Taking Your Hospitality Career to the Next Level

Deciding to take the next step in higher education is often a decision made by necessity. You work your way up the organizational chain and then find out that others have the leg up because they have a 4-year degree, when you have the experiential knowledge and have paid your dues. The thought of going back to school seems overwhelming with all the other responsibilities- work, family, volunteerism, etc.  I know where you are coming from and wanted to share information on a bachelor’s completion program that is run by one of our former DCTC Meeting and Event Planning instructors, Christine Pigsley at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

The Applied Organizational Studies Program transfers in the credits you earned previously at DCTC or other colleges and then builds an individual pathway to a bachelor’s degree. You don’t have to start over, sit in class, or take a slew of courses that fail to add value to your professional development.  The core courses focus on communication and virtual teamwork, leading and following in different organizational environments, innovation and entrepreneurial thinking, and change management. Then students select courses in communications, non-profit leadership, marketing, program administration and planning, etc.

The reason I find this so interesting for my community of hospitality professionals is that the courses are offered similarly to how I ran the program at DCTC, 8-week sessions, flexible course delivery, and a true appreciation for your personal and professional experience in the course work. If you want to learn more here is a video and website http://sbs.mnsu.edu/aos/.

Under Promise, Over Deliver

Students, alumni, and clients will all recognize the title of this article.  The phrase,

Under Promise, Over Deliver,

is a thread that runs through every course, training and coaching session, and  . . . well, if I have my way, I’d add it to everyone’s Kool-Aid.  Or, perhaps, it should be on everyone’s office wall – billboard size?old_billboard_on_brick_wall_17793

This came to mind as I read a recent post from Social Tables, written by Fabrice Orlando: The 4 Questions Event Planners Need to Ask Potential Clients. This is an important topic and I applaud Social Tables for addressing it. Fabrice asks great questions, and yet I found myself wanting to dig deeper with each one.  Perhaps that’s because I’m used to digging deeper with students in the DCTC Hospitality and Event Management Program.  We do so to help students compete in the marketplace AND create lasting relationships with their employers and clients.

So in the name of Under Promise, Over Deliver, let’s dig a little deeper on the four questions:

  1. What is the overall goal of your event? OK, that’s a great opener for this conversation, but consider at least three of the levels on the ROI pyramid.  (I’m referring to objectives that segment into real measurements.)  Often, the destination of “overall goal” is ambiguous, so getting to the meat of things with objectives is important to success. There exists a great deal of real-life research and data on this topic, but none (my opinion) is better-presented than a white paper published by MPI, Business Value of Meetings.

         “To successfully calculate the business value of your meeting, you
    have to understand its goals and objectives, which are often undefined—until you challenge your stakeholders to explain them.”

         “Without clearly defined and expressed objectives, there is no standard against which to determine the value of a meeting’s performance. While most
    organizational cultures rely on intuitive standards to assess their
    meetings, organizations that measure the actual business value of
    their meetings always adopt objectives, documented and measurable standards to understand the value of their events.”

    2. What is your communication style? I can’t add to the suggestions Fabrice has included in this segment of her article. I would love to include reference to measurements such as Strengths(R) and temperament, however, I’m aware that without comprehensive knowledge of these scales, one would need to ask their prospective client to take an assessment before proceeding.  I agree that would be a buzzkill and now I’m sounding like one of those boring academicians. 🙂

    3. How would you define my role?  Perfect question and I love the detail Orlando included in this segment of the article. I would add:  How will you measure the success of my performance?

    4. Where do you buy your coffee?  Here, Fabrice Orlando refers to nurturing experiences by gifting meaningful items to the customer which she aptly refers to as, “. . . ditching the cheesy swag in exchange for more personal and meaningful gifts.” I suggest that a handwritten appreciation note, as well as endorsement on social media, could be added to the list of “memorable items.” I appreciate that a hand-written note is “old-school,” however, I don’t know anyone (regardless of generation) that doesn’t secretly stash those notes in a box for safekeeping.

All of life is a learning experience

This is the second of Mitchell Myers leadership reflections. It was an honor to share Mitchell’s educational journey at DCTC, and thrilling to watch as he builds a successful leadership career. The following quotation from Mitchell says a great deal about his philosophy of life as well as leadership.

 “All of life is a learning experience. Our lives are full of benchmarks that allow us to rise to the occasion of allowing our peers to rise, and create experiences which allow not only ourselves to thrive, but those we inspire.” 



Mitchell Myers, guest author

I have emphasized the study of management versus leadership throughout my college career. Some individuals find the two terms redundant, but I find leadership to be a very important aspect of business in a new American (and World) century. During the political season, we all hear about “income inequality.” This attaches to leadership in business. It breaks my heart when I hear people complain about income inequality and see them go after people who create jobs and innovations. In the 21st century, businesses have the opportunity to come up with new technology beyond our wildest dreams. They can lead us to a lower cost of living and lower the costs of doing business. I feel that instead of, I suppose I could say, “flower children” complaining about not getting a slice of the pie, our job as leaders in business is to help make the pie bigger, and not take from those who earned it. This requires the leadership of our elected officials to apply term limits to allow for new, local faces to emerge. Once that is complete, I believe we will see a shift in policy that is more local business-centered. To make the pie bigger, businesses and organizations of all kinds must not be resistant to change.

How do we cope with change? As the business world becomes more competitive, ideas of the past do not lead to success. Change is required for survival; hence the need for leadership. There are three ways in which leadership copes with change, according to Kotter:

  • Determine what needs to be done—set direction
  • Arrange people to accomplish the plan
  • Motivate and inspire people to do their jobs

Granted, there will be some people who just won’t budge when it comes to change. They may need to be “voted off the island” for the success of the whole, but most can be convinced through steady leadership, and standing by one’s convictions. A leader must mobilize individual commitment for change. This can be done by setting a specific, realistic vision and direction, demonstrating personal character, and engendering organizational capability. Leaders must remember to be “a part,” not “apart” from the group.

Before an individual can become a good leader, they need to become a good manager. In the 21st century, the focus has shifted from management training roles to leadership training roles. This can be lost in a single generation if it is not kept in focus. Ensuring success, in an organization’s future a leader must do the following:

  • Have realistic expectations
  • View challenges with a depth of perspective
  • Manage upward, sideways and downward
  • Network outside your department/organization or business
  • Determine the kind of Leader you want to be
  • Appeal to the needs and interests of the people you manage or lead
  • Always be an effective self-manager

If one is to know others, their learning styles, their wants and needs, one must also be able to make an analysis of his or herself. Know your limitations, and use it as an opportunity for self-improvement. Leadership is more than writing or making great speeches; it is about inspiring the hearts and mind of people in your organization, or everywhere for that matter, to do their part to move us toward new technology, communication, and wealth. We have finally come to many realizations. We have determined what leadership is, and what it takes to lead us toward new 21st-century leadership. Now the time has come for us to fight the good fight, and get a sense of the future.

As William Zinsser, a writer from the American Scholar would put it, “Joyful Noise.” Robert Henri, a painter from the 19th century, said, “Paint as a man coming over the hill singing.” That is what leaders of the 21st century must do to inspire people who may not be able to go along with their ideas. So I declare:

Leaders, lead as a person ‘coming over the hill singing. Be joyful, and articulate. Share your knowledge and love of intellectual discussion with your peers and team.

If young leaders like myself lead like as a person “coming over the hill singing,” we can inspire, create a picture in the minds of our followers, and climb the mountaintop of destiny. We all are born with talents and dreams, albeit in different conditions and upbringings. It is up to people like us, to move our cause forward. We must fight the good fight, to move humanity in a better direction. As President Ronald Reagan said in his 1981 inaugural address: “We are too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams.” Also, “I will fight cheerfully, I will endure, and do my utmost as if the issue of the whole struggle, depended on me alone.” That is what I will become after my graduation: a fighter for true 21st-century leadership, “coming over the hill singing” and inspiring any team or organization I am a part of. Young leaders like myself will need to come together to resolve the problems that now confront us.

Years may pass, and days may go by, but steady leadership in times of change must be solid and have a strong resolve. The rights of humankind still ring clear. We must be led by leaders that believe in liberty and self-actualization. We have a great opportunity to move our businesses and community organizations forward to a new horizon- a horizon that brings us ethical leaders, a constant searching for knowledge, with the growth of businesses and innovation never seen before in the history of the mankind. We can do this, one leader at a time.

Managing Teams. Cambridge, MA: Center for Quality Management, 1995. Print.

“Honor President Reagan’s Legacy.” Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.

Kreitner, Robert. Foundations of Management: Basics and Best Practices. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. Print.




The Wisdom of Leadership: Shaping Events

I’ve been blessed to work alongside many leaders. Mitchell Myers is one of those individuals. In his semester at DCTC, Mitchell wrote two great reflections on leadership. I am honored to share the first of these here.

                 Mitchell Myers, guest author               Myers

Change is a key challenge for the 21st-century business leader. The adaptive skills necessary to achieve success in a shifting culture and marketplace rely on an increasingly comprehensive knowledge base. Leadership, risk management, inventory management, and the development and training of employees –all of these are things that can make or break a business, as well as a guest’s experience. Whether it be in a hotel, a grocery store, your local bakery, or even your local pizza shop, these controllables are universal in nature. What does it take to be successful as a 21st-century business person? Knowing your market is one of the many keys to success, but does it end there? If one knows the market, price points, as well as the culture, the journey has only just begun. There must be new, bold ideas for the future workforce. While numbers, calculations, and measurements of success are written in stone; the changing dynamics of culture, population, sociopolitical aspects, “acts of God,” and “acts of nature” have an overwhelming force on success.

As leaders, learners, and experiencers, how do we face these change factors in business and in our personal lives? This is not a black or white issue. As we fight for success and influence our way to prosperity, we must not only be accepting of change, but also agents of it.

Agents of change and business success are all around us. One simply needs to strike up a conversation to learn more. In this article, there will be stories across different industries. We will take a look a suburban hotel that I returned to visit after their remodeling, and in follow-up, to an interview I performed there during my first year of college. Then we will visit with local grocery store managers about satisfied customers and employee development. We will glimpse wisdom gleaned in my interview with the CEO of a theater corporation. Lastly, we will explore how to apply these lessons learned in everyday situations to achieve leadership success.

The first step in leadership is to not only know yourself and the people you will be leading. After we figure out how to apply these lessons learned, we will consider how to measure results, and success, as well as define it. In the end, we will bring all of these pieces together to form a vision and roadmap to success for any organization.

Our first story comes from a suburban hotel I originally visited when they were in the process of getting new carpet, renovating rooms, and hiring new staff. I recently had the opportunity to meet with the day manager.The first thing I asked her was, “What made you realize that you wanted to work in the hotel business?” She said that she started working at a local grocery store chain. Through customer interactions and doing sales projects, she decided that her calling was working at a hotel. I asked her if she likes her job as well as and what makes her feel secure about working in the industry? She stated there are certain standards just as any restaurant or business would have, but most of all there is a push for consistent service. When you go to any of this hotel chain’s locations, guests expect the same service and consistency of their room product. The hotel chain is known for uniformity of their brand standard.

She was very busy answering phones, and greeting guests when I was there. At the next opportunity, I was able to ask a few more questions so I inquired about her next career move and asked if she would like to advance to another position in the hotel or continue her work at the front desk. She replied that she wants to be a general manager one day, or run a small hotel of her own in the southwest. Now that she had stated her goal, I wanted to know how she measures her success. She said that as long as she keeps her job, and is at the same level, or running her property- she is successful. She said she would achieve success if she were, “able to save more money than I spend, if I can feed my kids and send them off to college, and retire happily.” About job satisfaction, she said it is what you make of it. “It is all about if the customers are happy, and the company is making money. You have to be clear about standards to the customers and the employees. If any issues arise, such as somebody not enjoying their stay, you have to get to what they really want specifically.”

“What alternatives can you suggest to the guest to make them happy?” I asked. She replied, “An advantage, for example, to giving a dissatisfied customer a free stay, would be that of not losing a customer. The disadvantage would be not making a profit on the room.” I then asked her about the challenges of her career. She stated that the biggest challenge was the hours of work, and being on call many times during the week. She said while that is a big problem, the money she earns makes up for it. It’s always a challenge being away from family, she said. “The biggest problem with being a single mother and working at a hotel is that the time I spend working overtime is time away from my family.” She also stated, “The money is good, so it overshadows the fact that you’re away from your family a big chunk of the time.” I ended our conversation with a question about industry trends. She thinks the huge jump in technology over the last ten years or so for lower-end hotels like hers will start to snowball. She said she had seen other hotels with touchscreen pads, and self-check-in systems, as well as the “ICloud”, and very advanced property management systems. She believes technology will be a huge factor in guest experience during the coming years.

What I learned during my visit at the hotel is that this is a constant, living, and breathing company. The management is very business-oriented, and to my surprise, very educated on aspects of clarity, precision, and consistency. For these reasons, lessons learned from this hotel chain model will be important to my success in the future. The service this location provides and the integrity of the management made my day. And, I wasn’t even a customer! I learned that just being honest and specific in regards to the outcome of the stay, and how the guests can expect consistency no matter what day, year, or location, makes the community a better place to live. Other important “take-aways” from this visit include:

Treat customers with honesty and respect.
Be upfront and specific.
Do everything possible to ensure the customer will return one day.

Now let us take a look at the local grocery store. This particular store is part of a large grocery chain. In a previous job, I worked at a competitive grocery chain. I started as a grocery bagger and then worked my way up to being scheduled in every department, as well as in sales. When that store closed, many staff members were hired by the grocery store discussed here. It was nice to talk to my previous managers and leaders about growth, customer loyalty, as well as training and developing employees. I asked my previous deli manager what it takes to satisfy customers in this industry. He stated, “To satisfy customers you must attract them first.” He continued, “It starts with pricing and product promotion. Once you have a new product, you must find the price point. What are people willing to pay based on their perception of its value? It is about creating a high demand for a product at a higher price of the actual value.” This made me connect the dots from when I was working in his deli as a teenager. In that position I was slicing the meat, putting it in the trays, keeping it fluffed, and adding a piece of wet lettuce to the front of it by the price tag to create a feeling of value and freshness.

Next, I asked both the deli manager and the store director their thoughts on training and developing employees. For them, it all starts with knowing how to make sandwiches, measuring prep amounts, and learning how to price by weight. They stated that food safety is “number one,” and pointed out that sick customers do not come back. I had to get both managers back on track to discuss new training programs, and I was surprised when they indicated there wasn’t one. There are no manuals, training videos, or laminates that allow for training. The corporation relies on the management team of each store to guide employees through expectations by talking and showing. This raised a big red flag for me. Why do they not have a variety of training tools based on the learning styles of trainees? This method lacks consistency. Every manager at each store will have their way of doing things, and they may very well have blinders on.

I believe that new methods of training are needed for the future workforce. Corporations must have a diverse strategy in place to allow all learners to succeed. While I am a newly “minted” management college graduate, it is my opinion that these managers have been clowning around too long with training. Years ago when I was a teenage trainee supervised by these managers, they relied on visual learning; i.e. fluffing the meat to see if it looks right. They continue to use the same ideas they used at the failed store they were at before.

These grocery managers may be able to take advantage of a new training program if they wish to create one. I shared a training outline I created and use at Papa John’s Pizza:

What do customers value?
a.) What we offer is more than pizza, it is an experience.
b.) Customer perceptions ( group discussion on perceptions and reality)
c.) Discussion: Ways we used previously to resolve customer complaints ( transition to LAST)
1.) LAST
a.) Group think: What does it mean to listen, apologize, solve and thank? (Show customer email from corporate showing how it really does work)
b.) Explanation of LAST when dealing with angry or upset customers. (role play in groups of 2)
2.) The new and improved TOOL KIT
a.) Vote on what is most needed during shifts based on experiences (coupons, online promo codes, word lists to use when on the phone)
b.) Show results, and hand team members items voted on to put in the toolkit.) Have team members choose an accessible place for it to be at all times, with a document sheet on which team members write down what they took from the kit with date and initials
c.) Have team members choose an accessible place for it to be at all times, with a document sheet on which team members write down what they took from the kit with date and initials
3.) Retaining business- why it is important
a.) 9 out of 10 people do not let us know when they are upset or unsatisfied ( show figures)
b.) If one person is upset, they will tell others ( show the pyramid diagram)
c.) Discuss why it is important to have a secure customer base ( a.k.a. “Regulars”)
d.) Questions? Concerns? How can I help you all to make this a more fun and enjoyable place of work?

We discussed that this type of training outline would give the grocery store managers an opportunity to inspire, train, and develop their team based on individual learning styles. This meeting was a learning experience for me. The managers received my ideas well and may consider a program like this in the future. Overall, I accept that people can be resistant to change.

To move toward real 21st-century leadership, we must have a strategy and vision. A look back at my interview with the theater corporation CEO gives us this needed guidance. In a previous paper, I wrote about his advice regarding training staff, growing management skills and developing leadership when the time is right. His ideas are sound, and his business is successful, so I was honored when he called me to assist me with this paper. He had a few more ideas for me to share here. They involve how to become a leader within an organization, as well as staff. He made the point that “The biggest thing that impacts leadership of teams for me was never to ask anybody to do anything that you are not willing to do yourself.” He went on to explain that leaders of today must be different from those of yesterday. They must throw away the “eyes wide shut” philosophy of problem-solving, and see a problem before it arises. He always uses the following when looking at a problem:

Assess the situation to determine if there really is a crisis or problem
Identify the steps to make it right
Respond with conviction, and attract positive results

He uses this method when solving crises at his theaters. While this “AIR” method is simple, it really can be used universally to keep any team or leader grounded when issues arise. He also reiterated a point he made in the last talk I had with him, which involves being a leader during trainee development. “The biggest thing is to give people good direction and then leave them alone; do not micro-manage. Never second guess your team; they will notice if you do. Always correct mistakes after, not during the training.” Leadership requires time, flexibility, commitment to the cause, and knowledge. I prompted him about what the most difficult part of training a management team was. He stated, “The biggest hill to climb with managers in training is the aspect of controlling costs and inventory management. Most of us are not number-oriented. It is a learned skill. Most people tend to be idea- and big picture-oriented. Numbers help you measure success and plan financial security within a business. The good thing about most business owners I know is that they have the ability to purchase numerous information systems that allow for numeric analysis.” I find this to be very true, because, at Papa John’s Pizza, our labor %, sales, and projected sales are computed by a focus system. The numbers are continuously being calculated. You just have to know what they mean in the big picture.

Many people, like myself, see math and anything related to it as a burden. Through my college experience, I have been able to relate to numbers and how they are applied in the business world. Fear of mathematics was only a phobia and a lack of understanding. The more I learned, the more numbers made sense. Being able to use numbers to calculate items such as ADR, RevPAR, labor costs, and revenue per square foot allows the bigger ideas to settle in my mind. With numbers, I have to be able to relate them to something in the business world so I can understand them. To me, the idea of mathematics seemed too abstract and distant. Now that I am over that fear I have confidence and security with numeric measures. In fact, I rely on them.

After learning about the struggles of everyday business people such as a hotel day manager, grocery store director, deli manager, and even a President and CEO, I find it is time to come up with an idea for a business. I believe this research exercise helped me move toward that goal with knowledge and creativity.

To be a leader; one must know every aspect of his or her industry. Right now, I am working at Papa John’s, and learning more every day about making big purchasing decisions. The business idea is “Mitch’s Pizza and Wings.” In planning the business, I wrote a purchasing manual that I believe could get a purchasing manager started and is an example of what I might choose to use at a restaurant. Aside from hiring a cohesive team, purchasing decisions are the biggest decisions a new businessperson can make. From choosing suppliers to product specifications, and even storage, creative leadership must be shown during purchasing to ensure a unique and thriving business. All suppliers are real, and prices and weights are accurate in Mitch’s Pizza and Wings purchasing manual.

Leadership is many things, including leading, training and developing employees, purchasing, and more. How is success measured? What is success? Is success measured by personal wealth or the wealth of people within an organization? In my opinion, success is measured by completion of the specified strategy. Did each member of the team do their best to fulfill their designated part, and express their talents? What if each member of the team did their best, followed assigned tasks by the leader, and yet still failed? I have learned that this is a successful failure. A successful failure is when a team did their best to complete that project or objective, did all the right things, and yet the result wasn’t what was intended. They learned from that failure and will apply those lessons in the future. Education is a lifelong journey, so a team that failed can pick up the pieces, learn from their mistakes, and gives it another shot, is ultimately a success.

Success is also measured by not only meeting marks with numbers but by emotions. Do the team members find satisfaction in the results, and do they find satisfaction in the leader? Success is defined many ways by many cultures and societies, but there is one universal norm: Community. Does the success of a business or project ripple out and make an impact on the lives of the community? Your family? Your neighbors? This term may be too broad for some, but it is universally the norm.

Community is the center of our lives and our businesses. Everything we do as individuals affects every person around us, either directly or indirectly. Decisions made at the corporate level trickle down and affect the lives of each worker. The same goes for smaller groups, such as a 12 person corporate team or even teams at the small business down the street. I have learned that if I am to be an executive leading an organization one day, I must be just as involved as the front desk representative, or the brand manager. All levels of a company that I would run would see me every day, working the floor. Managers “lead” from behind a desk, leaders make a call to action, walk the floor to observe operations, and pitch in to show solidarity. We are all connected in big and small ways. A 21st-century leader must know this, and be there for her or his team 24/7 if prosperity and vitality are to be achieved. A teacher told me one time, “Those who run the world, always show up.” This is so true. A leader must take a stand, not sit behind a desk and hope success falls into place.

http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/, USDA standards for Poultry, and Fresh Vegetables.
http://www.rochestercheese.com/ , Rochester Cheese Company, amounts and measures
Patt Patterson, “Single Source of Supply: Does it really work?” Nation’s restaurant news, July 19th 1993 p. 109
Aaron Prather, “Inventory Management— The principles of effective implementation”, retrieved 12/14/2013 from ezinarticles.com
http://www.retrieversetc.com/Anderson.htm, Anderson Produce Co. Inc, facts and figures on portion size and weight.
http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/freshvegforprocessingstandards, Standard for vegetables
Kreitner, Robert. Foundations of Management: Basics and Best Practices. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. Print.

SMM Industry Observations

by Kelley Mahowald

Kelley Mahowald graciously guest authored this article she wrote while a student in the DCTC Hospitality and Event Management Program. She serves Canterbury Park as Catering and Event Sales Manager.  Kelley’s strong interpersonal skill are evident in the following article.  She puts those skills to good use in a career that is based on cultivating client relationships. Thank you, Kelley, for sharing your insights about Strategic Meetings Management (SMM).


Just as other industries have evolved with new technology, so has the world of meeting and events. Gone is the day where you show up for a meeting with a pen and notepad and move throughout the day incognito. In today’s world of information gathering and social media, long before the meeting begins you find yourself taking surveys, downloading apps, and networking with other attendees. Once you arrive at the meeting, you have the meeting organizers engaging with you via your smartphone; asking you to rate your experiences as you move throughout the day, offering you more ways to interact with other attendees and provide additional opportunities to observe break-outs you did not attend through live-streaming.

Why, you ask? Businesses are interested in making every dollar work hard and show a return on investment, which has propelled Strategic Meetings Management. SMM offers transparency into company spending, and tools, that allow meeting planners to show the effectiveness of each event by gauging the attendee’s expectations from beginning to end. One of the most important elements of information gathering is having a well-rounded test group. Technology allows the planner to see who is responding, how many are responding, and when they are responding, so they can react and continue gathering information as needed. Engagement before the event is essential; giving the planner time to adjust the meeting based on the attendee’s expectations. Exit surveys offer incomplete data sampling and the stagnant information gathered will only help with future events. Pre-event questionnaires and interactive technology make the information gathered advantageous. The importance of SMM has propelled the use of technology to capture as much information before and in real time to maximize the meeting’s outcomes.

SMM has become such an integral part of the meeting industry that it is not only affecting the meeting planning process but the whole hospitality industry. As Meeting Planners are tasked with stretching each dollar and creating memorable experiences for the attendees, they are looking outside the box for unique venues, which offer lower-priced room rentals and catering options than many hotels, while leaving a distinctive thumbprint in the attendee’s memory.  This is forcing hotels to look at how to position themselves competitively against newcomers to the game, such as Airbnb, as many traditional hotels cannot match their rates.  Another way SMM is affecting the industry is shorter more concise and/or smaller meetings to hone in budgets. This requires a clear understanding of the overall objective of the meeting, and from that, determine who the key attendees are and if there is an option of decreasing the size of the event or shortening the duration of the event. Both ultimately affect the revenue generated per meeting, thus changing the landscape of the meeting world.

Maybe the biggest contributing factor to the heightened need for SMM is transparency. Many companies have been unable to determine the effectiveness of the meeting content, gauge the outcomes, or track attendance. The new technology that is available allows for easy tracking with electronic registration, interaction with the use of apps, and real-time feedback which allows businesses to record and prove how meetings within their organization are aligning with global objectives. Even companies who have not yet implemented a strategic meeting management plan see the effectiveness of such processes, and more and more companies are following suit.

As mentioned in the article “Measuring Meets Value Guidebook,” the meeting planner has a much bigger task at hand than in years before, not only with the responsibility of coordinating the components of the meeting, but also proving the value and engagement of the meeting. The outcome will ultimately determine future approval for similar events. Smaller, more targeted meetings, such as training or team building events, are easier to gauge the expectations and outcomes needed for such events. Larger meetings, such as galas or product launch events, come under more scrutiny regarding how dollars are spent. The information needed to gauge the value will be obtained by gathering information from the participants before, during, and after the event.  SMM is a very intricate system that needs to be implemented in small steps, but those small steps can be very effective. Using the tools outlined in the article “Measuring Meets Value Guidebook,” focusing on Learning, Networking, and Loyalty can capture much of the data a meeting planner needs to ensure a well-rounded analysis of the expectations, engagement, and outcome of the event.

I recently interviewed Sarah Ruzek, Director or Education for Associations North. Associations North is coined as “an association for associations.” Their goal is to promote and educate their members, who are made up of trade and professional, both for-profit and non-profit. Sarah’s responsibilities include implementing the development of educational programs and marketing them to their members. She is tasked with keeping programs innovative and engaging, and her wheels are always spinning looking for new ways to “wow” their members and create experience and valuable learning opportunities. Data is gathered from their members by requesting feedback in various ways such as; planning committees, surveys, and networking events. These tools gather valuable information regarding member expectations, future events needs, and meeting focus. For larger events, such as the Annual Meeting and Expo, they track interest and engagement based on breakout session attendance and through social media regarding attendee expectations before the event. During this event, they also engage members with “pop-up” interviews as attendees leave their breakout session to find out what they took away from the session, as well as a live meeting app that allows for real-time questions and answers. The app lets attendees see the day’s agenda, check into sessions, rate sessions, and interact with speakers. These interactions allow them to gauge participation and meet expectations in real time. Circling back to the MPI article referencing loyalty, loyalty is one of Association North’s greatest measures of ROI. The number of returning members is a great reflection of how effective their programs are. Also, the success of their members and the success of the associations they belong to is a testament to their educational programs. They do often utilize Survey Monkey to gather direct feedback as well, at the conclusion of events. Overall, interacting with their members, learning what obstacles their members are facing – such as member retention, or highlighting trending topics and upcoming industry technology, they want to bring those solutions to their members.

I chose to interview Sarah, as I admire a role such as hers, where trying new approaches to meetings is encouraged and accepted. Association North offers many types of events, big and small, educational and fun. Their offerings cater to the attendee’s needs and expectations, but also push them to new learning environments – which promotes growth, both personally and professionally. Sarah is tasked with finding balance within a broad spectrum of needs for their diverse members. She can utilize overarching themes, new technology, and inspiring keynote speakers that peak interest and transcend industry lines. I admire Sarah’s courage, professionalism, innovation, and determination; all of which are essential attributes to becoming a successful meeting planner.

Before researching Strategic Meetings Management, I wasn’t aware of the impact it has on the industry. In a world where expectations are high and resources are scrutinized, it is more important than ever to maximize meeting outcomes and effectively engage attendees. This knowledge and understanding will help me greatly as I explore opportunities within the meeting and events industry. Taking on an SMM approach to meetings – focusing on outcomes, budget and data gathering will allow me to be a valuable addition to any organization.


Hospitality & Event Management Perspectives #3

This series of mini-stories will touch your heart, inspire you to action, and always make you smile.  Thanks to the amazing students and alumni of DCTC’s Hospitality and Event Management program for this 15-year collection! Thank you also to DCTC Foundation donors. Kate tells here how the Student Emergency Fund saved her!

Thank you, Kate!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at DCTC, and would very much consider continuing my education there. I first started out in Interior Design, but found that Meeting and Event Management was better suited for me. During my time there, I was a part of the student senate, and eventually became the senate secretary. Everything seemed to be going well for me, and then life caught up. I started to have health problems, and vehicle problems, and I felt that school was taking a back seat. I didn’t like that.

I was told by the student senate to check-out DCTC‘s emergency fund for students. I knew Dr. Thomas from senate meetings, and I went to speak with him about my issues, he directed me right to Student Services and I got my loan right away! I was so happy I cried on my way home. Even though it didn’t cover everything, it helped me make the steps out the hole I was in.

I went on to graduate and was incredibly excited to start job hunting. I truly wanted to get first-hand experience to build my resume. Meeting and Event Management with Rosealee was so great, she is truly a mentor to me. If there’s any question about the industry, she could answer it with an experience she has, because she has literally done it all! It took me awhile to find a job right away after school however, I struggled with being on unemployment. Within a year I did find a job at a hotel as a front desk clerk. I remembered Rosealee stating she got her start at a hotel and built up from there. I was starting to get stable again, learning a ton, and meeting wonderful people.

Before I knew it, the position of Hotel Supervisor came up, and I thought I’d take a shot at it. After only 5 months of being there, I got the job of supervisor! I have now been supervising for a year, and I love that I can put this on my resume.

I truly can’t wait to move on and get more experiences in this industry, and I love that the choices are limitless.

Thank you, DCTC!

Hospitality & Event Management Perspectives #2

This series of mini-stories will touch your heart, inspire you to action, and always make you smile.  Thanks to the amazing students and alumni of DCTC’s Hospitality and Event Management program for this 15-year collection!

Thank you, Sarah!

Dakota County Technical College’s Meeting and Event Management Program, along with Rosealee Lee, has provided so many great opportunities and has opened several doors for me. As a graduate of the then certificate only program, I couldn’t have asked for better education or experience going into this ever expanding industry.

The education portion of the Meeting and Event Management industry is so new compared to the wide array of experience professionals out there. My competition, both as an individual in the industry and as a business owner, come from those who have been in the industry, whether on purpose or by default of their job description, for more than 20-30 years! The education I’ve received gives me a different approach to the industry, in which I hope to provide a new perspective to my employers and clients.

Through hands-on activities, real-life experiences and opportunities, and plenty of role playing, Rosealee and the Meeting and Event Management Program have been two of the best resources I have as an Event Planner and I’m thankful for the insight and experience they’ve both provided. I highly recommend the program for current planners in the industry seeking a fresh or new approach or for anyone seeking a career change.