Reshaping Event Planning with Technology Trends

There’s no question that technology has changed the way we do many things in life. Meeting and event planning is no exception. I’m sure you can imagine just how much of an impact technology has made on event planning. Here are some specific and technical changes in the professional meeting and event planning.

Crowd Streaming:
 Crowd streaming is basically live-streaming on a large scale. Five years ago, it would have been very difficult for individuals to broadcast their experiences at an event. This is no longer the case as you can see. You can now crowd stream to people all over the world through various mobile apps, such as Facebook live, Snapchat, Periscope, and more. It allows your event to be seen from the perspective of the attendee, adding a level of authenticity. Encourage your guests to crowd stream and spotlight your event.

RFID Technology: Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology uses radio waves to track and identify objects. It is frequently used in inventory management. However, it is also used in a wide variety of other applications, including event planning. Everything from registration and check-in’s to social media engagement and contest sign-ups can all be done using RFID technology. Event planners can also use RFID technology for quantitative and qualitative data analysis to determine what works and what might need improvement for future events.

Event Apps:
 The days of the thick event binder could be in the past very soon. More event planners are using event apps to present itineraries, panel information, speaker bios, and more in a convenient manner on one’s phone or tablet. I’m sure you’ve had a glimpse of this if you’ve utilized event planning on Facebook even for a simple and small friend gathering. However, it’s important to know that these apps can be expensive so they must provide use to guests after the event is over to realize their full value.

Wearable Technology and Virtual Reality:
 Wearable technology is already well-known to the public, but we are only starting to see the benefits event planners experience using it. Wearable technology can be used for everything from registration and facial recognition to food and beverage selection, completely changing the logistics of an event. Virtual reality booths are a cool way to present information and provide answers to questions attendees might have.

If you found this content interesting head on over to to read more about venues that can accommodate these needs.

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Engagement Rings For Dummies

Just like us humans, engagement rings come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. Trying to understand every aspect of all the rings that exist and is yet to exist, may take too long .  So let us run through the basics of “Choosing a Diamond” that everyone should know when shopping for an Engagement ring. Are you excited? You should be!

Briefly listed below are the 5 general steps to buy the perfect ring. For more in depth information about each step, visit the source of this article,, linked at the bottom.

5 Steps to Buy the Perfect Ring:

1. Set a Budget
2. Choose a Diamond (Keep reading to learn about this step)
3. Select a Ring
4. Metal Options
5. Find Ring Size
NOTE: it may be helpful to know that round diamonds are by far the most popular choice due to their incredible brilliance, fire, and light performance. Round brilliant diamonds make up about three-quarters of all diamond purchases, and offer maximum sparkle.

The 4 C’s
Carat:  Many people start with size, as this is the most visually apparent aspect of a diamond. Keep in mind that a carat is actually a unit of weight, but it can be used as an approximation for the size of a diamond. You may find the measurements of a diamond another useful indication of the actual dimensions, as seen face up.

Cut: The most important quality characteristic of a round brilliant diamond is the cut, which impacts the brilliance, fire, and scintillation of the diamond. With round brilliant diamonds, the cut is easy to assess because it is formally graded by independent diamond laboratories. For other diamond shapes, the cut is much more subjective. Cut grades, if given, are more arbitrary. For engagement rings, we typically recommend round brilliant diamonds with a cut grade of very good, ideal, or super ideal. Choosing a high cut grade maximizes the beauty of a diamond for a given carat weight.

Color: most people prefer a colorless or white diamond, or at least a color that is not very detectable to the untrained eye. With engagement rings, the most common color grade selection for the center diamond is F-H color.
Clarity: Clarity is usually the characteristic determined last, given it has the least impact on a diamond’s appearance. Some diamonds graded “SI2” or “SI1” do have visible inclusions, but at Brilliant Earth we will contact you if the diamond you have chosen has an inclusion that we can see with the naked eye. Many Brilliant Earth customers choose the “VS2” or “SI1” clarity grades for the center diamond of their engagement ring. A few customers for whom clarity is important go as high as the “IF” or the “VVS” clarity grades.
After learning about the 4 C's, the engagement ring shopping should be much smoother. Although there are more factors involved in deciding on the perfect ring than just choosing the diamond, the metal options are less complex and or difficult to understand.
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5 Spooktacular Reasons to Propose on Halloween

Halloween is a day full of mystery and surprise, but the ultimate surprise just may be a proposal. If your partner adores Halloween, and by that I mean, he or she starts putting up Halloween decorations in September, loves to watch all the scary movies that exist, and enjoys eating chicken fingers that look like actual bloody fingers, a proposal on Halloween may be the way to go. Now many of you are probably wondering how a proposal on Halloween could be successful; so here are five reasons proposing on Halloween shouldn’t be an underrated move.
1. Your partner won’t expect it

As long as you’re not too nervous and unconsciously dropping too many subtle hints that the proposal is coming, your partner is probably too busy preparing for Halloween that the thought of a proposal will completely slip his or her mind. Not many people hear about proposals happening on Halloween and that’s because it is secretly the best way to do it. Proposing on a jumbo screen at a sports game is nice but there are probably at least 50 people in the audience thinking this may be their potential proposal.

2. It’s easy to dress for the occasion

One of the best reasons to be in a relationship on Halloween is for the couple costumes; they are so entertaining and adorable. Dress up as your favorite celebrity couple, or your favorite Disney prince and princess, or food pairings that will always go well together. What better proposal pic than to be dressed that you’re obviously perfect for each other!

3. The proposal ideas are endless

Finding a ring in your champagne glass or biting into your cake can be exciting and romantic, but for true Halloween fans, spelling out the big question in lighted carved pumpkins, zombies serenading your partner, or scary dolls screaming out the question in unison just might make your partner laugh, cry, and scream all at the same time. A proposal is always going to be heartwarming and exciting but wouldn’t it be a little more adventurous to invoke a little bit of fear and laughter to it?
4. Now you’re right on time for Holiday Cards

Now that you’re engaged to the love of your life, (hooray!) you’ll be right on time to send your families and loved ones the ultimate hilariously cheesy holiday cards.  You’ve only got three weeks until Thanksgiving and only a month after that until Christmas, so you two better get busy mailing those delightful cards.
5. The holiday you two loved just got more lovable

Halloween was already a day of joy and thrill for you two and you probably couldn’t have imagined it getting any better. Well, no need for imagining, because the love of your life said yes to spending the rest of his or her life with you on this glorious holiday revolving around monsters and the souls of the dead.

How to Hire a Quality Keynote Speaker

Original Blog:
Written By: Sarah Hovis

If we’re honest, a huge selling point when figuring out whether or not to attend a conference depends on who the keynote speaker will be. As a planner, when hiring your keynote speaker, what you can afford will factor in to your decision. That being said, you should also:

Look at the role the speaker will have in your conference (e.g., motivational/inspirational or trend expert).
Think about why you’re hiring a keynote speaker and the results you’d like to achieve (e.g., educate, promote awareness, or inform/entertain). contributor Micah Solomna asked Dr. Nick Morgan, one of America’s top communication theorists and coaches for his advice on how to hire a quality keynote speaker.

Mistakes to Avoid
Scheduling keynotes during a meal—or right after one. The meal and the speaker should never be in competition for the attendee’s attention.

Asking to see the keynote’s presentation ahead of time and then distributing it to your attendees. Keep an element of surprise!

Best Practices to Keep in Mind
Add a dynamic emcee or host (Note: this person is not your keynote speaker) to interact with the audience throughout the day, create opportunities for interaction, and ensure that things don’t fall between the cracks.

Build in some breaks. Think of how much more you can accomplish if you create networking opportunities outside of mealtime.  

Booking and Fees

Book your speakers at least six months out. That gives you a better chance of getting quality speakers you can adequately promote.

Fees will vary by speaker. For example: a published author could cost anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 or more, while a New York Times bestselling author is $40,000 and up. And always remember that travel expenses are additional. One final piece of advice for planners: don’t try to nickel-and-dime the speakers. Think of what you’re spending on the venue, food and drinks, rooms, etc., and you’ll understand why trying to shave off a few dollars from the speaker’s fee is counterproductive.

The 5 Wedding Menu Rules Every Couple Should Follow

Written by Lauren Rodrigue;
Wedding Wire

Wardrobe, florals, invitations, first dance…all of these are amazing ways to let your and your partner’s true personalities shine through at your wedding. But did you know your wedding menu is another amazing way to showcase your great taste on your big day? (Pun intended!) An artfully curated wedding menu can expertly exude who you both are while also pleasing the diverse preferences of your guests and be totally memorable—but beware, making your wedding reception food too personal might be off-putting to some guests.

There’s a way to find a balance between pleasing your guests and catering to your own tastes—here’s some advice on creating an amazing wedding menu.

Offer options.

Keep in mind that your wedding menu should reflect your tastes and preferences, not cater solely to them—after all, your wedding food is more or less a gift to your guests to thank them for taking the time to come celebrate you and your partner. It isn’t all about you—so even if you’re both die-hard vegetarians, you should still offer an option for carnivores, since you’ll likely have many in attendance. If one of you has a certain intolerance, like gluten, it’s totally OK to offer wedding food ideas that are gluten- (or whatever-) free, but there’s no need to craft a completely gluten free menu (your caterers should know how to handle preparing food for people with intolerances safely and securely—make sure you talk this over with them in detail before you sign the contract!). Work with your caterers to let your wedding menu highlight your preferences, rather than be steamrolled by them—for example, if you’re vegetarian, let the vegetarian dish take top billing and offer something meat-oriented as a second choice.

Stay grounded.

Maybe you and your partner are total foodies, but that doesn’t mean that your whole wedding menu should be made up of items no one on your guest list has never heard of before. Besides celebrating love, people go to weddings for two things: food and fun (“fun” being the open bar, usually…). Regardless of your exotic tastes, you shouldn’t make the “food” part a struggle for your guests to get through—not everyone is excited by escargot or thinks truffle foam is #dinnergoals. Further, if people will be doing a lot of drinking, the food should be substantial enough to soak up all that liquor, and super-fancy food that half the guest list is afraid of won’t make the cut. Instead, share with your caterers that you and your partner love adventurous eating and would like to incorporate that creatively (and sparingly) into your wedding menu. The safest places to do so would be during cocktail hour or as sides during dinner. That way, you can have some delicious classics alongside more unique picks, and everyone can get their fill how they like, while maybe trying one or two new things they’ve never tasted before. Remember, really well-made, thoughtful, simple food never goes out of style, so when in doubt, don’t put trendiness over time-tested favorites.

Be realistic about timing.

Love the idea of a super-late dinner? Or a super drawn-out one that takes up most of your reception? Maybe you want food to be the main event because you and your partner love food as much as you love one another (or, almost as much), but it’s important to be thoughtful and courteous of your guests when it comes to figuring out the scheduling of your cocktail hour and meal. The bottom line is, wedding guests become hangry very easily. As is expected, as they’re essentially beholden to you as their only source of food and hydration for an eight hour block of time! You can expect much from a wedding guest—like asking them to stand in the rain and still be happy to watch you exchange vows, or dance like no one’s watching in 100,000-degree weather—but you cannot expect them to wait till 11pm to eat when they’ve had nothing but canapes at 3pm and champagne… since. So, time things kindly. Want a late dinner? Have a second round of passed appetizers between cocktail hour and the main event to tide people over. Or have your full dinner at regular dinnertime, then offer a fun late-night meal for those still partying and in need of refueling. If you’re thinking of a lengthy, many-course experience for dinner, start a little earlier so servers aren’t plating food while people are going crazy to "Uptown Funk" on the dance floor. Fine dining and wedding dancing just don’t mix, and it’s not fun for guests to have to switch gears between dancing and dining to avoid FOMO.

Make the wedding reception food fit the mood.

So, you were dying to have a ballroom wedding, but you’re also dying to have a pizza truck cater it. My first piece of advice is “do whatever you want,” but if you’re really concerned with guest experience, it may behoove you to try and make the fare match the venue a little more closely. Guests showing up to a formal wedding are expecting—and dressed for—a formal dinner. Likewise, guests attending a rustic barn wedding probably are expecting something a little more low key and casual (and don’t necessarily want a fine dining experience fit a Michelin star restaurant). The best caterers today are creative and innovative, and can take your inspiration—whatever it is—and make it fit your venue, as long as you’re clear about what you want and have vision. Love the idea of pizza at your formal affair? Ask your caterer to serve fancy flatbreads as a starter. Want to dial up the elegance of your menu at your camp wedding without making it feel out of place? Explore classics with a modern, refined twist.

Set the right scene.

A quick anecdote for this one—my now-husband and I devised an amazing wedding menu with our caterer that I’m still proud of a year out from our wedding (maybe I should move on? I dunno). I felt it fit our personalities perfectly, and our rustic venue, too—there was a local salad, fried chicken, tomato pie, and more. Everything was delicious, and everyone raved about it! The one thing that didn’t work? The bamboo utensils I selected based purely on appearance, which cracked in half as people attempted to cut their crispy chicken, and were totally useless for picking up tender salad greens! Looking back, we all laugh at the cacophony of fork-snapping sounds that accompanied our amazing dinner, but also, I totally regret putting style over substance when it came to picking out our table settings. The truth is, you can plan a masterful wedding menu, but if you let your vision take over and aren’t strategic about the servingware and settings you provide, or renting enough of whatever you need, or even the way you seat tables (i.e., making sure not to cram people together!), your guests’ dining experience can be compromised. Which means that food you put so much thought into? Totally overshadowed. The best way to make sure this won’t happen is to talk over your dinnerware, servingware and table setup ideas with your caterer—after all, who better to ask how their food should be served?—then let their insights guide the choices you make. (Rather than letting your Pinterest board guide you.)


8 Things Grooms Should Do Before Heading to the Altar

When your wedding day rolls around the corner, you’ll feel excited, emotional and maybe even a bit nervous. With so much going on, it can be easy to overlook the tiny last-minute details, but there are few important things you won’t want to forget.

Grooms, before you make your way to the altar, be sure to check these things off your list!

Final vow read-through
If you wrote your own wedding vows, you probably know what you’re going to say by this point, but even the most well-rehearsed groom can be struck with a case of the butterflies seconds before walking down the aisle. Find a quiet spot where you can do one last skim through your vows and spend a few moments collecting your thoughts.

Grab a snack
Hopefully you’ve had a meal or two throughout the day, but it’s not a bad idea to eat something small shortly before the ceremony. Try to avoid foods that are messy, greasy or could risk staining your attire. Granola bars, nuts, and pretzels are a few good options. While you’re at it, drink a glass of water so you stay hydrated for the ceremony.

Use the restroom
You know what your parents used to say: “Even if you don’t think you have to go, you should.” That rule applies on your wedding day, too. Take a bathroom break before the ceremony, especially since it might be a few hours before you have another free moment to yourself. Also use this as an opportunity to freshen your breath so you’re ready for the first kiss as newlyweds.

Do a mirror check

Take a final look in the mirror and fix any last-minute adjustments that need to be made. Tighten your shoelaces, check your teeth, straighten your tie, and flatten those stray hairs that are poking up from your head. Ask a groomsman or family member to do a quick once-over to catch any snags, stains, belt loops, or loose shirttails that you might have missed.

Secure the rings
Even if you aren’t the one carrying the rings, you should know exactly where they are. Double-check with your best man and/or ring bearer to make sure that the rings are in their proper place. If they’re being carried in a box or tied to a pillow, make sure they’re safe and sound before being sent down the aisle.

Know your route
At the start of the ceremony, it’s tradition for the groom to escort his mother, grandmother or other relative to a reserved seat before taking his place at the altar. It’s pretty self-explanatory and you’ll get to practice during the wedding rehearsal, but it might be helpful to do a quick mental refresh so you remember where you need to go.

Turn your phone off
First, ask yourself if you actually need to have your phone with you during the ceremony (anyone who needs to get ahold of you should already know where you are). If you decide that it’s a must, be sure to put your phone on silent—even the vibrate setting could disrupt the ceremony. You might also consider handing your phone over to a trusty groomsman who can hold it for you, so you don’t have to worry about it.

Take a deep breath
It’s normal to be nervous, but if you feel like the wedding day jitters are getting the best of you, take a deep breath to clear your mind. Give yourself a pep talk and remember what the wedding is all about. At the end of the day, it won’t matter if you stumble over your vows or have shaky hands as you’re exchanging rings. You’re marrying the love of your life, and what could be better than that? Focus on soaking in the moment and everything will work out as it should.

Original Blog -- Written by Samantha Iacia; Wedding Wire;



Appetizer Ideas for Your Cocktail Hour to Make Sure Everyone Tries Everything

We’ve all been to those cocktail parties with the same-old traditional finger food appetizers. You know them by heart: pigs in blankets, chips and dip, a fruit bowl, etcetera, etcetera. There’s nothing wrong with these dishes either—I myself am a huge pig-in-blanket fan and don’t plan on ever turning down one of those little, juicy bad boys—but they leave you bored and mindlessly munching until the main course is ready.

Your party should never have a dull moment, so here are some prepared foods to make sure it doesn’t:


Mini Grilled Cheeses
Ah an ole classic from childhood. Its an easy step-by-step, ready?: Take your regular-sized gilled cheese sandwich and shrink it down to finger-food size. Then, unless you’re a strict traditionalist, throw some bling on those ‘wiches with red chili flakes, mushrooms, basil, and/or arugula. Ta-da! A childhood classic thrown through puberty for your unforgettable reception!

Deviled Egg Sandwiches
Looking for something a bit lighter with fewer calories? Consider these tasty bites that give a more relaxed mood to your cocktail party. A pretty basic how-to: 4 eggs, 2 tbsp. mayo, ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce, ¼ tsp. paprika, chives, 1 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar, salt n pepper. Throw some of that between two slices of white bread and fin!

Deli Sandwiches
Here’s another classic. Deli meats with cheese and appropriate accessories provide a reliable fallback plan for potential guests who are looking for good old healthy protein basics. Of course, we’ve already established that we’re not about to have a boring cocktail hour, so keep these interesting by offering options with a multitude of options. Turkey, ham, salami—sure—hot pastrami, corned beef, grilled chicken, YES! American, cheddar—ok—Munster, swiss, provolone, GREAT! Be sure to have sauces and mayos on hand too for an extra perk.

Cups & Bites

Blue Cheese & Steak Bites
A personal favorite of mine—because steak—and it’s relatively quick to prep. Start with tiny, toasted, garlic breads sliced and topped with salty blue cheese and medium to medium-rare pieces of steak. Drizzle with a balsamic reduction and finito!

Stuffed Shells
A little messier but they pack a truckload of taste. You know those shell-shaped pastas? Find the jumbo ones and cook those to al dente. Fill ‘em with prosciutto, asparagus, garlic powder, and cheese (I suggest mozzarella, parmigiana, and ricotta). They’re SO worth some messy fingers after eating!

Cajun Shrimp & Guac Bites
Calling all avocado fans! I’ve never tried this one but I’ll be damned if I don’t go home and cook some tonight. All on a sweet potato cracker: your favorite guacamole recipe with a single large shrimp seasoned with chipotle chili, paprika, cumin, red pepper flakes, and salt. I mean, look how good that looks!:

Spinach Dip Bites
This is sure to get the kiddies to eat their vegetables. You’re making a dip out of artichoke hearts, garlic, spinach, peppers, cream cheese, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese. Scoop that into a bunch of crescent dough cups. A cute and an easy way to sneak some healthiness into all the cake and cheese eating!


Teriyaki Salmon
To start of our section of finger-foods-you-can’t-really-eat-with-your-fingers, or “Forks” as I like to call it, we have salmon bites that look so good I’m jealous I’m writing about them instead of eating them but it’s fine. You can serve these alongside steamed vegetables to make this appetizer into a mini-meal. One word of caution though, the reviews on these bites are so good, you might want to make sure your guests don’t fill up entirely on them.

Mozzarella, pepperoni, and olive bites
This app will be a nice change from the one above, where it will be much more difficult to fill up on, but will keep your party guests busy and talking. You can change-up the order you stick these on a toothpick, but for simplicity’s sake we’ll stick with olive on top, pepperoni in the middle, and mozzarella cube on the bottom. Easy, budget-conscious, and of course, taste bud-friendly.

Bacon-Wrapped Potato Bites
You didn’t really think that we’d go through this entire post without mentioning bacon did you? These wrapped little guys are as easy as they sound too! Step 1: Cook potatoes, step 2: dice potatoes, step 3: season potatoes, step 4: wrap seasoned potatoes with bacon, step 5: spear with a fork or toothpick. Done!


Tomato Soup Shots
To wrap everything up, we’re gonna head back to our early companion, the grilled cheese sandwich. But here’s the twist: the grilled cheese is only a compliment to what is actually the appetizer. Pair the sandwich bites with a quick shot of tomato soup (Just make sure you try to use a soup other than Campbell’s). Another childhood classic all grown up!

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Plot Twist: Brunch Weddings!

More and more couples are opting for wedding receptions in the morning, in place of the traditional evening affair for various reasons. Choosing brunch instead of dinner can considerably lower the catering and venue expenses. Or it could be so they want a unique wedding twist, or even so that they can set off on their honeymoon early and enjoy more time together.
Whatever be the reason, reception brunches work well when planned and executed properly. In fact, wedding reception brunches are convenient, and your guests will enjoy the function.
Here is a quick and easy guide to getting the little details for your wedding reception brunch perfect.

Keep the atmosphere friendly instead of formal
Unlike the formal plated dinner, brunches have a casual air. This allows you to have a more intimate gathering and enjoy quality time with your guests. The ideal location for a wedding brunch is outdoors, so plan your seating to utilize the beauty of the natural setting. Outdoor wedding brunches are ideal in spring or fall, when the weather is pleasant and the beautiful landscape adds a natural charm to your wedding. Plan the décor so it works well in natural lighting, and add elements like fresh flowers or vividly colored balloons that are casual, yet colorful.
Winter brides can also benefit from reception brunches, as the evenings are usually dark and depressing and daytime is more refreshing. Consider warming up your venue with a log fire and decorating with holly and mistletoe. Add to this, an enchanting white backdrop, and you will have a fairytale wedding to remind your guests of your lifetime event.

Plan your food choices wisely
A formal food service may seem out of place during the day. Opt for an interesting buffet instead. Include food choices that allow your guests to eat well, but not feel weighed down. The platter should include both breakfast and lunch-style dishes, so your guests can have their pick. Choose food that is great for late morning or early afternoon. Frittatas, cheeses, pancakes, pasta and sandwiches are good choices. You could also add a few exotic dishes like dimsums or chicken curry for a pleasant variation. Omelet and pancake stations, or s’more bars would be well-received and also add some action.

Don’t skip wedding cake or drinks
Just because you are getting married in the morning, you needn’t skip the wedding cake. Choose a light flavor like lemon or vanilla, and keep it fresh and welcoming with white frosting. Or you could replace the wedding cake with wedding cake cupcakes in multiple flavors instead. Since the portions are small, your guests will be tempted to try it. You could also get creative with a dessert buffet, and give your guests a variety of treats to choose from.

For drinks consider refreshing and lighter choices like cocktails, white wine, fruit juices, scented teas and fruit smoothies. If the weather is warm, fizzy drinks infused with lemon or ginger, or yogurt smoothies would be nice.

Doesn’t all this sound romantic? If you are smitten by this idea of wedding reception brunches, go ahead with it. Don’t forget to get the perfect wedding dress for the occasion!

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Defining Dress Codes

With so many different dress codes out there, it can be difficult to know what to wear, even when the type of dress requested is stated on the invitation. Even then, there are so many variations to requested attires that this topic naturally lends itself to an answer of, “It depends…”. But If we can help you here, even a tiny bit, we’re going to go for it!

Smart Casual
Women: Wear a pencil skirt or dress pants, paired with a silk or button-down top and high heels.
Men: Opt for dressy trousers, paired with a collared shirt and loafers.
Typical places to wear Smart Casual: Office parties, happy hours, or a business luncheon.

“Dressy” Casual
Women: Avoid wearing denim, tennis shoes, and cotton tees. Instead, opt for silk pants, dress pants, or a skirt. Pair with a patent leather flat, or one with nice embellishments such as a bow, buckle, or a print.
Men: Wear trousers and a dress shirt with leather loafers, oxfords, or a slip-on shoe. Pair with a blazer or sport coat. Avoid showing up with wrinkles or clothes one size too big, too small, or in a non-coordinating color. A tie is optional.
Typical places to wear “Dressy” Casual: Church/Temple, dinner, or an invite received via phone or e-mail.

Country Club Casual
Women: Choose an open-necked or polo shirt. You can also go with dresses and skirts with minimal accessories.
Men: Wear an open-necked or polo shirt, paired with khakis. Accessorize with leather shoes and a belt.
Typical places to wear Country Club Casual: The country club (obviously), a friend’s home for dinner, or a nice restaurant.

Business Casual
Women: A skirt, khakis, or dress pants paired with long sleeve or three-quarter sleeve tops. A casual dress and flats are options as well.
Men: Wear a button-down or a polo shirt, paired with khakis, or dress pants. If you so desire, layer with a V-neck sweater, a blazer, or a sport coat. A tie is optional.
Typical places to wear Business Casual: A company party, daily work attire (depending on your job), or business lunch meetings.

Cocktail Attire
Women: Wear a shorter dress with some frill. The classic little black dress makes for great cocktail attire, and is the easiest to show your personality by accessorizing to suit your mood.
Men: Wear a dark suit, coat, and tie. Opting for dark jeans paired with a jacket and tie is also acceptable at some cocktail events, depending on how casual the atmosphere is.
Typical places to wear Cocktail Attire: Adult birthday parties and evening social events.

Lounge Attire
Women: Wear a dress that would be appropriate for brunch or afternoon tea. It should fall to, or slightly above, the knee, and not be too sparkly or low-cut. Incorporate a jacket or shawl to cover the arms.
Men: Opt for a dark suit paired with a crisp, white shirt. You can go with or without a tie. Opting for a vest instead of a tie adds informality of the look.
Typical places to wear Lounge Attire: Daytime engagement parties, business breakfasts, and afternoon tea.

White Tie
Women: A floor-length ball gown is a must. Accessorize with opera length gloves, glamorous jewels, and up-do hairstyles.
Men: Wear a short or waist length black tailcoat (tails should reach the back of your knees,) white bow tie, starched white shirt, and a cummerbund (optional). Sport high-quality black pants.
Typical places to wear White Tie: Charity fundraisers, government ceremonies, weddings, and the opera.

Black Tie
Women: Gussy up in a floor-length ball gown. A very dressy cocktail dress may be acceptable depending on the venue of the event.
Men: Wear a dark suit or a tuxedo without tails. Pair with a white shirt and a tie, or a bow tie with or without a vest and a cummerbund.
Typical places to wear Black Tie: Charity fundraisers, political dinner parties, and weddings.

“Creative” Black Tie
Women: Dress up in a long gown, cocktail dress, or snazzy separates. Accessorize with the latest trends, such as feathers, sequins, sheer fabrics, and capes. Show off your personality with every detail.
Men: Incorporate trendy prints in with your tie and a dressy shirt. Mix fabrics such as a silk blazer and a dress shirt to create a formal—yet interesting—look.
Typical places to wear “Creative” Black Tie: Galas, silent auctions, weddings, and formal dinners that have a fun atmosphere.

“Warm Weather” Black Tie
Women: Wear a long gown with white gloves (optional) and minimal jewelry.
Men: Wear a white dinner jacket, in a worsted wool, gabardine, linen, or cotton fabric material. Pair this with a white dress shirt, bow tie, a cummerbund, and nice black leather shoes.
Typical places to wear “Warm Weather” Black Tie: Formal events that are held outdoors, such as a cruise line or country club dinners, weddings, and galas.

Black Tie Optional
Women: Look glamorous in a long gown, cocktail dress, or luxurious separates. Accessorize with items such as long gloves, clutches, and jewelry to top off the whole look.
Men: If you own a tuxedo, wear it. If not, wear a suit in a dark color such as charcoal or black, paired with a white dress shirt, and a solid colored tie. Make sure patterns are kept to a minimum and shoes are shined. Accessorize your look with a pocket square and cuff links.
Typical places to wear Black Tie Optional: Elegant events such as galas, silent auctions, weddings, formal dinners.

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Ideas For Engaging Large Audiences

It’s no secret that most people have a difficult time with the idea of speaking in front of large audiences. But what is less often thought of is that even those who are comfortable with public speaking likely have a difficult time commanding the attention of their peers, especially if they’re speaking to a larger audience.
So, when it comes to that big business meeting you’re speaking at, how can you be sure your audience will be engaged with you and focused on what you’re telling them instead of idly standing by?

Make what you say first and last memorable
It’s often used as a studying strategy, that is, studying for shorter periods of time more frequently. This is because the human brain remembers what is said or done at the beginning and end of a sequence better than what is done in the middle of that sequence. That’s why TV commercials often begin with a loud sound or a funny image and end with their branded logo.
So, how does this translate into helping you with your meeting? Well, barring any late walk-ins to the meeting, making the beginning and ending to your speech creative or fun is one way you can get your audience to remember you and what you were talking about.
One option is to start with something that people aren’t accustomed to like a creative ice breaker. Before anything else is said in the meeting, ask a general question. An example for a morning meeting where attendees may be groggy and tired is: “In one word, what is your morning?”. This is a short, creative question that doesn’t require much brain power for your audience to muster, and you can display their results in a unique way such as this word cloud:

Personally, I have found that concluding your speeches and meetings is a bit trickier. If you’re speaking about something that is personal to you, make sure you close it with something meaningful or emotional. This way your audience will be more inclined to listen even if it has nothing to do with themselves. If you’re speaking at an annual business conference, maybe focus on a motivational vision or idea that you have to end your speech strongly. Whatever you choose to do, do not leave any loose ends hanging. Cliffhangers are great for books and movies but detrimental to public speaking. Cliffhangers won’t make your audience want to hear more from you but will instead irritate them because your speech ended anticlimactically.

Make the meeting into an event
Don’t just have your audience sitting there listening while you say what needs to be said. This is how people start day dreaming and letting their mind wander elsewhere. Make your meeting into a discussion by using a web application that streams your audience’s live answers onto a screen. Websites like Peardeck (all you need is a Gmail account to sign in) allow admins to ask questions and then display their users’ answers live on the screen, creating a discussion or competition for their audience. By doing this, it is much more difficult for the audience’s attention to wander and much easier to see exactly who is paying attention and actively involved.

Use multiple choice questions and polls
Let your audience test their knowledge of the company or whatever subject you’re speaking about by asking questions with definitive answers. By asking a series of questions, you can hammer home key points (like the actual reason sales are up) and your individual audience members can have a competition between each other to see who can answer the most questions correctly.
By polling your audience, you can ask key questions about almost anything without receiving an awkward silence from the crowd. Often speakers ask for a single answer and receive crickets in response for one of four reasons: 1) the audience isn’t sure if it was a rhetorical question, 2) the audience believes the speaker wants them to all to agree on a single, unified answer, 3) no one in the audience wants to offer up their own answer for risk of being wrong in front of countless people, or 4) the audience is just plainly not paying attention. Polling the audience as a whole negates all of these potential problems for the speaker and keeps the meeting light and efficient.

Whatever you decide to do to spice up your next business meeting, conference, or big toast at a party, remember to make it engaging, use pictures and graphics if the topic calls for it, and make it stand out from those in the past. Use some of the ideas above or come up with your own ways to form a more productive meeting or a more encapsulating speech. Just remember that you don’t need to make it the greatest speech ever spoken or the best meeting ever planned; just make it memorable and give it an attention-grabbing beginning and a strong closing!

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Gadgets That Take the Worry Out of Travel

While traveling for a meeting or FAM can be an exciting part of your life as a planner, there are sometimes niggling safety issues to being on the road that can put a damper on all that fun. By investing in a number of stress-reducing travel gadgets, you can check your worry at the door and keep your belongings safe and secure throughout your travels.

There’s nothing like an $800 pair of blue suede Blahniks, except when they’re sitting in that unsecured suitcase, along with confidential work files and a new camera lens that anyone can easily gain access to with a single zip. GAH! A luggage lock is a must-have for any traveler concerned about their belongings, or carrying important items that need to stay safe. TSA-approved combination locks come in handy for those times when you want to be certain, such as storing luggage at hotel reception on check-out day.

Used to be, just keeping your credit cards in a secure location was enough. Now anyone with nefarious intentions and the technical know-how can skim your credit card information without ever reaching into your pocket. Take a bite out of electronic crime with an RFID-blocking wallet, able to block credit card and passport info from leaking out, and can also keep electronic hotel keys secure.

Yay for seaside meetings! Now, what to do with your keys, wallet and phone when you step from your lounge chair into the water for a swim or a paddle? A portable beach safe is just the ticket in this case, which you can load up with valuables and secure to a chair or other beach furniture while you play.

When standing at an empty airport carousel, two things typically run through your mind after all the bags have been packed off: they lost my luggage, or someone picked up my bag (by mistake or otherwise). If your bags have a luggage tracker inside, you can simply dial up the app on your phone to find its exact location on a map, and avoid the headache of your airline’s lost luggage office.

You never need it, until you do. All that charge you thought your phone had is suddenly showing red, and you need to call your contacts as soon as your plane lands. Fortunately, you packed a portable back-up phone charger that gives you enough juice to make it to your hotel. Such back-up chargers are small and cheap enough these days to make packing one a no-brainer.

Sure, you can play ‘guess that weight’ with your bag, which is all fun and games until the check-in agent slaps you with a heavy bag fee. A portable luggage scale can take the guess work out of packing, and help you avoid unwanted fees, by simply attaching the device to your bag and lifting it up to get a readout of the weight. They’re also small and light enough to not tip the scales themselves.

Are your first thoughts when you hit the tarmac along the lines of: Did I turn off the heat at home? Are the doors locked? You can banish these worries for good with a smart home system that controls everything from your thermostat to your smoke detector. These systems then link through an app on your phone that allows you to make changes from anywhere in the world. Smart systems such as Nest also include indoor and outdoor security cameras that send you alerts if any trouble is detected.


Wallet-Friendly Wedding Planning Tips

Starting to get the budget blues? With a little planning savvy, creating an amazing wedding doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are some of our favorite money-saving tips.

High wedding season — spring, summer and early fall — is typically the busiest and most expensive time of the year to host a wedding. Consider having your wedding during the off-season (such as late fall or winter) to net a considerable discount. Certain venues may have different peak times, so check ahead to determine its least busy time of the year.
Most weddings are held on Saturday evenings, so it can be less expensive to pick another day of the week, such as Friday or another weekday. Hosting a brunch or lunchtime wedding can also often be much less expensive than an evening wedding.
Choosing a single venue for your wedding ceremony and reception can be a great way to reduce your overall cost. You won’t have to worry about transportation between two locations for the wedding party and oftentimes won’t need a separate cocktail hour because guests can flow directly into the reception space right after the ceremony’s finished.
Trimming the guest list is an obvious, yet often necessary, way to reign in your budget. Invite everyone you couldn’t imagine celebrating the day without. Then consider any extras you don’t have to extend an invite to, such as former co-workers, friends you haven’t seen in over a year, distant relatives or your parents’ neighbors or friends you haven’t met. Also consider eliminating plus ones for any guests who don’t have a spouse or serious significant other.
Work with your caterer or venue to choose menu items that are delicious yet budget-friendly. For example, instead of a formal, plated dinner, consider a buffet with a couple of protein options, salad, veggies and then limit sides to a few crowd-pleasing options. For dessert, if your heart’s set on a big cake, choose a cake with a faux tier or two to add height, and have a separate sheet cake in the back that guests can be served from. Also find out if the venue charges a cake cutting fee. Another money-saving trick is choose alternative dessert options such as cookies, pies, tiered donut cakes, cake pops, cupcakes, etc.
Instead of offering an open bar all night, offer one or two beer and wine options to keep things simple and keep the budget under control. Check with your venue to see if it’s possible to bring in your own alcohol to save money. Just be aware that some caterers may charge a corking fee, even if you bring in your own wine. Another area to save is skipping a champagne toast, which many guests won’t drink anyway. Let your guests toast you with whatever drink they already have in hand instead.
Brainstorm what you can borrow, DIY and let others help you out with whenever possible. Pinterest is a great resource for a plethora of fantastic DIY ideas. Consider asking friends and family if you can borrow items for your wedding, whether it’s a veil, jewelry, get-away car, décor, etc. Also tap into some of your guests’ hidden talents in lieu of a wedding gift. For example, maybe your cousin is ordained and could serve as your officiant, or your aunt loves flower arranging and would be happy to take handle the flowers, or your friend is an amazing baker and would love to make your wedding cake. Give them an opportunity to show off their special skills to make your big day even more personal.
You don’t have to thank your wedding party for their role on your wedding day with an expensive gift. Also don’t worry about getting everyone the same exact thing. Choose gifts based on each person’s personality and interests instead. There are many budget-friendly, yet thoughtful gift ideas to consider. Check out online retailers for affordable personalized gifts or Etsy for unique handmade gifts.
While favors are a great extra if you can work them into your budget, you can easily skip them without anyone noticing. Guests will remember the amazing time they had, rather than the great piece of swag they took home.

3 West Club offers fantastic wedding packages and can work within your budget means. Contact us today!

10 tips for planning town halls & executive briefings

Periods of uncertainty also create anxiety for employees. In the corporate world, town halls and executive briefings to address employee concerns directly are far more likely to be beneficial than comfort animals. Corporate event planners can play a vital role in organizing these interactive meetings.

Town halls vs. executive briefings

Town halls are informal meetings that date back to traditional town meetings in Colonial America. They are an opportunity for leadership teams to provide updates and address employee questions and concerns.

Executive briefings are more formal presentations to convey the direction of the organization and clarify the mission and vision during times of uncertainty.

Here are 10 tips for planning and organizing effective town halls and executive briefings.

1. Select the appropriate design.
If there is a lot of anxiety among employees, the highly interactive and unstructured format of a town hall is likely to yield better results. If there is confusion, an executive briefing will make it possible to convey more information. The trade-off is that question periods are shorter.

2. Determine the best platform.
Town halls and executive briefings can be offered in face-to-face, virtual or hybrid formats. If an organization has many dispersed locations, a virtual or hybrid meeting will ensure consistency of messaging. If you opt for a virtual or hybrid format, it is important to provide vehicles for interaction and a way for participants to obtain answers to their questions.

3. When possible, keep the group size small.
Smaller groups are likely to encourage more participation. If possible, cap the group size at 50 for each meeting. A series of meetings will make this achievable for small-to-medium-sized organizations. Another approach is to begin with a large meeting and move to breakout rooms for discussions and questions.

4. Send out save-the-date notices as soon as a decision has been made to host a town hall or executive briefing.
5. Provide an opportunity for employees to submit questions.

A short online survey via the company’s intranet is the fastest way to this.

6. Select a venue with excellent sight lines.
For example, wider is better than deeper.

7. If budget is a concern, invite employees to “brown bag it.”
8. Use video to ensure consistency in messaging to dispersed locations.

A video by the CEO can be deployed to remote locations via the company intranet or through the distribution of DVDs, thumb drives, etc.

9. Create a safe environment to encourage participation.
This is not the time for partisan politics or scapegoating.

10. Prepare a summary of key questions and answers and distribute it to employees as soon as possible after the town hall or executive briefing.


Why An Intimate Wedding May Be For You

One of the biggest decisions a newly married-to-be couple must decide is what size wedding they want to have. The big wedding is always a consideration because of the all-out partying that goes on with so many guests invited and because Hollywood usually shows the massive extravagant wedding, so that’s what people normally think of. But what may occasionally get swept under the rug is the thought of having an intimate wedding. At 3 West Club, we’re here to help you with your wedding day in any way we can whether it’s big or small. So, here, we’d like to bring up some of the positives of hosting an intimate wedding.
  1. You Will Spend One of the Best Days of Your Life with the People Who Matter Most to You
    1. By only inviting close family and friends, you will be able to share this beautiful day with them for years to come over and over again. With a big wedding, a lot of couples end up spending their whole day feeling like they’re running a production where they’re having small talk with everyone and their cousin and having less of a wedding.
    2. The Savings!
      This is a big reason a lot of couples lean towards an intimate wedding. They’re better able to keep track of their expenses and avoid going over-budget to stay less stressed all while keeping the lavishness of their day intact. On top of that, intimate weddings are environment friendly without even trying because less waste is being produced by so many guests and the venue itself.
    3. Don’t Forget To Splurge!
      If you do decide to host an intimate wedding, you likely won’t have to decide between the centerpiece you have always wanted and the centerpiece that will keep you under your budget. What we’re trying to say is: an intimate wedding will let you go all-out on the details and things you have always dreamt of instead of constantly weighing what you can get if you don’t get that and what you can’t get because you got that.
  2. Intimacy Leads To Shorter Timelines
  3. Whether you’re just way too excited to get married that neither nothing nor nobody will make you wait any longer than you have to or you just hate the idea of planning a wedding out from A to Z, a smaller wedding will let you tie the knot in three months instead of a year.
  4. Spare the Awkwardness
  5. 1. You will avoid the uncomfortable task of meeting all these people you have not seen/may not see again for another 10-15 years during your wedding.Instead, with an intimate wedding you will be able to focus on having fun.
    2. There won’t be any awkwardness when trying to explain to the people who are outside your circle of family and friends why they didn’t make the cut of 30 guests. It’s much more difficult to explain to them why they didn’t make the cut of 200 guests. They will have their feelings spared knowing it was an intimate wedding and nothing outrageous.
  6. Go Off the Beaten Path
  7. By hosting an intimate wedding and not having to pay for 200 guests’ dinners, you and your new partner in life can play with the idea of honeymooning somewhere unique. You can go somewhere you may not have been able to ever go if you were to host a massive wedding. Greece? New Zealand? Prague? Finland? Tibet? The options are endless!
Hopefully we shed some light on the upsides to hosting an intimate wedding—but remember—what you do for your wedding day is entirely up to you, not us. Go ahead and have that big wedding you’ve always dreamt of, or take some of the ideas above into consideration. Whatever you decide, we’d be ecstatic to help you plan it!

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7 tips for next-level team-building events

Team-building activities can be an essential part of creating a stronger bond amongst co-workers and an effective way of boosting productivity. There’s no reason to think of team building as something that only boosts productivity—there’s much more to it! This means that the idea of team building can potentially be taken up a level, giving employees and employers something more.

There may be some hesitation as to what this will entail, but it’s not something that should worry anybody who is thinking of organizing team-building events. There are some very simple steps that you can take to ensure that your workers get more out of their team-building day than normal. Why not give them a read in order to see if there’s anything that you might not have thought about before?

How to go about taking team building further

Taking team building to the next level isn’t too difficult and can actually be broken down into seven different steps. Some tips may be more valuable than others, but you should aim to reach all of them so that you can be certain that your team-building activities are taken to the next level.

Ask your workers for ideas

When it comes to planning such events, there’s no doubt going to be some disgruntlement from certain employees. Some will prefer outdoor team-building activities and games, whereas others would prefer to stay away from that and pursue indoor activities. Instead of deciding on something yourself, take it to the next level by getting some input from workers.

Get your workers to take a more active role in organizing

As an extension of the previous tip, actually get the workers to help you in organizing something. Even though it might sound like just an excuse to get help in what could be a rather laborious task, it is, in fact, a sneaky way of taking team building to the next level. It will almost be like a challenge they are given without even realizing it as they have to work together to actually organise the day out.

Ask your workers to document the day

It’s all well and good to arrange a day of team-building events, but there is always the possibility that it could ultimately lead to nothing. If the participants think of it as just a “day off” they might risk losing/forgetting all the positive contributions that they make that day and fail to bring lessons back to the workplace. In order to combat this, have each of them write down their experience.

Make them step out of the comfort zone

One of these days should involve a task that isn’t in the regular itinerary for the workers…really try to enforce this. For example, if they are used to being stuck in a boring office all day, arrange a sports day or a sailing activity. If they are normally outdoors, then bring them in for a task of chocolate making, corporate cookery or even pottery sculpting.

Test their knowledge

This might sound a little harsh, but there’s nothing wrong with making sure your employees are in top form when it comes to general and specific knowledge. If you are serious about taking the idea of team building to the next level, then it’s only fair that you get some sort of result. Carefully construct a team-building quiz with questions aimed at getting the answers you want to show what they really know.

Test their strengths and weaknesses

Ordinarily, team-building days are quite generic and your employees will discover their strengths and where they need to improve by themselves. However, you should deliberately organize an activity for which you know they struggle already to see how they handle the situation. The way they react could help you see for yourself where they currently stand.

Conduct a survey

Similarly to having employees write about the day, it’s a good idea to conduct a survey afterwards, just so that you get an idea about what the employees really thought about the events and whether there is anything you can do to improve and take it even further.

There are numerous ways in which team-building activities for adults can be taken to the next level. Those in charge of organizing such days should give these ideas some food for thought as they could prove worthwhile in getting the most out of employees. It will mean that you will also be tested since you will have to provide more creative input.

Nobody can deny that events such as team-building days can help to boost productivity, but that doesn’t mean that it has to stop there. Companies should always aim to take things to the next level, no matter what. So why not go down this route when it comes to team building? Your employees are worth it and it could prove beneficial all around.

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5 Reasons Why Meeting Face-To-Face Is Best

In most situations, having a meeting with someone in-person is the most effective and efficient way to communicate and get work done. However, in today’s business environment where many businesses’ functions span time zones--and even nations--meeting in-person isn’t always doable. This is where we get into face-to-face meetings where apps like Skype and FaceTime are pivotal, because seeing someone as opposed to just hearing them can make a world of difference.

Everyone is familiar with the troubles and frustrations with telephone conference calls. Someone is doing something else while “on the call” or has the call on mute and doesn’t respond when called upon. And of course, the dreaded roll call to start off a call with the frustrating “Is Nancy here?” [Nancy is], “Is Alex here?” [Alex isn’t] etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

This is where face-to-face meetings come in.

1. You must “be at the meeting”
With face-to-face meetings, there is no way someone can multitask or put the call on mute because what they are doing/focused on can be easily seen by everyone else who is on the call. The saving grace here is that there is no roll call to be done, because everyone who is on the call can be seen immediately from the get-go.

2. Body language is rampant
Spring boarding off #1, each person’s body language is evident while in the meeting. As anyone will attest to, it is much easier to get your point across in nearly every situation if you can be seen. Humor comes across as funnier, seriousness and promptness are far better received, and friendliness is more apparent, because inflection can only go so far.

3. The material is obvious
What “material” is referencing here is the medium in which information is being passed through. Documents can be visually seen and clarified between parties and, depending on what app you choose to use, screen sharing can be extremely helpful in coordinating information and documents.

4. More participation
When on a conference call, like it or not, there is bound to be at least one person who is being quieter than they should be. This could end up leading to poor assumptions or decisions being made on a lack of information or insight that that one person may know. If that person would have spoken up, a whole different decision could have been made. Whether it be anxiety, unfamiliarity, or cautiousness that keeps that one person from speaking up over the phone, this lacking participation must be avoided at all costs. Face-to-face meetings almost force people to participate because they can see everyone else and adjust themselves to (what is hopefully) a welcoming group of coworkers. Now, no one can sit in the corner and be ignored.

5. Time savings
With fewer disruptions and more inclusion in terms of people and information, there is a greater ability to breeze through the meetings and, likely, a greater urgency to do so. This fifth point isn’t really its own reason but more of a final compilation of the previous four. Nevertheless, it’s worth explicitly noting as another pro to face-to-face meetings.

So when you’re looking to have your next in-person or face-to-face meeting, consider one of our spaces here at the 3 West Club to allow you to do so!

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Who are your meeting stakeholders and why are they so important?

In order to plan an effective meeting, you need to understand why it’s happening and what would make it successful. That’s where your meeting stakeholders come in.

Simply put, stakeholders are any group that is affected by the meeting. They tend to fall into two groups:

1. Internal stakeholders
2. External stakeholders

Internal stakeholders

Internal stakeholders are people who work within your organizational structure. They can be your events team, co-workers, your boss, your boss’ boss and/or the board of directors.

Internal stakeholders are the ones who can tell you about:

The meeting’s history
Its purpose
What it should achieve
Who it’s for
What’s worked in the past
What hasn’t worked in the past
What should be different this year
What success would look like

If the event is new and there’s no history or if they can’t articulate what success would look like, ask them:

Who are we trying to attract?
What will they get from this event that they can’t get anywhere else?
How do you want people to feel while they’re on-site with us?
What do you want them to do after this event is over?

That information should give you a good idea of what your stakeholders’ main goals for meeting are, which in turn will help you create S.M.A.R.T. objectives and calculate the ROI for your event.

External stakeholders

External stakeholders are people that you don’t work with, but who have some relationship to the event and can be positively or negatively affected by its outcomes. They can be your sponsors, exhibitors, vendors, paying attendees, association members, speakers and industry thought leaders, among others.

Historical data from surveys, testimonials, sales numbers and past marketing campaigns can help you identify what your external stakeholders like, dislike and what they hope to achieve by participating in your event. That information will influence:

The content of your meeting
Your marketing and communication strategy
Your sales strategy
The participant’s onsite experience

Not all stakeholders are created equal, however, that’s why you need to prioritize their goals and objectives.

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6 event planning mistakes that will destroy your budget

Many companies are especially budget conscious nowadays. Yet, many organizations continue to make event planning mistakes that explode their budgets.

Here are six common event planning mistakes that can negatively impact your budgets…and tips on how to avoid them.

1. Picking event dates out of the air and locking them in prematurely.

It’s hard to coordinate calendars and dates, especially when planning executive retreats and events for senior executives who are notoriously busy. For this reason, many executive assistants and internal event planners contact all of the participants and lock in their dates before ever reaching out to hotels, venues, facilitators and independent meeting planners.

This presents a number of challenges:

Some destinations work with a dynamic pricing model. Depending on demand, pricing can vary from week to week. So, never assume that high-, low- and swing-season pricing applies in every destination.
Local holidays, when demand for flights and hotel rooms is high, can send air and hotel rates through the roof.
Holidays in countries that send many tourists to a destination can cause airfares and hotel rates to soar. For example, demand for Dubai and Oman increases dramatically during U.K., Russian and German holidays.
Special events such as major trade shows, Formula 1 races, golf tournaments and even spring break can lead to tight availability of rooms and high hotel rates and airfares.

Solution: Contact event planners, facilitators and hotels early. Ask them to give you an idea of the best value dates. Then, present only those dates to participants.

2. Leaving planning until the last minute.

Leave your planning until the last minute and you have absolutely no wiggle room. If you’ve selected high-demand dates (see mistake No. 1), you’re stuck and your budget will reflect that. Even though this is painfully obvious, it’s a common mistake.

Solution: This one is easy. In the words of that old commercial, “Why wait for spring? Do it now.” Yet this mistake is so common it would be interesting to have some comments about the factors that contribute to it.

3. Failing to take advantage of low and swing seasons.

Some destinations are just as nice during low and swing season as they are in high season. The Caribbean is one example. The savings for booking outside of high season are significant.

Solution: Even if you just book a few weeks before or after high season, you can get all of the benefits at a fraction of the cost.

4. Selecting venues before determining the shape of the agenda or the activities you want to include.

It happens time and time again: Companies book rooms in the downtown core of a major city and then decide they want to include an adventure that is many miles away. Whether it’s dogsledding hundreds of miles north of Toronto or a desert or wilderness adventure, transportation costs can blow up a budget. Sitting on a bus for hours on end is also a frustrating experience for participants.

Solution: Postpone venue selection until you have a clear idea of the shape of your agenda. It is far better to wait until you have conferred with your event planner or facilitator and determined the activities that are of interest. Then, stay near where you intend to play.

5. Failing to include taxes and gratuities in your budget.

Taxes and gratuities can add up to 31 percent to a budget in some destinations—that’s a hefty hit! Even in the same country, tax treatment can vary from state to state, province to province and city to city.

Solution: It’s really important to use event planners who are familiar with a destination. If you are an event planner who is not familiar with a specific destination, always ask about taxes and tax treatment.

6. Paying late and watching your budget skyrocket due to currency fluctuations.

We live in times of uncertainty and that means that currency can fluctuate dramatically between the time you book your event and when it actually takes place.

Solution: It’s best to pay hotel, airfares and all other big ticket items up front so that you can guarantee the foreign exchange settlement rate.


9 Ways to Increase Media Interest In Your Event

Publicity can dramatically change any event, whether a team-building exercise, presentation or quarterly meeting. With media support, corporate training can easily be transformed into a social occasion. A company’s anniversary will become a big celebration for the local business community and a new product presentation will be an important industry event. Media can be responsible for tens of thousands of people talking about your business. Below are a few ways to increase media interest for your event.

1. Prepare your strategy before distribution

Before sending the first press release about an event, consider your overall strategy for working with the media. It is very important to understand which media editors will be interested. If it is a social project or a particularly large-scale project, then the news media will want to write about you. If the project is connected with the internal tasks of the company, influential industry magazines and blogs may be interested.

2. Style is your everything

Each publication writes in its own style: Some use loud headlines, only publish texts shorter than three paragraphs or insert professional jargon, which can be unclear for a wider audience. You can save an editor’s time by adapting your press release for mass media. It is not necessary to rewrite the text every time, rather make minor edits to get to a couple of versions for different sources. If in doubt, read a couple of the publication’s articles then re-evaluate your text. If it doesn’t feel out of place, send it.

3. Follow the hierarchy

Generally, the media falls into two categories: mass (tabloid) and professional. The rule of the food chain works for both categories. When sending material to mass media, first write to those with large readerships, then write to smaller ones. If your press release interests larger organizations, then lower-ranked websites and publishers may repost the materials with reference to the original source. You’ll save time and effort, plus secure the trust of the large mass media because uniqueness of the original publication will belong to them.

The situation is slightly different with professional publications. In this case it is important that the information is presented individually to each publication—never send the same text to multiple media outlets. The best way around this is to dispense information to a variety of sources. In one release you can discuss the event’s VIPs or speakers, in another add other event schedule highlights and in yet another, describe an interactive element.

4. Make plans and follow them on time

You will need to outline the approximate plan of action before sending the first press release about your event to mass media. How many qualitative press releases (containing real information) can you prepare before the event? How often are you planning to send them to the media and to which publications are they going to be sent initially?

Make a schedule of the press releases, list the planned topics and never confuse matters with post-event press releases. The news that dispatched a day or two after an event will have long been “spoiled” and only dilute the newsfeed. Present your story as something hot and actual. Only then will it be interesting to mass media and readers.

5. How many emails will be enough?

The most important question often occurs after long preparation: How do you write to mass media editorial offices? If you can’t find any individual editor contact details, simply write to a corporate email—this is usually found under “contact us” on the organization’s website. Social networks can also help: Journalists and top bloggers sometimes include their email addresses there.

But please don’t send a press release as a personal message on Facebook or LinkedIn. Public people appreciate their personal space—for work they use email, for chatting with friends and for operational issues they use instant messengers or social networks. Do you like receiving promotional mailings in WhatsApp? At best, the material will be sent to the recycle bin; at worst you will be blacklisted.

6. Forget about bulk emails

Learn to write personalized messages to reach journalists and editors, otherwise your messages may be blocked by mail spam filters. Don’t be lazy: Send press releases in separate messages rather than mass mailing 10 addresses. Ideally, it is worth writing personally to leading journalists or editors, addressing them by name in the greeting. If there are no such contacts, it is appropriate to send it to a general editorial email address.

Try to make your letter a little bit different to the hundreds of press releases that editors receive every day. Begin with a personal greeting or a simple explanation as to who you are and why you are reaching out to the publication. It is important that your letter stands out from the general stream and that editorial staff immediately understand that it is an interesting subject worth working on.

7. Don’t dilute your brand with plugs

A logo on each photo and a long list of partners at the end of a press release can become a stumbling block for publication. Most media clearly separate advertising and editorial content, therefore they will remove info about commercial partners or even ask you to pay to have the news published. But what if you have already promised partners that you will mention them in the publicity materials? Our advice is simple, make the event interesting for the media, regardless of brands. The more you push the media to mention your partner companies through press releases or at the event itself, the less likely they will be to want to share it. Take an organic approach: Let the catering be so good that visitors and journalists want to know who is responsible for the buffet reception, and let the sponsor provide gifts.

The same rule applies concerning photos with company logos. Even if such photographs are published in the media, “advertising blindness” will affect readers and the logo will remain unnoticed. In this case, bold colors and striking color combinations, simple symbols and fonts will create the strongest identity. Just remember, mobile operators have already discovered this and have created strong brand identities without even mentioning their own name in the branding.

8. Share backstage

The final photo report or video from an event does not always show the real picture. Go slightly further and show another side of the action: the preparation process, final rehearsal, first guests meeting, etc. Backstage is often perceived as something very personal, because you show what wasn’t seen by active participants at the event. In addition, these shots are valued by trade publications for which off-screen material is more important and more interesting than a traditional multimedia report.

9. Build relationships

Working with the media is a relationship. Start building that relationship right away. To start, simply show care and a serious attitude: Save an editor’s or journalist’s time by sending prepared and crafted material which corresponds to the style of the publication. Don’t try to include all the info about the event in a single press release. If additional info is needed, they will write or call to get details.

And, of course, keep a database of friendly media, including personal email addresses and phone numbers of editors and journalists that are open to you. They have to be first to receive the details of hot and fresh news about your projects. After all, the one who possesses information rules the world!


5 ways to motivate your team with recognition-rich meetings

Like some of our favorite superheroes who wore masks to avoid the spotlight, some of your best in-house talent are doing great work behind the scenes. Recognizing their efforts out of the spotlight is one of the best ways to keep your team motivated, as they chase those business wins both big and small! Ultimately, it’s all about building a culture of recognition in the workplace.

The importance of employee recognition is indisputable, so it’s crucial to prioritize recognition in the workplace. One of the best places to start with: The humble meeting.

You’ve probably had so many meetings in your lifetime, that you’ve quickly lost count. It’s because meetings are so regular and ubiquitous that they’re perfect opportunities to pioneer a better, stronger culture. So you know it’s worth doing, how are you going to get there?

Here are five tips for building a culture of recognition in the workplace through your meetings.

1. Cook up an appreciation sandwich

It’s as effective as it sounds delicious! An appreciation sandwich aims to start and conclude the meeting with opportunities to show appreciation to the team.

A good way to begin is through establishing the agenda and recognizing your team’s collective efforts in the broader business mission. Take time to identify how everyone’s work has pushed the team and the company as a whole closer to their goals.
Ultimately, you’re putting everyone’s efforts in context of the business vision and bringing everyone onto the same page.
Conclude the meeting with an opportunity for individual employees to identify wins from fellow team members. These moments of appreciation don’t have to be long. Rather, effective recognition requires regularity.

2. Bring everyone onboard

Culture begins with everyone. First and foremost, your managers aren’t omniscient beings, so it’s near impossible for them to catch everything. They won’t always be there to witness Sally’s nearly seamless software configuration or Dave’s accounting magic at it’s best come tax time—and they can’t be expected to witness everything.

Recognition from fellow employees means it’s easier to celebrate all of the wins—no more forgotten wins slipping through the cracks. Furthermore, many people often find peer recognition in the workplace the most rewarding.
The end of your meeting is a great time to give a quick shout-out and pat on the back to those legends that have gone above and beyond.

One way of collecting those wins is through a quick pre-meeting survey, giving everyone the chance to nominate people who they’ve seen doing great things that week. Creating a physical “wins” board is also a great option for recognizing everyone’s efforts and it becomes a conversation starter around the office.

3. Follow up with an actionable summary

The secret to brilliant meetings isn’t just about what happens within those minutes at the table. A successful meeting involves the following.

Everyone walks in knowing the agenda and objectives of the meeting.

Everyone walks away with greater knowledge, understanding and a clear direction to meeting team objectives. Excitement levels are high following a productive meeting, your next best steps are mapped out and your team is onboard to put your game plan into action.

Within 24 hours of your meeting coming to an end, it’s crucial to send a follow up email summarizing key points raised in the meeting—the sooner, the better! An actionable summary highlights the current situation, next best steps and team wins to celebrate.

4. Celebrate curiosity and learning

Investing in someone is a testament to your belief in their potential. You’re on their team, recognizing the blood, sweat and tears going into their work, appreciating their efforts and equipping them with the tools they need.

Ultimately, encouraging learning and development goes hand in hand with a recognition-rich workplace, so take the time in each meeting to check in with your self-motivated learners. Who’s taken time out of their week to “upskill” or recently completed a new certification or course?

Through encouraging curiosity and recognizing wins you’re motivating your team to go above and beyond and chase those business wins!

5. Always, always, say thank you

“Thank you” is one of those phrases parents will hammer into our heads from the time we’re little, yet it’s often overlooked and underrated. Saying thanks is a no-brainer for nurturing a culture of recognition in the workplace.

The secret to saying thanks the right way: Be specific. Identify the specific ways key individuals have gone the extra mile in the past week or month and thank them for their work. Often, big change can start simply with small words of gratitude.

At the end of the day…

Great business begins with great people. You’ve got the team together, so showing them you care and are on the same page with the same mission is a big motivator. When you’ve got your dream team together doing great work, everyone’s a winner—make sure they feel that way! How are you pursuing a stronger culture of recognition in the workplace?

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