prudential_standout2_2014-300x199The 2014 National Sales Convention for Prudential Real Estate and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, which took place March 17 to 18 at the Music City Center in Nashville, achieved its highest satisfaction rating since 2007. A seamless main stage production, along with a consistent message for the 3,400 independent brokers and sales agents who attended, accounts in large part for that success (Corporate Magic, Dallas, handles).

The convention came as Prudential is transitioning under the ownership of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, which acquired Prudential in 2012, to become Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. Its goal was to motivate and educate attendees, and provide networking opportunities, but it is primarily a recognition event. “We try to cover all aspects of their needs, but the No. 1 reason we have the event is to recognize them,” says Denise Doyle, director of conference and meeting services at HSF Affiliates, which operates Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Prudential Real Estate and Real Living Real Estate.

Doyle takes us through the two-day affair and discusses six elements of a successful recognition event.

1. Choose a cool venue. The Nashville City Center is new, and the organizers considered the area before the convention center or the hotel was built. “We really did take a chance,” Doyle admits, but it turns out the attendees loved Nashville, and the small business owners in town were grateful for the business.

2. Deliver a strong message. Taking a cue from The Beatles, who constantly reinvented themselves in their quest to stand out as musicians, the theme of the meeting was “Stand Out.” Monday’s general session centered on the many ways the company is standing out in the hyper-competitive real estate market, and speakers such as author Marcus Buckingham, who wrote a book entitled “Stand Out,” and Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to enter the all-male Boston Marathon, also drove home that theme. “The message rang clear that it is a new day and exciting time with Berkshire Hathaway,” says Meg Lohr, senior international account manager at Corporate Magic.

3. Create dynamic staging. Five moveable LED screens integrated into the staging added a compelling visual element to the production. The screens, measuring nearly seven- by 10-feet and constructed from 60 ultra-lightweight carbon fiber LED panels, provided by GoVision, were mounted on rollers and set in motion at various intervals. Stationary screens measuring six- by nine-feet flanked each side of the stage. The dynamic staging allowed for a constantly changing look, so the audience didn’t know what was next. In addition, LED triangles magically transformed the screen panels into the shape of a house, a fitting visual for the brand.

4. Incorporate storytelling. HSF Affiliates sought out success stories within its network of agents and brought those “stand outs” onto the main stage via video. It appeared as if one of the agents was actually standing onstage in the door of the house and another was in the window, and they were having a conversation.

5. Make it entertaining. Besides wowing attendees with a performance by Reba McIntyre, HSF created a custom song specific to realtors that struck a chord with the agents and brokers. “Meetings must have an ebb and flow; it can’t all be about the talking heads,” Lohr says. “We had serious, impactful executive moments followed by humorous skits that hit home and were specific to the industry.”

6. Make it rewarding. HSF recognizes thousands of people at its annual convention and rather than walking across the stage as they typically do at graduation ceremonies, the honorees, which are recognized in large groups and as individuals, are queued up off the stage in various directions. Everyone holds a card with a barcode that is scanned and fed into all the systems including the graphics, prompter and tech desk, ensuring that the right person or group appears on stage at the right moment. “That was absolutely timesaving and efficient for us,” Doyle says…more

International association meetings market strong

??????????The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) is reporting another year of continued strength in the international association meetings market, following the release of its 2013 Top 20 Rankings for countries and cities.

The report found 11,685 regularly occurring association events which rotate between at least three countries were identified as having taken place during 2013, 535 more than were held the year before.

There was little change in the top 10 country rankings, with the US, Germany and Spain retaining 1st, 2nd and 3rd places, however France and the UK switched places with France now in 4th place. The top 10 is rounded out by Italy, Japan, China, Brazil and The Netherlands.

In the city rankings, Paris, which was in 2nd place last year, ousted Vienna, which has been in first place since 2005. Madrid, moved into 2nd place and Vienna 3rd. Barcelona climbs one place to 4th and Berlin moves from 3rd to 5th place. Singapore remains 6th and London fell from a shared 6th place to 7th. Istanbul climbs one place to 8th and Lisbon and Seoul, both newcomers in the top 10, share 9th place.

“It shouldn’t be surprising that our 2013 figures have demonstrated the strength of the international association meetings sector, since the overall picture for our industry is significantly better than has been the case for quite some time,” said ICCA chief executive Martin Sirk.

“But it should be remembered that this is a sector that has shown significant growth in every single year since the financial crisis hit the world economy in 2008. The international association meetings sector is a solid, reliable performer, in good times and bad, and the longer term trends are the most critically important factors when preparing strategic plans and investment decisions. I am convinced that every serious meetings destination, internationally ambitious venue, and forward-thinking meetings management company should include international associations in their marketing and development strategies.”

Australia came in 16th place in the country rankings, with 231 meetings, while Sydney was the highest Australian city, in joint 20th place, with 93 meetings.


Sustainability in the Hotel Industry

room-keyFor most people, sustainability in the hotel industry translates into a card on the bed spelling out the frequency of sheet changes and a swing tag in the bathroom asking you to recycle your towels

Increasingly, though, leading hoteliers are beginning to recognise that cutting through the greenwash and aiming for truly sustainable practices can pay dividends – from reduced operating costs and higher profit margins to improved staff productivity, better guest experiences and better brand equity.

The Scandic Marski hotel in Helsinki, where I stayed in mid-April, is just one of a number of hotels introducing multiple sustainability and recycling initiatives. Every room has bins for four different waste streams: bottles, plastics, glass and cans in one, paper and cardboard in another, compostable material and food waste in a third, and a fourth for waste to landfill. Even the room keys are made of 80 per cent local, Nordic wood, with just a thin veneer to help them last.

The usual notices about towels and sheets hang in the bathroom and beside the bed, but the showers and taps are fitted with flow-reducers that still provide a good experience without wasting valuable resources. Toiletries are locally made, in biodegradable containers, and filled with organic products.

At One Aldwych in London, creating a hotel out of a heritage-listed bank building was the perfect opportunity for a guest experience that is both luxurious and sustainable. The hotel has embraced sustainable tourism while continuing to provide the high level of service expected in one of the world’s best five star hotels.

Environmental initiatives include a comprehensive recycling scheme that even recycles cooking oil, eco-friendly bathroom amenities with biodegradable packaging, and a ‘no bleach’ policy which prevents harsh chemicals from being released into the water system and protects employees’ hands.

Food waste is taken away to a biogas generator that, in turn, helps produce low-emissions energy. A highly efficient EVAC vacuum drainage system, the same as that used in Grocon’s Pixel building in Melbourne, uses 80 per cent less water than conventional flushing systems, with toilets using just one litre of water per flush. Other ‘smarts’ in the building include an excellent Building Management System (BMS) and heat reclaim coils in the basement.

The subterranean pool area with its relaxing colours, ambiance, temperature control, chlorine-free water and underwater music once cost £7,000 a year to light. Today, it costs the hotel around £700 a year while also enhancing the guest experience. A feature wall at one end of the pool with a beautifully-lit (but energy- and water-intensive) waterfall has been replaced with a simple surface, lit by a discrete LED projector which can screen any number of images and moving pictures.

While I was staying there, ‘Blue Planet’-type footage was screening, from whales and dugongs to turtles, including (rather alarmingly as I surfaced doing breaststroke) a shark feeding-frenzy. This not only enhances the guest experience but reinforces the environmental message – that there is a good reason for conserving resources, not wasting or polluting water, and the reason is right in front of guests.

Hotel Union Square, owned and operated by Personality Hotels, offers the authentic San Francisco experience – a highly individual hotel and the chance to wake up to the sound of ringing cable car bells. Yvonne Lembi-Detert, President and CEO Personality Hotels, says sustainable thinking begins when she takes over an old property.

“Recycling an old building is just the start,” she said. “We don’t knock down the building, we try to reuse it and save – and savour – as much as we can, and support local craftsmen and designers.”

The hotel is filled with reused and recycled elements of San Francisco’s past – and the hotel’s heritage. Lembi-Detert’s favourite thing about the hotel is the striking wooden mermaid suspended from the ceiling at the top of the central staircase.

“The mermaid came from the façade of Bernstein’s Fish Grotto, which used to be on the other side of the road,” she noted. “When the Grotto was torn down we rescued the mermaid, sailed across the street with her, and she now has a new life adding to the character of the hotel.”

Other elements of heritage and reuse include the artwork brought from other buildings around the city, the original red tiles of the lobby still visible beside the concierge desk, and the original structural brick walls of the interior that add warmth and character.

At Hotel Union Square, towels and linen can be washed less often, and recycling bins with different streams are found in each room. LED lighting is being introduced throughout the hotel to make for a better, more energy-efficient guest experience. Showers have low-flow devices, and despite it being an old building, water-efficient toilets have been installed in some rooms, although the plumbing doesn’t always ‘jive’ with the new fixtures. Lights and air-conditioning units are on sensors, reducing waste where possible.

Sustainability is not just something for the luxury end of the market. Some new international hotel designs consider not just budget rooms, but budget sizes, budget construction, and use of existing and pre-fabricated materials, such as the shipping container design pioneered by Hong Kong-based OVA Studio.

New York Pod Hotels offer clever, compact rooms with “everything you need and nothing you don’t.” These rooms are both environmentally sustainable (using less space, fewer materials and less energy to operate) but also financially sustainable. For the slightly braver, the Tokyo Capsule Hotel provides sleeping capsules that are super cheap, but include access to bathhouses, 24-hour restaurants, massages and WiFi.

Original article by Robin Mellon can be found here