If you didn’t attend the Financial & Insurance Conference Planners 2009 Annual Conference last week, here are some tips, trends, and best practices we picked up on from planners, presenters, and the host hotel, the Sheraton Centre Toronto:
1. The Green Way to Do a Box Lunch
Get a sponsor to provide you with small reusable lunch bags (thanks to Marriott International for providing the bags used in Toronto) and pile them high at one end of your banquet table. Then lay out the wrapped lunch options—a variety of sandwiches, bags of chips, energy bars, whole fruit—and let attendees choose only what they want. You’ll end up with far less waste and much happier on-the-go diners.
2. Put Potential Rate Renegotiation in Your Hotel.
Hey, he admits it’s controversial, but John Foster, Esq., CHME, has been including a clause for planner clients that allows “the right to revise the room block, rate, and catering if there is greater than a 3 to 5 percent decline in five out of 10 of the leading economic indicators published by The Conference Board.” According to Foster, he saved one client $250,000 with that provision, at a property where the pre-negotiated group rate ended up higher than the highest rack rate by the time of the program.
3. Say Bye-Bye to E-Mail.
The Baby Boomers in the room raised an eyebrow when David Evans of independent consultancy Digicraft predicted the death of e-mail within five years. It’ll be killed by things like Huddle, an online collaboration platform, he said. Huddle provides “workspaces” where teams can share and work on files, communicate in an online-forum-type environment, and hold planned and spontaneous Web conferences. Outside the corporate enterprise sphere, Google Wave is a new platform for consolidating all of your online conversations (or “waves”) including instant messages and social networks.
4. But Say Hello to Conferences.
Nevermind e-mail. Futurist Richard Worzel, CPA, of Futuresearch in Toronto, is thinking back to when we used to regularly pick up the phone and call our clients. “Twenty years ago, I spent a lot of time chatting with people on the phone,” he said. “Now I can go a whole day without the phone ever ringing.” This is one of the more subtle reasons that in-person conferences remain attractive in the business world: “They replace past forms of one-to-one socializing,” he said.
5. Create an SMMP That Meets Your Needs Today.
The idea of creating and implementing aprogram can be overwhelming. Kelly Everhart, managing partner, Strategic Management Solutions, has one piece of advice that should help you take that first step. “Write a that meets your needs today—not one that works with a system you hope to implement in the next 18 months,” she advises. You should move to a credit-card-based payment solution, but if you’re working with invoices now, write a policy that includes them.
6. What Do You Spend on Meetings?
Here’s a quick way to figure it out: Your total meeting spend is 35 percent of your total corporate travel spend.
7. Community Service for All
No time for a group community service project? Check out the gift card program from globalgiving.com, and let attendees choose where to make donations. Koleen Roach of Securian Financial took the $150 per attendee that she would have spent on several room gifts and instead gave each person a donation card with the same value. Attendees visit the Web site and decide whether to help save the whales, the children, the ozone, or whatever cause is closest to their hearts.
8. The Right Way to Read a Contract? Repeatedly.
John Foster, Esq., CHME, advises reviewing a new contract three times. On your first time through, identify the clauses that are vague, inappropriate, or one-sided, and need to be deleted or revised before you will accept them. Second time through: Identify terms that are missing and need to be added. That is, what are your hot buttons? The third time, read the contract with an eye toward determining the best way to incorporate revisions: Will you need a whole new contract, an addendum, or can you get by with revisions to the existing contract? Foster notes that step two is what catches most people. “Most disputes are about what’s not in a contract,” he says.
9. This Kind of Regifting is OK.
In the interest of sustainability, many meeting planners are giving out reusable conference bags and water bottles at their meeting registration desks. But how many of these things do your returning conferees need? Consider keeping logos off the products and then asking attendees to place them in collection bins at the end of the conference for delivery to homeless shelters or other charities.
10. Message to Your Execs: See and Be Seen
In his opening keynote address, Fortune senior-editor-at-large Geoffrey Colvin recounted the characteristics of the best corporate leaders—the ones who use tough times as a way to get ahead of the competition. These leaders do three things, he said. First, they stand up and are seen. Second, they are decisive. And third, they put the difficult situation and tough decision-making in context for the people they lead. “If people see the situation as something they can understand and can get through, they will perform better than if they see the situation as a crisis,” Colvin said. That’s another way for you to pitch keeping up your meeting calendar. Your field force is struggling. They need to see your executives, hear what their plans are, and believe they are listening to their concerns.