meeting and event planning resources

Meeting Planning Tip – Planning for an Event

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March 14  |  meeting and event planning resources  |   Andrew Maxwell


on-site staff at an event

photo by www.inovacaribbean.com

A meeting and event planner is always looking for ways that they can trim their budgets without affecting their overall program. Sometimes that task can be more difficult than it looks. Having been on the service side of the meetings and events industry for many years, I can confidently tell you that there are many ways to trim budgets without affecting the delegate’s experience.

Event Planning Often Requires Local Expertise for Input

When planning for an event, a seasoned meeting planner will, quite often, hire a local company (often referred to as a destination management company). Those that have been in the industry for some time now know all too well how crucial a local expert can be towards executing a successful event.

Meeting Planner Tip-Do Not Cut the On-Site Staff from Your Budget

From my experiences, I have found that quite often a meeting and event planner will ask that the on-site staff be removed from an event. And I have to tell you, I have no idea why this request is made so often. When you look at the overall budget of most events, the on-site staff does not does not make up a large portion of the budget. Literally they are a few hundred dollars for the evening. Yet, time and time again, it’s the one line item that I’ve been asked to remove.

And of course the planner is always right.

Obviously at the end of the day if my clients do not want to pay for an on-site staff then I’m obliged to honor that request. But I think this is a prime example of how someone can be penny wise and pound foolish.

And of course, once we have removed the on-site staff, there are not a lot of people that the guests can approach for direction. Quite often they will go to the meeting planner, our client, directly with questions. Ultimately that meeting planner will have to find someone with local expertise that can answer those questions. More times than not it has been a phone call to the on-call duty manager. So in other words 5 to 10 min. have probably gone by before that guest got their proper answer.

In addition to being a local expert, an on-site staff’s responsibilities can also include coordination of the event itself. For example, if the function is at a restaurant and the service is slow, the on-site staffs responsible to ensure that that is addressed before becomes an issue. Or perhaps they have to queue the transportation vehicles so that the guests are not waiting once the function is over.

So for those meeting and event planners reading this do yourself a favor. If you really need to trim a budget ask your event planner to break down all of the components of the event. Perhaps you can select different wines, review the food menu, etc.

But please, do yourself and your guests a huge favor and keep the on-site staff working the function.

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Event Planning Tips for Selecting Venues

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March 7  |  meeting and event planning resources  |   Andrew Maxwell


posted notes with helpful tips for event planning

Event planning often includes planning for social functions. And, quite often, social functions will require that the group be transferred to an off-site venue. While this aspect of a program is not necessarily a main component, it’s often considered vital to attracting delegates to a meeting. Quite often venues are selected based on their reputation, or their connection to the city where the meeting is held.

There Are Many Costs Components to Consider When Selecting Venues

Truth be told, many meeting planners initially place social functions low on the totem polerefine search for venues on connect in the city compared to other components of the meetings program. Naturally, the educational sessions or general meetings are the priority. Unless of course we’re talking about an incentive program. Then the focus of the event planner would be the social elements.


As many seasoned meeting planners will tell you, costs can escalate dramatically when considering an off-site venue. So why, then, don’t meeting and event planners just have a meal function within the hotel? Well, many times they will. However, the appeal of an off-site venue is attractive to delegates when registering for particular conferences. Especially if they are bringing spouses along for the meeting. It’s also an ideal way for the meeting planner to expose their delegates to the local flavor and cuisine of the city.

On our directory, Connect in the City, the goal is to match meeting planners with perspective venues. As part of the refine search, the goal is to assist the planner with determining the style of venue which would be appropriate for their group. This is one way where online event planning directories do offer guidance and assistance for a meeting planner.

Some Tips to Consider That Will Help Keep Your Costs in Check When Selecting Venues:

Does the venue have in-house catering facilities? This one aspect can have a dramatic impact on a meeting planner’s budget. If the venue is not equipped with proper kitchen facilities, for example, the caterer would be required to bring in the necessary equipment for the group. As you would expect, this can increase the overall budget.

Does the venue have an in house caterer? Like the catering facilities, whether or not the venue has an in house caterer can also have an impact on the function’s cost. For those venues that do have an in house caterer, quite often their overall costs would be lower than an outside caterer. The reason for this is that the equipment is already on site for the in house caterer to use. An outside caterer would be required to rent and transport their equipment to the venue.

Does your group require exclusivity? Try to ascertain this question early on with your client. If you find that exclusivity is not a high priority, there are many restaurants that could be appropriate for your group. And, as restaurants are already equipped to deal with meal functions, there are not a lot of additional cost that a meeting or event planner would incur.

What type of meal are you planning on serving? Of course the type of meal you are serving will be dependent on the time of the function. However I’ve guided many meeting planners towards food stations or heavy hors d’oeuvres (10 to 12 pieces per person) to help them shave much needed dollars off their budget. Especially if you’re hosting your event in a venue such as a museum or art gallery. If that’s the case, then the venue itself becomes part of the function (i.e. guided tours, etc.). And you may find that simply offering heavy hors d’oeuvres, that are circulated by the serving staff, may be ample for your function.

Selecting the right venue for your meeting may seem like a daunting task at first. However, by simply sitting down and thinking about the various components of the function, the meeting planner will be helping themselves by narrowing down the fields. In event planning, it’s crucial that you are aware of what areas can drive up venue costs.

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Tips for Making Corporate Travel Policy Connect to Travelers, by American Express Travel

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May 2  |  meeting and event industry news, meeting and event planning resources  |   Andrew Maxwell


“As today’s global marketplace is constantly changing, and the logistics of capitalizing on growth in emerging markets make travel more complex than ever before, it is not enough to just develop a corporate travel policy and assume that employees know what to do with it,” said Helen Brough, Advisory Services Global Policy Practice Director, American Express Global Business Travel. “Companies should be actively leveraging and communicating their travel policy to employees and enlisting influencers within the company such as Human Resources, Security and Legal to support these efforts.”


Less than One Third of Companies Have Updated their  Corporate Travel Policies within the Last Year According to New Research from American Express Global Business Travel.

Corporate Travel Policy Tips Include:

  • Make it Accessible: There are many ways a company can address communicating to travelers and encouraging compliance, including using pre-trip tools, policy messages integrated at the point of sale and even prior to booking. Intranets and other portals can also provide a channel to communicate policy to help travelers make the right decisions.

 

  • Appeal to the Traveler: If travelers do not understand their travel policy or know where to find it, it is unlikely that it will be adhered to or that travelers will be able to benefit from the perks.  Most employees want to do the right thing by the business, so businesses need to let employees know what is in it for the company and for them.  That way the traveler can benefit from the perks of following the policy and the company can benefit from travel policy compliance.

 

  • Revisit for Relevancy: Establish a policy team with representatives from all stakeholders, including those that can represent the traveler, and charge them with the maintenance of the travel policy.  Then communicate changes to travelers so everyone can stay current.

 

  • Eliminate Uncertainty: It has been reported that one in four expense reports is typically sent back to the traveler for clarification or additional documentation support. Travel policy should take into consideration the process for expense reimbursement. The better a traveler understands the reimbursement process, the less time will be spent on re-doing these reports.

This new Best Practice Roadmap report on Travel Policy, produced by EXPERT INSIGHTS, shows many organizations still need to close the gap between their policy content and emerging industry trends.

 

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Does Your Company Need To Update Its Travel Policy?

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April 26  |  meeting and event industry news, meeting and event planning resources  |   Andrew Maxwell



 
New research by American Express Global Business Travel outlines gaps and opportunities for companies to strengthen managed travel programs by focusing on their travel and expense policies early this year. Analyzing nearly 100 travel policies of global, multinational, and mid-sized companies, the research shows less than one third of these companies overall have updated their travel policies within the last year. This oversight can leave companies exposed to losing hard-earned corporate negotiated rates, and more importantly, may put travelers at unnecessary risk.

“It’s a new year and with any good business practice, corporate travel departments are setting goals, including bringing their programs in line with the competition and external marketplace dynamics,” said Christa Degnan Manning, director of EXPERT INSIGHTS research, American Express Global Business Travel. “However, like many improvement resolutions, reviewing and revising travel policy tends to get neglected. Yet a healthy travel policy can help companies achieve long-term success. Policies can support business-critical goals such as risk mitigation and employee engagement, as they touch on issues from traveler safety and security to corporate social responsibility.”

 


 

This new Best Practice Roadmap report on Travel Policy, produced by EXPERT INSIGHTS, shows many organizations still need to close the gap between their policy content and emerging industry trends.

Highlights of the policy gaps exposed in this report, based on 100 corporate policies reviewed, include:

  • Only 12% addressed traveler security despite it being a critical issue for companies to consider as more and more employees embark on worldwide business travel today
  • 80% did not address reimbursement of ancillary fees such as checked bags, reservation change fees, or other for-purchase services offered at hotels and car rentals
  • Only 35%  of smaller companies and large international organizations require an agency to book hotels, compared to 85% of global companies
  • None of the travel policies addressed the use of mobile applications or even referenced tools they may have available for travelers to use on the road or when working remotely
  • 70 percent of companies do not provide specific guidelines to travelers on when it makes sense to book airfares through a non-preferred supplier if the ticket price is less expensive

“Policy is the foundation of a successful managed travel program and maintaining this infrastructure by conducting regular check-ups is paramount,” said Helen Brough, Advisory Services Global Policy Practice Director, American Express Global Business Travel. “In our policy practice we have identified over 300 areas companies should be reviewing in their policy for the best outcomes – for the company, for the traveling employees, and for ultimate travel management program success. Companies that are most successful are those that regularly review and update their travel policies based on changing market conditions as well as focus on communicating those policies to their travelers.”

FILLING THE GAPS

  • Security: Companies should provide guidance to their travelers for the range of areas associated with security, such as how to prepare for a trip, what to do during a trip, and after travel, particularly when traveling to high-risk destinations. Guidance around what to do during a travel emergency or disruption should also not go overlooked in policies, as well as information on security around company assets.
  • Fees: Addressing the various fees that travelers are confronted with while on the road remains a policy opportunity. It should be made easier on travelers in understanding what is reimbursable as well as being made aware of waived fees and other benefits associated with booking with preferred suppliers, such as free checked baggage on airlines or complimentary wi-fi as part of a hotel rate.
  • Hotel Compliance: Safety and security rank at the top of the list of reasons for traveler compliance to hotel policy. Knowing the city to which a traveler is headed is only half of the equation, particularly when locating travelers in an emergency. This area also poses the greatest area of leakage in travel policy, compromising negotiated rates when booking hotels outside of policy. Companies should communicate to travelers the reasons for booking hotels at the same time as air reservations.
  • Mobile Technology: There have been advancements in travel technology that can help business travelers manage trip details before, during and after traveling. Company supported mobile applications can be used to facilitate communication, both during critical issues like travel emergencies and for day-to-day support, including policy and traveler benefits notifications.  A successful travel policy should include rules for these resources, and help travelers find and take advantage of them to save time and increase compliance.
  • Addressing Lowest Logical Airfare: Companies increasingly have introduced language instructing employees to find the lowest fare possible, regardless of whether or not a flight is with a preferred supplier. The reality of this practice is that the individual trip savings by booking cheaper fares with non-preferred airlines can jeopardize negotiated rates, unintentionally driving up overall travel costs over time. Guidelines should be established indicating when this practice should be used. Recent capacity constraints, merger and acquisition activity, and even low-cost carrier dynamics require that travel managers revisit this concept and communicate it appropriately in policy.

The one thing companies can’t afford not to do: UPDATING TRAVEL POLICY. Less than one third of companies have updated their travel policies within the last year according to new research from American Express Global Business Travel.

 

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