Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Season Celebration

Kathy Roberts, Director of Catering, Minneapolis Hilton; Ann Turner, Editor, Event Solutions; Kristen Babcock, Director of Catering, Radisson Blu Mall of America; Lauren Clapp, Sales Manager, Lancer Catering

Here in Minnesota we’re hunkered down for the winter. But that doesn’t mean our taste buds are frozen. I ventured out into a snowstorm last week to attend a chapter meeting of the National Association of Catering and Events (NACE). I’ve been attending NACE meetings for quite a few years. The company is great, and the food is fantastic, as the venue always pulls out all the stops to impress this elite group of hospitality professionals.

Last week’s meeting was held at the Crowne Plaza by the airport. Chef Jay Claro from Hawaii’s Big Island and Sous Chef Dave Gruenke teamed with NACE planners to bring us a celebration of the seasons through inspiring cuisine, while Sheree Bochenek of Apres Party and Tent Rental provided gorgeous tablescapes that transported us to summer, fall and spring settings. Imagine Lights provided the perfect touch of lighting and music to enhance the mood.

We started with winter appetizers, including awesome bacon-wrapped figs and mini Reubens on picks. A spring Caprese salad with cucumber and mint-infused water started off the courses, followed by a summer grilled salmon that tasted like it had just come off cedar planks. Pear and quinoa couscous was especially good. The evening was finished off with to-die-for roasted apple dumpling that brought back memories of autumn leaves and trips to the apple orchard.

 A special shout-out goes to server Simeon Escobar, originally from El Salvador. While all the service staff was outstanding, Simeon personally thanked every guest as we were leaving and invited us back for more special treatment. Simeon has been at the hotel since 1981, and has served in almost every capacity starting with back sink and moving to the pantry, line cook, laundry and bellmen/driver. His warmth and hospitality gave me the fortitude to face the blustery freezing rain and snow on the trip home, content and full.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ready, Set, GO!

As we gear up for another exciting Event Solutions Idea Factory, I’ve decided to make a list of the do-not-miss activities we’re going to offer this year.

It’s tough to make a list like this—having to decide among so many offerings is almost a hand-wringing experience. But here’s my plan, so if you’re at one of the same events or education sessions as I, be sure to introduce yourself and let me know what you think.

The Spotlight Awards. Last year, we had awe-inspiring 3D projection mapping. This year will be a totally different story. Eddie Diaz of Encore Events is planning a well…very sexy celebration, from the hints he’s been dropping. Tapas Rouge is the theme…meaning red carpet in French. So be sure to bring your little black dress or jacket for this evening of celebration and entertainment.

The Tradeshow Floor. A few years ago, Advisory Board member Arlene Sheff found me limping up and down the aisles, and scolded me roundly for not wearing proper shoes. So, Arlene, it’s tennis shoes this year!

The Education. Here’s where it gets really tough to choose. I’ve worked with a lot of the presenters over the years on magazine ideas and content, so of course I want to hear what they have to say. But we have some really exciting new speakers this year. I can’t miss Bisli Vasquez’s session on creating centerpieces—her work is totally awesome. David Merrell is a returning favorite. He’s fun and down-to-earth and always has fresh ideas. I can’t miss Andrea Michaels, either. Her session (with Dion Yarwood) on going global with your business is bound to be full of fascinating anecdotes from around the world.

So what’s an editor to do? Put on the running shoes and try to cover as much as possible. If you see me trotting around, put on your own running shoes and join me!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Changing Shape of Meetings

With evidence pointing toward a gradual improvement in the economy, meeting and event professionals continue to remain in a state of cautious optimism (something we’ve gotten used to over the past few years).

Mike Lyons, Event Director for AIBTM, the America’s Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings Exhibitions, recently released his take on 2013. Here are some highlights:

Meetings will be smarter: Attendance at events will continue to be penny-wise, not pound-foolish. The decision to attend events in 2013 will be based increasingly on ROI metrics. Only those events that truly deliver value will be on the travel docket. This continues to be in line with the cautionary decision-making that will take place in 2013. The smart meeting will deliver value, innovation and proven tactics to succeed.

Technology won’t replace face-to-face: We are social beings. Technology can never replace the actual sharing of needs, opinions and experiences. Face-to-face is the catalyst for business growth and shortens the sale cycle – despite what technologists and the digital marketplace would have you believe.  Business is more than ever an industry of building relationships and word of mouth influences . . . that will never change despite social media, online meetings software and streaming media.

Word of mouth will drive sales: In the new book by the Keller Fay Group, “The Face-to-Face Book,” the most effective way to drive business is through word-of-mouth conversations. With social media being the new tool for marketers to reach audiences and communities, it is the combined Social Voice (online conversations and offline Word of Mouth recommendations) that will influence buying decisions and deliver positive business results. Meeting planners (and their strategic partners) will benefit from learning from influential stakeholders who utilize both online and offline mechanisms.

Innovation: Meeting planners will have to be more creative to survive the austere mentality of 2013. Developing cooperative relationships with vendors and increasing pressure to negotiate tough and hard will be expected. But that’s not all bad. One of the things we learn from economic downturns is that a new normal emerges. Innovation is the by-product of doing more with less.

Creating value for all stakeholders: Meeting planners’ jobs will continue to be in jeopardy as attrition rates continue to rise. To accomplish what needs to be done, many corporations will look to outside consultants and part-time meeting planners to get the job done. The ability to prove your worth and deliver value, not only for your external customer, but your internal stakeholders as well will be the reward of keeping your job. Driving those personal interactions between customers and prospects and buyers and sellers will be the hallmark of success for 2013 and the future.