Contracts in a COVID Era

Contracts in a COVID Era

Clearly, the world of events has changed. Planners need to be  more savvy when initiating contract discussions with venues. Successfully navigating the legal realms of contracts is a must to protect your clients. Here are some insights gained from the past year:  

  1. Contracts 101– Make sure that the event purpose is clearly articulated in the venue contract. For example, if your event is an international symposium, outline the various countries represented and provide estimates on the expected #s per country. If there are travel bans from any of these countries or the delegates have access issues with being vaccinated, you can cite frustration of purpose as a legitimate way of invoking force majeure.

Rationale: The purpose of the event is to gather delegates from various countries to share insights. If these delegates cannot attend, this negates the event purpose.

  1. Deposit Policy: As these are unusual times, ensure you have an understanding with the venue, that you cannot commit to high deposits. Negotiate the lowest initial deposit amount with them; my experience has been that hotels are willing to partner more than ever with planners.
  2. Rebooking: Certainly planners spent lots of time in 2020 undoing their event plans and having to negotiate alternate event dates with venues. This can be tricky. No one can predict when live events will be “de rigeur”, so it becomes an exercise of trying to crystal ball an ideal alternate timeframe to host the event. Work with your venue to ascertain optimal dates for your event and ensure that they are ready to safely host it. Don’t hesitate to ask them about their safety and hygiene policies. For several of my clients who are in the health care arena and working front-line with vulnerable populations, their health and safety concerns may be higher than other clients. Hence their questions will be geared towards when the hotel can assure them that their employees have been vaccinated since we know that temperature checks are not the gold standard of being COVID negative.

Lastly, do not put off discussions with your venue. Yes these are difficult conversations, but they need to be held. Don’t forget that other clients are rebooking, so you want to ensure that the venue can accommodate your alternate plans.

More than ever, honest in depth discussions with your venue are paramount to furthering the partnership. Your event venue wants the event to be successful and they are equally committed to ensure that the event is held in a safe manner as they need to protect their employees’ safety as much as you need to protect your delegates’ safety and well-being.

DOs and DON’Ts of Event Planning

Here are my tips for planning a perfect event, whether it’s complex with concurrent sessions or a simple affair.

  • Meet with your client to discuss the event goals and theme. Is this a staff appreciation event? Is this a bilingual event which requires simultaneous translation? Is it an educational session that confers credits to the attendees?
  • In the preplanning phase make sure that the date your client has selected does not conflict with other industry events or is too close to major holidays, otherwise your attendance rates may suffer.
  • Certain days of the week are better than others. As a general rule, avoid Monday and Friday events especially during the summer, as people tend to go out of town.
  • Determine with the client whether the event is reliant on sponsorships or whether the registration fee will cover all expenses.
  • Will it be a half day session, a full day, or multiple days? Will it run over several weeks? The event schedule needs to be nailed down early so that event promotion can take place.
  • Will there be concurrent sessions? If so, make sure that the room limits are adhered to.
  • Be aware of the client’s attendance expectations for the overall event and for each breakout session.
  • Will the event be recorded and available at a later date to attendees and non- attendees? If so, have they thought about the various price points?
  • Formulate a budget that takes into account all costs and projects what the registration fee will be. Get sign-off from the client.
  • Create a marketing plan that encompasses a social media plan. Obtain sign-off from the client and/or the communications department of the client’s company/organization for all communication materials. Make sure all logos used are current. Promote the event early, be consistent with your marketing efforts and set up processes to assess which campaigns are useful in driving attendance.
  • Scrutinize all contracts and ask questions if you are not sure of any clauses. Obtain sign-off from the client before returning any contract (virtual platform, event app, entertainment, speaker agreements, AV, catering, simultaneous translation, interpreter services for hearing impaired delegates).
  • If this is a hybrid event, work with your venue planner to optimize socially distanced seating arrangements, AV set-up, and catering. If you opt for external catering, make sure that the venue is in agreement and there are no penalties levied. Many art galleries for example have preferred caterers and deviation from that list will result in extra fees.
  • For hybrid events, book an AV technician for the entire day, especially if there are concurrent sessions, simultaneous translation or interpreter services. If anything goes wrong from a light bulb malfunction to a computer breakdown, the AV technician will quickly fix it and the event will run smoothly.
  • Create speaker agreements with clearly outlined deadline dates for submission of materials such as bios and headshots. Include a clause specifying that keynote speakers promote the event on their social media platforms and newsletters. Obtain speaker presentations one week prior to the event.
  • If the event involves out of town speakers, make sure you book their arrangements well in advance in order to take advantage of discounted airfare and hotel rates. If your speaker is on first thing in the morning, arrange to have them spend the previous night in town. There is nothing more panic inducing than a no-show from your keynote speaker!
  • If speakers are not being paid, make sure that they receive a modest honorarium or at the very least a thank you card by the organizing committee.
  • For remote speakers, arrange for rehearsals a few days prior to the event to ensure they are comfortable with the platform, have optimal internet connectivity, audio and lighting.
  • For the F2F component of the event, make sure you arrive at least one hour early to the venue. Have all emergency contact numbers for catering, AV and speakers.
  • Check that the socially distanced seating arrangements you submitted have been followed. If not, call your venue contact and have them make the necessary changes.
  • Check that all the AV equipment (screen, mics, computer) are working. Give the USB key to the AV technician so that all the presentations can be preloaded if those have not yet been sent to the technician in advance.
  • Ensure you have adequate help with registration, especially if there is a projected attendance of 100 or more delegates. Safety is a priority; have COVID screening protocols in place.
  • Reserve tables at the front of the room for committee members and speakers.
  • Verify the room temperature throughout the day; there is nothing worse than delegates being too hot as it puts them to sleep! If the temperature is not optimal, make sure you liaise with the venue contact immediately, as large rooms may take up to 20 minutes for the temperature to change.
  • Make sure that catering staff are setting up all meals and snacks according to schedule.
  • For virtual or hybrid events, ensure that you have a technical team at the ready if you did not opt for virtual platform support or had hired an AV company. The role of this team is assist delegates with tech issues, ensure that speakers have shown up in the virtual waiting room, moderate the Q&A, chat box, add information to the chat box (e.g. speaker website, downloadable document), launch polls, create breakout rooms, and basically ensure that the event runs smoothly.
  • Design an evaluation form that is comprehensive (5 point likeard scale) but is easy to analyse. If you are using an event APP, the survey can be incorporated into the APP, which is more efficient than issuing a survey the following day.
  • Submit the evaluation report no later than one week post-event.
  • Hold a debrief with the client to discuss the event in detail, reconciliation of the budget, evaluation results and any challenges encountered.
  • Book your next event with the client!

Mind, Body and Soul Wellness Retreat – A Virtual Transformation

Back in Spring 2020, I realized that my signature retreat, which was projected to take place in the Fall, would need to be reimagined. With so many of my client events being postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19, I was loath to do the same for my own event, which I had hosted for the past 3 years. Hence began a new plan that would take several months to emerge.

By enrolling in PCMA’s Digital Event Strategist on-line course, I was able to create a digital strategy for the event and ultimately weave in unique experiential aspects that were integral to the success of a virtual retreat. Here are some of the winning tactics that I chose to implement:

1. Design appropriate content for the digital event. Topics were aligned to the theme of wellness and self-care and embraced various aspects from mindset & rhythmic reframing to sound nutrition. Fourteen sessions were created for the day-long event with an average duration of 25 minutes each. Digital experts agree that shorter sessions are key for successful virtual events.

2. Reach out to potential sponsors as early in the planning cycle as possible. Since many companies were adversely affected by the pandemic, this became even more crucial.

3. Partner with exhibitors who could round out the programming and/or donate products to the delegate event kit. Programming elements included an essential oil demonstration, making a smoothie, and a sound healing session.

4. Choose a trusted supplier for the assembly and shipping of the event kit. Angela Koshman from pcnametag was very collaborative throughout the process. She ensured that all the products were safely packed in the kit (a wine glass was one of the offerings), the labelling included all the exhibitor and sponsor logos, and that the event kits were delivered to the delegates’ homes, which were all across Canada! The event kit, which was made possible through the generosity of exhibitors, consisted of meaningful items for a wellness retreat such as protein shakes, herbal supplements, essential oils, a malal bracelet, and coupons for discounted or free services.

5. Promote the event early and often. I showcased select speakers and exhibitors via Zoom interviews that were recorded and then posted those interviews on LinkedIn and Instagram. The original footage was given to Chris Noble from Noble Productions. Chris ensured that the Health Care Event Planning branding was incorporated, added music, and a call to action for each video. I believe that a professionally branded product was testament to the commitment for excellence in the design and promotion of the retreat.

6. Ask your suppliers, exhibitors, sponsors and speakers to share the videos and other event posts on their social media networks.

7. Include innovative elements to the virtual event. It was fortunate that Agata Jakuszko from Draw the Words sponsored the graphic recording for the retreat. She graphically represented the major takeaways from each session. It was very entertaining to check in with her throughout the retreat to see her unique digital drawings and added another engaging element to the day.

8. Ensure that your speakers are comfortable in a digital setting. Rehearsals were an integral part of this process. This included sound & connectivity checks, lighting adjustments and camera angle tips.

9. Choose to prerecord certain sessions. Because of possible internet connectivity delays, I chose to prerecord a video of a singing performance which enhanced the quality of the session.

10. Delegate the production aspect to professional event planners* who can assist with dry runs, script finalization, creating & launching polls, monitoring the chat box, and adding website information about each speaker/facilitator right after their session. This will free you up to run the show while ensuring the smooth functioning of the event.

At this point, I am unsure whether next year, the retreat will be offered in a live or hybrid format. However, these tips will continue to serve me well in the planning and execution of experiential events.

*Thanks to Nichol Turner, DES; Nickel Concepts Event Management and Sharda Sukdeo, BA, CMP; Eventures – event professionals extraordinaire!

Top Speaker Tips For Presenting Virtually

Lighting

  • Natural daylight is best, if possible sit facing a window. If the sun is too bright, pull down the window shade to diffuse it
  • A softened, diffused lamp (lampshades do the trick) placed at a 45° angle in front of you, will eliminate most shadows on your face

Attire

  • Choose attire that you would wear if you were attending an in-person conference
  • Plain-colored shirts and pants/skirts are optimal; patterns or stripes may not display well on remote sites
  • Avoid wearing a colour similar to your background.

Atmosphere

  • Pick your presentation spot carefully, where you will not be interrupted
  • Check what’s visible in your camera background before you start. You may choose to remove personal photos. If you have a company banner, display it behind you.
  • Explore Zoom setup options. Select ‘Settings’ and consider using a virtual background, or ‘Touch up my appearance’ under ‘Video’

Audio

  • When you are not speaking, remember to mute yourself
  • Test your audio first to make sure the sound is clear
  • Speak slowly and clearly. It’s much more difficult for participants to process speech over a virtual presentation, where it’s harder to watch the presenter’s face for vocal and body language cues.
  • Zoom has a feature to cancel background noises from your microphone
  • Use a pair of wired ear buds (if not using an external high quality microphone) which tends to give the best clarity when speaking

Hints for better presentations

  • Close unnecessary open applications and windows to avoid distractions
  • Put your camera at eye level (use a stand, or stack of books if you are using a laptop camera)
  • If you look directly at your camera while speaking, your attendees will feel much more included in the conversation. Position the ‘active speaker’ window on your screen directly under the camera so that it is natural for your eyes to be looking towards the camera
  • Stick a post-it right below or next to your webcam with notes pertinent to the presentation. If you take a peek, you will still be looking somewhat directly at your audience.
  • Practice and time your presentation; try not to memorize the talk as it may not sound natural.

Testimonial

“Working in partnership with pcnametag to deliver an engaging virtual conference for CanSPEP was wonderful. The virtual event kit is a superb way to generate buzz about the event and transform it to an elevated experience! Delegates reported being excited to receive something in the mail. When they opened their kits, they found lots of fun items, some of which they were only allowed to use later in the week. This was captivating indeed!”

– Malak Sidky, Vice President, Partnerships, CanSPEP

Hilton Downtown Toronto Pays it Forward

In these challenging times of COVID-19, there are ways to extend kindness and compassion.

A unique partnership between the a hospital Foundation and a few downtown hotels including The Hilton Downtown Toronto, was struck in order to assist several customer groups. One customer group are essential health care workers that are either too tired to go home and just need a safe place to relax and recharge after a long shift or have immunocompromised family members that they are afraid of infecting.

Another group was identified which consisted of people living in women’s shelters, that due to the crowded conditions, were at risk of contracting COVID-19. The hotels agreed to open their doors to this clientele and the rates charged were just sufficient to defray their costs to have a skeleton crew be on site.

This is an amazing collaboration which allows the Hilton Downtown Toronto to operate since most hotels are still closed, while at the same time, helps keep health care workers and other vulnerable populations safe.

The link to register for the discounted rates at the Hilton Downtown Toronto is:

http://www.hilton.com/en/hi/reservations/index.jhtml?hotel=TORHIHH&corporateCode=3022291

Cleanliness is of paramount importance these days and Hilton has developed a global program that will introduce a new standard of hotel cleanliness and disinfection: Hilton Cleanstay with Lysol protection. Travelers and hotel guests are expecting a higher level of cleanliness than ever before so this is a great comfort to those guests that are staying at the hotel.

Stay Safe!

Sustainable Approaches to Combat Burnout & Stress

In various surveys, event planners rate their jobs as highly stressful. Typically, it rates as within the top 5 of all time stressful careers. So what is it about the industry that makes our roles so stressful?

At the recent 8thAnnual Global Pharmaceutical and Medical Meetings Summit in Boston, I co-hosted a roundtable discussion about this topic. The delegates were split into 3 groups. The first group was asked to identify their top stressors in their jobs; group 2 was asked to list challenges that are out of their control and group 3 was asked to brainstorm tactics to mitigate stress.

What emerged was very interesting. Planners cited the following key stressors, most of which are out of their control:

  • Mergers & acquisitions
  • Strikes or union labour disputes
  • Ineffective timely communication from clients that lead to delays in decision making
  • Last minute unreasonable planning requests from their clients
  • Champagne expectations on beer budgets
  • Unpredictable severe weather emergencies (e.g. flood, fire) or infectious diseases that impact attrition rates

So what’s a planner to do to decrease the stress levels associated with these challenges?

Tactics varied, but the essence of it was to implement a risk management plan, replete with emergency preparedness mitigation strategies enabling planners to embrace the challenges and lower their stress level.

We have planned multiple events over the years and we fully understand the planning cycle. Hence, we can anticipate that there will be times when we need to pivot and change the agenda for example. We also recognize that there are tools that we should use to help reduce our stress levels such as establishing and monitoring our critical path and sharing this with our client at regular intervals. These checkpoints are key and need to be established early on. They are especially useful when the client communication is sparse.

To reduce your employees’ stress level, make sure you share your challenges. There is no need to take on all the stress. Your colleagues and/or employees can assist you in identifying solutions when a program budget gets slashed for example, yet you are still expected to deliver a high-quality product.  As a risk mitigation strategy, you should have a comprehensive database of vendors at various price points. This will enable you to quickly identify solutions.

As things heat up ~6 weeks pre-event, there are so many stress relieving tactics that may be effective to event planners. These include:

  • Eat well and ensure you get sufficient sleep
  • Disconnect from tech and distance yourself from work every evening. Working 18 hours days in the weeks leading up to the event can lead to burnout. Realize that you will be less effective if you are exhausted.
  • Take a yoga class or partake in any exercise such as going for a walk outdoors. This changes your mindset and has been proven to be invigorating
  • Engage in daily meditation – you cannot learn this at the last minute
  • Listen to music
  • Talk to a trusted friend or colleague about your feelings

On-site, we need to have a checklist with all the important phone numbers of our client representative, keynote speakers, vendors, and banquet manager so that if we need to shift suddenly, we can proactively communicate the change or escalate the decision if we need to evacuate for example. We do not need to be the on-site superhero and solve all the problems ourselves; we need to preassign roles to our staff and volunteers.

Changes are inevitable in any meeting or event; it is incumbent upon us to embrace these changes by being prepared to pivot and not sweating the small stuff!

Thanks everyone who participated at this session and to my co-facilitator Brenda Miller!

 

How to Make your Event more Sustainable – My Top Picks

In our work with clients hosting meetings and events, we make decisions every day from selecting venues, AV companies and décor items to exploring transportation and marketing collateral options. All these factors impact our environment. I have committed to choosing sustainable solutions so that our planet can not only survive, but thrive. I pledge to continuously educate myself, my staff, suppliers, and clients on opting for environmental friendly choices including:

  1. Creating a RFP that highlights sustainability requirements.
  2. Utilizing a carbon calculator for my events. We are all used to tracking our expenses vs. what we budgeted. Let’s take it one step further and track our carbon footprint.
  3. Selecting a venue that complies with eco-certification guidelines.
  4. Exploring off-the-grid AV options. At The Sustainable Events Forum, AV Canada used solar powered generators to power the cameras, lighting, microphones, projectors and screens. It can be done!
  5. Eliminating the use of plastic water bottles. Our water supply is safe, and contains fluoride, which is known to decrease the incidence of cavities. Instead of supplying plastic water bottles at your events, consider eco-friendly options such as Tabl’eau which uses the venue’s water supply, filters it in their mobile unit and makes it available in lovely glass reusable bottles.
  6. Asking the venue to provide food choices that comply with the 100-mile diet, thereby reducing the need for planes to transport items that are out-of-season. The fuel used in planes is a huge pollutant.
  7. Exploring ways to reduce food waste such as partnering with Second Harvest.
  8. Eliminating the use of paper. There are so many options available that can replace paper, such as posting the agenda on room screens, or using an App such as Eventmobi or Cvent, which can include speaker bios, exhibitor information, the daily agenda and numerous ways to recognize your sponsors.
  9. Not offering swag bags filled with plastic trinkets. Instead, ask your delegates to supply their own cloth bag and insist that your exhibitors select meaningful swag items that are not harmful to the environment, such as branded plastic water bottles.
  10. Selecting off-site options that are within walking distance of the venue. If there are delegates with mobility challenges, select companies with electric bussing options.

 

 

 

Senior’s Expo 50+ Features Delmanor Retirement Home

Ronnie’s Home Care Services is proud to present Senior’s Expo 50+ taking place at Eagles Nest Golf Club on September 25th. This high-calibre event features educational seminars and a niche array of vendors catering to seniors. Our sponsors include: Remax, RBC, Vaughan Chiropractic, Ward Funeral Home and D’Air Dance Collective. Our profiled vendor is Delmanor Retirement Home who have provided the following information about their homes:

Retirement is the time to reward yourself with the lifestyle you’ve worked hard to achieve. Delmanor understands that. Residents at every Delmanor community embrace the opportunity to learn and discover all their new lifestyle has to offer.At Delmanor, you can enjoy a spectacular turn-key lifestyle that doesn’t come with a chore list, only a calendar of events to keep you active. You choose the service package that suits you, from independent to assisted living. This is your opportunity to try new things, and to enjoy the company of good friends, enhanced by the Delmanor Living Well™ program which promotes an active mind, body, and spirit.Enjoy a variety of menu choices including vegetarian options prepared by Red Seal Chefs. Delmanor sources the freshest ingredients from local farmers and can also cater to special diets.

As a proud member of the Tridel group of companies, Delmanor is dedicated to providing service that focuses on individual preferences. Team members are selected for their passion and commitment to delivering exceptional service.With five convenient locations across the GTA and the addition of Delmanor Aurora opening in late 2021 — Delmanor welcomes those who love life and expect the best.For more information, please visit  www.delmanor.com

Come visit the Delmanor booth at SE50+. To become a vendor or to purchase tickets, go to https://www.seniorsexpo-50plus.com/vendors-individual-tickets/.