Archive for January, 2014

Let’s Talk About Blogging

Posted on: January 27th, 2014 by Michael Lepage No Comments

Author: Caitlyn  Dixon, Conference Coordinator, Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture

Let’s talk about blogging, shall we?

Last year at our regional meeting in February, as I passed around the sign-up sheet for the blog, I was met with a little apprehension.  People were unsure what the blog was all about and I was met with a lot of “I don’t know what to write about” (I’ll admit, I was with them). 

That’s the beauty of blogs, you can really write about whatever you want.  Blogs are great for generating discussion, education, inspiring new ideas, and sometimes just for reassurance that other people are dealing with the same issues, frustrations and triumphs as you. 

I’ve recently started searching the web for other blogs by people who work in the hospitality industry.  While a lot of the ones that I’ve come across are mostly authored by those in the hotel industry, there is still a lot of great info that can be used in university operations. 

Here are a few that I’ve checked out lately:

I encourage you to do a blog search and to spread the word about the great one we have created!

Caitlyn  Dixon, Conference Coordinator, Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture
Telephone: 902-893-4122


“What do you do the rest of the year?”

Posted on: January 20th, 2014 by Michael Lepage No Comments

 Author: Katelyn Narain, Group Sales & Services Coordinator, Simon Fraser University

“What do you do the rest of the year?” is a question I receive A LOT (and I’m sure fellow CUCCOA members can relate).  While it is fairly easy for clients, partners, and co-workers to understand what we do during conference season, it is the rest of the year that leaves them stumped.  After all, the summer is our “busy season”, so what does that make the rest of the year?

Conference season typically runs from May through August and is the time of year when our campuses are filled with groups of all types and sizes. We spend our days working with group contacts, supervising student staff, preparing meeting space, inspecting accommodations, and ensuring that events run flawlessly from start to finish. 

As the Group Sales & Services Coordinator at Simon Fraser University, my September through April is filled with everything that makes conference season a success. From nourishing relationships with existing clients to seeking new conference business to looking at policies and procedures  and making changes for the better, my days are filled with a variety of tasks (and grunt work) that allows conference season to happen. My days consist of sales calls, meetings, marketing initiatives, staff training, and yes, some days going through files that haven’t been touched in months.  Contract templates are reviewed, rates and budgets are set, staff is hired, and proposals are sent.  Often I spend more time during these months communicating with clients than with co-workers. It’s important to make the most of our “off-season” to ensure that when groups start arriving in May we are 110% ready to make their time at SFU an experience they won’t forget.

Although others may never fully understand all the work that goes into “the rest of the year”, for me conference season is never really over. The gears switch slightly, but in the end, everything we do, year round, is to create a successful conference season for our clients.

Katelyn Narain, Group Sales & Services Coordinator, Simon Fraser University
Telephone: 778-782-3228

Your Local Hospitality Partners

Posted on: January 13th, 2014 by Michael Lepage No Comments

Author:  Janet Gates-Robart, Business Development Manager, Conference Services, Saint Mary’s University

Don’t forget to market your university to your local hospitality partners!

Firstly, you can’t afford not to be a member of your local tourism bureau, for us it is Destination Halifax.  If you don’t have a specific bureau in your area then I would   work closely with your provincial tourism office or city office as they are on the pulse of what large events, city-wide conferences, sporting events, etc. are coming to your area.  Building these relations and getting involved in future bids and proposals will assist with being “top of mind”.  Face it, Universities can easily be forgotten as an option for upcoming conferences & events.

Some other local hospitality partnerships that are beneficial and should be part of your network are:  hotels and 3rd party meeting/event planners.  Everyone’s striving for the same results and the busier they are the busier you will be.

I would also recommend you join your local chapters of MPI (Meeting Planners International), CSAE (Canadian Society of Association Executives) – too name a few.  These offer not only networking opportunities but also valuable educational sessions.

Here are some results we have received from working closely with our local hospitality partners:

-          A conference that could not afford hotel rates and the hotel recommended they call the local universities.

-          Doing a joint bid with a local hotel for a large conference that had students and professionals attending therefore requiring a hotel & residence block of bedrooms.

-          A conference that required a lot of breakout rooms or a large plenary that the hotel could not accommodate.

These are just a few examples but make it one of your goals in 2014 to build those local hospitality partnerships.  They will pay off!


Janet Gates-Robart, Business Development Manager, Conference Services, Saint Mary’s University
Telephone: (902) 491-8699

Kicking off a New Year to a New Season!

Posted on: January 6th, 2014 by Michael Lepage No Comments

Author: Debbie Harding, Manager, Conferences and Accommodation, University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus

Happy New Year! As we begin the New Year, it becomes crystal clear very early on that things are already kicking off for the conference season, only a few short months away.  You may think that it’s way too early to start planning for conference season on January 6th!  Not the case.  We are already setting up meetings with housing, maintenance, residence life, conferences, and housekeeping to begin planning our transition from housing to conference season.  When are students moving out?  How much time do we have to clean and set?  How many students are staying over summer? What are the maintenance projects? We are looking at our groups and planning staffing needs. We are putting together our job posting for student guest service agents to be posted by late January. We are fine tuning revisions to training modules and procedures. And so much more!

Planning for conference season can be just as complicated and critical as planning the actual conferences!  It takes a tremendous effort to make sure that our student residences are ship shape for all of our conference and accommodation guests. The best way to do this is to make sure that our organization is prepared on all levels for the season ahead.  We are extremely fortunate to have a fantastic cohesive team that works together to make this happen smoothly.  We also have the benefit of experience!  Because of our critical evaluation each season, we are better prepared for next season. Starting now just makes it that much smoother for later.

We welcome the New Year because it gets us excited for what’s to come!  Our focus is turned to the future and all that it will bring!  So, here’s to a fantastic 2014 to all of our CUCCOA colleagues and success for the coming year!

Debbie Harding, Manager, Conferences and Accommodation, University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus
Telephone: 888-318-8666

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