Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gift giving that makes a difference

“What do you want for Christmas or better yet, what do you want for your birthday? (I am a December baby)”. People have already begun asking. I get uncomfortable being asked that question for a multitude of reasons. One reason is that I have a “room” in my home which qualifies me for an intervention and/or an episode on “Hoarding”; secondly, I have “stuff” that I don’t use; lastly, with everything that is going on in the world (Haiti, Indonesia, etc.), do I really need/deserve another “something”?

This is something that I struggle with every year. We get to that stage in our lives where we don’t need or want for much. (No Bob this doesn’t let you off the hook – I still am expecting the slippers from Peavey Mart). We certainly don’t need anything to add to our special “room” (I know I am not the only one that has one). What do we do? How can family and friends give a gift that makes them feel good about giving it, the recipient feel good about receiving it and benefits someone in need?

If you are struggling to get that perfect gift for someone who you know has pretty much everything….it might be time to consider the following ideas: – Love this website! Many, many charities have registered themselves making it super easy to find one towards which you (or your recipient) would like to donate. You get a tax receipt, and then CanadaHelps disburses the funds to the designated charity. The kicker is that you can set up a “Giving Page” for yourself (a mini website) where you can specify the charities about which you are passionate. You can share this URL with your family and friends and, they can donate directly to your charity. You can even track how much money has been given to your favourite charity. The “giving page” is used for weddings, anniversaries, graduations, birthdays, memorials and holidays (Christmas). What a great idea! If you are a local charity and have not registered yourself, you might want to look into it. I personally searched for a couple of local charities that I would like to support, and couldn’t find them. I will be placing a phone call and giving them the head’s up about this great site.

Oxfam Canada – Oxfam has a unique holiday gift site called “Oxfam Unwrapped”. For only $22 you can purchase the gift of ‘Safe Water’, the money being used to purchase water filters, tap stands and plastic water tanks. In Haiti, as we speak, many are suffering and dying from Cholera – a disease transmitted through contaminated water and food.

Oxfam has many other gifts to give including a flock of chickens, goats, sheep, mosquito nets, etc. Check out

Unicef Canada – Unicef has responded to the cholera outbreak in Haiti and is accepting donations to provide them with much needed help. You can go to to learn more. In addition to supporting those in Haiti, Unicef has a Gifts of Magic campaign where you can choose from a variety of gifts at various price points.

WWF – Canada has a unique symbolic wildlife adoption program as well as other great gift ideas. While you are on the site check out the Polar Bear Tracker which is following three polar bear families (a great, interactive site for the whole family)

Think local – Think about your own community and those organizations that need your support. You need look no further than the Salvation Army supporting many, many families all year long.

Remember, support can take many forms – financial support, donating time and energy, volunteering as a board member, etc. I have read that Altruism (an unselfish concern for the welfare of others) can even be good for your health! Some say that it releases endorphins, helps your brain, strengthens the immune system and even gives you a “Helper’s High” (

Whatever you decide to do this holiday season, remember that before you give online, make sure it is a safe and secure site and that you are confident that it is a reputable organization. Nothing takes the place of good old common sense – if your spidey senses are tingling, take that as a sign that perhaps you should take a pass on that particular site. You need to apply the same amount of due diligence to the sites which I have mentioned.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Can Planner's "fist bump" their way to a germ free event?

As I am writing this, I am sipping my piping hot cold and flu beverage, the overpowering scent of Vicks Vapor Rub lingering in the air. My eyes are running, my voice is raspy and the tickle in my throat has now manifested itself as a full blown, lung emptying cough which terrifies Ozzie, my Shi Tzu, every time I let loose. He looks at me with those big brown eyes and I am sure he is thinking, “If she does that one more time I am going to do something nasty in her nicest shoes”.

Can you imagine if I had an event or conference to attend? The big question is…..after paying hundreds of dollars in registration fees, purchasing airline tickets, making travel arrangements, etc. would I still go….. feeling like I do?

The correct answer is “no”, but I am sure that in the real world, most would still attend, bringing with them their cold or flu virus as carry on baggage.

How can we, as conference and event planners, protect our attendee’s from the cold and flu virus without coming across as over- anxious germaphobes?

The truth is, there are many small ways with which we can protect our guests without appearing intrusive.

Think like a cruise ship! – Cruise ship management and staff have to constantly be thinking of ways to keep their guests healthy. Hand sanitizers are mounted everywhere, specifically at entrances to restaurants and bars. You can do the same at your event by providing sanitizers throughout the conference or event space. Offer attendees mini pen sized sanitizer pumps at your registration desk that they can drop into their purse or briefcase; place boxes of tissue in restrooms and sitting areas.

Having a buffet? Pre roll your cutlery in a cloth napkin – Have catering staff offer the wrapped cutlery and plate to guests at the entrance to the buffet line thus minimizing the transfer of germs…another cruise ship strategy. Better yet, place the cutlery on the table.

Immune boosting beverages – Instead of the traditional coffee break menu items, consider adding items such as orange or cranberry juice (source of vitamin C) and Green tea (anti-oxidant). Provide plenty of water stations throughout your venue to keep your attendee’s hydrated.

Fist bumps or hand shakes? – Howie Mandel fist bumps as a way to avoid germs. It is perfectly fine for Howie Mandel, but I think that fist bumps have a weak position in corporate culture. They infer a level of familiarity that may not be appropriate. Can you imagine being introduced to the CEO of a company (that you are hoping will employ you) and instead of reaching forward to grasp his/her hand…you throw out a casual fist bump? Don’t forsake the traditional handshake; instead wash your hands often, using soap and water, vigorously rubbing your hands together for the length of time it takes to sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. Placing signage in the restrooms encouraging hand washing and how it prevents the spread of germs, may also be helpful. I know we are all grownups, but sometimes reminders can make a difference.

Touch Screens – Have you ever visited your ATM and wondered what may be lurking on the keypad? The same can be true at your touch screen event kiosk. Keep germs at bay by frequently wiping down the touch screen and/or keypad.

Cancellation policy – Does your event have a cancellation policy? Your cancellation policy should be simple and straightforward and should clearly state alternatives, i.e. substitution of attendee, full and/or partial refunds, credits.

None of the strategies I mentioned were anything new or exciting, but are often overlooked. We consider our attendee’s comfort when planning our events, we should also consider their health.

Today's article brought to you by the common cold....*cough* cough*


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Can you hear me now?

Price for flying in world renowned motivational speaker $10,000;

Venue and catering $25,000;

Not being able to hear a word she says, because her lapel mic keeps cutting out and, you were too cheap to retain an on site A/V technician – tragic

Times they are a changin’ and if you are still thinking that your administrative assistant, or your in house IT Technician can look after all of your audio visual needs at your next staff conference….you may be heading straight for disaster.

Cutting corners in you’re A/V area is not fair to your speaker and it is not fair to your audience. Speakers, particularly those traveling the professional speaking circuit, become accustomed to a certain level of expertise. Sure, there are some that will say, “no powerpoint screen? No problem, I can do it without”. But, there are many who have carefully designed their presentation and will be frustrated if their needs cannot be met. I was once at a very large gathering where the speaker, a Master Event Designer, said at the beginning, “I have everything I need right here on my IPhone – I can control the lights, the sounds, the mixed media right here” and…..he couldn’t. The worst part was that he kept interrupting his presentation to troubleshoot his A/V problems and as a result couldn’t deliver what we were expecting. In hindsight, maybe he was showing us what not to do….but I don’t think so.

Audio Visual expertise is not only important for large conferences and presentations, it is equally important for social events. You owe it to your guests at your wedding or party to have a handle on the lights and sound. No one wants to look back on the wedding video and see Great Aunt Sophie holding the microphone like a telephone and not being able to hear her words of wisdom, or your master of ceremonies is unaware that his lapel mic is still on when he makes an inappropriate remark.

So here are some quick tips for ensuring your audio visual goes off without a hitch.

  1. Get to know your speaker – contact your speaker well in advance to ascertain his/her audio visual needs and expectations. Make sure that you are asking all of the questions required to ensure that you will be adequately prepared for the presentation. Some basic questions to ask are: Do they require a proxima, computer (MAC or PC), lectern, handheld mic or lapel mic, whiteboard or flipchart, markers. Is the presenter going to move around the stage or go out into the audience? If a stationary lectern mic is required, you might want to discern how tall the presenter is and if that will be adequate for his/her needs. If the presenter is short like I am, a stool may be necessary..or if taller than average, you don’t want them to have to stoop to speak into the microphone.
  2. Hire a professional – If you are moving beyond the realm of the banquet hall sound system and having to rent additional equipment, then hire a professional to be on site. Make sure that you budget for the professional technician to be there during set up and run through to troubleshoot any unexpected problems. I cannot count how many times a speaker has arrived with a presentation that is just that much different that it requires completely different hardware and software. By having an A/V professional in attendance at the run through, you are dealing with any problems and coming up with solutions in plenty of time to ensure the event goes off without a hiccup.
  3. Examine goals and objectives thoroughly – If you had your heart set on an amazing wedding day video compilation set to music, etc. then perhaps having Cousin Betty capture the magic on her new phone isn’t the best option available. And no….it doesn’t matter if she just finished an online video editing webinar and is “super stoked about shooting the film” – you might want to check into a professional.
  4. Think a wee bit outside the box – If you have a large number of people attending the presentation and the room is quite large, consider hiring a professional to film and project the speaker onto the large screen simultaneously so that everyone can see him or her. We all can relate to being at the back of the room and not being able to pick up on the subtle nuances of the presentation that come from being able to hear AND see them.

The bottom line is, the proper audio visual design can make or break your event. You can wow your audience with the sights and sounds or you can make them wish they were somewhere else.....


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Want to know a little more about me?

Recently I was approached by the editorial director for "The Meeting Planner's Best Resource" a weblog and e-newsletter for the meetings and events industry about being their October Planner.

I responded with something like "I am tickled pink that you would consider me for a profile" (because I was tickled pink) and that started the ball rolling.

I took the weekend to respond to the was harder than I thought it would be, but in the end I think it turned out pretty darn well.

So...if you want to know a little more about me, check it out here!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the "Oh No You Didn't"

The dreaded nametag, badge holder and lanyard….. Most of them have one thing in common, as soon as I put them on, they flip over showing…..well, showing nothing. If I am so fortunate to be given a badge holder and lanyard that is constructed so that it doesn’t flip over, then most likely there is a nametag inside the badge holder with my name printed in a font from the times of early Rome. Very pretty, but unreadable. It is quite embarrassing to have someone standing there looking directly at your chest (where the darn badge holder is hanging) trying to read your name. Invariably I look down as well, just to be sure that I don’t have a button popped. Can this be fixed? Of course! If you have badge holders which flip over – utilize that back of the nametag white space real estate by printing the attendee’s name AGAIN. It can then flip flop as much as it wants and the name will still be displayed.

First name first! – Print the attendee’s name as if it is being read (because it is). First name, then last name. Use a larger font for the name than you are using for the rest of the information. Don’t clutter the nametag with useless information. Name and company is adequate. Don’t get fancy with the font and make it large enough to read from a comfortable distance.

My biggest pet peeve is the “us versus them” nametag/badge holder. Perhaps you are attending a luncheon or evening networking event, and those belonging to the hosting association have fancy, schmancy badge holders whereas the invited “guests” receive the standard, “Hello My Name Is” stick on type and are handed a sharpie with which to write their name. This doesn’t work on so many levels. First, no one wants to stick a super-sticky adhesive nametag onto their nice blouse and secondly, by having guests write out their own nametags, you end up with a hodgepodge of handwritten nametags with differing information. Some will default to using only their first name, others will write their first and last name, title, place of business, etc. filling in the white space to the point that it is unreadable. Secondly, what if you didn’t print enough fancy, schmancy badge holders/nametags for the association members and end up having to give a member one of the “Hello My Name Is” nametags? They won’t be very happy because they will spend the time responding to the question, “I thought you were a member? You aren’t a member anymore?”. My feeling is that if you are going to use an “us versus them” nametag strategy, then you must commit to being 100% correct, i.e. no mix ups. Someone told me once that even the nicest, most expensive outfit can be ruined by a crappy, scuffed up pair of shoes. Think of the event as the outfit and nametag/badge holder and/or lanyard as the shoes. If you are concerned about having to provide that many lanyards and holders and the expense, simply ask for them back which really, you should be doing already (see previous blog article).

Lettering on the lanyard – “1 888 We Rent Crappers” along with a picture of a porta-pottie written over and over and over again on the lanyard. A perfectly good sponsor, but not for your lanyard. Think carefully about the logo (if any) imprinted on the lanyard as it also impacts whether or not the lanyard can be recycled to be used at another event. Perhaps better to imprint the sponsor’s name or logo on the paper nametag insert in the corner or along the bottom.

Use badge holder ribbons – I love badge holder ribbons! At the MPI Conference I attached so many ribbons to the bottom of my badge holder that it looked like a flag! Badge holder ribbons are a great way to personalize a nametag. There are stock ribbons that say things like exhibitor, speaker, attendee….but the possibilities are endless if you customize. My badge flew the “First Time Attendee, I Tweet and MPI Member” ribbons. Anyone looking at my badge holder could easily see that I was new, that I used Twitter and I was a member, which breaks the ice for conversation. You could have utilized the ribbons for your “us versus them” badge holder’s and avoided any controversy by giving EVERYONE badge holders including the guests and differentiating the two by attaching ribbons….simple!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Can this Conference be saved?

Many have attended them. One, two or even three days of mind numbing sessions, in a large space devoid of attendees, people leaving early. This is a conference gone bad. It might have been great at its “first annual” but now has run its course. It just may be time to say farewell and move on.

What should you look for when planning your next annual conference that speaks, “time to pull the proverbial plug”?

Look back – Look back at the post mortem notes from your last conference. Read them carefully and look for clues. The post event survey should highlight where there were difficulties. Be incredibly open minded when reviewing this data… are about to commit precious time and money.

Volunteers have vanished – No one wants to volunteer! Volunteers sense a sinking ship and if they participated last year and were under-whelmed, don’t expect them to come back for a repeat performance. These alternatively compensated employees are seeking something other than money…they look for excitement, the opportunity to network, fun, personal fulfillment, etc. If they are not getting it at your conference, they won’t come forward willingly.

Poor attendance – Look back at the attendance for the past couple of years….is it decreasing? If you are seeing a decrease in attendance that you cannot explain, that is a sign that this year may yield even lower numbers.

Sponsorship is diminishing – There MUST be a return on investment for sponsors…..if they don’t see value for their sponsorship money, they will quietly step back. It starts with a large sponsor who might have been a “Premiere, Gold, or Platinum” sponsor last year but this year are looking at only sponsoring at the silver or bronze level. They are being kind – they don’t want to say no right off the bat, but next year they may be “unfortunately going in another direction with sponsorship funds”.

Speakers have gone A.W.O.L. – You have difficulty recruiting speakers for the conference. You may be trying to pull from a pool of speakers who have attended a previous conference where they were not impressed with the lackluster attendance and audience interaction.

The good news is that these signs don’t have to spell disaster. Sometimes, when you note these issues occurring, it just means you have to change the way you are doing things.

Here are some tips for reinventing your annual conference:

Re energize your organizing committee – this may mean replacing your chairperson which can be difficult. Often annual events go the way of the dinosaurs because someone in the organizing chain is resistant to change. Engage these individuals in other ways utilizing their expertise and experience.

Downsize – Wouldn’t you rather do an amazing job of a smaller event than a poor job of a large event? Downsize and make your new event much more exclusive. Downsize the maximum number of attendees, cut the event back to 1 day, change the venue to a more intimate space, etc.

Be Sustainable – By taking a sustainable approach to your conference, you will minimize unnecessary waste and become much more attractive to sponsors and attendees. No one wants to see waste or over the top excess. Focus on the hospitality – a smile is free!

Rewrite your sponsorship package – Completely change up your sponsorship proposal to reflect the new project. Look carefully at exactly what sponsors are receiving in exchange for their money.

Be Relevant – Times….they have changed and your conference needs to keep pace with not only the material being presented, but also the use of social media.

Be Responsible – Attendee’s are spending money on registration, accommodation and travel – you need to take some responsibility for this and offer them excellent value for their dollar.

Be Creative Don’t create a cookie cutter conference – personalize it as much as possible.

Be Organized - Many times attendees are frustrated because the conference seems unorganized and/or unprofessional. If this is the case it may be time to call in a Professional Meeting & Event Planner who can guide you properly through the planning process.


Monday, October 11, 2010

I'll trade you!

After reading the blog post of Heidi Thorne of Promo with Purpose Today about Promotional Tradeshow Lanyards - How to save money and go green, I was inspired to write one of my own which I think (hope) complements it.

The badgeholder and lanyard....they are simply a given for conferences and events. We have come a long way in greening that industry with lanyards made from recycled pop bottles and badgeholders made from corn, but how can we take this one step further? Heidi talks about asking attendee's to give back their badgeholders at the end of the event. Some relinquish theirs without even asking, others seem to want to hold onto them. What can we do to encourage more attendee's to hand theirs back which ultimately addresses the first and second "R" - Reduce and Reuse (we can use them again at the next event).

Trade the attendee something for their lanyard! At one of my events I asked the caterer to bring in freshly baked chocolate chip cookies when there were only 10 minutes remaining to the event. The smell was heavenly and everyone's mouth was watering. Standing at the exit, our staff "exchanged" or "traded" a cookie for a badgeholder and lanyard. We got over 80% back!

Have a draw! Advertise throughout the event that there will be a draw from those who hand in their badgeholders/lanyards. At the exit, have containers clearly marked for that purpose. We have given away such things as an IPOD, but wouldn't a Kindle be great!

Heidi was right about being fairly generic with the lettering on the lanyard. That way, you can reuse it at any future event.

If you have personally collected a number of badgeholders and lanyards when attending conferences and events, give them away to non-profit groups in your community to use for their smaller events. They often need badgeholders for support groups and seminars.

Judy K

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"No Soup for You!"

“No Soup for you” was a catchphrase made popular by a 90’s Seinfeld episode. A restaurateur dubbed the “Soup Nazi” insisted on patrons ordering their soup according to his strict instructions. Those who deviated from this are told, “No Soup for you” and are turned away….never to taste the delicious soup.

Funny on a television show…yes….not so funny in real life when the caterer actually says, “no food for you” because they ran out!

Catering nightmares… with anything, they definitely do happen from time to time. Problems are not the norm as there are many great, professional catering companies out there. Oftentimes, the nightmare stories arise more from miscommunication.

Here are some tips!

First! Check with the venue about bringing in an outside caterer. Some venues insist that you use a specific caterer.

Check references – When you approach potential caterers, ask for references, preferably from similarly sized events. If they tell you that they have never catered an event for more than 50 people and your event will have 400+ guests, that may be a potential red flag.

When you call the references ask many, many questions including:

  • Was the caterer easy to work with?
  • Were they flexible?
  • Did they source local ingredients?
  • Were they on time?
  • How did the food taste?
  • Was there enough food?
  • Were they professional in manner and appearance?
  • Did they have enough staff?
  • Were they accessible?
  • Would you hire them again?

Communicate – Oftentimes problems arise from miscommunication between planner and caterer. You must be crystal clear regarding your needs – do not assume that the caterer is a mind reader.

Put it in writing – Make sure that you draw up a contract with your caterer, which outlines the deliverables and expectations. Go over it carefully with the caterer to ensure that you are both satisfied.

Arrange for a tasting – If you are indecisive about some menu items, arrange for a tasting. Whereas some caterers allow for a free tasting once the contract has been signed, don’t be shocked if there is a charge for a menu tasting especially if you are tasting many, many selections.

Food Service Permit – Catering companies are required to have permits, discuss this with your caterer to ensure they have proper permits/licences.

Guaranteed Guest Count – The number of guests you are guaranteeing for the caterer. If you have agreed on a luncheon at a price of $15.95 per plate, when you guarantee/confirm 85 persons to the caterer, you will be billed for 85 regardless if only 60 people attend. Usually the number is confirmed 3 days to one week prior, but in remote locations, the date could be two weeks ahead of the event. After you have provided the guaranteed guest count, you cannot decrease that number. The caterer has already purchased food, etc. for that amount. You can sometimes increase that number slightly, but this option must be discussed with the caterer prior (when you are negotiating the contract).

Gratuities – A gratuity is charged in amounts varying from 15% upwards. Confirm the gratuity with your caterer when negotiating the contract.

Insurance – Proof of liability insurance

Some additional points to discuss with your caterer

  • Has he/she worked in this particular venue before?
  • Menu planning
  • Food service style, i.e. buffet, plated, etc.
  • Timing
  • Food quantities
  • Food presentation
  • Staffing
  • Staffing supervision
  • Leftover food policy
  • Dress code, protocol, behaviour
  • Rentals
  • Corkage fees
  • Cake cutting fees
  • Special meal requests
  • Set up/take down

Champagne wishes on a beer budget – Be realistic with what you can afford!

Monday, September 27, 2010

How I spent my weekend....

On Saturday I woke up nice and early (check out the pic of my sunrise :)) so that I could head over to my mom's where she was going to instruct me on the art of canning meat.

Why was I going to do this? Well, for a couple of reasons. We are fortunate to live in a part of the world where we can actually go out and literally bring home the....elk which my husband and son had done and secondly, by canning some of the meat it creates another great way to enjoy it. I was saying, my mom was going to assist me with this venture as she does whenever I attempt to preserve something (the pressure cooker terrifies me). I had 50 pounds of lean elk meat, cut up into stew size chunks. We proceeded to sterilize jars, lids and seals. The meat loses flavour while processing so we browned up each batch on the stove adding roasted garlic, pearl onions, cracked black pepper and salt. The house smelled heavenly!

It was such a lovely day, spending time with my mom, creating something that we all were going to enjoy all year.

Many, many hours later we had 29 jars of elk meat done. What can you do with this antibiotic free, hormone free creation? Well, I can make stew with it, I can serve it with pasta or rice, I can make a blue ribbon worthy pot pie.....

It was alot of work, but eating local is alot of work.....but totally worth it :)


Becoming a greener guest

The most popular season for entertaining is right around the corner, beginning with Thanksgiving and then the slippery slope to Christmas and New Years. Many will receive invitations to homes during the holidays for either dinner, drinks or a party. Combining etiquette and sustainability, how can we become a “greener” guest?

Here are some tips to help to minimize your environmental footprint and that of your host during this upcoming holiday season.

RSVP or “répondez, s'il vous plaît," which means "please reply." – By sending your RSVP to your host, you are actually minimizing waste! By letting your host know that you will or will not attend, you are ensuring that they do not overbuy or over-prepare food for the party, therefore minimizing waste.

These Boots are Made for Walking – When considering transportation to the party or event, consider how you will travel. If you live close, consider walking. Not only will you be minimizing your carbon footprint, you will not have to worry about determining who will be the designated driver. High heels? No problem, throw on your runners and change into your heels when you arrive. If you live in the city, there is no shame in taking public transit or sharing a cab ride with other guests. Of course, carpooling with other guests is always an option.

Hostess gifts – We always want to bring something for the host or hostess just to say thank you. Many bring wine….if this is the case, try to bring a local wine. In lieu of the traditional flowers consider bringing a lovely soy candle. If you have just finished a great book and are ready to pass it along, don’t be shy about tying a lovely ribbon around it and bringing it with you…..wrap it with a package of tea and a note that says, “Hope you enjoy this book as much as I did and you have a chance to relax with it and a cup of tea”. Home decor & living icon, Martha Stewart, suggests bringing something homemade like a preserve with a lovely personalized label. Whatever you bring, don’t be disappointed if they don’t serve it or use it that evening. There is no rule that a hostess gift needs to be used during the course of the evening. In fact, it is the opposite. Your host has already considered the food, wine and décor for the event and quite frankly, your gift may not suit the theme.

Potluck? – If your host asked you to bring a food item, consider using local ingredients. Make sure you bring your dish in a reusable container. Tip – If you are concerned about getting your serving dish back, put a piece of tape on the bottom with your name.

Green it forward – What about bringing your host something which will help them green their future dinner parties. Purchase some linen napkins in a neutral colour and present them wrapped in a lovely ribbon. Simple napkin rings can be added the next time you are invited. Linen napkins can be used over and over again, taking the place of single use paper napkins.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Do green events lack creativity?

I don't know what it is, but for the first time in my green meeting planning career, I have been asked the question "don't green events lack creativity? I don't want to have a boring event" not once, but twice recently. Once we begin planning the event, their fears are soon dispensed. It is clear that their green event will not be boring.

So I have to ask the question.......

Are we emerging from the recession driven period of individuals shying away from over indulgence who came over to the "green side" in an effort to not appear over indulgent? Are clients once again jumping on the "the more the better" band wagon?

I never questioned the motives of clients who wanted to green their events. For didn't really matter what was driving them to greener pastures because once they went on that journey with me, I knew I could convince them that it truly was the better way of doing business. When the recession occurred, clients felt that going green = being able to still hold meetings/events because they were being "good". Now that the economy is picking up, I am finding that new clients are questioning the amount of "greening". They don't want to appear cheap.

Green events/meetings do not have to appear cheap. In my experience green events and meetings can be some of the most creative events out there! Why? Because we are always looking for ways to innovate. We are the early adopters.

Is there anyone else out there sensing a shift?


Monday, August 30, 2010

The dry, dry summer of 2010

Why do we fail to appreciate something until it is gone? This summer has been one of the driest on record where I live and for the very first time (in my whole life), we have rapidly moved from Stage 1 water restrictions to Stage 4.

Stage 4 water restrictions mean that you are not allowed to water anything...period. No watering lawns, flower beds, gardens. No Sunday afternoons washing your car in the driveway. No children playing in the sprinkler. Large fines for anyone doing any of the above, bylaw officers paroling the neighbourhoods. It felt.....scary.

Water is not a right. Water is a resource that must be conserved and protected. It can be gone in a heartbeat. We must remember this.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Redefining luxury

Although I knew that cruise ships were far from eco-friendly, I was shocked to read some of the statistics in the attached article from Investigate West.

Cruising is not unlike the meetings industry in many ways. Large groups of individuals gathering for a specified time period. We have begun to change the way attendees see the meetings industry, why can't we do the same with the cruising industry?

We have learned in the meetings and event industry that green meetings can be as exciting and impactful as traditional meetings and events. The cruise industry can do the same thing, one cruise at a time. It is simply a matter of redefining luxury.


Friday, August 13, 2010

It's paperLESS not paperFREE

I have been reading with extreme interest some of my meeting planner colleagues posts about paperless conferences.

The subject caught fire recently after the MPI World Education Congress in Vancouver where some attendees were openly critical of the decision to not print programs. A firestorm of comments were posted on Pathable by some attendees who were not pleased with this decision stating that they didn't have an I-Phone or blackberry (couldn't download the app), they didn't have the resources for some of the technology being utilized, etc. Perfectly justified comments when faced with the prospect of possibly having no access other than digital to conference information.

Just to be clear, I don't believe that the MPI ever indicated that they were going paperfree. What they did say was:

Printing - This year MPI has decided to use a digital format for its conference guide. The guide information will be available through the MPI website and through a mobile application on both iPhones and Smartphones. We will share basic schedule information with attendees through a z-card. These are daily cards that give attendees an at-a-glance view of the day. These will be printed on FSC certified paper.
Phone/Blackberry Application - We’re trying to cut back on printed materials at WEC and to help in the transiation we’re providing conference materials in real-time with the free WEC iPhone/Blackberry app. Easy to navigate, the app offers a searchable conference agenda, speaker information and profiles, access to the MPI Twitter feed and Facebook page, an attendee list and a direct connect to social networking site Pathable.

Paper"less" yes....paper"free" no

Omnipress has posted a couple of great blog entries about the decision to limit handouts and has even offered to do the printing at the next MPI WEC in Orlando. The comments on his blog entry are great and I highly recommend you to read them - some great information.

My thoughts are as follows. The word "paperless" conference has been used and abused so much that even green meeting planners like myself are struggling to define it. In frustration, I have quit using it, relegating it to the shelf with other words and phrases I dislike like "carbon neutral" meetings or "zero footprint" meetings.

If I have learned nothing else in the past few years as a green meeting planner it is that utilizing all or nothing strategies leads to failure. Using terminology like "paperless" leads the attendees and organizers to assume that the strategy is to be paperfree when in fact the very word is paperLESS, not paperNONE. Simply stated...use less paper.

The comments surrounding the MPI WEC decision to limit handouts, limit printing of programs, etc. has created so many terrific conversations about alternatives that it was worth the price of registration just to hear them all.


Monday, July 26, 2010

I Heart Travel Alberta!

Wow.......who knew that the MPI World Education Congress would be so much fun! Tonight I attended a reception hosted by Travel Alberta and only one word could describe it....AWESOME! The fun and laughter was contagious and the smiles were genuine.

After being greeted by the wonderful Jennifer Holly of Travel Alberta who was waiting at the Pan Pacific Hotel, we were bused to the marina. The boat was wonderful.

Food and drinks were plentiful, everything was geared to beautiful Alberta. We had Alberta beef, Alberta Bison, spicy caesars (a drink invented at a bar/hotel in Calgary) and many other great creations.

You would think that the evening couldn't possibly get better...but it did. We were entertained by the Edmonton music group, the Be Arthurs and they were fabulous!

I can't say enough about the Travel Alberta group, so I will just simply say, "Thank you"


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Yes, it's a Big Deal started reaaaaalllllly early this morning as I set off to go to the MPI World Education Congress 2010 in Vancouver. I was pleasantly surprised by a genuinely friendly Flight Attendant for Air Canada Jazz (I am going to send in a comment card). She was attentive and friendly and really seemed to enjoy her job. That translated into a very pleasant trip for the passengers.

After arriving in YVR, I took the Canada Line to my hotel. Why Vancouver didn't build that years ago, I don't know. It is fabulous. I wish that Edmonton would build a high speed rail service to YEG!

I went to the opening reception and the food was fabulous. All local fish, veggies and fruit topped off with BC Wine. Outstanding!


Monday, July 12, 2010

Moving on and moving up!

Summer’s here and many of you will be moving on and/or moving up. Moving to your first home or apartment is an exciting time. Moving from your first home to a larger, new home is exciting too! Friends and family will be anxiously waiting for the invitation to a housewarming party so that they can get a tour of the new home and maybe bring you a little something!

Here are some tips for throwing a stress free housewarming party!

Change of address cards can double as invitations. Send out postcards with your change of address, directions to your new home and the time and date of your housewarming. Personalize the postcard by taking a photo of your new home and print them out on 4 x 6 stock. On the reverse you can provide the details. Only use traditional mail for those few individuals who live out of town and aren’t connected via the internet, as there are definitely “greener” options.

“Facebook” them with the details. For your facebook friends, create an event on your facebook page with all the housewarming details, directions, etc.

E-vite them! If the majority of your friends and family are connected via email, send them the information via an email message. You can still attach the photo, directions, etc.

No need to decorate, your new home is the decoration! You can create a welcoming atmosphere with candlelight and fresh flowers (never leave a candle unattended).

Set up a no-host drink station so that guests can serve themselves. (You will be too busy giving tours) Don’t go overboard with the choices. Why not come up with a signature cocktail and call it the new “Hometini”? The mix can be prepared ahead of time and sitting in pitchers. Have a little index card with instructions on how to create the cocktail. Beer and/or coolers can be sitting in buckets of ice for easy access. Always ensure you have something non-alcoholic available for guests who are driving.

Create a coffee station that is extraordinary. Brew both a pot of caffeine free coffee and of regular coffee and set them out in pump pots or carafe’s clearly labeled. Rim your coffee mugs by dipping them first in either a simple syrup or a liqueur, then press the rim into a mixture of cinnamon sugar (just like the kind you would put on your toast in the morning) Provide coffee cream and milk for the coffee as well as a selection of sugars (including splenda, equal, etc). If you wish, you can also set out a selection of coffee liqueurs such as Irish Cream. Tip: Rolo candies are delicious dropped into hot coffee and stirred!

High Impact – low effort appetizers. No one has to know it is takeout! Order an assortment of sushi from a local restaurant and display it beautifully. When you place the order, drop off your own serving platter(s) and ask them to use them instead of takeout containers. This will save time for you and be more eco-friendly.

Lollipop’s are fun! We are all kids at heart and can’t resist anything on a stick. Make Rice Krispie treats, mold them into small balls, insert a lollipop stick and dip in melted chocolate. Display them by inserting one end of the stick into a watermelon (you can have watermelon the next day)

Are you invited to a housewarming party? Here are just a few ideas for gifts that will set the new homeowners on the right “green” path:

§ Purchase recycling bins and print out instructions on what is recyclable and how to sort.

§ Sign them up for curbside recycling – pay for the first 6 months

§ Water saver faucet attachment for kitchen sink

§ Water saver attachment for shower

§ A bucket filled with an assortment of green cleaners such as Seventh Generation and a collection of “pre-loved” rags

§ A compost collection container for under the sink (provide a cheat sheet on what is acceptable for compost)

§ A backyard compost container.

§ If they have teenagers, purchase a shower timer that sticks to the shower stall (4 minutes!)

§ Purchase them a replacement shower curtain that is not made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

MPI World Education Congress here I come!

I am so excited about attending my very first MPI World Education Congress and it is being held in my home Country and Province!

I am not sure what I am most looking forward to.....checking in with friends and colleagues or all of the great workshops, seminars and featured speakers! I am particularly looking forward to hearing Ed Begley speak.

I think that any time we have the opportunity to connect and network with colleagues we should take advantage of it.

Can't wait!

Friday, July 2, 2010

I spy with my green eyes......

The Hyatt Regency Boston! I just was reading about how they sliced their annual energy consumption by 42%!!! It didn't happen overnight, but happened as a result of improvements to infrastructure, equipment and systems to improve efficiency. Read more about it here on Green Lodging News.

Way to go!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Just give me something to talk about

Wow! I recently attended the MPI Greater Edmonton Chapter Event Management Awards and was fortunate enough to share a table with three gentlemen from the Edmonton area. Each were specialists in a different field. One in insurance, one in marketing and strategic management and the other in sales motivation and training. Wow! What delightful dinner companions. Each brought a unique perspective within their chosen field.

As they asked, "what do you do?", I became very animated and excited as I described Green Event Planning. It was clear that I loved what I do. They were interested in the aspects of green events and impressed at the numbers which I was able to share, i.e. amount of waste generated, etc.

I returned home with a renewed sense of spirit and, quite possibly, a bounce in my step. If you believe in the Law of Attraction, that positive energy could be responsible for the call which I received yesterday wanting to hire me for a green event next month.

To David, Michael and Frank....thank you for sharing your table with us and thank you for reminding me why I do what I do!


Celebrate Canada's Birthday in Style!

This is going to be the best Canada Day ever! Why? We are still bursting with pride from the recent Olympic games. Most of us can still close our eyes and hear the Nikki Yanofksy song, “I Believe”. We can still remember exactly where we were when the overtime goal was scored in the Canada versus U.S.A. men’s final hockey game. We can still see the tears on the face of Canadian Ladies Figure Skater Joannie Rochette as she finished her short program. We can still feel the excitement from when Kevin Martin threw his final stone to win gold and lastly, we can still hear the strains of O’Canada as our flag was raised many times during the games.

Come on folks….let’s make this 2010 Canada Day Gold Medal Worthy.

Wave your maple leaf – Flags are on sale everywhere right now. Proudly display your Canadian Flag. If you can’t display a flag, buy a pin and wear it on your lapel or hat.

Break into Song – We have incredible Canadian musicians. Create a nostalgic play list of Canadian favourites by encouraging your guests to think back…..way back to the year they were born and choose a Top 40 single from a Canadian Artist. I can imagine that it will end up being quite an eclectic mix of tunes…..everything from “Four Strong Winds” by Ian and Sylvia Tyson to “My Heart will go on” by Celine Dion.

Set the Scene – A clean, freshly ironed, white cotton flat sheet can double as a table-covering. The simple centerpiece can be a grouping of large and small clear glass jars, some can contain sand and soy votive/pillar candles (beware – jars can become very hot), others inexpensive red and white carnations. Wrap some of the jars with ribbon…..think red and white with possibly a twist a la aqua or chartreuse. Fruit can also make an impact on the table. In keeping with our colour theme, what about cylinder vases filled with red apples or green limes!

Hail Caesar? – Did you know that the delicious drink, the “Bloody Caesar” was invented by a Canadian in 1969 at the Owl’s Nest Bar in Calgary (source Wikipedia). The traditional Caesar contains vodka, clamato juice, and seasoning. Garnish it with dill pickles, hot peppers, pickled carrots or asparagus. My personal favourite is pickled beans!

Share some trivia – Research some random pieces of Canadian trivia and stump your guests at your party. What about, “What is Canada’s longest river” or “Whose face is on the Canadian 100 dollar bill?”

A bit of “Tim Bit” Heaven – Let’s face it, Tim Horton’s is a Canadian past time. Try this Tim Bit Dessert on July 1st.

You will need: Large Box of chocolate Tim Bits, wooden skewers, fresh strawberries and powdered sugar for dusting.

Instructions: wash, dry and hull the strawberries, thread the Tim Bits and the strawberries alternating until you have three of each on every skewer, lay on a platter and dust with powdered sugar! Garnish with fresh mint and serve immediately with…what else but Tim Horton’s coffee.

Dress the part – Encourage everyone to wear a bit of red

Movie Time – watch a movie with a memorable Canuck actor, like John Candy in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”.

Join the party – Participate in local Canada Day celebrations.

Show them a good time – There are many visitors from other countries traveling through our communities during the summer. Take a moment on July 1st to share your Canadian pride with them.

Happy Canada Day!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Father's Day Fun!

Hidden Fun on Father's Day!

Are there any father’s out there who don’t enjoy cool gadgets and the rush of an adventure?

This Father’s Day discover Geocaching! A worldwide, high-tech treasure hunting game played by curious individuals armed with a handheld GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver. After logging onto (The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site), you can look for geocache coordinates in the area that you are interested hunting in. A typical cache is a waterproof container containing a logbook and maybe even “treasure”, usually small items of little value. The cache’s are listed according to difficulty, family friendly locations, terrain, etc. You enter the coordinates (longitude and latitude) of the hidden cache into your GPS and then go searching for it. The website contains all the information required to begin, including geocaching “etiquette”.

What do you do when you find a cache? Well, high fives all around that is for sure…..great job! The rule is that you never take anything out unless you replace it with something else. There generally is a small guest logbook in the container that you can record comments in.

There are many different types of GPS receiver’s on the market right now with various price points. When you are at the store, discuss what your needs are with the sales person and they should be able to steer you in the right direction. Explain that you are going to use it for geocaching. The Apple iphone can also be used….like they say, “there is an App for that” .

Here are some tips for planning your very own Father’s Day “Geocache Adventure”

· Pick an easy location to start - This is your first trip out, so pick a location that is easily accessible with a low difficulty rating. You want this to be a positive learning experience for everyone.

· Be sneaky about it! – this is a surprise, so you will have to be a little discreet when learning all there is to know about geocaching on the website.

· Get the kids involved! – Kids love a treasure hunt and will be as excited as you are.

· Make sure that you have looked after all of the safety stuff such as making sure that your cell phone is charged, plenty of gas in your vehicle, extra batteries for GPS, let someone know where you are going, pack an emergency kit, spare tire, etc.

· Prepare a picnic – Treasure Hunters get hungry, so prepare a picnic lunch with some of Dad’s favourite items. Be Green….pack your picnic in reusable containers and bring “finger” food which doesn’t require plates or cutlery.

· Bring a bag to pick up any trash you come across. “Cache in, Trash Out” is the motto

· Don’t Idle – Turn off your vehicle when parked

· Record your mileage – Knowing your mileage for the day gives you the option of purchasing carbon offsets to assist you in reducing the carbon footprint of your Father’s Day adventure.

· A trail of Breadcrumbs - If you need to walk any distance, mark your vehicle as a waypoint on your GPS so that you do not get lost!

· Be Patient & Persistent – Oftentimes the cache is not going to be in plain site so you are going to have to look around for it. Technically, it should be within 3-5 metres of the coordinates (A big thank you to Cathy for this tip).

· Say Cheese! – Make sure that you bring a camera or digital video camera to document the trip. The website encourages you to upload pictures from your adventures!

· Have fun…lots of fun – This is quality family time folks…enjoy it and enjoy the great outdoors!