By Michael Humphrey
Here’s a quick quiz for those of you who plan meetings.
If you have a speaker who says she needs a podium to place her notes on during the presentation, what should your venue have ready when she arrives?
A) Podium B) Lectern C) Any of the above
Let’s say you answered either “A” or “C.” When you get to the meeting room you find the speaker will stand a little higher than the audience, but there’s nothing to rest her notes upon.
Now, here’s the next part of the quiz. When your speaker complains that you don’t have the podium she requested, she is…
A) In the right to complain B) Not familiar with APEX
The answers to both questions are “B” and the scenario is fairly common. So let’s list a few definitions, courtesy of the Convention Industry Council.
Podium: Raised platform where a speaker stands when delivering his or her remarks. Often confused with lectern.
Lectern: A stand upon which a speaker may rest notes or books. May be “standing,” which rests on the floor, or “table-top,” which is placed on a table. Often confused with podium.
APEX is the Accepted Practices Exchange, an initiative of the meetings, conventions and exhibitions industry managed by the Convention Industry Council. APEX develops and manages the implementation of accepted practices (voluntary standards) for the industry.
Think of APEX as a standard-bearer for the language we use when trying to plan. The point is to eliminate surprises that come with miscommunications.
But it also can be an inexperienced planner’s best friend –offering all the terminology and even forms that will make setting up a meeting easier than ever.
Getting it right
Mistaking a podium for a lectern is not the end of the world. But when miscommunications happen over audio-visual or insurance coverage or ground transportation, then you could be talking about bigger trouble – and the culprit is language.
“The initiative is to try and come up with some common terminology,” says Robert Wilson of Meetings Sites Resource, which has consulted with CIC on implementations for APEX. Wilson spoke at the Kansas City MPI 2007 Education Conference last spring. As a member of the implementation committee, Wilson says he is starting to see APEX become more commonly referenced.
“We’re starting to infiltrate the industry that this is what the common terms will be,” Wilson says, citing CIC’s schedule to talk to 18 MPI chapters in 2007 alone. “It’s getting there. It’s starting to happen.”
But it’s no easy task to move a whole industry as large and diverse as meetings and events toward a single mode of communication.
And it’s hardly a new idea to create a common language between planners and vendors, though few initiatives have put in the time, technology and trouble that CIC has to create APEX. Still, it’s not an easy sell.
“People ask the question, ‘When do you think this is going to implemented?’” Wilson says. “One answer I heard was, ‘Well, to the older generation, it’s just there, it’s a theory. But to people like me, and people coming out of college, those might be the people who see it implemented.’ Well, that’s a lot of waste of money and waste of time. So hopefully we can accelerate that.”
Bobbie Connolly, CMP, is a convert.
“I do use it mainly for templates,” says Connolly, member services coordinator for Alegent NPG Health-Link in Lincoln, Neb. “Every meeting I was always recreating. Now I just use it and move on.”
CIC makes some very good points about why APEX should be universally adopted.
During his presentation, Wilson pointed out a few:
•Less than 25 percent of planners and organizers have been properly educated or trained in the field.
•With most communications going online, inconsistencies in terminology become a far greater problem than they were even 10 years ago.
•CIC estimates that if the 103,000 participants of its member organizations saved .5 hours per week at $25 per hour using a more efficient process, the savings would be approximately $64 million per year.
We all understand that language. So how will APEX work?
Seven pillars of APEX
“It’s about collaboration,” Wilson says. “How does the hotel and convention industry work, how does the planner industry work and how does the third-party industry work? And it makes it clear, ‘This is the information I’m going to give you, this is the information I need back from you to respond.’ It’s a collaboration.”
As of summer 2007, CIC had completed six of its seven core initiatives for APEX. They are:
APEX Definitive Glossary
Described by CIC as “the definitive source of terms and definitions for the meetings, conventions and exhibitions industry.”
This component is available on the Web at www.conventionindustry.org/glossary.
APEX Event Specifications Guide
“This template is the industry’s official format for delivering information clearly and accurately to appropriate venues and/or suppliers regarding all requirements for an event.”
Currently the form comes as a Microsoft Word document or a PDF file that you can download. And while there may be additions and subtractions in the future, the file cannot be criticized for minimalism. The document is 27 pages long, broken into three sections:
Part I: Narrative; Part II: Function Schedule; and Part III: Function Set-Up Order.
APEX Request For Proposal (RFP) Forms
“These accepted practices forms are used to create consistent and thorough Requests for Proposals (RFPs) that address core information and unique needs.”
This section is currently broken up into seven categories, available online in both MS Word and PDF formats. The RFP categories include Audio-Visual, Destination Management, Service Contractor, Single Facility, Transportation, Function Schedule and Function Set-Up Order.
APEX Housing & Registration Accepted Practices
“These accepted practices are for the collecting, reporting, and retrieving complete housing and registration data for meetings, conventions, and other events; and for housing issues such as housing providers, Internet issues, international housing and disclosure.”
This 23-page document provides basic forms for event registration, housing and rooming. It also offers an exhaustive list of definitions to help beginners unravel the mysteries of housing issues.
APEX Contracts Accepted Practices
“The original purpose of the APEX Contracts Panel was to review all aspects of industry contracts and develop contract guidelines and, where appropriate, acceptable contract language guidelines. Additionally, the panel was to develop an outline to format industry contracts. The panel determined that for legal and practical reasons ‘acceptable contract language’ should not be created.”
So what results is a 25-page overview of contracts between hotels and planners as well as a comprehensive glossary of terms normally found in contracts.
APEX Post-Event Report
“A report of the details and activities of an event is called a ‘Post-Event Report’ or PER. A collection of PERs over time will provide the complete history for an event. This template is the industry’s accepted format.”
The 15-page document includes report forms for every aspect of the meeting, including room issues, food and beverage, function space, exhibit space and future date considerations. It also includes a helpful FAQ section explaining why a post-event report is useful for planners.
The seventh core initiative, which was not yet completed as of print date:
Meeting & Site Profiles
“The purpose of the APEX Meeting & Site Profiles Panel is to develop recommended industry accepted practices for consistent and thorough profile formats for sites, as well as meetings, conventions, and other events, that include both core and unique information.”
Who will use APEX?
For those planners who have multiple years’ experience in the business, such an in-depth approach to terminology might seem like overkill. But Wilson pointed out that not everybody in the industry – planners, third party suppliers or venue managers – will walk in with 20 years of experience.
“Again,” Wilson says, “understand that the objective of APEX is to take information and start educating the over 60,000 people who are involved in doing meetings and who are untrained in the hotel industry.”
(Michael Humphrey is the Contributing Editor from Kansas City, Mo.)
For more information contact:
Convention Industry Council • 1620 I Street NW, Suite 615
Washington, DC 20006 • (202) 429-8634