Category Archives: In Our Opinion

Intra-office musings on whatever strikes our fancy.

What the Sunshine Act Means for You

Because some of our primary clientele are pharma, the Sunshine Act that goes into effect January 2012 is a big deal for us. Bill Cooney from Medical Meetings wrote a fantastic article on the importance of meeting planners being in the know when it comes to this important piece of legislation. I’ve summarized and added to some of his main points, but I encourage you to go read the full article yourself.

  • Know the timing. The Act doesn’t take effect until January 2012, and BillCooney’s article expresses the importance of using the next few months to prepare; we are already implementing systems for internal purposes (some of our clients already require compliance) that will serve as practice until next year when it’s mandatory.
  • Transparency. I hate to tell you this in case it’s a shock, but it’s not just about compliance anymore. Because PPSA is a public, searchable database, as meeting planners we must work on creating both an accurate and positive reflection of client spending. Now is the time you may want to consider making changes to how you do business and how you advise your clients. Sunshine is not about regulating spending; it’s about managing public image.
  • Create a disclosure policy. Not for your clients so much as your client’s clients: the physicians. They’re busy people, so some may need to be updated on changes in legislation or otherwise that directly affects them and their reputation. Even if you experience resistance from some, it’s better to deal with it head on than let them find out on their own later on.

As planners, we juggle plenty, and unfortunately the reality for most agencies is that keeping up with trends and legislation concerning our client industries is just one more thing.

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When Disaster Strikes

In the wake of such international tragedies, we, as meeting planners, should be reminded that emergencies don’t come with predictability and it is our job to prepare for the worst.

Lynne Pryor, our senior conference planner, shared her thoughts on how to be prepared for the unexpected.


  • Start early, pay attention and monitor weather reports.
  • Discuss the potential for emergency with your venue and review your force majeure clause; obtain venue’s emergency procedures in case the bad weather occurs during the meeting; distribute this to attendees so they can familiarize themselves.
  • Maintain communication with airlines to obtain status of flights.
  • Obtain local hospital and emergency medical facilities contact information.

Natural and sometimes even man made disasters are unavoidable, and one new organization that has come to our attention is helping individual families  find self-sufficiency in the wake of loss.

photo courtesy of Shelter Box USA

Shelter Box USA is a non-profit that provides an actual box of items that can help individuals and families sustain themselves during and after disasters. According to their website, the box contains supplies to aid an extended family of 10. While the contents are tailored to the type of disaster and to fit a region’s needs you will typically find the following:

  • A tent: Fits up to 10 people in the event a group/family finds themselves displaced or homeless. The tent can withstand high winds, heavy rainfall and even has partitions that can be used to provide more privacy
  • A smile: Coloring books and art supplies are provided for children who have lost everything.
  • Warmth and Protection: Thermal blankets and water purification systems are provided to assist in the quality of living.
  • Self Sufficiency: Basic tools are provided to assist in the improvement of their immediate environment. (Chopping a tree for firewood or building/repairing new structures)
  • Key Items: Either a wood burning stove or a multi-level (can burn anything from paint to oil) is provided to boil water and cook food. Pans, water storage, utensils, cups, plates and bowls are also provided.

To help or contribute, visit the Shelter Box USA website to learn more.

How do you prepare for disasters at home or when planning a meeting?

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Everyone Sells

New business can no longer be relegated to those tasked with making cold calls. Regardless of your specific job function each of us is a sales person, always selling ourselves, a product, or a service.

Think about it: If you work at home for your own internet business with no employees and no boss other than yourself,  you sell your services to the clients that would hire you to provide internet services.  If you are a meeting planner in charge of the onsite execution of events, you sell your expertise to the customer so that they will continue to do business with your company.  From the CFO to the receptionist, everyone has a responsibility to sell.

From the accurate reconciliation of financial accounts to the friendly, proficient distribution of incoming calls, all require you to sell yourself and your company to the internal and external customers of your company.  So even though you may not have the actual title of a sales person, we all have a responsibility to sell in hopes of garnering new business for our company.

How do you sell within your particular job title?


[Special thanks to Brenda Wilson, Conferencing Marketing Director at Integress, who was a significant contributor to this post.]

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Melt In Your Mouth Sides

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting family at McKendrick’s Steakhouse here in Atlanta for a nice lunch. And while my steak was decent, the service was great and the two sides I ordered were outstanding. Order these, please.

Salad Starter
Crisp Romaine, Italian Vinaigrette, Tomatoes, Red Onions, Parmesan Cheese, Croutons
*Sounds ordinary? They shred the lettuce and the dressing is light but well incorporated into the entire salad. One of my biggest recent food pet peeves is those who seperate the salad ingredients on top of the lettuce; it may be pretty, but it’s harder to eat and the flavors don’t combine as well.

Side Star
Wild Mushroom Risotto
*Sounds fancy? Oh but please trust me. It’s creamy wile maintaining the integrity of the mushrooms, and it pairs great with just about anything. In fact, if I were to go back, I would just ask for a salad and risotto.

McKendrick’s is consistently ranked as one of the best steakhouses in the Atlanta area by the AJC and Zagat’s, among others. Definitely more of a special occasion place considering the prices.

Steak House 4505 Ashford Dunwoody Road
Atlanta, GA 30346
Phone: 770-512-8888

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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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Cheeky Find

To me, there is little better than tasting really fantastic food. Only occasionally do I stumble across a restaurant that offers something truly unique and delicious, so when it happens, I try to spread the word.

Last week, I found a restaurant with garage-type doors for windows, so when the weather is sublime (like it is right now for instance), up the windows go to make the restaurant seem like an open-air market. The restaurant, Cheeky’s, is known for PYOB (pour your own beer) because several tables have built in taps that allow you to pour your own beer and it tracks your consumption automatically for billing. Ambiance? Check.

Cheeky Burger

The restaurant defines itself as a Mexican Taqueria but the flair and vast options will allow even those who aren’t into Mexican find something they can love. Wings, cuban sandwich and a great burger are all on the menu.

I had the Cheeky Burger which comes with a poblano slaw and avocados on top, and a drizzle of buffalo sauce, a surprising but well-complemented combination.

We also ordered the Taco Trio (one shrimp, one fish and one pork) which I understand all were perfect. I tried the pork taco, and the mango slaw calmed the spicy pork wonderfully.

Cheeky’s,  a find that’s a bit outside the city on the northside up in Suwanee and Cumming, is well worth the trip.

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5 Steps: Find Your Company’s Best Volunteer Opportunity

Most companies these days are looking to give back to their community (and their community is grateful). But before you make that leap into supporting that Walk-a-Thon, consider giving your choice a little more thought.

  1. Will the enthusiasm last? One-shot events are great, but long-term committments are even better. Your staff will get to know and invest in the organization, the people, and the cause if they keep going back.
  2. Convenience is the key (at first).  People have a lot on their plates. Volunteering typically takes the very back seat (you know, the one that faces the other drivers) so you have to be proactive in making the volunteer process that much easier for them to participate. The two biggest ways you can make volunteering more convenient is through location and timing. Present opportunities not just near work, but also near where your employees live. Weekends or lunch breaks are typically better, since everyone has so much going on weeknights. Even better, offer opportunities at multiple times with varying degrees of committment so people with different schedules can still participate.
  3. Try something new. The impact on both those in need and those giving help is ten times greater if it’s not something you’ve done (or do) a million times a day, and not something that comes naturally. If you are meeting planners, (while giving back with your talents is wonderful), try digging up dirt in a community garden, or preparing food at a homeless shelter.
  4. Pick something consistent with your corporate philosophy. While #3 suggests trying something new,  I still highly recommend choosing opportunities or partner organizations based on your corporate culture and what types of clients you serve. If you are a medical meeting planning agency, choose a partner who supports one of your therapeutic areas. If you are a meeting planner for clients in the entertainment industry, try finding organizations that support youth talents in music, art and film.
  5. Meet with the organization you’re supporting. You want to be able to get a feel for their most urgent needs, what their goals are and how they treat their volunteers. Meeting those who train volunteers and run the organization is the single best way to determine if the match is a good fit.

What have you found to be critical in determining outreach partnerships?

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