Words from the Masters

A career is a lifelong learning opportunity. Our Account Directors at LOFT have spent their careers developing and learning from their successes, coworkers and clients. With their expertise, they can help refine a message, develop an inspiring campaign, or craft a kick-ass party. With nearly 60 years of combined experience behind them, here are some of their top tips, tricks and advice for planning your next meeting:

TRISH final

Q: What is the one thing every project should start off with?

Trish:

“Everything starts with a proper brief – with objectives, timelines, audience and budget clearly defined. That, and trust: have some faith and let go. We’ve got your best interest at heart and are here to make you look good.”

Q: What makes a great brief from a client?Kevin

Kevin:

“When briefing your agency know what your budget is and share this number and/or a range up front.  This is NOT a bad thing.  It’s not that we will find ways to spend every dollar but that we will develop solutions that are within the scope/range of what you can afford.  It’s a waste of everyone’s time to develop creative/ideas that are way out of scope – even if the budget is limited there are always ways to inject some creativity.”

Q: How can you guarantee a seamless and successful experience for all of your guests?

NATALIE final_smallNatalie:

“Visualize the entire experience in advance from start to finish ensuring that every touch point for each guest has been covered so they are free to enjoy themselves or focus on their presentations at hand. Once onsite, you are also free to handle the inevitable snafu.

Team empowerment throughout the planning process and execution encourages everyone to reach the same goal with the same passion as you do and provide high touch, detailed service.

And document everything. Should you hand off your program binder to another event producer they should be able to hit the ground running, no questions asked.”

How to Stay Fit While Travelling for Business

businessman with dumbbell

Just because you’re hitting road for business doesn’t mean you can’t hit gym or grab a meal that will hit the spot. Here’s our plan on how we’re going to keep fit while jetsetting.

 

Take the Trainer with You

Just because you’re on the road doesn’t mean you can’t get the one-on-one motivation of a personal trainer (so long as you have wifi access!) The fantastic and fit YouTube fitness trainers at FitnessBlender have developed hundreds of hours of guided workouts. Specify the equipment (or lack thereof), duration and intensity of the activity and there’s a YouTube video for you! There are even guided tutorials for workouts in small spaces, quiet workouts for hotel rooms, and routines which require no equipment. Shy about doing jump-squats when bunking with a co-worker? Every hotel with a conference center attached is sure to have a gym. Even if you’ve forgotten to pack your runners, some hotel chains like Fairmont and Westin have programs which allow guests to borrow workout gear for a small fee.

Skip the Taxi, Pack Flats

Not always an option in the winter months, why not combine sightseeing and commuting? Instead of hopping into a taxi for nearby meetings or restaurant rendezvous’ opt for a walk. It will not only give you an opportunity to see a bit of the new location you’re visiting, but will give you a chance to burn a few calories and work off your morning muffin. Not leaving the hotel for the entire week? Make the elevator a forbidden zone and use the stairs as your personal gym. Use this to motivate you to keep moving while you’re at the airport as well – why sit for hours at the gate waiting for a seat on the plane? Get up, stroll or stretch, and increase your activity level before long periods of immobility.

Be Mindful of Your Meals

Maintaining a healthy diet when the catered breakfast keeps tempting you with trays of bacon can be difficult. However, pre-packing some healthy snacks so you’re not tempted by airport food courts will keep spontaneous bingeing at bay. Pack an empty reusable water bottle in your carryon and fill up after you’re through security. Avoid missing out on your 8-glasses a day – often times you’re actually dehydrated by travel and not hungry. Make dietary requirements known to your event team – hotel catering can be incredibly accommodating! Offsite meetings at restaurants also allow you to look up menus ahead of time and to plan your meals and help avoid temptation.

Regardless of where you’re off to on your next business trip – make one of your meeting’s objectives to make your health and fitness a priority. And maybe save the bacon for your cheat day.

App-y New Year

Happy new year message.
Be it sticking to a new health regime, learning a new language or quitting a bad habit, now’s the time to wipe the slate clean and take a charge of your 2016. According to the Huffington Post, over 68% of Canadians will make a New Year’s Resolution this year, however by the 1-month mark, 52% of us will have already abandoned our goals. The figures get much better if you have some help at your fingertips. Here are the top apps to help you keep your resolve from January to December.

 

 
New Year’s Resolution: Get Organized
Todoist
This nifty app helps you get the most productivity squeezed into a 24 hour period. Helping you organize your to-do-list it links with your desktop or Gmail calendar. Reminders are sent to your email or by text to keep you on track throughout the day. Achieve more by breaking big tasks into smaller sub-tasks. This app can even help you delegate jobs to your whole squad – with shared goals and collaboration options available.

New Year’s Resolution: Quit a Bad Habit
Quitter
This genius app helps break bad habits with visualization and motivation. Be it Netflix binging, quitting smoking, or dining out too often, this app is designed to motivate by giving a visual of how long it has been since you last indulged and how much money you have saved as a result. The financial savings is only part of the motivation, users can add photos to encourage and share their progress on social networking sites.

New Year’s Resolution:  Weight Loss
MyFitnessPal
This app has become a hugely popular tool for anyone motivated to lose weight. By allowing you to log your daily diet and track your exercise goals. The database of foods includes over 5-million entries including everything from raw ingredients, to the calorie content of dishes from big chain and mom-and-pop restaurants in your neighbourhood. Now you can track that Timbit pick-me-up to the meatball sub at California Sandwiches. The app also includes a pedometer which can be connected to your Fitbit or Jawbone and tracks calories burnt in real-time.

New Year’s Resolution:  Learn a New Language
Duolingo
Save your credit cards from expensive language tapes, and start immersing yourself in a new language with 5 minute mobile games. Ridiculously easy to use, and with goals, trophies and levels to unlock – this app is more Angry Birds than Rosetta Stone. Use the app for a 7-day stretch or get perfect pronunciation during your lesson and you can unlock fun avatars or language lessons on slang and curse words or pickup lines. It’s so much fun, that achieving new levels can get addictive, all the while teaching you to parler a new langue.

 
No matter what the goal, or the app, it’s making that first promise to yourself that will make the difference. Individuals who explicitly make goals are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t make a specific resolution. So set a goal, download an app and have yourself a happy and purposeful New Year!

3D Imaging and Your Next Event

At LOFT we’re always on the lookout for new experiences to bring our events to the next level.

When it comes to capturing those moments, our team members Natalie and Chantal had an opportunity to try out a unique product by our friends at MY3D Agency.

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, than the guys at MY3D agency are spouting off sonnets with their photo-realistic 3D printers. We sent Natalie to their offices for a chance to experience what it was like to get scanned, and come face-to-face with a tiny version of herself at seven months pregnant.

With ever the eye for detail and her usual creative flare, Natalie had a new challenge for the experts at MY3D – not only to capture her pregnant figure, but in a new position they hadn’t printed before – cross-legged!

Natalie was seated on a rotating platform – which helps elevate the model to capture more angles, and allows for the model to hold a position more easily when being scanned. Looking like a vase on a pottery wheel, Natalie was going for a spin!

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After about four minutes of slow rotation, the scan was complete. However the data looked a bit more jumbled than a photograph. All points of reference were merged into one, squiggly, Natalie-mess. This is where the hard part began. Off to an artist to be digitally compiled, touched up and knit back together into a proper shape. (We asked the guys at MY3D about any Photoshop touch-ups and yes this is the stage where they can remove any blemishes or give your hairdo a bit of a spruce-up!) Anything the scanner may have missed gets meticulously smoothed out by their artist and you look like the best, most realistic version of yourself.

Nat2 croppedNext the carefully constructed 3D scan is ready to print – in many precise layers ( about an inch an hour!) and the mini-Natalie emerges. True to life, this 3D printer not only captures shapes, but the true colour of her hair, skin and clothes! It was amazing to see that every fold in clothing and even her hairdo was captured in minute detail.

What an amazing and unique way to capture the moment – of an expectant mother, or of an icon, or even of your next event! The possibilities are endless – when the technology can come to you, what can stop you from scanning your excited and motivated team?

Nat3

 

Want to learn more about 3D printing. Visit our friends at http://www.my3dagency.com/

 

How to Make the Most of Your Airport Layover

Travel can be a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. Every frequent flier, jetsetter and business traveller has found themselves stuck for hours on end at the mercies of an airport food court, or the harsh hospitality of an airport gate. As intrepid travellers, we’ve picked up a few tips from the road which you can use on your next airport layover.

Going to the Chapel

After getting off a plane full of crying babies, or watching your blood pressure rise as the person behind you prods the seatback TV, you might be craving some peace and quiet. However, a secluded spot in a crowded airport won’t be easy to find. One of my favorite secrets of every airport is the chapel. It’s usually a non-denominational peaceful space set aside for prayer, meditation and quiet reflection in an otherwise hectic environment; just remember to keep your laptop and phone stowed away when visiting.

Head to the Clubhouse

One of the fantastic parts about travel is the multitude of clubs you can belong to. A veritable frenzy of frequent flier fraternities compete for your affiliation. Airports offer a multitude of options when it comes to loyalty programs and with them come in-airport club houses.

By joining frequent flier programs, using alliance credit cards or even purchasing lounge access along with your flight you have access to some of the prime real-estate of the airport. Airport lounges have come a long way from the complimentary coffee and cold finger sandwiches. Nowadays, airport lounges have everything from wine cellars to pool tables, spas, a la carte menus, and most important sweet, sweet free WiFi. Some lounges like the No. 1 Traveller Lounge in London offer full bedrooms for rent if you have a long layover or extreme jetlag and cost less than an airport hotel (and come with free meals and snacks that beat room service!)

Savvy travellers get to know their airline alliances – many airlines partner with each other and this allows you to share rewards across airlines. For example, just because you’re a regular Delta passenger in North America doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits in Amsterdam (their local carrier KLM is partners with Delta and loyalty members share a lot of the same privileges!) For the best coverage no matter which airport you arrive in, have a membership with at least one airline from each of the big three alliances (Oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam) and always carry your loyalty card when you travel.

Amazing Race It

Once you’ve brushed up on your airline alliances, you’ll soon become a pro at airline hub cities. You can find these at major airports where an airline will ‘hub’ or park their planes. These airports are probably familiar to most travelers who have ever had to connect through a seemingly random airport before connecting to their next destination. Because this is where an airline ‘parks’ the planes, it also means that there are often various flights departing a day to your next destination. Knowing these hubs are the hotspots for certain airlines, you can actually use your connecting flight for quick layover visit.

Some examples of hub cities include:

Air Canada: Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver

Delta Air Lines: Atlanta, New York, Paris, Amsterdam, Boston, Tokyo, Seattle

United Airlines: Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco

Qantas: Sydney, Melbourne, Dubai, Singapore, Los Angeles

Most travel agents and airlines are able to tell you the minimum amount of time needed for a quick layover between connecting flights, but always reserve the two-to-three hours needed to return through security upon your return to the airport. However, for most layovers of over five hours there is more than enough time to get into the heart of the city for a great local meal, an opportunity to see a major landmark, or a quick stroll through a must-see neighbourhood. And it’s always an easy choice when it comes to the opportunity to have lunch at Kat’s Deli or spend another five hours in LaGuardia.

Let’s face it, layovers can be the most annoying part of your trip, but with these tips you can make the best of your next trip to the airport.

Why Teambuild

When deadlines and deliverables are mounting, who can afford an afternoon away from the office?

In a climate where we’re focused on a happy customer, businesses can forget about the happy employee – a company’s most valuable asset! Creating a happy workplace means fostering an environment where the group feels connected, communicates effectively, and trusts each other.

My last workplace put a huge emphasis on out-of-office activities and even made after-hours teambuilding a mandatory affair. These outings were a chance for team members to connect with co-workers in their own departments and other areas of the business. They also provided excellent networking opportunities where you could learn about different departments within the organization. But as beneficial and iconic as these meetings became, I felt a few key elements were missing from them. While these frequent opportunities to mingle with your coworkers were valuable, the fact that they were mandatory became a point of contention. Plus, the extended work-life culture wasn’t always seen as useful since nearly every one of these events was hosted in a bar or venue where drinking was the main event. While hosting large groups did limit venue choice, the barrage of drink tickets by leaders and managers often ended the same way – an atmosphere where excess was encouraged or you were isolated from the rest of the group.

Regular teambuilding has a number of benefits for your employees and business, such as encouraging open communication between colleagues, a chance to give back to the community (more on this in a future post) and improve collaboration. Ultimately, these benefits can impact the quality of work and productivity of your team.

Hey, I’m all for a cool beverage on warm and sunny patio. But here are a few tips for your next teambuilding activity so it doesn’t get tiresome:

 

Have a Goal

Whether it’s to boost morale or just blow off some steam, set a goal for your activity. Have a clear objective of what your team is looking to develop and tailor the activity to match. For example, if your group needs to cultivate teamwork skills, select an activity that features cooperation like a group scavenger hunt that offers an opportunity for communication and collaboration. If your goal is to encourage creative problem solving, an Escape the Room activity can challenge your team’s critical thinking and imagination.

 

Factor In Your Group’s Capabilities

Part of getting your team out of the office is the opportunity to bond in a new environment. While you may want to push the boundaries of your usual experiences and daily relationships, you don’t want to isolate team members either. If you have a quiet group you might want to skip the karaoke and instead try a team cooking class where the team cooks parts of a meal and then all dine together. Remember to factor in physical abilities, where everyone has the opportunity to participate. An evening playing Ping Pong allows for all skill and fitness levels to join in.

If the opportunity to leave your workplace for a teambuilding event isn’t an option, there are still plenty of ways to connect with your coworkers. Even a simple game of Pictionary over lunch provides an opportunity to network and have fun.

 

Don’t Forget to Debrief

Don’t let your productive bonding time become nothing more than an afternoon away from the office. At the end of every outing be sure to set aside time to discuss and debrief. Structure some time to review with participants what they’ve taken away from your activity. Take the time to reflect together on the new skills your colleagues gained, their experiences, what they found valuable, what they learned about each other, and how the outing could translate back in the workplace. This insight will help you shape your next teambuilding event.

Regardless of the activity – a simple afternoon bowling or helping make meals at your local shelter – remember, teambuilding should be fun, have a goal, and leave your group better for the experience.

How summer camp proves the value of in-person meetings and events (hint: it’s the experience).

ThinkstockPhotos-121900257

Why don’t they hold summer camp over Skype?

After all, you wouldn’t have to fight traffic to get there. You’d have to deal with fewer bug bites. And you’d probably save a couple of bucks off of room and board.

I was thinking about this the other day as I helped my 13 year-old daughter pack for her first weeklong summer camp. In this age of mobile everything, can’t you make the case for a virtual summer camp?

Well, if you’ve ever been to camp – you know that the idea of camp based on Skype, or Tumblr, or Pinterest is pretty ridiculous.

Because you’d lose the experience, and the experience is just about everything.

I remember my own camp adventure, jammed together with 90 high school students two decades ago. We pitched tents, slept on the cold ground in sleeping bags, hiked, sang ridiculous camp songs, and made our own meals. This week-long incubator full of fun and work taught us more about what it meant to be real people. It affected and changed us.

Lately, I’ve been hearing about organizations investing less in face-to-face events like National Meetings, and more in the virtual experience. To me, large scale virtual meetings sound almost as absurd as virtual summer camp.

Because you lose the experience, and when it comes to meetings, the experience is just about everything.

It’s just not the same. No opportunity to network, share best practices over a cup of coffee, role play and get immediate feedback on that new product, catch up with old colleagues, make new contacts, celebrate great achievements, or collaborate on new plans for the next quarter.

And if you look at it that way, why even meet in the first place? Like camp, meetings are about coming together and leaving an audience changed. It’s difficult to do that by email.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought that summer camp can actually hold quite a few lessons for meeting planners. The events themselves resemble a national sales meeting.

  • Camp theme (meeting theme)
  • The environment and location (hotel, city)
  • Opening ceremonies (or what we call opening plenary)
  • The camp counsellor (meeting host)
  • The food, group meals (meals, breaks, dine-arounds)
  • Activities, crafts and games (training)
  • Outdoor adventure (teambuilding)
  • Final campfire and talent show (closing plenary, call to action and party)

Making life-long friends, learning new talents, networking, collaborating, over-coming challenges, trading stories, getting home sick, staying up too late, getting up too early – all the ingredients for a memorable experience, without all the distractions from home.

Now, imagine all that crammed into an email or delivered as a virtual meeting.

You are making an investment when you plan for a live meeting. But the cost of not bringing your people together for a shared experience could be even greater. Yes, technology can enhance the experience – it just shouldn’t be the entire experience.

Don’t underestimate the enormous value in assembling your greatest assets – your people, your ambassadors – to share company updates and plans, launch a product, learn new skills or celebrate wins. Feeling that you’re part of a team with a shared sense of purpose is a huge motivator for many employees.

You wouldn’t dream of sending your child to a “virtual camp” – which is exactly why you shouldn’t consider sending your most valuable asset to a “virtual meeting.”

Must-Have Event Gifts

More than just a way to say ‘thank you’ to your team and colleagues, a well thought out gift can be a way to emphasize the theme and message of your meeting. A gift can be a tangible acknowledgement of appreciation and make an impression on your employees’ performance and loyalty. But done without thought, your receiver may feel undervalued.

Here are a few things to ponder when planning your next thoughtful and useful corporate gift..

 

The Art of the Add-On:

One way to guarantee a successful gift is to compliment something your giftee is already interested in, or owns. Rather than doubling up on popular items or products they use daily, gift complimentary accessories. For example, if you know everyone on your sales team has an iPhone, why gift an iPhone accessory such as a Livescribe Pen or an attachable lens like the Optrix ExoLens?

Rethink Branding:

It’s a tired trope of the conference gift, but no matter how nicely embossed the logo, no one is going to treasure that branded mug. At best, it will be relegated to the back cupboard of the office coffee station where it will do nothing to keep the memory of your meeting. If you are going to use a company logo on your gift, make sure it’s tasteful and understated. Instead of a mug, try a personalized bento box, thermos or tea infuser.

Double-Duty Décor:

There’s nothing to say that you can’t use part of your corporate give-aways as part of the décor to help add a pop of colour and brand a bland boardroom. Everyday essentials like bright branded pens and sticky notes can add a pop of colour to the décor, and can be taken home by attendees after the event.

Travel Concerns:

Before selecting your gift, take into account your destination. If your guests are travelling a long way, will they have space in their luggage for your gift? Make sure the items aren’t too large to fit in a suitcase, are restricted baggage items, or are red flags with airport security. If your gift is larger than a phonebook, consider separate shipping options or make the gifts available to your guests upon return home. I love a great bottle of wine, especially from the location I’ve just visited, but, if the majority of your attendees are traveling with carry-on luggage and your gift is a bottle of wine, attendee options are either to try to drink the bottle before the end of your meeting, or paying to check their bag on the way home. Why not consider local chocolates or treats, or a memento themed to your destination like sunglasses for sunny spots, or branded knit mittens in chilly destinations?

Be mindful of gifts when going over the border – costly gifts may have to be claimed by your guests when returning home and duties may be incurred.

Here are three of our favorite gifts for 2015:

Polaroid Zip Mobile Printer – A fun way to print direct from your smartphone or tablet.

FitBit Surge – Wearable tech is all the rage, and the newest from the FitBit line does double-duty as a watch and fitness tracker.

Or consider a subscription service instead of an immediate physical gift. It will be a monthly reminder to keep you and your event top of mind for months to come.

With these tips in mind, your next corporate gift with be sure to be a hit!

Ways to Go Green at Your Next Meeting:

usa - green environment concept

Here at LOFT we’re a big fan of green. Hosting an eco-friendly meeting is a great way to demonstrate the values of your business. By taking steps to have a sustainable meeting it shows that your team and organization are mindful of the impact on the environment and ready to take action.

Here are a few tips on how to host an eco-friendly meeting:

Do your research when selecting suppliers and venues. Many companies are now adopting green practices and incentives! By choosing a caterer who uses local, seasonal ingredients, or staying at a hotel that practices energy conservation, you’re making a sustainable choice. Even something a small as replacing paper cups and bottled waters with glassware and pitchers of water adds up. One great resource for finding an environmentally conscious venue is Green Key Global, an eco-rating program that recognizes green hotels and resorts.

Choose a central, public transit accessible location for your meeting to limit your transportation needs. If transportation isn’t provided, encourage attendees to carpool or utilize public transport instead of driving. When planning offsite evening events, search for a restaurant or location within walking distance from the main meeting venue – a strategy that not only saves on transport costs, but also gets participants up and moving.

Reduce your paper usage by sending web-based invites, registration and RSVPs whenever possible. When a printed document is needed, try to double-side collateral and meeting materials and whenever possible use recycled paper. Or if you’re really keen, try going entirely paperless at your next event! As we’re all tethered to a smart-device, create a meeting app for all key information such as agendas and maps. Creating a digital meeting workbook in the form of a writable PDF what will not only allow your attendees to follow along with presentations, but also take notes. This small change not only supports saving the planet, but reducing paper and printing costs can lead to administrative cost savings.

With these simple first steps, you can support an environmental initiative and know your next meeting is a green one! The more sustainable events and meetings that are held, the more the demand for environmental facilities and products will increase, driving new industries and expectations of businesses.