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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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Blog Purposefully

Radio hall-of-famer, Dr. Laura, thinks blogging is narcissistic. I thought about it for a minute, and although I can see where she’s coming from, blogging can be so much more than me, me, me.

A great start to the argument is reading a great blog post titled, “4 reasons your blogger outreach program shouldn’t be about leads” by Arik Hanson of Communications Conversations.

Professional (and even sometimes personal) blogging is far more than self-promotion. Or at least it should be.

  • Community building: I agree with Arik that first and foremost blogging is about relationships. Building them, maintaining them, and finding them.
  • Information sharing: Similar to relationships, blogging has become a prominent means of information sharing. You post insights and information that better your community, industry and readers. The free-flow of ideas is integral to business growth.
  • Critical thinking: Just like in gradeschool, writing makes the writer(s) think critically about the subject in a way that no other exercise can. If you have the time and resources to get your company (or yourself) involved in a blog or other writing endeavors, I would venture to say that it would increase the critical development of your corporate output, as well as stand as a forum for internal (and external) brainstorming.

What have I left off of this list? Add your thoughts below.

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Hotels, Are You Listening?

Last weekend, we delivered a huge a program that we’ve been working on for more than two years. I’m glad it’s over, but I’m even more pleased that it went so well. One thing that really stood out to me was the quality of the venue: the JW Marriott Desert Ridge in Phoenix. The facilities and service were the best I’ve experienced.

So perk your ears hoteliers; here’s how to make all onsite experiences just as fantastic.

  • Be responsive and be available. Don’t just take your on call cell phone home with you. Show up at the registration desk to ask if we need anything. Show up before the breaks to make sure they’re set, and before the meals. Keep showing up. This doesn’t get annoying to us, because odds are we’ll have something we need your help with and it’s so nice to know you’ll be back around rather than having to scrounge up your business card.
  • Think like a planner. We will need onsite shipping capabilities and more than just a standard business office. Rarely will we only need to print an 8.5 x 11 black and white sheet of paper, and we’ll pay for service. Have other onsite professionals that can help us with pulling together the whole package–like a decor vendor, or an AV expert. Know that we will have a bunch of stuff at the registration desk so a nearby storage room or even placing the office close to the reg desk is preferable.
  • Good food makes happy people. I understand you want to cater to the masses, but the masses are tired of chicken and steamed veggies. Most of our menus last weekend were Southwestern-inspired and not your typical safe option, but the delegates raved. You know why? Because they’re starved of flavor and creativity in their food. Wow them.
  • Be invested. Another thing I loved about this property was the staff consistently produced options for us to where even the last minute details seemed weeks in the making. Suggest space alternatives, or decor enhancements. Anything to let us know that you are just as invested in this meeting as we are.

The culmination of all of these things is that teamwork and collaboration is key.

We think through your space so you should think through our program.

The best service is that which makes our lives easier to where our client and delegates see only a flawless execution (instead of a frantic meeting planner running around in broken heels). It can be done.

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Teamwork is More Than Just a Word

We all say things like, “Collaboration is key” or “It was a team effort.” Cliches that you want to be true, that you may even believe in.

Of course two heads are better than one, we all admit this, but when it comes time to work on a key piece of the puzzle, we fight ourselves for the time, energy and creativity to get it accomplished. Why don’t we ask for help? Why don’t we practice what we preach and admit that we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and it’s okay–NO, it’s better to lean on someone occassionally?

Until we take a closer look at each team member’s passions, fortes and professional goals, we will never fully be a team. How can you accomplish all aspects of a project successfully and to its fullest potential without soliciting input from those you are supposed to be working with? You can’t. You won’t. You’ll fail.

And something I rarely hear touched on in regards to teamwork: Everyone must have their role and everyone must have their will. We know that each member will have certain responsibilities, but each member must also have a team attitude to do whatever is needed of them. When everyone knows their marching orders, is responsible for items that pull on their strengths, and refuse to use the words “That’s not my job” or think “I’m above that,” then, and only then, will you have a successful team.

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Atlanta Spot: Brick Store Pub

In tribute to our home base of Atlanta, we are going to periodically highlight local hot spots that we’ve visited and think bring unique charm and character to the great city we call home.

Nestled in the town square of Decatur, the Brick Store Pub evokes fond memories of the TV show Cheers, where everyone knows your name and your drink of choice. An intimate, casual atmosphere calms you even before you enter the front doors–the outdoor patio is the perfect spot for sitting on a warm afternoon.

The service was different in that we didn’t seem to have just one waiter, but a variety of staff visited our table to check in and see what we needed or bring what we’d already requested. The choices were vast, especially if you’re a beer connoisseur.  I had wine, though, the Dupont Cidre Bouche which lilted flavors of tart grapefruit and white peach, making it (in my opinion), the perfect flavors to ring in Spring, (and reasonably priced too).

The food isn’t your typical bar food either. It may have started out that way, but the behind-the-scenes folks jazz up their recipes with creativity and spunk. Instead of your typical cheese dip, try their aged pimiento cheese with roasted red pepper coulis on a crostini. For an entree, Brick Store has something for everyone, whether you want a heaping salad or a savory burger; they’ve got your number.

Brick Store Pub
125 E Court Square
Decatur, GA
404 687 0990‎

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Dress for Success

Business dress standards have evolved incredibly since a suit and tie were the norm. In our office, you’ll see a variety, from formal suits to tshirt and jeans, depending on the job type.

In my experience, the standard greatly depends on three things:

  • Industry type
  • Client interaction/type of client
  • Personal preference

Industry Type
If you are a graphic designer, you’re considered artsy and therefore allowed to dress weird or casual. In fact, I had an advertising professor who went as far as to say if we were going into an advertising agency, especially if we were applying for a creative job, the business suit is the death of you. However, if you’re an accountant, anything short of a suit is considered highly unprofessional. The questions come up somewhere in between a graphic designer and an accoutant.

Client Interaction/Type of Client
In my experience, the amount of time you spend in front of a client will directly affect how formal your business attire will be, as in the graphics guy probably doesn’t have a lot of direct face-time with the client, whereas Client Services might be meeting the client for lunch. However, still another caviat is the type of client, i.e. is it a Surf Shop or a Fortune 100 company? It’s appropriate to dress to fit with those you’re serving; it makes them feel more at ease with you.

Personal Preference
Regardless of all of the above, most companies these days are a little more relaxed about what you wear. Generally speaking, as you’d be comfortable wearing the outfit for lunch with your grandmother, you’re in the clear.

If nothing else, play follow the leader. Does your boss wear pantsuits while the rest of the office wears jeans? I would lean into pantsuits, (and vice versa as applicable). And think of attire as an opportunity to dress for the job you want, not the job you have.  Dress up, or down, depending on the position.

Does your company have an unusually flexible or strict dress code?

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Green Contract Clauses at Work

Last weekend, Integress produced a 120-person conference on Neglected Influenza viruses with top international professionals from prominent agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, University of Florida, and Department of Health and Human Services. With the meeting being held at Amelia Island Plantation where the natural environment was already integral to the culture, it was a perfect opportunity to implement our first green meeting clauses into a hotel contract.

Overall, we were very impressed with Amelia Island’s sustainability efforts. In particular, their recycling efforts were amazing. They did back-of-house sorting, which would have to happen regardless and ultimately makes it that much easier for the delegates. In individual rooms bags were provided for can disposal, and they even had “recycling huts” sprinkled around the property, so that being environmentally conscious extended beyond the meeting space.

We’ve created an evaluation form which we’ll use henceforth during post-meeting follow-up with both our clients and venues. Take a peek on the Integress site, and leave your feedback below.

*isirv, as a medical association, was a particularly relevant client to institute these sustainability initiatives at their meeting. They’re proud to give back (and they didn’t even pay more to do it).

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