Archive : July 2010

Exit Stage Right

Posted July 22, 2010

Marjory Tivlin is furious.  She is livid that she did not get to speak on stage during the event, and it’s all your fault.  I’m the Director of Public Affairs, the Mayor’s right hand, she says, and it was embarrassing that I came all the way here to read a congratulatory letter and you wouldn’t let me speak!

Never mind the fact that she’s nowhere near the Mayor’s right hand, more like his big toe, and the fact that the Mayor sent someone so low on the totem pole is a bit of an insult to the host organization.  Of course you can’t say that.  You just nod while she vents.

When she finally comes up for air, you point out that you had no less than five event staffers scouring the floor to find her, that she was supposed to arrive at 8:30, and scheduled to speak at 9:15, but as of 9:10 she was nowhere to be found.  Your staff at the check-in desk was on full alert for her, but somehow she slipped in like the wind and bypassed the table.  We wish you would have checked in like we asked, you say, or sought out any of the many people on headset radios to let us know you were here, like the other speakers.

How am I supposed to know who your people are, she bellows.  Well, they’re the only ones wearing radios on their heads, you say.  (Oops, that one slipped out.)  Don’t get snippy with me, she hollers back!  You fight hard to stifle the smile that always comes out when you hear the word ‘snippy’.  By 9:10 you had to assume she was a no-show and go to plan B, and notify the MC to instead read the Mayor’s congratulatory letter in her absence.

Never mind all that, she says, I was here!  It’s your job to find me.  We didn’t know what you looked like, so that would have been challenging, you say.  How could you not know what I look like, she demands.  Because you’re the big toe, not the right hand, you want to say.

It’s not as if things had gone smoothly otherwise.  The guest of honor, the chairman of a major corporation, had come in just before dinner to do a sound check, and you were all cued up for him.  Yet when he came to the podium at dinner, the goose-neck mic seemed to bother him, and he promptly pushed it away from him, messing up your audio sets.  For the first few words it’s impossible to hear him, so the audio tech jacks up the volume, which unfortunately means the mic picks up every possible sound up at the stage, including the jingling in his pocket he’s making with his spare change as a nervous tic.

The event raised a cool half a million, way beyond expectations, so you know your client will be all smiles.  You close your eyes, take a deep breath, and focus on that double vodka waiting for you at the end of the night.  You pull out the event planner’s escape hatch, press the headset closer into your ear, straining to hear the voice that is not there.  Copy that, you say to no one.  I’m so sorry, Ms. Tivlin, you turn to her, I’m wanted back stage.  Perhaps we can continue this conversation later?  You gracefully slip away, and flush Marjory Tivlin from your memory by the time you reach the ballroom.

False environmentalism, & other hotel pet peeves

Posted July 12, 2010

Most people who plan events for a living do a fair amount of traveling.  As I write this, I am sitting in my hotel room reflecting on a number of things that seem to annoy me in virtually every hotel I’ve stayed in.   Allow me to share them with you, and if they annoy you as well, let me hear a loud “amen” after each one.

1.  False Environmentalism. I don’t know if that’s a real phrase or not, but to me it encapsulates companies who endorse a practice under the banner of being eco-friendly, when clearly that is not their motive.  Case in point: towel washing.

How annoying are those little placards in the bathroom of hotel rooms that read, “Please help us save the earth by saving water.  We will only wash towels if you put them on the floor; otherwise we appreciate your efforts to reuse your towels.  And the environment appreciates it too!”

Nice try.  What it really should say, is:  “Boy, do we save money by washing fewer towels.  You know what our union labor rate is?  We’d never have the balls to ask you to reuse your towels so we could save money until the whole green movement came along.”

2.  Confusing Shower Mega-Knobs. OK, if this is just me, than I’m pretty embarrassed, but I have to tell you, I think you have to be in MENSA to figure out hotel shower knobs.  You know those single knob devices that control both the water pressure and the temperature?  Forget it.  I don’t even try to master them anymore.  I just turn or pull them until water comes out, then tweak what I’m doing in small increments, each time putting my hand under the water to gauge temperature, until I’m able to get into the shower without burning or freezing myself.   Maybe this is designed to encourage you to take fewer showers, and use less towels.  You know, to save the earth.

Oompa Loompas3.  Shower Curtain Rod Expanders. So after staring down at the tub while I try to figure out the knob situation, I am led to believe the shower is a normal size.  Then, when I get in and close the curtain, (you know, that curved curtain that extends outward?) I am suddenly in a gigantically large shower!  Goodness, how did that happen?  The hotel is magical!  I can’t wait for the oompah loompahs to bring me room service!

I’m sorry, I just don’t get the bow-shaped shower curtain rods.  I’d rather see the hotels put their money into, wait for it . . .

4.  Toothpaste! This is up there with the riddle of the sphinx.  Why on earth won’t hotels give you toothpaste?  Every other amenity is provided, even a sewing kit.  A sewing kit!  Toothpaste we use every day; a sewing kit we use, um, NEVER.  That’s up there with the bible in the nightstand.  (When do they think we read these bibles, before or after we’ve ordered the porn on pay-per-view while drinking the bourbon from the mini-bar?)

I am really at a loss for words as to why they won’t give us toothpaste.  It certainly can’t be a cost factor, especially not for those hotels that pay to install a phone next to the toilet.  Truly, truly, truly, I have no idea.  Someone please tell me.

Now, if you go to the front desk and ask for toothpaste, virtually every hotel will give you some; albeit in small sizes, but they do stock it.  So I encourage everyone to go to the front desk wherever they stay and ask for it.  Eventually they’ll find it more cost-effective to just stock the rooms with toothpaste in the first place.  hamster on wheel

5.  Snail-Net. You pay the $9.95 per 24 hour period for internet access in your room, only to find out it’s literally the slowest possible connection in the universe.  It’s as if it’s being powered by a hamster on a treadmill in the basement somewhere.  Those of you that have broadband cards bypass this annoyance, but for the occasional traveler, you’re stuck with this injustice.

There you have it.  My hotel pet peeves.  Love to hear yours.  And I’ll send you a $15 iTunes gift card if you can logically explain the toothpaste thing.

Speech at the Big Apple Awards: 4 Trends Driving Our Industry

Posted July 3, 2010

NOTE: It was my honor to be inducted as President of the ISES NY Metro Chapter at our Big Apple Awards on June 29th in NYC, on a night when we honored 4 Hall of Legends (Marcy Blum, Walter Rauscher, Debra Roth, and Francis Tedesco), and handed out 20 event awards.  I’ve been asked to publish my speech that night, as I outlined several trends coming together right now that are defining the event industry.

Good evening.  This is a unique time in the special events industry, driven by the confluence of several key trends.

The first trend is the increased competition for jobs in our field, as a result of a maturing industry.  20 years ago, when I told people what I did, they would look at me and say, “Yeah?  You can make a living planning events?”  Over the years we’ve fought for the need to have events professionally managed.  We now have dozens of colleges offering degrees in event management, and event planners are featured in movies and tv shows.

This broad acceptance has attracted tens of thousands of new people to our field, which is wonderful.  However, it also puts pressure on those within the field to increase their education and grow their skill set in order to advance their careers, and set them apart from this influx.

The 2nd trend is the ability of social media to change the cost dynamics of events.  Traditionally, events were a high-touch, high-cost marketing vehicle.  Very impactful, but very expensive on a per person basis.  Now, however, social media enables organizations to leverage that same event spend to a dramatically broader audience.  The same $100,000 spent on a 500 person event, now has the potential to reach 500,000 people via twitter, blogging, facebook and youtube.  This is made even more meaningful by the fact that traditional marketing platforms are being tuned out.  With DVR’s, satellite radio and ipods, typical advertising commercials do not have the sway they used to.

Which brings me to the third trend: the fact that event planners and agencies are now often the lead player in a marketing campaign.  Traditionally the ad agency would lead, followed by the pr firm, followed by the event firm.  Now, the event itself is often the lead element, and pr people are brought in to spin it.  Event professionals now have greater opportunities to drive overall strategy than ever before.

With events now taking the spotlight comes greater scrutiny from higher up the food chain.  The 4th and final trend is the need to demonstrate the value of our events, the ROI.  We need to start talking more about what our events accomplished than what they looked like.

In short, it is a very exciting time in the events industry.  At a time when many industries are dying, ours is moving center stage.  But we need to up our game.  We cannot remain static, or others will eat our lunch.  Whether it’s a more aggressive newcomer to the industry who competes for a job, or an advertising agency that launches an in-house event services capacity, we are in the big leagues now, and all this increased opportunity comes with increased competition.

ISES NY Metro stands ready to help you meet these challenges.  With more diverse educational programs than ever before, we will continue to develop unique and targeted program content to meet the changing needs of our industry.  We have, and will continue to, partner with numerous other associations and organizations to make our events broader and more vibrant.

In today’s environment, it’s also critical to have the broadest possible network of contacts, and ISES is an outstanding vehicle for this.  We will go out of our way to find out what our members are looking for, who they want to meet, and what kind of career or business guidance they seek, and we will work very hard to deliver on that.

Our theme is going to be “ISES: we take care of our own.”  If we can aggressively drive that culture, and build a community where we all help each other achieve our individual and collective goals, the value of an ISES membership will become self-evident, and our ranks will grow virally.

ISES can do many things for our members.  The one thing we cannot do is read minds.  You need to tell us what you do, what your goals are, and how you think our chapter can better serve those goals.  (It’s like the gym: just paying for your membership won’t get you into shape.  You need to go there and participate.) We want you to join us, and help chart our chapter’s course for the betterment of our industry.  If you do that, I promise we will be there to help you succeed in this unique and exciting time in the special events industry.

Thank you.