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A Convention Meeting Planners & Exhibitors Blog

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The Benefit of Holding Conferences in Capital Cities


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Choosing the right meeting venue is the first and most important step you will take in planning your next conference. The location must offer the right amenities for your event — flexible meeting room space, great technology and support, attentive guest services, while also being an attractive vibrant place people want to go to and will remember forever. Choosing a capital city location like the Ottawa Convention Centre brings together both needs into one memorable meeting space.

Capital cities hold many key advantages for people looking to plan events including event space, access and location.

Ottawa Convention Centre located in walking distance of Parliament Hill

Ottawa Convention Centre looks onto Parliament Hill.

Event Space
Most major capital cities offer at least one world class convention centre, often more. These centres were built with the needs of large corporations, non-profit organizations, as well as smaller groups in mind. A great convention centre blends form and function to showcase a capital city, not hide it, from participants. 

These vibrant meeting venues should also accommodate large, mid-size and small events or meetings through their flexible meeting spaces. As you consider spaces to hold your event, make sure the space can adjust to your needs and the needs of your participants. Keeping your 21st century business needs in mind, state of the art convention centres now offer a wide range of technical services and audio visual expertise to incorporate social networking and virtual meeting aspects into any gathering.  Technology provides even more flexibility to meeting planners who prioritize location/technology and reach as important factors for their event; therefore making an even more attractive and flexible venue for meetings.

Capital cities are vibrant locations. In these cities, important decisions are made concerning finance, governance and business. It's no wonder most media outlets, large businesses, and non-profit organizations choose capital cities as their headquarters or for satellite offices. Holding an event in a capital city gives participants access to major players in key industries, political figures, lobbyists, and organizations which allows conferences and conventions the potential to create and event that provides more impact and results.

Location is key- A great capital city convention centre stands tall and proud in the heart of a city and represents the coming together of business interests and government looking to attract more people to a nation's capital. You want to find a convention centre that provides wide variety of attractions nearby and has adequate means of transportation to access these attractions.  You want your participants to enjoy their experience at the event and capital cities like Ottawa, Washington, D.C. and London provide that opportunity with an exciting night life, museums, shopping venues, historical and cultural attractions, breathtaking sights, world class dining and the opportunity to explore an exciting and diverse culture. The OCC is located within walking distance of all these major forms of attractions, including Parliament Hill, and provides a window facade so you can see the gorgeous views of downtown Ottawa and not be sheltered from the city. These capital cities also possess the one ingredient that conferences seek that was mentioned earlier - a gateway to decision makers and people of major influence. 
Canada Day fireworks with OCC on right and Parliament Hill on left.

Photo of Canada Day Fireworks - Image shows OCC to the right and Parliament Hill to the left of fireworks.

  When more and more cities look alike and as our world grows smaller due to technology such as the Internet, having the opportunity to visit a major world city will make your next event that much more unique for your participants.

As you consider your next meeting venue, look into capital cities first. Their convention facilities, proximity to the seats of power, and beautiful locations make capital cities a prime choice for your premier event.

How Conferences Positively Affect Local Economies


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Conferences are always economic events. The event inside the facility deals with improving products, sales or celebrations. Whatever the discussion inside, the impact travels outside; creating concentric circles of influence on nearby business and industry. The more daring the architecture, the better the facilities, the more welcoming to the participants --  the greater the impact and the value of those rippling currents through the economy of the host city.

The newly-opened Ottawa Convention Centre in Canada is one such example. The striking architecture adds even more to the allure of the great city of Ottawa. Such an edifice beckons to the mighty in business, industry and government to gather there to plan future strategies in a magnificent environment.


Ottawa Convention Centre Tour on Vimeo.

Increasing the Pulse of a City

Attendees to conferences and gatherings held at the Ottawa Convention Centre in Canada are sure to be welcomed by the surrounding locals. When guests move in, the lifeblood of the city flows in with them. Restaurants will have staff on their toes to show off their finest culinary delights. Shops will display their most elegant and unique merchandise. The city as a whole acts as a collective unit to dazzle and welcome these visitors.

As one entertaining guests in a home, Ottawa sparkles and shines to illuminate its best.

Lasting Impacts

Conferences bring, not only participants but, peripheral guests as well. Writers and photographers for trade magazines cover events there. As they cover the activities, the Convention Centre in Canada itself is apt to spin off as a separate article in a separate magazine, reaching even more readers. The city's nightlife, museums, cuisine, population and architecture may inspire even more in the way of publicity. Readers of such periodicals will feel inspired by the photography or descriptions to come visit the Centre or the city. Those seeking a vacation destination can be lured by the same. Once having visited, there will invariably be those who choose to stay. By this, effects on housing and real estate are felt as well.
Ottawa To The World

High-profile events held in the Convention Centre in Canada can expect broadcast media coverage.  The news coming from such events may only be regional, but will introduce their fellow Canadians to the sparkling city. Others, comprised of international groups, will be viewed across the globe. Spin-off publicity demonstrating the welcoming business atmosphere has the potential to draw corporations to locate facilities in or near the city, further enriching the area with new employment and commerce.
OTT SoundAndLightShow

Photo of Parliament Hill Sound and Light Show 

No Group Is Immune

Wedding participants will have memories and photographs to treasure, civic groups and associations, clubs and other gatherings will have luxurious facilities, smiling staff and elegant surroundings to enjoy. Executives can treat employees to a memorable and productive meeting and they, in turn, will return to the job with renewed determination to perform at peak capacity.
styled shoot 71
The ripples sent out by the experience at your local convention centre will strike the edges of the globe and come rippling back to their source; bringing renewed vigor, financial opportunities and glowing pride back into the heart of the city where it began.

How Virtual Meetings Combined with Face-to-face Meetings Can Enhance Conferences


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Today's successful businesses are those that have embraced the power of the Internet and social media to take their operations to the next level of efficiency and customer satisfaction. Now, you can apply these best business practices to your events and conferences as well.

The Ottawa Convention Centre stands ready as a premiere convention centre to help you make your next event or conference a success both in person and to extend that experience into the virtual meeting space. Our association services team can meet both your digital meeting needs and your convention centre needs.

Ottawa Convention Centre

Virtual meeting spaces and other social media venues have extended beyond a personal space for people to maintain contact with friends or to check in with colleagues. Businesses of all sizes including major international corporations have learned to harness the power of social media to reach customers in a new way. Associations are using virtual technology to expand their reach by enabling content to those that cannot be in attendance. It makes sense for convention centres to bring these new technologies to the conference and event experience. Some of the benefits of adding these new mediums to your next event or conference include:
  • Event Flexibility: Creating Hybrid Events by combining virtual meetings with face to face meetings at our well-equipped convention centre allows your organization flexibility and agility in planning an event. No longer will you be constrained by who can and cannot attend your event in person. Anyone can join in on the conversation.

  • Adaptation: As events get planned and details unfold, organizations often find themselves needing to adapt to changing circumstances. Having the option of holding virtual meetings or making some aspects of an event virtual allow the event to adapt to a changing business environment while still being a successful event.

  • Increased Participation: By making some aspects of an event virtual, you open your event to more participants who either can't travel or can't make it to the convention centre. This includes employees who must remain behind to perform important functions or who can't travel because of prior personal obligations.

  • Before & After Event Management: By utilizing social media in addition to virtual and face to face meetings, you can better manage the flow of information before an event including dispersing event calendars, highlighting specific portions of an event, and introducing speakers. After the event concludes, social media allows participants to stay in touch with each other, network across several sites, and provide feedback on the event's success.

Though nothing will ever replace the benefits of face to face meetings and the depth of understanding gained by talking with someone in person, adding virtual elements to your next event will add to the overall success of your conference. The Ottawa Convention Centre looks forward to helping you make your next hybrid event successful, both virtually and in person!

Business Meetings - Get the most out of your meeting investment


Delivering Measurable Business Results From Meetings and Events
A comment on a presentation done by Richard D. Flanagan Ph.D that took place in Ottawa as a part of a joint venture with PCMA and Ottawa Tourism
Recently a group of meeting planners, suppliers and colleagues met in downtown Ottawa to talk about Delivering Measurable Business Results from Meetings and Events.
The talk/discussion began with a very true statement that a “Meeting is an investment”
You have inputs which are the preparation, the meeting itself, an application or action and the outputs/results or returns.
So how do you make meetings more of a productive event?

the answer is not in the act of having a meeting it is in the PROCESS. 
Dr. Flanagan said a few things that really resonated with me  
"objectives are dreams if they do not become actions."
“ The primary purpose of a meeting or event is to improve business and personal results for all stakeholders”
So how do we achieve /increase results from meetings, more specifically create measurable results?
A great model he introduced is called “Pathway to results”
It involves the following;
Strategic Meeting Objectives: What is the stated overall business purpose of the meeting or event.

A tip - Begin with the end in mind

  1. Define the purpose of the meeting.  I think the idea here is to define what you want to get out of this meeting, or what purpose or "business need" as defined by Dr. Flanagan will be met.
  2. Design the meeting.  What steps are needed to acquire the end result needed.  An example in marketing would be setting up a mind mapping exercise...what would it be for you?
  3. Deliver - make this actionable - what action do we need to take to make this a reality and who will be responsible for what?
  4.  Drive and Deploy - actions to assure there is a follow through and the requirements to support.                                       To assure follow through happens you could create a calendar of activities with actions to take, time lines, names of those accountable for actions and a summarization column. Generally people and resources would be the means to support actions.
  5. Document - summarize what happened, the end result and debrief with the team involved.  Ask the imperative question...what action need to take place now.

 What are your suggestions for maximizing ROI on meetings...any agenda secrets you want to share?

Business Meetings- the value of the process


Recently a group of meeting planners, suppliers and colleaugues met in downtown Ottawa, Canada to talk about Delivering Measurable Business Results from Meetings and Events.
The discussion began with results from a recent poll that had been conducted by Dr. Richard Flanagan -  author of The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning  - that asked people about the outcomes of meetings and events in which they had participated.

The results were encouraging with 60-80% of participants reporting they tried what they learned and 20% of respondents reporting they had used what they learned and achieved clearly demonstrable results. 

Meetings are a worthwhile process as they can lead to significant change in activities or a reinforcement of positive activity.

I did a survey throughout our office on the value of the meeting process and here are the results;

  • It is a sharing of ideas
  • Sharing of knowledge
  • Networking opportunities
  • Can be a lot of fun
  • Location can provide insight and inspiration
  • Meetings are a great setting for people to break out of their silos and allows an opportunity to communicate ideas
  • Provides opportunities to work as teams achieving positive results - meetings are a great setting for this
  • Keeping updated on work matters
  • Keeping track of individual and team progress
  • Helps in team decision making
  • Relay specific information regarding target, subject or trend
  • Strengthen bonds and networks
  • Provides team members with a sense of unity
  • Face to face interaction is more successful than virtual meetings or interaction as it allows for the important non- verbal communication component

"Meetings are an investment"... you have inputs which are the preparation, the meeting itself, an application or action and the outputs/results or returns. Meetings are essential for productive progression in organizations, companies, governments etc... it is a necessary element for collaboration, innovation and the sharing of ideas. The question that needs to be asked is not the importance of meetings but how to make meetings even more productive.  The answer is the PROCESS.

 Stay tuned, the next posting will look at ways to make meetings more productive through processes.

What are your thoughts on the value or importance of meetings to the success of an organization?


The New OCC Vision


I have traveled and worked all over the world, and I have come back to Ottawa because it is truly a magnificent city that encompasses everything that is Canada, from its diverse culture to the breathtaking sights and exciting nightlife.  It is a fusion of culinary culture and the perfect balance of big city and small town.  But  something was missing.  It was missing that key factor that would bring people from all over the world to visit our city, and that was a world class meeting place.  Well that missing key is now a reality and we will be opening the new Ottawa Convention Centre in April 2011.

With the construction of the new Ottawa Convention Centre it became apparent that we needed to develop a more interactive and exciting website to better promote our new facility and the inspired people behind it. As the construction of the new OCC continues, so will the construction of this site to reflect the milestones and advancement in our organization.  It is my hope that you agree that the new Ottawa Convention Centre website is just that, a refreshing interactive and transparent view of our future facility and our organization. 

With the implementation of a new website, we wanted to create areas where our clients, stakeholders, community and colleagues could interact with the OCC and feel that connection with an organization that is here to provide the best in services, facilities and products that will create memorable and effective meetings… for our clients and our community at the same time.

I have created this Blog site with the intention of sharing with you my thoughts on various articles, debates and subjects that will affect our industry, our community and the OCC.  My plan is to make it a blog that encourages interaction and insight from you.  I believe that to be Canada’s Meeting Place, we need to be considered a place where people come together to share ideas, opinions and knowledge, and leave feeling they have gained something from the experience.  

The new OCC Vision is “Inspired People Creating Extraordinary Events”. We hope you’ll be inspired, through our website, to explore the new OCC and share your thoughts with us.

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Ottawa Convention Centre - Fish or Salad Bowl

OCC Nov 6 10 11 2010 362Blog resized 600 I found myself admiring the  construction progress of the new Ottawa Convention Centre on the Mckenzie King bridge today. This has become a popular vantage point with many people who come to watch what is happening. The view of the facility and construction from the bridge is second to none. It attracts people all the time. Today, like every other day, people were on the bridge talking and taking in the enormity and beauty of the glass structure being erected. I don’t often engage these people because more often than not I find myself doing the same.

A stranger bounded across the street and was staring at the building. He was in his 40′s, dressed casually and clearly in awe. Then he proclaimed “That sure is one incredible fish bowl!” I was taken aback. ‘A fish bowl?’ I thought. I had heard the facility referred to as a tulip, a barge, and even a Waterford crystal candy dish but never a fish bowl! Just as he said this, a lady seemed to come out of nowhere and said “It isn’t a fish bowl but a salad bowl!”. These people didn’t know each other but the debate ensued nonetheless. Fishbowl or salad bowl? I stood quietly and listened. Smiling on the inside at just how insightful both those analogies really were.

I like the fishbowl. One of the most amazing elements of the facility is that delegates coming to Ottawa will experience all the beauty of Canada’s Capital. They can gaze out from inside and not be stuck in a dark barren meeting room. The fishbowl also serves as a metaphor of transparency that meetings and society now must operate in. No longer are there ‘secret meetings’ but a shift toward openness and visibility. I can definitely see the fishbowl.

However the salad bowl is equally good. The interesting mix of economic, educational, scientific and political issues that the Ottawa Convention Centre will play host to makes the salad bowl analogy strong. Add in the viewpoints of a diverse group of international delegates and insights of a multicultural Canadian society and I can see how the salad bowl is the vessel to hold all this.

In all the meetings I had sat in with Richard Brisbine, the architect of the new Ottawa Convention Centre, never once had I heard him refer to either of these analogies when explaining his vision. But yet both are so good. And here we are, even before the OCC is completed and in a small way, the building is already serving it’s primary purpose. A discussion is ensuing with two people who just met and have gathered to exchange ideas. After all, isn’t this what a Convention Centre is designed to do? Now, in less than five months when it officially opens, they can take the discussion inside.

The Future of Meetings


By Andrew Beattie


The PCMA Masters Series in Washington was all about the future of meetings. The session was moderated by Greg O’Dell and questions were posed to a panel that inclued Chris Brown, EVP Conventions and Business Operations, National Association of Broadcasters, Abe Eshkenazi CEO, The Association of Operations Managers, Karen Hackett CEO American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Scott Hunt Executive Director and CEO Endocrine Society, and Peter O’Neil Executive Director American Industrial Hygiene Association. Five association CEOs were discussing all facets of issues affecting their organizations. Not surprisingly these are many of the issues that senior executives are concerned with the world over. Topics covered today were technological concerns, governance, retention and engagement of employees and customers (members), and globalization among others. And to varying degrees all these issues affected each of the associations represented. However a particular topic that engaged the panel (as it related to meeting destination/venue selection) was choosing suppliers to take an interest in their business to become partners and true solution providers. This struck me for two reasons. First was that it was an issue at all, and second how come these concerns are not translated to meeting planners and RFP?

Now for professional sales people in most industries solving customers business problems is nothing new. Xerox was preaching this when I took my fist sales course in the ’80s and since then there have been variations of the same message by countless of training companies and methods. Understand what your customers need (or need to accomplish) and find unique partnered solutions. But often this is overlooked in hospitality sales management education.

I have long advocated that understanding the business reasons and providing viable solutions will help differentiate your proposal from others under consideration. To do this one has to ask the right questions and be able to offer solutions.

However it is the second element that is of more concern. All too often, both in an RFP and in conversations with the meeting planners, the principal business issues never arise in the conversation. All the ‘needs’ are logistical in nature. Facilities, hotels, attractions, and lift (especially for international planners coming to Canada) and cost are the primary consideration. If and when a sales person probes often they are met with blank stares or presentation of their logistical requests again. This relegates the destination to being not much more than a commodity. Associations need strong partnerships to grow and be sustainable. And destinations need strong associations to meet in their destinations to provide enhanced business opportunities for the association’s members and suppliers in their community. Therefor that organizational needs dialogue needs to extend to the meeting planners so they in-turn can have that dialogue with potential partners and be open to solutions. And, Meeting Planners will secure their spot in organizational decision making by presenting these partnered solutions.

I am not suggesting that all meeting planners aren’t doing this. Many fully understand the business needs but often get frustrated by the suppliers lack of understanding.

Hospitality industry sales people would be well served to take the Certified Association Sales Executive course through PCMA. This program provides the basic operational understanding of the business of meeting planning and associations. Conversely Associations need to engage their meeting planners in their organizational so they can seek out solutions from suppliers.

Kudos to PCMA for doing it’s part to help bridge the gap.

The Art of Negotiation - Get the Best Deal – A Meeting Planners Way


By Dawn Wilson

I recently attended a negotiations seminar at a PCMA Conference. If there is any one session that I, as a seasoned sales person should have taken years ago – this was it. This was a thought provoking and interesting day long session. The wonderful part of this is that I now have real tools to help me decide and evaluate each negotiation differently and more effectively. This can be applied to all areas of my life and the second part of the session that covered the psychology of the subject matter was just as thought provoking. Consider this: Gut instinct is not a replacement for strategy – reflect on your own personal strategies with this statement in mind. There are a couple of things you need to figure out in any deal – you must know what is the number you cannot go below (as a buyer or seller) and you must know how to find out what is your bottom line. 

  1.  Figure out your BATNA (Best Alternative to a negotiated agreement).Your BATNA is the course of action you will pursue in the event of “no deal”
  2. Determine your Reservation Value – the point at which you are indifferent between accepting the deal and walking away. A BATNA analysis helps you determine your reservation value. 
  3. Evaluate the ZOPA – Zone of Possible Agreement – the space/difference between the seller’s reservation value and the buyer’s reservation value.
Here are some things to consider in any negotiation: Information is King. What you learn depends on what you are willing to learn. Always negotiate about the value you bring to the buyer. Prepare in advance to answer the toughest questions that you may be asked in the negotiation – this helps avoid lying, helps you not give up too much information; and helps you reclaim control. My next blog will be talking about more negotiating – should you make the first offer and how to effectively anchor to set the tone of your negotiation.
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