Meet Beauty and the Brain on November 14th in NYC

James and I have worked together for years. We laugh, teach and inspire each other and truly enjoy being together. As my professional plans and goals for the next ten years evolves, James is an integral part of all of them.

I know how lucky I am to have James as a part of my professional circle. The moment people meet him they like him. He’s funny, smart and just makes everyone around him happy. And although he’s the ‘Beauty’ part of this duo, there is no mistaking how smart he is and how good he is at his craft.

So why the build up? Because if you are fortunate enough to be able to attend PYM’s Event on November 14th at the Renaissance in New York City, you’ll get to meet James. He and I will be hosting an open conversation about whatever is on your mind as it relates to work. Have a problem you need help brainstorming? Need a creative solution for an event or a tip on budgeting or office politics? Come ready to explore, discuss and learn with us.

Here’s the link for more info.

Four hours and $30 is a small investment. Your return will be tenfold.

Hope to see you there.

Want to start the converstion now? Email us at: moc.E1454353274MSelz1454353274zaD@s1454353274niarB1454353274dnayt1454353274uaeB1454353274.


To fix any problem, you must first understand it

Solve problems

Have you heard people say they’re a right-brain or left-brain thinker? Right-brained thinkers tend to be creative and instinctual, left-brainers more analytical and logical. That’s how “Beauty and the Brains,” from the minds of Christy Lamagna and James Rota, was born. James’ creativity and vision mesh with Christy’s logistics focus and strategic thinking to bring a well-rounded approach to their events. These columns are designed to highlight both sides of the planning process.

From the
Many years ago when I met Christy for the first time, we shared contact information. After returning to my office I immediately sent off an email stating how wonderful it was to meet her. Her response, just below her signature, contained this quote: “If you can only see the obstacles, you have lost sight of the goal.” Reading that impacted my life, and it became my credo. This simple one-liner cleared away the fog. Problem-solving (the obstacle) is the nature of our business and if you are not 100 percent committed to the project (the goal), you will never truly succeed.
Here is how it works for me: Once I determine the true nature of a problem, I dissect and analyze it to its core, never losing site of the big picture. Then I build a strategy, hone in on my negotiating skills and compromise for the common goal. Then it’s time to step back and analyze the new information to make sure the solution I’m heading toward is sound in every way. At this point, the solution should be clear. It does take practice, but if you set the goal as your priority and remove all emotion from the equation, you’ll find the solution in record time.

From the
It doesn’t matter if you are solving a problem by yourself, as part of a team, for work or in your personal life, you need to take a few key steps before acting.
First, understand what goal the problem is preventing you from reaching. This may seem obvious, but in our haste, we often address the symptom not the cause.
Then make sure you fully understand the problem. Is there more to the story? Are you hearing about this issue firsthand or from others? If it’s from others, make sure what you understand to be true is what you were told, and that the person who shared the information is clear on what they heard/saw.
You may be frustrated or annoyed once you identify the challenge. The next step is key but so difficult: You must separate your emotions and react logically, not emotionally.
Plato cautioned that emotion drowns reason, and this couldn’t be more true. That’s why it’s often easier to solve someone else’s problems rather than your own. You can see their situation objectively, they cannot. Keep in mind that you’re the same way and that you may need to take a step back before taking action.
Bottom line: Before you can fix the problem, you have to understand it. Take the time necessary to fully assess the situation before acting, and you’re halfway there. To continue the conversation, please use the comment box below this post and email B&B at

There is never a good time for bad behavior

Demonstrate ethical behavior

From the
Most of us consider ourselves honest. We have never been arrested. We tell the truth. That makes us ethical, correct? Actually, you can be a law-abiding, honest person and exercise bad judgment. It isn’t always clear what is and isn’t appropriate, so here’s a prescription for 20/20 ethical vision.

Many of us participate in loyalty programs. Who doesn’t get a thrill when they achieve the next status level? Or love finding a plate of treats in your their room as a thank you for being an elite member?

There’s nothing wrong with being rewarded for the nights you spend away from home and accepting a complimentary amenity that comes with the status you’ve achieved. What is unethical is using your position to ensure you receive points.

Emails offering double reward points — if a program is executed within a particular time frame — are prolific. How tempting it is to suggest a hotel that offers perks over one that does not? If the perk benefits the group,it’s acceptable. When the planner receives the points directly, and lets that influence what property is chosen or recommended, it’s a problem.

If the property is selected on merit alone, without the promotion being a factor (and your company allows it), it’s not unethical to take points. But the line can be fuzzy even when a property is chosen only on merit and not because of a promotion. If you’re unsure, ask someone else or avoid the temptation altogether.

Also wrong: Accepting trips to properties you have no intention of using, or embellishing information that qualifies you for trips.

If you conduct yourself with unimpeachable scruples but a colleague does not and you do nothing to stop that behavior, are you being ethical? In my opinion, yes. You need not confront the person; you can let a supervisor know. If the behavior continues, it becomes incumbent on you to tell someone else. Rule of thumb: Do what is hard and you will do what is right.

From the
You know that I love to put my signature and a color spin on just about everything, but when it comes to ethics, it’s purely black and white. It’s when you enter the gray area that concerns arise.

One of my job perks is working with other creative minds to design perfect environments for events. Let me paint you a picture. Close your eyes and think about a beautifully decorated event space, let’s say for a gala dinner. Think about all the details that make it come together: stunning florals in beautiful containers, impressive charger plates, custom linens, napkin rings, place-card holders, pillar candles.

These items often come up missing at the end of an event. Who would miss eight charger plates and napkins from an order of 250 pieces, right? The client signed the damage waiver, so it’s all covered, yes? What if the container for the large buffet arrangement (the one you envisioned in your home when you guided the client toward that option) goes missing? Pillar candles get thrown away, so who would notice that, correct? If you act on thoughts like these, you are behaving unethically.

If they haven’t entered your mind, they’ve likely entered a co-worker’s mind. I’ve heard it said that if ethics are poor at the top, the behavior is copied throughout the organization. Make sure you hold all parties accountable for the items you provide. Hand off a count of each item to the banquet captain and hold a short meeting before the doors open to discuss how you want to re-inventory items. Ask that breakage be kept for your examination.

The grayest area is the vendor selection process. The florist or caterer who drops off an arrangement or a basket of baked goods as a gift for each occasion and holiday may be at the top of your mind, but are they the best fit for your client? It takes many of us years to build a spotless reputation, so think about how grabbing just one of these tempting “apples” could destroy yours.

When in doubt ask yourself the most important question: Is it worth it?

To market, to market: Gauging the industry’s strength

From the
The meeting and events industry is dictated by two market conditions: buyers’ markets and sellers’ markets. As planners, our daily behavior is affected by which market we’re experiencing; our ethics, standards of excellence and professionalism, however, should stay consistent in either situation.

Behave the same way in both markets as you negotiate contracts and hire vendors, and you will be rewarded tenfold the market shifts. Vendors you were fair to will return that courtesy.

So how do you know which market you’re operating in?

A buyer’s market includes great prices on hotel sleeping rooms, abundant concessions, and salespeople calling to take you to lunch or asking for your business over dinner and drinks. Contracts are easier to negotiate, and preferred dates often are available on short notice. This is a time of bliss, but it’s always temporary.

A seller’s market includes rising rates, tougher concessions negotiations, the need to give more than a year’s notice for preferred dates in first-tier cities and a noticeable lack in those nice meetings over lunch or drinks.

When I can’t get my choice of dates and see rates creeping upward, I know the market is becoming more robust and people are spending again. To me, this the logical way to measure the strength of the industry. For those of us who think logistically, it’s fascinating. For creative types, it’s a no-brainer.

From the

The ability to identify new patterns of behavior or a new combination of actions is really not that hard if you hone into your creative energies. Most creative people are driven by the visual, so when I need to recharge, I change my perspective.

This usually means leaving my office for a field trip that includes window-shopping. I’m serious! There’s more behind the glass windows of major retailers than the latest trends. If you tune in, you’ll see indications of what’s to come by using the science of color.

Let’s roll back the tape three years. The economy was at its lowest point in decades, unemployment was high, the housing market had tanked. We were all worried about another Great Depression. My journal included these entries: “Today’s attention-getting colors are not the exaggerated bright, cheery hues of years gone by, but they’re also far from dark and depressing. The color palette is rich, intense and dynamic.”

In a bleak economy, we always surround ourselves with optimistic colors that are out of step with reality. The palette was turned down a notch, showing cautious optimism. It was a buyer’s market, but only if you had money to spend. During this time it was important that I echoed the climate of the economy. Going over the top with color and décor would have sent up red flags for attendees and created a sense of poor leadership. I made sure to keep things low-key in the right color tones, creating a conservative environment that nurtured positivity.

Fast-forward to my most recent trip the New York City, my favorite place to re-energize. Strolling down Madison Avenue and then heading downtown to Broadway, retail windows were alive with color and texture. Fabric colors have become so bright that they border on neon. Designers were taking risks again and moving forward rather than going retro and bold-colored, with patent leather and suede shoes in every fashion vignette.

These indicators make it easy to see that we’ve moved to a sellers’ market. You can be sure that I’ll be loading up my palette with energizing colors and selecting decorative accents that are bold and make a statement that mirrors today’s climate. I may even paint the town neon yellow!

For better or worse, first impressions create lasting results

Projecting a professional image

From the
One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Three Mississippi.
Three seconds. That’s all the time we get to make a first impression.

When you think about it, that’s a lot of pressure, especially in a business setting when so much is riding on what someone thinks of us. It doesn’t matter if the assessment is correct. Once the opinion is formed, it lingers. And if it’s not a positive impression, it can take months of time and effort to undo.

So how do we make sure that three short seconds result in a lifetime of good will? Follow these simple but all-important steps and you will have the tools you need to always put your best foot forward.

Be on time: Whether it be a call, a live meeting or sending an email or proposal, make sure you are on time. It’s rude to keep someone waiting, and it and sends the message that you are unable to manage your time and do not respect the other person’s. That’s not a good way to start a relationship.

Dress for the occasion and your part in it: If you’re the lead planner on a corporate event, you are expected to be professional, organized and buttoned up. Wrinkled clothes, scuffed shoes, wind-blown hair, too much makeup/perfume/cologne sends the wrong impression.

Be prepared: Do your research in advance. Know the client, the space you may be looking at, the goals for the event, your plan to make the location work and how to make it all happen.

Ask good questions: What is your goal? What is the most important thing to you about this topic? What are you looking for in a planner/venue/etc. Ask the person you’re meeting what they want and carefully listen to the answers. Then speak.

Give the matter your undivided attention: Turn off your cellphone. Nothing is more important than the person with whom you are meeting.

Don’t get too comfortable with the client or your co-workers: No matter how well you get along with your co-workers, and even if you are friends outside the office, when you’re at work, keep it professional. Someone may give you a mile of room to navigate within, but if you take an inch more than is being offered, it’s a big no-no.

Don’t drink on the job: It’s just a bad idea. If it’s rude to turn down a glass of wine or a drink with a client, order something very low in alcohol or ask for plenty of ice and make one drink last all night. No good comes from getting tipsy with co-worker, much less intoxicated. If you think a first impression lasts a long time, do something stupid while drunk in front of co-workers. That story will follow you around forever.

Never talk about your other clients or co-workers: If you talk about other people, it’s pretty much assured you’ll talk about the people with whom you are sitting. Be a source of useful, relevant information, not gossip.

Never talk money: If you want a sure-fire recipe for disaster, bring up money. Never discuss what you make or charge, or what anyone else does. Someone will always feel slighted.

Never forget this golden rule: It’s not about you. Your opinion counts until someone disagrees with you, at which point you most likely are going to have to acquiesce and implement someone else’s vision.

Once a relationship is formed, it’s important to maintain your professionalism. These rules never go out of style.

From the
Christy is right on target. Not only do we make decisions about one another in seconds, but 55 percent to 80 percent of those decisions are made visually. It’d be nice if people would get to know one another before making judgments, but research shows that this isn’t likely to happen.

After reading these statistics, I wondered why I’d spent so much time on my presentations and so much money on my training, when such a major part of the impression is based on my appearance and not on my knowledge and expertise.  Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. It takes years to build an impressive resume. It takes thousands of dollars to improve on one’s education. Our appearance, however, can be changed in minutes! If we want to be taken for the authorities that we are, it is smart business to pay attention to our appearance.

I think most of us agree that we feel better when we look our best. That feeling affects the way we walk, stand, speak and carry ourselves. I’m not talking about anything as shallow as vanity, or whether or a man or woman is strikingly handsome or pretty. What I am talking about is looking professional.

Think about this: Studies at the universities of California and Connecticut show that first impressions are correct at least 67 percent of the time. This might explain why people are more than likely to believe what they see before they believe what we say.

When you’re deciding what’s appropriate to wear, consider the situation, the geography and the climate. Florida in August is very different from a corporate fundraiser in Chicago in January. Consider your audience and the message you want to send. You may want to wear more conservative, professional clothing for a corporate environment but loosen up a bit for more casual audiences.

The final “Beauty” thought: If you want to be seen as a visionary, find the style that best suits your personality and don’t be afraid to express yourself!

Until next time, remember, smart is beautiful!