Free Idea Fridays!

Shimmer and sparkle continue to shine
Adama, Lyne and I ventured off to the CSEME Show yesterday in search of new inspirations. The annual trade show held in Toronto always offers a look at new products in the special event industry

Shine, shimmer and sparkle continue to be major themes in event décor this year.
  • Chandeliers have always captured the eye and now their glittering presence adds whimsy, charm, and drama to any event space.
  • Crystal encrusted furniture adds glamour to any lounge setting
  • Translucent, glass and mirrored accents add sparkle to table centerpieces
  • Diamond broaches add a glistening touch to floral arrangements and napkin treatments

Speaking of sparkle, we are nominated in 2 categories at this evening’s Star Awards Gala (Best Conference and Best Trade Show) = keeping our fingers crossed!

Hope my "Free Idea" makes your Friday!
at 11:14AM
We are starting to see GREEN again!
I am not sure if it is the spirit of St. Patty’s Day or the rising double digit temperatures this week, but Toronto is finally showing some green patches and boy does GREEN ever look good after a long winter.

We strive to incorporate GREEN initiatives into all our events and meetings but is “GREEN” as commonplace as we want to think it is…….or do we have to train ourselves to think about it.

According to MeetGreen®, a three-day conference with 300 people will create waste equivalent of the mass of 33 small cars, use water resources that could fill one half of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and create enough green house gases to fill 25,175,000 basketballs.

The meetings and event industry is making huge strides and we have a variety of documentation to support these initiatives but are they overwhelming?

Are we as planners really doing enough? Here are some small steps that can help you get started on taking those giant steps:
  • Eliminated bottled water from your meetings and events
    • There are so many alternatives now like Hydration Stations with fruit infused water
  • Say yes to locally sourced menus
    • Yes it may mean a bit more money added to your budget but it is Fresh (literally)
  • Provide white boards instead of flip charts in meeting rooms
    • and no/low odor markers
  • Add a section in your next hotel RFP that asks to review the venue’s sustainable achievements
    • Your final decision may not be based solely on their policies but it is a great way to educate yourself
  • Give an eco-friendly award to the greenest exhibitor
    • Fun and great publicity for your green policy
  • Ask aNd Logistix about our paperless Registration Solutions
    • We are ahead of the pack with our customized web-based applications that provide real-time reporting, email marketing and dynamic online conference, event and seminar registrations.
2011 will bring increased attention to the sustainability initiatives of our industry. GREEN event practices will be standardized, formalized training will become available, and industry-sanctioned certification programs for green event managers will be a reality—don’t get left behind

Check out these NEW ideas on how to incorporate some GREEN into your spring at home, the office or at your next event:

Get Educated!
  • New ISO 20121 Event Management Sustainability Standards
  • Canadian Standards CSA Z2010 - Which was built on the work of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC)
  • APEX-ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards

Spring Cleaning at its GREENest!
ENJO has created an innovative cleaning system using only water. ENJO is cleaning without chemicals!

GREEN has never been so cute!
3seams creates opportunities for people to purchase clothing for their children while at the same time supplying a child in need with an identical piece. Each piece of clothing is made in sets of two. One piece goes home with the buyer and one is donated by 3 seams to an organization that ensures a child in need will receive it.

at 09:59AM
Do you have fans?
A few years ago I read a brilliant article on customer loyalty that changed my whole way of thinking. (from You Need Fans, Not Customers - Scott Ginsberg,

Fans crave an experience.
Fans will go to the ends of the earth for you.
Fans will stick with you, even when you make a mistake.
Fans don't need to be sold.
Fans tell all their friends to become fans of yours too.

Immediately we adapted a new adage that would attract FANS not just customers. Our tag line "work with people who love what they do" gave us the momentum to change our attitude in how we wanted to service our clients. And now when we become fans of suppliers, hotels, and partners we look for that same "love".

Today I thought I would share with you some of the partners, places and people that have me as a FAN.

I am a FAN of...
Scott always provides fast access to new ideas and there are NO hassles when dealing with him. It’s the little things like tracking his shipments so that he tells you minute by minute when your delivery will arrive.

on the mark
Experts in team learning experiences, the creative crew at on the mark has been helping our Canadian 

and US clients for 7 years. We continue to work with them because they consistently provide creative one of a kind experiences with a professional attitude. 

Massage on Wheels
Carrie and her well trained team get the true meaning of service. 
They are always friendly, courteous and helpful. They treat attendees like you would a guest in your home. 

On the way to becoming a FAN of...

The brand spanking new Ritz Carlton Hotel Toronto

Their legendary service training principles make them outstanding leaders in the hotel industry. My brief experience at the hotel this week was delicious and delightful. My "radar is on and my antenna is up" and it is saying - the Ritz Toronto is going to earn many FANS.

Still a FAN no matter what...
Okay here it is – I am going to put it in print for the whole world to read. I am a fan of Charlie Sheen. Two and Half Men is one of my favorite TV programs and my husband and I share a few laughs together after a busy day watching reruns a few times a week. Though Charlie has perhaps taken his outspokenness to shocking extremes – he has talent and more importantly he still makes me laugh out loud and to me that emotional response is what will hold my loyalty. And I am not alone. With 2,494 711+ twitter followers and despite the tiger blood - Charlie Sheen still has a definite fan base.

at 12:25PM
I have always loved contracts
Not sure if it was because I watched too many episodes of LA Law in the 80’s, but before I entered the world of events and conferences I actually wrote the LSATS ready to venture into a law career. I have always loved contracts - dissecting them is fun and challenging!

I have spent the last few weeks reviewing quite a few hotel contracts for the upcoming year and thought I would share some points with all of you that I have always found useful.

My first boss (we are talking about 25 years ago) taught me these cardinal rules for hotel contracts:

1. Don't be afraid to voice your concerns and ask questions

For example:

The term “Ancillary Charges” is a bit scary. Ask the questions
  • Are these charges for meeting room rental and/or setup?
  • Is it per day or for the duration?
  • Is there a fee for “extensive” meeting room set-ups or room turnovers?

Get confirmed prices for what these charges are.

Surcharges and other fees that seem vague
  • Are these surcharges for not using in-house vendors?
  • Can this fee be waived?

If it is not clear – get the terms defined.

2. Let your wishes be known

Before I even ask for a contract, I put forth my wishes and ask for them to be included into the contract.

For example:

One complimentary room per 40 revenue-producing rooms actually utilized is a common concession, but how do you want this to benefit you?
  • Spell out how you want the comps to be calculated (on a cumulative or per-night basis) Cumulative is one of my favorite words.
  • Stipulate that you want them to be credited to the master account instead of assigning them to individual guests.

Let your hotel sales person know exactly what you want to be included into the contract. I treat the first contract I get as a draft.

3. Personalize your Concessions

Depending on the size of the group and the amount of revenue you are bringing to the hotel, concessions can vary so much.

Think about what the particular group really needs
  • If you know you have 8 board members attending your meeting perhaps it would be better to ask for 8 upgrades instead of 3 suites.
  • I always try to include a few rooms at a staff rate. Staff members tend to come in earlier and stay later and this extra discount helps your staffing budget.
  • Don’t forget to state the duration of the desired concession – if you need those 8 rooms for pre and post nights - says so. Be clear on what you need.

Go beyond complimentary rooms
  • If your group needs to distribute a welcome note to all attendees, you may want to add this into the contract and ask for them to be given out at the front desk when guests check in.
  • Complimentary or discounted parking rates.
  • Complimentary or discounted internet access both in guest rooms and in meetings.

What will help your group the most?
  • Receive "best" rates on guest rooms, and have those rates applicable to the group for three days pre and post of meeting. These rates should include the stipulation that the group is guaranteed the lowest rates that the hotel will offer during that time period, and if the hotel lowers the rate, they will guarantee that the group’s rate will be reduced to remain the lowest rates.
Make sure you take the time to review and finalize any contract. Don’t take too long to get the deal done. Otherwise, you could find yourself like the NFL and the players association...staring down a negotiation gone bad with little time to fix it. Wouldn't I love a crack at that contract!

A note about negotiation on the "legal stuff" : the technicalities of the legalese in contract can get complex, so if there is something that you don't understand, ask about it and consider hiring a lawyer to help you.
at 09:09AM
Roll Out The Red Carpet of Ideas
Whether you love the Academy Awards or you hate them, I think it's hard to deny that there's something inspiring about them – for me they evoke the need to create something wonderful!

Now we all know the latest fashion trends are going to be copied immediately after they hit the red carpet on Oscar Night – so here are some creative inspirations I found that you can copy and use for your next event.

The Kings Speech
This movie along with the upcoming Royal Nuptials have made both British and Royal themes popular again. Update traditional tea party menus by replacing old cucumber finger sandwiches with an innovative flavor such as Radish-Chive Tea Sandwiches with Sesame and Ginger.

Single malt scotches and scotch tastings will continue in popularity. provides great tips and has a liquid blog that offers tasting notes.

True Grit
Finally - a new way to make that old tired Western theme trendy again! Update your old denim and diamonds events with modern music (try the sound track from Country Strong) You can still use bandanas, straw hats, and gingham for an authentic Wild West flair but try matching white or black square plates to complete the look and add a contemporary feel to your table settings. Forego the daisies and raffia and try pansies in white burlap sacks tied with twine for a fresh new look.

The After Party
Check out the sketch of the room décor for the Governors Ball. Cheryl Cecchetto, along with her Sequoia Productions team promise to bring back the luster and glamour of the great clubs of yesteryear– think the Tropicana, the Rainbow Room and the El Mocambo. The highlight of the evening - a massive Swarovski crystal chandelier will descend from the ceiling.

Speaking of Awards and Inspiration, the CSEME show offers 3 days of event ideas plus the 14th Annual Star Awards honouring event professionals across Canada

Check out the line up of exhibitors and speakers at
at 09:50AM
Fighting the February Blahs
Everyone needs to take a little break at lunch time even if only to explore their favourite links. Here are just a few that I am FAN of ---

For A Quick Brainstorming Session
I am a huge fan of the ignite magazine and read it from cover to cover. But when I need a quick fix, I check out their website for Bright Ideas and Hot Rates and Dates.

Join them on Twitter or check out their site

Vino Virtuoso
Anything that my friend Paul Grieco talks about is seriously fun, spanking new, super satisfying & sometimes scandals (and is most of the time about wine). Among a string of success, Paul owns and runs Terroir Wine Bar in Tribeca. Scanning their wine menu is like taking a wild and mouth-watering stumble around the globe.

Warning: Be prepared to start liking Riesling. Paul has a way of persuading even the most die-hard chardonnay lover into taking a dip or a sip into the world of Riesling.

Check out or follow Paul on Twitter or get hooked on Riesling by tasting the wines Paul suggests in "Riesling: A World Tour"

For Toronto-based Foodies, Check out is your source for delicious ideas and offers daily deals that focus only on food. (Not only restaurants but food boutiques and specialty stores too) I just took advantage of buying a $30 gift certificate for only $14 to use at Masellis Supermarket - a great spot on the Danforth for Italian delicacies.
at 10:13AM
Food for thought
Have you ever been to a reception or stand-up event and wondered what edible delights were being passed around on trays by the wait staff? I bet everyone has had to ask the question "oh what do you have on your tray?"

Next time you are planning an event with plenty of passed food and beverages, plan a little extra in your budget for custom t-shirts for the wait staff. You can describe the food you are serving right on the front or back of the t-shirt.

[Kobe Beef Sliders with Tarragon Aioli and Caramelized Onions]

You can add a sponsor logo too as an added benefit.

If your budget is tight – try an inexpensive name tag for each of the wait 
staff listing their name and what they are serving.

[Hello my name is Kenzi and I am serving Proscuito-wrapped Shrimp with Sambuca and Rosemary]

Giving Ideas Away
I know, I know – everyone does water bottles as a give away but I love these new collapsible water bottles that fit in your pocket!

Check out the Ideavation Facebook page for more styles and photos

at 09:19AM
This week’s Free Idea Friday features
This week’s Free Idea Friday features some great new entertainment options for you.

Tired of the same old – check out these fresh ideas we experienced at the Special Event in Phoenix last week.

Hope these free ideas make your Friday!

The Royal Red Carpet – forget about your traditional boring red carpet, this live carpet flowed from the fabric of this gorgeous model. A spectacular entrance!

Oceana – part opera, part dance, part fountain. This mini show can be used during a reception or in a trade show atmosphere adding intrigue and entertainment.
Watch Video!

Automatic Response – High Energy Dance Troupe This high energy performance is perfect for an opening number and gets the crowd going.
Watch Video!

Flippenout – this extreme trampoline performance offers extreme flips, jumps and stunts which translates to Extreme Entertainment! A great addition to any stage program, outdoor event or trade show and takes up very little space.
Watch Video!
at 03:57PM
Welcome to the inaugural post of Free Idea Friday.

For the past year or so I have been email blitzing clients and colleagues a new idea every Friday. After much pressure from my younger team members who urged me to climb up out of my archival ways, this blog was launched.

There are many things I plan to write about and hopefully they will live up to the name of this blog and prove insightful and helpful to people.

Today I am coming to you live from THE SPECIAL EVENT in Phoenix, Arizona. Here is just a sample of the new ideas we will be bringing you in the coming weeks.

SING takes over where GLEE leaves off
Fans of the popular T.V hit Glee will love this musical act called SING. This ten person cast combines the best of spontaneous “Glee”-style musical arrangements and choreography with the energy and personality you expect from a college singing club. The song list covers a wide variety of popular music; from the Beatles to the Black Eyed Peas.

A mesmerizing story-teller and the top artist in his field, Joe Castillo offers unforgettable one-of-a-kind live performance using sand. Drawing in sand on a light table, Joe is able to create powerful, fluid illustrations for large audiences with an overhead video camera projected on a large screen. People stood around watching him for long periods of time – and that type of attention grabber is no small feat. (We have a demo video you have to see.)

Check back again soon for another completely random sample of the things rattling around in my head. Hopefully something cool will pop out.

Hope my "Free Idea" makes your Friday!
at 11:34AM