October 22, 2014

Kansas City is a Great Baseball and Meeting City

Kansas City Power Light District courtesy of Visit KC 300x224 Kansas City is a Great Baseball and Meeting City

Kansas City Power Light District courtesy of Visit KC

With Kansas City, Missouri, in the international spotlight thanks to the Royals advancing to their first World Series in nearly three decades, we’d like to take a moment to highlight the city’s meeting and event venues, just in case you’re wondering.

For starters, the Royals, who are facing the San Francisco Giants, play at 37,903-seat Kauffman Stadium, which underwent a major renovation prior to the 2009 season. There’s private event space for up to 2,000.

During the World Series, there are public parties at KC Live! in the Power & Light District, allowing fans to watch the games together on a giant LED screen. KC Live!, which features a stage for concerts, occupies a city block, with two levels of restaurants, taverns and nightspots.

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October 20, 2014

IMEX Takes Over Las Vegas

IMG 3716 1024x768 IMEX Takes Over Las Vegas

Maureen Haley, left, and Richard Knight, far right, helped sell IMEX14 attendees on Scotland’s charm, at the VisitScotland booth.

IMEX America 2014 was billed as “three days of deal-making,” and it sure felt like attendees were in the mood to strike some serious deals. Planners were on the hunt for amazing venues; suppliers were only too happy to talk up theirs.

Roy Bloom, IMEX chairman, said at the closing press conference that the number of one-to-one business appointments and booth presentations had risen to 53,000 from 50,000 in 2013.

The Las Vegas show, in fact, turned out to be the biggest to date, with 2,900 exhibitors and 2,900 hosted buyers, and 10,000 total participants. Throngs of attendees filled the Sands Expo and Convention Center, not only on the expo floor but also in the breakout rooms and halls. Nearby restaurants were packed, and in the later hours business seemed brisk at area hotels’ clubs, bars and casinos (that may not have been due solely to IMEX, of course).

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Las Vegas pulled in $13 million in non-gaming revenue from IMEX14.

No doubt shops and services in the myriad malls benefited as well. Cathy Tull, senior vice president for marketing for the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, underscored the show’s economic impact on the city. “There was a total of $13 million in non-gaming revenue from IMEX14 to the city of Las Vegas,” Tull said at closing press conference.

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Cathy Tull of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority speaks at the close of IMEX14.

But despite IMEX crowds at certain times of day–for example, when the expo floor opened at 10 a.m.–mid-afternoon found many booths relatively empty, with representatives from various hotels, CVBs, DMCs, airlines, tour operators and event services sitting idly at their tables. Planners must have taken late lunches, or perhaps stuck with major brands (Marriott, Caesars Entertainment, Disneyland, among others) where the booths were always busy.

Planners’ familiarity and comfort with big brands (many of these coincidentally based in the United States), and the likelihood that their meetings would take place in the U.S. most certainly played a part in booth popularity, but some in attendance felt that things are shifting.

“It’s not as American as it used to be,” said Monica Maturano, executive director of Buenos Aires Convention & Visitors Bureau, speaking of IMEX14 compared to previous years. “Planners are more open to international meetings.”

Bloom acknowledged that IMEX is still growing. “Next year’s show can expect a certain increase in the hosted buyer program, and an increase in top buyers from around globe,” he said.


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October 20, 2014

A Dinner Among Heavyweights

Joe Louis 225x300 A Dinner Among Heavyweights

Joe Louis statue at Mesa Grill Las Vegas

A group of IMEX participants were plenty excited to be invited to a dinner prepared by one of the heavyweights of the world culinary scene at Caesars Palace Las Vegas last week, but we had no idea that we would be greeted by another famous heavyweight of a different sort.

After winding our way through the casino, we arrived at Mesa Grill Las Vegas restaurant, across from the property’s Race & Sports Book. Standing in front of the restaurant is a stunning, 7 1/2-foot, 4,500-pound Carrara marble statue of Joe Louis, regarded by many as the top heavyweight boxer in history. Louis, nicknamed the “Brown Bomber,” dominated heavyweight boxing from 1937 to 1948.

He retired in 1951, and subsequently invested in several businesses, including the Joe Louis Restaurant, the Joe Louis Insurance Company, the Brown Bombers softball team, the Joe Louis Milk Company, Joe Louis pomade (hair grease) and Joe Louis Punch (a drink). All of the businesses eventually failed, and in 1970 he accepted an offer to become a greeter at Caesars, which involved signing autographs, playing golf with special guests and betting with house money when action on the casino floor was slow, among other things. Louis served in the role until he died of a massive heart attack in 1981.

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October 16, 2014

Don’t Overlook the Small Things: Make a Meeting Checklist

By Joel D. Levitt

Levitt headshot 268x300 Don’t Overlook the Small Things: Make a Meeting ChecklistTypical executives spend more than 20 percent of their time in meetings with five or more people. At the same time, surveys indicate that a majority of them are dissatisfied with the value and outcome of their meetings. There is a simple technique that can effortlessly eliminate some of the collisions, faux pas, cancellations, delays and other problems.

When asked, “What has disrupted your meetings in the past year?” executives report the following:

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October 15, 2014

AT&T Park Lights up for the Giants

Giants AT&T Park Lights up for the GiantsYesterday was not a sunny day in San Francisco. Dark, billowing clouds threatened to dump rain down over the stadium throughout the entire afternoon. But masses of orange rally towels glowed brightly as Game 3 of the NLCS commenced at AT&T Park.

With four runs in the first inning, the Giants came out with a bang, giving the midday crowds something to stand up for. The noise was incredible.

And then the home team produced zero runs (and only one hit) over the course of the next eight innings.

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October 14, 2014

The Meet Part of Meetings is Crucial

Susan RoAnn1 The Meet Part of Meetings is Crucialby Susan RoAne

The $64,000 Question: How can meeting planners create conferences, meetings and events where everyone interacts, connects and converses? This is not a new question. It’s been around since meetings first occurred.

My dad was active in his Chicago chapter of the Paper and Paper Products Association in the 1940s. I went to my first convention, which was in Miami, when I was 12.  Like my dad, people go to meetings, conventions and conferences because they want to attend and know they should attend, but that doesn’t make it easy. Dad was quiet and Mom was the connector so he always wanted her with him at these events. Why? Our overall discomfort at walking into rooms (or giant convention centers) full of people—many of whom are strangers—is a predominant feeling for the majority of attendees, speakers and vendors across the board.

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September 29, 2014

Swimming With Dolphins, and Other Adventures

Screen Shot 2014 09 29 at 8.20.09 PM Swimming With Dolphins, and Other Adventures

A dolphin experience at Vallarta Adventures

A story in our October issue (in your mailbox any day now!) deals with once-in-a-lifetime incentive experiences, such as swimming with sharks, going on an African safari, and rubbing shoulders with A-list celebs at a major film festival. It’s a great read, and should give you some good ideas.

And while I have nothing against sharks (beyond the terror I have from all those movies I’ve seen and news reports I’ve read where people get chomped on), you won’t find me paddling around with a great white anytime soon, even from the safety of a cage. I’d much rather swim with dolphins.

Despite the debate over whether swimming with dolphins is a good or bad thing, it’s become quite a popular activity–especially in resort cities in Mexico, Hawaii, the Caribbean and other spots. Those who have done it say going cheek-to-fin with these smart and gregarious mammals is exhilarating. Knowing that, a group swim with dolphins may be just the trick to make a splash with your meeting.

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September 26, 2014

Smart Meetings and Travel Alberta Team Up for Fantastic Fam

photolouise 300x223 Smart Meetings and Travel Alberta Team Up for Fantastic Fam

Lake Louise, with the reflection of the glacier on the water.

Once you get there, you won’t want to leave. Or in the case of meeting professionals, once you visit, you won’t want to overlook Alberta, Canada, as a possibility for your next event.

Smart Meetings and Travel Alberta joined forces to present a unique fam trip, which may very well serve as a model for future events. The three-day tour, which included stops in Calgary, Banff and Lake Louise, mixed site visits with one-on-one appointments and amazing views (and food) at every turn.

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Dinner at Teatro restaurant in Calgary

We spent the first night of the three-night fam at the Hyatt Regency Calgary, which is located next to the Telus Convention Centre. When meeting in downtown Calgary, which is under major renovation, young business executives seem to prefer the modernity of the Hyatt, while Baby Boomers often opt for the historic Fairmont Palliser,  also within walking distance of the convention center.

The Westin Calgary, about a 15-minute walk from the convention center, has a great location near Eau Claire Market and Prince’s Island Park. On Sunday, the plaza at the doorstep of the Westin served as the staging area for the city’s AIDS walk fund-raiser.

A short drive from downtown Calgary is WinSport Winter Sports Institute, the Olympic training center for Canada and athletes from several other nations. For starters, there are four hockey rinks. There are lots of recreational-type options, but for adrenaline junkies, consider taking attendees on the fastest zipline in North America. They also have a $3 million kitchen to cater to your every F&B need.

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September 22, 2014

Big Weekends in Vegas

 Big Weekends in Vegas

At the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for the Mayweather-Maidana fight on Sept. 13, 2014.

Las Vegas is well-established as one of the world’s premier entertainment destinations, and during the past two years, it’s attracted a much larger crowd than usual during the Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day weekends.

But many of the visitors haven’t come simply to celebrate the two holidays; they’ve also come to watch Floyd Mayweather’s boxing matches. Mayweather, who has a 47-0 record and is widely recognized as the top competitor in the sport, intentionally schedules his matches (at the MGM Grand Las Vegas Hotel & Casino) during these weekends because he knows that boxing is very popular among Mexicans, and that thousands of them are enticed to celebrate the holidays by watching him fight—and/or by taking part in related festivities.

His fight against Robert Guerrero in 2013 generated an estimated $11 million in nongaming revenue, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and Mayweather Promotions estimates that each of Mayweather’s bouts brings in about $100 million to the city.

Clearly, there’s nothing quite like a Mayweather weekend in Las Vegas. He’s a highly controversial figure, partly due to his boastful nature and brushes with the law outside the ring. Mayweather, who resides in Las Vegas, has adopted the nickname “Money,” and many of his supporters wear hats and T-shirts emblazoned with the TMT (The Money Team) and TBE (The Best Ever) on them. On fight night, they’re almost always out-numbered by fans of Mayweather’s opponent, many of whom simply want to see a blemish on the champ’s perfect record.

The scene played out as usual earlier this month when Mayweather fought Marcos Maidana, a tough Argentine who had earned a rematch by giving Mayweather all he could handle in a bout this May. The MGM Grand was buzzing for days leading up to the fight on Sept. 13, and crowds kept swelling. During the fight, Maidana’s fans loudly chanted “Chino!” (his nickname) several times, and one group of supporters dressed in Argentina colors waved the country’s flag. In response, Mayweather’s supporters chanted, “USA,” particularly in the later rounds, when he began controlling the fight.

Mayweather won on all three judges’ scorecards, but in the post-fight press conference, instead of being his usual boisterous self, he appeared somber and tired. He explained that he’s been fighting professionally for 18 years, and that it’s not easy. Mayweather talked about all the work that goes into preparing for the fight—including a lot of behind-the-scenes promotional stuff—and was disappointed that he had more bumps and bruises than usual. He repeated his earlier announcement that he would retire after two more fights—scheduled for the Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day weekends next year.

His fans undoubtedly will be sad to see him go, and if he remains undefeated, it’s likely that many of his critics will have mixed feelings—happy that he’s gone, but disappointed that no one ever beat him. And Las Vegas, in general, won’t ever be quite the same on two weekends each year.


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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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