September 18, 2014

Seven Symptoms of Bad Meetings and What You Can Do About Them

infographic 1024x470 Seven Symptoms of Bad Meetings and What You Can Do About Them

From Atlassian infographic on wasting time at work.

By Joel D. Levitt

The door to the meeting room opens and it’s the person who called the meeting, running 10 minutes late because the previous meeting ended late and he had to stop by his office and pick up some notes to remind him of what this meeting was about. The folks already in the room are discussing last night’s game and wondering how long the meeting is going to last. Only one person remembers to get the notes from the last meeting. And he’s the only one that has a copy of the report they’re supposed to discuss.

Does this sound or feel familiar? You’re not alone. One topic that everyone can agree on is this: meetings are often a waste of time and money. Scary meeting statistics abound. Software company Atlassian’s infographic states that U.S. businesses waste $37 billion a year in inefficient, unnecessary meetings.

So why don’t corporations make the effort to fix the problem? Perhaps it boils down to a lack of accountability. But this is something that is entirely within our control. Here are some symptoms of bad meetings and what you can do to fix them.

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September 16, 2014

Levi Stadium’s Big Night

entering the stadium2 Levi Stadiums Big Night

Coming up on the entrance to Levi’s Stadium

Pyrotechnics, fog horns, Snoop Dog and, of course, Joe Montana—these were just a few highlights of Sunday’s inaugural regular season opener at Levi’s Stadium. While the game between the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers was the official reason fans attended, the event was more like a coming-out party for the brand new, $1.2 billion stadium. Thanks to a good friend of mine, I was lucky enough to experience the festivities of Niners Nation firsthand. Of course, being a lifelong St. Louis Rams fan, I found the scene a little strange, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Here are a few of my observations:

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September 11, 2014

The Dish on Portugal: Smart Meetings Webcast Presenter Reports From Europe

freeman2 225x300 The Dish on Portugal: Smart Meetings Webcast Presenter Reports From Europe

Beauty and the beach in Portugal.

Andrew Freeman will be the presenter for the Smart Meetings Webcast on Tuesday, Oct. 21, when the hospitality veteran discusses F&B Trends and Tips. The webcast will take place at 11 a.m. PDT (2 p.m. EDT) and is free. Among his industry honors, Freeman was selected in 2010 by Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International as one of the Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing. To register, click here.

Freeman is a contributing editor to numerous industry magazines and blogs, and guest speaker at industry conferences. He recently ate his way through Portugal and here is Freeman’s report:

First stop—Porto! Please don’t tell anyone in Lisbon, but we loved Porto best. We stayed at the classic Hotel Infante de Sagres in the heart of the city. They were lovely and gracious. The city is stunningly beautiful. We did a day tour and visited all the sites, neighborhoods and, of course, tasted a lot of Port.

One of my travel companions, Sharee, had a connection to a wonderful local couple (Aurora and Manuel–we love you) and they took us to the gorgeous Yeatman Hotel, which overlooks the whole city for drinks. From there we went on to a local seafood spot, Jacome, and had some of the best seafood ever. The rest of the time we got lost walking in neighborhoods and, of course, doing a little shopping. I am now the proud owner of my first man purse!

Next stop—Coimbra! As the previous capital of Portugal, it is filled with history, and is also home to the oldest University in Portugal. We stayed in a former palace with wonderful gardens, Hotel Quinta das Lagrimas. It was a great stop to break up the schedule, but we honestly would have loved to stay in Porto for one more night. The hotel was cool but my travel pals were convinced it was haunted, which made for a great night of ghost stories. We ate in a tapas bar (petiscos) called Fangas. The place was packed and we were blown away that about 60 percent of the menu came from cans—canned tuna, sardines and other delicacies. I am not sure if it’s a trend but we coined the term “can-to-table” and had a very interesting meal.

Off to the Algarve! We took trains and buses to get there, but the end result was totally worth a hectic travel day. Rather than staying in the more touristy Lagos, our travel agent recommended a wonderful place–the Costa d’Oiro Ambiance Village. It was a short walk from town between two of the most stunning beaches in all of Europe–the Praia D Ana and Praia do Camilo. The staff at the hotel was so lovely, and for four days we hit the beaches, kayaked through ocean caves and soaked in the sun. We also spent some time at the beautiful new Cascade Wellness & Fitness Resort, which everyone must see if ever down that way. It’s magnificent. Nights were spent eating in local village spots and listening to Fado–the sad folk music that is a signature of Portugal. My travel buddy, John fell in love with the music, and by the end of our trip was singing his own version of Fado whenever he had the chance. When our time at the beach came to an end, we were sad (yet gorgeously tanned) but knew we were headed to the bustling center of it all—Lisboa.

The first site we saw as we entered the city of Lisboa made us a bit homesick. There is a replica of San Francisco’s very own Golden Gate Bridge (by the same designer). As we drove from the train station to the wonderful Hotel As Janelas Verdes in the Barrio Alto we were immediately absorbed into the energy of this historical city. Sadly, it is here you see and feel the impact of the economy. There are many empty buildings and the most graffiti I have ever seen. It seems the locals are aware of the issues but accept them as part of the day-to day life of living in this vibrant place. They are working hard to bring it all back and I believe they will. Our wonderful tour guide Pedro took us on an amazing tour of the city that included places that only locals get to see. We had our share of delicious bites and the signature custard tarts found on almost every street corner.

What I loved most about Lisboa was the crazy night life of the city. Everyone loves everyone–gay and straight bars line the streets of trendy areas of the Alfama and Chiado and each night it becomes the biggest street party I have ever seen. The warmth and welcome that you feel here is unlike anything I have ever encountered. I admit I stayed out way too late on several nights but I wanted to soak it all in. I also loved the international style of food: We had dinner one night at an amazing Italian neighborhood spot, Come Prima, which I would highly recommend. It was a nice break from sardines!

On our last day we did a quick trip to Sintra, which is a lush mountain town and the former summer residence of the Kings of Portugal. It’s a simple train ride and worth the visit if you have time. For our last night, we had a memorable meal at the legendary Solar Dos Presuntos thanks to a recommendation from our new Portuguese pals Aurora and Manuel. Truly this was the grand finale to a lovely trip with my very special friends. We were also toasting the end of our 10th trip together!

So there you have it. Now I am back in the full swing of things! What a fall we have planned for you—it’s a season full of flavor, big openings, hot events and so much more—I can hardly contain my excitement.


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September 08, 2014

Taking Meetings to a Healthier Level

mgm wellness1 Taking Meetings to a Healthier Level

Dr. Deepak Chopra speaks at the launch of Stay Well Meetings at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas

Life goes on as usual at the MGM Grand Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas—with its vast array of gambling, entertainment and dining options—but a progressive health-and-wellness program is continuing to become a more vital part of the scene.

In 2012, MGM Grand partnered with Delos, a company that focuses on nurturing and promoting health and well-being in indoor environments, to transform 42 hotel rooms on the 14th floor into Stay Well Rooms, which contain a multitude of health-and-wellness features.

The rooms have been popular among meeting groups and other guests, so early this year Delos and MGM converted the additional 129 rooms on the 14th floor into Stay Well Rooms. And on Aug. 18, the collaborators took another major step by unveiling Stay Well Meetings, consisting of dozens of healthy features including an advanced air purification system, circadian lighting, hypoallergenic cleaning products, ergonomic elements, a hydration station, aromatherapy and healthy menu options.

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September 04, 2014

¡Un cafe, por favor!

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Time for Cuban coffee. (Marilin Gonzalo/Flickr)

A casual afternoon stroll down any street in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood can elicit a number of cultural peculiarities straight from Cuba: Old men in guayabera shirts playing dominos, the rhythmic beats of son or samba emanating from a radio, and, of course, lines of people waiting to pick up a warm cafecito, or Cuban coffee, to help them finish the day. Embracing this touch of Little Havana, The EPIC hotel in downtown Miami is now offering cafecitos for guests to enjoy on a daily basis.

“In Miami, everyday around 3 p.m., things tend to stop and everybody goes for coffee for whatever reason,” says Eric Jellson, area director of sales and marketing at EPIC. “They [cafecitos] are an extraordinarily popular drink in Miami because of the city’s Cuban population and Latin base, and our coffee promotion allows us capture that culture. It allows us to do something for our guests, share the flavor of our local Latin community, and do it for free.”

The drink consists of a special, super concentrated type of coffee with sugar froth on top. The taste is brisk, and the caffeine is enough to arouse even the sleepiest consumer. That is why it is served in small cups, almost like an espresso shot. Cafecitos are typically paired with pastelitos (Cuban pastries) or Cuban toast (bread lathered in butter) in the morning, or brochetas (kabobs) in the afternoon or evening, making them a perfect drink any time of the day. (Just don’t drink one before bed if you plan on sleeping!)

IMG 0358 300x199 ¡Un cafe, por favor!

The Epic Hotel in Miami offers guests cafecitos – and dominos – every day at 3 p.m.

Every day at 3:05 on the 14th floor of the hotel, the meeting space comes alive with the sights and smells of Little Havana, as guests and attendees congregate to get a taste of the drink and socialize. Since it occurs in the hotel’s meeting space, planners can take advantage of the offer by simply scheduling a break at that time.

“The cafecitos have been such a huge hit” says Jellson.” We recently had an in-house trade show and afterward, I was flooded with emails asking where the coffee could be purchased and which brand it was. People need to come and try them!”

Just make sure to keep the cigar pairings outside.

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August 29, 2014

Overheard at ASAE in Nashville: ‘I really did flush the toilet’


MusicCityCenter2013 3 Overheard at ASAE in Nashville: ‘I really did flush the toilet’

Music City Center, Nashville

One of the recurring conversations during the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Annual Meeting & Exposition in Nashville earlier this month was about the convention center bathrooms. More specifically, the slightly discolored water in the toilets.

Completed in 2013, the Music City Center is one of the greenest convention centers in the world. Besides being located downtown near the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Bridgestone Arena and Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the state-of-the-art convention center is LEED Gold certified.

Among the green features at the convention center is a 360,000-gallon rain-water collection tank, which provides water to more than 500 toilets and urinals. The collected water is also used for landscape irrigation. The rain-water collection system and low-flow and sensor-technology faucets help Music City Center reduce overall water usage by 40 percent.

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August 24, 2014

More Domestic Meetings Forecast for Industry

800px Kyoto International Conference Center   Annex Hall interior 300x225 More Domestic Meetings Forecast for Industry

Kyoto International Conference Center, Japan

More domestic meetings, shorter booking lead times, increased use of technology and continuing problems with compliance are among the worldwide trends being forecast for the meetings industry in a report released this month.

The report, the 2015 Global Travel Price Outlook, is a collaborative effort of Carlson Wagonlit Travel and the GBTA Foundation, the education and research component of the Global Business Travel Association. It focuses on what businesses can expect in 2015, and is designed to help their planning.

Part of the report focused specifically on the meetings industry. Besides the trends forecast above, the report predicted that:

* The cost per-day cost for an attendee will rise 8.5 percent in Latin America and 2.5 percent in both North America and the Asia-Pacific region, and decline by 5 percent in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.

* Group size will increase by 3.5 percent in North America. 2.5 percent in Latin America and .75 percent in the Asia-Pacific region, and remain stable in the EMEA region.

* North America will see steadily improving economic conditions, resulting in more corporate confidence.

* The modest increases in per-attendee spending and group size in North America will be tempered by the strategic sourcing of the many North American-based organizations that implement a holistic approach to meetings management and drive significant savings accordingly.

* Companies in North America will focus on combining meetings and events with transient spending and on continuing to consolidate suppliers for greater negotiating leverage.

* Solid growth in the Asia-Pacific region should enable organizations to invest in meetings and events.

* Booking lead times will be particularly short in the EMEA region (two to three weeks out) and will likely fluctuate in a manner consistent with corporate earnings reports.

* Bookings for EMEA events will maintain a lead time of approximately nine months.

* Meetings management will continue to become more sophisticated in the Latin America region, with more interest in end-to-end management and some countries improving online registration tools.

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August 22, 2014

Cheers to Australia and Canada─the Best Places to Live!

7C44D52437ECCA37C6964CDE595A6224 300x199 Cheers to Australia and Canada─the Best Places to Live!

Melbourne: perfect.

Australia and Canada are such great places to live─and meet─that both countries are well represented in the most recent Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Liveability Index that came out this week.

Our friends in the Asia Pacific actually landed four cities among the Top 10 and our neighbors to the north had three cities among the elite rankings, which measure living conditions in 140 countries. The five primary criteria by which the rankings are gauged are stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.

Here are the top 10:

  1. Melbourne
  2. Vienna
  3. Vancouver
  4. Toronto
  5. Adelaide
  6. Calgary
  7. Sydney
  8. Helsinki
  9. Perth
  10. Auckland

Melbourne was named the best city in the world to live in for the fourth straight year by achieving perfect scores of 100 on healthcare, education and infrastructure and a perfect 100 in the sub-category of sport. Chief Executive Officer of Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB) Karen Bolinger said being named the World’s Most Liveable City four years in a row is a great achievement for the city recognized as the perfect place to live, work and do business.

“The World’s Most Liveable City award highlights that Melbourne is a unique, exciting and welcoming city and reinforces the city’s position as a leading destination for conferences and meetings,” Bolinger said. “The city has an outstanding track record of hosting some of the world’s largest and most prestigious international conferences and as a host city delivers a delegate experience based on ease, accessibility and convenience.”

I have had the good fortune to visit Melbourne, Sydney, Vienna and Vancouver. I plan to tour Calgary next month as part of a Smart Meetings trip for meeting professionals throughout Alberta, which will also include stops in Banff, Edmonton and Lake Louise.

My visit to Melbourne coincided with the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis championships held every January, and it’s easy to see why the first major of the year is so popular with pro players and fans alike. Melbourne is very easy to get around, has the scenic Yarra River that winds through the city and has great places for offsites, which are capable of prying even the most devoted tennis fans away from the arena to do a little sightseeing.

To read more about Melbourne and Sydney, please see the 2014 March issue of Smart Meetings magazine. Calgary and Alberta are actually featured in our August issue and Vienna is featured in our upcoming September issue.


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August 21, 2014

Five Tips to Get Attendees To Stay Until The End of Your Conference

4169489849 81c3279770 b 300x225 Five Tips to Get Attendees To Stay Until The End of Your Conference

You’d stay for the closing night party, wouldn’t you?
Photo: Bill McIntyre, Flickr Commons

We’ve all been there.  You had 312 people sign up for your conference – more than ever.  Things started with a bang, your vendors were thrilled with floor traffic, and the hotel upgraded your room halfway through because of all the money they were making on drinks at the lobby bar.  The second day was good too, as was the third.  But when you woke up on the fourth and final day you realized that only 68 people were still powering through to the end, and most of them had only stayed because they were too hung-over to drive home until 2 p.m. anyway.  You apologized to your closing keynote speaker, who either understood completely or (if he was Scott Jenson) shouted about how important he thought he was and then stormed off.

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August 18, 2014

Guadalajara Oozes with Mexican Tradition

800px Catedral de Guadalajara 2 3 300x225 Guadalajara Oozes with Mexican Tradition

Catedral de Guadalajara

Guadalajara is so saturated in Mexican tradition that it often is called the “most Mexican of all of Mexico’s cities.” It’s not nearly as large or busy as Mexico City, but offers many of the same types of attractions, but on a smaller scale and often with easier accessibility.

  • Situated at the east end of Plaza Tapatia is one of Guadalajara’s architectural gems, Instituto Cultural de Cabanas (Cabanas Cultural Institute). Founded by Bishop don Juan Cruz Ruiz de Cabanas and designed by Spanish architect Manuel Tolsa, the building was constructed  from 1805 to 1810 as an orphanage and home for people with disabilities, and remained so for 150 years, housing up to 500 children. In 1938–39, Jose Clemente Orozco, one of the greatest artists of the Mexican muralist movement, created 57 magnificent murals in the Capilla Mayor at the center of the complex. The murals depict the archetypal struggle for freedom and are widely regarded as his finest works. Free tours of the institute in English and Spanish are available.
  • Catedral de Guadalajara (Guadalajara Cathedral), the city’s most beloved landmark, is the Roman Catholic cathedral of the Archdiocese of Guadalajara and a minor basilica. The cathedral is built in the Renaissance style, with two neo-gothic towers. This ornate church, built from 1558 to 1618, has 11 richly decorated altars donated by Spain’s Fernando VII early in the 19th century. The interior also includes Gothic vaults and massive Tuscan-style gold-leaf pillars, and if a group’s timing is right, attendees will see light filter through stained glass renderings of the Last Supper and hear a working pipe organ rumble sweetly from the rafters.
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