What's Hot, What's Not In 2011

Last month I posted links to a couple of articles dealing with meeting trend predictions for 2011 (read post here). Over the recent holidays, I had a chance to do a little Internet surfing and check out what more folks were saying about new meeting trends in 2011.

Most everyone seems to be agreement that technology will have the greatest impact on meetings and events in 2011. With that in mind, here are 5 “what’s hot, what’s not in 2011” items for you to consider:

  1. Conference phone apps vs Conference program books – The options for creating a conference phone app to replace printed program books are almost endless, limited only by your budget. However, with a little research, you can find free and low-cost options that could meet your needs.
  2. Collecting meeting date via wufoo.com vs Collecting data in Word documents – Wufoo is a site offering easy to use online HTML form builders, giving meeting planners the opportunity to collect and share data online, in real time.
  3. Creating a Prezi vs Creating PowerPoint presentations – Again, new technology that can help take presentations to the next level.
  4. Smart phone audience response vs Counting raised hands – Our pastor actually used this in church yesterday. He asked a series of 3 questions, people would text their responses and then we watched as totals on the screens were updated in real time.
  5. Water stations vs Water bottles – While not technology related, it is related to the 2nd most popular trend in meetings…going green. Not only is this one environmentally friendly, it could also save you money!

Curious. How are you planning to utilize new technology in your meetings or event in 2011?

What Are The Meeting Trends For 2011?

As 2010 comes to a close, it’s only appropriate that we take a little time to look at what the experts are predicting will be the hot meeting trends in 2011. Below are links to 2 excellent articles produced by meeting management organizations. While they are primarily targeting large meetings, I believe all those involved in planning Christian meetings (or retreats) of any size can find a nugget or two that will help in the coming year.

11 Meetings technology trends to watch for in 2011

PMUSA previews 2011 meeting trends

What about in your part of the meeting and retreat world, any new trends you see on the horizon?

Building Community

CCCA National ConferenceI recently had the opportunity to attend  Christian Camp and Conference Association’s national conference. It was held at Ridgecrest Conference Center and the theme this year was, “Mosaic…accomplishing more together”.

We are long-time members of CCCA and were excited to have the honor of hosting this year’s conference. We were also quite nervous as this was the first time in almost 30 years that CCCA had chosen a member facility to host this very important conference. Last year’s conference was held at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs and the year before at Disney’s Coronado Springs in Orlando.

To say the bar was set pretty high would definitely be an understatement. However we had an ace up our sleeve that we felt would allow us to more than hold our own against those other very nice properties. The advantage we had is the same advantage you will find at any Christian conference facility, and that is the ability to help create community.

Hotels and convention centers are created to host meetings and conferences. They do a good job of providing sleeping rooms and meeting space. What they don’t do a good job of is providing a place where a group/organization can come together and build community. By this I mean they don’t really provide a place, or way, for attendees to come together and easily network in an informal manner, outside the scheduled meeting times. On the other hand, most Christian conference/retreat centers are created in such a way as to help make this happen naturally.

At Ridgecrest, this informal networking happened primarily over meals. The ability for everyone to come together for breakfast, lunch and dinner was huge. Last year at The Broadmoor, most folks skipped breakfast (cost too much), grabbed a box lunch in the exhibit hall and then scattered to have dinner somewhere in Colorado Springs. As a result, any community building that took place was on a small scale and had to be very intentional.

This year, in contrast, people would come into the dining hall at Ridgecrest and interact with different folks at every meal. By the second day you could see the results of this fellowship as people would wait until the last possible minute to leave and head to the next scheduled part of the conference. Old friendships were being renewed, new ones were beginning and a strong sense of community was being built.

I learned a long time ago that most meeting attendees will tell you they get as much, or more, out of networking as they do attending the actual conference sessions. If you are a Christian meeting planner, I would challenge you to give this a lot of thought as you plan your next event. Not only in designing the flow of the meeting, but also the location you choose to host the event.

So, what are you doing to help your group build community?

Too Busy For A Vacation?

A couple of months ago, Westin Hotels  released the results of study called “Wellness in Travel” (click here to read article). Bottom line was that most Americans want a vacation, but are too busy to take off work. 

Crazy, right? Or is it? Have you taken all of your vacation time this year, or have you thought “I’m just too busy right now”? Given the current state of the economy, it might also be that folks are concerned about their jobs and afraid to take off. Would that be you?

Here are the highlights of the study that show just how desperate we Americans are for time off:

  • 58% felt more in need of a vacation this year than last year.
  • 48% said they are happier and more positive in their workplaces and personal lives after taking a vacation, yet 64% said they had cancelled or postponed a vacation this year.
  • 41% said they usually require 3-4 days to unwind before they can really start to enjoy their vacation.
  • 67% said they feel healthier on vacation.
  • 64% said they sleep better while taking some time off.
  • 30% said they check in with their work every other day while on vacation, but 25% said they check in every hour. (I’m afraid I’m guilty of that “crackberry” addiction. What about you?)

And if that’s not enough to convince you to take some time off, a recent heart study revealed men who take regular vacations are 32% less likely to die of a heart attack and women who do not take vacations are up to 8x’s more likely to suffer from heart disease than those who take 2 vacation breaks a year.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out and enjoy a little vacation before the end of the year!

Are You Attending Rejuvenate Marketplace 2010?

If you are a Christian meeting planner, denominational leader, church retreat planner, or anyone else responsible for planning events and retreats, then this event is definitely for you. Rejuvenate Marketplace is a great event specifically for faith-based meeting planners and this year it will be in Louisville, KY, Oct 18-21. (click here for more info)

A couple of months ago, Christine Born of Collinson Media wrote a guest post for us (read here) and talked about the benefits to meeting planners who attend. If that wasn’t enough to convince you, then maybe hearing some testimonies from other meeting planners will do the trick. Check out this video and hear what some of your peers have to say!

So, what do you think? Will we see you in Louisville this October? Sure hope so!

5 Tips For Trade Show Success

Now that summer’s almost over, it’s time to begin planning for upcoming fall trade shows. You know, those shows where you have to go and stand around in a 10’x10′ box and pray that someone will actually stop and talk to you! Yeah, those shows…

If that’s your mindset, then you’re setting your organization up for failure. Instead, think of these shows as opportunities to get face to face with potential customers. People today can learn almost everything they need to know about a facility from the Internet (provided it’s a good website), but the reason they attend a camp show or trade show is to SEE and MEET who they’ll be doing business with.

With that in mind, here are 5 tips for making the most of your next trade show:

  1. When someone walks by your booth and pauses, ENGAGE! The pause is your invitation to engage them in conversation.
  2. Small talk wastes both their time and yours. Once you engage, get right to the point of why you’re there.  Sample – “Good morning! What interests you about Glorieta?”
  3. Never sit down! When you sit down in your booth, you’re sending the message you don’t want to be bothered. Working a booth at a show can be exhausting. Wearing comfortable shoes is a must.
  4. Don’t leave your table at the front of the booth. A table left out front creates a potential barrier between you and your visitors. Instead, move it off to the side and create an open space where visitors feel invited in.
  5. FOLLOW UP, FOLLOW UP, FOLLOW UP! This is absolutely critical. The whole reason you go to these shows is to connect with people who are in interested in your camp or conference center. Once you’ve connected to those who’ve shown interest, they become a qualified lead and should be followed up with promptly.

One last thing to remember. At a show, you have 6-8 seconds to capture someone’s attention and gain their interest as they walk by. Be very aware of this as you design your display. If you can’t draw them in, you might as well go spend your money somewhere else.

Now it’s your turn. What have you done that worked well for you at a trade show? When you attend a trade show, what makes you want to stop and talk to a vendor? Please share your thoughts with us.

Mid-Year Top 10 List

Since our blog is now 6 months old (read post here), I thought it appropriate to list the 10 most read posts. So, just in case you might have missed one, here’s our Mid-Year Top 10 List for MinistryServingMinistry:

Time Out For Renewal

FamilyCamps_Pic_150x150.jpgAs many of us know well, it’s way too easy to get caught up in the hectic pace of today’s wired-in lifestyle. We get so focused on the next meeting, the next phone call, the next tweet or status update, that we forget the things that are really important.

Many times what gets forgotten, or pushed to the side, are our families. The following post was written by John Ashman. John is currently the Executive Director of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions and prior to that was a VP with Christian Camps and Conference Association.

As you read it I would encourage you to think about your own family. Do you need to take some time out and renew your relationships. As you’ll see from this mom’s perspective, family camp is a great place to do just that.

Camp is a refreshing stream along life’s journey…

Laura eased open the screen door and stretched out in the rocking chair, favorite book in hand. Out on the lake, silhouetted by Monday’s sunrise, the canoe carrying her husband and two daughters glided silently through the water. A smile spread across her face as she imagined their conversation.

An earlier rain had refreshed the forest and the fragrance brought back some wonderful childhood memories. Overhead, two squirrels debated the ownership of a cache of acorns. The family from the cabin next door waved good morning and wandered off along the path to the point.

This placid camp setting was a welcome contrast to her familiar suburban scene. She glanced at her watch. Still 40 minutes ’til breakfast. She took another sip of coffee and closed her eyes. This was going to be a wonderful week.

At the urging of some friends from church, Laura’s family had decided to spend these six days at a Christian family camp. The place offered cabin or lodge accommodations, three family-style meals a day, horseback riding, biking, hiking trails, a challenge course, dirtboarding, fishing, canoeing, swimming, beach volleyball, a well-known Christian band, an impressive list of speakers, and more.

But the part of the brochure that caught Laura’s attention was “time out from the rush of life for spiritual renewal.” She needed that, and so did her family, much more than anyone knew.

Finding Time
These days, few of us wash dishes in the sink and ponder the world through the kitchen window. Instead, we stack the plates and utensils in the Maytag and rush to the next task. Come end of day, rather than sit on the front porch and contemplate, we click the mouse or remote and “process.” We live in a hurried, harried world. Freeways, cell phones, business appointments, micro-waves, school functions, online transactions, late-night news, and alarm systems form the borders of our behavior.

Our children aren’t strangers to stress, either. Pushed by parents or peers to perform beyond their years, they’re rushed into maturity by Madison Avenue and the media. It’s no wonder many kids emerge from their teen years frustrated, fearful, and fatigued.

Just over the hill, across the meadow, or through the woods, Christian camps are offering experiences that can arrest our runaway routines. Spending a week at a Christian camp, or conference center, will not immediately unbundle the anxiety of the twenty-first century lifestyle, but it will provide a refreshing break with a chance to relax, reflect, recreate, and re-evaluate priorities.

Time, which seems to be a rare commodity in the “real world,” is abundant at camp. There’s time to eat together, play together, and talk together. Parents can use time to assess family progress and form new goals. Kids can spend time enjoying the miscellaneous pastimes of childhood. So much can get done when there’s nothing pressing to do.

Finding God
At camp, God does not hide in the chapel, waiting for the evening service so He can reveal Himself. His presence permeates the program and property. God speaks on the ropes course, helping people discover the truth about trust. He’s present on the trail, teaching people through the intricacies of nature. He’s there in the person of a child’s counselor, bringing peace through the demonstration of patience. The messages spoken and songs sung from the platform are just added benefits.

Chuck Swindoll, author, radio pastor, and chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, has long been a supporter of Christian camping for the entire family. Some time ago, he spoke about the value of total family involvement.

“All the Swindolls have enjoyed and benefited from Christian camping for many, many years,” he said. “In fact, I can’t recall an unhappy or unrewarding experience that we’ve ever had.”

When families get together in a camping situation, they relate eye-to-eye, maybe for the first time in months, without the distraction of television, radio, or phone in the background, he observed. They have time to think through their values and their priorities. And they have the opportunity to establish or strengthen their relationships with Jesus Christ.

The testimonies around Friday night’s flickering campfire stirred the hearts of the households gathered in its glow. Tears welled up in Laura’s eyes as her own husband of 16 years stood to his feet and uttered soft-spoken words of recommitment to Christ and family.

Following the service, the girls ran ahead to the cabin to pack for departure. Taking the long way back, Laura and her husband walked hand-in-hand, then arm-in-arm, speaking without talking. It was a wonderful week. Spiritual renewal did indeed take place. God’s voice was heard.

It wasn’t that He spoke any louder in the serene camp setting. For some reason, it was just easier to hear Him.

What about you? Has family camp played a part in your family’s heritage? If so, would you mind leaving a comment and sharing it? If not, I encourage you to consider attending a Christian family camp this summer. You won’t regret it!

Service Done Right!

WinterBroadmoorNite_interior.jpgEarlier this week I attended CCCA‘s annual leadership conference, HighDef09. The event this year was held at the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs. To say this hotel is nice would be like saying Jimmie Johnson is an ok NASCAR driver (I’m not a big NASCAR fan, but I hear JJ really is a pretty fair driver.).

For those of you not familiar with The Broadmoor, it is a 5 star resort located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Since it’s the only 5 star resort this old Holiday Inn guy has ever stayed in, I don’t really have anything to compare it to other than to say it’s well beyond nice.

As you would expect, the hotel itself was beautiful and my room was probably the nicest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in. I especially enjoyed the flat screen TV built into the wall above the bathroom vanity. (Never had to miss ESPN!)  I also enjoyed the nightly turndown service, the well equiped fitness center and simply having to call Housekeeping when I was in need of ice (explained why there were no ice machines on the guest room floors).

All of the facilities and amenities were what you would expect when you’re paying to stay at a 5 star resort, so no real surprise there. What was a surprise to me was the overwhelming friendliness of every staff member I came in contact with. It wasn’t really until the end of the second day that I really began to take note of this.

As I was walking to that evening’s general session, I passed four different room attendants heading into the tower I was staying in. Each one smiled and spoke to me as we passed each other. That’s when I realized these guys obviously take customer service training very seriously. In many hotels and conference centers the primary emphasis of customer service training is directed at the front of the house employees (front desk clerks, bell staff, wait/banquet staff, etc) and not much attention is given to training back of the house employees (housekeeping, maintenance, kitchen, etc).

Based on what I experienced, this is certainly not the case at The Broadmoor. They understand that many guests have more interaction with housekeeping and maintenance staff, in and around the hotel, than they do with front desk clerks and banquet waiters. I have no doubt they spend a significant amount of time on customer service training with all their employees.

The end result is a very friendly hotel where service is done right. The really cool thing is that you don’t have to be a 5 star hotel to provide friendly service. All is takes is dedication to training all employees in providing excellent customer service.

Hopefully, when you visit Ridgecrest or Glorieta, you will experience friendly service from all of our employees. That’s certainly our desire. If that’s not the case, please do not hesitate to let us know.

Without Reservations – How People Behave In Hotels

HITL.jpgToday, as I was looking through the books in my office bookcase, I came across a blast from the past. The book is titled Without Reservations – An Uncensored, Unabashed Look At How People Behave In Hotels and is a compilation of guest stories from Holiday Inn hotels during the early 90’s.

As I looked at the book, I remembered first reading it when I was the general manager of the Holiday Inn Townlake in downtown Austin, TX. The book was loaned to me by Oscar Sanchez, my front desk manager at the time. After reading I must have set the book aside and forgot to give it back when Oscar left to go to another hotel. So, Oscar, if you read this… I’m sorry man!

From experience, I can tell you that guests really do some strange things when staying in your hotel. I wish I would have been smart enough to right down all the crazy stuff I’ve seen over my hospitality career. While I don’t remember all of them, here are just a few that I’ll never forget.

  • While helping to open the Crowne Plaza Galleria in Houston I remember I man coming down to the front desk and complaining about the toilet in his room. Not an unusual complaint for most hotels. However this one had a twist. See, we had really rushed the last couple of days of construction in order to get the hotel open in time for the Houston Homebuilder’s Show and when you rush construction, some things tend to get missed.  When the desk clerk told him she’d send maintenance right up to fix the toilet he told her the problem was not a ‘broken’ toilet. No, the problem was he didn’t have a toilet at all, only a hole in the floor of the bathroom! Big oops!
  • One night, when serving as the Manager on Duty, I got a call on the radio that someone was shooting off a fire extinguisher on the 4th floor. Grabbing two security guards to go with me, we headed up the elevator. When we got off the elevator, we didn’t see anyone and it was very quiet. Thinking we must have missed them, we started to head back down to the lobby. However, before we could, we noticed CO2 powder running down the corridor carpet so we followed the trail. The trail led us directly to a room on that floor so we knocked on the door. Imagine our surprise when a young man opens the door with a fire extinguisher in his hand. Talk about finding a smoking gun! Needless to say, he and his buddies had been partying in their room just a little too much. They ended up spending the rest of the night in jail…
  • One Saturday afternoon, while working as the F&B Director at Holiday Inn East in Montgomery, AL, I got a call from the front desk saying someone had reported a ‘bum’ loitering in our Holidome. She asked if I would check it out and if true, politely ask him to leave. I said sure, but before I could walk out of the restaurant, one of my waitresses came running into the restaurant all excited. I asked her what was going on and she breathlessly explained that she had just see Hank Williams, Jr in the Holidome. Turned out he was the ‘bum’ that had been reported to the front desk. Evidently his tour bus had stopped next door to the hotel and he was just walking around to stretch his legs. Needless to say, I didn’t ask him to leave. Even though he did look a bit like a bum…

What about you? Care to share an unusual hotel experience with us?