Lifelong Learning Is Everyone’s Responsibility!]

It was followed by responses including this:

I have felt like this for years and yet I wonder if I do it to myself sometimes. I am shy about taking credit and in fact feel uncomfortable when I receive it in a public setting.

“I am also not great at setting boundaries and will do whatever it takes to ensure it is a flawless event. I need to learn how to “toot my own horn” and help others do the same.

“I’m not sure if that will address the perception by some that what a planner does is trivial. There may always be those people who believe that in which it says more about that other person than the planner. I think also learning how to communicate on the level of the CEO, board members, etc., and then consistently doing it helps too.”

To the group and to the person who wrote the response above, I asked: In addition to what you wrote above, why do you think this is? Is it that our profession is, we think, mostly women? Is it because women are taught to be demure and self-effacing?

One response: “Yes, unfortunately, I believe that to be true.

“And also the way men in power see the [role]l. if they don’t understand it, they see it as ‘if I don’t know how to do it, it must not be that difficult.’”

Getting to the Root of the Problem

I reached out to Robbie Nance, administrative associate, office of medical education & academic affairs at Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

I met Mr. Nance in 2018 when I facilitated a class on meeting planning for the American Society of Administrative Professionals, where he was one of few men in a class of more than 125, a percentage that mirrors events for those with titles reflective of meeting and conference responsibilities.

[Related Content: Defining the Meeting Professional]

Curious to see if titles mattered, I asked him what he thought was the level of respect he received from those with whom he worked. An edited version of what he wrote to me:

I feel respected by my colleagues. I do not feel respected by those in upper management. While they tell me, “You’re more valuable than you know,” and “Without you this office wouldn’t run,” on a daily basis, telling and showing value are two different things.

I am a male in a typically female-held position.

“But I am also a male in a predominantly male field.

“More and more I feel that the lack of respect I receive is related to my age—I am 30, the youngest in my office with the average age of those I work with in the 50s.”

[Again, this mirrors many who hold titles related to meetings].

A Respected Meeting Planner Shares Her Secret

I asked Margaret Moynihan, who retired in 2015 from Deloitte & Touche, if I remembered correctly that she had—years ago at an industry meeting—explained her professional success by documenting all she did. She wrote:

When I began my career at what became Deloitte & Touche in 1975 as a secretary, I was asked to assist with a series of 3 meetings. My responsibilities included registration, proofreading BEOs, checking room sets and communicating to attendees.

“After these meetings I was offered a job in the newly-forming meeting planning group. I made sure I did everything to get the job done even if it was not part of my job description. As time passed, I would document (on a steno pad!) the savings I accomplished meeting by meeting.

“The documented savings included negotiated sleeping room rates, F&B, AV and meeting room rental. I also documented cancellation fee negotiations. 

Once a month I would report these savings to my manager. I prepared a mid-year and annual report. [Emphasis is Joan’s]. If I was quoted in a trade magazine or was asked to be on a panel—this was also part of my report.

[Margaret was a member of MPI’s Greater New York and WestField Chapters, served on and was honored by the MPI Board and was Chair of the MPI Foundation Board].

“I read every publication that dealt with negotiations and meetings. Soon I became the ‘go to’ person on almost anything to do with a meeting. I learned early that no one was going to ‘toot my horn’ factually better than myself. [Emphasis Joan’s].

“After meeting negotiations, I moved on to airline, car rental and corporate card—documenting [my progress] every step of the way.

“It was extremely satisfying to document my accomplishments.”

Margaret was rewarded with promotions that reflected her senior role in the organization, retiring as “Director” which was equivalent to “Partner” with the same benefits except the ability to vote on firm issues. When Margaret retired, in the U.S. there were approximately 120,000 employees, 5,000 partners and 1,600 directors.

Other Ways to Track Your Accomplishments

Robbie Nance also documents his accomplishments albeit not in a steno pad:

There are a number of ways I make sure they know what I am doing. My office is directly outside my boss’s door—he enters my office to get to his, allowing for constant communication (communication is the key to everything right?). Being a small team, I am ever mindful that if one of us were to get hit by a bus it would be a big deal.

So I take the approach of trying to include a senior level person from time to time so that someone knows what I do in the event something tragic would happen and I do my best to note steps taken to complete a task in an effort to make a running manual of what to do in the office. I also keep a desk calendar, so that when I am away, anyone can see what I do on my desk without having to access my Outlook calendar.”

Margaret Moynihan and Robbie Nance, with different titles and at different times in our industry, are both examples of those who know their value and who did show and who now continue to show their worth. Why is everyone not doing so? Let’s change things.

6 Steps to Get the Respect You Deserve!

1. Record all your accomplishments regardless of how small you think they may be. Saving 50 cents per meal may not sound like much until you add up the savings for a year.

2. Report all you’ve done and compliments received—from dollar savings to compliments from those who attend your meetings for the great education they received.

3. Ask business partners to write to your managers about how you worked ethically and professionally with them, including examples of what you did that exceeded their expectations—from site selection to management on site. Just as we planners write thank you notes, asking for specifics, in writing, from partners will help you gain status.

4. Serve on committees and boards of industry organizations and learn from those experiences. Then document how you have used those experiences to enhance your work. It’s tough to get the time and money to participate professionally.

Showing ROI will promote you and the activities.

5. Be visible in the industry. I always ask for people to interview for articles just as these people were. Be a subject matter expert and a person with knowledge so that you are asked and can volunteer to respond to requests from journalists and bloggers.

Then post the links so others see you.

6. Toot—nah, BLOW—your own horn.

Instead of saying “aw shucks, anyone can do this—it’s not rocket science or brain surgery,” show how you helped 100 or 500 or 10,000+ people learn, travel and stay safe from harm as you created and implemented plans for your meetings and events.

Take what Margaret Moynihan and Robbie Nance said to heart and do as they did (I’m pretty sure, having met Robbie, he too will gain more recognition).

Parting Words of Wisdom on Respect and Self-Worth From Jamie Triplin

Serendipitously, Jamie Triplin, a published author and strategic communications consultant, posted some excellent words of wisdom right as I was finished writing this blog post. With permission, I post what Jaimie Triplin wrote.

May it serve as a reminder to us all to feel and show our worth:

Life is too short to walk around feeling unappreciated—personally and professionally. If you truly know your worth, you’ll never have that problem.

“Life should be lived based on the value you place yourself.

“If you feel low, you’ll accept trash behavior from your environment.

“I don’t know about you, but, I’m of high value.”

Some Additional Strength to The Bahamas

It is impossible not to think of the people of The Bahamas who have lost everything.

We tweeted from @meetingstoday a link to World Central Kitchen, the organization formed by Chef José Andrés, that was on-the-ground and prepared to feed people.

There are many verified organizations to which you can donate to help the people impacted by Hurricane Dorian. We hope that you will, if you have the means to do so.

We all know that a “tourist destination” like The Bahamas is dependent on our support. Just as we helped those in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, we hope you will donate to help others. No matter how much respect we receive, it’s important to be kind.

 

You’re Charging How Much?!: The Case for Smarter F&B Budgeting

Originally published Meetings Focus.

You’re Charging How Much?!: The Case for Smarter F&B Budgeting

Food and beverage (F&B) can make or break a meeting or event. And certainly, the complete absence of F&B can set in motion kvetching like you haven’t heard since the last time you managed a meeting without it. Just try to have a meeting break with no coffee!

I’ve been in this industry a long time. Years before my own company, Eisenstodt Associates, celebrated its 38th anniversary on June 1 of 2019.

Planning meals has never been my favorite thing to do. In fact, I would place it among my least favorite things tied to the involved process of planning meetings and events.

Guessing what others would want to eat on a given day is a nightmare especially when we are planning months out and have no idea what will be fresh, what will be available, and what factors impact what a chef can best prepare.

Or what an audience will want to consume.

Key Considerations When Planning F&B

In planning events where food and beverage elements play a starring role or for when any sort of F&B is offered, we must consider, at least, the following key items:

  • Group demographics
  • Availability of food and beverage
  • Chefs’ abilities and specialties
  • Religious practices
  • Allergies and food and beverage sensitivities*
  • Accompanying meeting and event activities
  • Service provided
  • Meal and item costs
  • Service charges and taxes**

*Tracy Stuckrath is a prolific writer and speaker about allergies and sensitivities. You can learn more about her and read additional insights about F&B on her website.

**These are likely to change if we are booking six months or more from the planned event.

Not only must we consider the above items related to F&B, we must convey all this information in our RFPs for meetings and events.

And we must clearly state that in order for us to respond appropriately and then create a contract, we need full and complete information.

Déjà Vu All Over Again: Coffee’s Cost Per Gallon

In all my years in this profession, there is rarely a month—or even a week!—that goes by when the cost of a gallon of coffee is not discussed.

As in, “Why does a gallon of coffee cost x?” Lately and frequently again on social media, the cost per gallon discussion has reared its head.

(We used to look at the cost of “dry snacks”—potato chips, peanuts, pretzels—when those were considered the budgetary best for cocktail receptions without “real” food!).

The discussions have been accompanied with questions about the amounts billed for taxes, service, and ancillary fees, on top of per plate or per person costs for various F&B offerings.

Other popular topics of discussion related to F&B include:

  • the number of, and charge for, servers for buffets, continental breakfasts or breaks
  • bartender and, if cash bar, cashier charges and minimum numbers to serve and the minimum hours we must contract
  • the administrative fees now added to food and beverage (F&B) events

Nothing in the discussion seems to change.

Calculating the Cost of a Gallon of Coffee

I looked back at 2012 menus*** from a contract negotiated for a client’s 2016 meeting.

At that time, a major Las Vegas hotel at which the meeting was booked charged $70.00 per gallon of Kona coffee plus 21% service charge plus 8.1% tax on both the coffee and on the service charge.

If one calculates that, and assumes 20 cups per gallon, it’s about $4.57 per cup.

In emails with James Filtz, interviewed here, I asked about the cost of coffee.

He said “In 2014 coffee at The Venetian in Las Vegas was $86 per gallon. Today it is $100 per gallon. That’s about a 16% increase.”

I checked with the same unnamed Vegas hotel above for their current prices. The price of coffee at the major Las Vegas hotel previously contracted, came out to $95.00 per gallon, with a service charge of 23%, tax of 8.5%, and the service charge taxed slightly over 4%.

How does that compare to what a cup of made-at-home coffee using a Keurig costs, considering the purchasing and labor that goes into how a hotel provides coffee?

Is it cheaper for each guest to run back to their rooms, use the in-room coffee maker (if there is one and the condiments are to their liking), and the time it takes for them to return for valuable networking?

I found this about Keurig, where the cost per cup is measured on a 5-6 ounce cup.

***A Pro Tip Regarding Food & Beverage Menus

Most hotel menus are now electronic.

When you negotiate more than a year out with an escalation clause on food and beverage, the menus from which you are negotiating will no longer be live on the website.

I recommend printing them out—on post-consumer paper—and attaching to the final signed version of the contract and saved as a PDF in your files and saved with the printed contract and menus and other policy documents on paper.

Otherwise, you have nothing from which to gauge prices.

Hidden—and Not So Hidden—F&B Costs

Hotel owners and management companies want to make money. Now more than ever. We want hotels to be kept up—that is, furnishings to be clean and updated.

I hope all or most of us want people who work in hotels, especially those who provide service, to make “livable” wages—though I’m not sure even $15.00/hour in most markets is “livable.”

Or is it “not on my group” mentality among meeting and event planners that is the issue—you know, charge other groups what you need but negotiate my costs to what I want to pay?

My meeting and event clients have almost exclusively been not-for-profit groups for whom budgets are tight. Yet, as chef and humanitarian José Andrés says:

“I realized very early the power of food to evoke memory, to bring people together, to transport you to other places, and I wanted to be a part of that.”

If we skimp on food or beverage, it reflects badly on the hotel, caterer or our group.

The Power of F&B at Your Meeting or Event

Food makes memories. Food brings people together. Harrison Owen, back in 1985, knew the power of breaks on the overall experience of learning at meetings. We know the power of available food and beverage to make or break a meeting or event experience.

See what three planners interviewed had to say about what’s important to them and their questions about costs. When will we budget differently and realistically and think about what the two NACE officers have to say when we plan and negotiate meetings?

Oh, and don’t miss the “bonus section” of the August 2019 Friday With Joan newsletter: I had the pleasure of dining with Tom Sietsema, food critic for The Washington Post, at a José Andrés restaurant. Read more about how noodging can pay, the ethics of dining with a food critic and Sietsema’s “go-to” food when he’s not on-duty—one of my favorites too!

The Power of Reading Books: Life, Spirit and Knowledge Enhancement

Originally published Meetings Focus.

The Power of Reading Books: Life, Spirit and Knowledge Enhancement

In the Grant Snider illustration, “the beloved book,” we are shown the life cycle of a treasured book, perhaps like one of your own—from its yellowed dust jacket, to the inscription by a loved aunt; scribbles in the margins, frayed pages and cracked spine; the old book smell and perhaps a missing page but you still know it by heart and pass it along to another generation.

I prefer print books—the touch and feel, the sense of holding words in my hands. The ability to pass along a beloved book to someone else to love and share then with others.

It continues the cycle of learning and reading.

And I realize that not everyone can read, either at all or in print.

While thinking through this blog’s contents, I wished I could remember, or had a family member to ask, how and when I learned to read.

It must have been a miraculous occurrence. I think it might have been akin to what Beth Cooper-Zobott describes in her responses to my questions to colleagues.

Reading has helped me grow in empathy for others and provided new concepts for use in my work. I remember the joy experienced as I walked to my Dayton, Ohio, library, where I picked up stacks of books to bring home and devour in my attic bedroom.

(Joan’s Note: If you’re interested, “my” library, now empty except for the memories of so many, is for sale. I’ve tried to think how I could buy and renovate it to live in that beautiful building).

I don’t remember the first book I held. I have always written in my books. My friend, Layne, said she never can or would write in a book—that it would be desecrating them.

My margin notes are reminders of what I’m learning or sometimes a thought to pass on. It feels like love to me of the words written and the ideas shared by the authors.

One of My Favorite Books

A favorite quite-worn book in a purple silk cover, The Heart of New Thought, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, belonged to my maternal grandmother. It was signed in the front with her maiden name and the year 1907, shortly before she married. My grandmother, Jewish by birth and practice, clearly saw something in this book that touched her.

A cousin of my mother acquired it; her daughter gave it to me.

For her 30th birthday, I gifted it to my oldest niece who I hope will pass it on to her sons, both younger than 10 and readers.

There are lots of reasons to read, and especially, to read books in print.

Many others have written the whys—a simple search of “why read books” will take you to articles like “12 Reasons You Should Read (at Least) 12 Books This Year” and “10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Dayand many more justifications.

In questions answered by colleagues and authors, they too make the case for reading.

For me, books provide an escape, a way to learn. They provide a look into lives, current and past, real and created, unlike my own, and through reading I increase my empathy for others. The U.S. could do much better at teaching literacy.

As of 2018, roughly 32 million Americans couldn’t read, according to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy. The Pew Research Center reports on who is reading books and who isn’t. The numbers surprised and saddened me.

Our industry could do a better job of providing suggested reading for each session presented at an industry conference. Imagine the impact of pre-session reading or a list of books, fiction and non- that link to the subject matter for reading later.

Meetings Today has a limited number of suggested books in its bookstore.

What I’m Reading Now, What I Just Read, and Why

Both for personal interest and to prepare for a session on inclusion, I’m reading:

The knowledge gained will add to understanding and to what I hope others can learn about inclusion for the session I’ll facilitate at the Sunshine Education Summit (SES) presented by MPI chapters in August 2019 in Orlando (Additional incentive to attend the session: I’ll give away books, as I often do when presenting to further one’s learning).

The Shape of IDEAS: An Illustrated Exploration of Creativity by Grant Snider (creator of Incidental Comics) is pure delight!

If you are stuck on a problem, pick up this book and open to any page for inspiration—just as I began this blog post with one illustration by the author.

Author Priya Parker’s The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters should be as high on your list to read as Dr. Paul O. Radde’s Seating Matters: State of the Art Seating and Why It Matters. Both books can be a little weighty because they are research-based.

Both are superb to help create better meetings and gatherings of all sorts. In fact, if you want to give a gift to a supplier friend, these two should be among those considered.

Guy Kawasaki’s Wise Guy is his latest book of ideas and life-lessons.

I swear that my receiving a signed copy of the book was illustration of his concepts in Selling the Dream which is all about how to promote your products and companies! The difference? I’d read all of Guy’s other books and would have happily purchased this.

In fact, after I’d read it—and marked it up!—I sent copies to others I thought could benefit from and enjoy Guy’s life, wisdom, and willingness to keep trying new things.

(Joan’s Note: Read more about my connection to Guy and why you too should reach out to the authors you like in my related Q&A where I did just that).

Books I Read and Will Read Over and Over

No doubt you’ve heard me say or read how well I think of Daniel H. Pink and especially of one of his early books, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.

In that book, I learned how to better use off-site venues, especially museums, for more than social events (If you’re a podcast listener, try the Pinkcast for more of Dan Pink’s thinking).

Some years ago, I conducted book club-like sessions at various meetings using the book and chapter exercises to help others move their thinking forward.

With Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind, StrengthsFinder and the inventory that goes with it made a lasting impression, so much so that I revisited it in this March 2016 blog post.

Today, still, both enter my thinking when working with groups and engaging others in the meeting planning process and the outcome of meetings.

A memoir, three works of relatively recent fiction and one children’s book have stayed with me for many reasons, the greatest of which for me has been honing my empathy for those in other circumstances. We do not choose the circumstances into which we are born.

These four books, among many I’ve read, have become roadmaps, with Blind Spot noted above, for rethinking how I see others and what I believe can be done to support others in their endeavors. For anyone in the meetings and hospitality industries, empathy is a key to listening and moving relationships and conversations forward.

It is “The ‘soft skill’ that engages the whole brain.

More Recommended Reads

Memoir: My dear aunt Ann sent Educated by Tara Westover, to me. I’ve found that each person who has read this book had a different experience—based, as was mine, I’m sure, on our sense of place and family and circumstances into which we are born.

Ms. Westover’s experiences show the ability to go beyond where we begin.

More, she shows the critical importance of mentors, formal and informal, and the influence of those in our lives who chose to help us overcome obstacles.

Fiction: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad: A Novel was riveting. I could feel the tension of those traveling and the sense that the underground railroad was in fact a real railroad. Whitehead’s writing allows us to step back in history and realize the sacrifices so many made.

The writing of Thrity Umrigar, interviewed here, was recommended to me by friend, and fellow reader, Donna Brandwein. I’ve now read almost all of Ms. Umrigar’s books.

Two books in particular—The Space Between Us and The Secrets Between Us—impacted me in ways that I find difficult to put into words. Set in India, they could easily be in any place showing how class can separate us as much as education and income can.

It in fact, can define us and define the circumstances in which we live and never leave.

Funny, as I write this blog, tears spring back to me about the lives of the characters and their striving. Beautiful writing that delves deeply into relationships among and between those of different classes and circumstances and shows what we can do to help lift each other.

Children’s book: Malia the Merfairy and the Lucky Rainbow Cake by Jamie A. Triplin creates a world for children and adults where anything is possible. Like Jeff Hurt, I love to read children’s books. Malia made me smile for so many reasons.

 

Morgan McIntyre Posing Proudly Holding a Copy of Malia the Merfairy and the Lucky Rainbow Cake by Jamie A. Triplin [Joan’s Note: I gifted this book to my young friend, Morgan McIntyre (pictured here), who also very much enjoyed it! There’s no better gift than a good book.]

 

It is delightfully illustrated and teaches lessons about racism that are often missed by all of us. Seeing in a story a princess who looks like, well, not the usual blond, blue-eyed ones too many of us are used to seeing, is like going into a hotel and finding that many different people work behind the front desk, in management as well as in the heart-of-the-house.

It helps us learn what it it’s like to be different in a world where so many look the same.

As the industry again focuses on inclusion, this book is a good way for you to learn what the children in your life already know.

The Power of Good Books (and Authors)

I have lots of favorite authors other than those cited here. Among them:

  • Harlan Coben because trying to figure out crimes is like trying to solve the puzzles of putting a meeting together;
  • Anne Lamott and her most recent Almost Everything for its hope and humor with chutzpah;
  • Keith Knight, gentleman cartoonist, whose books are as engaging as his cartoons and talks about police brutality and racism and his marvelous illustrations that use topical issues and illustrations to highlight contemporary issues with which we deal.

I’ve often said that if I were to retire, I’d like to “just” read—the stacks of books that surround me, the ones at the library and the ones still to be written.

Except that’s not entirely true: I want to read and find applications for what I read. Sharing these ideas with you is another way of broadening ideas and reading.

You probably saw one or more of the lists of “summer reading” or “beach reading,” perhaps putting some books aside (or on your electronic device) to be read if you are taking a vacation or going to the beach or for a long flight for work or just as a break.

Good books and the authors who write them transport us to new dimensions in such a way that you might even feel you’re at the beach even if you aren’t!

What Are You Reading?

What are you reading and why? It’s not a book club; it is a way for colleagues to share what we love to read and the impact it has on us. Read on!

Hospitality Education Must Change to Include All Life Events

Originally published Meetings Focus.

Hospitality Education Must Change to Include All Life Events

Meetings and conferences are not going away. However, many people who are going into our industry are looking for something different to learn and in which to be involved.

We need to expand what is taught in hospitality schools and elsewhere in our industry and to think about components of life events that need professional planners—dare I say “Party Planners” (thank you Debbi Presley for your insights and for founding Party Planners Network)—and the intricacies beyond the usual “rates-dates-space” and décor.

The industry needs to teach skills that are not the usual and include, if one isn’t born with it, how to be empathetic or show empathy and how to ask better questions.

Those of us involved in planning meetings know it all begins with goals and objectives, demographics and budget. It’s the same for life-cycle events.

When planning life-cycle events we need to learn to:

  • Ask better, deeper questions that are not able to be answered with “yes” or “no.”
  • Use resources in and outside our usual contacts, such as reaching out to “Death Doulas”—those who offer medical and emotional support to those who are dying.
  • Learn the intricacies of cultures.
  • Guide our clients to events that will fulfill their needs.

Nowhere are these skills more important than in planning life-cycle events. Though one can certainly see that these would all prove useful in regular meeting planning as well.

The May 3 Friday with Joan newsletter looked specifically at end-of-life events, spurred by this article about celebration-of-life events from The Washington Post and by deaths of three friends and my own personal involvement in planning a life celebration for one.

End-of-life events and other life-cycle events require at least as much planning and care as a meeting or convention. The timeframes may be different; the attendance lesser and the setting more intimate. Still we need to be taught to consider how to help others.

Sharron Bonner of Bright Ideas Events, an active International Live Events Association (ILEA) member, said when planning life-cycle and especially end-of-life events one needs:

  • Compassion and understanding for human emotion/connection to the event
  • Flexibility in deadlines because of grief
  • Listening ability directed toward the family or loved ones to talk about the deceased
  • Ability to add intimate personal touches about the deceased to the event

Everything Sharron and others said seem to fit all life events.

Is It a Party or a Celebration?

We also have to consider if these events are parties.

Or are they celebrations? The definitions are so similar that I found my own biases against the term “party planner” changing.

Even in Judaism, sitting shiva after a death is, in addition to a religious observance, is often a celebration of the person’s life. I always value those times, though with tears frequently shed, we hear stories never told and laugh and eat. Oh, and food!

Always plenty of food which seems to be cross-cultural. Isn’t that a party?

I asked those who teach full-time in hospitality if they had ever considered planning and managing weddings? This confirmed what I’ve found in my own teaching: many who have side businesses and start their own full-time businesses or study hospitality want to do this.

A few ILEA members who provided input for this article said that there are more who are becoming interested in end-of-life events though it is not necessarily their focus.

The Many Variations of Life-Cycle Events

Instead of just focusing on wedding and “special event” planning, which rarely includes other than weddings, life-cycle events, I think the industry needs to teach more about how to plan more broadly and help students understand all the possibilities for event planning.

These include:

Reveals or Baby Showers

Helping someone determine which of these types of events is best for them is tricky.

Before I’m accused of being “politically correct” in discussing this, well, in addition to hating the term “politically correct,” in the hospitality industry it is our responsibility is to know the right questions to ask and terms to use with those for whom we are planning life events.

This article “Gender Party Reveal vs. Baby Shower” describes what could be the same and could be different for “reveals” and “baby showers.” Not addressed here are families of one or two dads who may be the pregnant person nor does it address adoption.

If you’re not familiar with “reveals,” read more here in the guidelines from Parents magazine about “How to Host a Gender Reveal Party” from the perspective of the parent(s).

Planning a party for people who are opting not to declare a gender for their child who prefer their child to determine their identify at a later date requires more thinking.

The term these parents may use is “theybies.”

For those advising what is the best—reveal or baby shower—useful articles included:

Birthdays

For most of us, the first and then the 5s and 0s are often marked by parties, and yet, for those who observe birthdays and want a fuss, any year is worth celebrating.

Each biological or chosen family will form its own traditions.

Sometimes birthdays—especially surprise parties—can be painful events. I always felt awkward opening presents in front of people, pretending great glee when I might not have felt it! As an Introvert—child and adult—it was and sometimes still is exhausting to be around lots of people for any more than an hour.

Parties for me should be limited in scope and numbers.

Know your clients and their preferences. Seek out answers to the personalities and preferences of those for whom a surprise party is thought to be a good idea.

Graduations

“In my day,” which I write with a chuckle at how old that sounds, we waited until high school before celebrating graduation. For many now, graduation from pre-school, kindergarten and each year of grammar school is celebrated. For many families, graduation is a very special occasion especially if the person graduating is the first in their family to graduate from any school or waited until they were older to return to school and graduate.

Just as there are guidelines for all kinds of parties, our industry needs to teach more about the sensitivities of cultures and graduations. A search turned up many resources of cultural graduations being celebrated. This one was especially interesting.

With a focus on inclusion and diversity, the more we teach and learn the better.

Age Events

Beyond birthdays, cultures and religions have different celebrations.

In Judaism, there are bat, bar and b’nai mitzvahs, usually at age 13, though as this article from Tablet Mag shows, one can achieve the learning and celebrate at any age.

In Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Central and South American cultures, Quinceañeras are very special occasions for coming of age of young women.

Similar coming-of-age events are held among other cultures.

As our world becomes more diverse in its makeup and more people move about to live or work, our industry could teach “inclusion and diversity” much more broadly than it has so that those learning become familiar with others’ life events.

Engagement, Marriage and Divorce

Planning weddings is still the goal of many who enter hospitality.

Marriage has changed and now there are many specializing in same-gender marriages. Is our industry teaching enough about the language and customs to consider?

Divorce parties? Yes. Touchy ground depending on the circumstances of the divorce and those invited to attend. You can as I did search to find more information.

Why not expose those studying hospitality to all options for parties and events?

Retirement

A question often asked by colleagues: What’s the best way to honor a retiring CEO, board member, colleague or co-worker? With so many Baby Boomers either choosing to continue working or retiring, it is best to consider the person and the circumstances of their retirement—was it voluntary or forced?—when planning.

This article, simply titled “Retirement Party Ideas,” from U.S. News & World Report was the most thoughtful article I found about how to plan a retirement event.

Good Industry Learning and Teaching News

Mercyhurst University is planning a course that will include end-of-life events and hopes to partner with a funeral home to help this become part of the curriculum.

Read this related article for interviews with Peter Zohos of Mercyhurst University, Andrew Smeltzer of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons and Debbi Presley, founder of Party Planners Network.

Special thanks to Lynn Spachuk—a birth doula and death doula—for her invaluable guidance and to Marq Few, a birth doula and death-doula-in-training, for his thoughts.

And an extra special thanks to Fran Solomon, founder and board member of HealGrief, who helped me with my own grief over the death of friends.

Closing Note From Joan: None of the resources cited are endorsing any products, publication, person or service as a result of its use or citation.

Please add resources and comments below or send to me at FridayWithJoan@aol.com.

(I can also publish comments anonymously at your request).

This blog post is dedicated to the memory of Judy Flanagan, CMP, CMM, of Haddonfield, NJ, who died April 22, 2019. A CMP, CMM, and a past president of the MPI Philadelphia Area Chapter, she is missed terribly by many friends, family and colleagues.

May her memory be only for a blessing.

Why Reading Is Fundamental to Professional Success

Originally published Meetings Focus

Why Reading Is Fundamental to Professional Success

I’ve been a reader all my life and I believe it has helped me succeed in my professional life.

My parents subscribed to two daily newspapers and to many periodicals. What didn’t come to our home, I read at the library, especially if it had an interesting cover.

I also made a habit out of reading the magazines I sold during fundraiser season to make money for my school. I would think up the reasons behind why people subscribed to them.

No matter the type of media—books, periodicals, newspapers—my preferred way to read is in print though I do read many articles and interviews digitally. I’m a life-long learner who can find value in and application for almost everything I read, passing along to clients and colleagues and posting in social media for discussion some of the articles I find most useful.

Yes, it’s sometimes difficult to keep up.

Next to a favorite chair in our living room—or is it an all-purpose room in an apartment if it’s living/dining?—by my side of the bed, and in stacks on the desks and floor of my office, are books and periodicals I’ve read and want to reference or to be read.

I’m always finding interesting things to read and I truly believe it is an easy way to benefit your career and sharpen your mind—and maybe even unwind, depending on what you choose to read. Staying current on the news can certainly help you in your event planning.

This blog post provides some of the useful information I’ve recently read. On June 7, 2019, you’ll have the second part of the official Friday With Joan newsletter about the intersection of life- and end-of-life events and hospitality. You can read part one here.

[Related Content: Check Out More Musings From Joan Eisenstodt]

Interesting Articles for Meeting Professionals

All About 5G: Either at newsstands or online if there aren’t paywalls, find the June 3, 2019 edition of Time magazine, and the May 27, 2019, issue of Bloomberg Businessweek.

In Time, be sure to check out “The Battle for 5G” by Charlie Campbell and the related environmental sidebar “The coming mountain of e-waste” by Alana Semuels (to be read before buying yet another electronic device to accommodate 5G if you can get that at all).

The main article discusses the impact of the government’s blocking of Huawei services in the U.S. (and some other countries) to supply 5G.

The implications in rural areas is especially critical.

In Bloomberg Businessweek, Trump Puts Tariffs on Pizza Toppings written by Jeannette Neumann with Bryce Baschuk, about the cost and availability of black olives is a short article that may seem inconsequential at first glance.

Sure … until your CEO wonders where the black olives are!

In that same issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, read “Where The Money Is” that has lots of information on economics and wealth inequality. There’s a good segment on The Plaza Hotel in New York and how its ownership changed hands, more than once.

Creating Welcoming Conferences: Sherry Marts is a colleague and role model. She’s a recipient of the MIT Media Lab “Disobedience Award,” a higher compliment I can’t imagine! Here, on her website—at no charge, not even a need to get on her email list—are guidelines to create safe and welcoming conferences. Here’s a more direct link to the information.

Build Your Own Bliss Station: This is a watch/listen/read suggestion about how to build a bliss station, an episode of The Pinkcast moderated and created by Daniel Pink, the author of one of my still-favorite books, “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future.” Dan Pink interviews Austen Kleon on creating bliss stations.

It is captioned making it accessible.

And there are lots of applications for creating bliss stations for use at meetings. I’m thinking about applications; detail yours in the comment section below.

A Very Important Read: Politics must be part of our reading. We’ve tweeted via @meetingstoday many of the links to articles about changing taxes and policies in U.S. cities and states that impact what and how we spend money and where we decide to meet.

In this article about the Texas Legislature’s actions before departing there is reference to issues for our industry. Holding a meeting there? Give it a read!

Food & Beverage Trends: A number of food/F&B related articles pulled me in, all of them relevant because F&B is integral to hospitality. Two are about the experiences and experiences, we are told, are what travelers including meeting-goers, desire most.

What will make the experience of a destination notable and not cookie-cutter—what I call an “any convention city” experience—if those quintessential experiences are gone?

The F&B articles I found most interesting include:

  • Carrot “hot dogs” because so many vegans and others with dietary requests want to have a similarly looking/tasting experience at our events and these “dogs” may be the way to have the picnic or ballpark experience look, taste and feel more inclusive.
  • The final straw on how England will ban plastic beginning in 2020 and what that means to tourists, planners and others for planning ahead.
  • One Last Cup of Coffee to Go, My Friend, authored by Stefanos Chen, about how New York’s diners are disappearing. Broke my heart and when we think about experiences, aren’t they part of why we take meetings to New York?
  • The search for “authentic” ethnic food is a dead end,” was another one that made me also think about what we have and don’t have or want and what participants ask planners, concierge staff and DMOs when they want an “experience” in a city.

    I did chuckle at the descriptions of what makes many think a restaurant is authentic. (Hint: more about the ambience than the food). I’m grateful that John Paul Brammer stepped aside from his work at The Trevor Project to write this.

  • In The Age of Seamless, Is the ‘Regular’ A Dying Breed? by Helene Stapinski made me think of the dying breed of local restaurants that, if you’re a frequent business traveler to a city, you want to “make yours.”

    In the print edition of The New York Times in which this appeared is a short follow up story with quotes from individuals who have had to change restaurants when “their favorites” closed. It’s well-worth considering when selecting a destination and for hotels with their own special restaurants to think about when training staff to recognize regulars … and well, even semi-regulars.

  • ICYMI – Washington Post food critic, Tom Sietsema wrote that now he’ll “Add accessibility to his restaurant reviews” to which I say BRAVO! After noodging Tom via email after each awful experience in DC restaurants when using my mobility scooter, he’s asking for us all to advise him of challenges for anyone with a disability.

    I strongly recommend you sentd this to your DMO to suggest they too add accessibility in guides for their local restaurants (You too, @DestinationDC).

Travel Is Just Not Fun: We’re all watching and waiting with bated breath to see if the 737 Max planes will fly again and watching to see how many flights and passengers will be impacted until they do. Check out the latest on the situation as reported by CNN.

Heading to DC?: If you’re coming to the Washington, DC Metro area, you really want to read this. Metro, the main way many get around, is shutting down six Blue and Yellow line stations for the summer in 2019. Expect more traffic on the roads whether you work in the area or are visiting for meetings or business. Be sure put on your “patience hat.”

So there you have it, a fraction of what I’ve been reading.

There is a stack of many more articles and online bookmarks for another time. Tell us all about articles you’ve read or why you can’t keep up and need others of us to help you keep abreast of the news that may impact your life and your work. We’ll help.

Stay Tuned for More Recommended Reads

Upcoming this summer: books we’re reading. If you’d like to participate in an interview, email me at FridayWithJoan@aol.com only with “Books” in the subject line.

Where Life, Death, Grief and Hospitality Connect

Originally published Meetings Focus

Where Life, Death, Grief and Hospitality Connect

Now or next week, at a meeting or event where we are to network and enjoy ourselves—or perhaps in your office—someone, maybe you, are or will be grieving.

Perhaps you have been asked, as I was, to help plan a life celebration for a co-worker or a friend or a family member.

Because sometimes, just as we are asked to help plan joyous events, we are asked—like Alison Bossert (interviewed here)—to help with end-of-life events.

Just like life cycles, thinking for Friday With Joan often goes in unplanned directions. This is part one of a two-part series of blog posts, about where hospitality and death intersect.

The second of two blog posts—planned for Friday, May 17, 2019, barring any unexpected life events—will address how our industry, and one school, is going to help prepare a new generation of industry professionals to work on the one life event that is inevitable: Death.

A Lack of Time to Grieve

For years, I’ve researched bereavement policies. It might be because the day after my father (z”l) died, I left on a site inspection trip with a client.

My company was new; my client was important; there was to be no service or sitting shiva for my father.  It made sense at the time.

Since then, my mom (z”l) and many family and friends died.

I’ve been an observer to, and comforter of, friends, family and colleagues as they managed through death and the rituals associated with those deaths. I’ve seen the time that wasn’t given for grieving including the stinginess of bereavement policies.

When three friends all unexpectedly died this spring, I felt as if I’d been repeatedly punched in the gut. Even though I’m self-employed and could, theoretically, take time off to grieve, I really couldn’t. Clients’ work, like one’s job, takes precedence too often.

Why Do We Hesitate on Planning for Death?

As I plan a life celebration for one of those friends, it’s an opportunity to look at life-cycle events and their impact on each of us as individuals and at our industry and what we can do to learn more and help others—as friends, family and professionals.

There are many people who could benefit from our expertise.

The upcoming May 17th blog will explore more life-cycle events, some new, that require thoughtful planning and execution. In fact, we might stop poo-pooing the term “party planner” since many life events are in fact celebratory parties!

We often do little planning for—In fact, are uncomfortable discussing—how we will be remembered, our legacy, how we will or will not provide a format for laughter and tears. In my family, even the word death usually carries “<spit spit>” to ward off negative spirits. Or the word is whispered because if it’s not said out loud, we can pretend it won’t happen.

I’ve always wondered why, if death is a part of life and inevitable, we don’t plan the event. We plan events around birthdays and weddings—and even divorces—but too few have or share plans for their deaths.

These articles may help us understand why we don’t talk about death and should:

Neither of my parents wanted any service or memorial.

The Ways in Which We Choose to Grieve

In order to grieve with others, I asked friends to sit shiva for an evening with me after my Dad died. Though most in attendance didn’t know my father, it was comforting and funny to tell stories about his life including his behaviors at tradeshows.

One of my favorite stories, before mobile phones, was when he used a fake phone on a cord in his pocket and a ringer to pretend to get calls in elevators and on the show floor!

For years my mother said she wanted to have, before she died, a Chinese dinner for 12 just for herself. She never did.

With friends’ help, we gathered and had a superb Chinese dinner for 12 and toasted my mother. All in attendance had met Mom some years before and could tell stories.

Later, in my hometown, family and friends gathered over lunch to remember Mom. It helped me and others grieve; laughter mixed with tears of loss allowed us to celebrate her life.

Celebration-of-Life Planning Is Quite Glamorous

When I read this Washington Post article about celebration-of-life planner Alison Bossert, it led to learning of a new program in hospitality, about which I’ll say more here on May 17.

After reading the Washington Post article, I reached out to Alison of Final Bow Productions and we connected for a discussion. I am grateful for our long conversation.

Her passion for and understanding of what we don’t do and need to do led me to wonder why those in our industry are not better trained for celebration-of-life events and why more aren’t engaged in helping others at one of the most difficult times of their lives.

Celebration-of-life or end-of-life events can have all the glamour many in the industry crave when they say they want to be in events.

You’ll see that from my notes about Alison and interview with her. So, let’s talk about it. Read the notes from the interview with Alison and her own words.

Read more about bereavement policies and the words of surviving family about how they are coping. Return to the Meetings Today Blog to read the upcoming May 17 post about a new program and what I think our industry needs to help us learn more. Life and events are far beyond weddings and conferences. Let’s broaden our thinking and training.

A Special Dedication

This newsletter and blog post are dedicated to three friends—Bev, Chris, and Meredith—all of whom died within 10 days of each other this spring.

And it is dedicated to BizBash’s David Adler whose father, Warren Adler, also died.

I am indebted to each of the friends and those who loved them for their input and to you, David, for the foresight to ask your father the questions too many of us have no answers to and wish we did for those who have left this life.

Are There Stupid Meeting Questions? It Depends!

Originally published Meetings Today Blog

blog post and also share your “silly” or “stupid” questions in the comments below.

We won’t judge and the more examples we see from each other, the better!

*If you’d like to be among those asked for your input for future newsletters, please email me at FridayWithJoan@aol.com with your name, your title, employer, years of experience, and any topics about which you know lots and/or have strong opinions about.

I would to help get your thoughts included, attributed or not.

Hearing experiences and opinions of a wide-variety of current and retired industry practitioners is a value to readers and to me.

**Participants at meeting or events are still called the “audience” or “attendees,” which means we really don’t want them to be involved.

***If you’d prefer your comments posted unattributed, please email them to me at FridayWithJoan@aol.com and I’ll post without your name or identifiers.

Balancing Parenting and Caregiving While Working in Hospitality

Originally published Meetings Today Blog

Two articles that I read recently—one on the “science of cuteness” from The New York Times and another about “parenthood-indecision therapists” from The Washington Post—took me back to my younger days of deciding whether or not to have children.

In my 20s, I learned, in TIME magazine, of a new organization called, then, the National Organization for Non-Parents (later, the National Association for Optional Parenthood) founded by Ellen Peck and Shirley Radl. I was intrigued.

Like many young people, especially women, our route to adulthood was to graduate from high school, then college, and then marry and have children, with maybe a job along the way. Look, I’m a child of the ‘50s and ‘60s! It was different then.

I’d always thought I would have 1.9 children and then adopt “thousands” and be a true “earth mother,” never giving a thought to how I’d care for or support those. We were the beginning of that part of the women’s movement who thought we could have it all.

Choosing Not to Have Children

When I chose to not have children, the route to ensuring it was arduous: at the time, a woman’s age times the number of children she had had to equal 120 in order for a woman to receive a tubal ligation, or permission from a spouse and at least two psychiatrists.

It wasn’t law but it was policy at hospitals.

I met one of those criteria and had to go through hoops to meet the other. I was certain that parenthood, after giving it much thought, was not something I wanted to do.

“What if you regret it?” I was asked that question in numerous appearances on national radio and TV shows what I would do if I one day regretted my decision.

My response was that it was better to regret not having children than to regret having them once they were there.

Balancing Parenting, Caregiving and Work

Those of you who are parents and work full or part time, from home or in a hotel or convention center or office—or those of you who are caregivers for someone—have multiple jobs. I do not know how you do it. And sadly, I don’t have a convenient list of tips for you.

On days when, at my home office, the two cats are particularly needy, I think about you and wonder how in the world you find time to breathe.

If you are single—that is, without a spouse or partner or someone sharing the responsibilities—the work you do is overwhelming.

And the hours required of us are often obscene.

Those of you in sales have talked to me about the evenings when you have to entertain. Planners often work late, take work home, or feel an obligation to go to events held by those with whom you are doing business.  Event Service Professionals (aka CSMs)?

OY! Simply OY. You are never not on call.

No Easy Answers: Analyzing the Research

There is academic research like this “Parenting Stress and Its Associated Factors Among Parents Working in Hospitality …” in which it says:

“The service industry is common for long working hours and shift works. The current study investigated parents working in six types of service industries, including hotel and food & beverages, wholesale and retail, gaming and entertainment, medical health and social welfare, education, and as housewife/man.

“The work nature is further classified as on-shift or non-shift, and whether the family is single-income, double-income or single parent.”

A Horrifying Path to America for Hotel Workers” shows the nightmare faced by immigrants, women in particular, who are being exploited to fill gaps in hospitality jobs:

“In today’s fragmented, contractor-heavy economy, many hotels, restaurants, and other facilities no longer directly employ their workers. This employment arrangement may seem strange, but ‘it is very common for hotels in the U.S. to contract with labor recruiters in the Philippines (and other countries like Jamaica) to recruit temporary seasonal workers on H-2B visas,’ said Laura Berger, formerly of the City Bar Justice Center, a New York–based pro bono legal organization that represented [one named person] in her immigration case.”

[Related Content: Why Women Are Ideal Hospitality Leaders]

Now the hotel industry is seeking parents to fill post-Brexit staffing gaps, assuming that all plays out as planned (will it or won’t it is still part of the question).

Had I held off on the topic of parenting and caregiving for a Friday With Joan newsletter, where I often interview industry colleagues or others, I know that interviewing parents and caregivers in our industry’s many segments—planners, hotel sales and service, heart-of-the-house hourly workers, and others—would have been one more thing to do to add to their list. I chose to do this separately and let you weigh in at your leisure. How do you balance the demands of parenting or caregiving while working in the hospitality industry?

Additional Reading for Your Consideration

Here’s some additional reading on parenting and hospitality that I discovered:

Weigh in With Your Advice and Stories Below

I hope that those reading this—parents and caregivers—will weigh in below in the comments. We need to know what the industry can do to make working in the industry and having children and/or marrying more sensible.

What can the industry do to support you and make life better?

If there are Global Meeting Industry Day (GMID) events in April 2019 addressing the issues of parenting and caregiving, please let us know. I’m pretty sure that combining marriage and/or children and/or caregiving and/or aging in hospitality is not on the radar of enough.

And if you would prefer to have me post a comment anonymously for you, write to me at FridayWithJoan@aol.com and I’ll do so without any identifying information.

International Women’s Day: Moving the Industry Forward

Original post Meetings Today Blog

“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.” – Rebecca West (1892 – 1983), author and journalist.

Each time I’ve asked women in our industry if they consider themselves feminists they hesitate. Not all of them—but enough and in different age cohorts that I think there is a fear of being a strong woman, showing you are a strong woman, and identifying as a feminist.

All my life I’ve known women who worked in and outside the home.

Women who work outside the home are known to work far more than men if their spouses or partners are male.

Let me digress briefly. Many of us are aware of the plight of women in situations far more dire than fighting for standing and pay equity in the workplace:

  • Yemeni women and their children dying of starvation.
  • Women in Venezuela fleeing or trying to provide for families in a country without affordable medicine or food—if it’s even available.
  • Women in limbo in refugee camps throughout the world.
  • Women escaping poverty and terror and traveling, on foot, thousands of miles to reach what they hope is sanctuary.

I know I’m addressing more of what are called “first world problems.”

Yes, I’d like to be able to fix the world for all people and in particular for women. I can only tackle so much while raising the consciousness of many.

So for the purpose of the March 2019 Friday With Joan newsletter, published the week before International Women’s Day, I start “at home” with the hospitality industry.

Which for our purposes here, also includes the meetings and event industry.

In 2018, more women were elected to the U.S. Congress and to U.S. State Houses than ever before. On March 8, just weeks before GMID, International Women’s Day will be observed.

Its theme for International Women’s Day in 2019 is #BalanceforBetter.

“Balance” meaning striving for a more “gender-balanced” world.

As we look at issues impacting women—including those in our industry, from sales and meeting professionals to those in catering, management and housekeeping roles—we recognize that if we fail to communicate why our positions, titles and pay matter, we will fall behind. This is a reality that has held true for all women.

Yes, even event planners, who are predominantly female and are given the authority to negotiate multimillion-dollar contracts and provide updates to boards of directors on the financial impact of meetings, must explain their worth or suffer the consequences.

Where Are All the Women Leaders?

An MPI blog post titled “Reinforcing A Sense of Belonging,” declared that the organization I call my “mothership” will now provide a “pipeline of women to lead MPI.”

This statement made me stop and think. I served on my MPI Chapter Board, as Chapter President, and on the International Board, when women including Marta Hayden, Beverly Kinkade and Anna Chabot were leading MPI. That’s quite the pipeline of women!

I was asked for input prior to MPI launching their first women’s leadership initiative, and I saw its demise. Which, based on the above blog post, held no discernable lasting power.

MPI, like most of the EIC member organizations, has not had a woman CEO in its history—though I know of women who applied.

Why is that the case in an industry where anecdotally there are a majority of women? What I’ve noted about MPI is not a knock on MPI—they are trying again.

It’s a question posed to an industry that we believe is populated mainly by women.

Why do we still hold so little visible power?

In compiling the results of its “A Sense of Belonging” study, MPI asked “In what ways are women treated differently than men at work?” The responses from women were as follows:

  • 64% I have limited or capped career opportunities.
  • 54% I am treated as less capable or intelligent.
  • 54% I am paid less.
  • 46% I am not taken seriously.
  • 11% I am subjected to unwanted sexual attention.
  • 4% I am given less flexibility with time-off requests.
  • 4% I am bullied or mocked.

14% of respondents chose “Other.”

As one who grew up in a world where women fought for pay equity, I am painfully aware of and pay attention to what may hold us back. Is it the way we speak, the image we present and the images of us that are presented? We often apologize for saying something.

We’ll say “I just wanted to say” and negate whatever it is with “just.”

We use upspeak or uptalk, even when declaring what we know.

Should we applaud MPI and others for again focusing on women or be dismayed that again there is a focus on women in leadership when we didn’t make it stick before?

A Day I Will Never Forget

Doug Heath, MPI’s second executive director, heard me when I asked why MPI’s three representatives to the (then) CLC Board of Directors included no women though around me at MPI meetings I saw a majority of women in the audience. It wasn’t unusual—most of the delegates from the industry organization members were men.

Doug appointed me to be one of MPI’s three delegates knowing I would speak up strongly for MPI and what the industry needed.

And here’s what happened at my first meeting, an event that, though long ago, is in my head as if it were yesterday: I prepared for my first CLC Board meeting. I read my CLC board book and discussed the relevant issues with Doug and others in MPI’s leadership

Then I spoke up at the meeting.

At the first break, a man, not much older though considerably taller than I, patted me on the head and said “just wait until you’re older and more experienced. You’ll understand why…”

He was conveying this message: “don’t speak up ‘little lady’—know your place.”

This explains how women hesitate versus speaking their minds.

I did not equivocate in anything I said.

You too know how men often take credit for what women say or “translate” women’s words to their own. You’ve certainly witnessed it in interactions at meetings and events.

Case in point: I was co-presenting with a male colleague at an industry meeting and after each thing I said, he said “What Joan means is…” and then repeated what I’d said in his words. He swears he meant nothing by it and yet this happens to women all the time.

Then too, women are interrupted by men when speaking and we let it happen.

Here’s some advice from the above article to take to heart: “Women, if you are interrupted for any reason other than someone asking for clarification, say to the interrupter:

“’There are a few more essential points I need to make. Can you delay a moment while I do that?’” or ‘I know I will appreciate your feedback, but can you hold off until I’m done?’”

This may also come in handy when you’re negotiating for a pay raise.

Or while you’re in a negotiation with a buyer or seller.

My Advice to Women, Men and Our Industry

Here’s what I hope, individually, you who identify as female, will do:

  • Know, use and shout your strengths.
  • Use a voice that has authority. If you are unsure if you can, emulate others or take voice/speaking lessons (For my voice—literal and figurative—I thank my mother (z”l) and James Payne, my high school speech teacher).
  • Use your body with authority when speaking. If you are able to stand, do so.
  • Be assertive and support other women.
  • Mentor up and down. (See part 2 of the newsletter for thoughts on mentors and mentoring from a variety of people all of whom I met through professional affiliations).
  • Call yourself a feminist. Refer to yourself and others as “women” not girls or guys or ladies. What we call ourselves matters.

Those who identify as male, please:

  • Check yourself and ask those with whom you work to check how you support women in the workplace, at home, in communities.
  • Call yourself a feminist by supporting ideals that are about respect and equity.
  • Promote women in the workplace.
  • Stop interrupting women and “interpreting” what they say! Praise their ideas; give back credit for ideas you may have presented as your own.

For our industry: 

  • Work toward greater Inclusion. That means inclusion in gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, age, ability and economic status.
  • Don’t continue to start and stop initiatives until or unless they become part of the fabric of the industry. Once you set a goal to better the industry, keep working to reach it.
  • Check print and digital images and ensure equal and appropriate representation.
  • Set the standard for programs by partnering with GenderAvenger and like publications and programs and show others how easy it is.
  • Invite Rachael Van Horn to speak. She’s part of our industry and an example of a strong woman succeeding in a traditionally male profession.

Tell us more … about your experiences by completing the poll and commenting on the blog and within the comments on the second part of this newsletter.

What do you think can be done for women to gain equal footing at the least in an industry where we predominate but don’t get the pay and recognition we deserve?

And consider this: “Being a feminist is like being pregnant. You either are or you are not. You either believe in full equality of men and women or you do not.”

– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author, recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship (“Genius Award”) and author of “Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.”

Related Reading From the March 2019 Edition of Friday With Joan

Click here to view additional content in the 03.01.19 Friday With Joan newsletter.