Category Archives: Industry Takes

Our thoughts on industry news, events and trends.

Trash to Treasures

While perusing Pinterest the other day, I came across Special E, a green company devoted to recycling leftover items from all kinds of events, including weddings, conventions, trade shows, and meetings…then repurposes them in ways that help the environment as well as people in need.

Rescued items such as balloons, fabrics and linens, centerpieces, notebooks and binders are sent to homeless shelters, women and children’s shelters, schools, hospitals, and disaster relief agencies.  Learning that Special E recycles left-over items didn’t surprise me as much as learning what they actually do with some of them. Items that are not donated, such as broken plates, bottle caps, corks, and can tabs are sent off to artists to be repurposed into things like earrings, necklaces, women’s pocket books, and other decorative items. Check out some of the unique and fashionable items they have come up with:

Fork Necklace made from discarded tableware

Glass Pendant made from discarded bottle of Absolut Vodka

Pull tab purse


Share Packages are another very unique and inspiring aspect of Special E’s mission. With the state of our economy, the homeless aren’t the only ones struggling. Many families are having trouble putting food on their tables due to economic hardship, perhaps caused by layoffs or natural disasters. When putting together an event, consider Special E’s Share Packages. Share Packages provide food for the same number of hungry children as there are attendees at your event; they will then deliver this food to a food pantry (or similar location) in your local community. In addition, for every table you have set up at your event, Special E will plant a tree. What a great way to reduce your carbon footprint! The next time you plan a program, consider contacting Special E. There is nothing better than throwing a successful event, while helping the environment AND giving back to the local community.

For more information on Special E checkout their website at, follow them on Twitter @thspecialeco or on Facebook.

**Images used with permission and are © Special E

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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?


Filed under General, In Our Opinion, Industry Takes

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?


Filed under General, Industry Takes

Creativity Creates Creativity

Financial and Insurance Meetings online posted an article claiming creative spaces induce create meetings. In fact, the article states, “For Chicago-based Eva Niewiadomski, owner of a quirky and colorful event space called Catalyst Ranch, the key to creativity is an engaging environment. ‘It’s incredibly important to how individuals feel, to the caliber of work they create, and to the outcome of meetings,’ she says.”

We couldn’t agree more, even though so often budgets and regulations prohibit the exploration of creative venues. Three places we’ve previously reviewed as beyond unique are listed below.

East Coast: Old Edwards Inn
West Coast: Cavallo Point
Somewhere In Between: Blackberry Farm

Other venues we’ve come across in the last year are the Chicago Illuminating Company, exuding a modern, urban loft feel for your large one-night event, and the Inn at Lake Granbury for a retreat option with tons of amenities that can host a small to medium sized meeting.

We love a reliable Westin, but sometimes you want to break out of the box and feel a sense of place beyond a brand.

Google's Brainstorming Room

Even within office spaces, we love to see companies who make coming to work fun. Google’s Brainstorming Room is a great example of using space design to foster personal creativity, as is Gap’s Rubik’s Cube Room.

Have you had the opportunity to take a meeting or event somewhere particularly unique this year?

Gap's Rubik's Cube Room

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Filed under In Our Opinion, Industry Takes

Code Share: What You Should Know

Thought you were flying United but the flight at your gate says Continental? Did you walk up to the American Airlines counter to check in and the agent tells you that they don’t have a flight that goes to your destination even though you’re holding a confirmation? No, you haven’t lost your mind; it’s called a ‘code share.’

As if flying isn’t complicated enough, now you have to remember to look beyond the simple airline flight number listed on your itinerary in case you might be flying on a code share.

‘Code share’ indicates when one airline sells seats on a partner airline flight and puts their own flight number on it. There are benefits with code share flights such as lower fares and the ability to acquire frequent flyer points with the airline it was sold as, but there’s also the risk of confusion. The biggest confusion for a traveler is which airline to actually check in with.

Airlines will want you to check in with the carrier actually operating the flight. The easiest way to identify who operates the flight is by looking on your itinerary or e-ticket for the words ‘operated by.’

Itinerary shows AA1234 operated by United – check in with United (even though the flight number indicates American Airlines).
Itinerary shows DL2234 operated by Air France – check in with Air France (even though the flight number indicates Delta).
Itinerary shows US3345 operated by Continental – check in with Continental (even though the flight number indicates US Air).

Another way to know if you’re on a code share is to take a look at your flight number. If a flight number has four digits following the two letter airline code, it is usually a code share operated by a different airline. Airlines tend to use only three digits in their own flight numbers.

Code shares can cause confusion beyond just knowing which desk to go to. What happens if your flight is cancelled or there is a problem en route? Do you turn to the ticketing airline or the one you actually were flying on?

Technically, the airline that checks you in is responsible to get you to your final destination, regardless of whether the flight is a code share. Sometimes this becomes a challenge between the two carriers and leaves you stuck in the middle while the two airlines try to work it out.

Code share: Yet another great reason to book your flights through your travel agency!

*A special thanks to Michelle Reese, one of our in-house travel agents, who contributed this post.

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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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Filed under In Our Opinion, Industry Takes