Archive for April, 2014

The Road to Recognition

Posted on: April 28th, 2014 by Michael Lepage No Comments

Author: Erin Crane, Manager, Conferences,  University of Lethbridge

“Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.”
Abraham Lincoln

Let’s face it, if you seek recognition and want to be praised for a job well done conference planning and hotel management are not the jobs for you!

Our efforts are focused behind the scenes, making sure everything is happening when and how it should.  We plan, we implement, we troubleshoot and then we pick up the pieces and put it all back together again when things don’t go as anticipated.  It takes a special kind of person to do this job and with that comes the need for enough confidence and self-awareness to know that it could not be done without you.

That being said, we cannot lose sight of how important recognition is to us and to the people who work in our departments.  My team has been lucky enough this year to receive numerous accolades for our successful conference and hotel season.  It has reminded me how inspiring and motivating it is when your efforts are recognized and praised.

Recognition is not only a great motivator for staff but it can also be a great marketing tool.  What better way to advertise your business than in an article where they talk about how your facilities and how your efforts made a difference and an impact on an event.  It is the best testimonial you can have.

There are many ways to show recognition so I’ve listed a few for you to consider:

  1. Seek out city wide awards for tourism and customer service.  Attached is a link to our local awards.  Check with your Destination Marketing Organization or Chamber of Commerce to see what your city offers.
  2. Create your own in-house awards.  Our student team developed a recognition award last year that was awarded at our monthly meeting.  Each staff member had to write down an outstanding effort made by someone else on the team.  Each one was read aloud and the person who had the most, won the recognition award.  This was a great system as everyone who had done something outstanding was recognized even if they didn’t walk away with a prize.
  3. Nominate yourself or someone on your team for your internal University awards.  Even if you don’t win it is nice to be nominated.
  4. Don’t forget that CUCCOA has awards that are presented at the National Conference. Please nominate someone and pass on the recognition.

Erin Crane, Manager, Conferences,  University of Lethbridge
Telephone: 403-329-2417

Things I would tell my younger self….

Posted on: April 21st, 2014 by Michael Lepage No Comments

Authors: Andrea Hennel, Manager Specialized Services;  Chelsea Rule, Event Logistics Coordinator Events and Conference Services; Jennifer Brading, Event Logistics Coordinator Events and Conference Services, Mount Royal University Events and Conference Services

Our team was having a rather nostalgic discussion around events and how we approach events management now versus when we first started in our careers, which inspired the writing of this post.

Things I would tell my younger self that would have saved me buckets of stress and sleepless nights…

1. Comfort is key

Never EVER wear those pretty high heels when running an event. It never fails that it will always be the day you wear those beautiful new shoes that you suddenly find yourself running a half marathon at work that day.  You can spot a newbie a mile away by the shoes they wear.

2. Do a “mind dump” at bedtime

Rather than waking up all night with the “don’t forgets and to do’s”,  keep a list beside your bed and take 10 minutes at bedtime to decompress and write down whatever comes to mind for to do’s.  This “mind dump” can be very freeing when you can’t shut your brain off the night before a big event.

3. Don’t play the blame game….

Things happen and you may want to pull your hair out BUT… focus on troubleshooting rather than whose fault the situation is.  We all work very closely with our internal service providers and while things generally go wonderfully, there are times when things can fall off the rails.  The “how we can avoid this situation in the future” discussion can happen after the event, but in the heat of things, its “all hands on deck” to ensure smooth flow.  This leads us to part two on this note- be prepared to pitch in and help out with anything and everything.  This may involve being a caterer, parking attendant, custodial and housekeeping person within the first hour of an event.  At the end of the day client satisfaction is what really matters.

4. Always come in earlier than your client.

Give yourself at least 30-60 minutes lead time before you expect the client to arrive- in this time frame rooms can literally be moved around, speakers green rooms have “mopped”, all with the client being none the wiser of the disaster that could have been.

5. Never agree to something if you’re hesitant that it can be delivered on successfully.

While we all feel pressure to deliver on very high targets, we should all be asking ourselves if there is a concern with a particular client request what is causing this flag.  It is much easier to advise the client of alternatives or caution them on particular choices rather than agreeing to things that logistically or operationally you aren’t fully confident you can deliver on.

6. Always remember to thank people.

Gratitude goes a long way when working with internal service providers as they play a key part in the success of each event.  Knowing how each area/provider likes to be recognized will go a long way on the goodwill front.

7. Stop saying “I’m so busy”.

You are an event person and by virtue of this will always be busy.

8. You’re only as good as your last event

This is the best advice for any event planner. No matter the details that stand out for the Coordinators, guests always remember the details from the previous event. If there were major disasters that weren’t contained behind the scenes, your organizer and guests will remember. By the same token, if you wow your guests with unique event features, themes, entertainment, food & beverage, etc., your event will stand out in their minds and they’ll look forward to attending your next event!

9. A smile is worth a thousand clients

Event Coordinators are the ones who oversee damage control at their events. The oven could break mid-service. The weather could blow over the outdoor food tent. There could be a need for 20 extra tables 15 minutes before the event. All that matters is that the client sees you in a constantly calm and controlled state with a smile on your face. Of course inside you may be throwing a tantrum like a 4 year old and desperately wanting to chug the bottles of wine behind the bar, but an event’s success greatly depends on what you can manage behind the scenes and how you handle all of the mini (or major) crisis that arise.

10 There’s no such thing as a repeat event

Talk to anyone who attends annual events (but who isn’t involved in planning them) and they’ll say that coordinating recurring or annual events is an easy feat. It must be a great ease to just refer to last year’s notes and plans and hit the copy button every year, right? Think again. No matter how many times an event has occurred in the past, the event will be different every year. Coordinators will agree this is actually part of the fun when planning recurring events – there’s always something to troubleshoot and always things that you can’t plan for, no matter if it’s the 14th year of a standard Stampede pancake breakfast or a small annual corporate holiday party.

11. Have fun!

Despite the chaos that may ensue at times in our environment, we always need to be able to share in a good laugh at the end of the day.  Events can be crazy but they should also be positively challenging and fun. If you lose sight of this for extended periods of time, it may be time to evaluate your role in the event world.


Andrea Hennel, Manager Specialized Services at Mount Royal University

Chelsea Rule, Event Logistics Coordinator Events and Conference Services at Mount Royal University

Jennifer Brading, Event Logistics Coordinator Events and Conference Services at Mount Royal University

Mount Royal University Events and Conference Services

Tel: (403)440-8890


A Big Experience in The Big Easy!

Posted on: April 14th, 2014 by Michael Lepage No Comments

Author: Keith Lawlor, Assistant Manager – Conference Services, University of Prince Edward Island

The crux of why I love being a part of CUCCOA is the networking opportunities it provides each of us throughout the year! Every time I connect with another member, it’s refreshing to share challenges and successes, compare practices, and catch up with friends! Every member has something to offer, and the wealth of knowledge that the membership provides is invaluable.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend my first ever ACCED-I Conference in New Orleans representing our CUCCOA membership! CUCCOA and ACCED-I have developed a partnership, offering a complimentary registration to a visiting delegate from the sister association’s Executive Board. I was happy to welcome the opportunity to experience ACCED-I, seeking ideas for our membership and enhancing relationships with international partners.

The Association of Collegiate Conference and Events Directors – International (ACCED-I) is an association comparable to CUCCOA, though with a membership of 1750 representing 500 institutions internationally, it is huge! Like CUCCOA, ACCED-I offers networking opportunities, open communication channels among members, regional conferences, and an annual large scale international conference.

The ACCED-I conference incorporated speakers, topic sessions, exhibitors, and social events. A standout experience involved keynote speaker Herman Boone, the real man behind  Denzel Washington’s character from the blockbuster film ‘Remember The Titans’. His presentation focused heavily on personal communication and team building, sharing his experience combining two racially divided football teams into one unified team, during a time in American history when racial tensions were high and segregation was being eliminated. He left the conference delegation inspired, and reminded the group how the most adverse of challenges can be overcome.

I had another positive experience when I connected with ACCED-I’s Industry Visibility Team, who are in place to strengthen partnerships with fellow sister organizations just like CUCCOA. A small group of us discussed ways to open the lines of communication between associations, and share some ideas and experiences from within the group. experiences. One interesting experience shared from a US member involved an exchange program, where she travelled to the UK to learn and work within the Conference and Housing Operation of a UK institution for a period of two weeks. It provided her plenty of insight about how the accommodation standards of the two countries vary, and inspired ideas for improvement for her home institution. This kind of an exchange even happens domestically, and rookie conference planners, and institutions new to the business often see huge value in such an experience. Imagine spending two weeks with another member school to compare practices and share perspectives – what an great idea!

ACCED-I also taught me something unexpected – it reminded me of just how great our CUCCOA membership is. I realized that our CUCCOA sessions are above-average in quality, and we’ve got some serious strength in our under-100-member size. CUCCOA was well-represented at ACCED-I too, with myself from the Executive Board, in addition to other members from Saint Mary’s and Carleton. We couldn’t help but compare the conference to the Canadian counterpart, and we are all enthusiastic about our upcoming National Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia!

All in all, it was a wonderful experience, and I encourage CUCCOA members to attend an ACCED-I event sometime! It’s informative and it’s fun, and above all, it opens us up to a whole new network of colleagues, ideas and new experiences!

Keith Lawlor, Assistant Manager – Conference Services, University of Prince Edward Island
Telephone: 902-566-0568

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