Originally published Meetings Focus.
Originally published Meetings Focus.
Originally published Meetings Today
Groups tend to focus their site selection efforts on finding the specific venue/facility in which their meetings will be held. Selecting the destination, the city/state and country—is at least as important. And I’ve got plenty of other considerations, including sustainability (human and environment)! Here are six major details to reflect on during the site selection process.
1. Taxes and Additional Charges: Too many people think the rates and prices they are quoted are “the final price” and that nothing more will be charged. On top of a room rate, there may be a state or local sales tax, a tourism tax or fee, and other charges. Some are flat fees and some percentages. For food and beverage prices, the tax (usually sales), always added to the price of the meal, can also be added to a service charge (different than a gratuity). Often the venue will charge an administrative fee, which can also end up being taxed.
2. Laws. In your RFP—in addition to asking the current tax rate—ask what laws are being considered to raise taxes. Research the “best and worst” U.S. cities for hotel taxes; and it can be extremely helpful to keep an eye on and subscribe to business journals.
Following the business journal and news outlets for the destinations you are considering will allow you to know what’s on upcoming ballots or what’s been passed or defeated that may impact your meeting and those who attend it. For example, we recently saw the defeat of Proposition 1 in Houston, a proposed law supported by the Houston CVB, Marriott, United Airlines, and others that would have prevented discrimination against any number of groups of people.
We have to be sure the laws of cities to which we take our meetings are in line with the bylaws, missions, and policies of our organizations to ensure there are not conflicts.
3. Climate and Weather. Sure we all think we know about “hurricane season” but outbreaks of storms have been erratic around the U.S. and the world. Severe droughts in California and Brazil, in particular, have caused shortages of water. If you plan a winter meeting, snow or the lack thereof could be a positive or a problem! El Nino is expected to wreak more weather havoc.
4. Infrastructure. It’s remarkably on few minds when a destination is considered. Although the U.S. Congress passed a new highway bill, the roads, bridges and water infrastructure of the U.S. are aging horribly. Even here in D.C., where I live and work, the water main breaks are legendary, shutting down roads and causing many to be without sources of water.
This 2013 report from the American Society of Civil Engineers is a good place to start.
5. Accessibility. This is a broad and complex area—everything from airline access to access for people with disabilities has to be considered. Recent experiences at an airport taught me that not all airports (even in first tier markets) have sufficient services for people with disabilities.
And airline mergers means lift has been cut to many markets. If people can’t get there or it takes two or more changes of plane, they may reconsider. The U.S. Department of Justice is doing random checks of hotels; many cities, like Boston, have offices on disability awareness and can give you stats about, for example, how many taxis are accessible.
Check with them for help with accessibility issues.
6. Safety. How could I write a blog on site selection without acknowledging the horrors in Paris, the threat to the U.S. and a recent threat in Germany that caused a soccer match to be canceled? And there are ordinary safety concerns about which we all should care: access for police and other emergency services to the facilities in which you’ll hold an event; lighting in areas people will frequent (Check out the following blog post for more about safety in a facility).
The U.S. Department of State is, for planners taking meetings outbound or in, a good resource for country safety, including weather and human factors. And use DMOs (aka CVBs) for additional info. This is not to say don’t go if there are obstacles or concerns. Certainly we won’t stop travel to Paris or D.C. or other cities in the world. Rather, factor in these and other issues when selecting destinations. Know what you will do to manage and counter the issues that could have caught you by surprise if you hadn’t looked closely in the selection phase.
Be smart and aware when selecting destinations!
Originally published Meetings Today
It’s tough to separate the political from the professional whether in last week’s Friday With Joan blog post on professional development, the linked Q&A with Sekeno Aldred, Charles Massey and Jean Riley, or in this previous blog post “When the Political Becomes The Practical.”
While many are many speaking out—including these legal opinions—I look to our industry for a voice against what Donald Trump has said about restricting Muslims from entering the United States for any reason including as tourists. Can you imagine being a Muslim who works for a Trump property?
Or can you imagine being invited to attend a meeting at a Trump property … especially if you are a Muslim or someone thinks you are? Will activities or discussions of those attending your meetings have to be reported if this new law goes through?
Will we or will we not be as inclusive as the policies of all our industry associations say? Even The Washington Business Journal is asking the question about boycotting Trump properties, services and products with, to me, surprising results.
Where are the voices in our industry speaking out against hate? Even if it means using the “business case” as has been done to promote multiculturalism and diversity and inclusiveness.
Originally published Meetings Today
This week, I offer a professional and personal blog written for a variety of reasons, one of which is the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday (or this); another is because this week my family buried my uncle, my father’s (of blessed memory) only sibling.
The time with family allowed me to learn more about where we came from, when and why pogroms and the Holocaust, cast us out of many lands bringing us to the United States.
Another reason is because the Thanksgiving holiday as celebrated is—or can be—an act of hospitality in a time when the world is inhospitable to so many in so many places. Stay with me please and allow me some personal reflections on hospitality, Thanksgiving and thanks-giving.
What are children today taught about the U.S. Thanksgiving? What is discussed at home and in school or in home schooling, about the meaning of giving thanks as well as the holiday? (In grade school, I remember drawing photos of turkeys using a hand to outline a turkey. Do they still do that? Now, with greater awareness, what do they do to help children who don’t have all their fingers or two hands or the use of their hands?).
I wonder too, more this year than others of recent memory, if the meaning of being refugees—and acceptance and rejection by those who are native to a land in which a refugee finds her or himself—is discussed. Do families and groups of friends, gathered around a table, discuss the situation of refugees from wars and violence and thank each other for the gift of family and friendship? Are strangers welcomed to the neighborhood? To the table?
Or is this just another holiday on which retailers get ready to sell-sell-sell after a day of eating and football for many? And do we give to the many who have no table at which to eat or no food on which to put on a table?
(A friend posted this on Facebook. With humor, it is a perfect discussion-starter at your table … with humor. Also recommended, for the creative humor of the beginning of the United States, “Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America,” portions of which you can listen to here.)
To this industry, into which I was destined to work and yet into which I fell because of Karen Mulhauser, who hired me into my first professional job in DC, I am grateful.
To Meetings Today and Stamats Communications [whose views may not always be reflected in what I write and speak and still allow me to do so.] To an industry to which I’ve devoted more than 45 years of my life, and in which I’ve been afforded and accepted opportunities to lead, teach, grow and help others grow, I am thankful.
Yet, I puzzle, especially on this holiday of hospitality and thanks-giving, at how those in charge of this industry—the staffs and Boards of Directors of the CIC member organizations—withhold hospitality by their lack of action, despite statements of diversity and inclusion, on issues such as inclusive housing, jobs, and other accommodations for people who are older, immigrants, LGBTQ, and/or have different abilities.
[See here the coalition http://houstonunites.org/about/, including the Houston DMO, United Airlines and a few other hospitality companies but no industry associations, who supported Houston’s badly defeated-by-misinformation-generated-fear Prop 1. The “crickets” from MPI (“Embrace and foster an inclusive climate of respect…”), PCMA (see number IX), ASAE (delve a bit deeper here), and others who say they are proponents of inclusion make me wonder to whom are we hospitable if we do not speak out and act on hospitality and inclusion.]
As you finish reading you may wonder why I’m posting something that some will perceive as political. Because it’s not. It’s about human rights and welcoming and accommodating, being hospitable, something about which I was taught the holiday of Thanksgiving—and our industry—was about. It is about how each of us determines to represent ourselves, our work, and our industry to others in what we do.
So to help you give thanks and show hospitality, you can:
To each of you, my thanks, for reading and learning and taking action.
In February 2015, Marlys Arnold and I, colleagues and friends for years, were at the same trade show, at which I also did a session on “Inclusive Hospitality” taking the issues of the ADA and going beyond. Marlys was curious to walk the trade show floor with me to see how accessible it was. (It wasn’t.) On our walk we met Lee Jacobia, an exhibitor, working the floor while sitting in his wheelchair. Marlys on foot and me on my (rental) scooter [have you ever traveled with a scooter? The airlines, not friendly to luggage, are far worse on these items. I prefer to rent when I travel and leave mine at home] spent time talking with Lee.
Lee, Marlys and I are not ADA experts. We are people who are either faced with mobility disabilities and/or those who care about ensuring access at meetings and shows and in venues. Listen, learn, and spend some time thinking about how accessible what you create is.
Thanks, Marlys, for doing this: http://www.tradeshowinsights.com/accessibility
And this may help too: http://www.meetingsfocus.com/NewsEvents/EventDetails/tabid/104/ItemID/3992/Default.aspx
Your tips for design and other methods of inclusion will be helpful added here.
Oh and it’s not just in the US. Use this for more information for international destinations: http://tinyurl.com/kdtoxdj
This article was originally published on Meeting Focus Blog.
For years, I’ve been fascinated¹ by photos and copy in print and electronic marketing; by the photos used by hotels, DMOs (aka CVBs) and other industry vendors on their websites and in marketing pieces; by the copy in emails received to market a service or facility. One received recently took me by surprise more than most, so much so that I posted the copy on social media and said it had made me howl with laughter.
Before sharing and dissecting the language in what I received, here are the first two of three things that keep the industry the same in its practice, because these items do nothing to show a difference between facilities and they don’t help customers buy what is being sold.
1. Room set and meeting room photos: Facilities of all kinds – hotels, conference centers, convention centers, restaurants, other ‘off-site’ meeting spaces – post photos of some of their larger or largest rooms, so buyers can see how a meeting might look. For years, I’ve railed against the ‘standard’ (and boring) room sets – straight theatre or classroom, crescent rounds in straight rows – and find little changes or if there are, no one is showing it through marketing. This is what is shown in photos: A large room, with a small stage and too-small screens only at the front. The look is cavernous! Think of how hotels could change how their space is viewed and contribute to changing perceptions of how people can meet with different photos and illustrations! Using Dr. Paul Radde’s insights and his book² “Seating Matters: State of the Art Seating Arrangements,” hotels could transform our industry in reality and in visuals!
2. People in photos: Most of us identify with those who look like us. For years in training about meeting planning, I’ve laughed saying that most hotel brochures and websites show young, gorgeous people, who look nothing like me, around pools and in cocktail lounges. There is sometimes some diversity by using people of color; there is almost never diversity in age, ability (how many people using electric scooters or videos of meetings in hotels where sign language is being used, have you seen?), visual ethnicity, or body type. To attract a diverse clientele, visuals matter.
3. Marketing copy: So now what triggered this blog. The email³ was sent from a company that markets multiple properties of different brands. Here, in its entirety, is the copy:
“No Strings Attached” Offer
Does not apply to existing bookings and restrictions apply.
Bullet 1: “… if the ‘group is cancelled’ …” that means the hotel is canceling the group and they are right: the group would owe nothing. What they meant (I think) was “if the group cancels”. But wait – there are never “penalties” anyway; it’s “damages” the group would pay.
Bullets 2 and 4: I hope they meant 50% of the cancellation fee (which they called a ‘penalty’ in bullet 1) will be credited. If the meetings booked using this offer have to be completed by December 31, 2014, to receive what I think are the promoted benefits and one can cancel within 60 days and the future meeting has to be held by December 31, 2014, … well, this is a “two trains running” word puzzle I can’t solve!
Bullet 2 continued: I think they meant the credit could be for a future meeting by the same group, but it says “future group,” so maybe not.
Bullets 3 and 4: Yep, no attrition on “consumed groups.” Well, I hope not! Once the groups are “consumed” there’s no one left to charge! Sure, “consume” can mean “to use” but most of us think it is to eat or drink. And even so, I’m unsure what the meaning is.
Then there’s the caveat: “restrictions apply.” Those aren’t listed anywhere in the email and are nowhere to be found at the link with more information. And it’s not even “restrictions may apply” it’s that they do. That is not encouraging for me to get more information I can’t find immediately.
If the agencies working with our industry vendors are not paying attention to what the industry is discussing or to changing demographics, shame on them. If the companies purchasing copy and illustrations are not proofing, more shame on them. We’re smarter than that…us buyers…and we want to see what’s best and can be versus what always has been.
Let’s do it! I’m available to consult as are many planners and copywriters I know!
¹ This is the word I use when I am really shocked and appalled. It’s like when my Aunt Rose (of blessed memory) used to say, when she saw a baby that really wasn’t cute, “Now THAT’S a baby!”
² I wrote the foreword for the book because I believe strongly in what Paul has done, is doing, and is encouraging the industry to do. I received no payment nor do I for promoting the book and the concepts or sales of the book.
³ I wrote a nice email back to the company that sent the message stating that perhaps this was written by someone who spoke English as a second language and that the terms and concepts were unfamiliar. And I said that someone still should have proofed it. So far, no response has been received. I’ll update in the comments section as soon as I hear — if I do.