In the meetings industry we tend to believe that we work in a pretty unique business and we are somewhat hidden off in an unknown corner of the business world. Yes, we do sometimes face challenges that would seem absurd to many professionals in other industries. (But to be fair, I’m also certain that they face things we couldn’t imagine as well.)
However, in all of our businesses you can often boil things down until you reach some universal truths that will apply whether you’re planning a session for 1200 people, running a kitchen in a busy restaurant or providing life insurance for folks.
In almost every case the person making the promises is not the person responsible for carrying out the job. I’ve seen this up close in my slice of the meetings industry often. There’s huge pressure on the sales people to basically do or say anything to get the job. I can’t begin to count the times that I’ve heard someone in management say “get the job, and we’ll figure out how to do it once it’s booked…”
This is on my mind today because we are about to start a small bathroom remodel at our home. Just like a planner choosing an AV company, I basically sent out an RFP and invited bids. I had the typical range of responses. Clear down to having a few companies that just never even responded (I never understand the lack of a response to possible business, even if it’s just a note to turn it down politely). I took the quotes from folks who did bid, compared them and made a choice. My choice weighed the element of price, but it also hinged on my feeling comfortable with the sales person and his promises. (Sound familiar planners?).
I received a garbled call in the middle of last week from someone I didn’t recognize. The next day I happened to call my salesperson to follow up since I’d not heard anything. He said he needed to come by and do a change order for a small change that I’d done to the order. When he arrived on Thursday, he said the call that had been garbled must have come from my project manager, Edgar; who wanted to start on Monday (today). Great! He even called the project manager from my house to let him know that he was with me and doing the change order. Then, he called me back later to schedule an additional time this week to discuss some additional work I’d asked him to price out. We cleaned out the bathroom over the weekend and awaited the arrival of the crew this morning. (The salesperson also mentioned that they might not arrive first thing in the morning on day 1 of the job)…so no problem if they’re not here at 8am sharp.
When I hadn’t seen anyone by about 10:30am, I called the salesperson and the project manager and left messages. The project manager called me back.
He said because I hadn’t called them (i.e. him) back to schedule, that they’d have to start next week. We discussed how he was the person that I should talk to now about anything related to the job. Which is fine, something that I wish I had known that last week, when the salesperson called him from my house to discuss my job that was rumored to start today.
Sound familiar to anyone who has dealt with a salesperson and a project manger to get their AV done? Or a salesperson and a convention services manager to get their meeting setup? Etc., Etc., Etc…
In the end, the success of the job/meeting/event will be very much affected by the ability of those two parties to communicate and stay in sync with each other. I’ve seen teams that have a defined process and who work like clockwork in ticking off every box leading up to an event. And, I’ve seen the disappointed folks who receive a product or service that’s nothing like the vision the salesperson sold them.
For me, today’s really just a small bump. I work from home and can be flexible on the start date. But, if I’d made more specific plans based on last week’s promises by the salesperson, I’d be upset and we’d be off to a very bad start.
When you’re talking bids for services for your event, maybe you should add some questions about process and internal communications to your criteria for choosing a vendor? So often the focus on price drives vendors and planners to look strictly on the bottom line price stuff; and not on the actual promises that they are making to eventually complete the agreed upon vision for the event.
Using AV as an example, since that’s my best frame of reference. Here’s a few questions to consider exploring with your vendor before picking them.
Who will be responsible for my meeting once it’s contracted?
When is that person assigned to the project?
Are they a part of the quote preparation process?
Are they in the same location as the salesperson?
Do they meet regularly with them about upcoming projects?
Maybe ask a couple references about the process once the event was booked and how communication went for them?
Hopefully, you see where I’m going with all this. You want to know that the person making your show happen is well versed in everything you’ve discussed and been promised during the bid process. You want to know that the salesperson (price) and project manager (fulfillment) are constantly in communication so any changes are documented and sent to the right people in advance of the event and while on site.
Make sure that your team is really working as a team and you’ll have a much smoother and less stressful event.
As for me, I’ll be talking to both the salesperson and project manager again before Monday to make sure that we’re all on the same page at each upcoming step of my own remodel. Now paying as much attention to their communication as I do with any vendor that I hire to facilitate events for my own customers.
As mentioned in my last blog post, I was recently interviewed regarding event safety and security. The author found me via a discussion I was part of within an industry message board. I was sharing some conversations that were being held within the stagehand/technician community immediately following the RT. 91 tragedy in Las Vegas.
It's clear that the security and the safety of our attendees and guests has become a much more serious topic in the industry then it was in the past. From the CMP Conclave to NAMM, Ive seen numerous sessions being offered to discuss security and educate attendees about best practices. I'm happy there is a growing awareness, and I'd encourage everyone to spend some time thinking about your events and what risks they might entail.
Before going any further, I would say that I'm not an expert in this field by any definition. But, I am experienced in this business, and I'm concerned about the people who surround me in a ballroom whenever I'm working on an event. We need to all remain alert, (but not alarmed) to the evolving challenges of safety and security so that all of those attendees in the ballroom will go home safely at the end of the event. We all have a stake in that goal.
The biggest first step is just not ignoring the subject or assuming that things will be fine because of the type, location or attendees of your event. If you decide it's a lower concern, decide based on analysis and information, not on just avoiding it or assuming. Remember that safety and security also encompasses things like fire, power, rigging or response to a medical emergency. Not every risk is something extreme like violence.
Think though your event, the flow of attendees and the schedule.
Try to identify places that could become a problem should an emergency situation arise.
Is the room set to fire code so that attendees will have a clear path to an exit? Has your rigging vendor used the proper equipment and trained personnel to hang those signs and light overhead? Do you have an evacuation plan and procedure to make sure everyone is safe and accounted for in the event of an emergency? Those are just a couple obvious one's off the top of my head. The point is really that you need to think about them in advance, discuss them with the venue (who may have established many of them) and with your team.
There's so much to this topic, a post like this only begins to skim the surface. Consider checking in with folks the the Event Safety Alliance: http://eventsafetyalliance.org for up to date information and ways to make your events safer.
We all need to be looking out for ourselves and for each other whenever we are part of a large gathering of people. Don't let complacency or expense allow a preventable problem or incident to occur at one of your events..
While I do expect to return to podcasting via this site. It's been challenging as a small operation to deal with the simultaneous issues over the past couple years. Getting back on my feet and still keeping up with the normal business flow of work for the company left little time for fun stuff like doing interviews, writing and taking care of the technical parts of editing and posting a regular podcast.
Honestly, doing that work solo on top of helping my clients just isn't realistic. So, expect some podcasts in the future, but maybe not at the same crazy pace as before.
I'm now just over a year out from my third back surgery and I'm finally starting to feel a bit closer to normal! It's been a slow process, but I've been blessed by family, friends and even customers who have supported and encouraged me at each step of the way.
The meetings industry continues to shift and evolve around us on a daily basis. The pace of change is frantic and it's difficult to keep it all in perspective. But, I've been trying to maintain my knowledge in the technical side of things. I just attended NAMM a couple weeks ago to marvel at the amazing advances in audio technology available to us now. I was also interviewed recently by an industry publication about safety and security for events in a world where some horrible acts have been committed against innocent groups attending events. I'll have some thoughts to share here on that topic soon.
I've also committed to serving again on my MPI chapter board for the next year. So, I expect to have a few things to share about navigating the waters of a volunteer organization and supplying measurable value to the members.
To anyone reading this, I thank you for sticking with me and staying connected during my long hiatus to recover. I hope to justify your wait with some solid information and conversations once again and going forward.
No specifics, no grand promises...just a desire to continue the conversation of how we can improve ourselves and our work in an industry that we all spend much of our days obsessing over.
More to come very soon! Jon
Breaking the regular podcast formatting again, but I wanted to post and give some information/explanation for the lack of new podcasts over the past few months.
Well, some of you may have noticed my lack of podcasts and even activity here since last December. I was off dealing with some personal health issues (spinal fusion surgery) and another serious medical situation for a close family member. The best laid plans sometimes get derailed by the unexpected.
I'm back on my feet now and working on my physical therapy and rehab. The good news is that my surgery seems to have been very helpful and is really making a difference so far. And, the family member is doing great as well and recovering from their cancer treatments. So much respect and gratitude for two different skilled medical teams from St. Joseph's Hospital in Orange, CA.
I'll be slowly ramping back up and posting new podcasts soon. They may not be a as frequent for a while, since I have to focus on customers as a priority, but I'll be at MPI WEC 17 next week in Las Vegas and should have a number of great interviews and discussions to bring back here.
Thank you all for sticking with me and I look forward to continuing our conversations.
First let me appologize for the longer than planned break in our postings. I have been dealing with some personal and family health issues and it's kept me away from posting here for far too long.
I'm breaking format in a few ways today, the first being that this will just be a written post and not a podcast episode, the other will be that it links out to a story that I think is very important to consider by all of us in the meetings industry. Back in August I did a podcast on Fire Marshals (Episode #10) and this relates back that information.
Just a few days ago we had another fire tragedy that has left a still unconfimed number of fatalities, with numbers of around 34 killed being reported so far. This horrible fire happened in an unliscenced venue where a music event was taking place. So, while it may not seem directly related to the meetings industry, it has relevence and resonance by the fact that it was a gathering of people...exactly what we all do on a daily basis.
CNN today had a story today discussing these numerous trageties and I thought it was worth sharing: www.cnn.com/2016/12/05/opinions/be-your-own-fire-marshal-barylick-opinion/index.html
Basically the message from the CNN piece is that we are all our own fire marshals and responsible for our own safety. For those who don't want to link over, this is what I feel is the most important message from the story:
"What does it mean to be your own fire marshal? It means that upon arriving at any venue, you must look carefully at the building. Does it look well maintained? Does the staff appear well trained? As you proceed to your seat, take notice of your route. Are there any pinch-points (areas where congestion is likely to occur) that would interfere with quick escape?
Once seated, locate the nearest exit (in addition to the one you came in) and share its location with your friends. Agree beforehand that this is the exit you'll immediately head for in the event of any emergency or threat, be it a fire, an attack, or a natural disaster.
To ensure your safety and those of your friends, go with your gut. If a building feels wrong, or dangerous, leave. No show is worth your life."
All of us in the meetings industry must go a step further than just considering our personal safety. We need to also assure the safety of all of the guests at our events. No matter what your role at an event, you must be aware of potential hazzards and address them immediately with the appropriate people.
This horrible event in Oakland didn't happen in a ballroom or in a hotel, but we all know that there have been tragic fires in traditional venues in the past. Please, work with your local fire marshals and other safety officials to assure that every gathering you are connected to is being held in a safe manner for the staff and the guests. If we all are diligent and aware, maybe tragedies like this can be prevented from ever happening again.
Please be safe and always speak up when you see something that is a potential hazzard.
Wishing you all a safe and joyus holiday season!
We'll be back with our regular podcasts again very soon!
Strategic Meeting Tech Podcast Show #27 - Roger Rickard discusses the upcoming election and how voting (or not voting) impacts all of us in the meetings industry
We recently caught up with Roger Rickard of Voices in Advocacy during the IMEX America show in Las Vegas. We talked at length about voting and it's importance to the nation as well as to our industry.
Roger publishes a great blog about politics and advocacy, as well as being a terrific meetings industry advocate and supporter. His website and blog can be found here: Roger Rickard
And here's a direct link to the blog post that we are discussing on the show: American’s have a Big Decision on Election Day (and it’s not for president)
It's an important message, and it reaches far beyond just our industry. So it's vital that we all exercise our right to vote in the upcoming election. Make sure your voice is heard, not just on the top of the ticket, but all the way down to the local offices that can have significant impact on our business, schools and city governments.
Strategic Meeting Tech Podcast Show #26 - Tracy Stuckrath discusses ways to best accommodate vegetarian attendees
On this edition of the podcast we're joined by an old friend, Tracy Stuckrath, CSEP, CMM, CHC, CFPM. Tracy is one of the leading consultants to the meeting and event planning industry on nutrition. She travels around the world speaking to industry groups like MPI, PCMA, NACE, ILEA and SGMP on a wide variety of food related topics. Tracy has extensive information and resources about all types of food and nutrition areas as they relate to planners on here website: Thrive Meetings & Events.
On todays podcast in honor of "Vegetarian Awareness Month" we talk about the various types of vegetarian classifications and some of the ways that planners can best understand and address them for their attendees. We also talk about Tracy's upcoming sessions at IMEX America coming up on October 17-20, 2016 in Las Vegas.
If you're attending IMEX and have an interest in nutrition, food waste and legal aspects of food service to your guests and attendees, be sure and seek out her sessions and visit her website for information and resources.
On todays podcast Jon talks about his upcoming webinar at "Meetings Today". On October 26th at 1pm EDT he'll be presenting a webinar on the topic of "Contracts: Audiovisual & Speakers". Here's a link: Meetings Today where you can register in advance for the webinar.
Today he gives a preview by discussing AV Quotes and the material that's presented in them. An overview of the various sections and a few pointers for negotiating before you reach the contract stage with a vendor.
Be sure and mark your calendar to join him on the 26th of October over at Meetings Today
On this weeks podcast we catch up with Roger Rickard, professional speaker and advocacy consultant to the meetings and exhibitions industry. He's the founder of "Voices in Advocacy", and you can learn much more about his work with industry groups via his website: RogerRickard.com
We talked in depth about an industry initiative headed by IAEE (the International Association of Exhibitions and Events). They've created a broad coalition of exhibition industry supporters to advocate for the industry via the website: Exhibitions Mean Business. Since launching in 2011 they've generated over 750 million impressions, 2600 media impressions and a total of over 70 million dollars in publicity.
For the past three years they've sponsored an annual Exhibitions Day where industry members can meet with their representatives in Washington DC to advocate for the industry. They've also created an Advocacy Center to provide information on pending legislation and convenient ways to reach out to your elected representatives.
On the podcast, Roger provides a wealth of information about current issues that can affect the meetings industry and all of us.
On today's Hall of Leaders edition of the podcast we talk with Colleen Rickenbacher of Colleen Rickenbacher, Inc and The Global Protocol, Etiquette & Civility Academy.
Colleen is being honored at the CIC Hall of Leaders Celebration coming up in October in Las Vegas. We talk about her history and background; including her transition from event planner to become an author, speaker and industry expert on etiquette and protocol.
She's the author of four books:
Be On Your Best Business Behavior
Be On Your Best Cultural Behavior
The Big Book of People Skills Games (International)
Be On Your Best Teenage Book
And, she devotes a significant amount of her time working with prison and juvenile programs in the Dallas area to help both of those groups better transition into the workforce. She's also a mentor to numerous students and others in the meetings and events industry.
You can join Colleen and her fellow 2016 honorees on October 18th at the Jewel Nightclub at Aria in Las Vegas for the Hall of Leaders Celebration.
Jon Trask, CMP, CMM
A passion to improve both the meetings and Audio Visual industries by helping to create better and more effective technology conversations..