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Midwest Meetings

Spring 2009

We’re open for Busi ness.

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Cast a special spell over your next business meeting. From sun-up to sundown, the Iowa Great Lakes offers a spectacular setting, exciting indoor and outdoor activities, and memorable team-building experiences! Call Okoboji Tourism at 800-270-2574 or visit For lodging on beautiful West Lake Okoboji, call The Inn at Okoboji at 877-265-4386 or visit



May 6-7, 2009 • New York, NY

• Economic forecast: what lies ahead for the meetings industry? • Aligning your meetings with the strategic sales goals of your c• What you can do now to stay ahead of the game • Overcoming misperceptions: planning meetings in the public eye • How professionals are doing more with less in creating valuable

e-mail: •

Project2:Layout 1


11:49 AM

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A place to begin... • Launching a planning business. • One planner strikes out alone. Last summer, I left my job as a meeting planner without another job lined up. I was burned out, so I took a break to “find myself.” I realized I’m at a place of great opportunity. I can start my own event planning business.

September 16, 2008

I started my new work-from-home job, and it’s

a big obligation. I find myself stuck in a tiny little

In the fall, I accepted a planning position that

place, struggling to balance all of my commitments.

allows me to work from home and keep flexible

The stress I am experiencing is only the begin-

hours. I collect a steady paycheck again, and I have

ning. The pressure will increase as I get into my

the ability to pursue my dream of running an event

new job over the next few months while simulta-

planning business.

neously marketing my new business and building a

This is my diary. Read about my plans, my progress, and where I go from here!

September 8, 2008

My new job starts next week. Even though it’s a

work-from-home position, it’s going to occupy a lot of my time. I’m forging ahead with a simple business plan.

client base. What can I say? I like a challenge! The key for me is having goals and working to accomplish one task for my business every day. As long as I keep moving forward and progressing, I know it will all fall into place.

October 10, 2008

There are some days - like today - when I feel

It is time for me to take all my ideas on paper and

like ripping my hair out. It’s hard! I am bogged

make them happen. I already have experience, a

down in all the little details that float to the sur-

portfolio, and good relationships with vendors, so

face when you try to start your own business. I feel

I’m starting out with more than most.

stressed out, my to-do list is a mile long, and I’m

I’m working on my website, and what a head-

worrying about whether I can get it all done.

ache this is turning out to be. Some people hire web

Wait a minute. This sounds familiar. Starting a

designers, but I am on such a tight budget (zero).

business is a lot like planning an event! A really

Also, I’m a control freak, and I really couldn’t em-

big event…

brace the idea of having someone else design my site. I want every word to be perfect, so my business really has a chance to be successful. There’s a ton of

November 5, 2008

My hard work is finally paying off. An individual

competition in my city, so I have to stand out from

wants to consult with me on keynote speaking for

the crowd with a great website.


I’m about to put something online for the world


to read - and judge. It’s a bit daunting.

Also, today I received a call from a lawyer who

Midwest Meetings Spring 2009

. h t n o m e h t f day o t s r i f e h t I love w to o v I , y a d o T tart. s h s e r f a It’s ent. i l c a r o f h c ar renew my se

wants me to help plan his seminars. This is a golden

One good thing did happen today, however. I

opportunity. Because it is a series, there is always

got an email from someone with whom I’ve been

the next event that I can help plan.

corresponding who just landed an impressive event

Now I need to figure out some sort of contract

planning job. She said talking to me inspired her to

that I can send to him for my services. Did I men-

go for it. That was a nice thing to hear! Even if I’m

tion he’s a lawyer?

not having much luck these days, I’m happy to see

November 11, 2008

I’m not sure what is going on with my potential

client, the lawyer. I’m nervous because I haven’t

someone who is.

November 29, 2008

I need to get out there and do some good, old-

heard from him in a few days. To be fair, I know

fashioned networking - the kind that involves talk-

he’s busy, and the seminars are not until 2009, so

ing to people and asking if they have any projects

there’s still hope. But I was excited to finally have

for me.

someone who wanted to hire me, and now I can’t close the deal.

November 13, 2008

The two prospective clients I was pursuing have

chosen someone else. My frustration is in not receiving a reason why. It is hard for me to adjust my strategy without knowing exactly what went wrong. I came across another project today, and I sent a

I have avoided this tactic so far, because it is not an easy thing to do. It involves making phone calls and contacting people and potentially looking stupid. I have to start, or I am never going to get anywhere. I know clients are out there somewhere!

December 1, 2008

I love the first day of the month. It’s a fresh start.

Today, I vow to renew my search for a client.

proposal. Maybe something will come of it. But I’m

I have to fight to get my business going or move

starting to doubt myself. What makes me so spe-

to Barcelona and start over. Unfortunately, my

cial that I can start a business? Some days, it really

Spanish is lacking, so it seems I need to get going

seems impossible - a mountain of a task that I took

with some events!

on for some crazy reason. I’m taking a vacation. I’m leaving in a few days.

Stephanie Sasso, CMP has ten years of experience

Maybe it will be good for me to get away and come

in planning events. She has a strong background in both

back with a fresh perspective.

meeting planning and hotel event management. Stepha-

November 25, 2008

nie enjoys traveling, and she has been to China, the Caribbean, Mexico, and 19 states in the US. She hopes her

I’m not sure anything has changed. The vaca-

career will take her to see the rest of the world someday.

tion was a nice break, but now I’m back and I still

Stephanie is currently pursuing event planning projects

have no clients. The proposal I sent before I left

and writing a book for novice event planners. Contact

was rejected.

Stephanie at



requirements, then I should look for something in my last intern-

ing bar inventories, communicating scheduling needs, managing

ship that my first two didn’t have. Just like at Special D Events,

a serving staff, giving flawless service, and working closely with

I knew that the job would be a challenge. I knew management

the kitchen staff to ensure that food presentation was up to re-

wouldn’t accept anything but the best.

sort standards and food service was timely.

MM: How was this internship different from your experi-

MM: Can you describe some of the lessons learned from

ence with Special D Events?

working on “the other side”?

NK: It was completely different! Before this experience, I [put]

NK: There are benefits and drawbacks to each side, but for me,

my faith in the resort I was working with to help me make the

I realized I enjoy the couple of weeks working 40 to 50 hours and

event a success. Now, I was that person.

then an intense week onsite, working 70+.

Instead of traveling and filling my days doing research to plan

When I’m working with a third-party event planner, I have

an event, I was now on the execution side. The Inn does a lot of

more patience and understanding when they have to discuss a

corporate business, but they also do their fair share of weddings,

decision with their client before they can give me an answer.

which is something I had never done before.

Having been on both sides, I think this is something that can really put me ahead of other recently graduated students.

MM: What were your responsibilities at The Inn?

NK: My responsibilities as an event coordinator at The Inn in-

MM: What was your most unusual experience at The Inn at

cluded communicating with the site contact and event manager

Bay Harbor?

as often as necessary with any changes or concerns the group

NK: I was working a wedding rehearsal dinner for 50 people


on the restaurant’s patio. We knew the forecast was predicting

I was responsible for keeping customer counts at events, tak-


rain but hoped that it would stay north of us. The event was


The Room That Eats


Help Beat the MonsterÉ

• Room setups affect presentations. • Confront challenges, support speakers.


ere is a Catch-22 that affects all of us: we learn best from failure, but the last thing we want to discuss is our failure. In the spirit of sharing, I’m going to discuss some of mine.

I am a keynote speaker. I have spoken for more than a

quarter of a century and have a reputation sufficient to take me to

by Peter de Jager

Cavernous Rooms

Exhibit halls are not the best rooms in which to speak. The 50-ft. ceilings swallow all but the best sound systems. They place a great distance between the speaker and the listeners.

Elevated Podiums

37 countries and have me invited to speak at the World Economic

When the podium is three ft. or more off the ground, a speaker

Forum. In short, I know what I’m doing; I do it well; I’m a bona fide

is guaranteed to be far from the audience - not only with respect to


distance, but psychologically as well. Here is a made-up formula for

That does not mean I haven’t failed to deliver from time to time. Not often. Three times, to be exact, in more than 25 years. The first time it happened, I wrote it off as “the audience’s fault.” What can I say? It was early in my career, and I didn’t realize it is never the audience’s fault.

you: the difficulties of creating rapport with your audience increase as the square of the distance between you and the listener.

Open Space in Front of Podium

A tall podium usually causes the first row of seats to be placed 20 to 30 ft. back. Seats have to be that far back, or attendees will

The second time, it was a presentation I was giving for the first

get cricks in their necks looking up at the speaker. This adds more

time. I wrote that failure off to not having the timing down, and

space between the speaker and the audience. At one of my failures,

I suspected the flow of my talk wasn’t perfect. Better than my first

literally enough space for a pipe band existed between the audience

excuse, but as we shall see, not the real reason.

and I. They marched out, and I marched up to my guillotine.

The third time, I knew it was not the audience. I had grown

Wide Center Aisle

out of blaming others for the quality of my work. Nor was it a new

If the room is large, the temptation exists for a wide central aisle.

talk. It was one I had given hundreds of times, and I presented it

This means, if the speaker stands in the center of the podium, he or

as I always did. Despite my knowledge of the topic - my passion

she is speaking to blank space all the way to the back of the room.

and delivery - the presentation fell flat, and I died on stage for the third time. If it was not the audience, and if it was not me, then why did I fail? As a speaker, that is an important question. The answer is also important for any meeting planner. Each time I failed, I had the same sense that I had never once connected with the audience. I sat down, took pen and paper and wrote down everything I could remember about those painful experiences. This is what came to mind:


Wide Rooms vs. Deep Rooms

Some rooms are wider than they are deep. This means listeners to the left and right of the speaker are farther away than those all the way at the back of the room. For speakers to make eye contact with those on the left, they must turn their backs from those on the right. If they are wearing a lavalier microphone, they must turn their shoulders in the direction in which they are speaking, or the mic will not pick up their voices.

Rounds vs. Rows

If a room is filled with round tables rather than rows of seats,

Midwest Meetings spring 2009

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Nonverbal Negotiations

It’s not always what you say… • Body language speaks volumes.


f you’ve ever tried to learn a different language, then you

The good news is that you can learn to improve your non-

know how difficult it can be to train yourself to commu-

verbal communication skills. The better news is that by doing

nicate in a new way.

so, you might be able to improve the results of your negotia-

Now consider this: the words that come out of your mouth

“Strong nonverbal communication can help your negotia-

verbal cues and signals can make up the other 90%. When

tion by signaling to your counterpart that you are confident

you’re negotiating contracts with suppliers, do you know

in both your preparation prior to the negotiation and the

what you’re really saying? Do you know what the other person

position you are taking during the negotiation,” says Peter

is thinking?

Stark, who has been training negotiators for more than 15

For some people, the ability to read body language comes as naturally as breathing. For others, it requires a conscious effort to notice and interpret the signs.



only transmit about 10% of your message. Experts say non-

years. Stark, co-author of The Only Negotiating Guide You’ll Ever Need, believes confidence is the most important aspect of

Midwest Meetings spring 2009

successful negotiating. “Negotiators will actually lower their aspirations and ask for less when they know their counterpart is confident in their position,” he says. “Most often, confidence is telegraphed in nonverbal behaviors.” You might want to start by studying your own behaviors. Have a colleague videotape you while you speak. Then, when you play the video, hit the mute button. Watch your gestures and movements, your stance, your expressions. Without hearing the words that go along with your actions, what message do you interpret? Do you appear nervous? Confrontational? Uncertain? Preoccupied? Play the video back again and identify any actions that create a negative impression. Try the same tactic with a video of a speaker whom you feel exudes confidence. Pay particular attention to hand gestures, eye movement and posture. What is different between the speaker’s actions and yours? Which behaviors can you incorporate to give off a more confident air? Tone and inflection of voice are also important factors. “One great exercise is to practice asking for something using different tones of voice and modulating voice, emphasizing different words,” Stark says. He says one exercise negotiators can try is to look into a mirror and practice asking, I need you give me a 10% discount. “The first time, emphasize the word I,” Stark says. “At the end of the sentence, trail your eyes away from looking in the mirror. Now try it again. This time, emphasize the word you, and at the end of the sentence, continue to look at the mirror. Hold the eye contact for at least two seconds after you complete the sentence. It may even feel

“It may even feel a little uncomfortable, but then again, when your counterpart has confidence and you do not, it does feel a little uncomfortable.”

a little uncomfortable, but then again, when your counterpart has confidence and you do not, it does feel a little uncomfortable.” Once you have an understanding of the nonverbal messages you transmit while speaking, you can work to improve and enhance your persona, or your “public personality.” By paying attention to your own body language, you can develop a better grasp on how others perceive you. Knowledge is power, according to Stark. “Confidence: it is the number one key,” Stark says. “The best way to gain confidence in a negotiation is to be well prepared. The side with the best and the most information usually gains the best outcome.”

Peter of





co-author Negotiating

Guide You’ll Ever Need. He travels internationally training leaders, sales professionals and procurement specialists in the art of negotiation.




Midwest Meetings spring 2009

Learn the lingo… - Industry terms to know.

given to those sub-blocks or exhibitors with higher priority points. Points are also often awarded for consecutive years of attendance or exhibiting, early registration for an event, sponsorship levels, etc. Knowles Theory: Proposes that for adults to learn, the following must be addressed: adults need to know why they need 100% Star Billing: Requirement by an artist that his

to learn something; adults need to learn through experience;

or her name appear in a type style and size equal to or greater

adults view learning as problem solving; adults only learn when

than other names in advertising and promotional materials and

the material is immediately relevant.

media. One for Fifty: Often represented as 1/50. Facility Business Exchange: A website that serves as a

complimentary room policy: one complimentary room night for

year-round online marketplace for buyers and sellers within a

every 50 room nights picked up and paid for. While 1/50 was

given marketplace. Such sites are also referred to as business-

once the standard, the complimentary policies vary per hotel

to-business (b2b) marketplaces, business-to-consumer (b2c)

and/or event.

marketplaces or consumer-to-consumer (c2c), depending on the target audience.

Pattern of Event Dates: The dates during which an event can be conducted. May be designated by specific dates,

Exhibition Occupancy: Total sq. ft. of space used

months, or seasons (spring, fall, etc.). An example description:

for exhibits times the number of use days divided by the total

“September 1 through October 30, excluding Labor Day, Jewish

exhibit space in the building multiplied by 365. Expressed as a

holidays. This annual meeting must begin on Thursday and end


on Saturday.”

Financial Responsibility Law: A law that

Think Tank: A group of specialists organized by a business

requires a person or organization to furnish evidence of ability

enterprise, governmental body and commissions to undertake

to respond to claims for harm from a specified type of activity.

intensive study and research into specified problems.

The most common financial responsibility requirement applies to motor vehicle operators, who must have evidence of ability

XLR Connector: Typically, a three-pin plug or

to pay for automobile-related injuries or damage. An auto

receptacle with a metal shell used for microphone cables and

liability policy is the main form of financial responsibility.

line level signal-carrying cabling.

Housing Priority Points: A system used by some

Thanks to the Convention Industry Council’s APEX Initiative

event organizers to assign guestrooms in housing facilities

for providing these industry terms and definitions. For more, check

or floor space in an exhibition where preferred locations are

out the APEX Industry Glossary at




Midwest Meetings Spring 2009

Some people believe a meeting at a resort equals a budget breaker. However, this is not always the case. Planning an event at a resort can save time and money in some cases, and you can create a more productive meeting. “In the current business climate, many resorts are offering competitive rates, so a resort meeting can be not only a great experience, but a phenomenal value,” says Renee Wilhite, director of sales and marketing at Chateau on the Lake Resort, Spa & Convention Center in Branson, MO. Timing is everything, and you should strive to keep open communication with

Renee Wilhite, director of sales and marketing at Chateau on the Lake Resort, Spa & Convention Center in Branson, MO.

the resort from your initial call. If you can be flexible with your meeting dates, ask when you might obtain the best rates for rooms, food and beverage, recreational activities, or even entertainment. In addition to the time of year, you should check on demand over certain days of the week. When you hold your event over low-demand periods, you’ll be able to stretch your dollars further and maybe even get some amenities added on a complimentary or reduced-cost basis. “Resorts also offer a wider range [in] inventory and room rates,” Brown says. “For example, there are traditional guestrooms, but we can also rent homes ranging from a two- or three-bedroom to an eight-bedroom home.”

“By working closely with the onsite staff and relying on their expertise, planners can create one-of-a-kind, memorable events utilizing the resort amenities within their program.”

As a meeting professional, you should always take the time to provide a resort with the details of your entire program. This includes guestrooms and meals, teambuilding needs, entertainment, golf, and everything else on the agenda. When you provide all information possible, a resort can offer you the best package. “We often get RFPs via email, asking for rooms and rates,” Brown says. “We need the whole picture in order to give [planners] the best value, since we offer so many other amenities.”

Location, Experience, Flexibility Midwest resorts offer an affordable and convenient place to convene for many

Gene Hare, director of sales at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL.

meeting and event attendees. Many Midwest resorts provide a perfect solution for planners who are looking for a central place in which to bring together people from far and wide. Resorts often eliminate the need to find meeting-related activities and entertainment. An array of options under one roof can help keep your group together and reduce the possibility of losing attendees to outside venues. Many resort staff members are experienced in creating custom events. By working with the resort and sharing your goals and objectives, you can coordinate a unique experience for your attendees that will result in a memorable time and a

“We find now, more than ever, our partners want to have an experience, not just a meeting.”

productive meeting. “Resorts provide a great value for conferences, because they offer a complete experience onsite,” Hare says. “We are able to assist with the planning of the meeting, activities, themes, entertainment and marketing of the program, allowing the planner to focus on the content. In addition, resorts offer a self-contained environment, which leads to better attendance, stronger networking, and, in the end, a better return on the company’s meeting investment.” “Packages can be tailored to meet a group’s individual needs and incorporate a variety of activities and dining options,” Wilhite adds. “By working closely with the onsite staff and relying on their expertise, planners can create one-of-a-kind, memorable events utilizing the resort amenities within their program.”


Paul Brown, director of sales at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa in Galena, IL.

Midwest Meetings Spring 2009

By using the capabilities a resort offers, planners can save time



by eliminating the task of finding outside suppliers. Most resorts

groups who are look-

offer a variety of in-house services, such as sightseeing tours, team-

ing to get the most

building activities, entertainment options and more.

from their employ-

Looking for spouse or family activities? Many resorts offer pre-

ees or members,” she

planned activities like horseback rides, cruises, hikes, shopping

explains. “A resort

excursions and more. In many cases, resorts can arrange for trans-

setting can be inspi-

portation needs and apply them directly to your master bill. Spa

rational and foster

services, golf courses, boutique shops, culinary classes, and even


movie theaters are often included in a resort’s blueprint. When ne-

in a more positive

gotiating your event, be sure to find out if any activity discounts are


available for your attendees.

for attendees, plan-

resulting experience

“First, let the salesperson know what your goals are and what you

ners, and all who

want to accomplish, and then don’t over-schedule your attendees,”

ultimately reap the

Brown says. “Let them have an hour or so of free time each day.”

benefits of an effec-

Away From It All

tive meeting. When

In many cases, the reason an event takes place away from the

meetings are produc-

office is to encourage creativity and offer a learning experience to

tive and rejuvenat-

help a team become more successful. Resorts are an ideal location

ing, they return results.”

to provide the right mindset for attendees to learn, grow, come together, and renew their passion for their business, Wilhite says. “The flexibility of a resort meeting can be very attractive to


Chateau on the Lake Resort, Spa & Convention Center takes the comfort of its guests seriously. The 14,000 sq. ft. Spa Chateau opened in 2006.

So, next time you’re assigned the job of creating the perfect event, look to a Midwest resort to help you achieve an experience your attendees will be talking about for years to come.



Midwest Meetings Spring 2009

Regional beers from Midwest breweries such as Goose Island Beer Company in Chicago, Leinenkugel’s Brewery in Chippewa Falls, WI and New Glarus Brewing Company and event groups. “For our meetings originating throughout Wisconsin or Chicago, having these beers on tap in the banquet area is a must,” Binder says. “[These] are big draws for us,” Pleau agrees. “We’re seeing an increase in specialty beers, especially craft beers.” Many meeting and event planners also rely on resorts’ food and beverage departments to work within budgets and deliver value when recommending wine choices. “We’re seeing high demand for excellent wines at reasonable prices,” Pleau says. “We’re really capable of steering people in the direction of getting a good bang for their buck in the wine market. They don’t have to spend $60 to $70 on a great bottle of wine.” And budget challenges aside, Pleau urges meeting and event planners to think twice before going the cash bar route. “We actually work with clients to try to keep them away


“The catering managers have to be very well versed to steer the clients to get maximum value without cutting any quality for the dollar.”

Photos courtesy of Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa in Itasca, IL

in New Glarus, WI have found popularity with meeting

Midwest Meetings Spring 2009

Photos courtesy of Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan, WI

“A great food and beverage team always provides the highestlevel service, no matter what the menu price.”

from going with cash bars, because we believe it’s not a good reflec-

times, they’re going to repay tenfold. Companies are going to come

tion on the group or the group leadership,” he says. “We’d rather

back and say, ‘You really worked for us when the dollar was tight.’”

find a way to make their budgets work, so they can still have a host

When it comes to adding that value per dollar, Lake Lawn Resort has developed a way planners can provide entertainment dur-


Shoestring Budgets So here’s the rub: how do meeting or event planners choose all

ing meals through “action stations,” or chef demonstration and serving stations.

the trendy menu selections, incorporate all the special diet options,

“When attendees are just sitting and eating, especially during a

and provide for all the personal tastes of their attendees, all while

multi-day event, planners are looking for inexpensive ways to keep

coming in under budget?

them entertained,” Ross says. “We can provide that entertainment

“They come to me and say, ‘This is my budget, what can you do

and provide educational content that gives attendees an even bet-

for me?’” Ross says. “Planners have a hard time choosing menus

ter experience. We can teach techniques and terms, or the origins

that will appeal to a large group of people, especially while trying

of the foods they are eating. Or we can simply add some showman-

to watch costs.”

ship to the meal.”

“We work with every group on an individual bases,” Fedorko

Sometimes, though, planners just plain need to cut out the ex-

adds. “A strong food and beverage team can lead a group through

tras in order to reduce meal expenses. Lunch, Ross says, is a prime

the process of not only selecting menus, but creating special menus

candidate for cost-cutting.

for their budget. A great food and beverage team always provides the highest-level service, no matter what the menu price.” The current economic environment has presented skilled food and beverage departments with the opportunity to shine, according to Pleau. “The catering managers have to be very well versed to steer the clients to get maximum value without cutting any quality for the dollar,” he says. “If these efforts are done right during the tough www.MidweStMeetingS.coM

“Attendees often complain that heavy lunches slow them down in the afternoons,” he explains. “Opting for lighter and healthier fare, such as organic and seasonal produce, also help meet the desires of attendees.” For example, a soup and salad bar is an inexpensive option that also meets planners’ need to serve choices along with a meal. Creating a meal that wows attendees without breaking the bank: this is how meaningful relationships are made.


up to as much as 20% off the regular individual

ity has come a new era of innovative spa treat-

prices, depending on the size of the group.”

ments, along with different ways of implement-

As spa experiences have increased in popular-

ing them. By working with resort staff members,

ity over recent years, planners have more options

planners can craft meaningful experiences that

than ever when it comes to picking those pamper-

leave each and every attendee saying ahhh.

ing touches. And the staff members at Midwest resorts are often able to help create a special experience for each individual. Customized spa treatments are becoming the norm. “One size no longer fits all, as spa-goers desire experiences that are tailored to their personal needs and desires,” McNees says. “From booking time instead of a treatment to selecting the background music, lighting, room temperature and massage oils, being a spa-goer is not a spectator sport.” With the increase in popular-


Photos courtesy of the International Spa Association


“We had CBS golf analyst and former professional golfer David Feherty on one of the holes, coaching players.”

Understanding Groups If a tournament is on the agenda, onsite professionals can be a lifesaver. Facility staff members understand golf and groups. Many factors are involved in a golf outing, and every detail can have a big impact on participants’ experience. Staff members can offer guidance from their experience in handling past groups to help you create a memorable golf event. For a 2007 event, when she was the vice president of brand marketing and communications for CIT Group, Inc., Carol Berman planned a golf outing as the focus of a three-day gathering for 75 communications, media and entertainment executives. “The head golf professional, Mark Fry, had a great disposition,” says Berman, who is now the president of City Girl Media. “Mark kept tabs on the scores and created a professional-looking leader board for our group, which fueled the friendly competition and the anticipation to see who would win.”

Fuel for the Game The nature of the activities offered along with a golf tournament or golf-themed event can set the tone and atmosphere for your group. A picnic lunch on the greens is one way to incorporate food and golf, for instance, and there are numerous other options for the two to mix. “We brought boxed lunches out to the players while they were on the course,” Berman says. “This way, there were no hunger issues, and golfers who were going to play www.MidweStMeetingS.coM


another round of 18 after the tournament or proceed to another activity, like fishing, were fed. Keeping bellies full is key.”

It’s All in the Theme If a golf outing is a central focus of a retreat or getaway, then why not keep golf top-of-mind for your attendees throughout the gathering? A golf theme can carry through from the course to the banquet room. Consider bringing in golf-related activities, games or icebreakers to encourage interaction and fun among attendees. Ashley Dicksa, founder of Creative Events by Ashley, plans an annual golf tournament that has grown over the years, from about 40 participants to more than 100. “Last year, the theme was Caddyshack,” Dicksa says. “We encouraged everyone to get dressed up. We did prizes for Best Dressed; people went as far as decking out

“We did prizes for Best Dressed; people went as far as decking out their golf carts and golf bags.”

their golf carts and golf bags. Another year, [we had] a poker run theme, so every third hole had a type of poker activity. We had one [hole] where they could actually play one hand of poker.”

Add Some Pizzazz For some serious golfers, nothing can top the opportunity to golf with a great. Some agencies offer the ability to “rent a pro” for golf events, and some facilities employ their own onsite celebrities. Depending on your meeting budget, these individuals might be able to appear for a motivational speech, offer personal instruction, or even spend the day on the course with your attendees. “We had CBS golf analyst and former professional golfer David Feherty on one of the holes, ‘coaching’ players,” Berman says. “I say ‘coaching’ because David is also known for his wry sense of humor, so he was poking good-natured fun as much as he was actually coaching. Each foursome had a photo taken with David on the hole to commemorate the moment.” You might also consider hiring a wellknown local personality to make an appearance. “We had our Mistress of Ceremonies


Midwest Meetings Spring 2009

for the post-tournament dinner jump in a cart and drive around,” Hopkins says. “She’s one of our local news anchors and is adorable!”

Go For the Gold Hosting golf contests for your group can help ramp up the fun among attendees. Golf competitions might in-

“When we were thinking of ideas, we said, ‘That’s kind of silly, but let’s try it; let’s see what people think.’ And they loved it, and we’ve brought it back every year.”

clude longest drive, straightest drive, closest to the line, closest to the pin, fewest putts or hole-in-one, among others. Depending on your group, contests can range from serious to silly. “We recently planned a golf tournament where threequarters of the holes had contests,” Hopkins says. “There was something to win, be part of a raffle, be part of the ‘cause,’ and our favorite: the Marshmallow Drive. It was hilarious.” Dicksa has also included a longest drive contest using marshmallows in place of golf balls. “When we were thinking of ideas, we said, ‘That’s kind of silly, but let’s try it; let’s see what people think,’” she says. “And they loved it, and we’ve brought it back every year.”

Get Everyone Involved Whether you want to encourage attendees to take part in a golf outing or you need to arrange separate activities for non-golfers, the options abound. “We do a dinner, which is fun-filled [with] live entertainment, awards and prizes,” Dicksa says. “People buy tickets just to go to the dinner portion, and they might not necessarily golf. We have a band; we do both a raffle and an auction. People want to eat and dance!” www.MidweStMeetingS.coM


hospital. We’ve reached those goals. Know when to stop. You don’t want to end when there’s nobody playing; you want to end when it’s packed and everyone is really enjoying it.” For the final event, it’s the personal touches that count. A local bar will close down its patio to host a new pre-party activity, called “Fault the Family Dunk Tank Revenge,” which will allow community members to express themselves loud and clear.

“Know when to stop. You don’t want to end when there’s nobody playing; you want to end when it’s packed and everyone is really enjoying it.”

“All these people are [angry] because we’re stopping this event, so let’s take it out on the family,” Otteman explains. “Members of the family do a shift in the dunk tank. If you’re mad [we’re] cancel-

“It’s been an unbelievable response all of a sudden,” Otteman says. “That part has been really neat.”

ing the event, you pay $10 for three balls and dunk them, or pay

An important element of the final event will involve expressing

$20 to just walk up and hit the button. People who aren’t necessar-

the family’s gratitude for 15 years of community support. Family

ily golfers, but either know the family or enjoy the charity, can be

members have culled their photo archives from past tournaments

involved in an event that has nothing to do with golf.”

to create “photo boxes,” which are special mementos of the event.

Another new fundraising tie-in for the tournament, called “Pen-

“We pulled funny photos and took little stickers that have funny

nies for Heaven,” yielded unexpected results. The concept was sim-

quotes in bubble boxes and put them on, then blew them up to

ple: for the 15th year of the tournament, bring 15 rolls of pennies,

poster size,” Otteman explains. “At the bottom, we, the family

and get a commemorative final-year T-shirt.

members, wrote a caption of what this photo means to us.”

Word got around, and now several retail outlets throughout

Large-scale photos of community members who have been in-

town compete against each other to fill Pringles cans that have

volved with the tournament decorate the banquet room, to be

been disguised in sleeves to look like giant penny rolls. The retail

taken home with individuals as keepsakes at the end of the event.

outlet that raises the most money becomes a sponsor at the golf

“Things like that have really turned a simple golf tournament




into a community experience,” Otteman says.





Midwest Meetings Spring 2009

Midwest Meetings Spring 2009  

Midwest Meetings Spring 2009 issue. How to articles on planning a meeting in the Midwest