“We get criticized as an industry for being stagnant, for not being disruptive, for doing things the same old way,” she said. “It’s really important to talk to people in other industries and share knowledge that we have and learn from others.”
Sherry Parks believes the recent Marriott commission cut was a wake-up call for planners.
“Bottom-line results are the ruling factor, and quality is suffering,” she said. “Staff are less well-trained, the front desk and reservation systems show consistent issues with confirmations, history and reservations. The food has a mediocrity, like the old rubber chicken kind of hotel food. The largest hotel group in the country now has a mediocrity at the top levels of their brands that is affecting performance at the individual property level.”
Parks said she would look to book independent properties going forward.
“I would look to buy other brands, particularly European brands where integrity is still strong,” she said.
The reduced commission with very little notice is typical of changing vendor attitudes, according to Parks.
“There is an unbridled arrogance in the senior level management that gives little or no credence to planners, whether they are third party or in-house,” she said. “They are pushing everything, and you have to be careful.”
Parks said it’s important to have your contracts rewritten in plain English so there are no areas of grey.
“Be very detail-conscious and stay on top of people in a written format for every direction you give,” she said. “This paying 3 percent less on 30 days’ notice is a very strong indication of the lack of caring going on.”
It’s not just hotels, Parks added.
“United is now charging for all bags in economy,” she said. “That’s coming with all the carriers. If you are doing air and estimated $425 per person, and now you suddenly have to add $25 to $50 per person for a meeting, that becomes a big-ticket item. That’s a major lunch or a couple of breaks. That one announcement means that United won’t get my vote if there is an alternative carrier.”
Parks’ overall advice?
These individuals have driven SMMP in their companies, advanced their roles as meeting pros, and are helping to take our industry to the next level.
Back to the full list of 20 changemakers Lee Ann Adams Mikeman Vice President, Conference Planning & Special Events Science Applications International Corp. McLean, Va. PAST Lee Ann Adams Mikeman began her career as an administrative assistant supporting meetings and conferences at SAIC 25 years ago. About 10 years later she moved to the corporate level to begin consolidating meetings companywide. She now oversees a team of eight that coordinates meetings, conferences, and events. …
Recognize your employees and keep your sales team in place!!
President’s Club & Chairman’s Club Experts!
We have been given wonderful opportunities to plan a multitude of Recognition and Incentive programs for corporations that have taken us all over the globe to the delight and success of our clients. So many of them build great products but retention of their trained sales team is challenging and our clients have discovered how important it is to offer an annual Award Program that is so unique and special, that most or many will never have the opportunity to do it on their own.
We have stayed at every great resort in each of the destinations they asked for: from Rio and The Copa Cabana Resort on the beach, to The Palace in Johannesburg Africa, to Vienna in Austria, to Sydney in Australia and even beyond to Christ Church in New Zealand and back on down to Hong Kong, in Japan and Moorea in the French Polynesian Islands to name a few.
These customized program adventures are built around the profiles of the winners to assure we design unique and extraordinary experiences that the general public won’t ever get to see. We include team-building but in a way that brings life and fun to a themed destination designing programs that really encourage great interaction between everyone, on all teams.
New winners are instantly part of the group and well many of the programs have winners that have won for well over 10 years, never missing and never leaving their positions as they are experiencing the world in a way very few ever get to do, the newer winners are then enveloped in this special group of winners and of course they too simply must win again, year after year.
We would love to design those kinds of experiences for your company whether incentive driven programs and or even to reconsider changing up those National Sales meetings that are just not that exciting anymore. New suggested formats, seating set ups and even locations that everyone will come in with a new appreciation for what they are about to learn and hear and will meet your budget and keep you IRS compliant.
We are waiting for your call…limited space for the right clients.
Aside from the office bug that seems to hit everyone around the same time of the year, there’s another highly contagious culprit that spreads from cubicle to cubicle and meeting room to meeting room, sparing no one in its path. The culprit is poor time management.
“If someone fails to deliver something important by the time they’ve promised….
by Peggy Swisher
Corporate Meetings And Incentives Magazine
President/creative director, Corporate Planners Unlimited Inc.; creator, Virtualis Convention & Learning Center; co-founder and moderator on the MeCo listserv
- If you could be anywhere in the world, where would you be?Right where we live, here on Vancouver Island on the ocean. Sydney, Australia, would be a strong No. 2.
- What’s playing on your iPod?Okay, let me break out some fresh music for everyone to try out: “Best for Last” by Adele (my favorite right now!); “Black & Gold” by Sam Sparro; “That’s Not My Name” by the Ting Tings; “Get on Your Boots” by U2; “Death & All His Friends” by Coldplay; and “L.E.S. Artistes” by Santogold.
- If you could be a superhero, what super power would you want?The power to know the truth
- When your life story is made into a movie, who should they cast as you?How about Robin Williams? Playing it straight but laughing and having fun all the way. Nannu Nannu.
- What’s the best book you read in the past year?That would have to be The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. My favorite quote from it is: “The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”
- What’s your hidden talent?I am a bit of a wine, cigar, and fine dining connoisseur.
- Who inspires you?My incredible wife and partner, Sherry, and the greatest daughter in the world, Brittany
- What is your favorite cause/charity?We are regular contributors to Variety — The Children’s Charity,www.usvariety.org, and the MLK Memorial, www.mlkmemorial.org
FROM CORPORATE & INCENTIVE TRAVEL MAGAZINE
DMC’s often show potential clients spectacular portfolios filled with pictures of their most creative theme events. But how many of the pictures capture the faces of participants when they enter a transformed ballroom?
As a planner, one of the most satisfying moments is when you watch your clients’ jaw drop and eyes pop wide open when they see the venue that you have magnificently transformed. That’s when you know they will see this event as memorable and unique. If the eyes and lips are pleasant but immobile, then you have not wowed ‘em. Sure, the event may be successful, but it may not be memorable. Events that meet both standards are always creative and dynamic. When participants tell business associates about your event, you don’t want the response to be, “Oh, yeah, we did something like that.” You want to inspire envy.
Sometimes it’s the splashy decorations or the intriguing ambience that makes an event memorable. Other times it’s relatively small details. Either way, there is more than one way to create that memorable event. Many independent meeting planners create their own events from scratch, while many corporate planners hire DMC’s. Depending on their locations, some DMC’s offer an extensive repertoire of creative and successful events.
The best theme events stem from your imagination and from tailoring prepackaged DMC offerings to connect with your clients. “We come up with ideas that are based on the unusual. If you have done it, then we probably do not want to do it, at least not the same way,” says Sherry Parks, owner of Corporate Planners Unlimited, Dana Point, CA. “Everything needs to have a twist and turn that’s unique to your company.”
To ensure uniqueness, and to save on the rising costs of theme events, Park uses DMC’s infrequently. They often have programmed ways of doing things that constrict her imagination, she says. “Also, I don’t want to pay a middleman an extra 20 or 30 percent. I use them only if I feel they have a unique situation and many do. But for someone who has been in this business so long, I get more out of doing it myself. There is a part of me that likes to bring out my child-like creature and share it with the world.”
Parks does not measure her most successful events by her view of their creativity. Instead, she asks, “How close do my clients think my creating comes to their vision of the company, and the theme of the event?”
By that measure, here is one of her most memorable events:
Connecting with the blockbuster movie “Titanic,” Parks organized a black-tie sinking-ship theme for the national sales conference of a medical firm. Actually, she modeled the room after the ship that sunk in the movie “The Poseidon Adventure.” Upon entering the ballroom, people got the idea that they were upside down on a sinking ship. There were false floors and tables attached to the real ceiling with wires (which they later brought down for dinner), and soda cans and ashtrays also sat on the ceiling.
“We even turned bubbles upside down and had them coming the other way,” says Parks. “We had fog to give a mist, and had water in self contained Plexiglas circles attached to the walls with backlighting that served as portholes. They gave the impression that the ship was going down.”
Meanwhile, the original theme music from “The Poseidon Adventure” was playing as the 350 attendees danced in 1940′s style clothing. The ship’s “captain” periodically interrupted the music with announcements.
How did Parks do it? First, she discussed the company’s theme with one of its executives. “He said the medical industry was changing quickly, turning upside down. He wanted to suggest to employees that if they don’t follow the rules and get results by thinking outside of the box, then that’s when he will applaud their actions. We discussed the typical magic and illusion themes. Finally, we decided that was too hokey.”
Once they settled on the sinking ship theme, Parks went to work, putting it together herself. “We lifted the design for the room off still photos from the movie studio and tried to match them identically. I had a prop company deliver some props that we used in a different manner than usual. I had a decor company drop off lights and lamps of all kinds. We used set design pieces and redesigned them. Once we got everything, it took about two days to build it. It was not expensive, considering what we did, between $40,000 and $50,000.”
Another of Park’s most memorable events involved an Alice in Wonderland theme. It’s a relatively common one, but she feels her was unusually realistic. “We took them through their childhood,” says Parks. “We even had psychologists that talked about how they developed from childhood to what they are now. We had a maze that they travelled through, like Alice, taht took them to another time — the converted ballroom. Everything was oversized, plates, food portions, tables, cups. We had potions and a huge hat. There was the rabbit and Cheshire cat on mirrored walls and seilings looking down on them. The whole theme was to imagine what you can do if you let your imagination run away with you.”
Social Media Guru Keeps Planners Tuned In To Technology
Calling Dan Parks an early adapter is a serious understatement. Parks has devoted his career to being ahead of the technology curve – especially when it comes to meetings.
Parks is president and creative director for California-based Corporate Planners Unlimited. But he is probably best known as a social media guru for meeting industry insiders.
A co-founder of MeCo, The Meetings Community, the industry’s largest online Listserv (an email group), Parks also hosts a Facebook community called MeCo Social Media Headquarters.
Parks posts incessantly on Facebook – mostly links to the latest information on social media and other technological developments. He also holds regular Tweetups and contributes to other online forums, blogs and more.
Travel Market Report asked Parks about why he is so passionate about meetings technology and why other planners should share his passion – or at least pay attention. Parks splits his time between homes in Dana Point, Calif., and Victoria, British Columbia.
When did you get involved with meeting technology?
Parks: My love for technology goes back to my time in the navy in the early 1980s. When I met my wife (Sherry) in 1988, she was already a professional meeting planner. Between my technology and sales skills, and her planning skills, we started the company (Corporate Planners Unlimited).
How did the meeting planning social media community come about?
Parks: Even before Facebook, I put together a Listserv to help planners connect with each other for referrals and shared experiences. We got into social media a few yeas ago. Every Monday, I do a Monday Morning Motivation pep talk on MeCo.
How do you have the time do all this social media and networking?
Parks: My wife handles the operational side of the meeting planning. I bring in business, and handle the marketing and public relations, which is my background. But my job is really to go out and find all the coolest, neatest technology – and figure out a way to provide that to our clients.
How do you keep up?
Parks: I read hundreds of articles every day and share what I think is important to planners. I participate in tests of new products and constantly network with others who are interested in the same developments.
Have you gotten involved with location-based social media?
Parks: Very much so. I’m a Foursquare Superuser. And I was involved in getting the mayor of Victoria to declare the first official Foursquare Day here.
Why do you do all this?
Parks: I feel a tremendous obligation to all my followers on all these networks. There’s a 99-90-1 rule that says that 90% of people on social media never do anything; 9% share and interact; and 1% are actual content creators. Those last ones are the ones with the most value in moving things forward.
Does all this help with your meeting planning business?
Parks: People who follow me see me as having earned Woofie, which is your social credibility (a concept that emerged in a book called Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, by Cory Doctorow). Because I have shared all this for free for so long, we end up getting business because of it.
What is the latest technology you’re looking at?
Parks: I really like Spreecast.com, which is in beta test. It will allow you to show four people on the screen at the same time – as in a panel discussion – and have an unlimited number of people watching.
Also, teleconferencing is getting to where there will be units in your home. I can imagine a meeting where you have a four-by-four box in your home. There are square frames in it, and people popping in and out of those frames as you interact with them.
Obviously, you’re beyond an early adapter in this – and are in a position to make the most of it. What about the average, under-pressure planner? What should they do?
Parks: If you’re a real meeting planner, you have to be on top of all this. We save clients a ton of money by being on top of this.
Being such a fan of technology, how do you see the future of face-to-face meetings?
Parks: Face to face is always on the top of our list as an option – when it makes sense and it’s viable. I see it becoming a premium product.
I recently told my daughter that someday it will be an honor to turn the pages of a book rather than read it online. That’s where face-to-face meetings might go at some point.
What are your favorite meeting and non-meeting apps these days?
Parks: I love Vlingo. It’s a voice-activated program that enables me to write and send email, do search and all kind of things. For meetings, I like Meeting Recorder, which is for small meetings and records everything being said around the table – sort of instant minutes for your meetings
What comes next?
Parks: Who knows? However, when it happens I’ll know about it because my ear is on the railroad track.
Event professionals currently testing Google’s wearable device suggest ways to incorporate it into events and meetings. Google Glass is a wearable computer currently being tested by more than 10,000 participants in its Glass Explorers program. The company is still refining the product and has not announced when it will be available to consumers.
Google Glass is Google’s entry into the wearable technology market. Unveiled at its Google I/O developers conference in 2012, the headset puts a virtual high-resolution display over the wearer’s right eye, which according to Google looks like a 25-inch screen seen from eight feet away. The hands-free system is integrated with other Google products like Gmail, Calendar, Plus, and Hangouts, and it can be used for search, navigation, phone calls, voice text, photo and video recording, video conferencing, and more. There are also apps, known as Glassware, such as Evernote, Twitter, and Facebook, with dozens more in development.
We spoke with four event professionals who are testing Google Glass as part of its beta program known as Glass Explorers. While all four stated the product still needs improvements in areas such as battery life, speed, and sound quality, they also voiced agreement that Google Glass—and other wearable products in development—will have definite application for meetings and events. Here are some of their ideas, many available through Google Glass’s existing capabilities, as well as their predictions for the future.