All posts in “Event Planning Tips”

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.




Downsizing: How to make a Convincing Argument

Downsizing your elderly parents can be a difficult job. As their adult child, you may find that this job falls on to you. Let’s take a look at some essential factors to take into consideration when helping your parents make the decision to transition into a smaller, more accessible living space.
It may be understandably hard to convince your parents that they even need to downsize. It is important not to put pressure on your parents as this can be counterproductive and result in behaviour that is counteracting with your goals. Safety and comfort should be the primary goal. The thought of downsizing can be an emotional one, there are undoubtedly many memories and factors that your parents can be associating with the home. Asking you for help may be something your parents aren’t used to; they may not want to burden you or feel as if they are. The shift in caretaking is a big one that takes time to get used to. Mom and Dad spent years taking care of you, this role reversal can feel strange and demeaning.
Life can be hectic, as adults, we all have a lot going on. From raising our own families to working on our careers, add on to that helping your parents with the stressful and work extensive task of downsizing may seem overwhelming. It is important to avoid taking a tough love attitude. Remember to think of your parents’ positions every step of the way.
Keep in mind tone. The tone of the conversation should be open and collaborative. An excellent way to get the ball rolling is to approach the topic gently. For example, instead of saying “Mom, we need to get organized. There’s way too much stuff you ever use.” You can say “My friends’ mother found a lot of things she didn’t even realize she had since organizing her home. If you’d like, I would love to help you do the same.” By using this approach, it comes across as your parents’ choice.
Make downsizing less daunting by breaking it up into small manageable tasks. You may want to focus on one room at a time or even one part of a room at a time. If you know your parents spend a lot of time in the kitchen and bedroom, but not as much time in the basement, you may want to start in the basement. The disruption of moving things around won’t be as visible and intrusive. You wouldn’t want to discourage your parents from this lengthy process by packing up their bedroom first. This process can take months, and you want to make it as fun and enjoyable as possible. It is recommended that you take plenty of well-deserved breaks. You can use this time as quality time with your parents, put on their favourite music and even invite other family members to come over and help.

Convincing others over to help may be an issue on its own. However, this may be a good time to assign and schedule tasks that you know align with their strengths. For example, if your brother is good at filing papers, that could be a specific task you ask him to help you with. A simple task that one is good at is far less daunting than a massive project such as organizing and packing up a whole house. As a best practice, you should have a designated box for valuable items such as jewellery and money, as well as a safe place when you keep things such as banking information and wills. During the process of downsizing, you are in an excellent position to get things organized from a financial standpoint. This may be the perfect time to organize and make important decisions about the future. Involving your siblings in these decisions may lead itself to the transition of help in other areas.
Downsizing is emotionally draining. This is a significant life change for yourself and your parents. It may be hard for you to say goodbye to your childhood home, and it may be hard for your parents to give up the house where they held so many important family milestones. Understanding both points of view and finding some middle ground is ideal. It’s okay to let your parents know how difficult this change is for you as well, this may even be a bonding experience where you can both find closure. Moving, in general, is stressful, but when you downsize you not only leave behind your home, you are also forced to part with a lot of your possessions. That means sorting and parting with memories. Remember to be understanding and be patient with your parents as you embark on this life-changing transition.
The Connecting Generations Team

Key Considerations in Planning an Event

When planning an event, there are many factors to consider, the overarching one would be whether to attempt the coordination to oneself or to hire a professional. Event planners have expertise acquired through many years of executing a variety of events and are aware of current trends in event design. They have established processes in place such as the development of a critical path in order to ensure event success. Professional event planners are part of planning bodies (such as PCMA or CanSPEP) and value educational opportunities. They possess insurance and operate with a risk mitigation approach when reviewing venue and entertainment contracts. Moreover, they have a myriad of connections with suppliers (e.g. décor companies, DJs, caterers, photographers, florists, printers).

The following is a listing of key elements to consider when planning an event; all of these will impact the amount of time needed to execute the event.

Event Type and Scope–  Gala, annual conference, launch event, webinar, hybrid event, XMAS party, trade show, fundraising walk, think tank meeting, board retreat

Event Timing– half day event, full day event, multi-day event, sequential or break-out tracks

Event Size– Less than 100 delegates, 100-250 delegates, 250+. This affects venue size and room configurations.

Content Development & Speaker Management– Content to align with event theme, need for keynote speakers or panelists, abstract management services, liaison with universities for CME, coordination needed for receipt of bios and PowerPoint presentations

Marketing – Event promotion is key to the success of any event. Event promotion starts with the development of a marketing plan and can include the production of communication materials (flier, signage, tickets, invitations, event program), media relations (print, radio, TV) and social media.

Logistics required– Arranging for promo codes with various airlines or train/bus companies, need for swag bags, social program, spousal program, transportation during the event,  catering, AV services, photography, videography.

On-site services– Production of name tags, registration, flow of event, run of day (event script)

Evaluation– Creation of a survey and analysis of results

Once the scope of the event is clearly established, the fun begins with the development of the event’s theme and the budget. At Health Care Event Planning, we create optimistic, break-even and pessimistic budget scenarios so that the client is fully aware of the financial realities of the event. We also specialize in working with volunteer committees to establish the content and assist with sourcing engaging speakers that are experts in their field.

What ultimately sets us apart are the value-added services which include:

  • Expertise in the health care field
  • Translation of documents from English to French
  • Extensive media training which enables our team to interview speakers and produce short videos that can be used to promote the event
  • Expert moderation and facilitation of workshops and panel discussions

As can be seen, hiring an event planner is an investment that is worthwhile. Let us plan your next stellar event!

Top 10 Tips for a Successful Venue Site Visit

Yesterday, I did a site visit of the Hilton Meadowvale hotel. I wanted to share some tips on how to ensure you are prepared and what questions to ask during site visits:

  1. As food and beverage costs are usually the greatest costs for meetings and events, you should always ask if the venue has a meetings package. Packages include the venue rental fees and result in cost savings for your client.
  2. Another high ticket item is audiovisual (AV) costs. Most hotels have their own in-house AV company. Always ask if you can bring in your own AV supplier; this is to your advantage as you already have a close relationship with your supplier and trust their capabilities. If the venue does not allow this, do not deal with the venue. As a client, you need to have a choice with who you deal with. Hotels will let you know if their AV company isexclusive (meaning you cannot hire your regular AV supplier) or preferred.
  3. Make sure that there are no hidden fees with the preferred AV option. Sometimes, hotels charge so many extra fees that it makes it cost prohibitive to hire your AV supplier.
  4. Take notes and pictures when looking around the conference rooms; it will help you remember the space and facilitate your decision later, especially if you are looking at several venues.
  5. Ask your host if they will supply a “war room.” This is where you can store materials such as program agendas, swag bags and name tags. During the event, this is where you can hold mini meetings to resolve any issues.
  6. Ask for a written copy of their environmental initiatives. This includes what efforts the venue does to preserve natural resources (electricity, gas water).
  7. Ask whether they have a program for saving costs or earning hotel points provided the client incorporates health, wellness and social responsibility into the event. For example, Hilton Hotels offer a “Meet with Purpose Package” which offers earning 10,000 points  for running an event that includes health and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
  8. Ask if the venue organizes any team building sessions during client meetings. These can include activities such as sushi rolling, paint parties or races.
  9. Determine if the venue has trained its staff to detect human trafficking. If they do not know or answer no, use this as an opportunity to educate them about the issue of human trafficking (also known as sex slavery) in Canada, which tends to occur at downtown hotels, hotels near train stations and the airport.
  10. Ask for extra concessions such as free parking for guests or complimentary accommodations for the client and meeting planner.

For further tips on event planning, visit


Accessibility Issues in Event Planning

Accessibility Issues in Event Planning

According to the Ontario Human Rights Commissioner, accessibility is a right to participate to an event. So it is not an add-on when planning an event. Therefore my premise is that any one of my speakers, vendors, sponsors or delegates may have an accessibility challenge. To that end, I ensure that my planning process includes representative stakeholders who could shed light on special needs. The final result is that the venue and the proceedings will be accessible in all manners.

There must be a way for my delegates to access the meeting rooms and stage (speakers) should they be in a wheelchair So there have to be elevators in the venue, wheelchair friendly washroom facilities and a ramp to access the stage.

To accommodate any delegates with hearing impairments, I hire interpreters. They are expensive and they work in a team of 2 so this cost has to be factored into the budget. The stakeholders involved are the Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf; they help me with coordinating interpreters to my events.

The hoarding full day workshops that I have planned for Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre over the past 6 years would serve as an example of an event where I needed to take into consideration the needs of the deaf community.

I have never had delegates that are blind, so I have not had to factor that into my planning.

7 Easy Steps to Ensure the Optimal Catering Experience

  1. During your initial meeting with the catering company, book a taste testing session. If you don’t like the food, go elsewhere!
  2. Ensure that there are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free meal choices and design your registration form to reflect those choices.
  3. Identify all costs in order to develop a realistic food and beverage budget. Keep in mind that usually the per-person cost does not include taxes, service or gratuities.
  4. Look over the catering contract very carefully. Some venues require a minimum order regardless of how many delegates register. If this seems risky, ask the catering manager to remove the clause. If they do not agree, go elsewhere.
  5. Most catering contracts require a 48 hour notice for final confirmation numbers. Subtract 10% from your final count, as generally there is a 10% no show rate. However this may vary by industry. If this is the first time you arrange an event of this type and you are unsure of the no-show rate, subtract 5%. On event day, if more people show up than you booked for, simply advise the catering manager; the kitchen can always prepare more meals. The advantage to this strategy is that it saves the client money and equally important, it contributes to less food waste.
  6. Most catering contracts require a 48 hour notice for final confirmation numbers. Subtract 10% from your final count, as generally there is a 10% no show rate. However this may vary by industry. If this is the first time you arrange an event of this type and you are unsure of the no-show rate, subtract 5%. On event day, if more people show up than you booked for, simply advise the catering manager; the kitchen can always prepare more meals. The advantage to this strategy is that it saves the client money and equally important, it contributes to less food waste.
  7. Obtain feedback from the delegates on the quality and quantity of the food offered; this will provide useful information to assess the caterering company which will affect your decision to use them again.

DOs and DON’Ts of Event Planning

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

  • In the preplanning phase make sure that the date your client has selected does not conflict with other industry events, otherwise your attendance rates may suffer.
  • Certain days of the week are better than others. Generally, Friday events are less popular. Also hotels and other venues give better rates during the week.
  • Meet with your client to discuss the event goals. Is this a bilingual event? Is it educational and if so, will it provide educational credits to the health professionals in attendance? If so, is there a need to contact a university to confer credits – (e.g. CME). If not, is a certificate of attendance needed?
  • Determine with the client whether the event is reliant on sponsorships or will the registration fee cover all expenses.
  • Will it be a half day session, a full day, or multiple days? Will there be concurrent sessions?
  • Be aware of the client’s attendance expectations for the overall event and for each breakout session.
  • Formulate a budget that takes into account all costs and projects what the registration fee will be. Get sign-off from the client.
  • Work with your venue planner to optimize 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.
  • Scrutinize all contracts and ask questions if you are not sure of any clauses. Obtain sign-off from the client before returning any contract (AV, catering, simultaneous translation, interpreter services for hearing impaired delegates)
  • If the budget allows, 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.
  • For all flyers, including SAVE THE DATE, get sign-off from the client and/or the communications department of the client’s company/organization. Make sure all logos used are current.
  • Obtain all speaker bios well in advance. Ask for 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.
  • On the big day, 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 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.
  • Ensure you have lots of help with registration, especially if there is a projected attendance of 100 or more delegates.
  • 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 the catering is setting up all meals and snacks according to schedule.
  • Design an evaluation form that is comprehensive (e.g. 5 point Likert scale) but is easy to analyse.
  • Submit the evaluation report no later that one week post event.
  • Hold a debrief with the client post event to discuss the event in detail and any challenges encountered.
  • Book your next event with the client!

Click here to learn more about events planned by Health Care Event Planning.