Category Archives: Meeting Planning 101

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.

 

Planners: Get the Respect You Deserve!

Originally published Meetings Focus.

Planners: Get the Respect You Deserve!

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

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

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

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

Stuck in the ‘Cost of Coffee’ Loop

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

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

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

…and b) too many factors impact costs.

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

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

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

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

Meeting Planning Is More Than Rocket Science

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was followed by responses including this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting to the Root of the Problem

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

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

[Related Content: Defining the Meeting Professional]

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Respected Meeting Planner Shares Her Secret

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It was extremely satisfying to document my accomplishments.”

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

Other Ways to Track Your Accomplishments

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

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

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

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

6 Steps to Get the Respect You Deserve!

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

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

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

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

Showing ROI will promote you and the activities.

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

Then post the links so others see you.

6. Toot—nah, BLOW—your own horn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Additional Strength to The Bahamas

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

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

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

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

 

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

Originally published Meetings Focus.

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

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

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

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

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

Or what an audience will want to consume.

Key Considerations When Planning F&B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing in the discussion seems to change.

Calculating the Cost of a Gallon of Coffee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***A Pro Tip Regarding Food & Beverage Menus

Most hotel menus are now electronic.

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

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

Otherwise, you have nothing from which to gauge prices.

Hidden—and Not So Hidden—F&B Costs

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Power of F&B at Your Meeting or Event

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

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

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

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 There Stupid Meeting Questions? It Depends!

Originally published Meetings Today Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meeting Trends: We’ve Only Come This Far?!

Original post Meetings Today

Meeting Trends: We’ve Only Come This Far?!

I’m frustrated with the meetings industry.

If I had written the final version of this blog in December 2018*, before my cousin Gayle** sent me the book Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott, my written frustration and anger toward OUR industry—that can’t seem to change—might have “burned your eye.”

As I thought about the state of the meetings industry and read Ms. Lamott’s book, I calmed a bit. “Stop the anger,” I thought. “Be nice” and write calmly. And as a colleague said to me years ago and others have said more recently, “be patient—it takes time to change.”

This was all before the 2019 Meetings Today Trends Survey results were released.

I read the numbers in print and digitally and was even more livid, especially at the question asking if planners had a written security and disaster plan in place for their event(s).

28% of respondents said they were “working on it,” which really is a “no.” And those planners who actually responded with a “no” totaled 44%.

That’s 72% of planners who said “no”!

Then I read the summation of some comments Tyler Davidson, Meetings Today’s chief content director, compiled. My cranky anger rose again.

Should I write a cranky blog or a “nice” blog?

I chose to focus on trends where the numbers and some comments were to me most troubling. I then reached out to industry and industry-related or former industry colleagues to respond to a few questions to check my own levels of exasperation and get their input.

[Side note: I’m a Myers-Briggs “P” if that helps you better understand my position].

These colleagues read the numbers and the comments on specific topic areas and responded. Their comments are the sidebar (or “Part 2”) of this Friday With Joan blog post.

If in editing their remarks, we’ve changed their intentions, we apologize and hope they’ll add to the comments here or there. I insist you go and read through those responses.

[Editor’s Note: Scroll down to the section of this blog post labeled “Join the Discussion and Move Meetings Forward” for links to all of the responses].

A Startling Lack of Risk and Contingency Preparation at Meetings and Events

My greatest frustration was around risk and contingency preparation. The numbers tell me that about 70% of those responding have no plans because “working on it” is still a “no.”

In preparation to deliver a short awareness of risk and contingency planning program for an industry association recently, I heard what I always hear from clients and colleagues:

a) we don’t have time or money to develop a plan; b) the hotel (or convention center or other venue) will take care of any risks; c) our security team has it well in hand; and my all time favorite, d) nothing bad has ever happened at our meetings so why bother?

These and other excuses for not planning to protect people, property and reputation astound me. Not an expert in security, I am a long-time practitioner of developing plans and enacting those plans for risks that include threats to people, property and finances.

If even the following issues—not going back as far as 9/11 or 2005’s Hurricane Katrina—are not in the collective front-of-mind thinking, what sort of tragedy or disaster will actually inspire others to stop, process what is going on and make change?

Could it be:

  • Shootings in the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, Mother Emanuel Church and Pulse Nightclub?
  • Mass murder at a Las Vegas concert for which the FBI has found no known motive and about which there’s been no answer about how a room service cart could have been left long enough in a hotel hallway to install a camera to see who was approaching.
  • #MeToo acts of sexual assault or harassment about which I’ve written and spoken, repeatedly quoting and linking to the website of Sherry Marts for procedures.
  • Alcohol served liberally at meetings—at industry meetings—seeing no harm in the contribution it makes to potential illness, violence and death.

Brad Goldberg, Tyra Hilliard and Ken Wheatley concluded that developing common language, using those trained in security, and rethinking and planning are the best ways to be prepared.

While I agree with those strategies, they are far beyond what most in our industry consider.

And That’s Not at All Where My Frustration With OUR Industry Ends

The other issues and responses I found puzzling in the survey were those about:

  • What worries industry colleagues: yes, we still get no respect and we are doing little as an industry to change that by hosting Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID) events that include and thus visually represent the same issues criticized by the non-industry media and governments: people drinking and having a good time versus conducting education and teaching industry colleagues how to lobby government segments;
  • Whether there will be a CSR component to your meeting when individuals and organizations, including many DMOs, have encouraged and supported us to make these parts of every gathering to support awareness and to give back;
  • Events and activities that you’ll conduct, which clearly didn’t include a CSR component and, really … golf is still a big part? (See what John Chen has to say).
  • Sustainable meetings where there is still a belief that digital versus printed materials are the most they can do even when that takes away from education (people learn better when they write versus type) and doesn’t take into account the energy used to charge devices and the electronic waste from those who continue to upgrade their devices. When sustainability is far greater when it comes to people and the environment.

In the week before I wrote the final version of this blog, I met with a retired hotel colleague and his husband, who asked me if I still loved what I did. I hesitated.

As we talked, it was clear that I felt—feel—great passion for the work I do. That includes this industry and the changes I believe that meetings can make in the world and the changes that can be made and made-to-stick in this industry. My frustration increases with the lack of overall change in how we operate and deliver content.

And as it is said, “nevertheless, she persisted.”

To people who tell me to have patience…

I wonder how many years it takes of actively working in an industry where others, including those who provided responses for this month’s newsletter, continue to work hard, speak and teach to impact change—for change to stick.

You Can Get Angry and Maintain a Strong Voice

I wrote this blog post in a way that was a combination of “nice” and cranky because of inspiration from Cindi Leive.

Her “Brief But Spectacular Take” on PBS Newshour on 1.28.19, crystalized it: I’m angry and I’m tired of “making nice,” equivocating about how angry I am.

So, to you, Cindi Leive, I add another dedication for the ability to express the anger I have expressed in the past only to be chastised because “angry women” just aren’t OK in our world. I have learned I can express my anger and still maintain a strong voice.

Join the Discussion and Move Meetings Forward

These are the colleagues who responded to my questions:

I invite you to join us here, in the blog comments, in a discussion about what you think we can do to make change stick. That way in 2019 or 2020 the responses to the Meetings Today Trends Survey questions will reflect that we’ve actually made a difference.

And please don’t still be “working on” your written disaster plan when that time comes!

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.

*At lunch in December with colleagues who asked me how I was, I used a “not-for-a-family-publication” word to say I was THAT ANGRY at how the industry just doesn’t change or keeps reinventing the wheel around diversity, inclusion, women’s empowerment, meeting design, risk and contingency planning, negotiations and contracts, ethics and on and on.

I was cranky, angry and frustrated to think so many of us had spent so much time working hard to move things along and they did and then BOOM, full stop until the issues are raised again and VOILA! It’s all fresh again and history is not considered or built upon.

And then … we are stuck.

**This blog post is dedicated to my cousin Gayle. And Cindi Leive mentioned later in the post. And, my editor, Eric Andersen, who is truly remarkable and “gets” me!

Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be … Planners!

Originally published Meetings Today Blog

Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be ... Planners!

Did you know early in life that you wanted to work in the hospitality industry? Maybe you did—depending on your age and family or other influences in your life.

As the school year begins, and for some of us, a new year with Rosh Hashanah, it is a time of reflection or even, for some, declaring a major. It is a time of renewal as the leaves turn. And many are considering what now or what’s next in their careers.

And I, having discovered yet another parent-child duo both in hospitality, began thinking about that song: “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To be Cowboys.”*

Although I’d never heard the song in its entirety, the title always made me smile. Then I read the lyrics and thought how apropos for our industry! (Do note that clearly some part of me wanted to be a cowgirl … and perhaps a detective—thus the garb in the main photo for this blog post from my early years!).

Liz Erikson Marnul, an industry icon and someone I’ve known for more than 35 years said “You should really tell people how you got into this industry.”

I was surprised somehow that she didn’t know.

Other than the very early years of wearing clothing that seemed to reflect two possible professions, I thought I wanted to teach—I loved “playing school”—and then I considered social work. If I had had “school smarts” rather than being a life-long learner who learns by reading, observing, discussing and practicing a craft, I might have been a social anthropologist or, because I love words and how they fit together, a lawyer.

As a meeting professional, and in the areas in which I’m involved now in our profession, I think that I have been able to incorporate some of my passion for those areas.

As a child in the ‘50s, I put on street fairs to raise money for polio research when the boy next door was diagnosed with polio. In grade and high school, I helped organize events. Later, I helped plan and run city-wide ones and national events for a museum and then for an organization.

After dropping out of full-time college after a year—even working while in school didn’t provide the financial resources, and the learning by sitting and absorbing lectures and spitting back information was not my learning style—I worked a variety of jobs: ad sales at a newspaper, bookstore sales, in the family poultry business, and as a teacher’s aide. Until I moved to Washington, D.C. in 1978, I didn’t know there was a profession for what I was doing.

What influenced me? Did I truly fall into this profession—this industry? Was it pre-destined? Was I, in a past life (if you’ve followed me for any time, you know one of my favorite films is “Defending Your Life” on which John Chen and I based a discussion) was I one of “those” meeting participants who, at a bad meeting, said “Sheesh, I can do this better”?

My parents, of blessed memory, worked in various professions including sales; some cousins were lawyers; others teachers. One branch of the family founded a successful chain of restaurants and though I visited that part of the family, I don’t remember that they influenced my choice of profession. Unlike those interviewed there was no one to guide me into a hospitality career.

In conversations with many who choose to go into our industry, I hear the influencers are still the love of people, travel and details.

Those already in the industry are seeking more fulfillment, whether it’s moving away from logistics only or putting a spin on logistics or finding a way to better serve customers.

If love of people, travel and details were the main reasons to be a planner, I’d not be in this industry. An introvert, I like people in small doses; a mobility disability has made travel a greater challenge, and details? If it’s contracts and words, yes. If it’s meeting logistics, not so much anymore.

When I read the articles linked in the additional reading, none of them applied.

There are studies to show why being an entrepreneur may run in families. The number of self-employed people in various professions—lawyers, doctors, small business owners—prevalent in my family is evidence. And there are lots of teachers among my first cousins and a niece. There was also a rabbi—a profession I once considered and as Rod Abraham, an MPI Founder, said about me when he introduced me when I received an award, I was a “rabbi”—a teacher.

I’m grateful to have learned how those interviewed—parents and children, sisters, and a granddaughter—were influenced to go into and stay in the hospitality industry. There are others not interviewed (Steve and Adam Ferran, Patti Shock, Vanessa Vlay and Michele Koch Hansen among them) who I hope will share their stories in the comments section below this blog post.

I hope, as you consider what now and what next, you will think about your Strengths[yes, capital “S” because it refers to a specific tool], and read Barbara Sher’s marvelous books (in particular, “Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want” and “I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What It Was”) to learn more about yourself.

I think this industry has opportunities (careers in eldercare for example) galore that we are only beginning to discover and certainly one where there aren’t enough people (hospitality law); and areas of privacy and technology for use in learning and serving customers. The sky isn’t even the limit, is it? Some will need to be the pioneers to plan the hotels and meetings in space!

Keep this story in mind too: an actor who has had great roles also needed income to keep going. He took a job bagging groceries at Trader Joe’s. The story is inspiring. If you want to start in a position or as a volunteer that others think are “below” you, do it anyway.

Experience is what gets us where we need to be. And the more broad our experience is, the more we show our desire to work, the better our chances are, regardless of lineage, to find the job or next job that is best for you.

As you read these stories of careers intentional and unintentional that brought people to our industry, I hope you’ll reflect on the influences and influencers and then share yours.

This is an industry that can make a difference in how people learn, work and serve others.

What’s next in your future?

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.

Related Reading From the September 2018 Edition of Friday With Joan

Click here to view additional content in the 09.07.18 Friday With Joan newsletter.