Monday, May 25, 2015

5 Ways to Turn a Good Meeting into a Great One


Do you want to a hold a better meeting? Of course you do!

Whether it is a small corporate meeting or a large event, this premise holds true: everyone’s time is valuable and a great meeting makes individuals feel productive and valued.

Buffer recently posted research about ways to build a better mousetrap when it comes to meetings. Here are a few of their tips – along with some of my own.

What is Your Purpose?


Christopher Frank the Vice President of American Express recommends you ask the following question:
“What exactly are we meeting about?”

If you and your event planning staff cannot answer that question in 5 words or less, you should not hold the meeting. Period.

Keep Meetings Short


Marissa Mayer, the President and CEO of Yahoo, systematically holds 10-minute meetings. TED talks are 18 minutes or less.

It turns out that research says the average attention span is 10-18 minutes before attendees start to mentally check out of a meeting, training seminar, or peer review.

Bottom line: Keep the meets short and everyone will appreciate it.

Set a Timer



The staff at Basecamp, a project management software organization, sets a 30-minute timer and when it rings, the event is over. 

No Chairs Please


Setting up your breakout sessions with no chairs, forces attendees to pay attention and because they will eventually want to sit down, they will move the meeting along.

As reported in Social Psychological and Personality Science, Andrew Knight and Markus Baer, both from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri asked 214 students to form small groups that were told they would be assessed on creativity.

All the participants were asked to wear a sensor that would measure how "activated" and "engaged" they were. The groups were then sent to work in rooms which either had chairs in it or none at all.

Knight and Baer found that the members of the groups who stood up tended to be more collaborative than those who sat down during the meeting. The ones that stood also produced better quality work.

Remember, you can rent iPads and use them easily when standing or walking. In a large meeting these tablets can be used as second screens.

Take 2-Minute Breaks


“The purpose of meetings is not to talk. The purpose of meetings is to arrive at ideas, solutions, plans and decisions.” – Alexander Kjerulf, Author

Take listening breaks – so attendees can absorb the information. Silence is truly golden!

In summary, keeping your meetings short with a focused purpose and providing nowhere to sit with brief silence breaks, should be enough to turn your meetings into a productive and stimulating event.

About Us


Are you ready to rent iPads for your next meeting? Give Hartford Technology Rentals a call today at 888-520-5667 or fill out a quote with us online.

For more information about Dede Mulligan, check out her G+ profile

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Want to Make Your Awards Ceremony Special? Follow These Dos and Don’ts

Associations, nonprofits and corporations alike usually hold an annual gathering to recognize their members, board of trustees or employees and thank them for all their hard work over the course of the previous year or their career lifetime. Your job as an event professional is to make the honorees feel like they are receiving the "red carpet" treatment while keeping the audience entertained and engaged. 

Here are the do's and don'ts of this type of function:

DON'T hold this function at the office or the same venue used for all your meetings.


Holding it where you have every training session or sales meeting says two things about your organization: 1) You don't care to look outside your regular meeting places and 2) This event is really not that special.

DO look for a unique venue.


Find somewhere that makes you feel special. Perhaps an out of the way restaurant or resort conference center. Don't rule out a national park with a view, an observatory or a country club.

DON'T rely solely on venue lighting.


Most meeting space is functional for all type of events from conferences to galas. Therefore, the venue is going to invest in practical, functional and boring lighting for each meeting space.

DO explore your lighting options. 


LED light equipment rentals are a great choice because of the coolness and weight of this system. Your AV partner can place it on the walls and ceilings of the meeting room, out in the entry way or even outside the facility.

DON'T skimp on the stage presence. 


A boring stage equals a boring event.

DO extent the theme to the stage.


The right backdrops, curtains, lighting and decorations can turn a boring platform into a buzz worthy one. Look at the theme and unleash your creative team by exploring options that will make the stage pop. If the event is very large, invest in Plasma Displays or Video Wall rental units so everyone from the front of the room to the back can visually engage in the festivities.

DON'T take sound for granted.


From the speeches to the entertainment, if attendees cannot hear what is going on or the audio is inconsistent, they will check out and pull out their mobile devices to surf the web or post something on social.

DO invest in state-of-the-art sound rentals and extensively test the equipment.


You want your audience to be engaged from the moment they sit down. Keep them on the edge of their seats by taking the time to have your AV team test for every location in the room. Have an AV tech on site to ensure if anything happens, they can quickly and efficiently remedy it.

DON'T wing it.


Not providing an agenda, alerting honorees how much time they have for their speeches and letting them rehearse on stage is a big mistake. Remember, many of these folks are not public speakers so it is your job to make them look good and feel comfortable.

DO communicate and rehearse.


Run your show like the Oscars. Choreograph the movement of the presenters and award recipients. Let them practice their speeches in front of an empty audience. Have someone time the honorees' speech and give immediate feedback.

This content was originally posted on the SmartSource Rentals blog site on September 13, 2013. 


De-de Mulligan has been an active blogger since 2009 and writes meeting and event related pieces for a number of organizations. She has been published in Social Media Today, Social Tables, Cvent Hospitality, Tech Patio, Evvnt, MPI Ohio’s DEFINE magazine, Crain’s Cleveland Business and Crain’s New York Business. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

5 Tips for Negotiating Your Next Rental Contract



Negotiating the best deal for an employer or client is in every meeting planner’s job description. However, it is easily one the most dreaded components of the job because most planner’s feel they have to be slick, savvy or insensitive to get the right deal.

While it is true you don’t want to leave money on the table, most of the time getting the best deal does not require strong arming the rental vendor. It requires a “back and forth” mentality and giving you enough time to structure a “win-win” proposal.

Here are 5 great tips to keep in mind when you are negotiating your next contract.

Ask for a New Client Discount


If you are going with a new rental client and they want to secure your business, asking for this type of discount should not be difficult especially if your order is in the thousands of dollars.

Obtain a Contingency Fee


Even the best planners have last-minute requests or forgot to order something that is paramount to their event. Obtaining a 5-10% contingency fee that allows you to go over that amount of spend, without being charged for it, can make your life a bit simpler.  
Remember with AV and computer rentals for large meetings, may times the additional cost is in the unanticipated labor charges. Make sure this contingency clause applies to both labor and equipment.

Learn the Words: Complimentary and Discount


When working with rental agencies, it is possible for you to obtain “no-cost” items for every “x” dollars you spend. For example, if you are renting all your AV, computer and Wi-Fi equipment from the same firm, throwing in low-cost items such as LCD projectors, podiums and microphones should be within reason.

In addition, for multi-meeting or multi-year contracts, larger discounts should be available to you.

Remember, there are going to be some items that have no or low discounts due to slim profit margins or they are in such high demand the organization does not need to discount those items. But as a general rule, if an organization can count on certain revenue from you over time, you have a greater chance at both complementary and discounted offerings.

Offer Something in Return


Ultimately, a negotiation should not be a total win for you and a total loss for the rental vendor. You want the best equipment and service your budget can offer. They want the most profit they can obtain. You want discounts, comps and in-kind contributions. What do they want?
The general rule is for every concession they make, you offer something in return.

Be Willing to Walk Away


If you have worked the negotiation hard and you and your vendor are still miles and miles apart, perhaps it is time to walk away from the negotiation. You have put much energy into the process and it just isn’t going anywhere.

Make certain you have 2-3 other vendors in your back pocket in case things fall apart. And by all means, don’t cut negotiations so close to your event that you feel trapped.

In summary, negotiating is about being fair. Try to obtain the best deal possible and give yourself enough time to make it happen.



De-de Mulligan, President of Mulligan Management Group,  has been an active blogger since 2009 and writes meeting and event related pieces for multiple organizations. She has been published in Social Media Today, Tech Patio, Evvnt, MPI Ohio’s DEFINE magazine, Crain’s Cleveland Business and Crain’s New York Business. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Declare Independence from the Venue’s AV Provider!

While it is true that most hotels and conference centers, offer this service and pitch it as one less thing you need to worry about, I think it is important for you to understand their relationship doesn’t necessarily work in the best interest of you.

The truth of the matter is: You are allowed to bring in any Audio Visual supplier you want! As a courtesy, I would recommend you receive their bid, but please keep the following points in mind when selecting your audio visual rental provider:

The In-House Provider works for the Venue, not for you.


This is a cold, hard fact – but you do not have two bosses and neither does the in-house provider. They work at the pleasure of the venue and while I am certain they will do their best to provide you with good service, there are no guarantees.
An outside provider, on the other hand, works really hard to keep and earn your business every day. They want a long-term relationship with you and work toward that end.

The In-House Provider is limited by the Equipment they have.

Rather than finding out your meeting wants and needs, the in-house provider will try to sell you on what they have available.
You want a partner that will work toward a solution that works for you on all fronts – for your meeting, your presenters and your budget. A partner that has lots of options and can pitch those to you is better than one that tries to make their equipment work for your conference.

The In-House Provider Pays a Commission to the Venue.

This is probably the greatest conflict of interest and least talked about story of all – when you sign on with the in-house provider, the venue is receiving a hefty commission for serving up that vendor to you. Research suggests it can be on the order of 40-60% of the total deal; which in turn is going to make your rental fees higher.

If a venue states you must use their in-house AV provider, find another venue.

Your ability to bring an outside supplier in is predicated on negotiations agreed to BEFORE you sign on the dotted line – but in no way, shape or form do you need to sign on with the in-house provider. If the venue staff insists, then find another venue.

Don’t fall for extra charges.


Many times the venue will try and tack on additional charges if you use an outside vendor such as, move in/out charges, storage, labor and electrical charges. Sometimes these charges are valid and sometimes they are…well…not so valid. Understand them completely and try to derive exactly why they are there.

In the end, it is absolutely within your rights to bring in an outside AV provider. Look around and see who can meet your needs – you might be surprised to learn what all your options are!

About Us


At Hartford Technology Rentals we thrive on building long-term relationships with clients and offer a consistently valuable production experience for their events – regardless of the venue you book!


If you are planning an event, anywhere in the nation, contact us to learn how we can help!

Friday, May 15, 2015

7 Killer Places to Seek Savings at Your Next Conference


You just received your budget number for your annual conference and not surprising, it is a very minor uptake from last year’s budget. Upper management’s mantra is “do more with less”. As you reflect on last year’s event and all your meetings in general, it seems like some items could be cut – but how and in what way?

Here are 7 ways to spend your money wisely; without impacting the attendee experience.

VENUE


Meeting Room Fees: If your conference is large enough and you are booking sleeping rooms, as well as, eating and drinking onsite – room fees can be waived or at least greatly reduced.  Before going to the negotiating table, understand the aggregate spend you are bringing to the facility. 


Sleeping Room Block: With a large conference, you want to negotiate a block of rooms for your attendees and encourage them to stay in the block. In addition, you want your cut-off date to be as close to the conference as possible.

One new note to add to your contract language: If you release the block and the hotel sells those rooms after the fact, you will ONLY be charged for the unsold rooms for the nights you are there. That is a fair provision for you and the hotel.

Parking: Look at your aggregate spend again and try to negotiate free valet parking – especially if most of your attendees will be driving to the conference and they are unfamiliar with the city. Short of that, try and work toward highly discounted parking or offer alternative methods for attendees to get to the conference: carpooling, train or subways are good choices.

CATERER


Food: Ask for creative food options. Is buffet cheaper than plated entrees? Will boxed lunches work over a buffet? It is important to poll your attendees to find out what foods they like and the style they wish to be served. Many attendees want to get out in the fresh air and would love a boxed lunch they could take off the premises, but others want to stay right at the venue. 

The other thing to keep in mind is the days of the week and times of day the caterer is slowest. Having your meeting on a Monday with breakfast at 9 and lunch at 1:30 might work well because those are not peak times for food service.


Non-alcoholic beverages: If your event is in one central location, work toward an all-day beverage stand where staff only needs to refresh beverages during certain times of the day. There is one setup and one takedown.

Alcohol

On average, there may be upwards of 25% of your attendees who do not drink or wish to participate in a networking function where alcohol is served. Aim for a sponsor who will take care of the first drink and offer attendees a ticket when they come into the reception area. Have a cut-off time for your reception with 2-hours being the optimal time. Only offer beer and wine and make certain the bartenders have been trained to spot individuals who have had enough to drink.


Don’t assume you must use the in-house AV company, because that just isn’t true. Many times the venue receives a commission if you use the house provider, but it doesn’t mean their price is competitive. When drafting your RFP, ask for their bid and compare it objectively with other providers. In addition, if you decide to use an outside company, don’t let the venue add outside AV fees such as setup, striking and storage to your contract.


About Us


Need AV help for your next conference? Give Hartford Technology Rentals a call today at 888-520-5667 or contact us online. We will put our experience to work for you in selecting the right equipment to make your next event a success while saving you money! 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

3 Ways Big Data can Enhance Your Event


Big Data seems to be all the buzz these days; but if you are still wondering what it is and how you can use it, you are not alone. Today’s blog will take a deeper look at this concept and the ways to use it at your next conference.

Big Data Defined


Big data is the collection of data sets so large and complex that they are difficult to process, even with database management tools or traditional data processing applications.
The idea is to analyze a single large set of related data, as compared to separate smaller sets with the same total amount of data, and use correlations to spot business trends.
But the reality is you need to know what you are looking for.

How to Get Started


1.      Look at your event goals and objectives.

What are you trying to do?
a.       Attract more attendees?
b.      Garner more sponsors?
c.       Train your employees on a new HR process?
d.      Drive more sales over the next year?
e.       Increase brand awareness about your products and services?
Whatever your goals are, remember to make them specific and measurable. Think about ways data will help you meet those goals and fine tune your technology rental products and tools to reflect what you really need.
2.      
       Get into the habit of asking a lot of questions early and often.

In order to use big data to its fullest extent, understand your attendees, exhibitors and presenters needs right from the beginning. If you
rent iPads or iPhones with polling apps installed on it, you can start gathering good, empirical data. Here are a few examples:

a.      Why are you attending this event?
b.      What are the 3 things you learned at the conference?
c.       What event session topics and speakers are you looking to hear more about?
There is a variety of crowdsourcing apps available to help you shape the best conference for your meeting participants – whether it is real-time or in preparation for the next meeting. This data can be collected quickly and the results are tallied instantly.
d.      What improvements can be made to the conference?
e.      Please rate the facility, presenters and your trade show experience.

The benefit of gathering this data and having it aggregated is you can make course corrections on a real-time basis. No longer does data need to be gathered after-the-fact. Collect it now and do something with it now.

3.      Set up measurements within your apps and regularly monitor activity.

Using app analytics, find out what event sessions were clicked on, what topics were shared on social channels, how long the user stayed on each page of the app and over what time period. You can set up goals for all of your measurements and quickly see at what percentage level you achieved your goals.

In summary, by understanding your goals and objectives, asking questions and listening for social chatter and setting up measurements within the app analytics, you are on your way to using Big Data to help make your event the best one ever!

Source: BizBash - 8 Tips to Help You Manage Your Event’s Big Data

About Us


Want to learn more about Hartford Technology Rental’s program for events? Give us a call today at 888-520-5667 and one of our Technical Sales Representatives will discuss the full details with you.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Is Your Mobile Event App Tied to Your Meeting Goals?


Implementing technology for technology’s sake cannot only be expensive, but it can also be frustrating for your attendees, exhibitors and stakeholders if it isn't handled correctly.  Since most people carry a mobile device with them when they come to a conference, an event app probably makes the most sense from an applicability and expense standpoint. 

Before looking at all the bells and whistles of a mobile event app, you need to have a clear understanding of what you are trying to accomplish at your next conference. Here are some common goals and objectives:

·         Reduce or eliminate all paper in an effort to be green and save money on printing, shipping and drayage. 


·         Provide real-time correspondence with attendees through social channels or the mobile app rather than relying on signage or announcements before sessions. 


·         Providing a gamification or contest when launching a new product or service in order to engage attendees. 


·         Sell 20% more sponsorships through digital measures such as sponsoring the event app, the splash page sign-in or speaker videos. 


·         Grow first-time attendance by 15% and have an 85% return rate from last year’s conference.   


·         Allow exhibitors to do real-time appointment scheduling before and during the event.

When looking at overall event goals try and use the SMART methodology. Is the goal:

·         Specific
·         Measurable
·         Attainable
·         Realistic and
·         Time Bound? 


However, no matter what your event goals are, you need to make certain they are tied to your overall business goals. They need to be in sync and most importantly, approved and bought into by executive management. Many meeting budgets are still stagnant, so it is important that you explain the total cost of the old way of doing business compared to the new way of mobile apps. 


In addition, you will need to address the following:

·         Which mobile event apps make sense for your conference?
·         What is the cost?
·         How will you support this app?
·         Will attendee training be necessary? 
·         How can sponsorships be integrated within the app?


ACTIVE RegOnline provides Online Event Registration Software and Event Management Software. Event management software includes online registration forms, event websites, badges, event marketing, and credit card processing. 

To learn more about how mobile apps can work for your next conference, download the free event mobile playbook from ACTIVE. 

De-de Mulligan, President of Mulligan Management Group, has been an active blogger since 2009 and writes meeting and event related pieces for i-Meet, the Worldwide Business Community for people who plan meetings and events. She has been published in Social Media Today, Tech Patio, Evvnt, MPI Ohio’s DEFINE magazine, Crain’s Cleveland Business and Crain’s New York Business. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

7 Solid Tips to Enhance Your Next PowerPoint Presentation



Whether it is an unintentional font, broken link or frozen equipment - a bad visual experience can ruin your presentation, as well as, the attendee’s experience.

I attended a conference about 3 months ago where the PowerPoint presentation wasn't lined up adequately to the screen size AND it failed to advance the slide when the speaker was ready to move to the next one. This caused great frustration on the part of the presenter and her messaging was lost to the 150+ attendees.

The morale of the story: All is lost when a good presentation goes bad.

PowerPoint is meant to enable presenters to deliver a better, more impactful message. This article will focus on two areas – Process and Tools – with tips within these categories.

PROCESS


Tip #1:  Write out your outline on Post-it Notes.

Before going to the computer and typing out slides, figure out what you are going to say, how much time you have to deliver your message and the order of the slides.

Research states that attendees will remember only 10% of your presentation, so make sure your first and last slide are the most impactful.

Tip #2: Make sure the presentation represents your story, not your boss’.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have watched someone read slides, jump over them or act confused when one came up on the LCD projector. When asking the speaker about it later, they confessed it was their co-worker or boss’ presentation. Don’t get caught up in this; make every slide your own and the audience will be with you from the start.

Tip #3: Have a call-to-action for your last slide and where to find you on every slide.

The last slide should have an action you want your attendees to take – whether it is to buy your book, hire you for their next training session or implement a change in their thinking. 
Every slide should contain the following footer: the name of your company, your Twitter handle and the hashtag for the event so they can find your presentation on SlideShare or Prezi. 

Tip #4: Send your presentation to the event organizer 7-10 in advance.

If you developed your presentation on a Mac or different version of PowerPoint, the reality is some of your fonts and visuals may not transfer over appropriately. Most event organizers prefer to rent AV/computer equipment all together, rather than you bringing your laptop. By sending it to the event team early, they have time to load it and check for any problems. In addition, they can check URLs and make certain the right sound solution is in place if you are showing video.  

Tip #5: Be onsite at least 2 hours before your presentation for testing.

You want your presentation to go very smoothly, so make certain you meet with the AV team to:
·         Rehearse your presentation and make certain your slides correspond to your timing
·         Your microphone is fitted properly and you can be heard in every corner of the room and
·         If you have video, it can be heard by all attendees.

Tools


Tip # 6: Use bullets, but don’t overkill.

Bullets are effective as a way to remember what to cover and should be used as an aid. However, the less bullet points the better.

Tip # 7: Use font types that readable, but not predictable.

Some font types are used too often because they are PowerPoint defaults. Use a different type, but make certain it meets three criteria:

·         It is large – most presenters should be using 30 point font type
·         It has contrast – if using backgrounds or photos, make certain the font color doesn't blend into the background
·         It is readable – don’t use cursive or crazy types because the audience is going to have to work to read it.



SmartSource Rentals, a premier supplier of PowerPoint presentation equipment for corporate events and can provide you with the technology answers to your meeting needs! With laptop, LCD and screen or Plasmas available to rent, and project managers available to understand your needs, they can provide you with the total package.