Free Idea Fridays!

When did THIRD-PARTY PLANNER become a dirty word?
Recently while managing a program in Kelowna BC, I was made to feel like the “ugly second cousin” at the party, unworthy of my presence and blatantly ridiculed for being a “third party planner”.  Basically, I was seen and treated like some bit player.

Yes - I know it sounds like a page out of a Jane Austin novel but it got me thinking… When did THIRD PARTY PLANNER become a whispered dirty word?

Without naming names (let’s just say this venue’s mission is wine) my experience was BAD.  If I had the opportunity to rate it, I would have given it a half star.
I brought the business to this venue; there were so many I could have otherwise selected.  I signed the contract. I paid the bill. I had the authority to pick all the details for my client of 17 years. Yet I was neither the client nor the planner – I was simply the THIRD-PARTY PLANNER in the eyes of the arrogant and condescending in-house staff.

With over 25 years of experience in the business, I’d like to think I have a pretty good idea of how things work.  Over this time, I have established strong and long-term working relationships throughout the industry….and yes, a few detractors when it was necessary to stand up for my clients.  I get that.  But this situation was not based on anything other than the fact that I was merely a third-party planner and in the eyes of a misguided holy grail on the hill of wineries – not worthy of respect or even acknowledgement.
Hoteliers and now, more increasingly, event and meeting venues sometimes consider working with a third-party planner as a necessary evil, almost like having to swim with sharks. We are generally considered tough negotiators protecting our clients from negotiating the contracts, to execution to final billing.  What they fail to realize is that our job, and our reputation, is to deliver results to our client, the very people we have been mandated by to work with hotels and event/meeting venues because they don’t want the hassle; they want to be entirely focused on the content of a meeting, the people attending and the impact the event/meeting has on their corporate reputation.  Who better than the third-party event planner knows what the client wants, and how a particular event venue ties in with the rest of that client’s program. 
Tough negotiators – YES!              Bit players – NO!
When a hotel or venue takes the time to work with a third-party planner and establishes a strong working relationship with them, that planner can be an extension of your salesforce, and over time, become a partner, a loyal supporter and even a client delivering more groups and events to your venue.

On the flip side, if you upset a third-party planner, it’s unlikely they will bring business your way again.  EVER.  That would be a Mission impossible.
Hope my “Free Idea” makes your Friday!
at 02:34PM
Fresh Ideas for Spring
Just finished the Loblaw Health and Wellness conference for their pharmacy, dietitian and optical teams and thought I would share some photos from the weekend of some of our latest ideas!

This year's theme was health and wellness – so we tried to incorporate that in everything we did.

Gif Photo Booth
The cooking photo op was a fun twist on the traditional photo booth with fruits and veggies flying the kitchen. 


Digital Colouring Book
The digital colouring book was a hit at the opening reception.

Therapeutic Paws Petting Zone and Surfset Yoga                    
We had a dog petting area and surfboard challenge. The volunteers from Therapeutic Paws came in with dogs for soothing petting sessions with different dogs throughout the day. Many of the delegates went to the surf boards on their breaks for a stretching session and to try out this new exercise craze.
Fruitful Centerpieces
Finally, we did some great fruit/flowers and veggies/flowers for the awards dinner (daffodils/carrots, lemons/snapdragons, plus cherry tomatoes/tulips). Cheap and cheerful for tight budgets!

Have a healthy Spring!
Hope my “Free Idea” makes your Friday!

at 03:03PM
Tech Bar- an interactive way to showcase new tech gadgets in your industry.
Tech Bar is intercative, gives a learning experience in a fun way, and can give added exposure to your sponsors and exhibitors. 

Interactive Content Station 


If some of your sponsors are in the products game, consider creating an interactive content station (or even a TECH BAR), similar to sections in electronics stores where you can get hands-on time with a product. Why separate these options from sponsor booths? Because sometimes attendees want to explore the products without automatically hearing the sales pitch.
Instead, keep a handful of skilled station hosts available to make sure everything is operating correctly, and then let the visitors try out the products on their own. You can even add some fun by having available tech feature games, contests, or challenges for participants to partake in.
The idea is to create a comfortable space where attendees can explore a sponsor’s latest tech in a neutral space, because sometimes a low-pressure, soft sell approach is incredibly effective.

It can be as simple as learn to type topics like:

  • iPad shortcuts, tips, tricks and usage
  • How do I move pics and docs to the cloud?
  • Break Your Excel Habit and Choose the RIGHT Tool for the Task
  • Apps to Better Your Work-Life Balance

Or topics that are geared more to your business sector like

  • Twitter for Sales Professionals
  • Top 10 Apps-on-the-Go: Apps that help when you are OOO [Out-of-office]
  • Get Live on Video Streaming

at 12:33PM
Happy Birthday Canada! You're Looking Good.

Happy New Year everyone! This year more than ever, we are excited to celebrate the place we call home. 

As Canada reflects and prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary, we are hard at work thinking of innovative ways to celebrate Canada through our upcoming conferences this year. From small details to awe-inspiring moments, our team is working to celebrate our country’s milestone while consistently exceeding the expectations of our clients. When brainstorming, think of ways to incorporate your theme, in this case Canada’s 150th, into every aspect of your planning. For example, this year for the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships Conference (also known as P3), we recommended launching the registration website in June to provide delegates with the opportunity of an early bird special expiring on July 1st. Just one of the many loot bags Canada will be giving away at its birthday this year.

A few other ideas include:
  • Finding programs already established by the Canadian government that can be incorporated into your events such as:  Canada 150&Me which provides youth an opportunity to travel and discover Canada. 
  • Create your own poll/ survey asking the question: What are the legacies we want to build for the next 150 years?
  • Create a Trailblazer Award. Nominations can be submitted by conference attendees and the award will go to the individual with the most votes. This person would be seen as an Ontarian of our generation who in 150 years would be remembered as a Trailblazer. If possible, you can also invite the Trailblazer to speak at the conference they are representing.


My favourite thing in Canada’s birthday loot bag is Capri Everitt, an 11 year old who represents what it means to be Canadian. Capri sang our National Anthem this past November at our Mortgage Professionals National Conference and we knew right away the impact she could have at our upcoming events. This 11 year old singer, speaker and Youth Ambassador for SOS Children’s Villages travelled to 80 countries where she sang the national anthem of each country in their native language to raise money and awareness for orphaned and abandoned children. This talented young lady also provides us with the opportunity to put a personal touch on our events. The P3 conference welcomes public and private sector participants from across the world. Through registration we can pin point the country our delegate’s represent and have Capri sing a part of their national anthem as a way to welcome them to Canada. Having Capri Everitt at your event would provide a memorable experience and a friendly Canadian reminder of what we all stand for.

Check out her website below:


 Lastly, The Government of Canada revealed its award winning logo to celebrate Canada’s birthday and it’s available to use for free! Of course, if you do plan on using it for commercial use, you will need to receive approval and provide examples of how it will be used. Just another detail to add to our upcoming events.
canada-black-1.jpg canada-white-2.jpg canada-colour-3.jpgcanada-red-4.jpg

Happy Birthday, Canada. Make a wish. We hope it’s the best one yet.
Enjoy planning the biggest birthday part of the year! 

Guest blogger: Jessica Gonçalves 
at 11:22AM
Begin with the End in Mind...
I believe that all good events start at the end.  It’s important to start thinking of how to evaluate your event right from the planning stage.  There is always room for improvements and more planning – and that's where the post-event evaluation comes in. 
Here are some tips to go beyond just the “survey” results:
  • Don’t wait too long to conduct an event debrief. If possible, hold the meeting the week after the event so you can have your analysis and action plan completed within the month following your event.
  • Don’t shy away from the hard questions – review the good, the bad and the ugly.
  • Don’t forget to survey your support team, on-site staff and volunteers (whoever helped you execute the event).  The responses you get from them will clue you in to the amount of staff you need for next year and how programming was received – remember they were your eyes and ears throughout the event.
  • Don’t forget about one-on-one interviews with key stakeholders.  Talking to lead sponsors, major exhibitors, your speakers, your committee or board members, your venue contacts and your suppliers. These interviews will generally allow you to probe more deeply and ask more “open” questions. This technique is time consuming but worthwhile.
Finally, solutions are the key to your success.  The whole evaluation process is useless if it simply remains a stagnate document.  Start taking the steps necessary to improving next year’s event immediately. For every major stumbling block, brainstorm with the team and delegate someone to use the team’s input to generate a list of possible solutions. Ask that person to research the issue, review the brainstorming ideas, and develop a plan of action for the next event. Hold a follow-up meeting with the same invitees, asking each participant to present their strategies so they can be refined by the group if necessary.
The list of stumbling blocks along with their possible solutions will be a valuable resource for next year’s event.

Hope my “Free Idea” makes your Friday!

Happy New Year and all the Best for 2017!
at 12:46PM
Malta and Gozo- a Meeting Planner's Dream
In Malta the saying goes that there is something magnetic in the rocks that keep you coming back time and time again.  
Here are some pics to prove that Malta/Gozo is worth having on your radar.
Through some collegues from the Protocol & Diplomacy International – Protocol Officers Association (PDI-POA), we were able to have an audience with the President of the Republic of Malta - Her Excellency Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca.
Through some collegues from the Protocol & Diplomacy International – Protocol Officers Association (PDI-POA), we were able to have an audience with the President of the Republic of Malta - Her Excellency Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca.

The Edge of the world in Gozo

Pretty and delicious food

Hospitality on every corner

History, Religion and Culture

Water Activities and Beautiful Beaches

Did I mention food?

Mdina Glass – an artful tradition

Hope my “Free Idea” makes your Friday!
at 10:28AM
Canadian Talent SHINES!
We're very excited to share the news that Stacey Kay will be on America's Got Talent on Tuesday, June 16th.
The show airs on City TV locally in Toronto at 8:00 pm, and all NBC stations and affiliates across North America, which will provide a ton of exposure for Stacey and her talents.  
We have been a big supporter of Stacey and we knew she was the girl to watch!
Tune in to see Stacey audition for the judges Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Mel B and Howard Stern, and make sure you are following Stacey on Twitter @StaceyKayMusic as she will be sending out live tweets throughout the show with the hashtag #AGT.
Check out this cover of Meaghan Trainer’s All about that Bas:

Check out more of Stacey on her website:
Hope my “Free Idea” makes your Friday!
at 03:03PM
Those who have read my blog regularly know that I have a sort of love/hate relationship with technology, but with OCE’s Discovery just around the corner I am getting pumped up by the enormous and awe inspiring display of invention and ingenuity the show has to offer, from wearable technology, to smart home appliances, 3D printers, robots, drones, smart cars and advancing tech including such issues as artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.

One thing is abundantly clear to me; innovators, no matter what sector, continue to dream big, creating products and services that push beyond what we once thought imaginable.
While some of us are still getting used to the technology from last year, others are moving recklessly into a world where everything you wear, drive and touch in your home, hotels and shops is connected via the Internet.

So why do I feel uncomfortable with the pace of innovation?  I guess the analytical side of me wants to test it, make it prove itself to me as a long running contender; make it show me that I can trust it.  But after all the kinks have been worked out – am I too late?  When it becomes commonplace then is it not just another dusty old relic?

Add in the vast number of new technologies out there for the event industry and my uneasiness jolts to science fiction level horror.  Everyone claims to have the latest and greatest and taking that leap of faith is as daunting as Frankenstein taking his first step.

I am not sure I can lead you out of this black hole of mayhem, but as with any predicament I revert back to simple non-tech decision making with good old sensible research:  
  • Take every opportunity to learn about anything that is new that can help your business and your clients
  • What do you or your client or event really need from technology?  …seriously - maybe your client’s conference is not ready for beacon tracking their attendees
  • What is your budget?  … realistically
  • What device, app, system gives you the most bang for the buck? …and will actually be used by attendees
  • Learn from your suppliers reaching out to audio visual partners and special effects professionals.

So for right now I am TECHish – loving technology with a skittish caution.  

Come back in a few weeks and the aNd team will give you their picks for latest and greatest apps, gadgets and dongles.


Hope my “Free Idea” makes your Friday!

at 04:29PM
Peddling for Pennies…lots and lots of pennies

One of the most common and frequent questions I get from clients is ``What’s NEW in sponsorship?``
Money doesn’t grow on trees and raising funds through sponsorships demands attention- grabbing stuff.

Here are a few ideas we have recently added to our idea bank which offer uniqueness and great exposure.


Good old tap water


Water-on-Wheels is a Canadian-owned business provides mobile water refill stations to festivals, concerts, conventions, charity events, sporting events, runs, and races in Ontario and across Canada.
Great & Green visibility

Breakfast of Champions


Custom Cereal Boxes provide a fun and cheerful way to greet attendees for those early morning meetings.
Ideavation did this one for us last year.


Tea for Two, or three or 400


Teabot – this robotic kiosk allows busy conference attendees to order a custom cup of loose-leaf tea and share their blends at the touch of a button to create a healthy on-the-go experience and gives your sponsor a unique branding opportunity.


Hope my “Free Idea” makes your Friday!

at 03:31PM
Summer is coming.....we think....we hope

I know that the April rain has been dreary but with summer just around the corner, I am sharing a few quick ideas on how to make your corporate summer picnic fresh this year.

  1. Add some color...

    Art Factory in Toronto does custom painting events
  2. Add some heat…

    Have a celebrity chef (someone like Rob Rainford who is local here in Toronto) judge a contest of the best BBQ sauce produced by your own employees. No better way to heat things up than with company cooking teams over a hot grill (include some of your executives in head chef roles)
  3. Add some hype

    Set a Guinness World Record - nothing builds excitement like having Guinness at your event to break a world record. A great way to share on various social media avenues
    1. Largest 3 legged race
    2. Largest balloon toss
    3. Most coins tossed in one place – (coins donated to charity)
at 05:33PM
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