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Farewell, iBE - You Were a Class Act

Yesterday the Co-Publishers of Ignite Magazine announced that there will not be a fifth installment of their annual show, Ignite Business Expo (click here to read the full text).

Some may say "ah, the other guys won," or "see, there's no room for two business events shows in Canada." There may be some truth to that.  But in an industry that is not always known for drastic innovation, I think Rich Elliott and Debbie van der Beek and their team should be congratulated.

Greenfield Services team
Doreen & Meagan at iBE 2012
Praised for pushing us to create more visually-appealing trade show environments, as well as magazine layouts.  Lauded for challenging us to focus on the experience of business events, not just the sale.  Recognized for taking a risk that ultimately may not have paid off for them, but benefitted the entire industry.

Greenfield had participated in iBE since inception in 2011.  I know that it was because of what we experienced there that Greenfield Services' own production team for the Engaging Associations Forum focused such energy on the décor, the design, on the feel of the event. 

Thank you for pushing us to do better.  We need more folks like you in business!  And we can't wait to see what you have in store next.

How Much Do You Really LOVE Your Job?

We hear it all the time in the meetings industry, "oh I love my job -- I get to travel, meet great people, stay at great hotels, not to mention the food...!

But do you love your job enough to be working when you are dying?  Enough to be showing up at work even though you've been told that you likely won't be around a year from now?

That probably gave you pause, didn't it?  I love my work -- most days -- but when my friend Jeremy told me early in the New Year about his diagnosis of peritoneal mesothelioma, I was shocked to hear about his illness, and even more shocked that he was choosing to continue to be on the job.

"If you only have a few precious months, just a year to live, why the heck would you want to be working??" I thought.

Well that is what's different about Jeremy.  He loves his work; maybe not all aspects of his job (I don't know really because I've never asked him in detail).  From what I see Jeremy gets to do what he loves and what he's really good at: talk to people, make them think, make them laugh, help them feel what is real and important.  That's just what he does in both his jobs.

You see, Jeremy is not just the Director of Sales for the Scotiabank Convention Centre.  He's also a Deacon in the Catholic Church.  I've never heard any of his sermons, but I've read his blogs and social media posts.  And we've talked about our faith, about stuff that you don't expect to talk about with a meetings industry colleague.

With Jeremy, what you see is what you get.

So he shows up, having made the choice to be living with a life-threatening illness.  He is not dying.  He is here, with us now.  Living and breathing.  A regular guy doing what he does as best he can and writing about it (check out his blog to see what I mean).

Come to think of it, it's probably not just his job he loves.  It's because he is doing his life's work.

I promise I won't try to be a mindless cheerleader, sending out platitudes about the reality you are living, Jeremy.  I can try to imagine what you are going through, but the truth is that I really don't know.  Yes and, I respect and salute what you are doing.

Carry on, my friend, because you are a living reminder that it's not just about the job, it's about our life's work.  We thank you for that.

Marriott Buys Delta Hotels - Initial Thoughts from #Eventprofs

The news hit the meetings industry like a bomb last week: Marriott Hotels and the B.C. Investment Management Corp. made public plans for the American hospitality giant to buy Delta Hotels & Resorts.

Still subject to approval by regulators until April 1st of this year, there was little doubt in anyone's mind at the CSAE Tête-à-Tête Show in Ottawa: the sale, most said, will go through.

Some of the show attendees I spoke with were saddened to see the "last true, pan-Canadian hotel brand" be bought out by a large American concern.  They had wanted Delta succeed on its own, offering an alternative to the big global brands, especially after Delta's hard-fought battle to re-brand and upgrade its facilities and services across its 38 properties.  Others felt that it was inevitable, "hotel management is really all about real estate these days," observed an association planner.

Some of the Delta sales reps I spoke with were quietly welcoming the news, especially those who have sales responsibilities in the US.  "No one knows what a Delta is in the US.  They think we're part of the airline!  This at least will give us credibility," declared one rep, clearly delighted at the opportunities this would also present to her professionally.

A seasoned site selection specialist heartily welcomed the announcement. She said she hopes that Marriott ownership will mean Delta will apply Marriott's rules about paying commission only to planners who have gone through Marriott's training and qualification program.

Officially both Marriott and Delta sales leaders say it's "business as usual" until April. And even then, they say, Marriott likely will keep Delta as a stand-alone brand.

Time will tell how Canadian meeting professionals will be affected by the sale.  What are your thoughts, Eventprofs?

#Eventprofs: Are You Marketing Like It's Groundhog Day?

Last week I returned from a major Canadian meetings industry show with a handful of business cards, having had a few good conversations, but no qualified leads to speak of.

Chatting with fellow exhibitors, I heard a similar refrain. Lucky for me, I own my company so I get to determine whether a particular marketing activity showed return that I'm satisfied with, or not.

Unfortunately my booth neighbours don't have that luxury. Whether they are hotels, destination marketing organizations or other meeting services firms, most of them report to a boss, a set of partners or a Board, none of which are usually known for risk-taking or innovation. Return-on-investment is constantly on their minds.

The problem with that of course is that most of my fellow exhibitors aren't free to really be creative, creating marketing activities that make them stand out. They are marketing like it's Groundhog Day.

They go to a show because the competition will be there. They attend an event because everyone else is doing it. Is it any wonder the meetings industry has become commoditized?

If we are doing things like everyone else, then we will be seen like everyone else. Just one big crowd of undifferentiated, indistinguishable set of vendors. (If you’re a true marketer, that’s a really *bad word*!)

Remember how Phil Connors (a.k.a. Bill Murray) broke out of his predicament and won Rita's heart in the movie Groundhog Day? Once he figured out he was in a rut, he took the opportunity he was given each day to learn a new skill, to exercise a new talent, to do things differently. In the end, it greatly improved his circumstances.

So, eventprofs, ready to break out of Groundhog Day?

Keeping on Top of Your Database Post-CASL

With the passing of Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) last July, the world of database management has changed for Canadian marketers. No longer can we simply email a list of prospects, weed out the bad addresses and follow up with the good ones to ensure our database is clean. If an email is sent to someone who doesn't want to be on your list, it can land you in trouble!

(Read more about the do's & don'ts of CASL by downloading this Greenfield CASL overview).

But what should you do if your database is a mess? Here are a few tips:
  1. It's the circle of life!  Accept the fact that the minute you've finished updating your database, something in it will be obsolete.
  2. Resist buying data.  Even if a list seller says they have email opt-in, don't believe it!  Legal professionals tell us email permission is not transferable; it rests only with the entity who obtained permission in the first place. A list seller would have to send the email for you in other words.  So be careful and buy only from reputable entities.
  3. Focus first on the data you do have.  Set up a phone campaign. Have the list cleaned the good old fashioned way. 
  4. Update in small chunks. Set aside a few hundred of your best records, get those updated and feel good about what you've done. And focus on keeping this chunk of data pristine. Make it your A-Team and work from there. 
  5. Be brutal! If a contact can't be updated in a predetermined number of phone calls, archive it, delete it, or remove it, but get it our of your regularly accessible records. 
  6. When you make a call, start at the top. An Executive Assistant to a President will know who plans the meetings within the company. To get past a tenacious receptionist, ask for Sales. The Sales department is a great place to start since they will be hosting a number of the meetings. 
  7. Keep your funnel full by topping it up with new records.  This means systematically adding to your database as you acquire new leads from a trade show, and inbound inquiry, or a networking event.  Ask your new prospects if you can keep in touch via email, and send them an email with a formal opt-in request they can accept right away.
  8. Email regularly. Don't be afraid of email just because of CASL. Moving prospects from implied to express consent can be simplified with an opt-in campaign via e-blasting, so why not do it? And for those who have opted in, they have given you permission to email them regarding specific topics. Why not woo them with great email content and keep them coming back for more?
Data cleansing isn't rocket science but it's time-consuming and required consistency. Remember that clean client and prospect data will make you a more efficient hospitality sales and marketing organization and ensure you are follow all of the new rules!

Meetings Industry: Back to a Seller's Market in 2015?

As 2014 draws to a close, many meetings industry suppliers have reported to us here at Greenfield that they believe it definitely will be back in a seller's market.

This prognosis seems to be supported by a number of surveys and forecasts from travel companies and industry associations:
So suppliers, what are you seeing in your city for 2015?  Planners, what are you doing to mitigate the rising costs for your meetings and events?

#Eventprofs: Are You Listening to Your Clients’ LEAN IN Statements?

Art Sobczak is a speaker and trainer providing how-to prospecting and sales tips that get results. This was reprinted from his Smart Calling Tip of the Week. See back issues and get a free ebook of 501 tips at

Listen for Their "Lean In" Statements to Learn EXACTLY What they Want

If someone in a conversation dropped this on you, how would you react?

"So, anyway, I'm only sharing this with a couple of people, but my aunt in Omaha is good friends with Warren Buffet and this is where he said she needs to put all of her money..."
  • You'd snap to attention.
  • You'd elevate your listening to a higher level.
  • You'd zone out everything else around you.
  • You'd lean in closer. 
Because you now want, and must hear what is about to be said. What caused that was the "Lean In" statement. You hear these with prospects and customers too. Do you pick up on them and react the same way? On a call with a prospect, my ears really perked up when he said,

“Here’s our real problem ...”

I leaned forward in my seat, turned up the volume on my headset and took even better notes. I questioned deeper with each response he gave. By asking money questions we were able to agree that the problem was costing him about $50,000 monthly.

My point here is they will often let us know when they are about to reveal their problems, pains, and desires. I wish it was always as easy as hearing the word "problem." Sometimes it is, other times we need to focus even more intently.

Listen for the "Lean In" words and phrases that describe pain, discomfort, or dissatisfaction such as:
  • “We need to do something about ...”
  • “We’ve noticed a downward trend in the ...”
  • “It’s concerning us that ...”
  • “A trouble area is ...”
  • “An area of difficulty is...”
  • “A dilemma ...”
  • “We worry about ...”
  • “It’s a hassle when ...”
  • “What’s frustrating is ...”
  • “We've been unsuccessful at ...”
  • “We're not satisfied with ...”
  • “What’s disappointing is ...”
  • “What takes time is ...”
  • “It costs us to ...”
  • “We try to avoid ...”
On a similar note, listen for them visualizing the result of a solution:
  • “What we could use is...”
  • “A solution would be to ...”
  • “What we'd like to achieve is ...”
  • “We could show a savings from ...”
  • “The ideal would be to ...”
  • “We’d show the most benefit from ...”
Of course, the best thing to do with all of these, once you hear them, is to keep them talking.
  • “Tell me more.”
  • “Explain that please.”
  • “Interesting. Go on.”
  • “In what way?”
  • “How else does that affect you?”
  • “How do you feel about that?”
Lean in, listen, keep them talking, and they'll write your recommendation for you.