In need of a distraction

April 15th, 2020 @


Between the non-stop coronavirus updates, inexhaustible news stories and self-isolation at home (with work, kids, home schooling, etc.), it wouldn’t be a surprise if you were in desperate need for a fun, mindless or comic distraction. Your mind and emotional state will thank you for the respite.

If you think some quiet time and mediation would help, there are numerous apps from which to choose. One is Calm, which currently offers a variety of COVID-19 channels. For those with minds that are hard to quiet, Calm might take some practice. For others, it’s a nice option for a bit of peace and quiet. Calm even has a channel for kids—if you’re able to pull them away from Animal Crossing: New Horizons!

Speaking of kids, live feeds from a number of zoos and aquariums can be fun for the entire family or the individual who needs to zone out for a few. Choose from the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, the Cincinnati Zoo and the Smithsonian National, for starters. Don’t see one here with lots of activity? Try a Google search and enough options will pop up to give you a new stream to try every day.

Miss visiting museums during the lockdown? Try a virtual tour of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam or the Guggenheim in New York. There are many options—start with these 12.

Maybe the sounds of waves are more your cup of tea. Then check out live beach cams, available for live streams of picturesque water from all over the globe. If all you have is a few minutes between conference calls or emails, then try the Moments of Nature, mostly two-minute videos of nothing but, well just nature. If a few minutes simply isn’t enough of a distraction, offers numerous live streams of animals and scenery.

If your distraction requires more civilization, but just a bit more, try the live streams of trains. It takes some waiting, but the payoff is worth it. And if you can’t wait, then pretend you are the railroad engineer in the cab with this live feed of a locomotive crossing Norway (no, this is not a joke).

A no brainer, of course, is YouTube. So many views to choose from, you may get overwhelmed. From recorded cat videos to live feeds to TV shows and more. Some of it’s free and some of it costs. What’s your sanity worth?

Lastly, if this “new normal” makes you feel as if you’re no longer on planet earth, check out the live feed from the International Space Station. That’ll give you all the distraction you need.

Now that you’ve had a taste of the world outside of your home, maybe focus on no- and low-cost online professional development opportunities!

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Category : Blog and Industry News

Anxiety is anxious times

March 23rd, 2020 @

stress anxiety

I turned 50 years old last year. Leading up to the milestone birthday, I found myself getting angrier and angrier by the day. Just about everything made me mad. To rescue me from divorce, I agreed with my spouse to see a therapist. Turns out I was anxious. Very anxious.

The therapy proved helpful and I learned a great deal about anxiety. I’m reminded about what the therapist and I discussed as I hunker down and prepare to ride out the COVID-19 crisis, along with the rest of my friends, colleagues and co-workers, who make up the meeting industry—a vital aspect our work, our community and our economy.


One of my biggest challenges was learning to breathe. Breathing is a blessing. I know, we’re all breathing all the time, but to focus on it takes skill. At least for me. It also helps. Tremendously. It gives me time to think, reflect and contemplate how threatening my situation is. Just how dangerous is it standing in the checkout line at Harris Teeter? How threatening is turning 50 years old?

Breathing lets me focus and look for positive elements, things to be grateful for. It’s also healthier. It helps slow my pulse, reduce my blood pressure and gain a different perspective. Once or twice, I have erupted in laughter when I realized how irrational my anger had been.

I’m not an emotional or medical specialist, but in a nutshell, anxiety is a life-saving predisposition that’s part of our ingrained fight-or-flight instinct. Without it, we humans might not have survived long enough to reach today.

zebras running

In the wild, a zebra munching on grass in the African plain, is calm and anxiety-free. Until he senses the nearby lion, crouched and ready to pounce. Then the zebra’s anxiety level spikes and off he darts, his flight response robotically engaging. When he evades the threat, when the lion gives up the chase, the zebra goes back to his vegetarian meal and his anxiety level returns to zero, his tail unconsciously swatting at harmless flies.

Unlike wild animals, human anxiety levels don’t always work that fittingly. Sometimes when we perceive a threat, be it legit or not, our anxiousness grows. The complexity of our lives—work, family, bills, health, traffic congestion—can trigger responses that make mundane or routine things feel threatening and propel our angst soaring.

Act as if you’re already infected

With the novel coronavirus, it certainly feels like we’re being threatened, right? You might expect some anxiety. Co-mingle that with a rush on toilet paper, Purell and frozen foods and you might feel like a zebra being hunted by a lion. However, experts say don’t panic, stay calm, act as if you’re already infected.

We still have some control. Following COVID-19 protocols is important. By doing so, we actually reduce the threat. Less threat equals less anxiety. Cut back on media. Leaving CNN on while reading The Washington Post while trolling Facebook hurts in at least two ways: reduces focus and increases anxiety. Stick with limited resources. I recommend the CDC for coronavirus news/updates and one or two local media outlets, to keep abreast of updates in your community. If you need industry-related updates, check out MPI’s page dedicated to novel coronavirus news and resources.

Help fight off the feeling of isolation by staying in touch with friends and family, be it via Facetime, Google Hangout or a simple phone call. I rang my cousin, Ian, who lives in a Boston suburb, and felt relief just knowing someone else shares some of the same worries, even if he is more than 900 miles away. But seeing someone else’s face can make an immense difference. And not just for you.

Don’t forget to move. We’re prone to sit, especially at home or at a desk. Get the blood flowing and increase those endorphins. Try not to think of this as isolation, but as “me” time or a chance to look for new opportunities or tackle chores. This coronavirus might be with us for a bit, so keep the creative juices flowing.

You have a large community to lean on and we’re all experiencing some frustration, challenges and tribulations, but in an arena with lots of patience, inspiration and knowledge. Don’t let it go to waste. Anxiety can be unhealthy, so don’t let it control you. We’ll get through this.

In the meantime, remember to breathe.


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Category : Blog and Industry News

5 tips for evaluating safety during site selection

February 4th, 2020 @

magnifying glass

Safety is a big topic and covers a lot of different elements. The thought of it is often enough to make even the most experienced meeting planner want to change careers. How does snake charmer sound?

There’s cyber security, crisis communication, public relations scenarios and emergency response planning. It doesn’t help that we’re under constant barrage of scary news on nearly every screen we set eyes upon, usually displaying nothing more than mere seconds of loud noise and scandalous photographs. It’s not enough to get details, but just the right amount of prattle to set our nerves on edge.

There’s good news, however. Our brains don’t really know the difference between a real fear and a fake one, so although we think there’s lots of stuff to worry about, it’s not as bad as the 24-hour news cycle makes it seem. You are far more likely to have someone at your conference suffer a medical issue, such as a cardiac event, or a minor accident, such as a trip and fall, than you are an active shooter. It’s all about preventing or mitigating the most probable concerns.

That means at least one item under the safety umbrella will be a bit easier for you to prepare for: physical safety. A rule of meeting safety is ensuring the space, facility or venue is free from harm and offers components and measures that keep it free from harm.

We, as planners, can prepare for bad things to happen. As a matter of fact, we even have the power to prevent or mitigate some of them. Starting with our site selection, we can begin the process of helping to keep our attendees safer.

Here are a few simple things to do during your next hotel or venue selection.

1) Ask about safety in your RFP

Most venues won’t release their safety or emergency plans for reasons of liability and/or confidentiality—but mentioning your interest in emergency plans, in your RFP, indicates you take safety seriously. Just a few sentences are all it takes, asking how the venue responds to emergencies and how they handle onsite incidents.

RELATED STORY: Lack of planning won’t avert an emergency

2) Include safety staff at the walk-through

Planners are used to being guided around a property by sales staff, banquet folks and conference service managers. Next time, request that someone from hotel security go along with you for the stroll. It is a great time for the venue to point out emergency exits, fire extinguishers, describe how the hotel meets local and state codes and regulations and even talk about the venue’s emergency action plans.

3) Ask about first responders

As you’re checking out the meeting space and the guest rooms, ask which hospital is the nearest, what police agency has jurisdiction and where the hotel’s access points are for fire trucks, ambulances and other first responders. These are area you want to be free of charter buses, delivery trucks and the like. The time is also ripe to ask about future building and road construction, which could block easy in-and-out access.

RELATED STORY: Do you need armed security at your event?

4) Access points and access points

Ask about security cameras and security staffing (how are they identified? Do they go through background checks and training?) and see if lighting is adequate in parking garages, outdoor function space and other places your attendees might visit after nightfall. See what parts of the venue are only accessible with keys and what areas get locked up at night.

Access also includes first responders and other help. They need to have outdoor areas to park vehicles, doors that will open when they pull the handle and as few obstacles as possible to reach the person (or persons) in need.

slip up

5) Ask about back of house

Although some venues might not let you have access to view back of house areas, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Make sure they agree to make hallways free of clutter and items that might hinder an emergency exit or provide a hiding place to unauthorized people. If the food service area or kitchens have to meet certain local health codes or regulations, confirm that they do, either by visual inspection or written certification.

Don’t forget to include ADA compliance in your walk thru and confirm the venue is prepared to assist with any attendees that might have special needs during an evacuation.

RELATED STORY: 9 ADA-related questions we must be asking venues

Knowing these tips, you just might organically begin to ask other safety questions to help make sure you’ve chosen a site that’s both safe and secure.

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Category : Blog and Industry News