Relationships – How important are they?

Whether your relationships are in your industry, in your city, or across the world makes a big difference in your success. How often have you heard someone say, we have been working together for X-many years? The lasting connection brings several things to mind: 1) the two are connected, 2) they have credibility, 3) they are loyal.

What happens when you get a piece of business in Thailand and you’ve never done anything there? How do you find the reliable suppliers considering the language barrier? Will they give you what you’re asking for or what they are hearing? If you are not of the same understanding, you may be very disappointed in the quality of service you receive. You cannot afford to just take a chance.   This is why relationships are so important.

When looking for a supplier in a location I am not familiar with, I reach out to the many reliable sources I have developed through my relationships. Sources you can rely on:

1)      Use an international DMC group that is based in the US and have partners in all major countries.  These DMC’s usually know the hotels, transportations companies, event producers, decorators, and anything you might require.

2)      Have your local hotel contacts suggest hotels they have in the city you are traveling to. Ask them to do an introduction to the sales person who would handle your account.

3)      Hotels can also refer you to a good DMC that they work with. Usually hotels have very high standards of DMC’s

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Booking Entertainment – How to Stretch the Dollar

Booking entertainment is often times one of the most expensive aspects of the meeting or event. I have some tips for getting great entertainers by asking the right questions. If you are looking for a headliner, prepare a few questions before calling the agent. Who do you have performing in the area for your meeting? Is there a performer who is on the road and can be in the area?

Using a headliner who is already in the area saves you travel costs and you can negotiate a lower rate because you have a benefit for the entertainer. They can pick up a gig while performing for another client staying in the same area. You save on airfare for the group.

When looking in a new city where you have no resources, contact a local production company or a 4-5 star hotel and ask for a recommendation.  You always want someone with a good reputation who is capable of contracting and who is a good value and will negotiate with you.

Make sure your agent will handle all of the details; the equipment, sound, and staging, and any permits needed. Ask for all details in writing and make sure you ask if you need to fulfill any items on the rider. Some riders want to bring friends to the party – never say yes! They may ask for upgraded rooms or request top shelf liquor. Many items can be negotiated if you have a good agent, as they can help you with all of this. Always make sure the rehearsal time is available and not interfering with your event/meeting that may be taking place before the event happens. Make sure the entertainer does not stay and party after they perform. It is not a good idea to have them with the audience as unexpected things do happen sometimes.

The agent should know how much the artist will charge if you want to extend the show and you should find out in advance. Sometimes you will find that they are not willing to stay for another set. Be sure to know in advance and inform your client that the artist will not extend and that they cannot have additional time. If they can, tell them the fee before the show.

After selecting your artist, insist they provide you with current videos of their current shows and playlists. This is a must to be sure that you are getting the right shows, attitude, and to see how the band interacts with the audience. Ask what they will wear to your event if it is a formal party and be sure they are informed about choice of dress – classy or causal. They should have a variety of outfits according to the show.

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To Err is Human, to Know is Experience

When was the last time you made a mistake? What did you do? Did you fixate on the mistake or did you not even miss a beat and move to get it fixed. Most mistakes have options if you move quickly enough to recover.

When you’re faced with a mistake you or someone else has made, you must use your experience to think on your feet and find a solution – quickly. When everything is resolved, examine where the mistake was made and discuss it with the team. Also discuss how you or they fixed the problem. It is a good idea to ask the team, what else could we have done?

Make sure your team understands – we only make this mistake once. Each time something goes wrong, make it a learning experience. Mistakes make the team think more carefully to make sure they don’t repeat it in the future.

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Value-Added Solutions

As a planner your client trusts you to represent them and negotiate the best value you can to benefit them.  Make sure they see you have focused on hotel room rates, negotiated food and beverage and investigated additional values like complimentary upgrade suites, presidential suites and VIP services.  Once you develop a solid relationship with your hotel sales manager and they are doing their best to meet the requirements of your RFP, tell them you want their best offer and that you will not come back to renegotiate.  You can save time and the salesperson appreciates when you say – you have heard the requirements, please make your best offer.  This end result can be accomplished with solid communication through a very complete RFP.  Use hotel chains who have worked well with you in the past.  Make sure you let the sales manager know about your past business with their chain as this motivates them to win the new opportunity for their brand.

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Hotel Contract Negotiations – You are the boss

Realize that when you are selecting the hotel properties you want to use, you are bringing business to them and they now have an opportunity to book a piece of business.  Remember that sales people want business that is to the advantage of the client and hotel.  Be very clear about what you need, including those concessions you consider desirable and/or have had in the past.  To avoid a situation make sure the sales manager understands any and all deal-breakers.  Always offer your client at least two good options for hotels, and include the concessions and savings you have negotiated for them.

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Themed Parties – Keep Things New

Looking for a themed party? Do something different. Don’t think about the old ideas that we have all done. If you are hiring a DMC or event producer, ask the question “is there an event that you have designed that you have not done yet?”  If they say yes, you are in luck.

Event producers love doing new themes. They get to be creative, using new ideas and expanding their opportunity to produce something that excites them and ignites their energy for creative design.

The event should be designed with the result in mind. It’s more than just a themed event; it is an opportunity to give your guests an evening that is fresh and filled with elements that will surprise, entertain, and make an impression.

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Snowfull in Seattle

Hide your kids, hide your wife…Seattle is in a state of emergency!! That’s right, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire has declared a state of emergency. “Bring in the National Guard if necessary!!” he said. Freezing rain has fallen continuously since 4am. There has been an estimate of 4.6 inches of snow in the last 24 hours.

Seattle may be in a state of emergency, but California Host is not! Over 95 flights to Seattle-Tacoma were cancelled including all 3 of Lauren’s. Seattle has set a record low of 27 degrees and a daily snowfall of 6.8” at the airport. Needless to say, we are happy that Lauren is warm and safe in our San Francisco office.

Besides to being host to a freak snowstorm, Seattle is welcoming our client Emirates to celebrate to the launch of service to Seattle. Mother Nature sure has a silly way of greeting our international friends. Quite a change of seasons for them since Dubai is expecting a high of 74 degrees tomorrow.

While we were all very exciting for this glamorous launch party, we wanted to keep everyone safe and dry. With a couple of phone calls, Lauren and Lindsey were able to seamlessly postpone our party till tomorrow night. So don’t put away your dancing shoes just yet, the party is still on! Rain, shine, or snow!

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Gifts Galore

California’s largest gift fair hits San Francisco this week!  And let me tell you, it’s a planner’s dream!  Just take a moment and think of the endless possibilities of gift giving…

Now wipe the drool from your face and focus.

The Gift Fair is truly beneficial for Meeting & Event Planners.  Here at California Host we take pride in making sure our clients have the best experience when they come to our beautiful city.  It is incredible how a small gift can be the biggest gesture.  There really is nothing better than coming back to your hotel room to find a present waiting for you on your bed. A gift works for every occasion as well.  We leave signature gifts of the city we are in for site inspections.  Fun gifts that relate to the activity of the day for incentive trips.  And even some fun, but practical gifts for meetings and trade shows.

What makes the San Francisco International Gift Fair so wonderful is that the gifts are on wholesale!  You can stock up for the year and have an endless supply of gifts!  Our office has a whole closet dedicated just to gifts, many of which came from the Gift Fair.

So grab your wallets and your shopping bags at hit up Moscone West this weekend!  We hope to see you there!

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Try It First!

Are you a foodie?  Do you want to be the first to try a new restaurant?  Grub Street is perfect for you then!  This great site keeps you updated with all the new restaurants that are opening as well as the restaurants that are closing.  Could this get any better?  Oh yes it can!  Grub Street isn’t limited to just one city.  They feature San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston! Don’t believe me?  Check them out yourself!

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