Free Idea Fridays!

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
Early Bird gets the worm
Is the deadline for your Early Bird conference rate creeping up? Are you tempted to extend that Early Bird Rate?

This is a dreaded issue for so many of our clients. Here are some reasons why we never recommend it:
  • If people are undecided or putting off the decision, extending the period just gives more time to delay
  • Gives the impression that your event is struggling
  • Frustrates delegates that registered before the early-bird deadline
  • Makes future sales pitches to register harder to sell
  • Sets a precedent that waiting until the last minute pays off

Here are some alternative ideas that you may want to considering before giving into temptation:

Send out an email with the early bird code to only certain groups (explaining that they are getting an extension because they fit into this special group). Consider including:
  • the people who registered last year, but haven't registered for this year
  • sponsors, exhibitors, committee members and/or vendors
  • related or sister associations

Make sales calls and send sales emails - the personal touch. It can be time consuming, but the payoff can be big. Most people had your conference on their to-do list, but reminding them why they should register today will bring it back to the top of the list. Offer to enter their details into the online form while you have them on the phone to secure the registration right away (Everyone loves being treated like they are getting a special favour).

Let people in on some of the new details such as surprise guests, newly added workshops, or door prize announcements. We often see a huge increase after the announcement of a big speaker or celebrity guest. Door prize can be as simple and cost efficient as a copy of the keynote speaker’s book included with their registration.

We also see a rise after we post a list of attendees to date on the website – a "Look Who’s Coming" type list that can list delegates or simply company names and organizations. I am not sure if this is a result of guilt, envy or pure peer pressure – but it works!

Adding a second tier price break sometimes works better than extending an early bird deadline especially if you want to promote this on your website. If you really feel that extending a price break is needed, then consider making it in between the early and regular rate. For example, the Early Bird deadline went up by $250, then go up to $125 as an interim promo on your website. This ensures that people who registered early still get the greatest benefit.
at 10:10AM
With construction slotted to begin this spring, debate has been
aggressive in recent days about the express Air Rail Link (ARL) from downtown Toronto to Pearson International Airport. Debate fumes mainly over anticipated cost, number of stops included on the line and the use of diesel powered trains. Yes DIESEL - seriously

I know how hard it is just to run my small business so I don’t have any delusions about being able to solve the problems of a the 2nd largest province in Canada let alone manage a deficit budget in the billions of dollars (17.7 billion to be exact). But DIESEL - seriously?

Now don’t get me wrong, we need this train. If anything it is embarrassingly overdue (30 years overdue). Smaller, less popular convention destinations across the world have had some sort of mass transit to their airports for decades. Surely with so much time to create and apply a plan, more forethought could have been applied to develop a proposal to implement all-electric trains in time for the Pan Am Games, instead of the proposed electrification 5 years after the fact. The giant concrete supports for the platform that would greet these incoming trains have been in place at Pearson Airport since 2004. There has been nothing but time - to conduct studies, environmental impact assessments, project viable timelines and even encourage constructive debate across political arenas. So DIESEL - seriously?

When completed, travel time between Union Station and Pearson will be approximately 25 minutes. I am sensible enough to recognize that solar power and wind turbines and magical fairy dust made from millions of tons of garden compost won’t be able to reach those speeds. But DIESEL - seriously?

I do know that Ontario is a global leader in renewable energy and environmental efficiency – the province supports over 2,800+ environmental industry companies that generate approximately $7 billion in revenue employs 65,000 people. So DIESEL - seriously?

I am open to comments on this one -

at 09:43AM
Displaying results 51-60 (of 79)
 |<  <  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8  >  >|