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plan a

The end of the year is a time of reflection. And as I think about my career at AMPED, I am reminded of a number of fun and crazy adventures we’ve had while onsite at client events. No matter how big or small the meeting, there are always things that we handle quietly behind the scenes and attendees never know the wiser. Here’s a little trip down memory lane…

For starters, onsite registration numbers were higher than expected for a client meeting we held a few years ago in Scottsdale, AZ. It was the rush of registrants that arrived just before the opening reception that left us needing to replenish lanyards, badge sleeves and cardstock before registration re-opened bright and early the next day. After shuttling all 500+ attendees to the Heard Museum for the opening reception, another team member and I asked one of the bus drivers to take us to the nearest Office Depot. Keep in mind this was before the days of Uber! Just imagine a 56-passenger bus pulling in with only two people aboard desperate to restock, just minutes before closing! Meanwhile the rest of the team stayed back at the reception to make sure everything went flawlessly.

Or how about when you realize the name badges for a 600-person meeting have not been stuffed correctly and all need to be reassembled! This particular client had complex name badge requirements with color-coded sleeves, ribbons and even gems! We partnered with a vendor to print, stuff and ship the name badges. As we reviewed the shipment to make sure all was in order before registration opened, we realized about 20 badges in that everything was off my one. What else was there to do but un-stuff and re-stuff? That’s exactly what we did! Don’t worry, we later got a credit from the vendor for the inconvenience.

There are also times when the little things count — going the extra mile for even just a handful of attendees. Like the time an attendee was under the weather so we sent a care package to his guest room. Or the day that a spouse missed the bus for an afternoon tour so we arranged an Uber to get her where she needed to be. Or the yoga instructor who didn't show, so a colleague stepped in on a whim to lead a “chair yoga” session!

The list could go on and on. Can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store!

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Collaboration

As we enter into the month of October, the color pink is everywhere. Television, radio, newspapers, billboards, magazines, walks, fundraisers, retail merchandise… the list goes on in efforts to promote National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Talk about collaboration! This health care campaign was formed to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis and treatment and has become a global sensation with a phenomenal collaborative effort.

Collaboration inspires a sense of community and the opportunity for people to learn from each other. While the collaborative activity of promoting National Breast Cancer Awareness is huge on a global scale, collaborative activity at the workplace, on a much smaller scale, mobilizes teams in various capacities to come together and reach common goals.

The AMPED team recently put collaborative efforts to the test when Hurricane Irma was slated for a direct hit in the Ft. Lauderdale area. One of our newest clients was having a large annual conference in this area, just two weeks after the hurricane was to hit. Decisions had to be made about keeping the conference in Ft. Lauderdale as planned, not knowing what damage may ensue, or moving the entire event to a new location in a different area of the country. Through this process, we learned the value of collaboration, both internally and externally with various teams. Below are a few thoughts on effective collaboration that resonated with me as we worked together to produce a successful outcome for our client:

1. Collaboration will expand your community and your opportunities to connect with people for new ideas. When we were considering moving to a new location, our CEO happened to be at a conference with hospitality industry leaders including CEO’s from convention and visitor bureaus across the United States. After discussing our situation with industry peers, many CEO’s offered their advice, assistance and resources to help us through the process of potentially moving the conference to a new location. Ideas were presented that we never knew existed.

2. Collaboration allows you to expand your experiences and knowledge. Our team had not been through a situation like this before. Through many forms of collaboration, each one of us was able to establish new areas of “expertise” that can now be applied to future circumstances.

3. Collaborations provide a built-in sounding board and a system of checks and balances. This experience provided many opportunities for our team to bounce ideas off of one another, blend complementary strengths and recognize areas where we could improve. It made us a stronger team.

In the end, our collaborative partners made the decision to stay at the Florida destination, as originally planned. And the conference experienced a record number of attendees! Collaborative efforts made this possible.

 

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panic button

If you’re a seasoned association conference planner, you’ve undoubtedly experienced some sort of last-minute disaster at your conference, or shortly before it. If you haven’t, don’t worry; the conference powers-that-be will surely test your sanity at some point. It’s only a matter of time!

Last week, our team of experienced conference planners was faced with possibly the worse situation I’ve heard of in my time in the association industry. There we were, in the middle of a three-day technical seminar and everything was going fantastic. Attendance and participation were on target. The speakers were doing a great job during our general sessions. The food and beverages were delicious. Nothing could stop us at this point, right? Wrong.

The night before the final day of the technical seminar the phones started to ring. It was our speakers, sitting in airports, trying to find a flight to our location because theirs had been cancelled due to inclement weather. Not one, not two, but three of our speakers for the final day had to cancel. Mind you, they were the only three speakers that day. There we were, just about to head to dinner, and now we had try and Houdini our way out of this mess. Somehow, we had to come up with three speakers to fill three to four hours of general sessions the very next morning. Over the next five hours, via countless emails and trips to any available outlet to charge our phones, our able team lined up three new speakers to fill the entire day’s agenda.

Here’s how we pulled it off:

1. Tap into those already onsite
One of the first things we did was reach out to those on the Board of Directors who were attending. We knew that they would have a vast knowledge of anyone onsite who might be able to present. Keep in mind that in nearly every industry, and at nearly every conference or seminar you’re going to have other professionals who have done speaking engagements. Get the word out that you’re looking for speakers to fill a spot and you’ll be amazed at how many people have access to presentations they have already prepared, and are willing to help.

2. Reach out to your local contacts and resources
No matter where you are, more than likely there are professionals from your industry who are based near the event. Reach out to them to see if they or anyone from their organization would be willing to speak. This can be quite fruitful because little to no travel is required. Make sure to let any potential speakers know that you are open-minded to the topic (keeping in mind, of course, your association’s guidelines for speakers).

3. Use available technology
If your speaker isn’t able to make it due to travel glitches, see if he feels comfortable giving the presentation electronically. One of our stranded speakers was able to present remotely using GotoMeeting.com. It actually worked pretty seamlessly. One thing to note if you go this route is to make sure your venue has the technical capabilities to pull it off. We were extremely lucky to have the expertise of onsite A/V professionals. They were able to get things set up about an hour before the presentation was scheduled.

All in all, we were very fortunate things turned out so well. Having an amazing team like we do, who didn’t panic in the face of adversity, was key. We were also lucky enough to have a great Board of Directors willing to help at a moment’s notice. Their experience and their contacts in the industry really opened up the pool of possible replacements. If you plan enough conferences and events, something like this will happen to you. Just remember to keep calm, and plan on.

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Dilbert cartoon

As a meetings assistant I have been to a fair number of meetings and have seen a lot of things happen that were not planned for. This happens because its life and nothing is perfect. Simple as that. Meetings have many moving parts and it is not uncommon for something to go wrong. I have been to meetings where the sponsored registration bags had mistakenly been printed with the previous year’s date. Or the registrant badges were shipped to the wrong state! So what do you do when something like this happens? 

I find it best to come up with a solution, or ideas to reconcile the problem before anyone has a chance to over react to the situation at hand. How do you do this when you’re short on time and in a different city? You have to put your thinking cap on. It’s easy as 1, 2, 3!

1. Use your contacts! Depending on your situation, stop and think who can help with this issue. I have found that the convention and visitors bureaus are amazing resources. When you are having a meeting in another city, CVB’s are crucial. They can help with providing so much information for you and your attendees. Other contacts could be your hotel, AV Company, and show decorator. They are all there to help!

2. What’s around you? When you’re having a meeting in another city and something goes wrong, be aware of nearby resources. Do your research before your meeting. Know where you can get last-minute copies and signs made, look for office supply stores and supercenters.

3. Ask for help! If you find that something has gone wrong at your meeting and can’t come up with a solution on your own, ask for help from your co-workers or superiors. I sometimes find it’s better to ask for help then struggle with finding a solution for something that I am not knowledgeable about or have little time to solve.

When a problem arises it is all about keeping your cool and working through the situation to ensure an amazing meeting. There are a bunch of ways to overcome obstacles that come our way, it’s all about finding what works best for you.

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