The Meeting Planners podcast source for what’s new and exciting in meetings and events industry!
Question(s) for next week or in the comment section below:
Jon wonders what are planners doing to drive attendance up in this economy?
Mike wonders if you have used Twitter at a meeting and how was it received? success stories, failures you can tel us about?
Transcripts (links) below
Hilton Hotels Eevents- Now featuring green meetings and weddings
BlueSky Factory- Our email service provider choice
Mike McAllen: Welcome back to Meetings Podcast. My name is Mike McAllen with Grass Shack Events and Media and I have Jon Trask of Alliant Events Services. Hi Jon.
Jon Trask: Hello, glad to be back as always.
Mike McAllen: Thank you for coming back again and again and again, and Tom Hillmer is nowhere to be seen.
Jon Trask: Probably he’s traveling …
Mike McAllen: I think he’s off traveling again. The guy just never stops.
Jon Trask: Airport.
Mike McAllen: He’s in an airport or he is in a hotel somewhere, probably in Four Seasons somewhere in the world. I wanted to thank our sponsors, Hilton e-Events and Blue Sky Factory, our e-mail provider of choice and let’s get started. We have a couple of fun things to talk about today. Some fun and some not fun. Do you want to get started or do you want me to or …
Jon Trask: Sure, sure. I got a couple of interesting things. Let’s maybe start with the lighter topics first and we’ll sort of work our way toward heaviness but one of the things that some California meetings and events that I noticed within the past week is they have an area on handling event emergencies and bloopers, and it’s sort of some interesting – just people’s advice on how to handle stuff.
Mike McAllen: Cool.
Jon Trask: And so one of the things that I just picked a random one out of here and we can link it on the sites so people can go read the whole thing but it’s – what do you do if a microphone goes out? And a couple of the different suggestions they have because what they do is they do a suggestion and they follow it up with what you should do next time. So the suggestion is follow the speaker’s lead. If it’s a small group, they maybe will just continue. If it’s a larger group, just work on getting a replacement in right away. Another suggestion is apologize in the back of the room or the side stage taking the embarrassment off the presenter or maybe call for a 10-minute break and bring in your sound guy to fix it.
Another person suggested that hope your speaker knows how tell a good joke to ease the tension and the biggest thing there is hoping that your speakers professional enough not to react and can think on their feet because with something small goes bad, if the speaker reacts to it and starts to rant or leaves the room silence, the audience picks up on that and it ends up making the audience uncomfortable. And so just having speakers who are comfortable with themselves and able to sort of roll with things on stage is another method of sort of vetting your people.
And then it’s really – another person said, it’s awareness on the part of the speaker. Maybe they’ll take a sip of water while they kind of look back for the operator of the sound system looking for a sign that they fixed it. It can be that simple and I know this from the tech side is somebody bumped a button or something like that on the board …
Mike McAllen: Right.
Jon Trask: … and it may come right back in and if it’s really bad, maybe you’re going to call for a break but just roll with it and not panic, and that seem to be the overall message of all these people suggestions was things are going to happen and just make some contingency plans and hope that your speaker is able to roll with things well. They suggest among other things for the next time having a hardwired mic on standby or something backstage and that’s actually something I suggest to a lot of speakers especially when we have multiple wireless mics [indiscernible 0:03:32] let’s put a hardwired mic at the back of the stage and should we have a problem with anyone of them, somebody can just pick that up and hand it to him.
Mike McAllen: Great idea.
Jon Trask: We also well often and another suggestion here is put multiple mics like on a podium, we usually put two different microphones if the budget will allow it. And in that way, you’ve got two benefits out of that not just the benefit of having a backup but generally the pick-up patterns on these microphones are such that if the speaker turns his head if you’re only in one position, you risk having him sort of do the Doppler effect and fade in and out if he’s turning his head. If you’re picking him up from two different microphone elements, you get a better coverage and so checking your sound systems out and things like that. So it just seemed like it was some nice advice from people within the industry that they posted there and the microphone wouldn’t caught my eye of course because I’m an AV guy but they have things like what do you if your keynote speaker cancels or what do you do if the food is less than adequate taste-wise once you’re on site and things like that, so just a fun little connection of Southern California Meetings and Events.
Mike McAllen: That’s very cool. And so it’s – what did you say it was? It’s Southern California meetings …
Jon Trask: Southern California meetings and events. It’s Tiger Oak Publications. They do a number of different geographical focus publications.
Mike McAllen: Oh yes.
Jon Trask: They do Northwest Meetings and Events and they do Northern California Meetings and Events, and they have kind of a general portal. So you can get to all of these but that one came out of my local with the Southern California one.
Mike McAllen: Yes, they’re just starting a new one up. I met them at that Spin conference and also at the GMIC Meeting the other day. They’re kind of …
Jon Trask: Yes, they were here in L.A. at the MPI conference in Pasadena about 6 weeks ago too. I talked to them there.
Mike McAllen: Very cool. Very cool. Yes, because the lady there had talked to me about us doing something with our podcast with their magazine which I thought was interesting.
Jon Trask: Well, good. You see, we are already talking about them. So they must …
Mike McAllen: Yes, it’s great. Yes, very cool. That’s a great site. I’d like to check that out to see that.
Jon Trask: And it’s a good – again, it’s a good thing because it [shifts] from people in the industry and certainly I mean, I think that’s why a lot of our audience is here. So they’re looking for best practices and ideas and tips and things they can do which kind of – I don’t know, leads me around to a little bit of something that’s been on my mind a lot just the past couple of weeks and that’s the economy. It’s there; we’re all dealing with it. We’re all dealing with a tremendous number of cancellations and hearing some interesting stories back from people that I talked to just about how bad it is. Particularly it seems to me on the large meetings and of the industry. The smaller the associations, the educational, those sorts of things seem to be maintaining certainly at lower budgets but at least still out there. But the big productions, the things that you and I had both worked on at various times in our careers seem to be really weakening right now.
And so the question that even occurs to me is the business model we’re dealing with, we’ve all dealt with recessions but we’re all in kind of unchartered territory here even after 20 plus years in the business and I just wonder other people’s thoughts. I’d love to see some comments back on the website is to what they’re doing and how they’re reacting to it because – I mean, I talked to one gentleman about a week ago who has had 15 of his 22 programs canceled. I mean, that’s a hit that a lot of people couldn’t even weather. And so it’s concerning to me because it makes me wonder about the business model moving forward. Right now, obviously it’s a buyers market. You can get whatever price you want wherever you need it.
So another conversation I was having with a producer today, it’s simply comes down to – it’s really kind of who do you want to work with, who do you like? And it’s almost a peer relationship personality thing because everybody’s got the same message. We’re trying harder, we’re cutting prices, we’re doing more, we’re adding value, et cetera. So it would be interesting to know sort of what’s driving people’s decisions. Is it strictly prices? A personality with price? What’s the motivator and what are they doing? I would love to know what some planners are doing to try and drive they’re attendance back up because that’s a real common issue I’m hearing from everybody too.
Mike McAllen: Right.
Jon Trask: We’ve got half the number of people registered as last time and we’ve got 200 people instead of 800 registered and those sorts of things, and that’s very troubling to me for all of us as an industry. How we bounce back from this or will it just be, this is a deep recession and yes, we’ll get over it and we’ll move on and things will go back to where they were before and people will free up money and all of that. So I’m really curious as we all are where we’re headed.
Mike McAllen: Yes. It is a pretty amazing time just it is kind of – I’m trying not to get depressed about it. A lot of times – well, recently I lost some shows myself but just got one too which was pretty good but that’s a government one and they’re not really going away. They’re just staying the same.
Jon Trask: Right, right.
Mike McAllen: And things they’ve only [indiscernible 0:08:47] another plan for years but to me, what we’ve been trying to do here is trying to do more look into the future, kind of we’re adding things to our – we’re adding trainings and doing a little bit of trainings so we can get into the workshops and the breakouts doing – helping out that way more. I think that this is a time to really like you said kind of solidify those relationships and see what you can do to help out. But we’ve lost the last ones on perception because they said it was purely the perception of us using too many vendors on this event which I didn’t understand but anyway, the perception is still out there for companies.
Jon Trask: Right.
Mike McAllen: And they’re hiding and their logos aren’t up and their – did you talk about this before about people putting the sponsorships or now putting their logos up instead.
Jon Trask: Yes, yes. We’ve been doing that for a number of different clients where we’ll build a logo loop out of PowerPoint that can run in between sessions during the walk-in just to kind of do a value-add. It’s like you’ve the equipment there so why not make your sponsors get a little something you didn’t promise them, just a little extra [indiscernible 0:10:00] up to the table and still being at this event. They get their name up on the screen for a little bit of time cycling through and so yes, we’ve done that on a number of events actually.
Mike McAllen: Yes and I think that building the relationships right now is a huge portion of it. I mean, you got to get out there and go and meet people, and still make the phone calls and still make the inquiries and show. You kind of keep plugging at it and hopefully this recession will stop eventually.
Jon Trask: Well the thing that keeps running through my mind the past couple of weeks just as I’ve been hearing a lot of this bad news and stuff is we’re all in this together. I mean, it just keeps occurring to me over and over in my mind that …
Mike McAllen: Yes.
Jon Trask: … we’re all in this together. We’re all in the same business. We all have the same need to work and all of that and it’s like, how can we help each other out? What can we do to get through this sort of unprecedented time and keep our industry moving forward?
Mike McAllen: Yes.
Jon Trask: I mean, we’ve all made a living at this for some lengths of time and none of us wants to see it morph into something where everyone just meets on web streams or something.
Mike McAllen: Right, right.
Jon Trask: Because as we’ve talked about – when Tom was here before, there’s a real ROI. There’s a real value to putting people together in a room and there’s a spark that happens in person that you’re not going to be able to recreate necessarily online or through other methods. They all have their places but just getting people together does have a value and …
Mike McAllen: Yes.
Jon Trask: … it’s sort of preaching that value out and at the same time making sure that we all come out the other side and all have a livelihood and all have a way to keep things moving forward in 2011 or something.
Mike McAllen: Right. Yes, well we also should keep that in mind to go to conferences ourselves.
Jon Trask: Sure.
Mike McAllen: To support the other people out there and go. I mean, I know I’m very close to San Francisco and I sometimes oh, I don’t want to go. I don’t want to pay the money to go there but it’s actually important to get over there and go just to keep things rolling.
Jon Trask: Well, I even think about it at lunch if I go to a fast food place. I was talking to the manager of the fast food place down the street from our office today because I walked down there and bought a cheeseburger quick for lunch, and they’re suffering too. I mean, it’s across the board that there’s a lot of economic issues that everybody’s still dealing with and even when the indicators start going better, it’s still affecting the average people down here. And I almost think of going out and buying a burger is my small part today to keep the economy moving. And my way waistline moving unfortunately but …
Mike McAllen: Yes, I know that feeling. Yes. Maybe I should get out there and support. I just actually went to the store and support our local market there.
Jon Trask: There you go. So we’re all doing what we can.
Mike McAllen: Yes, yes. Yes. So …
Jon Trask: But anyway, I just want to bring that into the show because it’s something that’s been on my mind greatly. I talked to a lot of folks. I mean, one other quick story before I kind of wrap the topic up on my side of things. I know attendance is down because I was talking with a gentleman who was out on a program that normally in a normal year would have drawn 12,000 to 15,000 attendees and he was telling me they had just spent tens of thousands of dollars literally on drape and truss, and motors to drape down the convention center he was in to about 4,500 people.
Mike McAllen: So frustrating.
Jon Trask: And you hear that and I mean, you wonder what it’ll be like next year for that organization with this meeting. Where will they go from that because obviously …
Mike McAllen: Right.
Jon Trask: … that’s a huge financial hit to the organization as well if they’re – they’re paying the cost to actually drape this room space down and I keep thinking about different vendors because I hear all these different reactions like on the hotel side, I’ve been talking to planners, I’ve heard about two different Vegas hotels. One of them are really being a pain in the neck to a planner that I was talking to who was trying to sort through the challenges that she’s dealing with in this economy, and the fact that there’s lower attendance and there is lower room pick-up and there is – all of these things are lower and these people are trying to stick to the letter of the contract which they probably have a certain legal ground for but do you want to keep that relationship? Do you want to keep building for the future? I heard another Vegas hotel was working just opposite. The planner I was talking to there, he said they had been wonderful, they’re really working with him, they understood the situation. It’s like, which one of those planners do you think is going to go back to that hotel in the future?
Mike McAllen: Right.
Jon Trask: You know.
Mike McAllen: Yes. It’s amazing how different hotel and how different companies are handling it.
Jon Trask: Yes.
Mike McAllen: You’re exactly right. I mean – and you have to be forward thinking. You have to be flexible at this time. You can’t – you have to be able to get up. I mean, well as you know, all we’re doing these days – I’m doing tons of proposals for stuff and I just know they’re not going to do any of the stuff.
Jon Trask: Well, I tell you what, I just had a very small meeting for 120 people that look like a million bucks because we did drawings, I mean, we did everything above and beyond what we would normally do. We did kind of an innovative stage design, really cheap, we threw in some gear for free, and again, it’s being a partner with our client. They didn’t have a big budget for the meeting but we made it look unique, we made it look special and hopefully they’re going to remember that when their bigger meetings come back along in the future. That these were the guys who worked with us and these were the guys who gave us things they didn’t have to just to make us look better in a tough time.
Mike McAllen: Yes. That’s awesome, totally awesome. That’s what you got to do.
Jon Trask: Yes. So – well now, you had a couple of things you wanted to talk about.
Mike McAllen: Well, I had a one – well, let’s start out with the one to bring people up a little bit because …
Jon Trask: Okay.
Mike McAllen: … it’s kind of a downer talk. I saw this great website called www.ZenHabits.net. I came over the Twitter thing, I saw somebody saying, check this out. And it’s hard to get up with your energy these days coming in to work especially with all we’re talking about. So they had a few things to get your energy up and I thought some of them were kind of cool and I’ll just read a couple of them. One of them was, change your socks for refreshment. It’s an amazing trick. Bring a change of socks to work, and change your socks midway through the day say, after lunch. You’ll be amazed at how much fresher you’ll feel and this trick is especially handy on days with lots of walking like a hike or just in general if you’re out, moving around and as we know when we get on site and places.
Jon Trask: Oh, yes.
Mike McAllen: A change of socks might just change your whole attitude. Let’s see another one – it’s just a lot of these types are not like work with your body’s clock. Get up at the right time of the day, same time a day which is hard for us sometimes to do.
Jon Trask: Yes.
Mike McAllen: But that’s good to do on your times that you’re – on your regular routine is have regular routines. Also it says, have a piece of chocolate. If you’re going to have some candy, it might as well be chocolate. You get an endorphin buzz from the chocolate and a little boost from a caffeine but it says don’t take too much of course because that’s going to be counterproductive. Have an afternoon power snack of like nuts or yogurt or an apple and peanut butter or some little smoothie or some trail mix to give you a little boost. And hit up your water cooler all the day, all the time. It says to really drink a lot of water; it helps with your energy.
Jon Trask: I can attest to that. I started drinking a lot of water about 6, 8 months ago on a daily basis and it does really help.
Mike McAllen: Yes. It gets you up walking back and forth to the bathroom too.
Jon Trask: Yes, you get some exercise out of it. No, but it definitely helps with like weight loss if anybody out there is trying to lose some weight. It does keep the metabolism burning real well.
Mike McAllen: Oh yes. Yes, it really does. And then another one it said, wear brighter colors. It’s the trick is related to the mood you project to people and the reciprocating mood they project towards you. If you wear dark, somber colors, you project a dark, somber attitude, and people respond to you with a somber attitude. So wear bright, happy colors. Have an interesting idea?
Jon Trask: So you’re suggesting everyday is Hawaiian shirt day?
Mike McAllen: No, I’m not.
Jon Trask: Okay. Just making sure.
Mike McAllen: And it says to use use caffeine wisely. Coffee and caffeinated sodas can boost your alertness, but be careful about letting it become a habit because I’ve been through that where I’m drinking pots of coffee during the day and it’s just really not good.
Jon Trask: You mean like the six sodas I’ve had today?
Mike McAllen: Yes, exactly. And avoid energy drinks, it says. Energy drinks provide a near-instant hyperactive boost, but they always result in a crash. So energy drinks are like energy credit cards, you’re spending future energy to get short-term energy.
Jon Trask: And you’ll link all these tips onto the site, right?
Mike McAllen: Yes, yes. And it says, quit smoking too. So – but anyway, there’s a whole bunch of tips at www.ZenHabits.net. So you can check that out if you want to and I’ll put a link of course on our website.
Jon Trask: And that would be?
Mike McAllen: www.MeetingsPodcast.com, I think most people know that. We’ve [basked] it off so many times, don’t we?
Jon Trask: We’ve [indiscernible 0:20:06] haven’t we? But …
Mike McAllen: We really do.
Jon Trask: We’re looking for feedback. We’re looking for comments. We really want to know what people want to hear about and want to comment on and want to discuss.
Mike McAllen: Right.
Jon Trask: So please come near and talk to us or LinkedIn. We have a meetings podcast script on LinkedIn.
Mike McAllen: Yes, we do. Another thing that I wanted to kind of talk about because on our website, I was looking through, there’s a lot of – we got a lot of inbound links, people linking back to our site because of all the information on there. And we did an interview last week with Tamara Kennedy-Hill of Green Meetings info, actually Midori did that.
Jon Trask: Right, Midori did it.
Mike McAllen: Yes, Midori Connolly. And she was talking about their – I don’t know, I hopefully people have listened to this but their – with the trash challenge. They have a trash challenge going on to a million tons of trash challenge was conceived last year’s 2009, this year’s GMIC Council meeting. And it’s interesting to see how that’s going and I think we’re going to have a lot of updates on that and keep track of it with some of the people who could join the GMIC here in Northern California and a couple of people there are very big [indiscernible 0:21:33] like Paul Salinger and from Oracle and Joe Hannah [indiscernible 0:21:40] his last name. Anyway, they started it up, so I think that’s something that’ll be fun to follow to see how it’s going. |With all this doom and gloom, there’s some good stuff going on too with these meetings. What else do I want to say about that? I think that’s it. So listen to that if you have it already.
Jon Trask: Yes.
Mike McAllen: Let’s give that …
Jon Trask: The extra – and look for the links on there to the GMIC website and the Twitter and all of that.
Mike McAllen: Yes. It’s in the Twitter. It is interesting because as I looked at that site, when I was putting up a podcast today about the rally day that they had rallying up to travel council industry day. Is it the 12th?
Jon Trask: Yes.
Mike McAllen: Rachel Globus interviewed her about it. She’s the editor from Event Solutions and …
Jon Trask: Right.
Mike McAllen: … I was in there posting that and then I started looking at all these inbound links and then that sends me off somewhere else to look at these other websites, and we did a posting a while back called Six Ways to Utilize Twitter at Your Next Conference and this website called Tips from the T-List. They did a whole thing about Twitter and Hashtags at conferences writing about a whole post which is a very interesting post, up at the LinkedIn there too, about how people use Twitter again and they talked about what we had said and then I posted in there, thank you for linking us to us.
Jon Trask: Yes.
Mike McAllen: And that you and I were talking about using Twitter at our session at the MPI’s WEC in Salt Lake this summer. And then it started a flurry of other posts back and forth. So I started getting e-mails and stuff about that like don’t use it, use it, it’s great, it’s horrible [indiscernible 0:23:32]. So it would be interesting, you and I we talked about doing a question of that day to kind of close out our shows each week, and I think that is the question. How about have you used Twitter and do you recommend using it? Is that a good question?
Jon Trask: I would love to hear some people’s input on that and it’s very relevant for our class as well which we’re going to continue talking about as we come up to our July here. So, yes. I think whether or not to use it and how to use it is a hugely relevant topic and so let’s get some feedback on that. We’d love to hear people who have used it successfully, people who have used it unsuccessfully and people will think about it.
Mike McAllen: Yes, people who have been in the audience. I mean, I know I had – maybe write that Six Ways to Utilize Twitter post was, I was in a panel session at a conference and they were all talking to the panel and there’s like six people and they were – they totally go off topic but since the audience is part of it on this Twitter stream on the side up on the screen projected …
Jon Trask: They kept drawing them back to the topic.
Mike McAllen: … drew them back to what the questions, what the audience wanted to hear. It was pretty amazing but I could see if you were just yourself out there speaking about something. You couldn’t follow the Twitter stream plus [indiscernible 0:24:50].
Jon Trask: Right. Well, part of the challenge there is with any unedited format if it’s coming straight in and it can’t be controlled by any sort of producer before it goes to screen. You’re really at the risk of the opening yourself up to maybe some unwelcome comments or maybe some harsh comments or things like that. So …
Mike McAllen: Yes, which is good …
Jon Trask: … it’s a really different way to communicate. Yes.
Mike McAllen: … yes, it can be good and it can be bad. I mean, that’s talking about transparency if that’s something you want to do.
Jon Trask: Right.
Mike McAllen: You want to get – I mean, how many of us had been to meetings where the executive board is there asking for questions from their sales team and no one is standing up and say anything but you know they have 9 million questions but nobody was being on there.
Jon Trask: Nobody wants to be the one to put their hand up in class.
Mike McAllen: Right, right [for the loss]. But anyway, so okay …
Jon Trask: Okay.
Mike McAllen: … so I think that would be a great question for the day.
Jon Trask: So come to the website and talk to us.
Mike McAllen: Yes, fantastic. All right, Jon. Well, I think we probably should wrap this up.
Jon Trask: Yes.
Mike McAllen: And have a great week and I will talk to you next week, huh?
Jon Trask: Very good. We’ll talk to you soon.
Mike McAllen: Okay. Bye-bye.