Free Idea Fridays!

Tech Savvy Trick...
Sometimes I wish I was more of a cool tech geek.

New devices, programs and apps are launched each day – how do you keep up? Becoming tech savvy won’t happen overnight and keeping on top of new products and breakthroughs is an on-going exercise. I’m hoping to share some tech tidbits with you every few weeks in an effort to stay current myself.

Here is one that will help with presentations when you just can’t meet face to face. You can create simple and straightforward video tutorials or an elaborate screencast demo on a new product you’re launching.

Check out -

This is not just for geeks – the demo is easy to follow which makes it so simple. Anyone can learn to use it in minutes.
at 02:50PM
January's Best of...
With several major conferences and trade shows taking place this month, January is definitely about learning for the meeting and event industry. We thought we would report on some of the best new things we saw.

FROM PCMA in San Diego

Shawna’s top picks

Favorite Speaker - Dr. John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist and research consultant. He is an affiliate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He is also the Director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University

Favorite Session - Menus to Maximize Learning and Engagement Brain foods include acai berries, blueberries, romaine, strawberries, tomatoes, raspberries, flax seed oil, cheese, collard greens, eggplant, pumpkin seeds, green tea, dark chocolate and wheat germ.

Try these at your next meeting:
  • carrot ginger shots for an afternoon break
  • poppadum + hummus, or veg in shot glass with hummus for a reception

Jimmy’s top pick

The highlight of PCMA for me was the Networking Reception in Gaslamp Quarter: Urban Convergence

A section of the Gaslamp Quarter was closed off to PCMA attendees for a block party which featured creative elements of dining, music, art and entertainment. Spanning over several blocks were 20 diverse restaurants where attendees could sample global cuisines, and browse the shops and galleries open exclusively for PCMA It was great opportunity to mix and mingle with your fellow attendees while being entertained by the unique sound of Kool & the Gang.


Rachel’s top picks

Augmented Reality Digital Signage
My favourite pick from TSE was the Forever 21 billboard from Times Square with live video footage and real-time Polaroid snaps of the street below. Expand the concept of real time and add this interactive feature within an event space or tradeshow floor.

(I saw this live in NYC in December and it truly does capture and engage the audience)

Color of the Year

Pantone17-1463 - tangerine tango (mix it with shades of grey or deep browns) You can set the colors on your computer for fonts and images by changing your RGB setting as follows (R=226, G=73, B=47) I am using it throughout the blog today!
at 11:58AM
Let it Snow Let it Snow Let it Snow...
We may not be having a flurry of snow this winter, but there is certainly a flurry of winter festivals to enjoy during the season.

One of the top events on the season’s calendar is the Quebec Winter Carnival, which as it turns out, won the event of the year for the 2011 Canadian Tourism Awards.

Celebrating its 58th anniversary, this year’s event features international snow sculptures, fireworks, dog sleds, parades and percussion bands. One of the focal points of the Carnival - the Bonhomme Ice Palace built with 9,000 tons of snow.

Not the outdoorsy type? Don’t forget about Toronto's favourite winter foodie celebration – "Winterlicious". Restaurants offer affordable prix fixe menus for lunch and dinner at a substantially reduced rate. There are 175 different restaurants to choose from this winter. My top picks to try out – Scarpetta, Stone Grill and Factory Girl
at 10:27AM
I’m a Belieber...
Though I have no formal training in marketing, I have always had a great love for branding. I use "love" because "love" has become such a key ingredient in brand loyalty.

Over the years I have paid close attention to many hot brands - especially to what those brands do to warrant consumer attention.

On a recent trip through Argentina I was pleasantly surprised to see a few Canadian brands whose power reached as far as South America. MAC Cosmetics had kiosks in 3 major upscale shopping malls and we saw a McCain Truck (the Canadian potato family) on delivery in a small town outside Buenos Aires.

Those were nice to see but what surprised me most was the power of a young Canadian boy that transcends into something supernatural.

While sightseeing, we came across a group of Beliebers, clad in purple t-shirts that professed their love for the Bieb! The frenzy began when one of the young girls noticed I had a Canadian flag pin on my knapsack. The crowd increased around us. More and more tweens decked out in purple gathered closer to us with questions about Canada (Did we know Justin? Did we listen to his music? Did we know where Ontario was?) They told us how Justin Bieber had recently played 2 sold-out concerts with 160,000 plus fans. Some were wearing the Canadian flag as a mini-skirt around each of their tiny frames. Soon the cell phones and digital cameras were snapping photos of us and chants of "VIVA LA CANADA" echoed around us.

We finally escaped the gaggle of giggling girls with this odd feeling – we had been made Beliebers and we were extra proud to be Canadian that day.

So listen up all you Canadian tourism offices – better start building a museum or a theatre or a gallery or maybe even a shrine. The Beliebers are coming to Canada – no expense will be spared, no travel too long, no climate too cold – nothing can stop them in their quest to be one step closer to this Canadian Heartthrob.
at 03:05PM
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.
at 10:14AM
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
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