Category Archives: General

A Faster Boarding Method

You’re at the airport waiting to board your plane. You look at your ticket and realize that you’re in zone 4, which means you have to wait until business class travelers, those with small children, those who need extra time boarding and those in the other zones board before  you can finally get to your seat. Once your zone is called, you stand in a long line on the jet way, a line made long by the large number of people who boarded before you who are now standing in the aisle of the plane taking off their jackets. By the time you get to your seat there is hardly any overhead space left, leaving you annoyed that you decided to carry-on instead of checking your luggage. Also, don’t forget about the obligatory ‘leap over the aisle and middle seat’ so you can squeeze next to the window. Why does boarding a plane have to be such a time consuming, difficult process?  Dr. Jason Steffen, a particle physicist at Fermilab had the same question, and has found a solution that dramatically decreases the amount of time it takes to board a plane.

While many studies have been conducted in an attempt to reduce the amount of time it takes to board a plane, Steffen’s is the first real-world tested theory that has been demonstrated to cut boarding time in half!

While most airlines today board using the ‘back to front’ method, Dr Steffen’s method goes a little something like this: First to board are passengers with window seats in alternating rows on the right side of the plane. Then, the same thing is done for the left side of the plane, alternating rows and window seats only.  This pattern is then continued for the middle and aisle seats until everyone is on board. The video below will probably make it a bit clearer…

Using the Steffen method, passengers are able to put their luggage in the overhead compartments without holding up everyone else. Also, no one has to move from their seat in order to let you get to yours (unless they ‘accidentally’ sit in the wrong seat), and you don’t have to wait in a long line for the crowded aisles to clear, making for a much faster and pleasant way to start your travels.

Steffen’s findings were first published in 2008. Here we are almost 5 years later, and the majority of airlines are still using the traditional boarding method? Why is it that airlines haven’t adopted this strategy? Do you think that this real-world test will open some eyes?


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CAN-SPAM? No this is not what you think; I’m not offering new and innovative ideas on ways to eat Spam®. Despite the name, this issue is quite serious and could have very negative consequences if your team does not manage their emails properly.

Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing, otherwise known as the CAN-SPAM Act, was established in 2003 and is regulated by the FTC and FCC. This act establishes requirements for all commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them and spells out expensive penalties for violators. According to the CAN-SPAM Act, fines up to $16,000 are possible for each incident of non-compliance with the guidelines. Gone are the days of receiving dozens of unsolicited, misleading emails that clog up our inboxes!

To clarify, per the CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business there are three basic types of emails:

1. Commercial: Advertisements or promotional messages regarding a product or service

2. Transactional: Established relations content relaying information as follow up to an agreement communication

3. Other: Content not promoting a product or service and not containing information as follow up to a previous conversation

Regardless of the email type, you should avoid these potentially costly errors:

  • Use of false or misleading information in your message header
  • Use of deceptive subject lines
  • Failure to identify message as a promotion or advertisement
  • Omission of sender’s contact information to include physical address, PO Box, or private mailbox
  • Omission of “opt-out” option for recipient to decline receipt of future emails
  • Prompt removal of “opt-out” recipients from future distribution lists
  • Improper management of vendors used for mass email distribution to insure adherence to CAN-SPAM regulations

As the old adage goes, it is better to be safe than sorry; therefore, we suggest using a do-it-yourself email content publisher, such as MailChimp, for any marketing pieces that you intend to send out. Not only is it easy to use, but it also reminds you to “keep it relevant” when it comes to your subject line and requires you to include your physical address and phone number before allowing you to send out a campaign. It also includes an easy to find, one-click “opt-out” button for those on your list who do not want to hear from you anymore.

So, in a world of KISS (keep it short and sweet), it is advisable that you err on the side of caution and maintain total transparency in your email communications. This will help you to avoid stiff penalties, being black-listed as a spammer, and/or tarnishing your professional reputation with current and future clientele.

**Special thanks to @cheyennejack and Matt Fuller for educating our team on appropriate email marketing practices as well as to Brenda Wilson, Conferencing Marketing Director at Integress, who was a significant contributor to this post.

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Meeting QR Codes

If you don’t have an iPhone or Android-based phone, then you might not know what these silly looking barcodes are. Quick Response (QR) codes are two-dimensional barcodes that can be used to share information from various platforms using a cell phone’s camera in combination with a code reader application. It’s basically a fun, fast and green way to share information.

Anyone can make a QR code using various free generators online. Such sites include, Kaywa, Qurify and Delivr. Check out the one that we created…go ahead, scan it and see where it takes you:

The QR code can contain contact information, or link to a website containing presentation slides, coupons or session summaries. These codes can be put on a number of items like business cards, flyers, TV commercials, emails and websites. Their placement and uses are limited only by your imagination.

A colleague shared the article “A Better Conference Experience” with our team last week. It provides an excellent scenario as to how QR codes enable conference organizers, sponsors and attendees to share enormous amounts of valuable information while onsite.

How would you use QR codes to further your attendees’ conference experience? Do you think your sponsors would be on-board with such a unique way of sharing information? What are some other apps that you’ve used while on-site?

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Pet Friendly or Not?

More and more hotels and restaurants across the country are becoming pet friendly, and it’s not just on patios anymore…it’s inside too. Recently, one of our colleagues visited a local pet-friendly restaurant for a drink after work. The bartender handled a dog and prepared her a drink without washing her hands. Needless to say she was more than a little bothered.

This raises a concerning question about pet friendly establishments. Who keeps them in check when it comes to health codes and regulations, and how do we know if they are compliant?

Currently, there are no federal regulations that state whether or not your pet can dine with you. Local ordinances are the rule makers here. In 2006, Florida
adopted a “Doggie Dining Law”. This law states that cities can establish ordinances that allow the family dog (and ONLY a dog) onto restaurant patios (only if they do not have to travel through the restaurant to get there). Below are some of the conditions.

• Food service employees must not touch, pet or handle dogs while serving food or beverages
• Food service employees must wash their hands promptly after touching, petting or handling dogs
• Patrons must be advised to wash their hands before eating, and waterless hand sanitizer must be provided at each table

Dogs are considered man’s best friend, and some owners literally take them along everywhere. Hotels are catering to owners by opening their doors to travelers and their pets. Doing so increases the amount of time a guest stays in the hotel, and in turn increases revenue; however, the question that remains is who makes and enforces the rules?

A website for one hotel chain displays Terms and Conditions of staying with a pet in their hotels. Among those guidelines are rules including the requirement that pets must be on a leash when in public areas and are not allowed in areas where food or beverages are served. In addition, owners must pay for any pet-related cleaning expenses, and hang a “Pet in Room” sign which must remain on the door for the duration of their stay. After the guest’s departure, the hotel goes to great lengths to ensure that the room is allergen free. All bedding is dry-cleaned, the mattress protector is replaced and the carpet is heavily shampooed and vacuumed.

As meeting planners, we must step carefully when considering pet-friendly establishments. If you know that one of your clients has a pet allergy, it is important to contact your venue beforehand to find out their pet policies. While we give the chains credit for taking pet-related measures, how can we be sure that these steps are really being taken?

How do you feel about pet friendly hotels and restaurants? Do you consider booking pet friendly hotels or restaurants for meetings? If so, do you discuss the pet policies with the venue before signing a contract?


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To Telecommute or Not

With gas prices constantly rising, traffic making the roads more and more congested, and technology catching up in strides, telecommuting has become more popular the last five years or so.

Our company has blessed its employees with flexibility but are all things equal when telecommuting? We’ve put together a pros/cons list from those of us who do telecommute.


  • Flexibility: Whether it’s throwing in a load of laundry while you’re waiting for an email, or being able to exercise since you’re not spending that time commuting, everyone agrees that telecommuting’s biggest asset is the flexibility.
  • Financial: Have you seen the gas prices lately? And it’s not just gas; it’s the wear and tear on your car, the not going out to eat with friends every day, and the reduced need for so many suits and skirts. Your wallet, no doubt, benefits from the telecommute.
  • Going Green: Commuting is talked up as one of the top contributors to air pollution, as more and more people join the work force and spend hours on the road. If you’ve ever rolled down your window while sitting in traffic on the highway, you can’t help but agree. There’s a reason people go camping–it’s the fresh air.
  • Productivity: Most telecommuters would agree that without the constant distractions of a traditional office environment, they are actually MORE productive when left to their own devices, and find that they accomplish more in shorter time frames.
  • Peace of Mind: Whether it’s to be at home when your kids get off the bus, or just the relief of not wasting two hours a day in traffic, your day is likely a little calmer than the average commuter.


  • Flexibility: If you are a routine-type person, the flexibility of telecommuting may actually be an adjustment. Personally, I make myself get dressed instead of sitting in my pajamas, and had to settle into my own version of a routine, even if it didn’t involve getting in the car to go to the office. And if you are a Type B person, telecommuting may provide too much flexibility which translates into less productivity.
  • Social: Telecommuting, no doubt, does take a specific type of person. You have to be content with the lack of daily face-to-face interaction with your colleagues. No, there aren’t spontaneous donuts waiting in the breakroom, and no miscellaneous chats at the water cooler.
  • On-Call: Just as we list productivity as a pro, telecommuting also means it’s ten times more difficult to leave work at work and commit to normal hours. (But hey, maybe that’s a bonus for your boss!) A former supervisor always used to say, “The flight of stairs downstairs isn’t enough of a transition from work Amy to mom Amy.”
  • Technically Speaking: You can’t walk down the hall to the IT department asking why your email archive folder is missing, or join the rest of the office in a coffee break when your internet goes down. No, you are on the phone with the internet provider or your IT rep begging for a solution.

When it comes down to it, you probably aren’t choosing to telecommute unless you have an arsenal of reasons that make it worth it, but what are your thoughts? Would you be well-suited to telecommute or do you prefer the traditional office environment?

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Are You a Hummingbird?

Recently, one of our senior conference planners attended a presentation led by Australian Productivity Expert  Neen James, who stressed the importance of recognizing your personal productivity times, thereby creating more efficiency in accomplishing your daily tasks.

Morning Birds are at their best from 7:00am – 1:00pm; Hummingbirds from 11:00am – 5:00pm and Night Owls from 2:00 -8:00pm. If you are a Morning Bird, don’t schedule an important client meeting for dinner; instead try for breakfast.  Schedule your most important tasks for your most productive time frame and recognize that your staff may include Morning Birds, Night Owls and Hummingbirds. We, at Integress, have two of each type on staff (and a couple who fall under several). In this case, a lunch time frame is best for everyone.

Which bird are you? Do you think utilizing this theory could help increase efficiency and productivity in your office?


[Special thanks to Trish Semones, Senior Conference Manager, who significantly contributed to the content of this post.]

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Tweetsgiving 2010

We are so honored to participate in EpicThanks Tweetsgiving again this year. After another year that many haven’t seen an uptake, we have so much to be thankful for.

  • 2010 was still hard on a lot of folks, but it was one of our busiest and most productive years yet.
  • We not only made it through the largest conference we produce and have been working on for more than three years (at over 1400 people, and internationally at that), but we did so with extremely positive feedback from both client and attendees.
  • We’ve added staff members who have become valued assets to our team.
  • Because of our busy load, it seems we’ve all learned a bit more about each other, our strengths and needs.
  • After a year of what seemed like tons of traveling, I think I can speak for the team in saying we are grateful to be at home (or at someone’s home) for the holidays, and have a little time to rest and recuperate.
  • 2011 looks promising.

What are you thankful for this year?

Learn more about the phenomenal things Epic Change is doing here.

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