“What Now?” Moment…

“What Now?” Moment…
Don’t let time be the enemy

As I have explained in the post Developing Managers, meeting planning is all about project management.  It doesn’t matter how the sales lead is generated, how you come by the business, it comes down to managing time.  It can be your breaking point. Therefore, preparation is vital.  Success hinges on lining up those ducks in their right positions, and having enough flexibility for problems.

Today, marks the middle of the second week of classes, and for the next six weeks my students will be given information about their scenarios.  I enjoy this time, creating this reality of challenges.  This journey isn’t easy.  Life isn’t always a bed of roses.  They will have to think, use their respective brain power to sort out the twists and bumps.  And this morning, I barked a laugh at my latest creation.  One group will not be happy.  Welcome, to real life.  I hope they have listened to me over the course of their time here.  I hope they remember that I just don’t sit in my office during office hours and at other times for nothing.  I hope they have that epiphany.

[Knocks on the glass] “Hello, anyone out there!  Any of my students?  Hello?”  Questions.  It comes down to asking questions.  Don’t assume anything.  One lesson you must learn as an event planner is don’t assume you know what the clients want.  You don’t.  You may think you do, but in all reality, you don’t!

Get off your respective posterior and come and talk to me.  One requirement of my meeting planning class is they have to meet with me eight times over the course of the sixteen weeks to discuss their projects.  Everyone has to be there unless their team leader and I approve the excuse.

Hopefully, by now they have identified their roles and responsibilities.  There has to be a team leader, one that will be responsible for getting the job done–the broader goal.  The others will be accomplishing the objectives or individual tasks to get to that broader goal.

How they start is up to them.  Have they researched the craft of meetings?  Have they cruised around their books, the Internet or other sources to understand the process?  Are they waiting to be told?  I hope not.

Floppy Disks
Floppy Disks

My time in event planning and sales was during an era when paper ruled the desktop.  I started out as a sales coordinator.  A glorified personal assistant to the other sales managers and ran an office.  Thank the good Lord, I have been a gadget girl all my life. Old school floppy disks! I worked part-time at an office supply store to supplement and pay for my schooling. I sold the first renditions of IBM and Dell computers. On my desk at the hotel was a 286 processor with probably 50 k of memory. Five and quarter-inch flimsy disks were my life saver.  The convention calendar was this behemoth book that had its own desk.  For a small hotel, we had two or three major file cabinets full of client files.  Some as thick as the city phone book (four inches or more).

Personal planners crammed full of written notes.  Notebooks full of third-party information.  Day-to-day was all about pushing paper and making phone calls, pounding the pavement and finding leads as well as execution of various events or tour group arrivals.  Forget cell phones.  Landlines with a complex web of office numbers and only ten speed dial buttons (if that).  Back-up wasn’t an option.  Lose your personal planner–deep, heart stopping, whole-body anxiety attack until you found it.  Total disappearance meant frantic hours of combing through all that paper to recreate your day-to-day work life.  And if you didn’t keep meticulous notes, (I just laughed), you were on a bar stool later that night crying into your drink, casting curses and prayers simultaneously to the air and powers that be that you did what you had to do or your other associates had your back (another little snicker).  What did I say about life being fair, it isn’t.

Cue JoePa:

The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.

Time management has various dimensions.  One of those critical dimensions is communication which is basically the sharing of information.  An exchange process.  If you aren’t prepared for the encounter, it will show.  If you don’t value other points of reality, a host will lose value.  The process is stymied by the narrow-mindedness of others.  Basically, don’t be myopic.  Try to see the whole picture.  See beyond that picture.  Your developed skill level and capabilities at this point in time may not be as developed as others.  Do not discount experience, even those with just an ounce.  You do not know the complete picture.  You don’t know what that experience was and the depth of impact or how they handled it.  Get that through your mind.  Open your mind, open your heart, open your soul to receive.  The only way you can work together, and that doesn’t mean you can’t lead, but the only way you will all succeed is if you listen and contemplate.

So I guess that comes full circle to that leadership role.

But before we get into that, I wanted to over up a reminder.

I believe that there are four points to successful meeting planning from a customer standpoint:

  • Know your client–that means asking open-ended questions, and some closed ended questions
  • Know the product you sell–and it is more than you really think it is…
  • Know the community in which you are embedded and operate
  • Know yourself

Recall you are selling to the right person, the right product at the right time, for the right price, for the right location, having the right promotion, and employing the right people utilizing effective and efficient processes, and truthful, physical evidence, that is the right stories or testimonials to engage with the right customer.

What will the leader of these projects do?  What do event planners do out in the real world?

I can tell you a fraction of what you should or shouldn’t do from my own experience.  To learn more about leadership, you need to study.  Study those that are successful in a variety of fields.  Read trade magazines and look for case studies.  Visualize the problem and look for plausible solutions.

  1.  Be receptive to ideas.
  2. Don’t over hash things that nothing gets done.  Make a decision.  You can revisit it, but it shouldn’t rule your lives.
  3. Listen to your gut.  Know the difference between right and wrong.
  4. Know standard operating procedures.  If there aren’t any, create them.
  5. Events means experience.  Someone has their heart on having a wonderful experience.  Own it for them.  Make it happen.
  6. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  7. More than one person is affected/effected by the choices you make, especially financial ones.
  8. Time means one thing to you, and something different to another.
  9. Be inquisitive.  Study from experts.  Find a mentor.  Ask questions.
  10. Research the craft.
  11. Keep a reflective journal
  12. Be respectful, responsible, accountable.  Take responsibility for your actions.  Respect yourself and others.  Doesn’t mean you have to like them, but respect means more than what you think.
  13. Listen, just shut up and listen.  And listen with your mind and heart.
  14. Demonstrate empathy, sympathy.  But don’t let anyone run you over.  There is an art to negotiations, learn it.  Compromise is key.
  15. I know I’m going to get in trouble for this.  The customer may not always be right in every situation.  Sometimes you have to take the lead and help them realize reality.  You don’t always want to be their friend.
  16. At the end of the day, there are a host of people counting on you.  Some for a pay check.
  17. Tough decisions are painful, but manageable.  Tough love is the hardest.
  18. Be proactive rather than reactive.  Damn tough sometimes to recover in service execution.  (And if my PPC students are reading this, service is a broad term.)
  19. Study ethics.  Again, every single person is governed by a set of core values and not.  Some don’t have core values.

    Core Values
    Core Values

But what do they mean?  Do you understand them?

20.  Be cognizant of your environment.  Don’t live in a vacuum.  Be aware.  Be open to change.  Change is hard.  Embrace it.  Look for it.

So those are just twenty odd observations to consider, digest and reflect upon.

A good leader knows when to lead, knows when to walk beside and help, and sometimes remain behind and let you on your own.

Tourism is a journey

Tourism is a journey
White House
The White House, Washington DC

It seems I’ve come full circle several times in my life.  Heck, life is a journey, and it is not about sitting back and waiting for things to happen.  It is about the time that we have on this earth, and using it properly.  Tourism symbolizes that philosophy.  We can use our time to explore the world, to gain knowledge and information, to meet and to experience all sorts of extraordinary things.

YALI Friends
YALI Friends

This summer I returned to DC after a twenty (20) {WOW} year absence.  The place has grown, and changed.  I used to live there.  There is still this eclectic vibe about the place, something that draws you there, and want to stay awhile.  I wish I had, had more time to explore and see the old haunts, especially in Alexandria, VA.  I just wonder if the old Scottish tobacconist is still in Old Towne.

Why do we travel?  Why are some places more appealing to others?  I’ve posted this before, but let me shift gears.  My reason ‘why’ this year was to accompany the Mandela Washington Fellows that had attended the YALI exchange at UW-Stout.  These are a fantastic group of people, and I made a lot of lifelong friends.  As part of this summer program of young entrepreneurs, I had the opportunity to accompany them to Washington for a Presidential Summit.  Dad was having some health issues, and I really wanted to spend time with him before returning for the fall semester.  I know how hot and muggy DC can be especially in August, and I have never done well with the heat.  And I wasn’t sure I could afford the trip, unless the University graciously paid for it.  Luckily, I was able to go, though to be honest, I really wanted to be home in Pennsylvania.

Mandela Washington Fellows at UW-Stout, 2015

I enjoyed my time, and I am glad I got to spend that last week with my new friends. I wouldn’t have missed that for the world, showing a city I love. I will admit, I even got to meet President Obama, and shake his hand. (No big deal for me, I’ve met other dignitaries and celebrities working in this industry, and they are just like the rest of us, people too.)

So bringing this back to tourism…

There are many reasons for travel, tourism.  Definitions encompass a host of variables, centered around particular motivations.  For me this summer, one, was business, two, economic, and three, low push, pull factors, and time.

Understanding the different definitions also helps or hints at other constructs, and concepts of tourism.

I wanted to go to DC, and be with friends sure.  I really wanted to see the city as I wanted to see the city, see the history, the heritage, and do something fun.

I wanted to meet up with old friends, and make new ones.

I wanted to escape, and go someplace that I have a far greater place attachment to ~ Pennsylvania, and recuperate, rejuvenate, and relax.

My time is my own, and wanted to be able to use it wisely.  Two weeks with parents wasn’t enough in my book.

Ford's Theatre
Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC

But it isn’t always about what you do, but about the journey that you take. The footsteps that take you through life, and the experiences you undertake.

Now the question is, how do these impressions change over time…Yes, I still like Washington, DC…but at my age (another variable to define tourism), I want it on my terms..

This history of tourism…

This history of tourism…
Travel in the Ancient World
Travel in the Ancient World by Lionel Casson

Tourism and hospitality, travel has been around since man has emerged from the ethos and could walk on two legs.  We traveled for the basic necessities to survive in those early days, scavengers for food, fuel and shelter, companionship.   Those basic needs (physiological and safety, to an extent social)  have been ascribed by Maslow and Murray’s description of the hierarchy of needs (link to more information).  Once our basic needs are fulfilled, we as an individual and as a society can progress to higher level fulfillment (self-esteem and self-actualization).  What prompted humans to travel farther afield is uncertain, but there are a host of motivators.  These motivations parallel or even prompted the development and/or advancement in technology.

Casson (1994: 21) describes that city states, those in the Mediterranean, flourished near water avenues.  Commerce was established along the major rivers and tributaries of the day.  The Tigris, The Euphrates, along the Nile, saw the development of the first ‘unified states.’  As those city states expanded, so did their want and need for commerce.  They took on the adventure of travel to take their products to markets in different lands, different cities.  Travel for the sake of  enjoyment slowly emerged.  Why? People needed to fulfill their basic needs, before they can even begin to think of engaging in the fun side of travel. Travel for the sake of enjoyment, escapism emerged as society became more advanced.  What set destinations apart?  Just as it does today?  Quality of experience.  Therefore laws were established to govern the road.  Questions that prompted the first evolution of hospitality laws, concerned pricing and service.

Code of Hammurabi
Code of Hammurabi

Yet, travel has never been easy.  There are pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages.  We have gained and we have lost, just as humanity has evolved over the centuries.  But one philosophy has always dictated the mantra of our industry:  Quality Service.  Value is held from the perspective of the individual.  Expectations can and can’t be articulated.  Thus quality service as led to development of code of conduct for those in the industry.  Such as, the Code of Hammurabi (1750 BC); one of the first organized documents to stipulate the management of taverns and inns.  Specific rules and regulations for the handling of customers.  A code of expectations to ensure that every one had an enjoyable stay, and payment received.  Hospitality laws, some very old, are still on the books throughout the world.  Several civilizations have specific definitions for what it means to be a tourist, traveler.  Hospitia has its origins in Rome.  Oígidecht is from the Celtic world, from Ireland and means stranger, or one that is on a journey away from home.  Written history records exceptional hospitality, and at other times, the tradition has been used to execute nasty deeds.  The Glencoe Massacre in Scotland is one such incident that cast a nefarious stain on hospitality.  Regardless, some of these codes are still in existence today.  

There are vast chronicles of early tourist life.  Of people moving from one place to another for a specific reason, at a specific time.  Tourism parallels our own evolution and has even sparked the development of technology.  Whether the reason was solely for tourism, is debatable.  Yet, the functionality of a cart was more than just the transportation of good across great distances.  Someone, somewhere saw that cart and envision a chariot.  Someone saw a conveyance to help passengers.  Someone saw pilgrims on a road, with that cart, and wondered, where are they going to stop? Could I capitalize on their needs?  Could I build something that would aid them in their journey?  A city administrator, heard complaints from those on a journey, and constructed, enacted laws to govern the delivery of quality service so all parties could derive mutual value from that interaction.  That same administrator saw what was happening about him, something that they possessed of interest, and organized structures and services around that object, and made sure others conveyed a message to other travelers along the road.

The roads traveled served several functions.  But they were routes of information.  Information delivered from point A to point B, because someone had a letter.  Someone had a message about their every day life.  Stories were told around camp fires, in the streets of cities, or while drinking wine or ale in a tavern.  Stories became myths, and legends, and fueled a future generation to explore.  The Grand Tour became a 19th century pilgrimage of the emerging middle class to find spots that they had read about in books and newspapers. Serial stories published in papers became the focal points of travel, and led Thomas Cook to develop the first organize tour that exploited the use of the newest form of travel, the railroads.  As popularity grew, other developments helped the traveler in their quest for the unknown.  Modern cinematic films have spurred travel to a host of destination such as Scotland and New Zealand.  Traveler checks, tour guides, post cards, itineraries, coaches, cars, buses, airplanes, handheld PDAs, cell phones, computers, all of these technological developments helped to educate and inform society to the travel opportunities out there.  How far could we go?  How about to Mars?  How about to outer space?  Is space tourism our next adventure?  

Our lives are marked by moments.  We are born, we live and we die.  Travel has transformed from a luxury to a necessity.  Once only experienced by the rich; now experienced by the multitude.  The reasons, the motivations are uniquely our own.  How do we learn about the past, but by asking questions of those here.  How do we learn what we have gained but by examining the time in which travel has existed in its earliest form, till now, and for the future.  The history of tourism is part of us, it is our story, and woven into the mosaic of our existence.  It is our journey.

Our journeys begin with just one step…

The Journey

The Journey
Tourism is no ordinary journey

What is tourism, but a journey of the mind, body and spirit. In the actions that we accomplish to set out upon that path, whatever that might be, physical or spiritually, it is about choice. Our motivations are uniquely our own. Why we choose one destination over another is dependent on our point of reality, our own perspective and what we want to accomplish. What emotional tug, or pull prompts us to investigate, and gather information? What outward stimuli pushes us to get up from our arm chairs and act?

Tourism is about movement. About slipping from the spill of limited awareness to gain perspective and understanding. To shift into a greater awareness. Our actions expands the mind, our understanding of socio-cultural, economic events. The journey can be one that explores our own back yard, or farther afield. But that journey is about broadening our horizons, even if we don’t know about it.

Tourism is about time. Where we are situated in our life span sometimes dictates what are actions and reactions will be. Whether we go on an organized tour, depends on our own demographic profile and the risks we are willing to endure. If we are bolder, perhaps set forth out on our own. We are explorers embarking on a journey into an unknown place to seek out the authentic. How much time do we have? How will spend that time given us? How much time do we have to explore. Every moment in escape is about getting lost and immersing yourself within something new.

From the perspective of management, it is about that moment of truth for every individual that walks into our realm. We must see how to make their experience, whether they are 6 months old or 95 years old, unique. Each one of our stakeholders will have expectations and a vision of value that they might not be able to articulate. It is up to us to gather as much information, expound our knowledge about who they are, in order to meet every need. It is about diminishing the mistakes that might lead to service failure.

So what is a journey? Can you create several sentences to articulate what it might mean to you? Your parents, a friend? What does it mean to travel? What does it mean to be a tourist?

Carpe diem!