All posts in “Event Planning Tips”

Mind, Body & Soul Wellness Retreat – Curated with Intention

Planning a virtual retreat during a pandemic requires intentional event design. All events do, in fact.  We wanted to ensure that this event brought about positive change to the delegates as we are not immune to stress during COVID and can truly benefit from meaningful content being delivered to us. Equally important was the composition of the attendees; learning within a supportive community is so much more effective.

Roadmap for success:

So I spent lots of time researching the best-in-class experts and asked them to either speak at the event or facilitate a session.  Next, I examined the flow of the event. I needed a high energy, passionate speaker to kick off the day. Enter Zoe Dafniotis, Physical Education teacher, Fitness Professional and TRX instructor. She spent a few minutes outlining the core principles to a short but highly structured workout routine, where plank is king. Then we got physical and tried her 6 exercises repeated 6 times. Zoe’s session was a huge hit; one could sense the energy shift, and engagement was over the top!

The next sessions had to build on and complement the learnings. Annie Gaudreault, Founder VEEV, is a nutritionist and wellness coach extraordinaire. She debunked many myths about aging. Delegates learned that your lifestyle is a far more important wellness indicator than genes. I mean if Annie, who has some “nasty genes” in her family tree is able to run marathons, it certainly gives hope to us all!

Diane Crawford, Founder, The Voyage Inc. led us through a journey where she explored Confidence – Develop your Superpower. Using polls by probing the audience with questions was effective. Delegates were provided with a road map on how to build their confidence throughout their lives.

Delighting the Audience

In the months leading up to the retreat, I wanted to ensure a memorable experience for all delegates. I know that “breaking bread with someone” is an effective way to connect. So I decided that we would all eat together during this event and would split the group up into small breakout rooms so people could have a chance to know each other better. I purposefully sought out a caterer in the GTA who would create a healthy menu and could guarantee that the meal would arrive at people’s doorsteps. I partnered with Encore Catering; they have an excellent reputation and I have personally taste tested their delicious food. Delegate feedback was excellent; the meal arrived with a personalized menu card that had their name on it. This imparted a sense that they were special, as indeed they are. Aligning with a brand like Encore Catering that understands the importance of delighting the audience is integral to event success.

Engagement is King

Our social media campaign included wellness topics, profiled speakers and facilitators via short interviews and highlighted the benefits of attending. One of the first things we did was to partner with Trish Beesley, graphic designer and photographer. She designed wellness affirmation statements and accompanying imagery which were provided to early bird registrants. These beautiful, peaceful and inspirational wallpaper designs could be uploaded into iPhone or Android, providing a lasting benefit to delegates.

In the planning process, our events team tested out many engagement tactics and decided on 2 major ones. First off, we would curate a Pre-Show. During that time when delegates are logging on, we had them participate in a gamification word search powered by Engamio. Our sponsor, Samantha King, CEO of Fempire Builders, was keen to partner with us. “I love word searches and the competitive aspect of gamification, coupled with a Call to Action that showcased my company made it a perfect choice for me” Samantha stated.

Later in the day, we had immersive experiences like a much needed yoga class with Laura Brailsford. Another hit was a sound healing session facilitated by Nicole Manes, co-founder Sound Response Wellness. A sound bath has many benefits and is a wonderful wellness modality to reduce stress. Nicole uses her own voice as well as sound bowls, tuning forks and chimes allowing you to meditate and find peace. Feedback from her session was stellar.

Vendor spotlights were interspersed throughout the day. We learned about skin care from Helen Snell, Arbonne and her session got everyone inspired to suggest a DIY facial at the next retreat! We benefited from Jodie Rogers’ fireside chat about the healing properties of doTERRA essential oils. Jenny Hall did a ENJO product demonstration which was very convincing. The ENJO fibers in the cleaning cloths can actually remove butter/grease from a plate simply by adding water. No nasty cleaning chemicals needed!

Another premiere vendor, Teresa Isabel Dias, Founder, MenopausED, was also a big hit. Teresa is a pharmacist and menopause guru. Did you know that 20% of women going through menopause have such a hard time coping that they quit their jobs?  Her take on menopause being a possible glass ceiling had delegates talking up a storm. It is high time that we destigmatize menopause!

These examples showcase the vendors but the methods varied from product demos, to fireside chats, all the while offering compelling education. And the audience asked many questions, which shows how involved they were.

To recap the learning we were exposed to throughout the day, we utilized MyQuiz and created 12 wellness questions. Delegates were told that the person with the highest number of correct answers in the fastest time would win a prize; so competition was fierce! Contests are a great way to engage your audience.

Don’t Forget the Endnote

We really have to pay attention to the last session of the day. Having someone strong to close the event is paramount; too many times we focus on the keynote speaker and not the endnote. But the closing session is the last memory of the event.  So who better to close the day than Elvira V. Hopper, Founder, Live Your Vibe Transformation? She is an inspirational speaker in a class of her own. Elvira’s story is so compelling and people really resonate with her message that living out of alignment and not fully self-expressed can lead to tragedy. Elvira is a talented singer and crooned throughout her session so that we were educated and entertained at the same time. Who could ask for more?

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.

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
www.seniorsexpo50+

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 www.healthcareeventplanning.com