Category Archives: Life-long learning

Epic Challenges Ahead: Expert Opinion on the Post-COVID-19 Meetings World

Originally published Meetings Today

Epic Challenges Ahead: Expert Opinion on the Post-COVID-19 Meetings World

On the April 27 WHO press briefing, it was stressed that it is not time for “mass gatherings.”

If you follow the link in the sentence above that provides WHO’s definition of “mass gatherings,” you may think that a meeting for 100 or 500 or 1,000, even a city-wide, might not be “mass” and perhaps it’s safe to go ahead with your meetings, conventions and events.

Most U.S. states and many countries still have guidelines that restrict how many people can gather. Even if it is permitted, physical distancing is strongly recommended by most if not by some leaders. What WHO recommends for gatherings is available to download. It’s worth your time to consider the recommendations.

I reached out to the Events Industry Council (EIC)—as recently as earlier in the week of the publication of this newsletter—in hopes it had developed guidelines for seating, changing capacities for spaces, and for issues, from the formerly convened APEX Contracts Panel, on what this means for contracts in place and those being negotiated, especially for room blocks, attrition, impossibility and cancellation. This is what I received just before we made this live. As an industry, we’re not ‘there’ yet.

The issues about which I wrote in April remain. On April 14 during Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID), virtual events and virtual components of EIC-member organizations, I wanted to hear thinking about the impact of COVID-19 on when we can gather again and how.

I heard little except the usual encouragement to meet. That’s all well and good if we have guidelines to keep people safe. We do not have more than what WHO published.

In discussions among colleagues in social media, including on ASAEs Collaborate and in the “Events Industry Friends” group on Facebook [to join, answer the three questions], there is frequent conversation about the how/why/when we can move forward. There is no consensus though all want the industry to recover.

None of this would be so critical if so many of us weren’t dealing with postponing meetings and determining the configuration for those to be held in the latter part of 2020 and into 2021.

While many groups are pivoting to entirely virtual meetings, others are moving forward planning their events to perhaps meet as contracted or to attempt to revise the content and delivery to accommodate physical distancing.

I am grateful to Paul Bergeron, IOM, a freelance reporter covering association management, for his contribution to this newsletter on thinking about pivoting to virtual meetings. Pivoting has been swift and I, like Paul, fear that too little consideration is going into the long-term implications.

The impact of COVID-19 on how we hold meetings and events impacts nearly every element of a meeting. Considerations include the following, and this list is just a start:

  • Physical distancing: a colleague with an upcoming meeting determined that a room that normally could hold 250 could hold at most 36 people with six-foot distancing; rounds would be impossible; and issues for people who need sign language interpreters more complex.
  • Exhibit load-in/load-out times and conditions
  • Rehearsals
  • Room blocks
  • Attrition
  • F&B minimums
  • Service
  • Cleanliness
  • Guest room availability between one guest’s departure and another occupying a room
  • Elevator use

Lots of Questions and Thoughts; Few Answers

Some of the following thoughts were posted on various platforms, others were solicited. Only one is attributed because the issues are all sensitive regarding whether or not groups can or will meet.

I am grateful to The Wynn and to Marriott Hotels for their input on some of what we are considering around cleanliness. I hope they expand their thinking, quickly, to meetings and that the entire industry does far more, quickly.

I wanted for myself, clients and for readers, other voices to be considered as we all determine what to do. Voices of vast experience help me; I hope they will help you as you consider where our industry goes and how.

If in editing the comments from colleagues, I’ve erred in expressing their views, my apologies. I am grateful beyond words for their time in discussing complex issues because, I, a “P” on MBTI, needs lots of input to get to “J!”

Why Meet?

One exchange in ASAE’s Collaborate with Michael LoBue, MS, CAE, president of San Francisco’s LoBue & Majdalany Management Group was one of the better ones. (A lengthy and rich discussion on Facebook in the above noted group was too much to post.) My edited response to Michael follows his questions and comments.

Michael LoBue: ”I haven’t read this anywhere, which surprises me, but doesn’t hurricane season officially start off the Atlantic Coast on June 1st and runs through the end of November? [Had he only been reading my mind, he would have discovered many internal conversations.]

“Given states like Florida, Georgia and South Carolina are re-opening their local economies by relaxing physical distancing, and the incredibly infectious nature of the coronavirus, why wouldn’t we expect the next U.S. hot spot to shift to the South… and then if a hurricane hits … the entire East Coast will shut down again.

“Even if things open up in other parts of the country at that time, everyone will correctly want to go into physically distancing again—plus no one from the infected areas will be traveling anywhere to attend meetings.

“I’ve never been in an evacuation, for a hurricane or anything else. I’ve talked to people who have. It doesn’t seem like a desirable experience—to have it happen during a pandemic doesn’t seem to improve those prospects (he writes sarcastically).

“BTW, I heard that Germany cancelled Octoberfest this year [Correct: We tweeted it for Meetings Today.]… Why any face-to-face meetings between now and the end of the year are on anyone’s calendar is a mystery to me.

“Am I alone in this view?”

My edited response to Michael’s post:

Michael, thank you for raising these issues. They are very much on my mind and in my planning for clients and in my writing for the meetings industry.

In the off-the-record conversations with hoteliers and DMO CEOs, and with colleagues who plan meetings and travel, there is a belief that many hotels may never open again. In addition, COVID-19 (now thought to exist in a greater percentage of the world’s population than originally projected) could stick around and join whatever flu strain or mutation of COVID-19 appears later this year, so add that to the existing critical issues for which to plan for if meetings/events—or any gathering of more than a few people—are to occur.

Yes, correct on hurricane “season.” We’ve already seen that in states where tornadoes have occurred, physical distancing had to be put aside in order to provide shelter for many impacted. Convention centers and like facilities, that house meetings and events, are being used for what is called temporary shelter for either COVID-19 patients and/or those who were formerly homeless.

These same spaces are needed for those impacted by tornadoes. During hurricanes or other disasters (like wildfires), these facilities are used.

Add these issues in considering whether to meet:

  • Workers who will not want to work again in hospitality (including those who work/ed in transportation) for fear of illness and/or another round of layoffs.
  • Transportation itself (air, ground) and no idea when schedules as we knew them may resume.
  • Lack of hotels’ and cities’ policies and plans for implementation for cleaning, seating or other issues (attrition is one) impacted by distancing.

The list goes on for those of us planning for contingencies.

There are many who believe that talking about these issues is “fear-mongering” designed to scare people from planning or attending meetings and doesn’t show faith in what the hospitality industry can do. (Yes, #HospitalityStrong is trending among some.) I want to believe that we can meet again as long as we are prepared to keep people safe.

Groups, forced to make decisions now based on hotel or convention center cancellation charges, are being put in very difficult positions: choosing to stay afloat by having a meeting if states and cities say the guidelines for safely gathering have been met and the go-ahead given, or paying cancellation fees, with no registration income or less income for virtual events.

I’ve not mentioned the issue of city and state infrastructures and services that will be decimated because of lack of tax income, or the ability to obtain food with so many processing plants closed because of COVID-19 outbreaks, or the farmers plowing under crops and dairy farmers dumping milk.

I say, yes, Michael, I do not think there is much hope for 2020, but there needs to be lots of energy to plan to hold meetings and for contingencies.

What About Travel?

It’s not simple to figure out the pieces that go into planning a meeting under what were normal circumstances. In an email conversation with a colleague who was in hotel catering for years and now plans events, issues were raised about what is and isn’t open and about travel. To protect this person’s identity, I have edited some of the comments.

The hotels [in the city in which they live] are all closed. There are a few I’m sure that have a skeleton crew and some smaller ones that have restaurants trying to still do deliveries.

“It’s so hard to know what the “new normal” will be: Which restaurants will make it? Which stores? Will people want to travel? HOW will they travel? The days of non-sanitized planes and crowded flights, at least till there’s a vaccine that works, are over.

“I think flights will have to have fewer people on each plane and will need more than 30 minutes to an hour for people to disembark and then new passengers to board and take off. 

“I think airlines are going to have to do much more cleaning of the planes between flights, which will increase “gate time” and change schedules, which means that it will be way more expensive to fly.

“Likewise, hotels are going to have to figure out that housekeepers will need more time to clean each room. Hotels may consider switching from carpeting to hardwood/laminate or tile floors. Hotels on beaches or with pools will have to disinfect to the hilt. We’ve all been amused and grossed out by those “black light” reports, but now that a hotel could be culpable of murder—this ain’t so funny! It’s not bedbugs which are gross and a “problem”— people can die from this virus. So, that’s going to have people more “heebie jeebying” than before and more inclined to “tele-meet” than ever before.

“I do hope it’s sooner rather than later, and indeed that by October it will be “normal.”  

Taking this and my own conversations with airline personnel into consideration, I asked a colleague directly in the travel segment of the industry the following questions; their answers follow.

QWhen and how do you think airlines will begin to fly even half their domestic schedules?  

AMy guess is spring of 2021, at the earliest. There is too much uncertainty for the rest of 2020. The benchmark will be how well do the winter flights sell, if there is no second wave, or fear of a second wave.

Q. What do you think will make travelers feel safe in airports? On planes?

AOffer free protective face masks on request; have line space markers; announce reminders to be respectful to your fellow passengers and crew; allow passengers to change seats if they are concerned; and continue to offer flexible flight change options

Q. What do you expect the biggest changes to be in how we travel for leisure, business and to conferences?

A. For a while, we will travel to familiar places, less crowded destinations, and on shorter trips, for leisure.

For business, we’ll meet in smaller groups, for less time. We’re less likely to extend city visits, see a show, go to a group dinner, want to meet everyone in the office, for “face time.”

For conferences, we’ll radiate to smaller meetings, with more spacing between seats, fewer breakout rooms, temperature checks, and masks. It will be awkward, and there will be smaller audiences reflecting the reluctance to participate in large group gatherings.

Pre-arranged small get-togethers will be organized online before a conference, so there can be a brief meet-and-greet on-site, and no need to attend mass networking events, or spend lots of time at big receptions or crowded evening events. [I wonder what will happen to “hosted buyer events,” where the intimacy of face-to-face cannot happen for some time.]

Small and roomy will beat large and packed-in. We will see wide-scale behavior change in venue site selection. No more small nightclubs or narrow hallway receptions. Opening events will be held at outdoor sites or large museums, with plenty of room for peace of mind. Large gardens or private parks will offer more comfort. 

The crowded tradeshow floor is also endangered and may be replaced by smaller supplier group-specific exhibitor opportunities. For example, there might be a “Middle America Small Market” room and a “West Coast Top Tier” room, with room capacity controls, and delegates will stroll between them.

Q. What else do you want to tell people about the impact of COVID-19 on the meetings industry?

AOrganizers will need to relax change and cancellation policies. There will be lots of fear and uncertainty for a while. Delegates, exhibitors and (association) members will come from different geographic locations and different personal comfort levels. Some will adjust better than others to all the changes.

Planners will need to be sensitive to these changes, some of which will be expensive. CEOs and CFOs will need to accept it will cost more to draw fewer people to meetings and events. There will be less interest in promoting meetings by the numbers they draw, but instead, by the niche they serve. Some companies will get nervous and will cancel 2020/2021 staff travel out of fear, or for budget reasons, and this should not be inferred as not being a supportive or loyal member.

What About Hotels?

As noted above, The Wynn Las Vegas and Marriott hotels have put forth guidelines about cleaning. Prior to these plans being released, I asked three respected colleagues, two of whom recently retired, one of whom is soon to do so, and all of whom were with hotels in “lofty” positions, with a combined total of nearly 100 years in the industry (though they are all still younger than I am!) for their thoughts on the current state of the meetings industry.

I am grateful to them all for years of doing business together and, with our “business hats off,” friendship, and never more than now when ideas need to be explored in uncharted territory.

I am also grateful to another colleague still working with an open hotel for their input.

Colleague 1:

“Testing is the key. Hotels will have to confirm that all of their employees have been tested (multiple times) and are negative (for COVID-19.) Hotels will also have to take extra steps to show the facility is a safe place.
“Contracts are going to have to change to give planners more leeway on attrition and cancellations since no one will know for sure who will attend even when they try to hold a meeting.

“I see a reversal of the trend of leaving the hotel for F&B functions to wanting to stay in the hotel since it’s a more controlled environment.

“Since flying is a big concern, there might be an increase in regional drive-in meetings.

“Planners may need to let attendees participate both in-person and fully online to get people more comfortable (with gathering again).

“Social distancing rules will need to be established in all meeting rooms and outlets.

“Tradeshows are big problem. I see one-way aisles, limits on the number of people in a booth, more online demonstrations. (A model groceries are using now in many cities.)

“I see smaller sessions happening in meeting rooms but spaced out for social distancing and large sessions online so could you watch from your room or at a distance.”

Colleagues 2 and 3:

These two had an email exchange prior to my contacting one and then the other. I have permission to share their edited thoughts, exchanged before the three of us spoke.

Colleague 2: “Times are crazy, but my family is all good and I hope the same with you. What are you hearing in the industry for groups having to change programs/set-ups to maintain six feet of social distancing? Seems this would turn the meetings and convention industry on its head.”

Colleague 3: “What I think is that bad times are ahead for meetings. If we think that groups are just going to reschedule and put thousands of attendees at risk…the liability is huge, and associations and companies aren’t going to do that easily.

“The only thing that will save us [and the industry and meetings] is a vaccine. Short of that, it will be a long road back. Really worried for the kids. [These colleagues have children who work in the industry.] This is not the legacy I had hoped for.”

Colleague 2: “I so agree with youThe meetings and conventions segment is so critical to the hotels. Big hotels are not going to make it, especially the ones that recently opened.

“It took three years to go from peak to trough after 9/11 and 4 1/2 years after the 2008 financial crisis. I say this is going to be worse. A vaccine is key, but I think events will change for many years.

“Programs are going to have to be adjusted; the virus impact on what we know and loved is monstrous. I love the world we lived in. As I write this I think about … being at events with friends celebrating our industry and now I think it will be years before that comes back. I hope the young people at some point will be fortunate to have the same experiences.”

Colleague 3: “It seems that our path and successes may not be the same for our children. There are so darn many hotels popping up….. Big shakeout for sure.
[About going to industry events.] We sure had a great run and I hope our kids get a shot at what we enjoyed, but I worry the entire industry is going to change and not for the better…just look at how easy virtual meetings now are. Face-to-face isn’t going to be back as fast, if at all.”

Following up this exchange, one of the two above wrote to me when I asked if we were going too fast in re-opening the industry. It is edited for space and anonymity:

You are right, Joan, that hotels and airlines are hatching plans and probably too quickly. Saw the other day the ‘new’ seating arrangement for planes. Great, except that the one MOST important thing that will keep people from flying is the issue of filtered air on planes…it’s less about the seats, much more about how to keep the air that everyone breathes virus-free.

“Hotels are right in looking at the markets which can move quickly: business travel, leisure and sadly, not large group…. I’m betting 2021 or later realistically. All the [industry] talking heads will tow a [party] line but the real direction is going to come from the travelers themselves.

“Would you fly or stay in a hotel anytime soon? Every group needs to poll their members to determine direction.”

“Personally, I think we are moving too fast in reopening. A reinfection flare-up will really push us back. Just read earlier in [paper named] a column written by three lawyers who said that the liability in opening up stores, restaurants, etc., will be staggering if people get sick again.

“Our own industry doesn’t seem to be thinking this way.”

Last, from a colleague still working in an open hotel in a major market. Again, edited for anonymity, clarity and length.

Q. What will it take for the meetings industry to reopen to anything close to what it was before COVID-19?  

ATo reopen to anything close to what we were accustomed to pre-COVID-19, three primary elements will be needed: cleaning, infrastructure and flexibility.

All suppliers will need to conform to and execute CDC-endorsed cleaning standards; suppliers and planners will need to work to execute changes in physical and customary “infrastructure.” All parties—all suppliers (even if not contracted by a planner, such as airlines), planners and attendees involved will need to be flexible and adjust policies based on what medical progress has been made,

Ultimately, all parties need to ensure that guests/meeting attendees feel that steps have been taken to ensure everyone’s health, safety and security.

Hospitality chemical suppliers, such as Ecolab, were immediately proactive in reaching out to their customers regarding chemicals and CDC guidance the first two weeks of March, as were AHLA, and in our case, our state hotel and lodging association.

Infrastructure changes are going to be a big part of our ability to operate within the next year. Hotels may need to reconfigure front desks to accommodate a plexiglass shield as grocery stores have. The formerly popular open-pod front desk design will go away. There will be installation of more self-serve check-in kiosks that also issue key cards.

In addition to physical distancing reminder signage, we may need floor markers like stores are using. We’ll add hand sanitizer stations everywhere. Physical distancing protocol may require furniture removal to allow more space in lobbies and public areas.  

For meetings, physical set-up standards will have to change to 1 per 6-foot classroom at least short-term. Depending on the rooms and audience size, theater style may have to set for space for three or four times the seating as the expected numbers.

Receptions have to be re-imagined: Buffets and action stations will disappear, and bar set-ups will need to factor physical distancing.  

Meetings will need to include a virtual component for those not able or willing to travel. Programs will need to rethink networking and other social components for the next 12 to 18 months. 

Individual and group hotel reservation cancellation and meeting registration policies will need to be as flexible as possible. As flights (“lift”) have been drastically cut and are likely to remain that way for some time, planners must plan for their potential destination before finalizing plans vs. taking for granted that one can easily get to D.C. or Chicago as they used to. National meetings may go away for a few years and become smaller regional meetings due to change in air and change in our dynamics.

Q. What are the potential hazards for hotel workers and guests in returning to hotels?

AI believe it was Dr. Fauci who said, “We don’t make the timetablethe virus does.” That means we have to address a workplace/facility hazard that cannot be seen and one scientists/medical community is still learning about. [We are only four months into research.]

Until there is a vaccine, assume everyone could be asymptomatic and/or a carrier, and execute cleaning and infrastructure changes accordingly to create optimal conditions for both guests and employees.

To face the potential hazards, provide the recommended protective equipment to employees and the optimal safe layout to provide physical distancing, and supplies and services to support guests. If we put many safeguards in place and go beyond required cleaning protocols, our guests—and employees—will be shielded from hazards to the best of our ability.

Q. What has been your experience during COVID-19 with an open hotel and what guests want to know?

AHotels in our state are considered an “essential business,” but under the state of emergency/shelter at home order, we are authorized to turn away guests whose stay is not due to essential work. We have turned away guests who say they are there to simply “get away” from their house.

Most of our guests the last few weeks have been police and fire personnel working extra shifts and want to be close to their stations. We have been hosting nurses on temporary assignment at one of the three nearby “specialty” hospitals that do not have COVID-19 units.

I have been working with a domestic violence organization needing additional temporary shelter for their clients and also the American Red Cross seeking to secure a designated hotel for their normal course of business of providing families shelter in case of fires.

Business travelers right now are traveling medical professionals and other first responders. We are participating in a “day rate” promotion for locals to use rooms for a workspace during the workday—we have seen day guests for this. [On behalf of all of us, THANK YOU!]

We are running between 8% and 15% occupancy. We’ve kept guests informed by posting information regarding the shelter in-place order, changes in service and our current housekeeping protocols. We are primarily in a residential area that borders a medical campus, so we do have a great deal of options for food service—either carry out or delivery. We keep as updated as possible list regarding options.

On May 1, so far, we’ve been told hospitals are able to start non-emergency procedures (joint replacement, colonoscopies, etc), so we may see guests who want to be close to family members. Clearly this, too, may change.

I’m still wrapping my head around everything. I do not think we will return to business levels we saw in 2019 for many, many years.  

There you have it: different voices of experience. If my crystal ball, still not working the way it used to, were better, I’d have easy answers.

What we need is great collective discussions among many, including medical and scientific, emergency and other personnel, to help us figure out what to do. And we need patience as the world contends with this horrific illness.

We need to look at the inequities made more visible by this. We need to give what we can to help those who are in great need. I recommend your local food bank, World Central Kitchen, founded by the amazing chef Jose Andres, that now in addition to feeding people in disaster areas around the U.S. and world is feeding first responders and those in need in many cities, including mine (Washington, D.C.), and to Unite Here to help the many hospitality workers who are out of work and who we need to be healthy and safe so they can return to support us and our meetings.

Postscript

If you are a U.S.-eligible voterregister or check your registration. Many U.S. states and territories have “cleaned” their voter registration rolls. Check, too, to see if in fact you are registered and where you should vote.

Vote in upcoming primaries and national electionsThere are ballot issues and people running for office who will impact what we do in this industry. On Twitter at @meetingstoday, we post links to issues in upcoming elections that impact our industry. Voting is a precious right fought for by many. It is a responsibility of us all.

Because of COVID-19, many US states and territories have changed their primary dates and/or have added special elections. Please check your state’s or territory’s dates at their board of elections.

Instead of Job Burnout, Try This

Originally published Meetings Today

Instead of Job Burnout, Try This

All who work in any part of the meetings/hospitality/tourism industry experience face often unrealistic deadlines and people and events outside of their control that pull in competing directions.

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • Competition between quality meetings and service versus budgets.
  • Long and irregular hours.
  • Failed attempts at work-life balance.
  • Commuting.
  • Technology, that while helpful, keeps us always available.
  • The exhaustion of travel and onsite meeting and event management.

It’s nearly impossible not to feel burnout!

Meeting planning—or as defined by studies as “event coordinator”—has been listed as one of the most high-stress professions.

Other jobs in hospitality must suffer a similar level of stress and burnout, such as hotel and venue sales, with constant revenue goals and wrangling contracts, plus evenings entertaining clients; and convention services, because there are too few people working in these positions, which take on the stress of facilitating what salespeople sell.

Burnout results in not just the need for time off. It results in a dearth of new ideas because we can’t see, well, the trees for the forest! (Yes, I intentionally reversed the adage.) With that comes meetings that look and feel way too alike.

We are overworked, overwhelmed and in need of being refreshed in body, mind and spirit. We want to bring back the energy we felt with a new job or new concept with fresh insights. When people talk about managing burnout, they speak of time away from work…time away from all responsibility.

Is a Vacation Actually Enough Time Away?

I’ve long said I want to find a way, like what I want in my next reincarnation (a super-fan of the film Defending Your Life, I believe the possibility), to enjoy days with zero responsibility to clients, the industry, learning, my spouse and family, my beloved cats, home, etc.

Then again, I love learning, so maybe it’s that I want time to learn without other responsibilities.

I do not believe that vacations alone can renew and refresh. They are too short or not taken at all. This Travel + Leisure story cites statistics that reveal one-third of all Americans haven’t taken a vacation in more than two years.

When people do take vacation, the planning alone, especially for those in our industry, feels like work!

You probably saw US Travel’s National Plan for Vacation Day and, like I, chuckled that there are now guidelines to plan a vacation. Sheesh, most of us are asked to do so by others.

In the last months, the number of industry professionals I know who retired was mind-boggling. The numbers plus the aging of meetings and hospitality industry professionals led me to write the December “Friday with Joan” about those who are feeling “aged-out” of the industry.

Not one of those who had or were planning to retire soon expressed regret. Suzette Eaddy expressed it well—not having to be somewhere and do something specific every day. Sandi Lynn said she “rewired” instead of entirely retiring, which has elements of the alternative you’ll read about below.

This op-ed about the so-called “Megxit” decision by the Sussexes was a big AH-HA. The first line reads, “Step back is the new Lean in, and I am here for it.

It went on to describe what the writer, Michele L. Norris, believed it meant: “I am going to assess the landscape and figure out how to move forward on my own terms—or figure out whether the prescribed path is even the best fit.”

It screamed “SABBATICAL!” to me.

Colleagues Share Their Sabbatical Stories

Jean Boyle, whom I met through MPI years ago, was someone I remembered had taken a sabbatical. When I asked her, I learned that she had taken two sabbaticals in her work history.

I reached out in various industry groups via social media and to specific colleagues to find out if others had taken sabbaticals or if they were an offered or negotiated option.

In a wide-ranging conversation with Shelley Sanner, M.A., CAE, senior vice president industry relations at McKinley Advisors, about how associations can easily align their missions with a sabbatical, she said she took a sabbatical in 2017 and alas, said that no one at their company has since. A shame, we both agreed.

Sanner said all the pieces must be in place, including who will pick up one’s work while away and if that means hiring others or providing training to staff currently in-house, before someone goes on sabbatical. As others, and in particular, Amanda Cecil, said, one must step totally away from one’s job in order to use time on a sabbatical well.

Mike Gamble, president and CEO of SearchWideGlobal, said one of its employees was on the verge of quitting. Instead, they negotiated time to travel, about which you can read here. It was clearly a sabbatical that benefitted the person and company, broadening their scope of knowledge.

As sabbaticals are more common in academia, I reached out to Professor Deborah Breiter, PhD, CEM, at The Rosen School of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida (UCF), also profiled in the December “Friday With Joan,” remembering that she had taken one.

During hers, she wrote:

I used the time to edit a book of event case studies with Amanda Cecil, earn my CEM, and create a series of videos for one of my online classes. I took two semesters off at three-quarter pay. I could have taken one semester at full pay.”

Deborah told me that Amanda Cecil, PhD, CMP, professor, Department of Tourism, Events and Sports Management, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) had also taken a sabbatical, about which you can read in the next part of this edition of “Friday with Joan.”

It made sense and fit with what I’d wanted to do years ago: Have a select number of senior D.C.-area planners rotate jobs for a period of up to six months to learn what other organizations do in order to refresh and renew thinking, to bring new ideas back to their employers and work.

Many of us believe we are indispensable. We’ve fed that assumption by keeping much of what we do and know “in our heads.” We talk about what would happen if any of us were “hit by a bus,” believing that no one could ever manage without us. (Okay, yeah, they probably couldn’t, but if we burn out and can’t function, isn’t that almost as bad as being hit by a bus?)

In my conversations and reading, I learned of all the potential sabbaticals offer to any profession. Sadly, what I also learned is that many so-called “sabbaticals” are really extended vacations without a specific purpose.

Even more sadly, I know how little money is set aside for industry colleagues for professional development and fear paying someone to learn for longer than a few days will be pooh-poohed. If we can incorporate different thinking, we can change this.

I asked those with whom I spoke if they thought sabbaticals were feasible for those who work in our industry.

Deborah Breiter Terry wrote:

“I think sabbaticals are feasible for any professional employees (as opposed to hourly) who have been with an employer for a certain number of years (probably seven). They would have to go through some sort of application process and show how they would use the time and what the eventual benefit to the company would be. Perhaps somebody wants to take six months to go to school or maybe they want to be a visiting lecturer or executive in residence at a college or university.”

From Mike Gamble:

Work life balance is now a competitive advantage, and companies who truly ‘walk the talk’, will recruit and retain the best talent. Sabbaticals are one way to reward tenured employees and show them that you care about their health and well-being.”

Jim Zaniello, FASAE, president of Vetted Solutions, told me that he’s seeing more associations offering sabbaticals in their hiring of senior level positions:

Associations should offer all staff—not just the CEO—a sabbatical for a significant tenure, say, their 10-year anniversary. It’s a great employee retention incentive as well as an investment in employee wellness.”

This 2017 article makes the case for associations to provide sabbaticals. In emails with Ernie Smith, the author, I learned he’d not heard from any associations that had implemented sabbaticals.

This article from Inc. details companies that offer sabbaticals. In checking with someone with the parent company of Kimpton Hotels, I was unable to learn if they in fact still offer them and what the guidelines are. Stand by—once learned, I’ll add to the comments to the blog.

Ask yourself the following questions when considering any kind of sabbatical:

  • How then do you decide if you want a structured sabbatical v. more vacation time?
  • What guidelines could and your employer develop to justify sabbatical, with pay?
  • What benefits would you ascribe to you and to your employer?
  • What are you willing to do in order to avoid (greater) burnout and instead focus on new learning to enhance your thinking and energy?

Rosen College of Hospitality’s Sabbatical Guidelines

How can you structure the sabbatical application and process?

With permission, linked here are the full guidelines from Rosen College of Hospitality Management University of Central Florida SABBATICAL POLICY. [Note that numbers and letters are not in order. We left them as they are in the policies to maintain the integrity of the document.] Where it refers to “this college,” translate that to “organization” or “company” for the purposes of thinking about what your organization could do. I’ve captured a few sections of the entire body here to add to the questions above.

”Based on the University of Central Florida Sabbaticals and Professional Development Programs as stated in Article 22 of the most recent version of Collective Bargaining Agreement, the following sabbatical policy has been developed for the Rosen College of Hospitality Management.

A. Purpose

Policy. Sabbaticals are granted to increase an employee’s value to the University through opportunities for research, writing, professional renewal, further education or other experiences of professional value. While such leaves may be provided in relation to an employee’s years of service, they are not primarily a reward for service.

B. Types of Sabbaticals

  • (1) Type I Sabbaticals: Each year, each college shall make available at least one [Type IA] sabbatical, either at full pay for one semester or one [Type IB] at three-fourths pay for one academic year, for each 20 tenured and tenure-earning employees, subject to the conditions of this Article.

C. Eligibility for Sabbaticals

  • 1. Full-time tenured and tenure earning in-unit employees with at least six (6) years of full-time continuous service with UCF shall be eligible for sabbaticals.
  • 2. No paid leave(s) or family and medical, parental, administrative or military leave(s) will be considered a break in continuous employment.

D. Application and selection [See full policies for more.]

a. Faculty must have served in the college for at least six continuous years since the year of hire and shall be eligible for a subsequent sabbatical six years from the completion of a sabbatical. Previous sabbaticals will be taken into account when ranking sabbatical proposals.

b. Proposed sabbatical projects shall show connection to the UCF mission as well as the Rosen College of Hospitality Management’s mission, goals and strategic directives.

c. If seeking an affiliation with an organization, faculty should include the project description and a letter indicating acceptance by the organization.

d. Faculty projects that designate measurable outcomes will be given priority in selection.

e. Upon completion of the sabbatical, the faculty member must submit a report of the project within 30 days. The report is subject to review by the College Sabbatical committee, the department chairperson and the Dean of the College.

f. Successful completion of the sabbatical shall be taken into account for the faculty member’s annual evaluation.

(8) In ranking the applications worthy of a sabbatical, committee members shall consider the merits of the proposal and the benefits of the proposed program to the employee, the University, the college and the profession; and the length of service since previous sabbatical. Committee members shall not disadvantage an applicant due to his/her academic discipline.

(10) In the event of an exceptional opportunity for an employee to participate in a prestigious academic award/activity for which deadlines prevent application during the normal application process, the dean may award a sabbatical outside of the above defined process. All employee eligibility requirements must be met and all sabbatical terms defined below apply.

E. Terms of Sabbatical Program

  • (1) The employee must return to the University for at least one academic year following participation in the program. If the employee fails to return to the University for at least two consecutive semesters (excluding summer) following participation in the program, all salary and fringe benefits received during his/her participation in the program must be repaid to the University within 30 days of resignation or job abandonment. If the employee makes little to no effort to complete the project described in the application, the employee shall receive an “Unsatisfactory” overall annual evaluation and will be ineligible to apply for a sabbatical for ten years.
  • (4) Employees shall be eligible to apply for another sabbatical after six years of continuous service at UCF are completed following the end date of the previous sabbatical.
  • (5) University contributions normally made to retirement and Social Security programs shall be continued during the sabbatical leave on a basis proportional to the salary received.
  • (6) University contributions normally made to employee insurance programs and any other employee benefit programs shall be continued during the sabbatical.
  • (7) Eligible employees on sabbatical shall continue to accrue leave on a full-time basis.
  • (8) While on leave, an employee shall be permitted to receive funds for travel and living expenses, and other sabbatical-related expenses, from sources other than the University, such as fellowships, grants-in-aid, and contracts and grants, to assist in accomplishing the purposes of the sabbatical. Receipt of funds for such purposes shall not result in reduction of the employee’s University salary.”

What’s Your Take on Sabbaticals?

If you’ve taken a sabbatical, want to put together a proposal for one, or if you think, “No way will this work,” tell me about it! You can write to me at FridaywithJoan@aol.comI’m glad to publish your comments anonymously.

And finally, a special note:

I’ve voted since the very first time I was eligible to do so which was, then, 21 years of age. If you are a U.S.-eligible voter, go to this link and register. Many U.S. states and territories have “cleaned” their voter registration rolls. Check, too, to see if in fact you are registered and where you should vote.

Vote in upcoming primaries and national elections. There are ballot issues and people running for office who will impact what we do in this industry. On Twitter at @meetingstoday we post links to issues in upcoming elections that impact our industry. Voting is a precious right fought for by many. It is a responsibility of us all.

The views expressed here are those of the author or those interviewed and may not express the views of our publisher.

Related content from the February 2020 edition of Friday with Joan:

20-20 Hindsight Becomes 2020 Vision

Originally Posted Meetings Today

20-20 Hindsight Becomes 2020 Vision

You know what? Even though I’ve said “2020” repeatedly in conversations and in correspondence, I didn’t actually hear it. Or, I didn’t hear it as “20-20” in how that term relates to vision.

A colleague in a social media post asked how many among the group were, even though it was “punny,” using the term “2020 vision” as a theme for their conferences next year. Oh, you bet I “SMHed” (which means “smacked my head,” in one of the truncated parlance usages of the day)!

Evidently, “the vision thing” will be in for the coming year. I am surprised that I’ve not yet heard a candidate for office or a product ad campaign play on it as we end one year—and one decade—and start the next.

In the December Friday With Joan, I wrote about age and what we who continue to work past a “certain age” bring to the table in the way of knowledge of industry and history.

We all move so quickly and with such urgency that we too often do not stop to review what has been and how past actions or inactions, past purposes, goals and outcomes impact us and our work. What is often called “hindsight”—or for sports fans, “armchair quarterbacking”—is necessary before rushing ahead, especially headlong into a new year.

I’ve written Friday With Joan since 2015 as well as other articles for Meetings Today. Prior to that, for many years I wrote for another meetings industry magazine. (Alas, none of those are digitally available and all my copies are in storage.) I see so many of the same issues resurface without new solutions offered.

Take time to read or reread these 2019 Friday With Joan highlighted blogs for some insights into your vision for you and the industry for 2020:

See what strikes you as still relevant and what the industry has done to operate smarter or differently. You might even, as I did, go all the way back to 2015 and find this blog, A Proposals Is Not a Contract, as relevant now as it was then—especially in another December of year-end contracts.

Still relevant are webinars others and I have presented or co-presented for Meetings Today. This one on site selection with accommodation and ADA as a focus continues to be an issue. Take from it hints for your next site inspection and remind your hotel partners, too.

Another very relevant issue is our responsibility as meetings and hospitality professionals to advocate for our industry. I teamed up with Voices in Advocacy’s Roger Rickard for this SOS! Industry Advocacy Needs Your Help! Meetings Today Podcast that explores the important issues that impact our industry and how all of us can affect change.

By highlighting some of what I thought were the most impactful 2019 blogs for the first Friday With Joan of this new year and new decade, I ask you to:

  1. Read or re-read past blogs or listen to the linked podcast above.
  2. Reflect on the impact the issues addressed had on you and how they may impact you in 2020.
  3. Consider what actions you and those with whom you work or interact might have taken differently in 2019.
  4. Register to vote, become informed on issues that impact you personally, impact our industry and our world, and then vote.
  5. Determine actions you can take moving into this “vision” year and new decade to strengthen the perception and reality of hospitality and meetings.

We begin this new year remembering those we lost in the past year, whose vision and knowledge will, we hope, live on in our actions. May this new year and decade be one of peace and good health for us all.

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.

Do You Feel “Aged-Out” of the Meetings Industry?

Originally Posted Meetings Today

Do You Feel “Aged-Out” of the Meetings Industry?

20 in their 20s. 30 in their 30s. Even 40 in their 40s. And then the lists recognizing those who are doing good work in the meetings and hospitality industry seem to stop.

Where, I wonder, are the 60 in their 60s, for those who were still working at 60 or even 65-plus?

Howard Feiertag is among the oldest and most active in our industry. He astounds me with his energy and willingness to continue to learn, strengthen our industry with up-to-date knowledge and with historic knowledge on which we all continue to build.

Patti Shock was among those who, though officially retired from UNLV, continued to teach virtually and through the International School of Hospitality (TISOH), and also via her contributions to industry publications such as this one and on social media.

Patti, who died November 22 at just barely 78, was an example of those of us who continue to learn and contribute. I have no doubt that she’d have kept going much longer had her death from surgery not occurred.

I was grateful to another industry publication that recently named me a “legend” among influential industry people. The legends? Three men and me. The men are all still working, and at least two of whom are older than I. Those three are, I am pretty sure, much wealthier than I and could afford to retire quite comfortably.

Since I’m often still asked to work for “the exposure,” and because I love learning, applying that learning to work with clients and helping others learn, I continue to work into my 70s.

In the era in which I grew up, I remember stories of the “gold watch” given at retirement to those in white collar jobs who worked for companies for many decades. Yet there was little recognition of those who toiled long into their post-60s at blue collar jobs, often working because their income had not been enough to sustain them in retirement.

In my family, many of those, of blessed memory and including my grandfathers, father, uncles and some cousins, worked until they literally died on the job. My dad, just short of his 65th birthday, would have, I am sure, continued working in sales much longer had cancer not killed him. His dad, my “Papa Billy,” with no college education, retired from a long career in the insurance industry to work elsewhere. He died on his lunch hour. We think he was about 85 years old.

My dad’s brother, a doctor, would have still worked had he not gotten sick. In fact, he continued to practice at least three days a week until shortly before his death at almost 86.

I have no role models for retirement.

Why do some continue working while others retire? Would more people retire, generally and in our industry, if they could afford to do so? Are some forced to retire because their value is not seen and instead companies hire two lesser experienced and lesser paid workers to “take the place” of the senior worker? Would people continue working If they and their talent were valued in their companies and in the hospitality and meetings industry?

A dear friend, a CPA and attorney, was forced to retire at 62 by the firm for which they worked as a partner. One can imagine at the founding of many companies when the lifespan in the U.S. was much lower than 62 might have been ancient. Compare it to today and wonder why anyone is forced to retire if one is still productive. There are many years left in which to provide one’s knowledge.

A recent, though I hear fading, “cool” putdown is “OK Boomer” used against those of us who are in fact of the Boomer generation. How then does that differ from the ageism and discrimination leveled at Gen Y, considered by some for being slackers when it comes to their work ethic? Is forced retirement a form of ageism?

In our industry, those who are older than 40 have a difficult time getting jobs, or worse, maintaining jobs as they age regardless of their knowledge and abilities. Do we value the knowledge of those who are older than even 40, let alone those of us in our 60s or 70s or older? Does history matter, in that we can bring to the table information no one else possesses?

Athletes are forced to retire from their initial endeavors often due to injuries sustained during their careers. Many go on to careers in broadcasting. Older actors and performers, on the other hand, are valued more today than they have been in a long time. (If you’ve not read or heard 83-year-old Glenda Jackson’s successes on Broadway in the last years, do so here.) Then there’s Mick Jagger, after illnesses that have scuttled the careers of many, he’s still performing!

This article from Fast Company is one of many articles and papers I have read about the value of retaining older workers. Is the hospitality and meetings industry not aware of our value?

It was interesting reading what those still working and those retired had to say. I wonder how many more of you are out there and willing to “out” yourselves as being 65-plus and still actively working in the industry. And of those of you retired, what do you miss, if anything, about working? Or did you, like Sandi Lynn, “rewire” after you retired from another job? Or like Keith Sexton-Patrick, take on a part-time job at which he still uses the skills spent in his many years in convention services?

Long ago, a friend, then in hotel sales, said that if I should ever retire, I should call my final column “Life Without Amenities.” I don’t see that happening: one, because I’m not planning to retire, and two, because I’ve turned down amenities regularly. That said, others I think miss the attention and perks that our industry gives to those who continue to work.

Will you tell us why or if you feel valued for your knowledge or dismissed because of your age, whether it’s 40 and younger or 60 and older? You can do so via the poll or in the comments.

If you’d prefer to have me post what you have to say without identifying you, email me at FridaywithJoan@aol.com and I’ll post in the comments without your name or identifiers. And yes, I will understand, as will others, why you do not want to be identified.

Thanks for reading—whether you are doing this while still working or in retirement or contemplating retirement. As we wind down the year, some of us frantically working on year-end contracts, I am grateful to still be part of this industry, working to make meetings and hospitality better.

We have been asked by many about donations in Patti’s honor. Two suggestions:

1. PCMA, which is how I first met Patti, will continue to help students. Visit here, put in the amount and then click where it says “Dedicate my donation in honor of or in memory of someone” and add the name “Patti Shock,” it will be to help students.

2. Or you may donate here, through NACE, which will go to the TISOH scholarship.

THANK you. It will mean so much to family and friends to help others in honor of Patti’s life of educating others.

Related content from the December 2019 edition of Friday With Joan:

[Read more content in the 12.06.19 Friday With Joan newsletter]

From Volunteer to Meeting Professional

Originally Published Meetings Today

From Volunteer to Meeting Professional

I’ve been in the meetings and hospitality industry for more than 50 years—and if you count my very early volunteer experience, more than 66 years, 38 of those with my own company.

I would not be who I am or have the skills I’ve developed had I not been a volunteer beginning early in my life.

Prior to working formally in the industry, I was a volunteer for an art museum in my native Ohio, where I helped create and manage citywide events in the museum and on its grounds; organized U.S.-wide conferences for an organization for which I was a spokesperson; and volunteered for public television, coordinating on-air auctions.

In fact, as I thought about the subject of volunteerism, I realized how so much volunteer experience prepared me for the work I do now and added to the skills I have used throughout my career.

My Volunteer-to-Meeting-Professional Path

Long before I was honored for my work and giving back by volunteering in the industry by induction into the EIC Hall of Leaders, recognized by PCMA’s Foundation with a lifetime achievement honor as an educator; by IACC, HSMAI and NSA (speakers not spies!) for contributions to education; by MPI as International Planner; and often being included as one of the 25 most influential by an industry publication, recently as an influencer “legend,” I volunteered.

I began volunteering around age 6, campaigning to teachers for a U.S. presidential candidate on my grade school playground using the information my parents discussed and I learned from watching the news.

Around the same time, I created street fairs to raise money for polio research, a result of my next-door neighbor and friend, Alan, contracting polio. (We were among the test cases for the new vaccine. Alan, unlike I, received the placebo and contracted polio. He did live, overcame the illness, and was a star-wrestler in high school.)

These weren’t fancy street fairs—we had marble-shooting games, bobbing for apples and other simple games and prizes—and it meant creating, marketing and running events from which I gained experience.

In grade school, I also served as student council president. In high school, I was an active Y-Teen volunteer, which allowed me to attend statewide gatherings at which I gained leadership skills. I was also part of a city-wide teen human rights council and a high school service club.

During each of these opportunities, I gained skills and connections in areas that were then and are still my passions: social  justice and education.

Though I attended college for just one year, that year was a banner one. I was elected as our dorm’s freshman representative to the inter-dorm council where again my leadership skills were enhanced.

Unable to afford more-formal education, and having learned I was not good at learning in structured settings that were unlike my the experiential high school learning I’d enjoyed, I returned to Ohio where, in addition to working a variety of jobs, I sought new volunteer opportunities including working at the local art museum, while also working at a paid, full-time job.

At the art museum, I helped coordinate volunteers for the gift shop and for exhibition openings. My proudest achievement was helping create and then coordinate citywide events where there were visual and performing arts in each gallery, changing every hour, open to the public, over weekends. Public television seemed a natural, too: I helped with fundraising events including on-air auctions.

I joined a new national organization and found myself not only a spokesperson on national and local radio and television programs, I also helped plan national conventions. Laughing as I write, I don’t know how I did it—finding the hotels, booking speakers, and helping create logistics guidelines—I had no idea it was a profession.

Then What?

Before deciding to move to Washington, D.C., from Ohio, I interviewed for a job as a volunteer coordinator for a D.C.-based national association. The D.C. job I so thought I wanted was to coordinate the association’s volunteers throughout the U.S. I flew back and forth numerous times to interview. Alas, I wasn’t hired.

Not being hired for that position was a good thing! To deal with the disappointment, I moved to D.C. without a job, stayed with a friend for a few weeks until I found an apartment, and volunteered for the organization that didn’t hire me, and for another one, while I interviewed for jobs. Through all the volunteering, I gained valuable contacts and experience.

This was in the summer of 1978. MPI was new and PCMA was unknown to me.

While volunteering (I stuffed envelopes—ah the glamour!), the executive director of the association that didn’t initially hire me referred to my past experience—much of which had been volunteer aside from working in an elementary school, selling poultry and books (not in the same store!), and writing ad copy at a newspaper—and said they wanted to hire me to be their first meeting planner to plan their 10th anniversary meeting and events. (In my head, I thought “Call me anything—just hire me!”)

I began work almost immediately, and through a contact from the U.S.-wide conferences I’d help organize, found the Potomac Chapter of MPI. At my first PMPI meeting, the wonderful, now late, Bill Myles, saw me, the Introvert, standing against a wall. He introduced himself and upon learning I was new, asked me to be on the membership committee. Like now, I was not good at saying “no.”

That lead to so many opportunities: serving on committees, on the PMPI Board and as chapter president two years in a row. Through all of this, I learned meeting and program skills that I’d employ in my job and later as a consultant in the meetings industry.

One of my first experiences as a professional planner taught me about contingency planning.

For this 10th anniversary celebration took place in the winter in D.C., the keyunote speaker, was who was to travel from New York to DC by train fell and broke her leg on the way to the train in New York. We had to find a like-stature speaker, and we did.

We planned a live auction to raise funds. For that, I used my public television fundraising experiences to solicit items for donation.

The association couldn’t keep me on full time, so during the months I wasn’t working for them, I found contract work that lead to more experiences and contacts.

I commuted to and from New York to work and learned much more about how to negotiate hotel contracts.

One interesting learning experience was when I dealt with a member of the U.S. Senate who was to be honored and speak at a meeting in Texas and who, at the last minute, had to stay in D.C. for a critical vote.

This was all before Skype and other electronic means of presentations—even before FedEx! By working with others, we made it happen to have a tape (Yeah, I know—long ago!) to play of the acceptance and of the senator’s speech.

I’ve often wondered where I’d be were it not for all my volunteer experiences, through which I gained skills and contacts that all lead to other opportunities.

Skills Gained as a Volunteer

In each volunteer position, I gained skills that I used to enhance other volunteer and paid-work experiences. Examples include:

  • People management
  • Logistics
  • Budgeting and financial management
  • Persuasion
  • Creativity
  • Risk and contingency management and planning
  • Education design

Through volunteering with our MPI chapter, I was able to hone my ability to create educational programming that was not the usual “sage on the stage” program. The people I met became friends who helped me learn with them.

Since then, my energies as a volunteer have been directed to community, educational and environmental organizations, in politics, and for our industry. In our industry, I’ve served on and chaired chapter and international boards and committees.

Of all these, those from which I gained the most notable experience were:

  • serving on PMPI’s (then) Program Committee allowing me to create and deliver different education models;
  • as a member and then chair of  ASAE’s Ethics Committee where my understanding of ethics lead to a greater passion for how our industry and business can operate ethically and still enhance the bottom line;
  • and as MPI’s representative to the (then) Convention Liaison Council (now the EIC) Board, and to the industry-wide Unity Team that researched best practices in diversity and inclusion. During all of these experiences I learned more that I could bring to my work and thus enhance what clients experienced.

As you’ll read here, I did use my volunteer experiences on my resume to show what I’d done. The experiences were all relevant and have led me, as it has others interviewed, to what they do today and how they give back.

Please, in the comments, add the experiences you’ve gained as a volunteer and how you have put them to work in our industry to provide other examples from which we can all learn.

Finally: With this blog, I honor chef José Andrés and World Central Kitchen (WCK). If ever someone in our industry deserves to be honored for giving back, it is chef Andrés and those who volunteer with WCK. We all would do well to emulate, as best we can, the generosity of chef Andrés, and many other chefs, restaurant owners, cooks and others in disaster areas who have given so much to help those who have suffered.

Related content from the November 2019 edition of Friday With Joan:

[Read more content in the 11.01.19 Friday With Joan newsletter]

And a personal note: My long-time, amazing editor, Eric Andersen, has moved on. I miss him lots. He “got” me! If we have a few glitches along the way as we adjust to new systems and people, forgive us. We’ll get back to the Friday With Joan from which we hope you learn.

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.

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.

 

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.

Are You on the Right Side of Ethics?

Originally posted The Meeting Magazines

Let These Meetings Industry Pros — and Your Conscience — Be Your Guide By 

Every industry faces ethics challenges, and meeting planning certainly is no exception. Something that looks like an incentive can be intended as a bribe. Planners are offered so many things so often that the right thing to do can be confusing, especially for novices.

Experts say several factors contribute to ethical lapses and quandaries including: not enough ethics education opportunities; industry guidelines are unclear about specific, ethically ambiguous situations; some planners, particularly those who are independent, have tighter budgets and may count on FAM trips, frequent flyer miles, hotel-stay points and other perks to defray expenses.

No wonder planners face ethics challenges as a routine part of their jobs.

According to Joan Eisenstodt, founder of Washington, DC-based Eisenstodt Associates LLC, a meetings consulting and training firm focusing on ethics issues, “I think our industry is far less ethical than it ever was because of high turnover, the complicity of vendors, younger and newer people who aren’t members of industry organizations, and because many people believe they are underpaid and overworked and are ‘due’ the perks offered.”

Sometimes the right ethical choice is clear, and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes the decision is ethically correct but gives the appearance of being unethical or at least inappropriate.

Ethics Education

Eisenstodt believes that more ethics education is needed to make planners aware of potential issues, especially those that fall into gray areas. “We need far more education now than ever,” she says. “I think ethics needs to be on the agenda of every industry organization at every national, international and chapter meeting. If a national organization or chapter does one ethics program every few years, they believe it is okay.”

Karen Kotowski, CEO of the Events Industry Council (EIC), offers a different assessment. “I think we do a fairly good job, particularly for the CMP community,” she says. “Our Events Industry Council Manual 9th Edition is the primary study resource (for the EIC’s CMP certification) and covers professionalism, ethical behavior, best practices, and how to develop and implement a code of ethics for your own organization.”

The EIC has an enforceable CMP Code of Ethics, which says that planners shouldn’t use their “position for undue personal gain and to promptly disclose to appropriate parties all potential and actual conflicts of interest.” In addition, the code says planners should “actively model and encourage the integration of ethics into all aspects of the performance of my duties.”

Questions about the EIC standards are included on the organization’s CMP exam. According to Kotowski, “CMPs are required to read and agree to abide by the CMP Standards of Ethical Conduct on their initial certification application, as well as every time they recertify.”

The EIC can remove certification from planners who violate the standards. “The process ensures a CMP receives due process and the procedures are consistently enforced if a complaint is made,” says Kotowski.

Ethics Violations

Kotowski adds that the most frequent violations involve people who use the CMP designation after they fail to recertify. “A more infrequent, but equally serious occurrence, has been occasions where someone uses the credential who never earned it,” says Kotowski. “We can’t ensure ethical behavior. We can encourage, educate and enforce it if need be.”

The Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) has its Principles of Professional and Ethical Conduct, which asks members to “avoid any and all conflicts of interest and advise all parties, including my organization, of any situations where a conflict of interest exists.”

The PCMA principles also ask professionals to “refuse inappropriate gifts, incentives and/or services in any business dealings that may be offered as a result of my position and could be perceived as personal gain.”

Some industry ethics experts say that industry standards provide general guidelines but aren’t uniform, are infrequently enforced and don’t cover many specific ethics challenges that planners commonly face.

According to Christy Lamagna, CMP, CMM, CTSM, CEO and master strategist at Bernardsville, New Jersey-based Strategic Meetings & Events, “If the industry were more strategic in how we planned and came together to form unilateral goals, standards and practices, we would be seen differently, treated differently, and better behavior on all sides would result.”

Knowing Ethics Codes

But many planners aren’t familiar with industry standards. According to Eisenstodt, “I think if you asked members of the various industry organizations when they last read the code for the organization for which they are a member or hold a certification, you’d find that few have.”

Unfamiliarity with ethics standards is especially common among numerous people who plan meetings but aren’t trained planners. “I think that the gap in awareness, if any exists, may be with those non-professional/part-time planners who are asked to plan a meeting, but it is not their day-to-day job,” says Kotowski.

Kotowski believes that untrained, part-time planners are even less aware than professional planners of potential ethical pitfalls. “I would urge those non-full-time planners to use our EIC manual as a desk reference for these practices and to become more professional in performing these activities that may not be their full-time job,” says Kotowski.

Lamagna agrees: “Those who plan meetings aside from their full-time responsibilities often make the wrong decisions as they are not exposed to guidelines and ethics codes. The bigger problem is that the industry is too segmented. If we had a universal platform to stand on or required a licensing procedure for this role, then we’d eliminate enormous amounts of unethical behavior.”

It’s also difficult to curb unethical behavior because suppliers and vendors may have inadequate ethics standards or none at all. Suppliers may not be clear to planners up front about the intention of their perks and gifts.

According to Eisenstodt, “The piece of this that is not addressed is whether the vendor or supplier is complicit in any unethical behavior and, if so, how should it be addressed. Having seen clients fire planners who violated ethics codes with the complicity of vendors, and seeing the vendors continue working for their companies, means we have no real standards across the industry.”

FAM Trips

Knotty ethics issues can result from FAM trips — expense-paid trips that hotels, venues and CVBs offer planners to acquaint them with properties and destinations.

Some planners accept FAM trips with no intention of ever considering the destination for a meeting. That’s not ethical, says Lamagna. “If you know your client base will never go to a destination, don’t accept the invite. These trips cost money and are investments in future business. Be respectful of that. If you don’t have business to share at that moment, but believe you may in the future, then consider going,” says Lamagna.

How can planners who want to do the right thing ensure that personal biases don’t influence their recommendations?

Lamagna offers the following advice: “I always repeat the mantra, ‘it’s not about me’ with every component of a program from menus to gifts, flowers or wine selection. I remind myself that I am not the audience. I base my recommendations on the group’s goals for the meeting, personality of executives and guests, budget, tolerance for travel, etc.”

While FAM trips are a problem, some experts believe that other ethical problems are more common.

Perks and Gifts

Says Eisenstodt: “I think FAM trips are the least of our concerns. They happen less frequently. I think the issue of prizes at trade shows/hosted buyer events and even the hosted buyer events themselves are of far greater concern as are the gifts given, the undisclosed commissions, the hidden fees and so much more.”

Indeed, many ethical issues stem from perks, rewards, points and gifts offered to planners or that they rarely request. Suppliers such as hotels and venues as well as CVBs bombard planners with perks such as hotel nights, airfare points, spa treatments, five-star dinners, limo rides, tickets to sporting events and concerts, and trips for family and friends.

It can be difficult for planners, especially novices, to decide when it’s ethical to accept freebies. A perk may also be a bribe, or at least give the appearance of one.

Organizations, corporations and event stakeholders know that planners are offered perks. Still, not revealing the acceptance of the gifts could be unethical if the offerings favorably impact a planner’s recommendation or decision about a property or destination. Even if a reward doesn’t influence the decision, non-disclosure could give the appearance of being unethical if the perk is revealed later.

Lamagna offers the following advice for dealing with perks, points, rewards and gifts. “We give any gifts we receive to the client,” she says. “For instance, a property awarded us a watch after the event. We had them send it to our client’s CEO. If you are upfront with the client and they are okay with you accepting points, use them as a perk for employees.”

Gray Areas

Many planners perceive some perks as gray areas. Here are two examples:

A hotel, vendor or other supplier offers an expensive dinner at a swanky restaurant: “Five-star dinners should not be the norm,” says Lamagna. “That said, if a relationship has developed with a vendor who takes you out to celebrate or as a thank you, and you can separate that from ‘owing’ them something in the form of business in the future, then that may be okay. Nothing should ever be expected, done in excess or abused.”

A hotel offers a room upgrade: “Accepting upgrades while on a site visit is not unethical but it is inappropriate,” says Lamagna. “Upgrades offered onsite during a program should also be declined because the meeting is not about you. You are staff, not a guest. We put into our preshow notes that no one from our team is ever to be upgraded so there is a clear path for everyone to follow.”

Should a planner who has accepted points and perks not recommend the hotel even if it is a good match for the meeting? Why? “When you have to start asking yourself these questions you are blurring a line,” says Lamagna. “Focus on the client’s goals and best interests, and be transparent in your behavior. That eliminates most challenges.”

Eisenstodt agrees that transparency is the best course. “Destination, venue and vendor salespeople have quotas to make, and we all have been begged to get contracts signed,” says Eisenstodt. “We have an obligation to know and disclose the criteria on which we base decisions. Discussing with an internal or external stakeholder the selection criteria means that one can be more objective, and show the objectivity in the decision-making.”

The need for ethical behavior among meeting planners grows as more join the events industry. According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of meeting and convention planners will continue to grow 16 percent through 2018 — faster than the average for all occupations.

Expert Advice

Planners can take the following steps to increase awareness about ethics:

  • Experienced planners should serve as ethics mentors to new planners, and newcomers should seek advice from experienced peers.
  • Talk to a boss or coworker about a situation when the course of action isn’t clear.
  • Put the best interests of stakeholders and clients first.
  • Be aware of how actions might be perceived and interpreted even if they are technically ethical.
  • Planners facing an ethical dilemma should ask themselves how they would feel if their actions were posted on social media.
  • Corporations that lack their own codes of ethics should create such standards.

Corporate Ethics Codes

According to Eisenstodt, “Most corporations, if not all, have codes of conduct/ethics.  Of the corporate planners I know, all have said they are asked once a year to do an online evaluation of ethics issues. I have helped clients write specifics, using their overall codes, for their meetings departments so that individuals knew, for example, the value of gifts or meals or entertainment they could accept.”

Kotowski offers advice on what the corporate codes should cover. “It would include their own specific practices and standards regarding how they interact with their clients and conduct their business,” says Kotowski.

The codes also would cover company-specific “financial practices, how they report their activities to the client, transparency in billing practices and expectation of employee interactions with vendors and suppliers,” says Kotowski.

Hold Peers Accountable

Planners should know and abide by ethics codes and hold their peers accountable for doing the same. Suppose a corporate planner finds out that a peer within the same company has acted unethically. What steps should the planner take?

Eisenstodt offers the following advice: “It is generally thought that one should approach (not report) the person thought to have acted unethically based on the company’s code and say something like, ‘I think you did X and it seems like it might be in opposition to the company’s code of conduct in section Y,” says Eisenstodt. “Please tell me a bit more so I can understand how to apply the code to my own work.”

Eisenstodt advises that planners talk to human resources when in doubt about what to do, or use the company’s anonymous reporting system. “Use what works best and most comfortably for you. If the person believed to have acted unethically holds a certification, determine what you need to do and how to report the information to (the certifying organization). Do that only when certain of the information.”

According to Lamagna, corporate planners have a duty to report ethics violations. “There is no middle ground with ethics,” says Lamagna. “Once you know something is happening that is unethical, it is incumbent on you to share the information. If you are unsure and it is not your responsibility to follow up, share the concern, not an accusation, with the appropriate person and then step aside.”

The right ethical decision isn’t always clear, and planners may see the same situations differently. However, it’s crucial that planners approach issues with a knowledge of ethics standards and a willingness to make the best efforts to apply them.  C&IT

Why Diversity and Inclusion Matter to and for Hospitality, Tourism and Meetings

Originally published Meetings Today Blog

Why Diversity and Inclusion Matter to and for Hospitality, Tourism and Meetings

“Diversity fatigue is real,” said Greg DeShields, CEO of PHLDiversity.

And it’s true. People groan when they hear the words “diversity and inclusion.”

They’ve been through training at work, in their spiritual homes, in their communities. Yet, the fear of those “not like us” is great and the lessons learned are not sticking.

The following was posted to the Meetings Today Twitter account from a presentation on storytelling at the MPI Northern California Chapter’s Annual Conference & Exhibition:

“The story always came first. Without a great story, everything would unravel.” The quote is attributed to Matthew Luhn, who worked with Pixar on the Toy Story films and others.

Because the subject is not sexy—a bit like ethics or contingency planning, as I was once told by an industry association staff person—diversity and inclusion at meetings often gets overlooked or, perhaps even worse, we assume that it’s no longer an issue.

I began to write this blog post with the intention of identifying the many things you can do to ensure your meetings, conferences and events are more inclusive.

My initial advice included, but certainly is not limited to the following:

  • Destination and Site Selection: Don’t meet in destinations where laws are passed that discriminate against those who attend or want to attend your meetings. Don’t give business to places where people may be in danger because of who they are, what they look like or their abilities, such as states with “papers please” laws or anti-LGBT laws. Instead, seek out venues with facilities that don’t exclude people who are transgender and where accessibility goes beyond the minimal ADA standards.
  • Speakers: Enlist representative speakers versus the example making its way around the internet of the math-for-women poster showing a panel of four men. Present different points of view and make sure that those who speak are inclusive.
  • Room Sets, Lighting and Activities: Create environments and opportunities that are designed for different learning styles. Ensure you ask what people need to fully participate at your meeting or event and that you then provide for those needs. Some people may require Interpreters, including ASL Interpreters. Some people may need assistance in seeing or taking notes. Make sure to include seating that is appropriate for those using mobility devices. At networking events you should ensure that food is appropriate and labeled and that noise is low enough to allow conversation.

Possible additions to my list included the offering of printed handouts versus having everything web or cloud based because not everyone has a device capable of access.

We also know people learn better by writing than by “keyboarding.” And let’s not forget to ensure that images used in all levels and types of marketing are representative of different ethnicities, gender, attire, age and visible ability.

Then I thought: you know this. You get it.

You are a unique person who wants to be included versus excluded; you hate the pain you see in children and adults when they come to an event dressed differently than others because no one told them or showed them what was acceptable.

At some time in your life, you too were left out for being different. We all were.

I thought the examples shared by those I interviewed for the March 2018 edition of the Friday With Joan newsletter would help. And yet, only a few shared personal stories.

As noted earlier in this blog post, the “story comes first.”

Here are some of my own experiences that have instilled a desire to seek out and ensure inclusiveness and diversity in the world in which I live and work.

I am or was:

  • the child who was kept at school to be “babysat” by teachers when all the others who weren’t like me went off (public school) campus to Bible School.
  • the young person called a “Christ-killer” on the playground because of my religion.
  • pained when other children were bullied or left out because of their looks or income or weight or other circumstances that they most often could not control.
  • the child who saw her parents fight “redlining” and “blockbusting” [look them up; they continue today] and whose family hosted people from Kenya, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Greece, Norway and other countries and who realized, by the age of 16, how big the world really was and why it mattered and was grateful.
  • the younger-than-many representative on an industry board who was patted on the head and told “honey just wait until you’re older—you’ll know more.”
  • the industry professional who, in too many negotiations was told I was trying to “Jew down” the salesperson and “oh, don’t take offense—it’s just a saying.”
  • the industry professional who was tired of trying to explain why the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners existed and was needed in our industry.
  • the planner of LGBT events who had to explain to a Director of Catering why it was acceptable to have men dancing with men and women with women at a fundraiser.
  • the non-college degree holder who constantly hears that people without college degrees can’t make it anywhere and wouldn’t be hired even by my own clients who, still though, want my expertise, and who realize I have, by sheer will and lots of continuous learning, done pretty well.
  • the person dealing with a mobility disability and who, upon finally getting the white hair my great-grandmother had and that I had for years thought I wanted, is now experiencing age and ability discrimination and exclusion.
  • and the highly sensitive person who notices exclusion and wonders why it has to be hurtful—or why it even has to be in the first place.

You can check calendars for dates to avoid so that you don’t meet over holidays and you can delve into why some religious holidays are more important than others.

You can learn by talking with people who aren’t like you—that includes those who are your members or customers or who want to and could be if they were just asked. You can talk with your HR departments and those who conduct diversity training like Jessica Pettitt and learn more about the importance of diversity and inclusion for all.

You can read what people are posting about the “math for women” conference that showcased a panel of four men and realize your marketing isn’t showing who you want to attract—you too hotels and cities!

You can read the U.S. Department of Justice website to understand your obligations to help people with disabilities attend and participate in your meeting and you can stop asking why you have to provide sign language Interpreters because they’re expensive.

You can read what Tracy Stuckrath has written about food and beverage and shared elsewhere in our industry. Or why meeting the needs of those who “claim to be vegan” really means they need to eat what they need to eat so they feel valued.

It’s pretty easy to understand why people want to be included in all the activities at your conferences and in your facilities. And why it hurts so much when people are not.

We need to be hospitable and welcoming in all that we do.

It all matters because we live in a global society and we all need to support each other, no matter how much we or others might think or say otherwise. It all matters. It just does.

Related Reading From the March 2018 Edition of Friday With Joan

Click here to view additional content in the 03.02.18 Friday With Joan newsletter.​