Originally published Meetings Focus.
Originally published Meetings Focus.
Originally published Meetings Focus.
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.
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 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.
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?”
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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.’”
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].
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.
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.
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).
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.”
It is impossible not to think of the people of The Bahamas who have lost everything.
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.
Originally published Meetings Focus.
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.
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:
**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.
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:
Nothing in the discussion seems to change.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Originally published Meetings Focus
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Here’s some additional reading on parenting and hospitality that I discovered:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.”
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?
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.
Here’s what I hope, individually, you who identify as female, will do:
Those who identify as male, please:
For our industry:
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
Originally published Meeting Today Blog
Prologue: Picture this … it’s the season of gift giving and of year-end hotel contract deadlines. I’m working feverishly to finish a number of complex hotel contracts for clients before everyone takes time off for the Christmas holidays. My spouse brings a box from our mail room to my home office.
I ask, as I continue to write contract provisions, from whom the box was sent, thinking it must be from a family member or friend. When the sender is mentioned—a salesperson with whom we are in difficult (politely said!) negotiations—I loudly say “DROP IT!”*
In one of my favorite films, Defending Your Life, we see that after death, one’s ‘first stop” is a place that looks remarkably like Epcot Center. There, we are tasked with watching videos of our lives and “defending” our every action. It has a wonderfully funny tie-in to our industry with scenes about who gets the “better” hotels with the “better” turn-down amenities as a result of what appears from our lives. Chuckling as I write this—thinking not unlike who gets the upgrades in real life, huh?
The film is amusing, down-right funny (think whether you want to be seen by important people as you slurp your linguini in a restaurant) thoughtful and insightful.
Differently staged and with similar intent, is The Good Life, a TV production that so fascinated me, I now have a desire to recommend viewing episodes in preparation for ethics discussions in classes I teach and programs I facilitate. Is there a “good” place or a “bad” place after we die? Is it like Epcot Center? I don’t know. I do know that my actions after receiving the box would have to be defended.
The point? Many of you will give or receive gifts or entertain or be entertained by those with whom you are doing business, have done business, referred business or one day may do business. What goes into your thinking as you chose to whom to give or entertain, and for the recipients, to accept a gift or invitation or not?
How much would the potential of “defending” your actions—now, to an ethics committee or an HR or other officials in your company or professional organization—play in your choice of what and how much you gift to, or accept from, someone?
Research: In preparation to write the initial blog post in the October 2018 newsletter and for this post you’re reading, I did extensive new research: conversations with current and former hotel executives, industry attorneys, and EIC and EIC-member organizations’ representatives; reading articles about our industry’s and others’ ethics practices; reading hotel companies’ ethics policies [highly recommend and easily found with a search**]; and asking, via social media for those interested in responding to questions about industry ethics to contact me. A compilation of those responses can be found here.
I also asked questions of three industry recruiters—MeetingJobs, Searchwide, and Vetted Solutions. The responses from their CEOs are in this section of the December 2018 Friday With Joan newsletter.
Preview: I was … well, read it and you might figure out my response after reading on.
And once read, please answer the Friday With Joan poll questions.
Analysis: EIC, our industry’s umbrella organization, was unable to tell me which of its members has an enforceable code of ethics and/or conduct. In my research I learned that of those who do, two are NSA and NACE. I know that MPI, PCMA, and ASAE do not have enforceable codes, although MPI did at one time. ASAE has a separate, enforceable code for those who have achieved their CAE—Certified Association Executive—designation; the code for all other members is aspirational.
Those who have achieved their CMP—Certified Meeting Professional—are bound by this code, which is worded much like the codes of many of the EIC organizations that have codes of conduct or ethics.
(Use this link to EIC members; go to their sites to read the codes. Even if you are not a member of one of these organizations, it is likely you will do business with someone who is).
I verified with colleagues with whom I served on the then-CLC Board some years ago that our umbrella organization formerly required an enforceable code of ethics to be an EIC member. Now, it is asked that a code be submitted with the membership application, but it is not required for membership.
I confirmed that HSMAI, for example, does not have a code of conduct or ethics.
I imagine others do not as well.
Of those with enforceable codes, I was told the main charge of an ethics violation is the use of a certification when it has not been earned or renewed.
This was believed, by those with whom I spoke, to be a belief that few are violating the codes.
And now, ‘tis the season of gifts and entertainment. Many feel valued if they receive a gift or an invitation. Those on the receiving end believe it is perhaps their due for the hard work they have performed. Perhaps the invitation to an event is viewed as an opportunity to network even if they have no business to offer; the receipt of a gift, seen as one of friendship beyond the business relationship.
How do we decide when it’s appropriate to offer and accept gifts or invitations? And more, when is it appropriate to flaunt these gifts and entertainment on social media for all to see and perhaps question if a code of ethics—that of an employer or industry association—has been violated?
During this season of giving, it is also the season of year-end business and for some independent meeting planners and others who work for commissions, a season of meeting a deadline before commissions are lowered by some hotel companies. To that, many are posting that they are going around the “system” and finding ways to receive what they believe is their “due”—a commission amount that is greater than that announced by hotel companies. More details here and here.
In my research again, I was told by many current and former hoteliers and others that this practice will face consequences. This was stated to me, and I’ve agreed to, as I do with many, keep the confidence of the person who provided this input:
“By encouraging hotels to breach the requirement that they adhere to brand standards, or to hide the payment in some fashion to deceive, planners need to evaluate whether they could potentially be liable for interfering with the contract or if they are perpetrating some kind of fraud. Even more disturbing however is that this takes the profession back not just a step, but a mile.
“It seems a lot like the concepts that planners finally overcame when some were asking for blind commissions. If the planners are handling the commission in this fashion, they need to be mindful that are acting on behalf of the group [for whom they are doing business].
“They need to be concerned about this being a potential violation of the group’s code of ethics.”
And as noted above, it may also be a violation of the brand’s code of ethics.
From everything I see and hear, from the justifications in classes and other conversations and those in social media, and from the many reports in the news and the investigation of us by the U.S. Congress, I think we are moving into even more dangerous territory in and outside of our industry. Many find ways to justify their actions in the request for and acceptance of gifts, perks, and entertainment: we’re underpaid, under-appreciated, work long hours, need to network to find a new job, etc.
Suggested Actions to Help Avoid Unethical Gifting Situations:
May the light of this season and the hope of the new year bring our industry and us individually to new thinking about how we do business and how we want to be seen.
*You wanted to know what happened, right? I called the client immediately and was told that they too had received a box.
Neither of us had opened it. I asked what we should do.
It was agreed I’d call the salesperson and say that we could not accept the gifts.
I was told that these were not practical to return. The client agreed that they would use them in an office gifting event and that I could dispose of the gift by donating it.
**You will find, in your search, codes for how hotel companies deal with their own vendors, customers and staff. The codes are enlightening.
Editor’s Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.
Related Reading From the December 2018 Edition of Friday With Joan
Click here to view additional content in the 12.07.18 Friday With Joan newsletter.
Originally published Meetings Today Blog
In June 2018, I had the privilege of going to Duke University to speak at the Duke Special Events Planner Council’s Education Day. Those in attendance included people who plan meetings and events across the Duke system—for the medical and law schools, museums, hospitals and more.
Accompanying all of the planners in attendance at the event were local vendors who were showing their wares as well as learning with the planners. I so appreciated their participation in the education!
I had been asked to present a program on professional development. I began with this wonderful quote from the late author, Doris Lessing: “That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way.”
As they arrived that morning each person was given a box of crayons. To set up the day, I had asked that Sunni Brown’s TED Talk on doodling and learning be viewed ahead of time. My initial gift was that of permission to doodle and thus retain more of what was learned.
As I began, after lunch, I asked those in attendance to reflect on what they had learned so far and what they hoped to get out of the afternoon. It was gratifying to hear that both the Sunni Brown video and the programs that morning had made an impression. And, as I do, especially for after lunch programs, I brought Peppermint Smencils™ to wake up brains and spinners on which it is printed “more than brain surgery.”
The messages were to ensure that a) you need to continue to stimulate your brain and b) what we do is more than brain surgery!
What I talked about there stimulated the thinking for this blog. There are so many professional development needs and so many obstacles that we face:
*[The Duke Planners are fortunate to have colleagues who care enough to continue to find and present ways for them to meet and learn].
And still I think that we can do better. I suggested then these action steps to help overcome the professional development obstacles and offer them to all reading this:
Among the resources I provided were two great local-to-Duke ones: Daniel Mayer at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, N.C.—a place of wonderful programs and art to stimulate brains a la Dan Pink’s “A Whole New Mind” (see resources on the accompanying portion of the newsletter), and inviting Gentleman Cartoonist Keith Knight of the Keef Chronicles and (th)ink™, located near Duke, as a guest speaker to talk about the intersection of art, policy and social justice. In each of our communities—and accessible online—are so many resources we forget can help us think differently.
(Both Dan, a long-time friend, and Keith, a friend of newer acquaintance, and I had dinner together while I was in Durham. Stimulating conversation and superb food and ambience and service at Gocciolina where we each paid our own checks. The conversation was stimulating and far-ranging. It in itself was education!).
So why this blog and the not usual interview sidebar to the blog? It’s summer.
It’s a time when many say they are going to read more. Magazines and books suggest “summer” or “beach” reading. Not all of us get that opportunity.
So I offer some reading and viewing suggestions to help you think, make you laugh and to help you achieve professional development, despite the obstacles.
I welcome your input below or on the reading suggestions page, or if you’d prefer to email me directly for my eyes only or for me to post anonymously, do so to FridayWithJoan@aol.com.
Good reading and thinking!
Originally posted Meetings Today
If you were looking for a job or negotiating the conditions under which you’d work, of these, which would you not want?
As I finish the edits for this blog for the June 2018 edition of Friday With Joan, we wait to see if the Las Vegas hotel companies, including Caesars, MGM and others, will settle with the Culinary Workers Union whose contracts expire on May 31, 2018.
Editor’s Note: On June 1, a tentative agreement was reached with Caesars.
99% of those in the Culinary Union eligible to vote, voted to strike if their contracts were not renewed to include or expand upon many of the conditions noted above.
If they walk out, 50,000 workers who serve meeting-goers, business travelers, tourists and sports fans will not be on the job, and easily 100,000 people in the families of affected workers will be impacted. In addition to many of the items noted above, these workers also want to share in the profits of the hotels and casinos for whom they work and of the tax benefits afforded corporations from the new U.S. tax bill.
In fact, one need only look at the salaries of the casino CEOs in Nevada to see the discrepancy in what is being paid and wonder why the contracts have not easily been settled. In one article, one of those who voted to strike was quoted as saying:
“I don’t want to go on strike, but I will. The company is more profitable than ever because of the hard work we do, and I’m going to keep fighting to make sure we have a fair share of that success,” added MGM Resorts International guest room attendant Adela Montes de Oca.
My research causes me to wonder if planners do not want decent wages and working conditions, including safety from harassment, for our supplier partners.
Or do we not see as “partners” those who change our sheets, prepare and serve our food, wash the dishes, make the drinks, and do the work that enables meetings to happen?
I talked with a former hotel concierge who loved the job at which they’d worked for years, and who saw others being treated badly by management, owners and guests. In attempting to organize for better conditions, this person was penalized.
Thankfully, the now former concierge went on to do work that is helping others achieve protection in their jobs.
I talked with and read about many who faced hardships in the last strike in 1984 and who know that by voting to strike now could be endangering their livelihood.
Hockey fans wonder if the Vegas Golden Knights and the Washington Capitals [yes, I have a favorite!], all part of the players’ union, will cross picket lines, even informational picket lines, if a walkout occurs.
[Follow @meetingstoday on Twitter for updates on the strike].
Our industry overall (meetings and hospitality), and as reflected in some of the comments in the Q&A, has seemed anti-union, or at least anti-union for their meetings. I find it ironic that the overall industry, and some in particular, have not spoken in support of the Culinary Union workers. Some of the ironies I’ve noticed are noted below.
Irony 1: Some hotel brands have cut commissions for some third parties/independent planners who work on commissions about which I’ve written.
There are now at least two groups organizing, in essence, for collective bargaining for those third parties not affiliated with what have been called the “favored four,” the larger companies whose higher commissions will last a bit longer.
These two organizations have not yet spoken out in support of the Culinary Workers.
Irony 2: Industry associations say they are putting “teeth” into anti-sexual harassment policies. To the best of my knowledge, these organizations did not stand behind the Seattle initiative for “panic buttons” for hotel workers or sign on to the UNITE HERE-supported #HandsOffPantsOn ordinance in Chicago.
There has not been industry-wide support for this demand from the Culinary Workers Union to protect its members and others in the industry from being sexually harassed.
Irony 3: Our industry touts the contributions to the economy of tourism, travel and meetings but I’ve not seen support by industry associations for unions.
In particular, I have not seen support for the 50,000 people whose lives are made better and who can move toward financial stability who are part of the Culinary Workers Union.
Interestingly, studies show that Millennials are supportive of the labor movement. Maybe we have to wait for them to move into management for this to take hold.
Or, as with previous movements, it’s possible they just need to start voting.
Look, I know that UNITE HERE has angered planners and organizations because of the calls to planners and to organizations’ boards of directors encouraging some groups to not book properties or cities where the contracts with union labor are in dispute.
Like others, I have questioned the practice and wondered if it were the best way to reach out to planners and organizations.
I asked Levi Pine, Boycott Organizer from UNITE HERE, who though not an unbiased party, is someone who has given me reasons to trust him, how to explain this. This is a portion of his response, edited for length and clarity, and in some cases paraphrased.
“We always attempt to communicate with meeting planners first, by phone and email. When we do reach that person, we try to convey the seriousness of the labor dispute and make a follow-up plan with them about relocating their event.
“Sometimes it’s really hard to find out who the meeting planner is [suppliers will verify this], or hard to find accurate contact information.
“And, even if we can find the planner, often they try to cut off communication with us. Thus we have reached out to other organization staff or sometimes boards of directors.
“We know there are many who want to support workers, and even more who would be upset to arrive at their event and be faced with a labor dispute especially if a hotel or DMO had not informed the group, or the planner had not asked, in selecting the site and contracting, what labor issues were on the table.
“Groups have chosen to relocate their events to avoid a boycott. Some organizations look back on a decision to relocate as a real defining moment that demonstrates their integrity.
“When customers use that form of economic advocacy, it really does have a big impact. Boycotts have contributed to settling good union contracts that helped workers.”
[Joan’s note: oh the many gray areas of and the other discussions of boycotts for reasons of laws passed and commissions changed. We do need much more discussion].
“We suggest that groups incorporate the strongest protective language in event contracts to protect themselves and their events against the unforeseen.
“Our lawyers have written language that incorporates protections against various forms of a labor dispute, and that is available here.
“Meeting planners should [during site selection and after for groups booking far out] check the list of hotels and labor disputes at www.fairhotel.org. If you don’t find a property on the “FairHotel” list, a labor dispute is possible there. Planners can also call a FairHotel representative for the most current news on hotel labor disputes.
“Meeting planners can reach a representative at 773.383.5758.”
So yes, I’m pro-union. No one in my family of mostly self-employed people were, to the best of my knowledge, members of unions.
Maybe it was the Pete Seeger songs played or the general attitude about respect for all workers or the neighbors who were part of unions at the General Motors plants in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio, that made me aware of the importance of organized labor.
Maybe it’s because without the Labor Movement, children might still have to work, and hours would be far greater than 40 per week [yes, I know you work more than that—imagine if you had a union representing you to help you!], or the conditions under which those in the U.S. work would result in more Triangle Shirtwaist Fire disasters.
I’ve been self-employed for nearly 40 years and with my own company 37 as of Friday, June 1, 2018. I had to negotiate for salary and working conditions before I was self-employed, and for fees, expense reimbursements, specific work and conditions, since I became self-employed. Having an organization to support me and others might have resulted in a better standard of living and conditions for us.
So what do you do if the Culinary Workers in Las Vegas, or any other workers where you have a meeting booked, do walk out or if you learn that there may be a walkout or informational pickets taking place?
In 2011, this Meetings Today article explained what planners could do in the event of a strike. While some references may be dated, it still is relevant and important to consider.
Consider this too: Become a FairHotel Partner just as others are, and negotiate the Model Protective Language provided here into your contracts just as you are considering the language we’ve come to call the “ASAE Clause” regarding non-discrimination.
Take time to read the second part of the Friday With Joan Q&A—featuring one of the FairHotel Partners—to understand more.
I am grateful to those with UNITE HERE and with the Culinary Workers Union (Levi Pine, Jeremy Pollard, Rachel Gumpert and Bethany Khan) among those who first helped me research the #HandsOffPantsOn Ordinance in Chicago, and for the #MeToo blog here at MeetingsToday. I’d also like to thank Christine Busiek, CMP, of INMEX, for information.
I stand with you, Culinary Workers Union Local 226 (and those workers outside the union as well) in solidarity. I hope the contracts are settled and that your families—and our industry—will not suffer.
Following are links to the growing concern about technology and robots taking hospitality jobs. Planners, don’t assume your job is not at risk!
Already with the ability for automated site selection, why would our jobs entirely not be among the 6% that may be automated by 2021?
A Final Note From Joan: If you are someone who would like to be on my list of those to be considered for expressing opinions on a variety of Friday With Joan and Meetings Today Blog subjects, please email me at FridayWithJoan@aol.com with the subject line “Blog Interest” and in the body of the email, your expertise and issues about which you care about that relate to meetings and hospitality. Let’s get in touch!
Editor’s Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.
Related Reading From the June 2018 Edition of Friday With Joan