How Meetings Will Change Post-Pandemic

How Meetings Will Change Post-Pandemic

 

As in-person events begin to come back onto our schedules, venues will be looking to provide health and safety-focused policies and procedures. These can include cancellation clauses, social distancing measures, virtual meeting add-ons, enhanced cleaning protocol, and more.

Many of these steps will be to ensure live events can still happen while also keeping participants and event staff safe. Here are some of the changes we expect to see post-pandemic.

Social Distancing Measures

It is likely that until it’s determined we are past the possible second wave, social distancing measures will be encouraged. This means venues may find themselves using larger spaces to accommodate fewer people. The cost of these larger spaces may make a live event cost prohibited, however, so new solutions will need to be developed.

Teller-style windows, remote pay stations, and technology will likely play a larger part in event management. Areas, where groups may gather, will likely be restricted or distanced, such as limiting the number of people in an elevator or separating those waiting in lines.

Heightened Sanitation

Some hotels have already announced their new health and sanitation measures. Businesses are placing hand sanitizer stations at entrances and exits to encourage personal hygiene. Many venues may require wearing masks. Additional signage about recommended or mandated safety precautions are likely to stay in place to educate participants.

Shared spaces such as taxis, registration tables, and bell carts will be wiped down more frequently. More staff trained in proper sanitation procedures are likely to be working events and may even be more visible or prominent.

Changes in Dining Options

Buffet-style meals will likely be replaced with to-go or cash and carry models. In-room dining may become a better option for those who don’t want to wait for tables at restaurants with reduced dining room capacity. Self-service options may be monitored.

Open-air and outdoor spaces will likely be more popular to help with adequate airflow.

Overall, as consumers, we will have cleaner spaces and more distance between those not in our party. Those of us in travel, tourism, and hospitality will have increased focus on sanitation and disaster preparedness as we begin to open our doors and adjust, as we always do. These new measures will evolve to create more innovation that allows us to delight guests and generate revenues for decades to come.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of an RFP

Avoiding the Pitfalls of an RFP

RFP CardIf you want the job, you need to look knowledgeable and professional with your proposal.

Many organizations use a Request for Proposal (RFP) process for procuring goods and services. As an independent consultant, I have written many RFPs and evaluated them even more. The process offers a mechanism for providing large amounts of information that, when done properly, helps the buyers to evaluate and compare options. It is, in effect, a job interview. If you want the job, you need to look knowledgeable and professional with your proposal.

Responding to an RFP can require a significant amount of effort from a vendor; sadly, we see proposals in response to RFPs that guarantee immediate elimination from consideration. Here are some of the biggest mistakes to avoid when responding to an RFP:

Disclaimers stating that the information and/or pricing contained in the response is not binding

Organizations issue RFPs, in part, so that they can separate the hype from the reality in terms of capabilities and pricing. If your proposal does not contain accurate information that your company is willing to stand behind (without disclaimers), then it’s of no use to the purchasing organization.

Ignoring the Terms and Conditions in the RFP. Most organizations have standard terms and conditions that are included in the RFP so that responders know what the customer expects contractually

Bidders are expected to examine the terms and conditions and make exceptions, if any, in the response (except for some government entities which do not allow exceptions). If no exceptions are taken, evaluators assume that the vendor’s proposal accepts the terms and conditions. When responders ignore the terms and conditions initially and then want to negotiate changes later, they look sloppy and unprofessional, and it can damage their credibility at a key point in the selection process.

Death by Boilerplate

While it is important to provide informative answers to questions in the RFP, many proposals we have reviewed use excessive boilerplate material to answer relatively simple yes/no questions. Often I have read 4-5 pages of material in response to a question and at the end of it I still do not know if the answer was “yes” or “no”. We recommend that responders answer questions with simple direct answers, and perhaps one to two sentences of explanation if needed. Additional detail can be provided in an appendix where appropriate.

Ignoring instructions (“Forget your format; I’ll use mine”)

One of the fastest ways to be eliminated from consideration is to respond with a proposal that does not follow the instructions in the RFP in terms of format and/or information required. If your company cannot do what the customer requires before the sale is made, how can you be trusted to provide the goods or services the customer needs?

Answering questions with “To be provided upon award”

We see this response a lot, and it is another good way to be eliminated from consideration. When the RFP asks for references, or for a plan for implementing the goods or services, or sample documentation, you should provide that information. The customer is using your answers to evaluate your capabilities in these areas. If you don’t provide the information, then the evaluators have to assume that you either can’t demonstrate that capability or you don’t care enough to provide it. Either way, you are likely to be eliminated.

Not addressing the selection criteria

Most RFPs provide the criteria that the customer plans to use to evaluate the proposals. Your response should demonstrate how your proposed solution meets those criteria. Don’t expect the evaluators to know this; you must connect the dots for them, succinctly, if you want to move forward in the process.

Confusing capabilities that are included and priced with those that are additional-cost options

This typically is a result of boilerplate responses that tout every capability the solution offers and do not take into account what is actually being proposed. Unless optional features are clearly distinguished, customers feel like they are victims of a bait-and-switch maneuver, and this lessens your credibility. Most people won’t buy anything from someone they don’t trust.

Making assumptions rather than asking questions

Every RFP I have ever seen has a mechanism for submitting questions. If you are not sure about something, ask for clarification. You are putting a lot of effort into the proposal, so you should be sure that you understand what the customer is looking for. Many times, the work on the proposal is begun so late that the deadline for questions (if there is one) has passed before the respondents have given the proposal their full attention. This can easily result in an inferior response.

Submitting the proposal late

Some organizations do not accept proposals after the deadline; late proposals are automatically eliminated. Even if a proposal is accepted, it has given the impression that the respondent is unorganized and may not be able to handle the project. Don’t kill your proposal’s chances before it is even opened.

Using the wrong customer name

This seems so obvious that it should not even be mentioned, but we see it all the time. Of course, this makes a negative impression and can be easily avoided. Too many sales teams submit proposals that they have not read and end up looking sloppy or uncaring. While putting together an RFP response is almost always a team effort, someone needs to review the final response and eliminate obvious errors and contradictory information.

-Melissa Swartz, Swartz Consulting, LLC. posted on nojitter.com

Different Ways to Improve Your Meeting Outcomes

Different Ways to Improve Your Meeting Outcomes

The main goal of any meeting or event is often to deliver information.  You may have any number of secondary goals, such as creating opportunities to increase brand awareness and loyalty, providing a platform for networking, and encouraging attendees to participate, innovate, and solve problems, just for example.  That said, you might assume that as long as you deliver intended messaging, you’ve done your job.

Unfortunately, meeting outcomes hinge on more than just your ability to convey information to attendees.  The more important part of the equation is whether or not they receive the information, as well as the impact it has on them.  Also of concern is their overall impression of the event and whether or not they have a positive and fulfilling experience.  If not, you can’t expect glowing reviews or future attendance, and you certainly can’t assume that the information you delivered sunk in.

If you want to improve meeting outcomes and maximize impact, you need to consider how every aspect of your event contributes to overall success.  Sitting people in a room and regurgitating information for hours might not be the most effective means of meeting your goals.  How, then, can you and your event company engineer desired results?  Here are a few things to consider.

Consider the Impact of Location

The content of your meetings and events is more important than the setting it’s delivered in, but this doesn’t mean you can discount the impact of location.  The setting of your meeting contributes to the overall impression you create.  Just consider the difference in mood created by moving a meeting from a board room to an outdoor space and you can see how location affects the expectations of attendees and your ability to deliver information.

Says Tessa Cameron, VP Strategic Sourcing at AMI, “Hosting meetings and events in the same spaces can create a sense of normalcy and even nostalgia over time, but it can also breed boredom and stagnation.  If you want to re-engage your audience and improve outcomes, novelty is one tactic to try, and changing up your meeting location is a good place to start.”

It’s also important to work with the resources at hand, and different locations are bound to deliver very different opportunities for engagement.  Your event management partners should be able to help you settle on suitable locations for your meeting or event and come up with creative ways to utilize the best that any given location has to offer in terms of immersion and engagement with your event.

Work with Your Event Company on a Thoughtful Agenda

One of the biggest culprits when it comes to meeting fails is a weak agenda.  There are steps you need to take in order to plan a successful event from beginning to end.  You should start with a solid foundation.  This entails setting the goals for outcomes.  What do you hope to accomplish with your meeting or event?

Next, you need to build on these foundations by nailing down your core messaging and weaving in branding and thematic elements.  In other words, you need to craft your content in keeping with your set goals.  From there you can begin to flesh out practical elements, from needed furniture, décor, and electronics, to the layout of meeting spaces, to an itinerary of speakers and workshops.

You’ll want to make sure to work with your event company to create an atmosphere conducive to producing optimal results, as well as set a schedule that includes breaks and downtime.  Even though you’re sure to craft a fairly tight itinerary, it’s always wise to leave a little wiggle room for the unexpected.

Plan for Fun and Relaxing Breaks

It’s not uncommon for event hosts to think of breaks as perfunctory, but this perspective misses the point of taking breaks, which is to reset in order to return to the task at hand refreshed.  Naturally, you’ll need to allow adequate time for meeting and event attendees to see to basic needs with food and restroom breaks, but you should also think about breaking up core activities like speakers, panels, and workshops with opportunities for attendees to become reinvigorated.

A tight agenda of information delivery can leave guests feeling overwhelmed and stressed.  This, in turn, can decrease data retention, increase exhaustion and irritation, and generally make for a negative experience.  In order to ensure positive outcomes, you need to break up the monotony with engaging activities like games, physical pursuits, or team-building exercises, just for example.  You could also opt for something more relaxing, like spa treatments.

The break-time activities you choose will depend on your audience and the size of your group.  An experienced event management partner can help you come up with creative ideas for activities that suit your event, your audience, and even your theme or brand messaging.

Find Ways for Your Event Management to Increase Engagement

Information overload and boredom are two pressing concerns when it comes to ensuring positive and productive meeting outcomes.  The way to combat these common issues is by finding ways to get attendees engaged and excited about the process.

This can be accomplished in a number of ways. Creating an experiential event that encourages guests to participate is going to be a lot more engaging than simply dousing them in information.  Along these lines, you can create opportunities for both in-person and digital or social media participation.  You can also add elements of gamification, by which attendees can compete and earn rewards on an individual or group basis.

An experienced event management partner can help you to come up with all kinds of unique experiential ideas in keeping with your event, your brand, and your audience’s tastes.  You can also crowdsource ideas from the event community, which is, in itself, experiential.

Set the Right Tone

In any meeting or event scenario, you want to foster an environment of openness and tolerance.  The last thing you want is to stifle creativity or innovation.  This means creating opportunities for both individual and group engagement and considering even off-the-wall ideas.  If you and your event company are looking for ways to improve meeting outcomes, consider how the atmosphere and attitude of your event can help to encourage innovation and sharing.

How to Simplify Staffing at Your Events

How to Simplify Staffing at Your Events

Once your event is in full swing, you and your global meeting planner will have a lot of priorities to attend to.  The last thing you need is to find yourself micromanaging a disorganized event staff.  You need a reliable team you can delegate simple tasks to so you have the bandwidth to focus on more pressing concerns.

Of course, part of how well your staff performs relates to the overall complexity of the training and directives you provide.  If your staff scheduling is a nightmare and you fail to clearly assign posts and duties, staff confusion is to be expected.

Says Josie Rubio, Director of HR & Global Talent Acquisition at AMI, “If you want your staff to perform like a well-oiled machine, you have to create a simple and streamlined plan so that every team member knows where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there, and what they’re supposed to be doing.”

How can you and your corporate meeting planner ensure that your staff is well prepared to best serve event attendees?  Here are a few tips to simplify staffing concerns at your upcoming event.

Have Your Corporate Meeting Planner Suggest Posts

Once you have your venue locked down and a clear plan of where meetings, presentations, and exhibits will take place, it’s time to sit down with your corporate meeting planner to determine where best to place staffers throughout your event space.

You’ll need registration staff and team members posted throughout the venue to direct attendees and provide assistance.  You might also need staffers posted at doors to check badges, people assigned to act as ushers for presentations, and professionals that can man food and beverage stations, activity booths, and other service locations.

Knowing ahead of time where you’ll need to strategically place staff members can help you to secure the right volume of staff and select professionals that have the experience and personality to excel in their assigned position.

Simplify Scheduling as Much as Possible

Every event presents challenges for the host, global meeting planner, and staff members, and to some extent, you might need to compensate on the fly.  However, it’s best to create a firm schedule for staffing ahead of time.  What if someone doesn’t show up or a staffer needs to leave their post for an unscheduled restroom break?

Your best bet is to have a backup plan, such as a couple of extra team members that can act as runners or fill in as needed.  A well-planned schedule and extra staffing can help you to optimize the usage of event staff and ensure that no post is ever left unattended.

Ask Your Global Meeting Planner to Streamline Maps and Itineraries

Event attendees are certain to approach staff members with questions, and some of the most common will focus on the timing and location of activities.  You and your corporate meeting planner can prepare for this by providing staffers with maps and itineraries and going over them before the event begins.

A good bet is to offer attendees maps and itineraries via the app so they have their own copies, but giving staff members hard copies is also wise since it can help to make their jobs a lot easier and account for potential snafus like a low battery on devices or in-app crashes.

6 Tips for Better Event Destination Selection

6 Tips for Better Event Destination Selection

Corporate meetings and events are focused largely on content delivery. Whether you’re hosting a meeting or event, you’re a keynote speaker, or you’ve got a booth in the exhibit hall, there’s a message you want attendees to take away. You might naturally assume that the message is the top priority, the delivery method is secondary, and the venue comes in at a distant third.

In truth, content is the most important part of any meeting or event. However, that doesn’t mean the location won’t play a crucial role in setting expectations and creating a platform from which to successfully deliver your message. Selecting the right destination is not a throw-away decision – it’s one you must treat with careful consideration.

Says Tessa Cameron, VP Strategic Sourcing at AMI, “Any number of destinations could suit your needs when planning an event, but some are going to offer more.  You need to comparison shop to find the greatest benefits at the lowest prices. Don’t forget to make sure your destination makes sense for your event and that it suits the sensibilities of attendees.”

What steps can you take to make sure you and your event organizer select the destination that’s best for your upcoming meeting or event? Here are a few guidelines to help you find your way.

Align Your Destination with Your Goals

What are you hoping to accomplish with your meeting? You may have many goals, from imparting a specific message, to raising brand awareness, to garnering patronage, to eliciting social behaviors from attendees (sharing via social media, writing positive online reviews, etc.). The destination you and your convention planner select should contribute in some way to reaching your goals.

For example, a beautiful location that has plenty of opportunities for selfies could invite social media sharing and raise the awareness and prestige of your event.  If your message and your company are Eco-friendly in nature, you’re going to want to support your ideals with venues committed to Eco-tourism. The destination you choose should never be at odds with your goals for an event.

Ask Your Convention Planner to Work Out All Costs

The bottom line is not only an issue for you and your convention planner, but also for any guests that have to pay to attend. While you might be able to work out deals with local vendors for lodgings, food, transportation, and activities, just for example, don’t forget that there are going to be hidden costs like taxes and fees, and you need to make sure to factor these in with overall cost.

Don’t forget about the potential cost for attendees to reach your destination, as well. Getting a great deal on lodgings won’t help if the vast majority of your attendees have to book pricey international flights to get there.

Carefully Consider the Infrastructure

A scenic destination that is off the beaten path may seem perfect for a retreat that requires total immersion. However, you have to consider the hassles of getting there and the potential inconvenience to attendees when you go off the grid, so to speak.

An experienced and creative event planner can do a lot to keep guests comfortable and engaged, but if event attendees have to spend hours on an airplane only to hop on a bus or in a car for several more hours of travel to reach a remote destination, they’re not going to be too happy about the inconvenience. Morale will get even worse if the location doesn’t offer absolutely stellar amenities and diversions.

Understand the Draws of Different Locations

What makes one location preferable to another?  You and your event organizer may be focused on the basics, like infrastructure, amenities, and logistics, but you also have to consider what added value a particular destination has to offer, such as culture, cuisine, and entertainment opportunities. This can help to elevate your event, engage attendees, and create an overwhelmingly positive experience.

Plan for the Weather

While there’s no telling what the weather will be like at a certain destination during specific dates, you and your convention planner can do some research into common weather patterns to find out if the climate is likely to be accommodating during your event.

Work with Your Event Organizer to Avoid Undue Safety Concerns

There are always going to be safety concerns when hosting an event, from a bad buffet that makes everyone sick, to uninvited guests gaining entry and causing disruptions, to natural disasters. If you plan accordingly, you can avoid most security concerns, but when choosing your destination, make sure to learn all you can about potential threats particular to the region or specific venues.