Sunday, February 27, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
When I was a little girl, we didn’t do much traveling. If we did, it was taking the family fifth wheel and parking it at a lake for two weeks. It was a much slower pace, a la Ozzie and Harriet. Fast forward to the travel experience of my own children and it is in stark contrast. When they were in grade 4 and 7 respectively, they traveled to Hawaii with their grandparents. The year they graduated, they went on a European vacation. In the past 18 month period, my daughter has traveled to the Cuba, the Bahamas, New York, Las Vegas and Mexico. They have had passports for so long, they have renewed them multiple times.
When I was little, traveling out of Country was like wanting to own a trampoline. It was something rich kids got to do and have.
The world was huge! You never would have dreamed that ordinary folk could just jump on a plane and fly to China or Japan or even Toronto. The price of fuel made this possible. In the past 20 years, air travel is not just something that the rich can participate in….. Slashed fares, bargains and the use of airmiles put air travel within reach of almost everyone.
Once again, the price of fuel is forcing change. Dr. Ian Lee, Professor at Sprott School of Business at Carleton University in Ottawa, and panelist at the recent GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference, quoted fascinating statistics from research that indicated that if fuel prices remain at their current levels that only five airlines may remain in business in Europe. Wow! What will that mean for North American airlines? We are already feeling the squeeze with the implementation of extra bag charges, seating priority charges, etc. The airlines are feeling the squeeze as well.
If airline travel prices itself out of the picture for us “normal folk”, what will that mean to the meetings industry? What will that mean for Associations that rely on the revenue from annual meetings? What will that mean for convention centres and hotel chains that also rely on the revenue?
If the meetings industry and it’s vast network of planners and suppliers, is to survive this massive shift, we have to begin implementing strategies immediately. We can’t have a wait and see attitude.
We must be PROACTIVE not REACTIVE.
When you are proactive, you are in a position of power. When you are reactive, you are in a defensive position….you have your back against the wall and are defending the palace gates. It is not a good place to be.
What can we proactively do now to be able to address this issue effectively?
- Continue implementing and improving the hybrid meeting model – It is an additional revenue stream that is growing and improving. Consider giving equal planning consideration to the hybrid attendee experience. Don’t let it be a last minute add on. It may outpace the traditional model in the future.
- Think Sustainable Event Chain – Shauna McKinley recently wrote a blog post titled “Sustainable Event Chain: Can we Build it?” where she addressed making events better by “connecting them as a chain – from event to event – in order to maximize economic and environmental efficiency”.
- Think carefully about the event content and ensure there is a substantial ROI for attendees. This may mean taking an organizations’ previous model of hosting four quarterly meetings and replacing it with two larger meetings augmented by smaller regional meetings.
- “Don’t lock your mind into a rigid assumption of what the future will look like” (Dr. Karl-Henrik Robert – 2011 GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference, Portland)
Let’s face it. The rising cost of fuel will impact us greatly. For some, it will make their world a little smaller due to the cost of travel. For others, it will mean rethinking how we do business to meet the challenges ahead.
Pretty profound isn’t it. Say it with me again, “I’m a realist with an optimistic heart”.
These words were spoke by Dr. Karl-Henrik Robért during his presentation at the GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference that I recently attended. Dr. Robért is the founder of the Natural Step and has worked with well-known organizations such as IKEA, McDonald’s, NIKE, Scandic Hotels, and Electrolux to help them pioneer sustainable solutions and transform their organizations. Dr. Robért is one of Sweden’s foremost cancer scientists and is a frequent speaker and author on sustainability. Amongst his many accomplishments, in 2000 Dr. Robert won the “Blue Planet” prize, which is often described as the Nobel Prize for ecological sustainability.
What I am really saying….he knows his stuff.
I admit I was smitten. It was a heavy subject, but his easy-going speaking manner and sense of humour enabled us to travel on the journey with him. I felt like he was speaking directly to me. Afterwards, while discussing with another attendee about how much impact the presentation had, I actually started a sentence with, “when Dr. Robért was talking to me…” which of course wasn’t true. The general session room was packed with 250 plus attendees, but he made us feel like he was speaking directly to each of us individually.
I wanted to take notes, but I was so engaged in his presentation that I put my pen down and simply listened.
What did I learn from Dr. Robért? I learned so much, but these stood front and center:
- Ask for advice – When you really need to engage someone and want him or her to be a partner in your process, simply begin the dialogue by asking for advice. By doing so, you are demonstrating that you are willing to listen. Follow that conversation up with….
- "Yes, and….” – shows collaboration of the idea/conversation. No longer are you two opposing sides, you are now sharing information respectfully. It builds trust and acceptance. (Jenise Fryatt of Icon Presentations and founder of Eventprov also introduced this term to us during her fabulous opening presentation. The term was used often through this conference)
- It only takes 10% - 15% to create a paradigm shift – A paradigm shift is a change from one way of thinking to another and once started, goes rapidly. It can happen with as little as 10% - 15% of the population acting as change agents.
Each year that I attend the GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference, I walk away inspired, invigorated and with a spring in my step. This year is no different.... Thank you!
Sunday, February 13, 2011
We can learn a lot from the recent Super Bowl. We can learn that no matter how famous a celebrity and how often she might have sung the National Anthem, she may still benefit from a teleprompter. We can learn that even when John the technical guy said he plugged in Fergie’s mic, we might still want to double check to confirm so that her voice doesn’t mysteriously cut in and out during the half time show, making her sound like a commercial for dropped calls. Yes, we can learn these things.
I think the most important lesson though is never, ever, ever (did I say ever?) over promise on something and then not be able to make it happen.
It doesn’t work in relationships, it doesn’t work in business and it certainly didn’t work at the Super Bowl.
What am I talking about? You may have already heard about this story. Apparently, leading up to the Super Bowl, additional temporary seating for spectators was to be added to the stadium and tickets were sold for these temporary seats. Unfortunately, “incomplete installation of temporary seats in a limited number of sections made the seats unusable” (USAToday.com). So, what did this mean for those unlucky fans that purchased tickets for those seats? Many fans were found seats elsewhere, but reports state that approximately 400 did not and were forced to watch the game on a television set like commoners (aka – everyone else in the world). As one displaced spectator said in an interview, “I have cried three times today”.
Word in the blogsphere is that these fans were offered their money back, but to die hard football fans, all the money in the world wouldn’t ease the disappointment that they were feeling. It certainly wouldn’t cover 100% of the travel expenses or make them feel any better about painting themselves from head to toe in green paint which now seems silly considering they were going to have to watch the game from the T.G.I. Friday in their hotel. (Actually – the fans were taken to an area within the stadium where large screens had been erected for them to watch the game).
Sports fans are passionate. They can handle a lot of things, but they can’t handle it when things aren’t fair. The fact that they were sold something that either didn’t exist or wasn’t ready, wasn’t fair. They won’t forget…..ever.
Building additional seating so that more fans can enjoy the experience was laudable. Not having them completed in time for the big event, was a risk that they shouldn’t have taken.
You have heard the saying, “If we build it, they will come”….well these event organizers should have said, “If we build it, we will make sure it’s done”.
What kind of lesson’s can we learn? Well, we can learn never to assume anything. They assumed Christina would know the words, they assumed that the audio was fool proof, someone assumed that someone else had made sure the additional seating was complete. And you know what they say about assuming……yup, that’s right.
Update: It is reported that NFL officials have so far contacted 260 of the 400 fans that had to watch the game on television screens inside the stadium. Those fans can accept $2,400 and a ticket for next year’s Super Bowl, or a ticket for any future Super Bowl plus airfare and hotel accommodations.
Believe it or not, for many, that still won’t be enough compensation.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
This morning I was reading through my twitter timeline and stumbled across a great blog article which came to me via Robin Walker (@RobinWalker – great person to follow, hilarious tweets, great links) It was called “Warm Bread is not Toast” by Chris Brogan (www.chrisbrogan.com) and it spoke about the difference between “good enough” and “close enough” in business. It was a great article and the warm bread vs toast illustrated his point perfectly.
So, I basked for a moment in the afterglow that comes after reading something really brilliant and happened to glance below the post in the “related post” column. The top title “Warm the Mug” caught my eye and I clicked on it.
You have to read it. It was a short blurb describing a customer service experience that met and exceeded expectations. It spoke to an experience wherein the server not only provided “expected service”, but understood the finer nuances of exceptional customer service and delivered. Brogan was so impressed, he wrote about it.
It brought to mind a recent conversation I had with a friend who had just spent the evening having dinner at a trendy restaurant with her husband. She said they had received great service. I was intrigued and I asked her to tell me what prompted her to say that it was great service. Well, she said….the server was friendly, the food was warm and tasty and the kitchen was really understanding when she had to send her meat back the first time because it was a little undercooked. Really…I replied? Servers are supposed to be friendly, the food is supposed to taste good and honestly, it should have been cooked properly the first time. This is what a restaurant is supposed to do. You are confusing great service with it barely meeting minimum expectations.
Are we so desensitized by the poor service that we have received in the past, that we are now confusing superior/great service with the simple act of being served? Are we just happy that no one was rude, that we didn’t have to confront someone or defend ourselves? Are we happy that we didn’t have to renegotiate the bill, ask to speak to the manager or raise our voice? Have we become satisfied with mediocrity?
Was it close enough….yes, but really….was it good enough? No.
We can learn alot from Andrea, the exceptional server who warmed Brogan’s coffee mug.
- Little things DO matter: Never forget the details – they are often what is remembered
- Anticipate need: Like a chess game, always be one step ahead of your customer and their needs
- Be Professional: Be the very best you can be at whatever you do – be a professional
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
A humorous look at what NOT to do when contacting potential clients.
Sure….I will throw in this disclaimer: The names and events used are made up, not real, etc. The names and incidents are the product of my twisted imagination. Any resemblance to actual events or persons living or dead is a coincidence.
Jane Smith has just returned from a successful networking conference in Phoenix. She shared many business cards and spoke to a number of potential clients. Now home, Jane is excited about following up post conference with one of her most promising leads. Let’s listen:
*ring *ring *ring *ring - click (goes to voicemail)
“Hi, you have reached the desk of Jennifer Doe (not her real name), I am either out of the office or on another call. Please leave a message after the beep and I will try to return your call within the next two hours”.
Professional Jane: “Good morning Jennifer. This is Jane Smith calling…we met at the XYZ Conference last weekend in Phoenix. I am just following up regarding our conversation about an upcoming project that you thought I might be interested in. I will be in my office for the remainder of the day and look forward to hearing from you. Have a great day!”
3 minutes later
*ring *ring *ring *ring - click (goes to voicemail)
“Hi, you have reached the desk of Jennifer Doe, I am either out of the office or on another call. Please leave a message after the beep and I will try to return your call within the next two hours”.
Embarrassed Jane: “Hi Jennifer, Jane Smith here again. I just realized that I did not leave the number where I could be reached. You can call me at (234) 555-1212. Thanks!”
1 day passes – Jane wonders why she hasn’t heard from Jennifer. Maybe she gave the wrong number? Maybe she should send an email? Hmmmmmm…..
Meanwhile….Jane locates @JenniferDoe on Twitter and is now following her. A request has also been sent to LinkedIn.
*ring *ring *ring *ring - click (goes to voicemail)
“Hi, you have reached the desk of Jennifer Doe, I am either out of the office ……blah, blah, blah…..the beep and I will try to return your call within the next two hours”.
Desperate Jane: “Good morning Jennifer, Jane Smith calling. I am sorry if I may have missed your call (totally lying – Jane has call display, she would know it if Jennifer called). I will definitely have my cell with me all day and would love to hear from you. You can call me at (234) 777-2323 or if it is more convenient, you can email me at jane.smith@.....”
Two days pass.
Frustrated AND Desperate Jane muses aloud: Darnit! We had such a great conversation at the XYZ Conference! She said I was perfect for the next project they were considering. I thought we had a connection. What to do..what to do. I wonder why she hasn’t returned my call? Maybe that storm that recently passed through Chicago affected their phone lines? Yes! That must be it…...it probably knocked out all of their voicemail and she likely hasn’t received my messages. I will email her AND then I will call her to make sure she knows I have sent the email.
*ring *ring *ring *ring - click (goes to voicemail) Darn!
“Hi, you have reached the desk of Jennifer Doe, I am either out of the office ………blather, blather, blather…..try to return your call within the next two hours”.
Jane (now known as Creepy Jane): “Hi Jennifer, this is Jane Smith calling. Hope you survived the storm…ha! ha! Anyway, no doubt my voice mail messages were lost in the power outages. I wanted to let you know that I sent an email to you with all of my contact information so that we could connect about that project you thought I might be perfect for. I am in between events right now…so it would be a perfect time! Have a great evening at the Opera! (Jane knows this because @JenniferDoe has tweeted that she will be attending the opera that evening and of course, Creepy Jane is following her tweets)”
Crazy Jane muses aloud yet again: What the heck! Two hours my a$$! It has been 5 days since I first left that message and she hasn’t even had the courtesy to return my email. I KNOW she received it because I had flagged it with read receipt. I know she is in town – she tweeted she had an orthodontic appointment today. I have half a mind (yes you do Jane – you have LOST your mind) to give her a piece of my mind! When we spoke at XYZ Conference she basically offered me a job right then and there. I mean, of course there would be formalities involved, but I basically was a shoe in for the project. I don’t deserve to be treated like this. I am going to give her one more day and then….”
*ring *ring *ring *ring - click (goes to voicemail)
“Hi, you have reached the desk of Jennifer Doe, I am either out of the office or… yada, yada, yada ……..within the next two hours”.
Psychotic Jane….sobbing, “Jennifer, this is Jane calling. I apologize for the tears, but I am very upset that I haven’t heard from you….I thought we had a connection. I have discussed our relationship with my therapist and he said that I would feel better if I have some closure. PLEASE call me…anytime day or night!”
So.....I have to ask....do any of you know a Jane?