Free Idea Fridays!

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
Fighting the February Blahs
Everyone needs to take a little break at lunch time even if only to explore their favourite links. Here are just a few that I am FAN of ---

For A Quick Brainstorming Session
I am a huge fan of the ignite magazine and read it from cover to cover. But when I need a quick fix, I check out their website for Bright Ideas and Hot Rates and Dates.

Join them on Twitter or check out their site

Vino Virtuoso
Anything that my friend Paul Grieco talks about is seriously fun, spanking new, super satisfying & sometimes scandals (and is most of the time about wine). Among a string of success, Paul owns and runs Terroir Wine Bar in Tribeca. Scanning their wine menu is like taking a wild and mouth-watering stumble around the globe.

Warning: Be prepared to start liking Riesling. Paul has a way of persuading even the most die-hard chardonnay lover into taking a dip or a sip into the world of Riesling.

Check out or follow Paul on Twitter or get hooked on Riesling by tasting the wines Paul suggests in "Riesling: A World Tour"

For Toronto-based Foodies, Check out is your source for delicious ideas and offers daily deals that focus only on food. (Not only restaurants but food boutiques and specialty stores too) I just took advantage of buying a $30 gift certificate for only $14 to use at Masellis Supermarket - a great spot on the Danforth for Italian delicacies.
at 10:13AM
Food for thought
Have you ever been to a reception or stand-up event and wondered what edible delights were being passed around on trays by the wait staff? I bet everyone has had to ask the question "oh what do you have on your tray?"

Next time you are planning an event with plenty of passed food and beverages, plan a little extra in your budget for custom t-shirts for the wait staff. You can describe the food you are serving right on the front or back of the t-shirt.

[Kobe Beef Sliders with Tarragon Aioli and Caramelized Onions]

You can add a sponsor logo too as an added benefit.

If your budget is tight – try an inexpensive name tag for each of the wait 
staff listing their name and what they are serving.

[Hello my name is Kenzi and I am serving Proscuito-wrapped Shrimp with Sambuca and Rosemary]

Giving Ideas Away
I know, I know – everyone does water bottles as a give away but I love these new collapsible water bottles that fit in your pocket!

Check out the Ideavation Facebook page for more styles and photos

at 09:19AM
This week’s Free Idea Friday features
This week’s Free Idea Friday features some great new entertainment options for you.

Tired of the same old – check out these fresh ideas we experienced at the Special Event in Phoenix last week.

Hope these free ideas make your Friday!

The Royal Red Carpet – forget about your traditional boring red carpet, this live carpet flowed from the fabric of this gorgeous model. A spectacular entrance!

Oceana – part opera, part dance, part fountain. This mini show can be used during a reception or in a trade show atmosphere adding intrigue and entertainment.
Watch Video!

Automatic Response – High Energy Dance Troupe This high energy performance is perfect for an opening number and gets the crowd going.
Watch Video!

Flippenout – this extreme trampoline performance offers extreme flips, jumps and stunts which translates to Extreme Entertainment! A great addition to any stage program, outdoor event or trade show and takes up very little space.
Watch Video!
at 03:57PM
Welcome to the inaugural post of Free Idea Friday.

For the past year or so I have been email blitzing clients and colleagues a new idea every Friday. After much pressure from my younger team members who urged me to climb up out of my archival ways, this blog was launched.

There are many things I plan to write about and hopefully they will live up to the name of this blog and prove insightful and helpful to people.

Today I am coming to you live from THE SPECIAL EVENT in Phoenix, Arizona. Here is just a sample of the new ideas we will be bringing you in the coming weeks.

SING takes over where GLEE leaves off
Fans of the popular T.V hit Glee will love this musical act called SING. This ten person cast combines the best of spontaneous “Glee”-style musical arrangements and choreography with the energy and personality you expect from a college singing club. The song list covers a wide variety of popular music; from the Beatles to the Black Eyed Peas.

A mesmerizing story-teller and the top artist in his field, Joe Castillo offers unforgettable one-of-a-kind live performance using sand. Drawing in sand on a light table, Joe is able to create powerful, fluid illustrations for large audiences with an overhead video camera projected on a large screen. People stood around watching him for long periods of time – and that type of attention grabber is no small feat. (We have a demo video you have to see.)

Check back again soon for another completely random sample of the things rattling around in my head. Hopefully something cool will pop out.

Hope my "Free Idea" makes your Friday!
at 11:34AM
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