2018 culinary trends showcase ethnic cuisine and fun

Posted 1 week, 1 day ago @

Now that the festive season is over, event and meeting planners have shifted their focus to creating exciting events for 2018. Careful attention to the culinary aspects of events is a sure-fire strategy for kicking things up a notch.

Fortunately, the National Restaurant Association and Trend Hunter have released their annual trend reports so there are many ideas to inspire event planners.

National Restaurant Association emphasizes ethnic cuisine

The National Restaurant Association surveyed 700 professional chefs who are members of the American Culinary Federation. This year, three of the 10 food trends highlighted ethnic influences.

  • Traditional ethnic-inspired breakfast dishes
  • Authentic ethnic cuisine
  • Ethnic spices

This will please participants who are drawn from increasingly diverse backgrounds.

After you have introduced participants to ethnic inspired dishes through appetizers, amuse-bouches and dinner entrees, try some breakfast dishes. Whether its French crepes, Mexican burritos or Jamaican ackee and salt fish, don’t be afraid to experiment.

Other trends that were uncovered by the National Restaurant Association included:

  • Affordable new cuts of meat. That’s great news for event planners who have been given the challenge of stretching their budgets. Some cuts to consider include oyster steak, Vegas Strip and Merlot.
  • Home-made condiments. What a unique way to spice up your menu.
  • “Street” food influences. Dishes inspired by street food add a new twist to culinary fare. Many of them have ethnic influences. Whether it’s dumplings, kebobs or tempura, bring it on.
  • Sustainable seafood. Health conscious participants who want to play a role in preserving the environment will appreciate the effort required to serve sustainable seafood. Fortunately, there are companies that specialize in delivering the catch of the day to just about any destination.

Access the full What’s Hot Top 10 Foods for 2018 report

Trend Hunter adds a touch of whimsy

Trend Hunter offers a free version of its 2018 Trend Report that highlights a number of food and beverage trends. The report can also be customized to fit the needs of various event industry professionals.

This year, there are a number of trends that add a touch of whimsy and fun to culinary fare.

  • Color-changing blended beverages like Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino
  • Blackened Ice Cream Burgers
  • Colorful, photo-worthy food with an emphasis on aesthetic appeal (e.g. technicolor grilled sandwiches, tie-dyed pancakes, rainbow burger buns, rainbow sushi)
  • Artisanal suites and snacks including, artistic hand-made chocolates, gourmet popsicles, exclusive eclairs, experimental gelato incorporating unusual flavor combinations
  • Interactive experiences like digital cooking tables, interactive drinking games
  • Alcoholic juice bars—healthy cocktails which substitute vegetable juices for sugary mixers

Speaking of color

Since color plays such an important role in Trend Hunter’s picks, remember that the Pantone Color of the Year for 2018 is Ultra Violet 18-3838. It emphasizes inventiveness and imagination.

Look for opportunities to incorporate this color and other colors from the Pantone Institutes’ 2018 palette into tablescapes and even dishes.

Avoid a flavor-of-the-month approach

While trend reports are a great source of inspiration, never fall into the flavor-of-the-month trap. It is tedious for participants to encounter the same dishes and approaches at one event after another. For example, at one point sliders, which were initially popular, were overused to the point that participants became bored with them.

Carefully consider your audience and the demographic profile of participants when planning your catering.

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Category : Blog and Industry News

Creating memorable events focusing on the peak and end

Posted 2 weeks, 1 day ago @

By Ann Hansen and Bo Krüger

Have you ever heard of the Peak-end rule? It might be that piece of insight that may take your meetings to the next level.

Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahnemann found that what we remember of an event is the peak and the ending. The longitude of the event is not important.

So how do you apply that knowledge to your next meeting or event?

Make a fantastic peak

Make sure the participants will have an extraordinary experience a least once during the meeting.

The best peak experiences are those that link to the objectives of the meeting. The peak could look like this:

  • Change peak. Make sure the participants are taking part in creating something important and meaningful that can change the future of the company or the world.
  • Learning peak. Make sure the participants learn something interesting and new.
  • Networking peak. Make sure the participants make new and deep connection with other participants. Try speed-dating or a social activity.
  • Fun peak. Have a funny activity like a game or hilarious speaker.

Make a fantastic ending

Make sure there is a fantastic ending, so your participants can leave fulfilled and satisfied. A well-designed ending can even save the memory of a poor meeting.

When designing a fantastic ending think of this:

  • Change ending. Wrap up the decisions and outcomes of the meeting and tell the participants how it will influence the future of their work and the company.
  • Feel-good ending. Make a funny, happy, energizing and engaging ending that makes the participants leave in a good mood. A glass of champagne, nice music, goodie bags and warm handshakes helps.
  • Learning ending. Make the participants wrap up, what they have learned and how they can apply it when they get home. Give them something that can help them recall key learnings, A postcard, a video or an illustration to hang on the wall.
  • Networking ending. Let the participants do something together, sing a song, make an energizer or give high fives.

For more insight on the subject of memory and creating peak experiences, check out Bo Krüger’s extended post.

(Explore meeting design even more with the revolutionary Meeting Design Game, created by this article’s authors Ann Hansen and Bo Krüger.)

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Category : Blog and Industry News

Sleep, rejuvenate and travel safely

Posted 2 weeks, 4 days ago @

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, why do some otherwise high-achieving meeting professionals feel that they can miss sleep without penalty? Or, if they acknowledge the penalties, why do they nevertheless proceed?”

When several high achievers were asked this, the response that occurred most frequently went something like this: “By working longer or harder now and perhaps getting less sleep, the potential payoffs can be greater.”

(CC) Michael Russell

In other words, some professionals knowingly sleep less as part of a calculated plot to become prosperous younger or sooner. Paradoxically, the most successful people I know tend to have regular, sufficient sleep patterns. Whether they retire early or late, they get ample sleep daily and weekly to keep themselves vibrant and moving forward.

Now and then, you read about some ultra-high achiever who only sleeps an average of four or five hours a night. As such, you have to remember that:

  1. Most articles about people contain considerable fabrication.
  2. Even if it’s true that these people can sleep four or five hours per night on average, that does not necessarily apply to you.
  3. Unless a longitudinal study of their sleep patterns is undertaken, no one knows the long-term effects. Maybe this person will develop some acute disorder. Who can say?
  4. Your need for sleep differs from others. There is no value in comparing yourself to those who sleep more or less than you.

Your quest is to get the amount of sleep you need to feel and be at your best.

Driving and dozing

You’re a danger to yourself when you try to function with consistently too little sleep. You’re a danger to society when you operate a vehicle with too little sleep. There are simply too many transportation mishaps today that are a direct result of someone being tired at the wheel. Dr. Martin Moore-Ede, in his now-hard-to-find book, The 24-Hour Society, points to numerous transportation mishaps that can be traced directly back to insufficient sleep.

What’s worse, Moore-Ede found that vast numbers of people in society engage in micro-sleep, which is a form of trying to compensate for under-sleeping. Micro-sleep is a five-to-10-second episode where your brain is effectively asleep while you are otherwise up and about.

As hard as it is to fathom, parents transporting their children might engage in micro-sleep. School bus drivers with forty children in tow may be engaging in micro-sleep. Train conductors responsible for hundreds of passengers and millions of dollars of equipment engage in micro-sleep. Truck drivers traversing hundreds of miles carrying hazardous waste materials engage in micro-sleep.

Some people mistakenly believe that the act of driving is sleep inducing, but studies show that is an erroneous belief. Dr. Allen Pack, director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania, says, “You’re sleepy to begin with and the task unmasks the tendency to sleepiness.” So, if you’re in a nice big car with cruise control on an open road, you might think that’s conducive to sleep. However, if you weren’t sleepy to begin with, you wouldn’t nod off.

Generally speaking, the two major factors contributing to drowsiness include the following.

  1. How long you’ve been awake. – If you got up at 5 a.m., then by 7 p.m., your 14th hour of wakefulness, you could be a candidate for drowsy sleep. Also, if you consistently get too little sleep, and have been driving a long time during a day, you’re more susceptible to nodding off at the wheel.
  2. Driving at night. – More than half of the crashes on the part of drowsy drivers occurred between midnight and 7:00 a.m. Thus, independent of how long you’ve been awake, driving during the wee hours is inherently treacherous.

Add in chronic under-sleeping on a consistent basis, and you have a recipe for disaster.

The numbers could be far worse

The incidence of drowsy driver crashes, whether attributable to the factors discussed above or not, could be highly understated. Since many drowsy-driver crashes only involve the driver, most go unreported. Or, in the case of fatal accidents, many accidents are misdiagnosed. Legions of over-stressed, highly fatigued people could by dying at the wheel.

While auto manufacturers hunt for driver warning systems that will reduce the number of such accidents, and even if your car is so equipped or equipped in the future, it’s no excuse for you to ever get behind the wheel if you even suspect your level of fatigue will impair your driving ability.

If you need to get around and about, and can’t do much about completely overcoming your fatigue right now, then please consider the following:

  • Use public transportation as often as possible.
  • Become part of a ride-share system, and at least be well rested when it’s your turn to drive.
  • Avoid taking any long trips, where the probability of a mishap increases markedly.
  • For short trips, consider a taxi, bike or walking.

Your life and the life of others is important. Planning meetings is challenging. Don’t let your fatigue put you in a situation where you are a danger to yourself and others.

Featured image (CC) C. SCHULZY

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Category : Blog and Industry News

Dear conference planner (part 2)

Posted 3 weeks, 1 day ago @

Dear conference planner,

I understand your world. I have sat on your side of the desk many times organizing conferences and educational sessions for associations and clients. However, I spend most of my time as a team-building and training facilitator and speaker.

When I am on the other side of the desk, there are so many things that I see that could improve the effectiveness of your conferences. Quite frankly, there are a number of things you do that bug me. There are so many questions I’ve wanted to ask you and suggestions I’ve wanted to share for a very long time. So, today is the day.

Why isn’t conference content more relevant?

Malcolm Knowles, the father of adult learning (andragogy), highlighted that

Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their job or personal life.”

This was true when he wrote it and it is true today.

So why do you pay top dollar for a speaker or a celebrity who is a “name” to go on and on about some exotic adventure he had in Tibet or scaling Mount Everest? Who cares? This may be entertaining to a handful of participants, but it’s totally irrelevant and does not help participants grapple with the challenges they face in the real world.

Alternative: Save the adventure speakers for conferences related to adventure tourism, outdoor enthusiasts and thrill seekers. Select speakers who have content and experiences to share that are relevant to participants. Even if a speaker’s bureau is providing speakers pro bono for exposure, ensure that you select speakers who have relevant content to share. Otherwise, it’s not a match.

Why do you think that changing speakers every 20 minutes makes conference content more interactive?

It doesn’t. Yes you’ve caught on to the fact that attention spans are short. Whether one speaker presents for an hour or you parade a new “talking head” in front of participants every 20 minutes, it’s still boring. Participants are still in a passive mode and they will still go to sleep.

For speakers, a 20-minute time slot means that we can never cover anything in depth. It’s frustrating for both the speaker and participants.

Alternative: Allocate longer time slots for speakers and breakout sessions. Ask them to present in 20-minute time slots and then break them up with a quick energizer, meaningful exercise to help participants apply what they are learning to their day-to-day challenges, and a debriefing. If a speaker is not comfortable using energizers or facilitating debriefs, pair up (or “tag team”) speakers and facilitators. Ninety minutes will go by quickly in this format and speakers will have the opportunity to cover content in a lot more depth.

Here are some suggestions that really work to make sessions interactive:

Session previews can be very effective. Give speakers and facilitators an opportunity to present a 10-minute segment of their content during the first general session. Break these presentations up with quick energizers. Ask participants to stand and stretch and then guide them through a quick energizer.

When the presentations are finished, provide participants with the opportunity to select the breakout sessions that they find most relevant.

Why do you still insist on using theatre style seating?

Theater-style seating kills engagement and gives facilitators and speakers few options other than to deliver a boring presentation…while participants go to sleep.

When participants enter a room configured in rows, they immediately go into passive mode. They expect a lecture. It’s tough for speakers to wake them up. It is also awkward for participants to interact with each other when they are seated in rows so exercises seem forced, contrived and unnatural.

Alternative: Experiment with round tables (arrange seats around half of the table), rectangular tables and U-shaped configurations (with empty seats inside the U for exercises). Arranging round tables in a semi-circle with a central table for demos and forum role-play also works.

Why are conference rooms so drab?

Dull colors and dim lighting are the perfect environment for a nap, not a learning experience.

Alternative: It doesn’t take much to add a touch of pizzazz to a conference room. Most hotels and meeting venues can provide colored tablecloths for the same price as white ones. Use a variety of colors and stimulate the senses. Event planners are used to tablescapes for dinners and banquets. Apply the same principles to participant tables for conferences.

Even if budgets are low, providing Mr. Sketch scented markers, florescent Post-It notes, tactile energizers (e.g. Slinkys, stress balls, small wooden hand massagers, LEGOs) and colorful pens is a low-cost way to add pops of color and sense to any meeting room. Posters with vivid images that underscore key learning points are also very helpful. This brings me to my next question.

Why do you allow no transition or set-up time between breakout sessions?

When sessions are scheduled back to back, even well-motivated facilitators have little opportunity to put out learning aids, props, energizers or peripherals. When participants are entering the room at the same time facilitators are setting up, it creates the impression that they are disorganized. Credibility takes a big hit.

Alternative: Schedule breakout sessions that require set-up as the first session of the day or immediately after lunch. Schedule a break and networking opportunity between each breakout session. (Participants often complain that conference agendas are too packed and there is little opportunity to network so they will thank you.) Make sure that you have plenty of volunteers on hand to assist with set-up. Give facilitators an opportunity to brief the volunteers in advance.

Why do you leave AV to chance?

Speakers, facilitators and conference organizers have one chance to get it right. A mic that gives feedback and a projector that malfunctions eats up the already limited time.

Alternative: Provide a technician for each break-out room. It doesn’t add that much to your costs and smooth technical logistics can make or break a conference.

Why allow speakers and sessions to run overtime?

This is a great disservice to speakers and facilitators who come later in the program. It also frustrates participants who find that, later in the day, timeframes are compressed and content is covered at a breakneck pace.

Alternative: Schedule a buffer after each session. (Don’t list it on the agenda or announce it to speakers. Just list the whole envelope of time as a networking break.) Your agenda would look something like this.

8:30 General Session

10:00 Buffer and Networking Break

10:30 Breakout Session

12:00 Lunch

1:00 Breakout Session

2:30 Buffer and Networking Break

3:00 Breakout Session – General Session on the last day.

4:30 Buffer and End

 

Signed,

Your speaker and breakout session facilitator

 

P.S. I trust you’ve read my first conference planner open letter/dos and don’t suggestion

P.P.S. The following resources are highly recommended for meeting and conference planners. They will provide insight into the key ingredients for creating interactive learning experiences.

Conference and Training Design: How Accelerated Learning can Transform the Participant Experience

What is Accelerated Learning?

Before, During and After Tips for a Successful Facilitation

14 Important Laws of Learning

30 Things We Know For Sure About Adult Learning (A classic)

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Category : Blog and Industry News

Free industry magazines, blogs and podcasts, oh my!

Posted 4 weeks, 1 day ago @

There’s a great deal of free content online from industry publications and blogs—even more if you venture onto the offerings shared via social media. Following is a bookmark-worthy page for no-cost industry media online and in print. (If you’ve got a recommendation for an additional resource to add, please comment at the end of the post.) 

Plan Your Meetings

In addition to the twice-yearly Plan Your Meetings print edition (also available online), don’t forget our regularly updated blog, which is completely free and offers hundreds of original posts across all aspects of the meeting and event planning profession. Recent posts include “Planning in the Eye of the Storm” and “Live Music Booking Best Practices.”

Of specific evergreen note: “The 33 Skills Meeting and Event Planners Need to Succeed” provides a rundown of the Meeting and Business Event Competency Standards (MBECS) categories and then links off from each listing to an original PYM post with relevant education.

MPI Blog and The Meeting Professional

MPI’s regularly updated blog is more vibrant and accessible than ever thanks to the association’s recent website redesign. There, you’ll find original content by industry journalists and subject matter experts (including PYM’s former Chief Storyteller Kristi Casey Sanders). Recent posts on the MPI blog include “The Role of Digital in Event Strategy” and “Women in Leadership: 6 Ways to Rock Your Next Job Interview.”

MPI’s award-winning monthly magazine, The Meeting Professional, is available online in a custom flipbook format for members of the association at every level. However, much of each issue is published on a rolling basis, where it is available free of charge.

10 More Free Mags

In addition to the magazine content available via Plan Your Meetings and The Meeting Professional, check out the following magazines as they all offer free access/subscriptions (print and/or digital) to industry professionals—just fill out a web form and you’ll begin receiving these magazines for free. You’ll also find free live and on-demand webinars (and e-newsletters) on many of these websites.

Conference & Meetings World

Connect

Convene

Ignite

M&C

Meetings + Incentive Travel

MeetingsNet

Meetings Today

Smart Meetings

Successful Meetings

Additional resources

Skift – Although the focus here envelops everything that qualifies as “the future of travel,” Skift does regularly have great meeting- and event-specific articles and research. A few notable examples branded as meetings innovation reports: “Timing is Everything When It Comes to Event Planning,” “Chat is the Future of Everything at Events” and “Appealing to Gen Z and Everyone Else.”

Event Manager Blog

Midcourse Corrections Blog

GatherGeeks Podcast

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Category : Blog and Industry News

The effects of meeting space design

January 15th, 2018 @

When a person enters a room, instinct will make her look for a place in the room where she can feel the most safe and comfortable. Especially if the room design has nothing else than the traditional chairs and/or tables. Creating a space design where the atmosphere and physical set-up immediately embraces the participants with a feeling of comfort and safety is the best start to a meeting that you can give your participants.

The design of the physical meeting space should also be seen as the body language of a meeting. Theme, purpose and key messages should be recognizable and reflected in the design of effects, visuals and physical impression. This will enhance and support the objectives of your meeting and create meaning and value.

Following are five design principles to consider using in your own meetings.

  • Emotions and atmosphere
  • Theme and identity
  • Multi functionality
  • Nudging
  • Tactile 

Emotions and atmosphere

Consider carefully what feelings you want to wake in your participants. The feelings could work as a primer of the work process format you have designed or create a positive perception towards the messages and topics of the day.

Elements such as sounds, music, lighting, colors and the texture of furniture can be very powerful and enable a feeling of well-being and an informal and relaxed atmosphere. But feelings such as excitement and anticipation can be created by using more dramatic elements.

Feelings are, of course, subjective and we react very different but here are three elements proven through psychology behavior studies to be universal and improve emotional impacts of the space design.

Some of these are easy to take into consideration of your meeting space design. The persuasive element, physical objects such as seating in small clusters around a small table to boost communication and a sense of being a part of a team. The spatial perception opening up some space to create a sense of freedom where people can both move and meet other to network. Last a stimulation of natural environments, bringing in elements of nature to create an optimal atmosphere for relaxation and health.

Theme and identity

A meaningful integration between the theme of the meeting and the company brand or DNA will enhance the understanding of identity. The connection will make the participants feel closer to home and give a sense of coherence to the meeting even when the location is unfamiliar.

Here is a very large and empty hall transformed into a blast of color identity just by providing folios on large windows and using the color red.

 colorful room

Use the company colors, words, values and logo as effects in and outside the space but also before the meeting to create the links.

seed can invitationHere is an example in which the invitation to a strategy-meeting with the theme “Growth” was written on a can consisting a seed. The idea was to kick start the minds of the participants and create awareness to the theme by start watering their own small seed.

Multi-functionality

A large room is often a perfect solution to create a multifunctional wholesome. Instead of the more traditional plenary and breakout rooms, it creates a feeling of unity, maintain the collective energy and is also more time efficient that you do not have to spend time to move participants back and forth.

The physical set-up has to accommodate different functionalities. The participants should have free floor space to network and move around, think it like a city square or a “heart” of the room.

Other areas of the room should invite participants to talk and work both in groups and in pairs. A room in room solution could be perfect in situations were co-creation of projects, strategies and ideas could require table of wall space for the process. Make small areas that indicate a room, simply by making a door.

real fake doorHere is an example in which the real fake door is both a writeable surface and an indicator for a breakout “room” and also easy to move as needed.

Nudging

Nudging is a controversial topic in field of psychological behavior. When used gently and positively in meetings it can help the participants to create individual better choices and outcome. Help them find other participants with similar interests and share knowledge. Simply by providing them with badges that indicate what they are looking or know something about.

On a practical note, it can help logistics flow more efficiently, make it easier to find events and emphasis key messages in creative ways. By using signage in all possible creative ways from fortune cookies with messages linked to the topic and content or simply invite to some movement, such as hopscotch on the floor.

Tactile

Communication, information and content in meetings and conferences is often mostly the spoken word supported by visuals in text and photos. To enhance both understanding and learning we can work with tactility. Making all this intangible information tangible.

The simple idea is to make a small notebook, where there is both pre-written key messages and a mix of exercises that invites to either write or draw own thoughts, reflections and ideas. Facilitate the use of the book into the flow and format and, better yet, introduce the book in the beginning of the meeting by creating getting-to-know-each-other exercises in which a photo of the individual participants is a part of the book cover.

Our ability to understand and learn complexity increases if we are able to get our hands onto them. Create a format where the content is materialized, not just visuals on a slide. Bring the product, show it, touch it and use it if possible—even if the content is as intangible as data in a new IT system like this example.

lighted ballsThe participants are creating their own understanding of the data flow and interdependencies of the new system through color-coordinated lighted balls that resemble the system’s main areas and strings as the roads on which the data travels.

The real magic…

…begins when you succeed in getting all of the five elements into your meeting design. Well balanced and never make them steal the attention from content, knowledge and key messages of your meeting.

Meeting Design Game(Learn much more about meeting design with the revolutionary Meeting Design Game, created by this article’s author Ann Hansen and her partner Bo Krüger.)

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Category : Blog and Industry News

New travel advisory system launched for U.S. travelers

January 10th, 2018 @

U.S. travelers have become accustomed to hearing scary travel advisories for other countries when those locales have experienced natural disasters, terrorist attacks, potential government disruption, increases in crime and/or disease, etc. Sometimes these warnings are warranted, sometimes, many argue, they’re exaggerated.

US State DepartmentAs of Jan. 10, the U.S. State Department has introduced a new system that assigns a travel advisory for every country—not just those deemed to be of special concern. Be aware, this new system replaces the department’s previous Travel Warnings/Alerts. This tiered program includes four advisory levels with Level 4 being “OMG! Don’t go there!” and will be updated regularly based on the changing situations worldwide.

From the State Department:

  • Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions: This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk. There is some risk in any international travel.
  • Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution: Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory.
  • Level 3 – Reconsider Travel: Avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory.
  • Level 4 – Do Not Travel: This is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or leave as soon as it is safe to do so. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory.

Within the advisories, reasons for the categorization will be explained with lettered abbreviations as follows:

  • C – Crime:Widespread violent or organized crime is present in areas of the country. Local law enforcement may have limited ability to respond to serious crimes.
  • T – Terrorism: Terrorist attacks have occurred and/or specific threats against civilians, groups or other targets may exist.
  • U – Civil Unrest: Political, economic, religious, and/or ethnic instability exists and may cause violence, major disruptions and/or safety risks.
  • H – Health: Health risks, including current disease outbreaks or a crisis that disrupts a country’s medical infrastructure, are present. The issuance of a Centers for Disease Control Travel Notice may be a factor.
  • N – Natural Disaster: A natural disaster, or its aftermath, poses danger.
  • E – Time-limited Event: A short-term event, such as an election, sporting event or other incident that may pose a safety risk.
  • O – Other: There are potential risks not covered by previous risk indicators. Read the country’s Travel Advisory for details.

Visit the State Department online for complete details about the program as well as country-by-country recommendations. U.S. travelers can also choose to sign up for the

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and/or follow the State Department on Twitter.

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Category : Blog and Industry News

Dear conference organizer: Don’t do these things

January 10th, 2018 @

Dear conference organizer:

Usually, I sit on your side of the desk so I’ve been hesitant to write this letter. But I’ve been attending a lot of conferences and trade shows—and taking notes.

When I attend a conference or event, it usually goes well. At times, it’s a wake-up call and a reminder of what to avoid. If you really want to make sure that participants never return to one of your events, here is what to do.

Travel

Always book the cheapest airfare

Wrong: After all, hosted buyers are grateful that their airfare covered. So, they won’t mind if the route is convoluted and they have to stay overnight on the way to or from your event.

Right: Be mindful of budget but remember to make travel arrangements that ensure that participants arrive well rested and not frazzled.

Logistics

Arrive two hours late and don’t be in a rush to fix hiccups

Wrong: You have more important things to do and the participants will wait.

Right: Logistical challenges are inevitable but always make sure that you are at the venue early and that there is enough staffing to resolve any issues.

Programming

Pack the agenda

Wrong: You have a captive audience so why would you leave any white space for participants to rest, grab a snack or, heaven forbid, nap before dinner.

Right: Plan an agenda that balances time for educational content, visits to exhibitors, meals and rest.

Venue selection

Select a reception venue that’s an hour away from the hotel or conference venue

Right: Ensure that the venue for receptions, dinners and special events is in close proximity to the conference venue and hotel.

Don’t provide seating for most of the attendees

Wrong: It doesn’t matter if people are blocking the screen and the platform.

Right: The venue should be comfortable enough to accommodate the size of your group.

Audiovisual

Wrong: Be sure that the sound is muffled. Participants will find a way to hear the presenters.

Wrong: Only have one screen and place it in the corner of the room

Right: Test, test, and test the AV. Have back-up equipment on hand and technician to monitor and troubleshoot if there are any AV glitches. Again, if participants can’t see what you’re projecting, they’ll just tune you out.

Catering

Collect information about allergies and food sensitivities and never use it

Wrong: They’ll never notice that you’re serving heavy dishes with rich sauces that are packed with carbs and sugar.

Make them wait

Wrong: It doesn’t matter that your event starts at 8 p.m. and participants have not had a bite since lunch. Don’t serve anything other than alcohol and soft drinks until 9:30 p.m. when all of the presentations are over.

Advertise a reception over the dinner hour and only serve tiny hors d’oeuvres

Wrong: Does it really matter if they go home hungry?

Run Out of Food

Wrong: It’s just too challenging to stagger refreshments.

When you do serve more substantial fare for breakfast or lunch, make sure the food is cold

Wrong: Your guests will be grateful enough that the portions are larger so they won’t mind.

Right: Plan a healthy well-balanced menu that takes guest allergies and food sensitivities into account. Serve food at the right temperature and make sure participants don’t have to wait an unreasonable amount of time to dine. When working with a limited budget and it’s impossible to serve dinner, schedule the reception for 6 or 6:30 p.m. and clearly mark on the agenda that “light refreshments will be served.” Indicate “dinner on your own” for 8 p.m.

 

I wish I could say that these scenarios rarely happen, but I would be lying. Needless to say, I won’t be back.

Yours truly,

Your Conference Attendee

 

What event planning reminders and wake-up calls have you had when you have gone to a conference, trade show or event as an attendee?

Featured image (CC) markheybo

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Category : Blog and Industry News

Dear conference organizer: Don’t do these things

January 10th, 2018 @

Dear conference organizer:

Usually, I sit on your side of the desk so I’ve been hesitant to write this letter. But I’ve been attending a lot of conferences and trade shows—and taking notes.

When I attend a conference or event, it usually goes well. At times, it’s a wake-up call and a reminder of what to avoid. If you really want to make sure that participants never return to one of your events, here is what to do.

Travel

Always book the cheapest airfare

Wrong: After all, hosted buyers are grateful that their airfare covered. So, they won’t mind if the route is convoluted and they have to stay overnight on the way to or from your event.

Right: Be mindful of budget but remember to make travel arrangements that ensure that participants arrive well rested and not frazzled.

Logistics

Arrive two hours late and don’t be in a rush to fix hiccups

Wrong: You have more important things to do and the participants will wait.

Right: Logistical challenges are inevitable but always make sure that you are at the venue early and that there is enough staffing to resolve any issues.

Programming

Pack the agenda

Wrong: You have a captive audience so why would you leave any white space for participants to rest, grab a snack or, heaven forbid, nap before dinner.

Right: Plan an agenda that balances time for educational content, visits to exhibitors, meals and rest.

Venue selection

Select a reception venue that’s an hour away from the hotel or conference venue

Right: Ensure that the venue for receptions, dinners and special events is in close proximity to the conference venue and hotel.

Don’t provide seating for most of the attendees

Wrong: It doesn’t matter if people are blocking the screen and the platform.

Right: The venue should be comfortable enough to accommodate the size of your group.

Audiovisual

Wrong: Be sure that the sound is muffled. Participants will find a way to hear the presenters.

Wrong: Only have one screen and place it in the corner of the room

Right: Test, test, and test the AV. Have back-up equipment on hand and technician to monitor and troubleshoot if there are any AV glitches. Again, if participants can’t see what you’re projecting, they’ll just tune you out.

Catering

Collect information about allergies and food sensitivities and never use it

Wrong: They’ll never notice that you’re serving heavy dishes with rich sauces that are packed with carbs and sugar.

Make them wait

Wrong: It doesn’t matter that your event starts at 8 p.m. and participants have not had a bite since lunch. Don’t serve anything other than alcohol and soft drinks until 9:30 p.m. when all of the presentations are over.

Advertise a reception over the dinner hour and only serve tiny hors d’oeuvres

Wrong: Does it really matter if they go home hungry?

Run Out of Food

Wrong: It’s just too challenging to stagger refreshments.

When you do serve more substantial fare for breakfast or lunch, make sure the food is cold

Wrong: Your guests will be grateful enough that the portions are larger so they won’t mind.

Right: Plan a healthy well-balanced menu that takes guest allergies and food sensitivities into account. Serve food at the right temperature and make sure participants don’t have to wait an unreasonable amount of time to dine. When working with a limited budget and it’s impossible to serve dinner, schedule the reception for 6 or 6:30 p.m. and clearly mark on the agenda that “light refreshments will be served.” Indicate “dinner on your own” for 8 p.m.

 

I wish I could say that these scenarios rarely happen, but I would be lying. Needless to say, I won’t be back.

Yours truly,

Your Conference Attendee

 

What event planning reminders and wake-up calls have you had when you have gone to a conference, trade show or event as an attendee?

Featured image (CC) markheybo

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Category : Blog and Industry News

6 considerations for effective all-hands meetings

January 5th, 2018 @

You look across the room, hoping to catch a nod, a smile, some indication that they’re even listening? Any reaction at all? Instead, a mass of silent, expressionless faces are staring at the wall, the desk, out the window.

“Why’d I even bother calling this meeting?” you think to yourself.

business robotsSound like a familiar scene? We’ve all struggled to engage our audience in meetings. Capturing their attention can be a tough gig, and the more people you’re talking to, the harder it is to keep people focused.

But delivering meetings that engage employees doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are six ideas for effective all-hands meetings designed to engage your employees.

1. Get with the program

Have an agenda, send it out in advance and stick to it. When attendees arrive without a clear understanding of what will be discussed, they are much more likely to get sidetracked by their own interests, get bogged down in debate and ultimately fail to reach meeting objectives. So make sure everyone’s on the same page before you start.

2. Take your Q&A session online

If you’re going to get honest and valuable feedback from employees, they need to feel welcome and safe in voicing their opinions. But in an all-hands meeting—where people of all levels and areas within an organization’s structure come together at once—this can be almost impossible to achieve face to face. Especially if some employees tend to dominate the discussion, or others feel uncomfortable telling their bosses what they really think.

Incorporating an interactive Q&A session into your meeting allows people to participate in the dialogue anonymously, directly from their screens. Questions can be submitted at any point before, during or directly following the presentation, so there’s no need for people to wait with their hand in the air before they can have their say. Presenters can also keep track of the live question feed, prioritize hot-trending topics and manage the dialogue more effectively so that shyer voices don’t get drowned out by those hogging the mic.

3. Foster ongoing collaboration

Get your employees engaged early by creating a collaborative space where they can plan for the next all-hands meeting. Depending on the nature of your business, there’s a cloud collaboration tool to suit every type of team. Consider using these to bring different teams within the organization together to work on a presentation, or allow individual employees to upload their own contributions. This not only enhances teamwork and a positive company culture—it connects employees who may not typically meet or interact, and that can unlock a new level of collaborative thinking.

4. Show results

It’s great for companies to ask employees for feedback, but what they do with that information is even more important. Ditch the old-school survey forms and start getting real-time results, while your all-hands meeting is still underway.

Live audience polling provides an opportunity for everyone to have their say, whether or not they’re physically present. It’s a far more responsive and transparent way of gauging opinion, and is particularly useful for questions that require a rapid response. Live polls can be quick to set up and presenters can even create them in the middle of the meeting—allowing questions to be changed as the discussion evolves.

Many companies forget to show employees how their feedback has been taken on board, or why certain decisions have been made. With live polls, employees are able to see the direct results of their contribution…and management can more clearly demonstrate the rationale underpinning meeting outcomes.

5. Pick up the pace

Ever noticed how you tend to clap or laugh during a presentation just because the crowd is doing so—even if you weren’t actually listening? When a meeting moves too slowly, most people find themselves slipping into autopilot as their minds wander. So while you may appear to be tuned in, chances are you’re daydreaming or thinking about words that rhyme with cheese.

As the presenter, the key to overcoming this and running an effective all-hands meeting is to pick up the pace. Mix up the agenda so that employees don’t know what’s coming next, invite guest speakers to bring new ideas and perspectives and don’t dwell too long on the one topic of discussion. The goal here is to create a dynamic environment that keeps people guessing. There’s no need to be dull by default.

6. But what’s the point?

A meeting agenda is not just about planning—it’s about defining purpose. Look at each item up for discussion and decide what the point of raising it really is. Will a decision be made? Will an action be taken, or plans put in place? Having all hands on deck is a costly exercise for a business, so use that time efficiently and give participants a reason to be there.

All-hands meetings are designed to get everyone in your organization to socialize, engage and bring new ideas to the table. They’re a great way to change up the work dynamic, even if for a few hours.

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Category : Blog and Industry News