Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Email etiquette tip: the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) field

Here's an email etiquette tip some may not know: when you CC: (Carbon Copy) an email to a list of unrelated contacts from your regular account, it is considered to be poor etiquette. This is because all who receive the email will then be able to view each other's private email addresses. Your contacts may or may not wish to have their personal or work email broadcast far and wide, and it's safer to assume that they would rather not.

Next time, use the "BCC:" (Blind Carbon Copy) function to send an email like this. Put your own email address in the TO: field, which  sends it to yourself. Put the list of email addresses that you're sending to in the BCC: field to keep everyone's email private.

Technorati short code: 6PRGAEPTKZCY

Friday, November 20, 2009

Need a deal on event space? Ecotrust is offering Community Grants to nonprofits

I am often contacted by non-profit groups looking for a planner to help them find affordable meeting and event space. Community groups should note that Ecotrust is offering Community Grants for just this purpose.

I love that one of the preferential criteria is "Events that are unabashedly hopeful in nature"!

Note that Community Grants cover the cost of space rental only, but not support services such as catering or rentals.

Deadline is January 21, 2010, so get cracking.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What your Facebook and Twitter savvy says about your business

We've recently seen several colleagues of ours in the event industry fall victim to the common "phishing" attacks on Facebook and Twitter. These attacks pose several problems for event planners beyond the immediate inconvenience that one might imagine.

Because so many event planners accept business contacts, clients, peers, and suppliers into their Facebook friends list, a compromised account represents much more than a minor inconvenience. Getting your Facebook account phished or hacked not only is an annoyance to your friendslist, but hurts your credibility with your business contacts with whom you are connected. Some compromised accounts have been sending me spam messages for weeks. If you are trying to build a trusted event planning brand, it can really hurt you to look like a social media newbie.

Bottom line: don't click on links you don't trust. If a Facebook or Twitter contact who is normally professional in manner suddenly sends you a message with poor spelling or questionable content, especially with links to purported videos or pictures of you, do not click. It's likely their account has been compromised, and if you click, yours will be too. Never enter your Facebook or Twitter password on external sites you are not sure of. Check with your IT department, or a knowledgeable friend before signing up for any services. Change your password immediately if you think you've been compromised. If you can't seem to get rid of he attacks, it may make sense to have your account deactivated and start anew.

In addition to avoiding phishing and hacking, consider how the following actions affect your reputation in the event planner and social media community:

- If you play Facebook games like Farmville, L'il Green Patch, or Twitter games like Mafia Wars, or even simple quizzes like "What kind of Drunk are you?", consider before clicking on links that invite your friends list if your contacts include business and event planning contacts. Do your clients and associates really want to know you're playing these games in the middle of the day?

- If you get too many requests, there's no harm in choosing the "Ignore" button. No one will be offended if you don't accept their 45th "Causes" invitation; in fact, many users don't know that they can skip the Invite Friends function on most Facebook applications. Remember that you can accept a request to participate in an application and SKIP the invite function. You can take a quiz without posting it to your Wall or involving your entire friends list.

- If you're worried about business contacts seeing too much personal information, why not set up a Fan Page for your business and keep your personal profile private? You can always set different profile groups in your personal profile and limit their access to your personal profile so you can still accept "Friend" requests from all contacts out of courtesy. At the same time you can control who can see your personal photos -- so your business contacts aren't subjected to photos of your big night out at the bar in their home feed. Caveat: nothing posted to the Internet is ever truly secure, no matter what a site might tell you, so be careful what you post, even if you use limited or locked profile lists.

Image courtesy benstein on flickr.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

MerchantCircle Small Business Confidence Poll

MerchantCircle.com recently published its Merchant Confidence Survey and the results are interesting:

48.3% of respondents agreed with the statement "My business will survive the recession."

57.9% of respondents said YES to the statement, "If you had to start all over again, would you start your business in today's economic climate?"

86.4% of respondents said they were familiar with Twitter, while only 65.9% said they were familiar with LinkedIn.

For the full report, follow this link to MerchantCircle.com's Merchant Confidence Survey 2009.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

5 Signs Your Special Event Trade Show Booth Needs Help

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Bravo! Live Showcase of Oregon's event and hospitality professionals. Held annually, it's easily the largest showcase of its kind in Oregon, so it's a great place to find out what's new in special events and hospitality in our region.

One thing that surprises me though, is how there are always a few, at this show and others, who ignore some basic rules of trade show success. Could it have been you? Here are 5 Signs Your Special Event Trade Show Booth Needs Help:

1. You put the table provided by the convention center across the entrance to your booth, between you and your audience. Doing so creates a physical barrier you and the face-to-face interaction you hope to have.

2. You are using only the existing convention hall overhead lighting to light your booth. Convention hall lighting is extremely variable; often too bright or too dim, and almost always fluorescent and unflattering. Bringing in a few inexpensive lighting fixtures serves to highlight your product, decor, or signage.

3. Your booth reps are talking on mobile phones, texting, eating, or otherwise not ready to do business. Remember, you have about 12 seconds to get the attention of those streaming past your booth. If an attendee gets the subconscious signal that no one is interested in speaking to them, it's that much easier to pass on by.

4. You haven't created a "hook" or "angle" to explain to people why you are even at this show. (Note: "We have a hotel" doesn't count. What makes your hotel/product/service different from the five others that are offering the same thing? Why should you be remembered?)

5. You did not pre-market your appearance at the show to your existing list OR you are not taking leads in your booth OR you are not planning to follow up in a timely manner after the show with the folks you met or who gave you their info. You can't rely on the few physical hours day-of-event to fully return your marketing investment at a trade show; you must also leverage your show participation before, during, and after. You can even do the "during" outside the walls of the show using social media.

Note that this is 5 signs your Special Event trade show booth needs help; when you're marketing to event planners, you have an obligation to show how your product, service, or venue will make their special event truly special and outside the box. Exhibitors in other industries get an easier pass on some of these issues, but everyone can benefit from these tips.

Event pros, step it up so you'll never have to worry if this list applies to you.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

To automate or not to automate?

(Image thanks to D'Arcy Norman via Flickr.com

With the escalating popularity of social media sites, I hear a lot of advice, especially in the wedding and event biz, about automating your social media feed.

This can consist of pre-scheduling tweets on Twitter, or scheduling blog posts in advance, or linking accounts with ping.fm or other services, so one status update can show across several services, just to name a very few. Many of these services are great timesavers and used wisely, can make the task of social media for business more of a pleasure.

However, I would caution business owners to remember the "social" aspect of social media. Those whose only contribution to Twitter is the RSS feed of their blog, for example, run the risk of looking like they're only in it for themselves. Especially when said blog is simply a roster of products or services for sale and contains little real advice or education for prospective readers. If you're wondering why you have few followers, no blog comments, low blog stats, and little interaction, take a hard look at what you're putting out there and ask yourself, "Is this interesting to the type of people I'd like to interact with, and is it worth a response?"

Whether you choose to automate or not, make sure you keep the social in social media by interacting, reposting/retweeting, and assisting; the same as any good business owner would do in non-online life.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Job sharing in hospitality management

I've recently heard about several new openings at local Portland venues and hotels, and the turnover/chaos that inevitably accompanies these vacancies.  At the same time, I talk to many traditional and non-traditional university students who are having challenges finding a hospitality position that can work with their university schedule.

Job sharing works in other industries; is it being used to its full benefit in hospitality?  I could see a Catering Manager job share where two professionals, for example, one being a work-outside-the-home parent, and the other, a student going back to finish a professional degree.  They could split a schedule and service groups better and with more energy than a single Catering Manager could, working the traditional 7am - 7pm, 6-day a week schedule that is often found in our industry.

This method could save hotels money, increase productivity, improve service to clients, without adding the cost of another position.  In addition, hotels would have a wider and more diverse pool of candidates from which to choose, also increasing the likelihood of finding the perfect personality and experience fit for their property.

Are you seeing job sharing used in hospitality? Please comment here and let me know.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Battery operated LED Lighting for events

Sometimes my email box is overwhelming, but I love getting some of vendor newsletters with great new products. CORT Event Furnishings just sent this one featuring their new Luna Line with modular, battery-operated LED lighted furniture. So fun!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Event Planning, Wedding Planning, and High School Job Shadows

At this time of year, I also get a lot of calls from high schoolers desiring job shadows. I think this is a great idea and can be a worthwhile experience for the student, but for a busy planner it can almost be overwhelming to try and convey the concept of who we are and what we do in a one-day experience, which is what a lot of students are asking for. I even have schools asking for a one-hour job shadow. Unfortunately, it would take ten times the amount of hours to prepare a useful curriculum, than what the student and I would actually spend together, based on what schools and students are asking.  So I usually decline.

One thing that I think would make high school job shadows more appealing to event planners would be if, rather than a one-hour or one-day event, students would treat their job shadow just as importantly as a varsity sport or other extracurricular activity such as Debate, Math Club, etc., and plan on signing up for at least a 90-day experience, perhaps with four to ten hours per week spent on working for their job mentor.  This way, both the student and the mentor can benefit from the experience.  And event planners would be more likely to accept more students.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Applying for an event planning internship

I receive many requests for event planning internships and job shadows.  It is not possible to accommodate the torrent of requests that come in every fall and spring.  How can a candidate differentiate themselves and get a call back?

I think a compelling cover or opening inquiry letter is key.  A phone call may not get picked up, or your call may come at the wrong time (planner on the way to the meeting, onsite at an event, working from home with children, etc.)  In addition, event planners tend to be on the more traditional side when it comes to etiquette (we are asked to be managers  of protocol and guest experiences, after all) and a phone call can feel far too casual.

I saw an internship request come across The Bridal Loft's inbox the other day that I thought was very well written.  It asked all the right questions, and positioned the candidate as someone who was truly interested in what her target desired in an internship.  This is very different from the common mistakes of starting a cover letter or inquiry with a bunch of "all about me" information and meaningless superlatives ("It is my lifelong dream to work in the wedding industry"). You can bet I noticed this person.

  My name is XXXXXX and I am an XXXXXXXXXXX student at XXX. Time is soon coming to apply for internships and I am very interested in yours. I would love to know what you expect from your interns and what you will be looking for in portfolios and resumes. When would be the right time to apply and what method would you prefer. Would you rather an online portfolio or a printed copy? I was also wondering if this was a paid internship or purely for the joy of the experience. Thank you so very much for your time and I hope to hear back from you soon.

Image thanks to ehow.com

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

National Federation of Nurses Launch

Tonight we're blogging live from the National Federation of Nurses Launch Party in Portland, Oregon.  We're going green with the guest book and letting our attendees sign in with comments!  Also, allowing our remote attendees to twitter with the #nfn09 hashtag and text to http://tinyurl.com/nfnlaunch with their congratulatory messages.

Please join us by leaving a comment for this wonderful new nurses' union!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

ISES Portland March meeting - "Pimp My Warehouse!"

Today I attended the International Special Events Society (Portland chapter in formation) monthly meeting. ISES is a group near and dear to my heart, as it is the organization that provided me with so much education, networking, and the kick start to my business, when I first had the idea of creating my own event company back in 1997 in Austin.

When I moved my business to Portland in 2002, I was astounded at the event talent here, and equally astounded that there was not an ISES chapter. In 2004, a group of event planners including Molli of Soiree, Olivia (then of West Coast Event Productions, now of Hotel Lucia), Susan of Class Act Events, and me, began a founders' group to investigate the idea of creating an ISES chapter in Portland. Our board of directors has changed and grown, and continually impresses me with the level of talent and professionalism that I have access to through ISES.

At that time, there was lukewarm interest and a few naysayers. We were told that there were many networking organizations "doing the same thing" in Portland and that we might not achieve our membership goals. But I knew in my heart that the vibe of ISES is different, the mission of ISES is unique, and that someday there would be a place in Portland for an ISES chapter.

Fast forward to 2009, where our "Pimp My Warehouse" event attracted nearly 80 attendees and brought together such amazing names as West Coast Drape, Henry V Events, Peter Corvallis Productions, A Swank Affair, Hollywood Lighting, Stages Northwest, and Royce's Prop Shop to collaborate on creating a gorgeous nightclub out of an auto dealership. Even though it was lunchtime, many of our attendees wished that there were cocktails and that we could stay all afternoon and network in the cozy space. It is a testament to the good that can come of having a vision and sticking with it. I know that Portland and the events community at large will benefit from this creative, collaborative, and passionate organization.

I'm posting a few pictures here taken from my phone, but I am eagerly awaiting the professional pics from Michael at West Coast Drape, who I met for the first time at this event (even though I have worked with WCD at several events). The energy at the event was so amazing, and I had so many great conversations with events friends old and new: Premiere Catering, KTDid Productions, Bravo Publications, Vibrant Table Catering, Alesia Zorn Calligraphy, Royce's Prop Shop, Notes of Celebration, Celebrate Catering, and so many more. I can't say it enough: ISES is a wonderful group that has given me so much over the years. I hope that any of you, special events professionals, reading this, will take a look at ISES and see if it is a fit for you.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

how to get gigs through event planners and hotels

Disclaimer: I'm not a booking agent; there are lots of wonderful reasons to use one and there are some really great agents out there, especially in Portland (like here and here).

On the other hand, I know there are lots of bands without an agent who want to know what they can do to start up a little bit of buzz and get some regular gigs playing out, which will hopefully eventually lead to more contacts and those prime, well-paying event and wedding jobs?

Here's my list, and feel free to comment with your opinion, especially if it is different.

1. Make your media packet digital. There's more room to store mp3s on a hard drive than in the office. Also, if you happen to send it to a semi-prolific blogger, the way Hideki Yamaya did here, said blogger may instantly go to your website, listen to your music, blog and tweet about it. Instant PR!

2. If you must send paper packets, try to target the right person at the organization by doing a little online research. Sending out a bunch of CDs to "Catering Manager" is just a waste of time.

3. Don't call event planners or venue managers and ask them for their address and "if you can" send them a packet. Most event planners and hotels have addresses that are easily found online and asking them this information just makes you look lazy or not very smart. And asking their "permission" to mail is just a waste of time. Just mail it!

3a. Also don't call event planners and tell them that you are interested in getting more gigs. Great! But that falls into the dreaded "AAM" (All About Me) conversational faux pas. Much better either not to cold-call, or if you do, prepare by learning about your target planner's business and offer a way that you can help them.

4. Find ways to play out to the right crowds. Sometimes this means playing for free. My husband Dave disagrees with me on this one, but I do think that if an event planner hears you at an event, they are more likely to seek you out and book you for their own events, than if they have only heard a CD or online mp3. Good places to go are hotel lobbies, happy hours, and association meetings like ISES, ABC, and MPI. Again, do research ahead of time to see if the organization is a good match for the kinds of gigs you are looking for, and find out if there's an upcoming meeting that your entertainment might be perfect for. Or pitch the association board with a novel idea, such as a meeting centered around an entertainment showcase, like the one ISES Seattle did a while back. If you don't want to gig for free, then figure out some dates that you already have a gig on the books, and send a pretty calendar or other "reminder book" (perhaps with an invitation to be on the guest list) to some key event planners that you are after.

I hope you find these helpful! Please feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Monday, January 5, 2009

great inspiration from a fellow planner

Thalia Plummer, who sits on the board of ISES Portland with me, and is the owner of Premiere Events Portland, recently posted this great piece of inspiration on her blog:

"With what the media is calling our "Arctic Blast" of 2008, the disarray of the stock market, and the disillusioning nightly news reports being pumped into homes across America day and night, it can be hard to keep focus on what's really important..."
Read more at Thalia's "Meetings, Events and Parties" blog...
I just had to share it with you!