Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Business Lessons from Twenty Years in the Event Industry

Celebrating MeetGreen's 20th Anniversary

They say if you start a business and it is still in business five years later, you are a success.  I would add, if you start a business and twenty years later you are still engaged, excited and passionate about what the company brings to the world, you are triumphant.

As we celebrate MeetGreen’s 20th Anniversary this year, the excitement and passion for our work as a talented group of impeccable professionals is unmistakable.   Not resting on our laurels of being acclaimed pioneers in sustainable meeting management, we are pushing forward to bring the power of human connection to the future of meeting design.

Pausing to reflect during this important company milestone, I share the secrets of our triumph:

  1. ALWAYS surround yourself with the best, brightest and most passionate people.
  2. Technology is your friend, embrace it.
  3. Empower your team to take the initiative.
  4. There is no such thing as giving a client too much service.
  5. Make decisions based on people, profit AND planet.
  6. Hiring people is fun, firing is not.
  7. Never stop learning and growing.
  8. Data is important.  Track it, measure it, analyze it.
  9. Someone else probably has a better idea than you.
  10. Always acknowledge an employee’s contribution.
  11. Nothing is off the record.
  12. Treat your vendors as true partners.
  13. Everyone pitches in during “crunch time” and that means everyone.
  14. Showing stress at work is contagious, so is showing kindness.
  15. Your very first client should still be a client.
  16. Listen!
  17. A bad year isn’t the end, but it is an opportunity for change.  Use it.
  18. Look out for each other.
  19. Collaborate with your competitors, you all win in the end.
  20. Be grateful!
Thanks to all of our employees, clients, partners, mentors, fans, significant others, and esteemed colleagues for making this the best 20 years of my life.

Reprinted from the MeetGreen July, 2014, Newsletter

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Question that Never Ends

There's a children's song called, "The Song that Never Ends" and thanks to Lamb Chop & friends, the music still plays in my head.

Likewise, in sustainable meetings, there is a "Question that Never Ends" and, by golly, it hasn't.  The question is..."Is it illegal to donate food after an event?"

Rarely does a week go by, when someone doesn't ask me this question. Then it hit closer to home yesterday when my daughter asked the same question.  Working for a hotel, she had volunteered for the property's Green Team thinking it was going to be an easy project given all of the "green stuff" she has been inundated with over the years.  When she raised her hand at the first meeting and asked why they didn't donate food, she was told for "liability reasons."  She argued her point for a while and then came looking for back up.

Here are a few links I passed along:




and there's an app for that http://www.pcma.org/convene-content/convene-article/2014/04/03/an-app-for-leftovers#.U6C2lrGEeVp 

Long story, short, The Bill Emerson Food Donation Act allows you help the hungry.

What does the law do? The law protects good-faith donors from civil and criminal liability in the event that the product later causes harm to its recipient. The Emerson Act gives uniform protection to food donors who may cross state lines.

Who is protected? The law protects food donors, including individuals and nonprofit feeding programs that act in good faith. More specifically, the law protects individuals, corporations, partnerships, organizations, associations, governmental entities, wholesalers, retailers, restaurateurs, caterers, farmers, gleaners, nonprofit agencies, and others.

What sort of food is protected? The Emerson Act provides protection for food and grocery products that meet all quality and labeling standards imposed by federal, state, and local laws and regulations - even though the food may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus, or other conditions.

Where can I find a place to donate? Find a local food bank using the Food Bank Locator on Feeding America's website.  Your role is to connect the local food bank and the catering firm. They will take care of the details.

In the current economy, food banks are struggling to fill their shelves to help the hungry and planners want to know how to help.  I am glad this question keeps coming up because at least people are still asking about food donation.  Now I just need a few lyrics and a memorable melody!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Accidental Planner

It wasn't too long after starting my job as communications director for a national healthcare firm, when the president appeared at my desk one day.  "It time we start planning our annual conference and by we, I mean you," he calmly stated.  The blank stare on my face was hiding the sheer panic in my mind and my racing heart. 

Over the years, I came to realize I am not the only one whose meeting planning career wasn't part of the original plan.  I have met meeting planners who started as nurses, engineers, musicians, computer programmers, scientists, and yoga instructors--all accidental planners.  Whether through volunteer work in their field or as job responsibility in a large corporation, they were drawn into the role of producing a meeting.

All of us have fumbled our way through learning about budgets, how many people a gallon of coffee will serve, meeting room sets, why good AV is so vital, and how temperamental VIPs can act.  Dealing with the simple logistics before we ever heard anything about the ROI or meeting architecture.

Luckily for me, meeting planning was a natural fit. As the company grew, so did my professional skills until the day when I became the Director of Conference Management.  But I have never forgotten my first meeting.

So for all of the accidental planners out there, I feel your pain.  In an effort to help, we have put together a 12-Step Program called Event Planning 101.  This list will at least get you started asking the right questions and learning a few of the fundamentals involved in planning a meeting.  You've got to start somewhere, right?


Thursday, June 5, 2014

There is No Finish Line

Chalk finish line photo by Nancy Zavada

Here's the deal...there is no finish line.  Marathon runners cross the line only to start training for the next race hoping to beat their best personal time.  Graduation day celebrants talk about what is lies ahead.  Work promotions are steps to the next goal.  Event planners know they are only as good as their last event and look forward future events.

So it goes with sustainability.  There is always more to learn, attempt and accomplish.  First it was implementing basic green meeting practices, then came measuring/benchmarking and on to reporting.  As the next event rolled around it was time to increase initiatives and beat the personal best.

The fact there is no finish line shouldn't make us want to give up and stop trying, it should invigorate each one of us to keep going to reach even higher goals.  That is the beauty of the human spirit...we keep trying!

Embrace the joy, hope and excitement as you keep creatively integrating sustainability into your work and your lives.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Data is a Beautiful Thing...so is Water

photo of the Oregon Coast by Nancy Zavada
Data is a beautiful thing.  It helps you tell a story, understand the significance and ultimately, demonstrate you are doing the right thing.  The right thing, like conserving water.  In today's "radical transparency" world of social media, your personal, professional or organization's reputation may depend on it. Just a few tweets by watchful participants at a conference can significantly impact your reputation in either a positive or negative manner.

Initial data from the Living Future unConference 2014 helps tell the story of a sustainable meeting.  The conference organizers made informed choices and the data makes it real.  For instance, they...

  • Chose chicken instead of beef for the dinner event saving 257,750 gallons of water.
  • Chose apples instead of tropical fruit such as bananas saving 9,536.75 gallons of water.
  • Chose a hotel with a linen-reuse program saving 1,340 gallons of water, thanks to attendee participation.
  • Provided tap water for attendees to refill their reusable water bottles saving enough energy to run an average American household for 2,062 hours.  Note: changed from tap to a filtered water system after Portland announced a Contaminated Water Alert during the conference.  Even with this alert, no individual bottles of water were consumed (a blog post unto itself).
These are in addition to other policies we posted about earlier such as serving 100% either local or organic food or verifying recycling during the event.

If you haven't already, start today collecting data, measuring, reporting and sharing your story.  Let them catch you doing something right, it's a beautiful thing

Source: Fun facts generated by  "If One Attendee" tool.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

100% Fresh, Local, Organic Meals at a Hotel? You Bet!

The challenge...serve 100% local or organic food at the Living Future unConference 2014.  In our experience, this has never been done before for a group of over 1,000 people for three days.

Bryan Siegel, Executive Chef, Hilton Portland & Executive Towers, was up to the challenge this week.  He diligently sourced the conference menus and was able to serve 100% local, organic or both local/organic food (in many cases). Fresh, healthy food to feed the innovative participants of this event and support of the local farmers, ranchers and companies.

With a huge thank you to Chef Bryan, the Hilton Banquet staff, and all of the community farms and vendors who worked so hard on our delightful meals (roll credits)...

Mary Organic Chicken
Zenners – sausages
Carlton – pork loin
Beecher’s Cheese
Tillamook Cheese
Stieber Farm – Eggs
Columbia Valley Organic Juice
Nancy’s Yogurt
Rumiano Family Cheese 
Essential Baking – bread
Marsee Bakery – breakfast pastries, cookies, desserts
Bob’s Red Mill Granola
Ryan’s Juice
Odwalla Juice

Broetje Orchards
Viva Tierra
Rainier Fruit
Cal-Ore Potatoes
Food Source
Deardorff Family
Field Fresh
Del Cabo
New Horizon

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Is Our Meeting Sustainable?

If you are attending the Living Future unConference 2014, relax we've got you covered.

Even before you made plans to attend, The Living Future Institute conference organizers and MeetGreen team were on the job, planning an environmentally-responsible event.  The first step was choosing a Green Seal and Green Key Certified hotel, the Hilton Portland & Executive Towers.  The hotel is in a walkable community with access to mass transit from the airport, local shopping and dining.

It is not enough to select the hotel and hope all of the green initiatives are in place, the team must also verify these practices before the event begins.  So yesterday, one day before the unConference 2014 was set to begin, we took a back-of-house tour where we saw all of the systems in action and breathed in the sweet smell of composting material.

Here's what we found:
  • Recycling bins in the meeting rooms and guest rooms
  • A 2014 year-to-date waste diversion rate of 72.74%
  • An elaborate waste system which has eliminated two days of garbage hauls per week
  • Three master recyclers on staff
  • 1,500 lbs. of plastic wrap is recycled each year
  • and a composting bin tipper, affectionately named "Tipper Gore" by Don George, Hilton's Composting Guru

It must be said all of these sustainable efforts take place at a downtown hotel with less loading dock space than most people's back decks.  It is a 24-hour process to bring compost and recyclables from the five kitchens in two buildings.

So check-in, grab your name badge and rest easy, we've done the heavy lifting for you.  Stay tuned for the 100% local or organic food to be served.  It will be a first in our experience!