International Business Meeting Planning: 101

IMG_8028

While there are many challenges when planning any meeting or event, there is something particularly unique and intricate when it comes to planning international business travel.  From difficulties involving language barriers to changes in time zones and let’s not forget the cultural/business differences — there is much to be done. Here are a few tips to help make your international business trip planning a little less complicated:

Prepared and prepaid:
International business travelers will tell you that some of their best and least stressful experiences abroad have occurred because they did not have to sweat the small stuff.  Having prepaid transportation (car service and airfare) and lodging allows guests to focus solely on the business aspect of their trip.

Host/Translator:
It is important to assign a host to guest during their stay. The host can act as the main point of contact. Doing so will make it easier for guests to meet as well as have an accessible means to communicate with all parties. As a meeting/event planner you know first hand how hard it is to try contact and find people you have never met before.
Language barriers may or may not be a concern depending on the travel destination. In any case, it would be most beneficial if the host details the business culture and customs of the location to the guest.

Agenda:
Be sure to have an agenda provided to guests before  or upon arrival. Should the schedule change, the host should alert guests and find new times to meet.

Food:
For many travelers, it will be there first time in that specific location. It would be helpful if the meeting venue provides meals including breakfast and lunch and the host can provide a diverse list of restaurant options where the guest can enjoy dinner.

 

Thanks for reading!!

Sherry Romello

Holiday Event Planning Tips

new years party

 

 

We’ve all heard the phrase, “behind every successful holiday event is a dedicated event planner” before, right? Okay, maybe you haven’t heard it, nonetheless, it still rings true. Planning an engaging and memorable holiday event is no easy task. However, if the planning is done properly the results will prove to be rewarding.  

Holiday events provide companies the opportunity to express gratitude to employees for their hard-work, support, and accomplishments over the past year. On top of that, it’s a great way for for everyone in the organization to get to know each other better and form a sense of community. The overall contributions holiday events have on employee morale are innumerable.

Here are a few tips on how to organize a holiday event:

Establish budget

Your budget plays a significant role in planning any event. It determines how much money is allocated to the venue, cost of food and drinks, decor, and much more.

Save the date

Remember, the date you select must correspond with the availability of your chosen venue.  The final decision on a date should also be adjusted according to the company holiday schedule. You want to ensure you get the best possible guest attendance.

Theme

A theme is not a necessity, however, unforgettable events most often than not possess a unique and consistent theme. Using a theme can assist with designing your invitations decorations, drink ideas, and even food.

Menu

It is always best to offer a menu that all guests can enjoy. Food is one of the key factors of a successful event. If the menuchoices are pooror not diverse enough, this could lead to disaster. Try to refrainfrom serving heavy meals. Instead, stick with foodsguests can easily pick up and travel around the venue with.

Support

We get so caught up in planning our events that we often neglect how we’re going to support the event once it begins. Help relieve some of the “during event” stress and run around by ensuring there will be an adequate amount of support staff. Support staff can handle any number of functions including valet, serving food, coat check, and bartending. Be sure to inquire whether or not the venue will provide  you with support staff before booking.

 

One More Word with Sherry Romello

If you take a look at last month’s entry, Sherry Romello shared with us some insight on her career in the hospitality industry.  Here she shares insight into how education background

Where did you attend college?

sherry-romelloI received a scholarship to go to a one year business vocational school while I was in High School (1985) – the Dorthea B. Lane School (it was a secretarial school in Alexandria, VA that has sense gone out of business). At the time, I couldn’t afford to pay for college so I needed to get to a full-time job as quickly as possible. So I went to the Dorthea B. Lane School for a year and then went to work as an administrative assistant for the Segal Company in Washington DC. Once I could afford it, I started taking classes at Northern Virginia Community College with the ultimate goal of getting a four year degree. In March of 2000, I received a Bachelor of Science from the College of Business and Management at National Lewis University’s Northern Virginia campus.

What did you study and why?

During the entire time that I was taking classes, I was working and building a career as a meeting planner. My goal was to get A degree, knowing that not having one would one day prevent me from even being considering for promotions. I pursued a business focus because I thought that most closely fit with where I was headed and was generic enough for me to use in many different ways. At the end of the day, it was just about getting a degree.

More with Sherry Romello

sherry romello
Sherry Romello

Last month, Sherry Romello of Hilton Worldwide shared some insight as a professional in the hospitality industry.  Here Sherry shares a bit more about herself and how she got to this industry in the first place.

You’ve worked on advisory boards in Atlanta and Baltimore, can you go into a bit of detail of what you did and what it served for?

In my role as a meeting planner for some significant events in the industry, cities and hotels would often invite planners to serve on an advisory board for a two-three year period to help them better understand customer needs and adapt their business. In some cases, cities or hotels were exploring new initiatives and they wanted a group of customers to help them validate their direction. I served on the Hilton Advisory Board back in the late 90’s and then for Baltimore and Atlanta more recently.

What is the fondest memory of your career?

Wow! There are so many and yet for all those years, so few. Opening day of the NACS Show in 2005 in Las Vegas! The NACS Show is a 25,000 person event bringing together exhibitors who provide products to Convenience Stores and attendees who own/manage/run convenience stores. Our 2005 event was scheduled to be in New Orleans in mid-October and as you may recall, Hurricane Katrina showed up around Labor Day – six weeks prior to our event. We sprung into action and found dates in Las Vegas in mid-November and we literally moved this large event – exhibits, changed signage, hotel rooms and a million other details that we took care of to deliver one of our best shows ever. When our attendees showed up, they were blown away that we were able to pull off such a feat. To this day, people marvel at how we were able to do that.

For more on Sherry Romello, visit her website at sherryromello.com.

A Brief Q & A with Sherry Romello, a Professional in the Hospitality Industry

Sherry Romello is the Senior Director of Hilton Meetings and Product Management.  With roughly 20 years of experience in the event and meeting planning industry, Romello was at the forefront of the inception of the birth of the industry.  Romello offers some insight on her career to date in a brief Q and A.

You mention the industry of career event planning did not really exist coming out of college and that you kind of fell into it, was there a defining moment in life where you thought this could be something special and something I could do for a career?

In my various administrative roles early-on, I planned a lot of holiday parties and picnics and really discovered I loved to plan things and create events. It wasn’t until the early 90’s when I took my first association job that I got the bug for meeting planner and saw that it could become a career path for me. I was the Administrative Assistant for the President of the American Waterways Operators and was promoted to the Event Planning and Membership Coordinator. As far as a defining moment, that probably occurred in my next job at the National Association of Chemical Distributors. I didn’t know if I had what it took to actually get hired as a meeting planner vs. being an administrative assistant that planned meetings, but this job was my first step down the career path.

What was the process to getting your CMP certification?

The Certified Meeting Professional designation that is administered by the Convention Industry Council. I think the guidelines have evolved since I received by designation back in 2002, but when I applied, you had to apply and have a certain number of points that were earned by experience, memberships, publications to even be eligible to sit for the exam, then you had to take an exam that was a 2 hour exam with an extensive list of questions regarding different aspects of the industry – food & beverage, audio visual, contracts, international meetings – to test your knowledge.

Check back soon for more with Sherry Romello or check out her homepage at sherryromello.com.

3 Things Your Attendees Care About

When organizing an event you have to think of a coupe of things. Who’s your target audience? How big of a venue is needed? The list could go on and on. While you can do what’s in your power to make what you think will garner the most attendance, at the end of the day, there are three things other than education and networking that will ultimately get them to your event and keep them there. Let’s take a look at these three things according to PCMA.org.

Give Them Time to Explore

With every event your going to want an agenda. However, you don’t need to have every waking moment booked with a specific presentation or activity. Give them time to do some freelancing. A lot of these people come into these meetings with their own agenda and if you book them for every minute while they’re there, there is a chance they won’t get around to everything they wanted to do.

They Want Time to Hang Around When It’s Otherwise Not Needed

Sherry Romello - conventionWhile you can offer attendees extra time to explore, some attendees will have trouble to attend most of a meeting or conference. Conflicts come up whether it be other business meetings or maybe they’re tired from a long day. Attendees are looking to extend their trip or turn their trip into a vacation. Some coordination will go into this. You’ll want to talk with your partnering hotel to see if they’re willing to offer an extension on their discounted rates. This not only makes attendees happy but also rewards the hotels with more business.

They Want an Opportunity to Bring Someone

Attendees always want the extra invite. Whether it be a coworker, spouse, family member or friend the extra invite goes a long way. Your organization that is planning the convention should take into consideration a guest pass.

What Goes Into a Great Event?

With the summer upon us, the weather practically demands an outdoor celebration. Whether looking for an excuse to gather friends, or celebrating an occasion like a wedding or graduation, planning a stellar event takes more than paper plates and napkins. Organizing a successful and fun event takes forethought and more than a little talent. Here are some helpful hints for throwing together your next barn burner or shindig that work on any budget.

Sherry Romello - event planningWhen asked what matters most at a party, the unanimous response is food. Deciding the theme of your gathering will go far in narrowing down your menu selection, and don’t be afraid to ask your guests what they’d be interested in having. Using open communication as a great way to plan out your spread, you can also easily plan to avoid food any allergies, or at the very least accommodate those with more specific diets.

Think like a guest. What would you most want to do at an event? Create space for groups to gather and mingle. Groups naturally form during a gathering as visitors become comfortable, and preparing for this gives you the opportunity to create communal space. Comfortable seating doesnt have to be fancy, but it allows you to loosely control where the crowds will collect.

Decorate the setting with uniformity. Using a theme or color scheme is pleasing to the eye, and by incorporating the aforementioned nooks, you can embellish with specific details that match your design. Rather than present an open space, you’ve created a warm and inviting area for your guests to mingle and talk.

With very little effort, you can transform a simple space into the perfect place to host an event. Whether you’re transforming an apartment or backyard, your next event will be in capable hands by following these steps.

Airbnb Looking to Move Into Meeting Space

Airbnb has taken the world by storm with its great innovative way to rent out space for those who are traveling. When FIFA held the World Cup in Brazil, the tournament lasted about a month bringing over 3.4 million people to the country. With that kind of traffic, people were going to need a place to stay. FIFA reached out to Airbnb about their dilemma and Airbnb was able to help quickly. In a matter of a few weeks, AIrbnb was able to have 20% of attendees in an Airbnb location. In just Rio de Janeiro, about 120,000 people stayed in 18,000 Airbnb locations.

Sherry Romello - AIrbnbAirbnb is now looking to get into the meeting and event industry. In order to do so, Airbnb has some loops and bounds to go through. It has been tough for them to partner with the hotel industry. There are many hang ups that have to be taken care aside from things like hotel tax, parking, property, and sales tax. Some of the more complicated things are licensing, insurance, fire, safety, zoning, health regulations, minimum wage requirements, and loss of revenue.

Airbnb is constantly growing. In fact, today they are in over 191 different countries which includes 34,000 cities. On any given night, 400,000 guests will stay at an Airbnb property. Airbnb’s ultimate play is to work with planners and convention and visitor bureaus in order to supply housing for meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions. Their website now features a custom landing page for conferences. Slowly but surely, it seems Airbnb is and will take a hold of the conference/event/meeting industry, and with good cause. Through this added business funnel, it not only benefits Airbnb but it also will benefit the meetings and conference. By allowing more ways to house attendees, it makes it easier for more people to attend the events. It’s a great mutually beneficial relationship that has worked already, just take a look at he FIFA World Cup.  For more on this interesting story, check it out on SuccessfulMeetings.com.

PCMA Studies Colombia

Sherry Romello - PCMAPCMA professionals had the opportunity to travel to Colombia this past quarter and discuss the reasons why meeting professionals is quickly becoming an up and coming sector. The educational tools put together by the different teams within PCMA, are necessary for developing these meeting destination countries, like Colombia. However, this exchange has to be profitable for all parties involved, which is why PCMA studied Colombian technology trends, emerging markets and marketable professional circles.

After completing their research PCMA decided that Colombia is the perfect contender for the typical criteria needed for meeting destinations. They are as follows:

1. Reliable Internet
Many people believe that the United States has the fastest Wi-Fi, however, PCMA staff paid praise to the many venues they visited while in Colombia. They were able to connect without any trouble and received fast and extremely reliable services. Technology and internet is a huge concern for planners, which is why this information is so imperative.

2. Plenty of Women Leaders
Women are present, and in many cases, leading the conversations about Planning and Meeting Destinations. Its a great opportunity for the economy of the country, and the maturation of this niche market in Colombia.

3. Security and Safety
One of the most important things to keep in mind for planners is the safety of travelers and attendees present in these meetings. Although this subject is more prevalent in different areas of the world, its still necessary to take the appropriate measures. In one instance, an organizer was apprehensive about bring her team to Medellin, the second largest city in Colombia. After meeting with the city’s security officers and understanding the specific procedures and technologies they used, the planner felt at ease to bring on the next team. PCMA staff suggests that planners should ask thoughtful and honest questions, instead of relying only on headlines.

Customizing the Event Experience

Planning and organizing an event for many people can be challenging. How do you plan accordingly so that everyone is involved and engaged? Truth is, you just can’t really do that, especially with some of the biggest events. For event attendees, there used to be a once size fits all approach where what you planned met everyones expectations. Tsherry romello - meet planningoday, Paul Salinger of Oracle argues that the one-size-fits-all approach is going extinct. It’s now trending towards individual engagement that helps meet peoples expectations. Let’s take a look at 4 ways customize the event experience according to Bizbash.

Involve Attendees Actively

Mainly due to advancements in technology, attendees today require a different level of stimulation and interactivity. Salinger argues today that people are less willing to sit and listen to a PowerPoint presentation. Press and Analyst are important to a business so it’s important to let them interact and keep them engaged.

Approach Meeting Design Thoughtfully

Salinger stresses the significance of assembling a keen, inventive physical setup in which attendees have all the instruments and consolation they have to accomplish their own objectives for that face to face opportunity. For Oracle’s CX Cloud Conference, a large portion of the room had round tables instead of your typical classroom setup. This kind of setup encourages interaction and turns a meet into a meet with networking opportunities.

Think Responsibly

Events that include green initiatives as well as wellness initiatives add to the overall experience of a meeting. Some of these initiatives include cutting down on plastic bottled water, healthier food options, and allows walking to other meeting locations. It’s also an opportunity to help the bottom line of an event. For example, Oracle had a sponsor on hand with refillable water bottles which not only acted as a branded giveaway, but also kept attendees hydrated.

Seek Local Inspiration

In terms of finding a location, it’s not just about finding a cool neat spot. More thought is required for such planning. You want to play up the local environment and culture. If the great location just isn’t there to be had, make the dining events and meeting activities that much great to help supplement.