Free Idea Fridays!

An Oldie but a Goodie - 007 turns 50
It's a great time to choose a James Bond theme night for your next event. November 2012 marks the 50th Birthday of the 007 franchise with the release of Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond Film.

Bond themes transcend time and can be matched to every decade. The theme is also universal - you would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t seen or heard of the iconic spy through movies, novels or comic books. There’s no other film franchise that’s been able to endure at the same level for 50 years. Think about it - almost everything fits into a Bond theme - martinis, roulette, fast cars, cigars, money, planes, helicopters and espionage.

From glamorous ballrooms, to sandy beaches and snow-capped mountains, or even airplane hangars - the settings are endless. Attire can range from diamonds to bikinis to fur parkas.

Entertainment options are also plentiful from casino games, acrobats, sultry jazz singers, fighter jet or Formula1 simulators plus gold painted bond girls and vodka ice luges.

Even the Bond theme songs are a smorgasbord of the best songs of the last 5 decades - sung by such leading performers of their era as Shirley Bassey ("Goldfinger"), Nancy Sinatra ("You Only Live Twice"), Paul McCartney and Wings ("Live and Let Die"), Carly Simon ("Nobody Does It Better") and Sheena Easton ("For Your Eyes Only"), each consistently recognized on the pop music charts. Duran Duran's "A View to a Kill" became the first Bond song to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

A good Bond theme is also achievable with a variety of budgets from simple fun to over the top extravagance. (Think helicopter stunt from the opening of the London Olympics)

For all you Bond aficionados– the TIFF Bell Lightbox is featuring Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style. This exhibit features everything Bond in different sections: from prosthetic makeup, through furniture designs, designs of stunts, designs of clothing and designs of gadgets. Actually, you don’t even have to be a Bond fan to enjoy this exhibit – it has something for everyone (fashionista to gadget geek).

The Bond franchise has always been associated with cutting edge design, fashion, technology, cars and sophisticated glamour. The Bond theme party is a chance for you to step out and glam it up and have some fun. Bring out your inner Bond Girl, Villain or Bond character from any of the Bond films.
at 09:51AM
Back to School with some fun apps
With the hustle and bustle of the back-to-school season, we thought would be helpful to share some of our favourite apps that make our lives a little easier.

Shawna recommends "Find my iPhone" for those scary moments when you can't find your phone. This app will help you determine whether it's actually missing or just misplaced. If your phone is just lost in the couch – the app can instruct your handset to blast a sound for 2 minutes at full volume – even if it is set on silent mode. If it gets stolen – this app can even remotely instruct the personal data in your phone’s storage to self-destruct.

Jimmy has so many favourites it was difficult for him to narrow down the list – here are just a few:
  • Instagram - A social network for displaying photos
  • Urbanspoon - A restaurant search engine with reviews recommendations etc.
  • Eat Street - An app based on the popular TV show, displays food truck locations, reviews etc.

Rachel is our "go to girl" in the office for apps and suggests you try one of these:

Gemma loves Shazam because it is quick and easy to use. Just hold your phone up to the music or TV and within seconds you’ll get more information like the name of the track and artist, lyrics, videos, special offers, exclusive content and more – straight to your smartphone. (really useful for those “oh man, I love this song, what is it?!” moments) The popular version for iPhones is - SoundHound - instant music search and discovery. Names a tune playing from a speaker in as little as four seconds - and even works if you sing or hum!

With 3 daughters in university, it is not surprising that Hanna find this banking app from Scotia very useful. You can pay school tuition, transfer money for textbooks from another account, etc. using your phone. Parents can transfer money from their account to kids' linked accounts in cases of emergency.,,317,00.html?cid=keyEAO_SEM_1BA_AD1_ENG_004

Charmaine’s favorite app is MapQuest – free app that speaks to you telling you where to turn. Turn on location services to find your nearest hotel, restaurant, postal service or ice cream shop.

And she can't live without her Flashlight app – the brightest and most handy flash light free of charge for smart phone users. Never search for that flashlight again!

Lyne now uses WhatsApp – no more checking voicemail! Just text or even better send an audio or video note, saving the recipient the tedious task of logging into voicemails to hear your message.

And finally, in case you want to stalk some celebs this weekend roaming around downtown Toronto for TIFF – check out this app for following the comings and goings of all your favourite movie stars.
at 09:58AM
CSR - A fresh idea for teambuilding
Last month at the CHMSE Luncheon, I was fortunate to chat with Andrew Long. - Andrew Long’s company - specializes in corporate events that are designed to enhance teamwork and decision-making skills via fun and challenging activities. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to pick his creative brain on what was hot and new in the world of team building. Doing some "good" is a recurring theme in our blog postings and what Andrew has to say went along with many of our own values.

DZ: What is the latest trend in team building and engaging a group of co-workers?

AL: Recently, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has emerged and is affecting events, especially corporate events. CSR manifests itself in a number of ways within events and has also had an impact on team building activities.

DZ: I've been pushing this idea to clients for a while – tell me why it is taking off now:

AL: CSR is a deliberate effort by a company to have a positive impact on the community, the environment, consumers, employees and other stakeholders. Companies are increasingly seeking to incorporate CSR into their events because it is another way for the company to demonstrate its CSR endeavors.

DZ: That is the tricky part, isn’t it? Doing "GOOD" is often challenging – tell me how you incorporated CSR into some of your programs:

AL: We toyed with the “build-a-bike” idea in which participants assemble bicycles for charity, but the problem we ran into was how to do that in locations around North America as well as how to make it a true team activity. We also had the idea that people could do community projects. We’d contact organizations in the local market and try to find someone who needed a large group of people for an afternoon. It was actually harder to come up with projects of this nature than we expected.

Then we landed on the idea of Pay It Forward. Participants are split into teams, given a quantity of money, and the mandate is to go out for several hours and "do good" in the local community. We look for the creativity of their ideas, the number of people they’ve potentially impacted and the insights they can generate. For example, one group bought flowers, gave them to strangers and asked them to "Flower it Forward"!

DZ: And your famous Scavenger Hunts - were you able to combine some of the CSR principles into those?

AL: Yes, we knew that our next step really needed to be how to incorporate CSR into our corporate scavenger hunts. We created a "Pay It Forward Add-On" aspect to our scavenger hunts. It is a mini-version of our full Pay It Forward activity and participants like it because it adds a unique element to our classic scavenger hunt offering.

For more about Corporate Social Responsibility, check out:

You can reach Andrew by connecting via his websites:
at 09:42AM
By the way - did I forget to mention?
A few weeks ago I wrote about how knowledge yields real power. So what happens if those "in the know" don’t share the knowledge you need to do your job properly?

I’m in Ottawa this week for a client program we do on an annual basis. It is a good piece of business for any hotel and the "spend" on both bedrooms and food & beverage is substantial for a 3 day conference in mid-August.

Our pre-con with the hotel was professional, run of the mill standard stuff…..nothing unusual…well at least nothing unusual at the time was mentioned to us.

A short day and half later, we noticed the first of what was to be a series of blips:
  • RCMP security dogs sweeping meeting room space-a sure indication that a dignitary is soon to visit.
  • Dozens of tall, burly men with ear pieces talking into their sleeve and roaming around our registration area

Still, we were only told minimal details from the hotel which led to further disruptions for us:
  • Elevators being interrupted without notice for various lengths of time
  • Our registration desk dismantled from right underneath our feet
  • Traffic in the porte-cochère being stalled for mysterious dark glassed limousines
  • Dozens of traffic police officers on motorcycles (stopping both pedestrian and vehicle traffic)
  • Road closures around the whole perimeter of the hotel
  • Our buses diverted indefinitely

Without prior knowledge, we could do nothing. We were limited in our reaction to rectify the challenges thrown at us and could only take direction from the dozen or so officers on security detail in front of the hotel.

This was not some top-secret mission. Coverage from all the major news outlets featured headline photos and video clips of the visiting dignitary every day this week. So - why the lack of disclosure?

Listen up to all the hoteliers out there – this is the type of thing you should share with your client in a timely manner to ensure that there are no surprises!

Lesson learned - add the following question to your pre-con checklist (especially in Ottawa) - Will there be any disruptions caused by any visiting dignitaries? (Room set-up, slow-down of elevators, traffic out on the drive-way, potential road closures and security sweeps)
at 10:06AM
Back from Eventworld with FRESH IDEAS
Rachel and I are just back from the ISES Eventworld in Dallas with some fresh ideas to share with you!

We have all seen those giant greeters (or a least everyone trying to do them). Here is a fantastic one! Mixed with some pyro this created quite an impression even to a bunch of jaded event professionals.

Check out this 12 ft. oversized singing live character from Champagne Creative Group:

Talking heads and painted statues have been around for a while but here is a new take on the idea with a great musical component which combines rock & roll and live breathing art:

Check out Wise Guys for more cool stuff

On a related note we came back with some major hardware to add to our trophy case - An ISES Esprit Award for our work on the Mortgage Forum and Expo '11 for the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals. Many thanks go out to our amazing suppliers – Stronco Show Services, AV CANADA, Inorbital, Hume, Ideavation and the team at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

at 11:20AM
London Calling
Excitement is mounting and I can’t wait to see what London does for the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremonies.

Even in this age of Twitter, the British can keep a secret. When details of the opening ceremony started to leak out earlier this summer, Games organizers made keeping the secret a matter of national pride with a #savethesurprise hash tag. It was broadcast on the big screens throughout the rehearsal. Mums' the word!

Here’s what I have dug up on the top secret details:
  • A cast of 15,000
  • Several farmyard animals will be featured including 12 horses, 3 cows, 2 goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, 9 geese, 70 sheep and 3 sheep dogs.
  • Mary Poppins having a go at Harry Potter’s Voldemort
  • The director is British film and theater director Danny Boyle, who won the best director Oscar for his film "Slumdog Millionaire" in 2009. He also is the man behind "Trainspotting" so you know the music is going to be amazing
  • British humour will play a big part (really not sure how they will pull that off)
  • There will be a Shakespearian element
  • 007 is sure to make an appearance
  • A million watt sound system (oh I am starting to get goose bumps)
  • The identity of the final torch bearer is shrouded with rumor – my bet is on British soccer and style icon David Beckham bending a soccer ball like only Becks can to light the flame!

The highly anticipated ceremony will take place on Friday, July 27 at 9 p.m. London Time, which is 4 p.m. ET.

The ceremony will air on NBC in the US or CTV in Canada at 7 p.m. ET.
at 07:41AM
Cooking up some new ideas
With the popularity of cooking shows and reality cooking escapades, celebrity chefs are just that - CELEBRITIES.

Here are a few ideas on how you can incorporate this cooking craze into your next event:

  • Here, your guests actually don aprons and work side-by-side to help the chef with the cooking.

  • Within a demonstration kitchen, your group watches and listens while the chef prepares a meal right in front of everyone. You can pair this with a wine tasting if the event is more social in nature.

Keynote Presentations:
  • Many speaker bureaus are listing celebrity chefs on their rosters. Chefs are passionate, run their kitchens like iron ships and many are experienced entrepreneurs who can touch on many motivational themes.

Even having a celebrity chef at one of your food stations during a reception or serving up gourmet burgers at your company picnic is a welcome surprise for any party goer. No matter what the method, celebrity chefs are engaging, humorous and can add a playful flavour to any event.

How to choose the right chef? Keep these points in mind:
  • It is important that the chef possesses a strong television personality to create a buzz amongst your invited guests and the media.
  • The chef needs to have a book, television show or signature product lines as this helps add to the excitement.
  • Including a complimentary autographed cookbook for all your guests adds longevity to the experience
  • Try to match the chef to your theme – if you are concentrating on a "local flavour" try to get a chef that specializes in foods from that particular city or region.
  • Many chefs support their favourite charity and if your event has a philanthropic component that matches a certain chef – you have a winning recipe.
at 03:48PM
Knowledge is Power
We were in Chicago last week for a client program. We were at a high-end luxury hotel. The service was exceptional, the food was good, the bedrooms were comfortable and the meeting space was perfect for our group. Good all-around with one huge exception - it was one of those hotels that charges you to use the electricity coming out of the wall. Of course, this is not a new issue nor is it limited to Chicago. On a recent program in San Francisco a unionized worker tried to explain to us that we were in fact taking away a job from an employee by plugging in our own registration equipment.

I completely understand the position of the venue to have policies in place in the interest of safety or law, or in order to avoid misuse. This is fair and reasonable - but we are not talking about rigging thousands of pounds of amps ourselves or about us getting up on a scissor lift to hang Leko lights – we are talking about plugging a laptop computer and basic printer into a pre-existing wall socket. What’s next – will there be a pad lock on the light switches in each meeting room – a pay as you go rate on power?

Unions are in the business of fighting for worker’s rights – that is not going to change anytime soon. It is very rare to find a hotel or convention center without unionized staff – so how do we fight for the rights of our clients while respecting the union rules?

Here are some quick tips for you:

The detective work has to begin at the RFP (Request for Proposals). Ask all your questions up front at this stage before even entering into contract negotiations.
  • Ask for a list of all preferred suppliers.
  • Ask about exclusive suppliers and the penalties incurred for bringing in your own supplier. Some exclusive in-house AV providers force you to pay for their head technician to just shadow your AV technician.
  • Ask whether the hotel uses union labor (and which departments). If so, make sure you know the hotel’s labor policies so you don’t run into extra fees. For example if the housemen are unionized, this could result in extra labor charges for room flips overnight.
  • Ask about fees for security guards, extra electrical hookups, and cleaning especially if you have any type of exhibition in your program even a small table top display. (It could end up costing thousands more.)
  • Ask for rates for shipping and receiving and box delivery charges. (Getting this waived may be a great concession to ask for if you know your group has lots of deliveries.)
  • Ask about Internet charges. (For me this is the greatest variable and we see the prices for this fluctuate greatly from city to city and even property to property within one city – there is no standard.) You can try to at least get internet charges waived for your office, general session room or registration desk.
  • Ask about taxes, surcharges and gratuities.

If working with a convention center you should ask for the facility’s operating policies & procedures manual to review fees and policies that are not always apparent when booking the space. These come to light only after the contract is signed. If you wait for the contract stage to find out about preferred suppliers and unionized regulations, you might be too far down the road to turn back.

When all this information is collected during the RFP process, you then have the KNOWLEDGE you need to negotiate your own clauses into the contract. It also ensures you are getting the best possible price and service by preserving your right to shop around.

George Tsimidis, Account Executive at AVW-TELAV Audio Visual Solutions also advocates doing plenty of research and keeping your options open. He recommends reading this article from Convene before you write your next RFP:

Don’t get left in the dark – know your stuff and make your venue choice based on all the right information!

If you like this blog posting – check out the March 4, 2011 (Loving Contracts) for more helpful tips.
at 10:51AM
Brilliant talent on display at Royal Jubilee Concert
We all know that the behind-the-scenes crew of sound, lighting and special effects, rarely gets the praise they deserve but I was so blown away by the Queen’s Jubilee Concert this past week that I had to give a big shout out to all the amazing talent involved with this incredible event.

The world (literally, since millions watch on broadcasts from around the world) descended on Buckingham Palace, while millions more jammed the Mall and surrounding parks, watching the concert live on giant screens.

The concert was organized as a joint venture between the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and Take That singer-songwriter Gary Barlow, who spent two years planning the event. I was a bit surprised the BBC’s involvement was so extensive (Let us just say that I never thought it would be what a "weary" national broadcaster would do best). I was wrong – the event was anything but lackluster.

Thanks to dramatic special effects, the royal residence's facade was magically transformed into a whimsical backdrop for an array of music legends. (The line-up included the most diverse array of UK talent – Elton John, Tom Jones, Robbie Williams, Annie Lennox and Paul McCartney, plus a few imports like Stevie Wonder)

Understandably the Queen wore earplugs. Her tastes lie more with the best of classical music which also played a big part at the concert, in the form of opera star Alfie Boe, soprano Renee Fleming and virtuoso pianist Lang Lang.

Mark Fisher - who has toured with the Rolling Stones and U2, putting together their monumental stage shows - was responsible for the event’s staging and lighting, including the specially constructed theatre-in-the-round stage with canopy that was built incorporating the Queen Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace.

Meanwhile, pyro technician Michael Lakin who is the firework director at Starlight Designs from London was the man at the controls for the incredible final four-minute fireworks display using some 4,000 fireworks, fired off in 2,000 individual cues.

Both men are well-known events professionals at the very top of their respective games, staging events across the globe for the world's biggest organizations and acts.

Small photos would not do this spectacle justice, instead I found this great article from the UK’s Daily Mail that has a wide assortment of photos showing the fireworks, the screens up the Mall, the incredible stage and the projection on Buckingham Palace.

Worth a few minutes to take a look at -

I can’t wait to see what London pulls off for the Olympics!
at 02:52PM
It’s a piece of cake...or cupcake
Cakes and celebration have been synonymous for centuries. Never out of fashion, a cake can add merriment to every occasion (even corporate events).

So how do you get the most "bang for your buck" when incorporating a cake into your next celebration?

Here are a few suggestions for marking that special corporate milestone with a cake:
  • Don't just limit it to anniversaries; think about including a cake for new product/company launches or initiatives, grand openings and other special milestones like adding a new franchise location.
  • Make it memorable – the designs are limitless these days (I have seen everything from telephones to elephants to custom cars to hot dogs, all life-like and deliciously edible. One of my favorite sites for inspiration is out of New York. Her creations are works of art.
  • Include your logo, anniversary and/or corporate message
  • Hire a photographer and/or videographer to make the significance of the achievement last
  • Have a cake for show and another for eating and always have enough cake to serve the anticipated number of guests
  • Parading in a cake is a bit too 80s for me and rolling in a cake for a cutting ceremony requires precise timing and pre planning. Instead, make the cake a focal point of your event room – a location where everyone will be able to see it (let them gush over it and take photos).

Let’s not forget about the cake’s little sister – the cupcake’s popularity is still going strong. There's something so whimsically childlike about unwrapping a cupcake, getting frosting on your nose as that first bite melts in your mouth.

If the notion of serving cupcakes instead of cake just doesn’t have the right “feel” to you, I should point out that presentation is everything. Check out this Cupcake Dress Character courtesy of A2D2 ~ Aerial Dance Cirque Company in Toronto.

Oh and one more thing when it comes to this sweet battle - if you think cupcakes will save you money, think again. Remember cupcakes are just as much work - if not more - than a traditional cake. Every single one of those suckers has to be baked and iced and decorated.

What you get with cupcakes is the flexibility to serve a variety of flavors and textures. You can create cupcakes in any theme. For instance, if you are doing a 60’s party for a corporate anniversary party, you may want to serve food indicative of that decade. You can also take a more traditional “old-fashion” dessert like Baked Alaska and put a modern twist on it by serving it in a cupcake version (TV drama “Mad Men” has prompted retro-themed parties that often include Baked Alaska on the menu giving this nostalgic dessert a rebirth in popularity by adding 21st century flare making it fresh and new. Even cupcake liners offer a variety of prints- from leopard to floral to plaid - matching any theme.

A fairly recent trend I see more and more these days is the cake lollipop. Basically cake pops are small cake balls on lollipop sticks. They are made by mixing cake crumbs with icing, rolling into balls, dipping in melted candy or chocolate, popped on a stick and decorated into many different cute shapes.

Let your guests it cake (in all forms) because let’s face it, everyone can use a bit more cake in their life.
at 11:35AM
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