Halal, Kosher and Celiac! OH MY!

August 12, 2009

BHoulihanBy Brenda Houlihan – Experient

Do you get the question, “Why are you a Meeting Planner?   For myself, it was an easy transition.  I was the youngest of five children in a large Irish Catholic family.  Honestly, daily meals were food and beverage functions and birthdays were special events.  I took the skills learned at an early age and expanded to a large family of corporate and association clients ranging from 1000 – 24,000 attendees.

The food and beverage policy at home was, “If it is served, you eat it!”  There was no discussion of whether you ate meat, pasta, carbs, fish and drank milk or water.  Growing up there was no concern with fat grams, fiber, sodium or choices due to convictions.  (My mom did go through a cost cutting period where she served Carnation Instant Milk.  A one-third cup serving of NESTLÉ CARNATION Instant Nonfat Dry Milk is rich in bone-building nutrients like calcium and Vitamin D, is a good source of protein, and is fat free.  Take it from me,  I drank a lot of water during that time.)

Gone are the days of meat and potatoes. Nothing could have prepared me for the international, religious or dietary requirement of today’s conferences.   In today’s multicultural world, food choices that were once considered obscure are now part of the mainstream. Now, conference producers need to be aware of all the reasons why people choose special diets ranging from religious practices and ideological beliefs, to allergies, special diets and food sensitivities.  Read the rest of this entry »


Food & Beverage Planning for a Greener and Cheaper Meeting

July 10, 2009

AHendersonWBy Amy Henderson, CMP Experient

When planning food and beverage for your convention, the first thing we generally consider is what we have to spend.  There are several great ways to ensure that you are spending somewhat less, making smarter choices and making a positive impact on the environment and the local community where your meeting is being held.
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Special Event – What about Bob?

July 7, 2009

BHoulihanBy Brenda Houlihan Experient

A key networking component of many conferences is the special event or gala. In the midst of planning, like most, I get tied up in the budget and tasks, forgetting it is suppose to be a fun and memorable event.

With so many different personalities in meeting planning.  It is very easy to forget the attendee demographic!  With one of my clients, I stress this and call it the “Bob” factor.  One of Experient’s Senior Managers is Bob, who embodies the age, education level, income, taste and travel experience of this group’s typical attendee.  Bob is a living, breathing example that I use during the planning process to solicit a typical attendee response.

Not all of us have a “Bob” at our disposal.  However, “Bob” is quite helpful as an example when the event organizer may be resorting to personal tastes rather than what “Bob” would respond to or enjoy.  Leave your personality and taste at the door and create a memorable event for “Bob” – your median expectation level.

A few years ago, I was working with a client on a gala dinner at an offsite venue in a resort destination.  I relied upon the client’s tastes versus the attendee demographics (aka Bob) and it did not produce the results we had hoped.  Lesson learned: the following year, we re-examined the group demographics.

Another helpful tip is I asked the client to offer three adjectives to describe their perfect event. The three words to describe the event were food, fun and activity. The sit down meal was replaced with action stations in one of the most popular nightclubs in Las Vegas.  The cost of the night club rental was reasonable because it was before they opened for the evening. After dinner, guests were treated to a Cirque du Soleil show. To say the least, the response was overwhelmingly positive.  Basically, it was all about Bob…and Bob was happy.

The Theme Police go back to High School!

June 29, 2009


By Karen Watson, CMPExperient

Ever wanted to go back to high school?  (Or absolutely not?)  Well, we did exactly that with our staff EnVision conference earlier this year.  Because our content was focused on getting back to the basics of our own products and services we decided to take our staff “back to school”.
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Go Green and Save Money Too!

June 26, 2009

AHendersonWBy Amy Henderson, CMP Experient

In this economic climate, we are all looking for ways to save money and definitely don’t want to do anything that is going to make our event cost any more.  Unfortunately, greening lands in that category for a lot of planners.  However, there are actually a lot of ways you can still be green and save money.

  • Eliminate the use of bottled waters.  Attendees tend to hoard them so your consumption, thus your cost, is higher and they create lots of extra waste.  Water coolers are proven to be the most cost effective way to go.
  • Order juices and other beverages, such as lemonade, by the gallon and not by the bottle.  You eliminate the extra waste of bottles and you save quite a bit of money. Using current pricing from a top-tier convention center, a bottle of juice costs $3.25 each.  A gallon of juice that can serve close to 18 people is $36 per gallon.  The bottled juice for about 18 people would cost $58.50 versus the $36 for the gallon of juice.
  • Collect your speakers’ presentations and post them to your website for your attendees to access instead of encountering all of the printing costs associated with having handouts available for everyone.  Eliminate paper waste.  Save huge.
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Getting the WOW without the WHOA!

June 23, 2009

BHoulihanBy Brenda Houlihan Experient

In today’s current economic conditions, are you trying to do more for less?  Many clients are forced to drastically cut budgets because events have become lightning rods for criticism. Does this mean that we have to abandon the WOW of a special event because we do not want to risk the WHOA of procurement or public opinion?

Most of my client’s conferences and events include a special event or gala, which are integral to creating networking opportunities or expanding bonding activities. Many companies are concerned about perception and want to steer away from conspicuous consumption. Trying to show financial responsibility, they are cutting decor, entertainment, as well as adding control mechanisms like drink tickets.  Does BACK to BASIC mean we need to abandon the WOW??
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Stop and Smell the Rose Geraniums

June 12, 2009

BHoulihanBy Brenda Houlihan – Experient

One of the perks of being an event manager is being invited to industry or vendor events.  It is a nice change of pace to be a guest or an attendee. 

I have to give kudos to one of our partners, Neil Schriver and Bryan Lavin at the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau.  Every client event is an event!   They think through the detail and think outside the box.  Each event is more imaginative and creative than the rest.  Not only is it a great networking event, I always walk away learning something. 

Most recently, The Providence Warwick CVB invited planners to “Create a Summer Full of  Flavor.”  The networking event took place at the Seven Arrows farm in Attleboro, MA.   It was such a nice break to get outside, away from the office or the car and be surrounded by green, lush, plants.   A world away from the lovely plastic orchid in my condo or the dead plant in my office.   A Zen ending to a rather busy day.

Seven Arrows is a magical “uncommon plant nursery” with a tea room, herb apothecary and a selection of rare and unusual plants.    Michel & Judy Marcellot, owners of the farm were the hosts of the program.  Judy gave a short biography of how she went from a Director of a non-profit organization to growing herbs and plants for a living.   She and her husband Michel wrote a book about herb gardens, which even got noted as recommended reading on OPRAH’s blog.   Read the rest of this entry »