Posts Tagged ‘CUCCOA’

You want me to contribute what?

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

Author: Wendy Bros, Manager, Guest Accommodation Services, MacEwan University

With educational institutions’ budget constraints many of us who operate out of the Ancillary Departments are starting to feel the pressure to contribute more back to the Universities/Colleges we work for.

When you have limited time and space to operate with, how do we accomplish this?

1) Know your expenses and set your rates:
There is a fine line between blowing yourself out of the market and covering your costs. Doing your homework helps. Do a price comparison of the market in your area; calculate your expenses so that you know when you can offer a discount on volume and when you can’t. Keep in mind that the higher your occupancy the lower your costs are on each night you sell, which brings me to point #2….

2) Booking sites will be your new best friends:
They will increase your sales and occupancy on those unused nights. The higher your occupancy the lower your expenses are per night, driving up your profit margin. Win, win right? This brings me to point #3…..

3) Increase Sales Through Awareness:
How many times when you explain to someone new what you do for a living, they say…”I didn’t know educational institutions rented out rooms.” Most people don’t, however just by listing your rooms on these booking sites, creates awareness to thousands of people who didn’t even know we were an option before. Maybe they won’t book with us today but we will be in their minds the next time their daughter or son has an out of town tournament to attend….which brings me to point #4…..

4) The Non-monetary Contribution We Make to our Institutions:
I never miss an opportunity to remind anyone who will listen to me, the contribution we make by bringing in thousands of people to campus…all potential students, all potential parents of students and all potential students going to live in our residences someday. That is direct marketing at its best.
So when we are faced with that inevitable question, ”How much will your contribution increase next budget year?” these are the tools for success we have behind us to provide our answer with the utmost confidence.

Wendy Brost; Manager, Guest Accommodation Services; MacEwan University Residence
Telephone: 780-633-3623

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

Small University still Packs a Powerful Punch

Posted on: May 27th, 2013 by Michael Lepage No Comments

Author: Paul O’ Driscoll, Director, Residence Hall Programs, Brandon University

“Sure I’ll contribute to the blog”.  Back at the Western Region meeting in January (at the gorgeous Hotel Alma)  it seemed such a long time till May 21st, surely I’d find an hour or so to think up a theme and begin writing.  It was certainly not too much to ask, or at least it seemed not at the time.

So here it is: May 21st. It has been a hectic winter at our small university in western Manitoba, and even more hectic in the residence and conference area, and I’m scrambling to fulfil this commitment.  Lately it seems that’s the way nearly everything gets completed: last minute, just under the wire. I wonder at times at what point quality begins to suffer.

At Brandon University we have a small residence, and a small conference business.  With beds for up to 480, we are comfortable operating the residence office with a director (me), two clerical workers, a half-dozen residence assistants, and a few other part-time student workers.  These same people also run the conference business, under my direction: a responsibility that I inherited when the conference manager retired in the mid 1990’s.

Our conference operation may seem small; however we can pack a powerful punch.  While it’s true our average event is comprised of only about twenty or thirty people, we’ve hosted large events of up to 2200 participants (the Canada Games, twice), national conferences (National Lutheran Synod), prestigious sporting events (athletes village for World Youth Baseball , twice), prestigious national and international music competitions such as Egre (annually).  We also serve our more local community by hosting such events as mini-university, volleyball and basketball events, and computer gaming competitions.  Our meeting rooms do a thriving business, and our Main Dining Room has the best reputation in Brandon for formal events.

Running the residence business and the conference business out of one office has its advantages.  Room use arguments between the residence director  (me) and the conference manager (also me) are few, and lines of communication are short and direct.  The conference business directly affects the residence operation’s bottom line, so my full-time and part-time residence office employees are motivated to run a successful conference season.  While staff may not completely agree with the adage “a change is as good as a rest”, most would probably agree that they welcome the variety of work and the change from routine that comes with the conference season.

Despite the difference in size between our conference business and that of most other institutions, CUCCOA is the single most important external resource available to me in managing our conference office. I enjoy and benefit from every CUCCOA national conference and regional meeting I attend,  the list-serve utility is invaluable, and most of all the relationships that form between conference professionals remind me that I’m not in this business alone, that others face similar challenges, and the work we do adds value to our customers and our respective institutions.

Paul O’Driscoll, Director, Residence Hall Programs, Brandon University
Email: ODRISCOLL@BrandonU.CA
Telephone: 204-727-9799

CWSF – A Campus Wide Event!

Posted on: May 6th, 2013 by Michael Lepage No Comments

Author: Erin Crane, University of Lethbridge

Less than one week until the University of Lethbridge welcomes approximately 1,500 participants coming for the Canada Wide Science Fair.  It’s been a lot of work but so much fun.   I live for campus wide events. There’s something about a community coming together, throwing open its doors, showing off its best features and ensuring everyone has a good time, that reminds me why I love my job so much.  In my opinion this is community engagement at its finest.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with two different groups on this event. The local host committee, made up of some of our finest staff members, and a group University stakeholders involved in the event. Both of these groups have taken on extra work to make this event happen and are committed to its success.

As you all know, whether or not you are the host of an event or just the venue, if an event doesn’t run smoothly, it reflects poorly on the University.  Providing help to the host committee with members of our own team and assisting with organization was necessary for this large scale event. Last week, we hosted a University stakeholder meeting with 34 people representing 20 departments that are all involved in the fair.  In my opinion, this is what we do best, working together to bring potential students onto campus from all over the country.

For those of you who have hosted a CWSF in the past please share your comments on this event! Thanks to CUCCOA, in 2011 at the National Convention in St. John,  I was able to meet with some of our colleagues who were past hosts of the fair.  They were kind enough to share their insights on the event and gave helpful advice and suggestions on what to expect.

What would my advice be for someone hosting this event?  Get involved early and encourage members of your campus community to get involved as well.  This will make for a successful Canada Wide Science Fair and will be good for your University.  Isn’t that why we are all here?

If any of you have questions about the event, I will be at National in Calgary so seek me out and ask away!

Erin Crane, Manager of Conference & Event Services
University of Lethbridge
Telephone: 403-329-2417

Even Rookies Can Contribute!

Posted on: April 22nd, 2013 by Michael Lepage No Comments

A couple of months ago,when I signed up for this blog post,I thought surely by April I will think of something to write about.  But I have to admit, when I am in the company of other CUCCOA members, whether it is at one of our meetings or through reading the previous blog posts, I feel somewhat inexperienced.  Inexperienced, yes but,don’t get me wrong, I also feel very welcome.  From my first regional conference last January to the recent ACCED-I/CUCCOA conference in Toronto, I discovered that our association is a valuable resource for professional development and networking.  Our members are friendly and knowledgeable and they are very willing to share their experience.

Now, while this is all very true, it doesn’t quite help me with the task of writing a blog post for our members’ site.  Like some of you, I have never written a blog before.  In a way, I’m glad that CUCCOA has challenged us all to take part in this initiative.  Because whether you are a veteran of the industry, or perhaps a relative rookie like me, I think we all have something we can contribute to our association.

Yesterday was New Student Leaders’ Day at Victoria University.  It was a day of training and information sessions for students who have been hired or elected to leadership positions on campus.  I was invited to give a session on planning and booking campus events.  Oh – and I was only given 5 minutes for this presentation.Now, of course, 5 minutes isn’t enough time to go through a very detailed step by step event planning tutorial.  So in order to make the best use of my presentation time I showed the students our recently updated Victoria University Hospitality website (

Last year, at the CUCCOA central region meeting, we learned from a panel of professional meeting planners that it is critical for our websites to provide all of the necessary information about our campuses.  With that in mind, I went through the exercise of adding more information to Victoria University Hospitality website.  This provided me with a great tool for the New Student Leaders’ Day presentation.  And more importantly, a great tool for potential clients.

I know that it is hardly “breaking news” for me to write about the importance of an informative website but updating a university website is often easier said than done.  I was limited to the design and content management software that the rest of the VIC campus uses – a challenge that I’m sure many of us face – not to mention the long and tedious approval process for all of the changes.So it’s important to set aside plenty of time for this very necessary work.But once we’ve all put the hard work into improving our websites, we need to get the message out and attract visitors to the sites.

This, of course, is another way CUCCOA can help.  And that brings us to another website: the site.  I think all of our member institutions would benefit from avisit to the website to make sure that all of our information is up-to-date, pictures are relevant, and the links are still active.  We are the experts on our own institutions so it’s up to all of us to make sure the CUCCOA website is an effective representative of our campuses and services.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to seeing you all in Calgary this September!

Tom Osborne
Manager, Event and Space Management
Victoria University in the University of Toronto

Greetings from the Waterloo Region team …

Posted on: March 4th, 2013 by Michael Lepage No Comments

Authors: Susan MacKenzie, Wilfrid Laurier University, Martha Wallace, Residence Conference Centre-Kitchener, and Susanne Keppler, University of Waterloo–Conference Centre

Not only are we all good friends but also team players in bringing business into the region.  If one of us is not able to accommodate a group we are quick to refer the client to each other to keep the business in the area.

There are also times where we quote together on hosting a group in the area and are working closely with our tourism organization to bring groups into the city.  You see, between the three of us we can accommodate over 4,000 guests.  What hotel can do that?

In May 2012, the uWaterloo and Laurier hosted the 2012 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences –, which consisted of over 80 association meetings.  This event brought in over 8,000 attendees to Waterloo over an 8 day time period.  This event also included a lot of community partners such as hotels, restaurants, local attractions and government officials.  An event of this calibre required all departments at both campuses to work together.  This is something that doesn’t happen very often and can be challenging.

Partnerships are important.  We learn from each other, we share ideas (over wine), and we also sell each other’s facilities.  There are also times where we share the occasional employee.  We recognize each other’s strengths.  While we offer different amenities and are located in different areas of Kitchener- Waterloo we try to understand what the customer is looking for and guide them to the perfect venue.

There are so many benefits of working together.  We can’t stress enough the importance of partnerships – whether on campus, with other regional institutions, within the community, or among the CUCCOA organization.   Partnerships can take work but they are worth the effort.  Cheers!

Susan MacKenzie
Conference Coordinator
Laurier Conference Services
(519) 884-0710 Ext. 3958

Martha Wallace
Regional Sales Manager
Residence Conference Centre – Kitchener
Phone: 519-895-2272 x713

Susanne Keppler
Conference Services Manager
Unviersity of Waterloo – Conference Centre
Tel:  519-888-4567, ext. 35833

Happy 2013, the beginning of an exciting New Year!

Posted on: January 14th, 2013 by Michael Lepage No Comments

Author: Debbie Harding, University of British Columbia, Okanagan campus

As we begin the New Year I am contemplating all of the things I want to do for UBC’s Okanagan campus’ conference and accommodations department in terms of guest experience, campus relationship building, marketing our product to not only groups but to all of the individual travelers who don’t know about summer accommodation options at colleges and universities.  I also cannot help but think about all of the exciting marketing initiatives set forth by the CUCCOA marketing committee.  And finally, working with our clients organizing their conferences in May and throughout the summer.

Wow, that’s a very diverse list of things to accomplish!  Like many of my colleagues in CUCCOA, we don’t have corporate marketing budgets and staffing.  It typically falls to a “you and me” situation with very little budgets.  Thankfully, one important element will prevail and see us through, and that is our passion for what we do.

Much like planning a conference with our clients, the first thing that I find incredibly helpful is the tried and true “list making”.  Once all of my thoughts are on paper (or computer, more likely) I can begin to dissect each element and start making a plan of action, one step at a time.  By breaking down the overwhelming circle of thoughts in my mind, I am able to systematically and logically prioritize, outline actions needed, identify people I need to contact, create timelines, and decide on the delegation of elements to succeed in accomplishing a successful outcome.

Sounds like common sense, however it’s easy to get overwhelmed with so many things on our plate.  We tend to focus on putting out everyone else’s fires and moving others’ project forward.  We forget to slow down, shut our door, and make a list for our projects.  Then decide if all of those thoughts running around in your head are viable and realistic goals.  Don’t be afraid of crossing things off the list!

We are the experts of planning, troubleshooting, and customer service for all of our guests and clients.  We would be wise to take advantage of our own expertise and advice!

Debbie Harding, UBC, Okanagan Campus


Telephone: 250-807-9358

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