Free Idea Fridays!

March Madness – the good, the bad and the ugly

The Good –

Rachel met with the team from the Québec Convention Centre last week and they had some great news to share. The Québec City Convention Centre is stepping into the lead as it becomes the first convention centre in Canada (and one of the only few in North America) to provide free, high-quality WiFi access to its clients.

The Bad –

There are a few travel companies who target large conferences and expos to pinch travel and hotel bookings away from you. Don’t fall victim to these vultures. They are relentless and if they get a hold of your database, will go after every one of your delegates. This can damage your relationship with your own travel suppliers and pilfer from your hotel room pick-up. You have every right to call them out on it. Notify your delegates, exhibitors, and sponsors that these companies are not endorsed by your organization, and to exercise caution when dealing with them. I would be more than happy to provide the names of the various companies I have encountered over the years – just send me an email.

The Ugly –

I don’t know about you, but I have never been able to find any St. Patrick’s Day décor that was - well let’s be honest – not ugly. Try some of these elements to make everyone green with envy:

Real Shamrocks - an oxalis plant

I love the simplicity of this cupcake from...yes Martha

This yummy concoction from doesn't have a hint of green in it, just an abundance of Bailey’s Irish Cream

I Challenge all my décor colleagues to send me some “take away the ugly” ideas that I can post on a future blog.
at 12:16PM
Oscars really shine this year
It's all about sparkle at this year’s Oscars especially at the fête of all fêtes– the Governor’s Ball. This star studded event following the Academy Awards telecast will feature a 120-foot, six-tiered chandelier that was designed specifically for the occasion. The elliptical six-tiered chandelier has 18,000 LED points of light and is bigger than the largest chandelier in the book of Guinness World Records. It will change colors throughout the night. Here is the best photo I've been able find previewing the speculator design:

Another party I always like to follow is the Elton John event that raises money for his AIDS foundation. The décor is often a trend setter for the season and this year’s colors including a bold mixing of pink, red and gold. Keep this palette in mind when choosing décor element for your upcoming event.
at 03:04PM
Music scene soars in Montreal
Snowed-in nights are no problem for Quebecers this winter. Guest Blogger Lyne Charbonneau, from our Montreal office, tells us all about it in this week’s Free Idea Friday. We have always been big supporters of home grown music and Lyne’s days at Sony Music helped us build our roster of up-and-coming performers. We had Carly Rae Jepsen on our roster years before her 2 Grammy nominations. Shows like this are a great resource. Check out my favorite at the very bottom. And for all of our readers in Quebec – pipe in with your favorites – we will post them on a future blog.

Over to Lyne...

THE VOICE has arrived in Quebec. Or rather, make that LA VOIX. LA VOIX, the Québécois version of the popular sing-off competition show THE VOICE is now airing on Quebec’s French language network TVA. Just like the American version, during the first few weeks, the four coaches will sit with their seats turned away from the performers to judge the singers based solely on their vocals and not their visuals.

LA VOIX drew 5,000 singers for auditions in Montreal and Quebec. Performers are allowed to sing in English, or any other language for that matter. However, much of the music will be in French and from reading various newspaper articles, 40% will be in English. LA VOIX will feature every style of music, from heavy metal to Top 40 to rock to opera.

The judges on LA VOIX are local singers Ariane Moffatt (the face of alternative music), Marie-Mai (the Queen of Quebec Rock – you may know her from Simple Plan), Jean-Pierre Ferland (one of Quebec’s great performer of all times) and Marc Dupré (multi-talented artist, comedian, imitator and singer-song-writer).

The talent and music scene in Québec is strong and well.

Watch LA VOIX on TVA on Sunday nights at 7:30pm or for those of you outside Quebec

Some of my personal favourites:


Valerie Amyot - at only 21 yrs old – a future star

Brian Tyler:

Sabrina & Stephanie Barabe (my husband BENOIT's FAVOURITES… I wonder why?)

Jael Bird Joseph (Dana’s favorite – this guy can sing!)
at 02:24PM
Vintage Vibe
Last year we featured some concepts inspired by the soon to be released Great Gatsby movie. As predicted, this vintage vibe continues to be popular and has been very prevalent in all the winter wedding shows. A few of our readers asked us for more specific details to help create a vintage setting.

Here are a few more ideas to help you create the ultimate throwback to the 1920s.

  • For lounge furniture replace modern sofas and ottomans with antique wicker chairs.
  • For flowers, Daisies of course seem the obvious choice. Instead try using heirloom Dahlias which create vibrant rainbow-hued arrangements that are just as long-lasting and are versatile because they can be fun or elegant.
  • Embellish your table settings with Ostrich feathers, brooches, feather boas and pearl necklaces.
  • The era may evoke images of soft pastels – but strong vibrant colours like yellow were also all the rage. (I love this color palette from fellow ISES member La Tavola, fine linen rentals out of California
  • For a unique entertainment option, why not try a harpist? A harp adds a distinctive feel and look to a reception. There is a harpist based in Hamilton who is fantastic and versatile. Check out Lori’s website for photos and a sample of her music.

BTW – speaking of ISES, make sure to check out the Toronto Chapter meeting this month featuring Richard Aaron, President of BiZBash NYC (an ultimate guru of creative thinking)
at 01:04PM
Does Silly = Success?
During a recent trip to Vietnam, I scanned the local paper during breakfast and was pleasantly surprised to find a story about Toronto, but was stumped when I discovered that it focussed solely on the silly antics of the now infamous "Ikea Monkey"

Frivolous news stories in the media have always been around, but YouTube has brought sharing these quirky stories to a new level of sharing – going viral. So I started thinking, "How did this story about a shearling coat-wearing Monkey running around a Toronto Ikea parking lot, which made it all the way to a local paper in Vietnam, affect Ikea?"

Did this high level of amusement inadvertently generate the right type of advertisement for Ikea?

If you search links about going viral, you get a variety of tips and tools on how to improve your chances to join the viral epidemic. There are also several market researching studies availability. To help share the lowdown on the download, here are two articles that are sure to provoke your creative thinking.

Jonah Peretti is the founder and CEO of BuzzFeed.

Neetzan Zimmerman is Senior Editor at Gawker

Coincidentally the last time I came across an article about Toronto in a foreign newspaper was last summer in Chicago reading a New York Times story about the antics of Mayor Rob Ford at Toronto’s Silly Hall (oops, I meant City Hall). I will leave it to you to spot the parallels.
at 11:32AM
January Blahs - no way
Forget about the January blahs - January is a great month to rejuvenate and check out the great learning opportunities from our many worthwhile industry associations.

Shawna "best of" PCMA webinars - Masters Series: When "Free" is No Longer an Option: Navigating New Pricing Realities at Convention Centers
Take away – giving something away free devalues the product. I think this can be applied to any service. Instead, give added bonus features or an additional service instead of giving your service or product for free or at an under-valued fee.

Lyne passes on a good read - from CSAE (Canadian Society of Association Executives)
Whether in response to requests, as a new communications channel or to appeal to a younger demographic, this study is about exploring social media. The document speaks to research that shows many organizations are actively pursuing or exploring social media activities but not necessarily applying social media in the most effective manner. Interesting read on how to go about and its usage… be it on Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, LinkedIn or Pinterest. Click here to download

Rachel’s Pick
Invented just this past Monday by Lara McCulloch of Ready2Spark (, with over 220 fans already, check out the EVENT MARKET - a place to buy and sell used event merchandise

Lara started this group because a number of event friends expressed a desire to sell their items but didn't have the forum to do so. Here are some pointers from Lara :

What should I post?
  • Feel free to post linens, tents, audio visual merchandise or any other event-related products. This group is not open to 'rentals', only for sale items.
What should I include in my listing?
  • It would be helpful to include as much information as possible - like a description, the condition of the item, a picture, the location, quantity available, price including delivery charges (if applicable), contact information and forms of payment accepted.
Can I invite someone else to the group?
  • Of course! The more, the merrier. You can add someone by entering their name into the "+Add People to the Group" box.

Dana’s creative suggestion
Try incorporating the 2013 Pantone colour of the year – EMERALD – try these RGB colour settings (35, 165, 115)
at 02:03PM
How do you measure LOYALTY?
Thursday’s USA Today featured an article on how US airlines are reconsidering how they gauge frequent flyer value. Because statistics show that collecting frequent-flyer points is the most popular perk to flyers, the debate is still up in the air about how best to reward loyalty – miles vs. fare.

Air Canada has worked on a tiered based loyalty structure for a few years now, the more you pay the more miles you get as your reward. I wonder how many complaints they recieved when the first introduced the change - I'm guessing there was a bit of an uproar.

Coincidentally I was on a flight from New York to Hong Kong yesterday, so I had lots of time to think about the changing face of loyalty.

If the airlines go ahead and make changes to what is a highly touted program should we consider changing how we recognize clients, suppliers and even staff for their loyalty? Will we look for longevity, continued support or how much money a contract, client or team member bring us? We have always believed in building our fan base - so how do we reward fans who support us via word of mouth referrals to colleagues they know even though they may not bring us any direct business? Will how we reward our most valuable partners change?

Send me your opinions or comments – I’m interested in what you think.

To read the whole USA today article -

BTW – A big THANK YOU for all the wonderful people who bought turkeys from us last week for Second Harvest. The aNd team sold 97 turkeys in 4 hours. The turkeys are distributed to local meal programs and food banks so thousands of hungry families will receive a nutritious meal this holiday season.

at 02:57PM
New York City - A Resilient Shining Star
Shawna and I just returned from New York City where we helped organize a series of events to promote the Ontario Financial Services Industry.

Even after so much devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, New York bounced back stronger than ever. We saw first-hand the power of picking yourself up, dusting off the crap, and moving on.

There are an abundance of incredible venues to use in Manhattan. The beauty of this city is that there are always new places to discover. Here are 2 that we used this past week that we wanted to share with you –

The Bloomberg Tower in the heart of New York City, known as "731" is home to more than 5,500 employees from all of the company’s businesses. Their headquarters set the standard for Bloomberg’s unique and vibrant workspaces, with an emphasis on openness and transparency, health and exercise. At 731, bold colors and dramatic architectural reflect the energy and dynamic spirit that make Bloomberg a hub to the whole world – you can definitely feel the vibe as soon as you walk in. There are several spaces available for meetings and receptions. Security is tight and a list of all attendees must be given in advance. Photo ID of each attendee is required before gaining access. A big shout out to Susanne and Pam, who were fantastic to work with for our event.

The Penn Club of New York (usually referred to as The Penn Club) is a private club located in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA. Its membership is restricted almost entirely to students, alumni, and faculty of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Built in 1900, it’s clubhouse is a fourteen-story building with a library that has a  traditional fireplace, fitness facilities, 2 formal dining rooms, function space and guest rooms.
at 03:50PM
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
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