2010 Kansas City Expo Review: Planners Get a Dose of Healthy Networking, Education and Fun

December 30, 2010

ExpoBy Heather McNeill

Healthy individuals are more effective in their work, making better decisions that can positively affect the health of those around them. That was the message of the 2010 Missouri Meetings & Events Expo, Healthy Meetings & Events Start With You, held September 27 and 28 at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown. “Education is not only vital to your health but to your employees’ health and the community’s health in general,” said Marcia McCoy, RN, director of the Saint Luke’s Muriel I. Kauffman Women’s Heart Center, in qn afternoon talk that opened the Expo. “Healthy habits are going to filter down, from the individual to the community.”Attendees of this Expo were inspired to take charge of both their health and their careers. First, McCoy educated the crowd about the risk factors and symptoms of heart disease, the No. 1 cause of death among women over 35. Planners and suppliers, prone to high levels of stress in their professions, were encouraged to think critically about heart disease risk, particularly if they were younger women: “This is not just about old women; it’s not just about men— this is about you,” McCoy said. Presentations focused on both health and relevant industry topics. As at past Expos, the exhibit area provided opportunities to network with suppliers and planners. Attendees received education, entertainment, prize giveaways, and plenty of opportunities for formal and informal networking.

NETWORKING IN NEW WA YS
In his opening remarks, Joe Clote, Publisher of Missouri Meetings & Events, invited attendees to enjoy the new interactive networking formats being introduced at this year’s expo. The MEET Business Exchange connected planners with suppliers in a sit-down, face-to-face networking format. During these sessions, similar to speed dating, suppliers had six minutes to “sell” their services to planners who had set up appointments with them in advance. Planners could also have a “blind date” with a supplier, if they hadn’t set up an appointment. “I’ve talked to several new contacts who I’ve never talked to before, who I wouldn’t have come in contact with if I hadn’t come to this expo,” said Jane Barker, sales manager for the Millennium Hotel St. Louis. The sessions, she said, “were a nice touch.” When planners and suppliers weren’t networking, they could take part in Monday evening’s entertainment from Recorda- Hit Entertainment. The ever-popular Dance Heads gave individuals or groups the chance to record videos of themselves, or more accurately their heads, singing a favorite song. The program superimposes heads onto animated bodies, with hilarious results. Another offering, Flip Books, recorded participants as they posed for 60 video still shots using various props, including hats and feather boas. The stills were then transferred into a flipbook, which could be taken home as a keepsake.

LEARNING BY DOING
Attendees received healthy advice about insurance in Tuesday’s educational offerings. Over breakfast, Corey Schuster, managing agent at The Daniel and Henry Co., discussed special event, weather, and liquor liability insurance. He explained that this kind of coverage protects planners against loss in worst-case scenarios and also keeps their primary insurance from being affected if something happens. Planners had the opportunity to see what suppliers had to offer, as well as network with suppliers and colleagues in the exhibit hall on Tuesday. These planners included Ralph Turney, chairman of Red Arrow. “I’m here for new ideas, innovative ideas that I can relate to, but you also need to network. You never know where your next deal comes from,” Turney said. In the Health Improvement Area sponsored by Saint Luke’s Health System, planners could have their cholesterol and blood sugar checked. They could also test the knowledge they picked up at Marcia McCoy’s presentation the day before by completing personal health risk profile assessments and playing a fun, interactive computer game. “One of our big focuses is educating women that their risk for heart disease is there, and that they need to be proactive in their role,” said Linda Bunten, RN, nurse clinician for Saint Luke’s Muriel I. Kauffman Women’s Heart Center. “If you don’t realize you have the risk, you aren’t as proactive, and it’s something that we have to be diligent about all the time.”

HEALTHY TIPS FOR BETTER MEETINGS
Tuesday’s luncheon keynote presentation from Cary F. Hall, president and CEO of Benefits by Design Inc. and host of the nationally syndicated Health Insurance Advocate radio show, explained how to prepare for health issues when they do arise, by being a knowledgeable health care consumer. Some of his advice: Take the time to research insurance plans, especially cancer and long-term care policies, before you reach the age when you need them. Consult with an insurance broker instead of shopping on the Internet for health insurance, which can spell trouble in the future if you are denied coverage. If individuals are more responsible for the costs of their personal health care, he suggested, they are likely to be more prudent with their spending. “The better the consumer, the less health care will cost,” he said. Tuesday morning, planners and suppliers could attend one of three educational sessions. Jerry Shackette, associate professor and Walter L. Green Chair of hotel and restaurant management at the Keeter Center, College of the Ozarks, gave planners tips for negotiating costs with hotels. Know what is negotiable and what isn’t, he advised. For example, even if room rates are non-negotiable because of the season or hotel’s popularity, you might be able to negotiate in other areas. Shackette stressed doing your research and having the facts and figures on hand before you sit down at the negotiating table. Mandi Harrell, vice president of operations at J. Buck’s Restaurants, in her presentation “Saving Cost and Clients with Catering,” similarly emphasized that planners have the most advantageous relationship with suppliers when both parties know what to expect. “Know your vendor, know your guests, know your event,” she said. The right caterer, she said, can be an asset by having the knowledge of the industry and its trends. A caterer who is aware of the number of bites per appetizer, for example, can help you choose options that give you the most “bite” for your buck. In his talk about making money as an independent planner, Scott Graham, president of Excellent Meetings, advised looking for opportunities through referrals and recommendations. He suggested reaching out to clients to see if they need help with other tasks. He also recommended independent planners look beyond their “niches” and see what can be done in other arenas, such as destination management. “You see how big and how broad and how vast this industry is? You can find a little bit of money in this, don’t you think? You just have to work at it,” he said.

SWEET ENDINGS
Planners and suppliers said the Expo met their expectations for education and networking. In fact, 100% of planners who completed evaluations said that they learned something new at this expo and rated the overall educational value 4.57 out of 5. Planners rated the quality of exhibitors 4.62 out of 5 and 100% of planners said that they met new exhibitors. “It was a good experience,” said planner Janice Chance of Travel & Transport. “The presentations were very good.” She also noted that the presenters seemed especially prepared at this Expo. “The reception that we got was very warm and helpful—very welcoming,” said Roxanne Salsbury, of Reel Impact, a multimedia-communications production company. “I liked that there was an effort to incentivize interaction between the vendors and the planners. That was helpful.” Planners and suppliers also received a real treat at the end of the expo. Terry Wakefield, food scientist and chief chocolatier at Bissinger’s Handcrafted Chocolates, gave a short history of this decadent food and provided samples of the St. Louis- based company’s chocolates. Heralding chocolate’s health benefits, Wakefield suggested choosing a dark chocolate with a 60% cocoa content or higher, which isn’t loaded with milk and sugar. Chocolate, he said, really is a health food. It can help us sleep better, and even curb appetite. “A small piece before a meal stimulates the satiety part of the brain,” he said. Prize giveaways and awards were equally sweet and satisfying. The Expo came to a close with a number of planners and suppliers walking away with fabulous recognition and prizes, including:
Exhibitor Awards:
• Healthy Meetings & Events Start with You Award: Columbia Convention & Visitors Bureau
• Editor’s Choice Award: Candy House Gourmet Chocolate
• Planners’ Choice Award: Warrensburg Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center
Prize Winners:
Tracy Orpin, CMP, Independent Meeting Planner (Wii gaming system); Terry Wakefield, Bissinger’s chocolate (Samsung digital camera); Matt Muckerman, PSG Marketing Solutions (Stretch and Flex kit walking DVDs); Patricia Gilbertson, St. Matthew’s (19” flat panel HDTV); Gloria Burrow, Saint Paul Lutheran High School (Wii gaming system and Wii Fit Plus); Karen Beason, Burns & McDonnell ($200).   MM&E

(Heather McNeill is a contributor from Kansas City, MO)

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