GRP Blog

Last week, almost lost among the fallout of the Brexit vote, and the Fourth of July holiday was what amounted to a meeting and events bombshell in New York. It's impact and the short and long term consequences may take years to fully come to grips with.

Anbang Insurance Group Co. owner of the Waldorf=Astoria hotel formally announced what had long been suspected. It was planning to close the storied property beginning in 2017 to convert over 1000 guest rooms into luxury condominiums. When it reopens, the hotel will be much smaller, with only 300-500 guest rooms versus the over 1400 it has today.

As I read this news, I was stunned. Having produced numerous events at the Waldorf over the years, it was hard to believe that the fabled hotel would simply cease to exist as we know it. I am sure many others in the NY market feel the same way.

AudioVisual is often one of the largest meeting expenses and it also seems to be the one most prone to last minute budget surprises.

One of the main reasons for this is that venues are normally selected and contracts signed long before the actual event AV needs are ever considered. As a result, planners often find out much later, that they had unexpectedly locked themselves into using the in-house AV provider or if they want to use an outside AV company, that they had committed to paying the venue for additional AV services and fees.

As an event AV Producer, I sometimes get contacted to produce and manage an event, only to discover that the hotel contract contains a clause requiring the client to use in-house AV or pay a penalty for not using them. Suddenly, the AV plans must either be revised - sometimes dramatically or worse, the AV budget balloons needlessly. Neither situation is pleasant and both make for difficult conversations with the client.

I recently attended a seminar on procurement trends for the meetings and events business. It was an interesting program and the presenters, representing several large accounting corporations who had already established a meeting and event procurement process, were clearly committed to the concept. But I must confess, I left unimpressed.

I recently endured a presentation the increasing role of Corporate Social Responsibility in meetings and events. My enduring this presentation had absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter. I have long believed that corporations should have a greater social responsibility and should not exist only to produce sufficient ROI for shareholders. It had nothing to do with the presenters who seemed both interesting, informed and committed. But for the life of me, I couldn't tell you what they had to say. Their message to me got lost, buried under a host of AV problems that in reality should never have been allowed to occur.

In looking at my website, I realized it has been a while since my last posting. For such a short month, February managed to pack quite a bit in. I've been working on a couple of upcoming events, digging out from under, snowicane, snowmaggedon, snowpocalypse or whatever the latest bout of winter weather has been dubbed by the media and watching what has been so aptly dubbed “The Human Drama of Athletic Competition.” Otherwise known as the 21st Winter Olympic Games.

I just returned from a week long meeting for a large consumer products company and I must confess – It felt really good to be meeting again. From my side, it was a long week with lots of last minute updates, changes and revisions and late night rehearsals. But this was nothing compared to the presenters and attendees and really illustrated the important role meetings play in business.
In this current economic environment, business meetings have taken quite a beating in the media and in Washington and there are still some critics who argue that live meetings are an needless extravagance and could easily be handled by cheaper alternatives such as conference calls and video conferencing.
While there may be occasions when these alternatives can be used there is really nothing that can take the place of the live interaction of meetings. This simple fact quickly became apparent last week.

As the meeting and event industry continues to struggle under the current economy, it seems venues are taking two decidedly different approaches to managing their businesses. Some venues, recognizing the plight of planners and companies are attempting simulate sales by offering attractive pricing and packaging to enable companies to continue to hold meetings and events while keeping their costs down.

This blog update from author Teri Yanovitch arrived while I was working on this blog, and seemed particularly timely.

Excellent Service in Bad Economy More Important than in Good Economy

I had to replace the thermostat in my home today. It was THE latest, state of the art unit when I installed it two years ago. The answer to all my current and future heating and cooling needs. It had a large digital LCD display complete with its own stylus to enable me to take full advantage of the multiple program modes.