Archive for the ‘Corporate Events’ Category

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

Colorado Meetings & Events

(As published in the Fall 2012 issue of Colorado Meetings & Events Magazine)

Although many businesses in our industry have struggled through the past few years of economic downturn, I believe some good practices have emerged as well. For example, many companies have reevaluated who they are, what they want to provide in the future, and how they want to be perceived in the marketplace. Other companies have reduced or eliminated debt, allowing them to make a fresh start.

Some companies have scaled back staff levels, which can be viewed by some as a negative. However, these event professionals have created a very profitable role for themselves as independent contractors. This is the best trend to happen to the event industry in a long time!

Experienced event planners, A/V technicians, salespeople, caterers and designers were the first to lose their higher paying jobs when economic cutbacks hit our industry. Many of these people have 12 to 30 years experience-so when there were no jobs to replace the ones they’d lost, they took matters into their own hands and became independent contractors providing their expertise to many companies nationwide.

My company has greatly benefited from this new trend. Most of our firm’s work is international and requires a lot of onsite management and travel for high-end clients, so we really need event professionals with years of experience. As a small business, I found it difficult to afford the large salaries required to attract this caliber of planner. Now, I am grateful to work every week with planners I could not have hired prior to the economic downturn.

Everyone wins! The contractors set their pay scale, assist many companies, pick and choose the projects they work on and make more money than they did being employed by one company. Event companies like mine are afforded the opportunity to work with some of the best planners in the business for a fraction of the cost of hiring full time, we choose the contractor that is a match for a specific client and we make more profit while ensuring the client is happy.

Kevin Kowalczyk owns Giant Steps Consulting, a Denver-based company he started three years ago after experiencing a layoff. Forté Events hires Kevin for onsite event delivery worldwide, pre-planning and monthly social media marketing. He offers similar support to many companies and has seen an increase in demand for the type of services Giant Steps offers.

“I love the flexibility and profitability I’ve experienced since becoming a contractor. I have had a lot more opportunities for growth in the industry since starting my company and feel I have a higher quality of life and a better work/life balance,” he says. “I am able to be successful by maintaining closer relationships with many event professionals…something I could not have done while working full-time for one company.”

Forté Events hires six contractors regularly and will continue this practice in the long term. While our industry finds new ways to compete, stay profitable and rebuild during an ever changing economic landscape, I’m grateful for independent contractors!
– Tami Forero

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Forté Events is a strategic event design and production firm specializing in corporate, non-profit, and social events worldwide. This award winning team also designs custom, experiential learning programs and corporate training sessions.

CEO of Forté Events, Tami Forero is a veteran of the special event industry having planned hundreds of strategic corporate, social and non-profit events.  She’s a sought after consultant and speaker with topics both on the event industry and business skills.

Location! Location! Location!

in the vineyardWe work on a lot of corporate training meetings and the one factor we’ve found that is the most important to their success is where you have the meeting.  It may seem counter-intuitive, but there have been psychological studies that show people learn better when they enjoy the surroundings.  We like to call it “thinking outside the ballroom.”  While hotel ballrooms are good for certain events, they are not ideal for a corporate training.  At the very least try to have it in a room with windows with a good view.  We prefer outdoor locations when possible.  Think about locations that you might not necessary correlate with events.  Recently we had an event at the Crocker & Starr Vineyard who’d never hosted corporate events before we brought our group there.

This venue was perfect for our group who worked for a food company.  We paired it with some events at the nearby Culinary Institute of America.   This was a great place for executives to learn; they deal with food all day long, so we brought them back to their roots: cooking. While outside in the vineyard they met the owner who talked about the location and wine making.  Put yourself in the client’s shoes when selecting a venue.  Where would they like to go?  What locations have a special meaning to the company history?  What location might they benefit from seeing?  We recently produced a training for a company that makes airplane engines (among many other things.)  Early on in their history, they had tested their first engines from Pikes Peak.  So we gathered them in Colorado Springs and had an executive talk about the company history.  Giving this back story got the attendees more invested in where they were, and consequently, increased the effectiveness of their learning.  It inspired the attendees and helped engagement tremendously.  Chateauform

Historic locations are also great ways to inspire your attendees.   When we have groups in Europe we love to take them to Chateauform properties, which are typically old castles or historical buildings that have been converted into meeting spaces.  Most have outdoor locations where attendees can soak up some sun while they learn.

So the next time you have a corporate training event, take the time to reflect and come up with a special, unique location to host your group.

International Event Planning: Vendor Selection

We’ve been asked a lot lately about the events we’ve planned overseas. People want to know how we got the business, how we find vendors and what are the best locations.  So we decided to start a series of blogs with some insight into our process of working on international events.

ashridge

Ashridge Conference Center outside London

One of the keys to any successful event is finding quality vendors.  We’re able to send some very experienced staff overseas to manage our events, but we have to rely a lot on the event professionals in the countries we’re in.

  • One of the first things we do is check to see if there’s a local ISES chapter.  If there is, our job becomes a lot easier!  But even if there is a local ISES chapter, we end up relying on searches online to find our vendors.
  • We need to see a professional website with great photos that really show their expertise & experience.  Depending on the country, it’s important to us if they specifically cater to English speaking clients.  Many companies will have a special section on their website that explains just that.
  • Most of our events are corporate trainings with 20-80 attendees flying in from all parts of the world, so the proximity to the airport also comes into play.

All in all, it’s really similar to planning events in your own backyard; you just have a lot more research & vetting to do in order to find the right vendors for your international events.

International Event Planning: Hotel & Venue Selection

One of our biggest considerations for our international events is the venue we choose in each city.  We have found that many brand name hotels carry the same quality in Europe as they do here (RitzDolce), while others can be much, much nicer than their American counterparts.  (We just had an event at a Crowne Plaza in Dublin that’s a gorgeous & modern 4-star hotel with amazing service.)

ChateauformAgain we do have to rely on websites to give us a sense of the property; we have to see good photos of the meeting spaces & sleeping rooms.  For our clients in particular, we need to find unique venues; there must be some sort of interesting history, architecture or modern design for them to want to bring their attendees to it.  We also look for meeting rooms with great views & windows are a must!  (We have found attendees learn & retain much more in meeting rooms with a view.)

Since our guests are there for 3 or more days it’s important to us to have distinctly different spaces for classes compared to where meals are held. Having outdoor spaces available for night time events are key to a successful event as well.  After 8 hours of learning you need to give the attendees somewhere interested to enjoy their evening activities.

Don’t forget to ask what their commission structure is for bringing a group to their venue.  While not as common as in America, we’ve found venues will work with you on this; we even had one property come up with a commission rate to get our business.   In this current world economy, everyone is working harder to win your business!