Another horror show

May 25, 2006

Today must be meetings disaster day: First I hear about the Borat thing, and now there’s guys in HazMat suits crashing the entrance at the WinHEC conference, disrupting Bill Gates’ keynote presentation.

While I appreciate the Free Software Foundation‘s anti-DRM stance (DRM stands for digital rights management–click here for more on what that’s all about), this must have been a nightmare for the meeting planners.

Lesson learned: Where was the security? Even if the inside is secured, attendees still can be harrassed as they enter the building. Especially with a high-profile speaker like Gates inside, one would think outside the box, in terms of security. Here’s an article with some security basics I bookmarked a while back.

Unfortunate names

May 25, 2006

It would never have occurred to me, but leave it to media guy Rex Hammock to point out the unfortunateness of this guide’s title (as he says, “If this confuses you, do a Google search of the acronym.”)

ROFL!

Lesson learned: Ask a 16-year-old if your association, meeting, whatever, acronym might mean something you didn’t intend in IM/chat-speak, or check out this list.

Something awful

May 25, 2006

Did you hear about Borat, a movie that’s coming out about a “Kazakhstani TV talking head Borat (Cohen)[who] is dispatched to the United States to report on the greatest country in the world. With a documentary crew in tow, Borat becomes more interested in locating and marrying Pamela Anderson”? Sounds harmless, until you read this report on Fox news:

    But there are also some sequences that will defy censors, including one extended bit in which Borat and Azamat (sounds like HAZMAT), his sidekick — a thick eyebrowed sort of Sancho Panza with breasts larger than Pamela Anderson’s — wrestle nude in their hotel room.

    The wildly explicit, freaky mayhem spills out in the hotel elevator and then down onto the stage of a conference of insurance underwriters.

    The spectacle of Borat — a tall, lanky man, locked in hairy embrace with Azamat in front of several hundred straight-laced businessmen in blue blazers — may present to the MPAA its most confounding challenge ever about to rate a film for public consumption. The scenes are more disturbing than the end of “Hannibal.”

This is funny?? While the article goes on to say they got releases from everyone involved, they did so under false pretenses, saying they were from a TV station in Kazakhstan. But with a “near riot” caused when some well-meaning (I assume) insurance adjusters trying to break it up, I’d be calling my lawyer. Can you imagine this happening at one of your meetings? Just the thought makes me feel like I bit into an apple and saw half a wriggling worm. And the article calls the movie “a little gem”? Sounds downright hideous to me.

I guess the lesson must be to check credentials of anyone asking for a release, but who knows how this was done. It probably sounded pretty innocent before the fact.

Hat tip: MiForum Google group

Here’s some excellent scoopage from the MeCo (short for Meetings Community) Google group:

jwire.com is a cool site where you can find the WiFi hotspots all over the place–just plug in the city/state, and you’re good to go. Also works for airports. Excellent.

And this (I don’t know where the poster got this from or I’d link to the original site):

    In an never ending quest to find new ways to separate the traveler from his/her money, airlines are now charging fees for such items as scuba equipment, surf boards, bicycles and other sporting gear. Regardless of weight, many airlines no longer include them as part of the luggage allowance and can impose anywhere from $25 to $150 to stow them on board. The problem is, the new policy is random, both by airline and within each airline. You may not be charged going, but you may be charged on your return, or vice-versa. So far, golf clubs and skis are exempt. Why? No one is saying but probably because the perception is that golfers and skiers are affluent business types who carry more weight (no pun intended) in the overall scheme of things.

The best advice they offer is to check curb-side, since “porters are less likely to impose fees than airline staffers.”

If any hoteliers are reading this, listen up because this one’s for you. We all know that turnover is a huge problem for the hospitality industry. And it becomes a huge problem for meeting planners when their CSM leaves just before their event, or the sales person disappears and no one seems to be able to remember just what was promised (I know, get it in the contract, but things happen sometimes). From talking with hoteliers, it seems like people just sort of accept that high turnover is the cost of doing business. But do we really know just how high a cost it can be?

I just ran across this report (pdf) from Cornell Center for Hospitality Research professors Timothy Hinkin and Bruce Tracey, and it’s an eye-opener. They developed a Web-based tool to measure the actual costs of front desk personnel turnover, and found that it comes to a whopping 30 percent of salary, which averages close to $5,900. In addition, said Hinkin, “Our participants said that co-workers lost 20 percent of their productivity for up to 16 days when a colleague left the front desk.” And it gets more costly as you move up the hotel food chain.

The researchers are looking to add more numbers to their database, and so have made their turnover cost calculator available for any hotelier to use for free. I’d urge you to participate, both to learn just how much turnover is draining from your budget for various positions, and to help build a knowledge base for the industry. You can access the tool here.

The 2006 Las Vegas International Hospitality & Convention Summit, hosted by The William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, University of Las Vegas, has what sounds like a good lineup. Particularly of interest this year is the EMBOK day (EMBOK stands for Event Management Body of Knowledge, a project Julia Rutherford Silvers, CSEP, has spearheaded.)

I also love that this meeting is planned by UNLV students studying meetings and events. It’s scheduled for June 2 to 4 in Las Vegas.

I get tons of hotels promising me everything from an iPod to their first-born child if only I’d bring a meeting to their property, but this one really stands out from the crowd: Skamania Lodge in Oregon is sending live ponderosa pine trees to planners as part of its “Book a Meeting, Plant a Forest” campaign (good for meetings booked this summer). You not only get extras and good rates, they say; “100 trees will be planted in the company’s name to reforest areas in the West…It just started last month, but the campaign already has attracted two dozen meeting events,” according to this story in the Oregonian. I don’t have any business for them, but I do like the idea. I wish we saw more of the public-minded incentives, rather than those icky offers of personal points, vacations, and other things that smell more like bribery than incentives.