Archive for Program Management & Event Design

Incentive Travel Trends and Journey Mapping

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Written by Tracy Norum, CMP, CIS | Director, Global Incentive Services

As 2017 sales incentive contests head into their final quarter and 2018 award trip planning starts to kick into high gear for a new and exciting season of winner incentive trips, it is a great time to get a sneak peek at M&IW’s leading incentive trends. I had the privilege of presenting on this topic at our recent Client Summit with Nicole Raudabaugh, CMP, CIS, Account Lead/Sr. Buyer, Global Incentive Services.

State of the Industry

To help us better understand the trends, let’s take a brief look at the state of the industry. Recent survey data illustrates how organizations have fully realized the role incentives play to engage their sales teams, employees and channel partners and their results in both bottom line and top-line growth. More than 84% of American companies use incentive programs. US firms alone invest more than $90 billion dollars annually in non-cash incentives such as incentive travel, merchandise and gift cards, according to IRF 2107 Trends Study & SITE Index 2017.

Journey Mapping

The stakes are higher and expectations greater. The incentive trip planner isn’t just planning an event, they are designing engaging experiences. And, not cookie-cutter, one size fits all – but rather experiences that match the energy flow of the group and the individual award winners. Personas and journey mapping is a hot new concept with incentive travel design.

The objective is to create a “Journey Map” based on personas as opposed to demographics. Identifying groups of people who share similar attitudes, behaviors and motivations and outline specific elements each day of the program based on the different personas’ appeal. For example, “Fit-to-Travel,” “All Things Social,” “Work B4 Play,” etc. Each persona values different elements so it critical to match the group activities and experiences with their journeys. Applying this principle to the travel incentive program design not only helps improve the attendee experience, but also the company’s bottom line.

An All Encompassing, Immersed Experience

As an industry, we are moving away from just providing “unique and WOW experiences” and moving toward total engagement. With the use of technologies from the mobile app experience to virtual reality, we can engage the qualifier before they even leave their doorstep. Experiential travel is now about fostering emotional attachment to the brand. Next-level experiences tap the true emotional engagement. Capturing the experiences from unique angles, such as drones or Go-Pro devices, provides lasting impressions long after the trip has concluded.

Destination 2018

The strength of the US dollar, has created a resurgence in international destinations. Tenerife/Canary Islands, southern France and less traveled areas of Italy are emerging as an exciting European alternative. Iceland, where the infrastructure is finally starting to catch up, is capturing the imagination of a true Icelandic expedition and discovery. Panama continues to grow in experiences and infrastructure.  Adventure hot spots are trending including Banff/Whistler, New Zealand, Costa Rica, and South Africa.

Giving Back is Not Going Away

Seventy percent of programs include a corporate social responsibility component and we expect that number to continue to grow. The industry has seen a definite uptick in the last three years and new types of experiences are popping up as a result. Tying a group activity or corporate team building to foster employee teamwork with the outcome of significantly stimulating income generation for people in a developing country is the top of the list. Attendees not only want to have a great experience themselves, but want to leave a destination knowing they made an impact in the community and world.

Health and Fitness

Health and fitness is becoming an increasing element of every program. Healthy meal options, allowing time for workouts, group activities that focus on wellness events, and gifting experiences that include athletic wearables, sneakers, yoga mats, on-site personalized athletic wear and classes are all the rage.

In summary, incentive travel programs still need to be life-affirming, jaw-dropping and create memories that connect to a bigger purpose. Being memorable and exclusive hasn’t changed. However, what is trending is how the incentive planner’s role involves creating “personalized” journeys that ignites the senses, recognizes stellar achievements, and inspires winners to work even harder to be part of your elite incentive trip year after year!

Want to learn more about journey mapping and the newest incentive industry trends as well as take away some trip ideas to implement into your 2018 program? Join our Global Incentives Services team in November for our Incentive Trends webinar where we will go into greater detail on this topic and much, much more!

 

Posted in: Company News, Event Marketing & Communications, Incentive Travel Programs, Program Management & Event Design, Sourcing, Negotiating & Contracting

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The Art and Science of Data for Meetings Management

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Written by Marie Johnson, CMP | Director of Marketing and Strategy

Data is key to a successful meetings management program. But the larger question is how to make sense of the data and gain insights to drive decisions that can positively impact your organization. This is where the art and science aspect comes into play. Data science is about methods, processes, and systems to extract knowledge from data in various forms. More sophisticated analytical skills also require more sophisticated visual presentation skills. It is important to combine elements of design, such as harmony, rhythm, flow, balance, and focus, together in appropriate proportions to convey the messages in interesting and informative ways that grab and keep the attention of your audience.

In practice, the art of data for meetings management is often a team sport. The creative process includes divergent thinking, which involves the generation of multiple answers to a problem; conceptual blending, in which solutions arise from the intersection of different frames of reference; and, honing, in which an acceptable solution emerges from iterating over many successive unacceptable versions of the solution. The art is the ability to bring together individuals with diverse backgrounds, look at things differently, and solve real business challenges.

Then there is this idea of “big data.” But, what exactly is it and how does it relate to meetings management? In 2001, Gartner analyst Doug Laney came up with the famous three V’s of volume, variety and velocity of data that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis. In 2011, Gartner expanded this to definition of data management. “Big data” is high-volume, -velocity and -variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making.

But it’s not the amount of data that’s most important. It is what organizations do with their data that matters. Business Intelligence (BI) technologies can handle large amounts of structured and sometimes unstructured data to help identify, develop and otherwise create new strategic business opportunities. They also provide a historical, current and predictive view of business operations. Whereas business intelligence comprises the set of strategies, processes, applications and technical architectures used to support the collection, data analysis, presentation and dissemination of business information.

Recently, Lisa Palmeri, Vice President of Global Enterprise Solutions with Meetings & Incentives Worldwide and Linsey Giant, Technical Event Consultant with Anthem, presented on this topic at Cvent Connect 2017. Specifically, they focused on leveraging BI tools with Cvent and shared their knowledge of meeting management applications such as; team management and workload distribution, benchmarking and strategic decision-making. They discussed the business information that can be gained from meeting data and how to apply those insights and make an impact in your organization. They stressed that acting upon the insights is imperative.

So, the question we are often asked by our clients is how to get started, connect data, tell a story and benefit their organization’s meetings management goals. “In response to an ever-increasing need for business insights, BI software has flooded the market. And, with the benefits of BI being numerous and the cost of not having BI growing, it is easy to want to quickly adopt a solution,” said Mona Lebied, Online Marketing with Datapine. But, she also cautions this approach could be disastrous and investing in BI shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Understanding what drives success in your organization is tough stuff, and you should not expect to get it right the first time. It is an iterative process. And, before you get started you need a strategy and roadmap if you are looking to launch and manage your business intelligence. Even the best BI software needs some initial heavy lifting to maximize its potential. It involves stakeholders, sponsors, technology, data cleansing, KPIs, the right tool and/or partner, and a phased approach according to Lebied.

M&IW was on the verge of working with a third party to create a data warehouse. However, what we learned is that the effort is always in construction. ETL (Extract, Transform and Load) is a process in data warehousing responsible for pulling data out of the source systems, normalizing the data, cleaning, applying filters, loading it into the data repository for other reporting applications and then pulling data to run queries,” said Lisa.

Duplicating the data in a DW and transporting data from multiple sources to a centralized repository eats up network bandwidth and time and consumes endless CPU cycles in the transformation process. Whereas, in a BI system, you leave the data in the sources where it exists. BI without a DW is a valid approach for some organizations if you trust the raw data in your systems. You are then essentially creating a virtualized data warehouse environment that allows for continuous data loading for dynamic elements that can render real-time dashboards and scorecards. You are not dealing with huge volumes of data. You are extracting only what you need to answer the business question at hand.

There are a lot of BI technologies in the marketplace and this is not an endorsement of any one tool. We determined DOMO to be the best solution based on our needs and requirements. One of the benefits of using DOMO is early “dirty data” detection. We can apply business rules to a meeting request and see if the results don’t look right at the time of extract. This helps to ensure the data is going in correctly.

Columns and rows are great for storing data, but not for telling stories. Whereas the Domo card builder interprets the data and suggests how to visualize it for maximum impact and clarity. Or, a multitude of other options for charts, cards and more are available essentially making complex data sets consumable and meaningful for answering a specific business question. Dynamic cards allow for instant filtering, date range updates and can be readily shared.

By way of example, let’s say we want to answer what was the average hotel rate for programs held in the United States in 2016? We source thousands of hotels representing hundreds of thousand contracted room nights annually. For this exercise, Domo is connected to three data sources, two through Cvent and one flat file in a financial system. Those three data sources are 579 MBs of flow. And, after the output it represents only 21MBs which is much more manageable.

Because it notifies us of missing data points, null values, or invalid data, nothing falls through the cracks. In our example above, the average negotiated domestic rate was showing as $277. But, a quick look at the data revealed that one rate was not divided by the number of individuals so the real average, once the anomaly was fixed, was $198. That is the beauty of having that level of data transparency. There is lots of information we can glean to make decisions. When we look at cost savings, we save the most on sleeping rooms. However, we can dig deeper to see where are the best opportunities for additional savings for our clients.

Another benefit for us as a third-party is scheduling and assigning workload. We can get a view of our team to see when we have multiple resources out and time constraints to work around. This helps us ensure we are responsive to our clients by assigning an individual that has the bandwidth to fully support the request and meet the deadline. Domo also assists us in continuing to provide world class sourcing services and outperform our competition by using it as a performance monitoring tool in looking at the number of projects per buyer, average hours to contract, cost savings achieved, and more to ensure they are exceeding established goals. “Our clients expect us to be as efficient and productive as possible. And, having a BI strategy and software platform helps us drive results based on facts. It is an iterative process. The more you learn, the more application it has and the more opportunities you have to use it,” said Lisa.

Because of interest we received at Cvent Connect regarding this topic, Lisa presented a follow up webinar in June. It was the first of a two-part series and will be available on demand soon. Or, if you are interested in receiving copy of the presentation or connecting with Lisa, email us at marketing@meetings-incentives.com. The second webinar will take place in September so stay tuned for more information.

 

Posted in: Company News, Data Analytics, Business Intelligence & Consulting, Event Technology & Mobility Solutions, Program Management & Event Design, Sourcing, Negotiating & Contracting

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ROI of Event Sponsorship: Stakeholders vs. Sponsors

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Written by Jill Pearson | Manager, Digital Marketing and Media

Sponsorship, by definition, is the financial or material support of an event, activity or organization by an unrelated partner. Sponsoring a relevant event is a great way to increase brand awareness and strengthen relationships. This, in turn, helps generate consumer preference and foster brand loyalty. A company can reinforce awareness among its target market by sponsoring an event that attracts a desired target market. A sponsorship can be a meaningful part of a brands success, but also material to an event’s success.

Sponsoring an event is no means an act of charity – they must show some form of positive return on investment (ROI) for both stakeholders and sponsors. With ROI in mind, we would like to explore two separate perspectives in the sponsorship journey: the event stakeholder and the sponsoring organization.

As we near M&IW Campus Week, our annual company event, we reflect on the role of our industry partners. From an event stakeholder viewpoint, sponsors are of the utmost importance as they not only help to generate revenue for the event itself, but also offset costs for items that will enhance the overall attendee experience. For example, because of our platinum sponsors, we are including live meeting analytics from Educational Measures, over-the-top decor and style concepts from Kehoe Designs, professional event production from DMP and collaborative team building sessions from Banding People Together.

While sponsor and exhibitor relationships are key to these types of events, they can also be tricky to manage. To be successful, it is crucial to understand what matters most to the sponsoring organization. Do they prefer promotional opportunities leading up to the event, brand visibility on the registration site, advertising on a mobile app, relationship building with key contacts, ability to present at the event or sit on an industry panel, and of course, being able to connect with attendees post event.

You want to ensure they receive a solid return from their both investment and participation so that they continue to sign on year after year. And, it is also important to make sure that the sponsors and exhibitors selected are a good fit for the audience. Otherwise, the attendees will feel like the event was “sold” without consideration of their interests and time. Because we provide hotel sourcing and contracting services for our clients, hotels and resorts are a perfect fit. In fact, we have three platinum sponsors in this category: Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide and Rosewood.

Likewise, sponsoring organizations need to know that the audience is a fit for them. “To be successful, our employees need to be knowledgeable about new products, event-related services, hot destinations and more says Lindsay Perez, Assistant Manager, Program Management for Global Operations. She explains that “event sponsors and exhibitors gain valuable face time with those who have their ‘boots on the ground’ so to speak. They benefit from a rare opportunity to get in front of the individuals that use their services. Or, from a more general standpoint, individuals who may have key input, make recommendations to our clients or are involved in the decision-making process. It’s an overall win for the attendees and the sponsors, alike.”

A lot of organizations, including ours, use a tiered system to help differentiate the level of exposure or marketing that an organization will receive based on their support. This helps the hosting organization to keep the playing field level and manage expectations of the sponsoring and exhibiting companies.

“While it’s beneficial to participate as an exhibitor in the Supplier Showcase to network and make personal introductions, being a sponsor brings this educational value to the next level. It gives the organization an opportunity to be front and center of all M&IW employees and a chance to highlight the value they can offer to us, as a company, and to our clients,” explained Vicki Schmitz, HMCC, Senior Manager of Hotel Procurement. This is especially true for companies that have just started working with M&IW, a sponsorship can help them foster relationships and generate business opportunities faster.

We also have industry partners like Marriott International that have participated for several years. So, we asked Elizabeth Moynihan. CMP, Global Account Executive, her thoughts on the criteria her team uses when deciding to become a sponsor? Elizabeth responded, “Marriott values our long-term global partnership with M&IW. As strategic partners, we understand the importance and mutual benefit of sponsoring Campus Week. We take many components into consideration when determining our level of support. The opportunity for our hotel partners and GSO to engage face-to-face, and further cultivate and strengthen relationships is invaluable. We enjoy participating in Campus Week annually, and appreciate the opportunity to be a platinum sponsor.”

Our M&IW Campus Week taking place August 21-24, 2017 which includes our Client Summit and Supplier Showcase is the one time of year we bring together in one place our talented associates, valued clients, and industry partners. If you are interested in learning more about sponsor opportunities still available, please email us at marketing@meetings-incentives.com and we will send you the prospectus.

 

 

Posted in: Company News, Conferences & Tradeshows, Data Analytics, Business Intelligence & Consulting, Event Marketing & Communications, Program Management & Event Design, Sourcing, Negotiating & Contracting

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Dissecting Effective Event Design

By Anne Zambrano | Manager, Communications and Creative Services

When the novice planner is asked about the purpose of event design the answer is typically to make the room look good and create a pleasant environment. A fine answer, but is that really all there is to effective event design?

“Not at all, event design should be all encompassing and have purpose which is generally to create an environment that conveys the message and the theme of the event while staying true to the program’s overall objectives. Whether the event is a celebration, awards ceremony, meal function, workshop or general session there is always a message that needs to be conveyed. The audience does not solely listen with their ears, but they also ‘listen’ with their sight, their sense of smell, their touch, and sometimes even their sense of taste. Successful event design encompasses all the senses to produce an environment that clearly conveys the message of the program and achieves the goals. It is about engagement not simply making the room look good,” explains Alexander deHilster, Senior Event Designer with Meetings & Incentives Worldwide.

At M&IW, Alexander and his team work collaboratively with our clients and event design partners to do exactly that. In the true collective spirit of M&IW, we asked one of our long-term event design partners to provide some additional insight on effective event design.

Timot McGonagle, Senior Event Designer of Kehoe Designs, reiterated Alexander’s point with the following thoughts and tips:

The Benefits of Effective Event Design:

1. Creates an emotional attachment that produces a more permanent and lasting impression on the guests ultimately creating greater return on experience for the guests.
2. Allows the guest to feel physically part of the event while it is happening evoking the important emotional connection with every event.
3. Increases learning and aids with retention since all the attendees’ senses are engaged they can hold attention longer resulting in increased retention overall.
4. Clearly conveys the message of the event and leaves no room for interpretation.

When asked about how to attack effect event design, Timot gave the following response. “Current trends lean toward an immersive experience. Boundaries between individual event disciplines are very blurry. For instance, we see more and more that audio visual, décor, food & beverage all play a role in event design. A screen is no longer solely used to communicate content, but can be a visual work of art or message board for the program’s objectives. True event design is working in a cohesive manner and blending all facets of the event to reach the objective.”

Alexander and Timot also both agree that it is best to be in close contact with the client to discover goals and request all materials on event from graphic support, theme, messaging, and anything else that can inspire the design. Ultimately the design reflects the nuances of the message.

Do’s and Don’ts from our Senior Event Designers include:

1. Do conduct a site visit before designing. Each project has its own energy as does every space. Immersed in the actual venue helps to bring out the creative vision.
2. Do make every detail count! Find a few details and layer them for a more cohesive event.
3. Do Utilize elements that will play to all the senses.
4. Do hire professionals to get the most value out of your investment.
5. Don’t make event design an afterthought. Bring all the team players together early in the process.
6. Don’t forget to discuss budget up front. There are many ways to approach event design. And, budget often determines the right path to start.

Posted in: Company News, Conferences & Tradeshows, Event Marketing & Communications, Program Management & Event Design

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4 Key Trends in Medical Meetings

Medical_Meetings_Cropped_BlogWritten by Naomi Tucker, CMP, HMCC | Senior Strategic Account Manager

Meeting management professionals have a unique role when it comes to the planning and execution of medical meetings. From ensuring the compliance of the healthcare professionals, to reporting and staying on top of trends, there are many complexities. The world of medical meetings can be hard to absorb, especially when the landscape is continually changing. This years’ Pharma Forum brought forth many differing perspectives and highlighted the trends that are occurring within the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry. Below are a few that I see as particularly important in the world of medical meetings.

Content is King

Yes, content is still king. However, we learned content can get complacent. That is why many pharmaceutical companies have a renewed focus on delivering the right content in the right manner to healthcare professionals. It is also important to note that the way content is being received is changing. Healthcare meetings are now becoming more engaging, encouraging the attendees to be more than spectators at their events. This can be achieved with specific meeting technology that is focused on enhancing attendee participation. For example, Educational Measures and MeetingPlay are both applications that can be used to increase engagement at meetings and make them more lively, inspiring, and interactive. This trend is making the consumption of content more desirable by the attendees through interaction and delivering more value to the organizations.

Is there an App for That?

There is an increase in the usage of mobile applications in medical meetings. No longer are attendees subject to waiting until the day of their event to interact with others attending the meeting. Attendees can have increased interaction with their peers and industry colleagues through mobile applications, and usage is on the rise. Mobile platforms such as Attendify and Crowdcompass help elevate the experience of events. Customized agendas, person-to-person chat forums, speaker bios, and activity pages are all common elements of these apps that are a value add for any medical meeting. If you are a meeting professional that hasn’t used a mobile app, be prepared for this trend coming to your medical meeting soon.

The Expanding World of China

Working on medical meetings in China, in the past, have been few and far between. However, now many pharmaceutical and life sciences companies are expanding within the country of China. This new landscape is creating more opportunities for face-to-face interactions, and in turn, more medical meetings. Not only will the meeting professional have to be well-versed in the compliance restrictions and regulations, they will also have to ensure they are up-to-speed on the cultural phenomena of planning medical meetings in that area of the world, as well.

Mergers and Acquisitions

We are seeing an increase of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) for companies within the life sciences and pharmaceutical industry. At times, these changes within the structure of organizations can create a gap in which third-party meeting planning agencies can help fill. There are also complexities in how medical meetings come together within the new organization. It is helpful to know about the intended change whether it be a merger or acquisition to ensure the meeting you are planning is taking in to account all types of attendees and collecting the compliance-related information needed for the event or conference to be successful.

Looking Forward

It is important to have a constant flow of knowledge, education and peer support to help balance unprecedented changes, tackle tough regulations, and stay on top of trends. With the changing landscape in this highly-related niche industry, working with professionals who specialize in the nuances of medical meetings can greatly alleviate challenges in the long run and create successful, engaging and effective outcomes.

Posted in: Company News, Event Technology & Mobility Solutions, Pharmaceutical, Medical and HCP Compliance, Program Management & Event Design

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Beyond Features: A More Comprehensive Look at Mobile Apps

Mobile Apps Events

Written by Tim LaFleur, CMP | Director, Mobile Solutions & Strategy

At M&IW, we are extremely proud of the fact that we have consistently been a top consultant provider when it comes to making the most out of your meeting and event application. When I took on the role of Director of Mobile Solutions & Strategy to lead M&IW’s initiative, I knew we would need to go beyond the basic app features, utilize our comprehensive understanding of event operations, and dive deep into clients specific needs to create a service that has since become best practice in the industry.

Our process is to look beyond the feature and to not take it at face value. We evaluate the various app sections as buckets of functionality independent from their face value functionality (i.e. speakers, schedule, sponsors, etc.). Thinking about a section in terms of the functions that a module holds, opens a world of possibilities to create something special for the client.

The best app consultancy services think in terms of a three-pronged stool and if one of the legs falls short, the stool is bound to be off balance and fall apart. Each leg is represented by an area of competency including utilizing a superior app technology platform where the functionality contained within each module is dynamic; the understanding of events and how various event aspects may depend or seamlessly flow into one another; and a keen awareness of our client’s specific needs and overall event objectives. Being uniquely positioned to understand all three components of the three-pronged stool, allows the users to take full advantage of the application’s platform and intended purpose. Taking time to vet and ask many questions about the platforms will allow for a level understanding similar to that of the technology provider themselves. Combined with a unique perspective on apps and knowledge of how the meetings and events flow, allows for a unique vantage point to craft the apps for a client. In the end, we have not simply filled in the individual features, but a technology solution that solves the mobile needs of a conference has been developed.

To illustrate a best-practice approach consider the following:

Social Features and Social Walls. Consider this feature question, “Does the attendee’s post go to social media with a specific hashtag and then pulled back down by the social wall to display on a screen or does the social wall bring attendees posts over without having to go out into social media?” The first scenario may pose confidentiality and security concerns. Additionally, does the social wall display pictures and text together as it was submitted on the feed or does it separate out various post elements. Based on how these questions are answered determines how the specific feature can be utilized and if the technology is a fit for the specific event.

If we simply check the box stating the app supports social wall and do not ask how, we are short-changing the potential use or functionality. Perhaps an event organizer wanted a social wall, but there were privacy concerns and it was assumed that the posts flowed through social media without understanding the functionality of the feature and because of that basic assumption the feature was not utilized. Where in reality the feature could have been utilized while maintaining privacy if the execution of feature was discovered and right platform selected.

Interactive Floor Plan. If the floor plan features utilize heat mapping or pin dropping to outline the location of a room this leads to other questions that affect the attendee experience with this feature. For example, will heat mapping adequately map a room that is not a standard square or rectangle? If there is a ballroom that is used in the morning for general session, but then breakouts later in the day, how does the heat mapped area handle that layering or is there the need to create multiple maps to illustrate?

When considering a pin system think about the following. An attendee is looking at the maps, can they tell which pin is which and distinguish between ones that are clustered together? This is similar to the pin drop conundrum in a geolocation map section as well as a floor plan section. Does the technology provider have the ability to filter out by type, view in list or search by a particular name? The answers to all the questions, regardless of if it is macro or micro function to the app, affect the way it operates, the attendee experience and the way that we consult with our clients. In short, there is no question too trivial since the answer can have a profound effect on event design and the attendee experience. Knowing the right questions to ask is developed over time and with experience.

Next time you are tasked with implementing a mobile app for your program, consider the following:

  • Does the app provider I am partnering with provide dynamic feature functionality and what elements flow together and interact?
  • Does this technology solve the three main “must haves” identified in this article that drive our event design and attendee experience?
  • Do I feel comfortable with the app, because if not, chances are my attendees won’t either?
  • Do I understand and are we utilizing the features to their full functionality to address our event technology needs or are we simply taking the features at face value?

These four simple questions will open a world of opportunities for better communication efficiency, a more engaged audience, and greater return on your next program.

Posted in: Company News, Conferences & Tradeshows, Data Analytics, Business Intelligence & Consulting, Event Marketing & Communications, Event Technology & Mobility Solutions, Program Management & Event Design

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Practice Gratitude at Your Live Events

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Written by Anne Zambrano | Manager, Communications & Creative Services

“Thanksgiving seems like a holiday that is as American as apple pie, or pumpkin pie for that matter. However, there are variants of this day all around the world. Their meanings, dates and customs may have different nuances, but they all revolve around the concept of gratitude,” said Kristy Puchko in her article How Seven Other Nations Celebrate Thanksgiving.

Although most of the U.S. population celebrates an official day of gratitude called Thanksgiving– Native Americans have always had a deep tradition of routinely giving thanks. For those that practice gratitude on a consistent basis, you experience the positive energy it brings into your daily routine. And, if you take it one step further by practicing gratitude with the masses, it can truly be life-changing.

At M&IW, our purpose is to transform organizations through live meetings and events. We believe seamless and engaging experiences capitalize on the need for human connections. We also believe that the energy that is generated when people come together is when the magic happens.

Now, what if we were to take the collective human energy in a live event scenario and turn it into gratitude? Can you imagine the impact it might have at your conference or national sales meeting? As professional event planners, we are well-aware that what keeps individuals coming back to live meetings and events is the experience. And, the experience is more often how the participant feels versus what they think about the event.

CSR programs have done wonders for the experience at events. So, why don’t we bring the concept of practicing gratitude together into an event setting more often? Why not create environments, activities and space for attendees to practice gratitude and make the experience truly unforgettable?

Here are five tips for practicing gratitude at your next event:

1. Gratitude Event Hashtag – Consider a special hashtag that gives participants an avenue to say what they are thankful for during your event and then display the social stream at monitors around the conference. The hashtag can be as simple as the meeting name with “Thankful For” or “Moments of Gratitude” at the end of it. For instance, #Meeting2017ThankfulFor or #Meeting2017MomentsofGratitude.

2. Gratitude Wall – Construct a portable wall in a common space or designate a gratitude wall where attendees are free to write moments of gratitude. Simply title the wall, “Today, I am thankful for…” and watch the wall fill up with moments that will make you laugh, moments that may bring a tear and moments that leaving you feeling full of gratitude.

3. Keynote Speaker on Practicing Gratitude –Hire a speaker that has a story of gratitude and shares strategies to incorporate practicing gratitude into one’s daily habits. These stories are inspirational, motivational and participants use tips to bring these habits into their daily routine.

4. Be Still Space – Consider creating a space where attendees can practice stillness on demand. A quiet area with soft seating. Hang inspirational sayings and thoughts of appreciation to inspire thoughts of gratitude during stillness.

5. Gratitude Signs – Create signage that has moments of gratitude written on them and spread them through the event space. As attendees walk from session to session, they will catch moments to be thankful for which may inspire those same thoughts among the participants.

When the purpose of these environments and activities are promoted appropriately to the participants, the impact on how participants feel about a conference, meeting or event can be enormous. Attendees may not even be able to express the experience in words, but the feeling that they get may be enough to make for an amazing experience. What’s more, it is a well-known fact, when people practice gratitude they are more open to new information and able to retain new concepts easier because their mind and hearts are open.

Posted in: Company News, Conferences & Tradeshows, Event Marketing & Communications, Event Technology & Mobility Solutions, Incentive Travel Programs, Program Management & Event Design

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Why Certify? A Closer Look at the Value of the CIS

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Written by Anne Zambrano | Manager, Communications & Creative Services

As members of M&IW’s Global Procurement team and Incentive Buyers descend upon Las Vegas (aka Sin City) for #IMEX16, we thought we would take a closer look at the Certified Incentive Specialist (CIS) and the value this designation brings our team and our clients. In my discovery, I had the privilege to interview select members of our Global Incentive & Event Services team, specifically Tracy Norum, CMP, CIS, Director; Beth Reetz, CIS, Senior Incentive Buyer; and Senior Program Managers, Cara Turkowski, CIS and Katie Wiesner, CIS.

Let’s hear what they had to say….

A More Knowledgeable and Connected Team

By an overwhelming majority, one of the first benefits served up by each team member was that the CIS designation brought with it a new and valuable network of fellow incentive travel professionals. Cara put it best when she stated, “The class for the certification was a really great way to connect with others in the industry. It is especially helpful when planning international programs, as there are many destination management companies from around the world involved. It reassures me when partnering with them that they take incentive programs as serious as we do.”

The certification process brought incentive professionals with varied experience levels and skill sets together. The group cited that they learned a great deal simply by sharing best practices with each other during the course. Additionally, the more seasoned professionals, such as our M&IW team members, were called upon to share their insights and experiences with the group. This allowed for different vantage points from all around the world.

Katie pointed out that on a day-to-day basis the resources made available to CIS designees are extremely beneficial. The reference materials and newsletters keep the team current on destinations, new hot properties, popular CSR activities and industry insights.

A Confident Client

Clients have more confidence that our team is dedicated to incentives. Holding the designation helps M&IW stand out in the global marketplace. Prospective and current clients have noticed the CIS designation at the end of their names and it has sparked conversations about the credentials and dedication to staying educated in the field and building strong worldwide relationships. Tracy explains, “Obtaining the certification shows our commitment to staying on top of the industry. It holds the industry to a set of professional standards and shows that we are pursuing relevant education and looking to the future needs of our incentive clients.”

Beth shared that it has been very helpful having the designation when sourcing incentive programs. Suppliers in the industry recognize and respect the credentials and treat you as a knowledgeable buyer. This allows the buying and negotiation process to be more effective for our clients’ programs and giving them more confidence in the sourcing and contracting process. All in all, the amount of detail and planning that goes into an incentive program takes an experienced and knowledgeable buyer and having the CIS allows the team to perform at a higher level for our clients.

A Satisfied Employee

Investing in employees continuing education goes far deeper than the benefits it brings; it creates a culture of satisfied and fulfilled employees. M&IW has always valued and promoted industry certifications for their employees illustrated by the 65% of planners and account management at M&IW who hold either a CIS, CMP, CMM, HMCC, etc. This focus helps M&IW create promotable associates leading to a more satisfied and productive team. Cara spoke from her first-hand experience when she stated, “It has really opened a lot of doors for me and allowed me to manage more elite incentive programs. The whole experience has changed the way I approach incentive program design and execution.”

“The CIS designation is important for developing incentive professionals as it demonstrates proficiency in the fundamentals of motivational programs. It is helping to raise the quality of professionals in the incentive industry. At M&IW, we believe it shows to our clients and our associates that M&IW truly cares and invests in the professional development and advancement of our team.” Tracy Norum, CMP, CIS.

A Final Thought

Obtaining designations such as the CIS take time and investment, however, the return is multi-faceted. Invest in your employees’ education and they will invest more in your clients and be leaders among their peers when sharing best practices and resources.

Posted in: Event Marketing & Communications, Incentive Travel Programs, Program Management & Event Design, Sourcing, Negotiating & Contracting

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Collaboration Rocks

Written by Anne Zambrano | Manager, Communications and Creative Services

So you think you know how to collaborate and “work well together”? Maybe.

Or maybe, you are all just cooperating…

You see, “If you aren’t aligned, you are not collaborating, you are simply cooperating.”

Take a rock band for instance. If the band is not in harmony playing as one, the music suffers and the entire experience is a flop. In fact, a lot more can be learned about collaboration from the rock star analogy because collaboration ROCKS, literally.

At our recent annual meeting, Campus Week 2016, our experience with Banding People Together made collaboration ROCK. These behaviorist rock stars truly understand how to immerse the participants in an experience that teaches them true collaboration and has them leaving the event with a better understanding of themselves, those around them and how to be a little less Gaga and a bit more Jimmy when needed.

Let me explain…

Banding People Together is out to change the way we conduct our events and they are doing so in a fun and unique way. Using their dynamic rock star personalities, musical talents and proven methodology on collaboration, they focus on organizational alignment and awareness. They are taking what they have learned from what is arguably the most volatile collaborative environment – rock bands and entertainment – and are bringing it to the corporate world through meetings and events. You see they believe, true collaboration is a skill that can be taught, developed, shared and measured. And after what we experienced, I believe they are spot on.

So, what are some of the great takeaways?

First, it’s all about the experience. Having a rock band on stage instead of a presenter flipping through presentation slides talking at the audience is way cooler to say the least. What’s more, it is more experiential, meaning the participants will retain the material and experience the content firsthand. Music affects us in ways our conscious mind can’t even begin to understand. Think of THAT song, the one that whenever you hear it, you are brought back to an EXACT moment in time instantly. Exactly.

Rock stars are cool. Strategist rock stars are cooler. I am likely speaking for everyone in the room when I say it was enthralling to be around such amazing talent on stage. The artists of Banding People Together were uber-talented, yet what was more impressive was their ability to use music and entertainment analogies in an intelligent way to create an awareness and understanding among the attendees. Breaking down the group by rock star personas based on several work styles was far more effective and easier to understand than any other personality assessment I have experienced. When I now tell my co-workers to please excuse my direct manner because I am a “Frank,” it makes a lot more sense to them versus explaining that my MBTI type is ENTP.

Easy to understand equals easy to use. It has been fascinating to me in the week following our experience with Banding People Together how many times I have heard the phrases, “It must be the Gaga in me” or “I am all Jimmy today.” This may seem silly, but in reality it is really changing our culture and collaborative efforts for the better by bringing awareness into the group with the use of these simple phrases. At M&IW, we already had an amazingly collaborative culture, but now, there is a level of understanding and alignment that was not present before. It is making conversations more fluid and productive and changing how everyone shows up to the task at hand.

Collaborative insanity hinders productivity. Simply telling people to work well together or simply uttering the words, “we work well together,” without practicing true collaboration is doing more harm than good. The five dysfunctions of a team, as defined by Patrick Lencioni, are the absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. You may think or want to believe your team “works well together,” but what dysfunctions are present and how are you addressing them? Teaching your team to be truly collaborative is a step in the right direction and doing so in a manner that is extremely effective is invaluable.

True collaboration can change the world. There is one thing Alan Schaefer, Founder/CEO of Banding People Together, said in my first encounter with him that really stands out in my mind. He said, “the work we do is our way of impacting humanity in a whole different way. If we can change the workplace for the better, then we can change the family dinner table for the better which impacts families, impacts communities and the world.” Wow! What an amazing thought. It is very true. We spend 90,000 hours at work on average over our lifetime, and a large percentage of workers are dissatisfied with their jobs. More than 13 million working days are lost every year because of stress-related illnesses. Imagine the impact this is having on our families and our communities. What if we all liked our jobs just a bit more and found a little less stress in them every day if we simply learned how to truly collaborate with each other. Maybe it is time to learn how to show up to the table aligned and aware? It really could change the world.

All in all, our experience with Banding People Together rocked. We look forward to partnering with them to change the world…or at least meetings as we know them today.

As Banding People Together would say…

ROCK ON!

 

Posted in: Company News, Conferences & Tradeshows, Event Marketing & Communications, Program Management & Event Design

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M&IW Campus Week Brings Industry Leading Content

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Written by Anne Zambrano | Manager, Communications and Creative Services

During the M&IW Client Summit on Thursday, September 8, our resident subject matter experts will be leading engaging roundtable discussions designed to Go the Distance for today’s travel and event professional. We had the opportunity to catch a sneak peek of the topics and presenters. Here is a highlight of what they told us in our one-on-one interviews:

Tech Talk
Hosted by Tim LaFleur, CMP, Director, Mobile Strategy and Global Procurement – Suppliers & Chip Begley, Manager, Program Website & Mobile App Services, IT & Web Design

Our techies plan to cover two extremely hot topics that still cause a bit of confusion and mystery for most planners – Mobile Apps and WiFi/Internet.  Many planners want to know the variety of features and how various solution providers manages those features. When it comes to App solutions the devil is in the details and the details can make or break an effective meeting app. Similarly, there is so much still to learn about WiFi. Our tech experts will demystify the often confusing and misunderstood topic to allow planners to better manage internet needs for their meetings and events.

Participants will take away some basic next level thinking and be able to answer, “What does this all mean for me the planner?” This discussion will dive deep into the practicality of the topic by covering all the considerations that go along with it that can affect your work, the app and the attendee experience.

Talk Tech goes the distance by going further and digging deeper into a commonly discussed topic and challenge for today’s planners.  Much of the discussion that people are having regarding these topics only go about halfway leaving all sides without the proper understanding about what the other is saying.  This engaging roundtable discussion will aim to “Go the Distance” to create good, enriching and intelligent conversations about these topics where there hasn’t necessarily been in the past.

Event Planning Trends and Best Practices
Hosted by Christine Matias, MA, Director, Global Program Management Services, Steve Lorenz, CMP, HMCC, Senior Program Manager, Global Meeting Services & Ella Darby, Program Manager, Global Program Management Services

Our Event Planning Specialists will cover a plethora of topics during their engaging roundtable discussion from paperless meetings to shorter lead times and from the latest F&B trends to virtual meetings. Participants will leave with a great overview of the current trends affecting the industry and a better understanding of how we can all collaborate together to keep up with and change alongside them.

Event Planning Trends and Best Practices goes the distance by bringing to light current trends and trends on the horizon. Planners need to know where these trends are headed to know which road will help them “Go the Distance.”

Small Meeting Hotel Contracting
Hosted by Vicki Schmitz, VICKI SCHMITZ, HMCC, Manager, Global Procurement – Hotels

Small Meeting Hotel Contracting will reveal best practices in contracting specifically for small meetings. A high percentage of our client’s meetings are 75 guest rooms on peak or less and in most cases, these meetings have less than three months of lead time. During this engaging discussion, we will offer best practices that have helped today’s small meeting planner streamline the contracting process in order to expedite the final contract and give our clients the tools and resources to effectively prepare and plan for a successful meeting. Our featured hotel partners will disclose how they manage their small meeting contracts so participants will get an inside look from the hotelier viewpoint leading to a real discussion on ways to collaborate together to achieve success on both sides.

The audience will learn ways their industry partners are handling short term meetings and be able to take some of these ideas back to their own team to implement. In most cases, we all face the same challenges – especially in a seller’s market.   From a sourcing perspective, we all run into similar obstacles… limited availability, competitive rates and less flexibility.

Go the Distance is a constant theme for Sourcing. Buyers continue to strive to find clients the best possible options for their meetings to assist in achieving their meeting goals. We continuously work with our hotel partners to find the best possible fit and pricing. Understanding the dynamics from all angles and how to best collaborate together is where we all can “Go the Distance.”

Posted in: Company News, Conferences & Tradeshows, Data Analytics, Business Intelligence & Consulting, Event Marketing & Communications, Event Technology & Mobility Solutions, Incentive Travel Programs, Pharmaceutical, Medical and HCP Compliance, Program Management & Event Design, Sourcing, Negotiating & Contracting

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