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.

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.

Hospitality & Event Management Alumni Perspectives #1

This is a series of mini-stories that 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, LeAnn!

Dakota County Technical College’s Meeting and Event Management Program, along with Rosealee Lee, has provided so many great opportunities and 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 experienced 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 a current planner in the industry seeking a fresh or new approach or for anyone seeking a career change.

Hospitality and Event Management Alumni Share Their Successes

I asked an alumni of the Hospitality and Event Management program to detail how her events had changed.  Here’s her response regarding an event she did shortly after graduation. She has since gone on to develop larger programs and secure a great place for herself in the business and hospitality industries. Her opening statement says it all!

Thank you, Dawn!

In previous years I just went through the motions and followed instructions given to me by the hotel staff.  This year I felt like I was the one in control (somewhat).  I still have a long way to go, but it was definitely a different air. 
  1. Preparing an emergency plan and working with our own Risk Management Department to get the appropriate paperwork on insurance issues (never knew I should).
  2. Working with all of the presenters or shareholders of the meeting, to have meetings on the progress of the meeting and the contents of the program.  This was a chore – we live in silos around here, but I wanted to make sure that everyone was an owner in the event and it was very clear to everyone how the meeting was going to flow.  Previously it was only one person who was in charge and all others were somewhat (or more like absolutely) in the dark about the entire event.
  3. Making sure that the “Welcome” speaker announced where the emergency exits were, where the restrooms were, and where the staging area was in case of an emergency.
  4. Getting emergency information from our attendees – before we just invited them!  This year I made sure that all contact information was readily available in the emergency plan that I and corporate had a copy of.
  5. Working with catering on the buffets served in conjunction with other events at the facility – saved money.
  6. Working with catering to serve the lunch desserts at the afternoon break -saved money.
  7. Insisting on a pre-convention meeting to make sure I knew who all the players were at the hotel and how to reach them.
  8. Insisting on a post-convention meeting to make sure I completely understood all the charges (which is where I found the screen fee.  The AV rentals were not included in the initial contract.  I purchased a “package” which included a free standing screen because the screen in the meeting room was in a corner at an angle.  The day we had round table discussions we used the ceiling screen instead of the free-standing screen because of the riser in the middle of the room, and boom – charged!!)
  9. Making all of my own centerpieces and using other materials we have on hand to use throughout the event, such as table covers we use at trade shows I used on the buffet tables (you taught us to be creative!)
  10. Making sure that I had an AV technician on-site during the time we had our keynote speaker and presenters.  He was worth his weight in gold.  I never had one in the past (actually didn’t know I could!!) and will never go without one in the future.
  11. Finding a linen rental company that I could afford so our awards banquet was an event they would remember!!
 

Mentors Open Doors to the Future, For Others and Themselves

Thank you for the positive response about my recent Mentor post, Mentors Make a Difference! Now it’s time to pay it forward. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about mentorship and realizing that we all are mentors.  We may mentor in different ways, but we all model behavior, skills, and values — that’s mentorship!  For many individuals, the act of mentoring goes still further.  And the really great thing is that mentors gain more than they give.  I’ll get to my ideas on that in a moment, but first, let me give you the Hospitality Alumni Mentorship Application.

DCTC alumni are needed to bring education full-circle.  Hospitality and Event Management certificate or degree graduates are doing amazing things in business worldwide.  Pass it on! Graduates, here’s the application you are requesting.

DCTC Hospitality & Event Mentor Program Application

Graduates here is just a partial list of what’s in it for you, besides the obvious “feel good — give back to the community” feeling you get.Develop your own careerhands_circle_team_19002 (1)

  • Get a great addition to your resume
  • Attain increased visibility within the professional community and your workplace
  • Grow your network
  • Add to your collaboration and communication “toolbox”

More mentor initiative information is available hereConnect with me on LinkedIn at any time.