All aboard for inspiration: Travel your way to creativity

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People often ask from where I pull my creativity. My answer is simple: life and the world around me. And, as luck may have it, the world gets smaller every day due to new technologies and the melting pot of cultures.

Whether you’re traveling in the States or abroad, use your powers of observation and file everything you see into your memory bank.

Travel 1Most of us have predictable daily routines, which can make our lives stagnant. Traveling refreshes the mind, recharges the soul and opens up our creative energies.

Inspiration truly is everywhere. Look for it in architecture new and old. Pay attention to how people express themselves in the clothes they wear, or how fashion trends are influenced by colors and patterns. Draw inspiration from trying new foods and spices and noticing food presentations. Harness the power of big cities. Get in tune with remote villages. Nature and all its wonders are the best inspiration of all. As you travel from place to place, study cloud formations, how the sky changes and shifts before and after a storm, watch the glory of a sunrise or sunset, and the beauty of the flora and fauna. Breathe and soak it all in.

I try to use my mind much like a photographer uses a camera trying to take the perfect photo. I force myself to look at what’s in front of me and capture it from many angles, finding the perfect lighting or playing with perspective. Once you begin looking at life using this technique, your perspective on daily life will change. The influences of every new journey are a catalyst for creativity.

Getting in touch with the world around you through exploration and examination will help you hone in on your creative process and make the world, or at least your part of it, a more beautiful place.

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One of my favorite parts of traveling is being exposed to new foods, clothes, customs, even words. I love the feeling of exploration and the delight that comes with a discovery. I don’t have James’ talent for design, but I do take what I see, taste and experience and bring it home with me.

Travel 2Sometimes that means buying a piece of jewelry that has a unique style. It adds an interesting piece to my accessorizing and prompts conversation when people ask where the piece came from.

Other times, I get a haircut in a foreign country. That’s an adventure! I’ve had my locks coiffed in London, France and Italy. Each time I walked out with a style I’d never before considered and that I wore as a reminder to try new things.

I pick up spices from local markets and infuse my cooking with flavors from abroad. Or I’ll pick up a cooking gadget that is supremely clever but somehow missing from U.S. shelves.

I have clothing I’ve purchased that shouts, “I’m from overseas” that I wear with delight as people comment on the interesting styles, inspiring them to find their own creativity when putting an outfit together.

So if you’re like me and lack James’ talent for design, don’t despair. You can still learn, observe and grow your creativity while traveling.


Share your favorite travel-inspired inspiration with us (photos welcome) in the comment box below and/or email James and Christy at *protected email*.

Room advances: Look out for whats left behind


Brain Logo small Room advances are common among planners who want to ensure that VIP rooms are in perfect condition. What’s less common is a post-checkout sweep, to make sure nothing is left behind. We often find random things someone forgot to take home. Here are some of our most memorable.

ipad-2iPads. I can’t imagine someone leaving their iPad behind, but it happens more than you may think. We find them in the top drawer of a desk or under a bed. (We always return them.)

Peeking under a bed often reveals stray socks, a single shoe and the occasional M&M. The single shoe thing always makes me wonder.

AtlanticWe always check magazine stacks because occasionally someone leaves a favorite publication behind. Sometimes it’s a cooking magazine. Other times the “flavor” is much spicier! We’re especially thankful we find these before an executive arrives with his or her family.

In bathrooms we find personal hair dryers or cosmetics tucked into vanity drawers. I still lament leaving behind my own favorite lipstick while packing up too quickly.

I often think about the wisdom of a post-event room check to make sure guests don’t leave anything behind, but it can be a privacy issue. I’ve always elected to resist the urge and cross my fingers that the person doing the next room advance  doesn’t find anything worth writing about!


Beauty logo smallHotel-MinibarMany hotels have opted out of mini-bars in rooms, but for some guests, this refrigerated unit becomes a place to store personal items. We all enjoy a cold beverage or snack. We pick them up locally to help with our T&E and stash them in the mini-bar for safekeeping. With early arrivals or a rush check-in for a VIP, attendants don’t have time to check or refresh the mini-bar. Even if refrigerated, someone else’s left overs are unwelcome.

Check the safe. Small items are often left behind because they’ve been pushed to the back of this dark compartment or fallen under the lip of the door. I’ve seen my share of “valuables” left behind, and I use that term loosely.

Finally, check the desk area. Power cords and chargers plugged into the wall are easy to forget because they look like wiring provided by the hotel. Arm yourself with a comprehensive room advance checklist, you can canvas a room in no time. Besides, who knows what cool stuff you’ll find along the way!


The Do’s And Dont’s Of Corporate Gift Giving

From the:

Beauty logo small The etiquette for corporate gift-giving is very different from personal gift-giving. You must remember what’s appropriate in the business world —and that may not include funny gifts or items of a personal nature. A simple rule of thumb: Use common sense. Your business reputation is at stake. Send only the very best you can afford within those guidelines. Using your best judgment can make your gift memorable and build a better relationship. Ask yourself what your first impression would be if you received that gift. Never send a holiday gift with your logo on it. That can seem insincere, and save items with logos for marketing purposes. If gourmet food is your gift of choice, do your research. Be mindful of people’s food allergies and intolerances. Learn how the item is packed for freshness and make sure it will tolerate the climate to which it’s being shipped. Keep in mind that your gift may arrive while the recipient is taking time off and away from home. Handmade truffles may sound wonderful, but if they’re not shipped in dry ice and are headed to Florida, you may want to reconsider.

From the:

Brain Logo small Gift-giving may conjure thoughts of joy, the excitement of finding the perfect present and the satisfaction of knowing your thoughtfulness will make someone happy. Nowhere in that process are you apt to think about the IRS, employee handbooks or ethics. If you’re giving gifts to people in your professional circle, you must focus on the cold, hard facts. Know the IRS guidelines and follow them. Business gifts are tax deductible up to $25 per person for the tax year. Packaging, shipping and delivery are not part of this total. This is not a one-size-fits-all guideline. IRS publication 463 can offer more specifics. Not all organizations let employees accept gifts. In that case, you may want to make a charitable donation in the person’s name to a nonprofit or charity they (not you) support. Be sensitive to cultural differences. Hanukkah is often overlooked amid the Christmas frenzy. Pay attention to images on holiday cards and wrapping, and word your cards to reflect the joy of the season, not of Christmas. If you have a multicultural list of people to buy for, do a simple search to learn about gift-giving etiquette in other cultures. Plan ahead. I order my customized holiday cards in August, and then have plenty of time to sign, stamp, address and, most importantly, send before the holiday rush. Starting early means you’re more likely to find what you want in stock, and you avoid rush charges. Yours may be one of the first cards or gifts received, which is a nice touch. Finally, make a list of who received your gifts and what you gave. Note if it was sent or hand-delivered. And what it cost, for future reference and that pesky IRS.

With Preparation You Can Put Out Almost Any Fire

From the:

Beauty logo smallAnalyzing and assessing risks allows us to understand them so we can make educated decisions on how best to manage them.

Risk consists of two components: acknowledging something can go wrong and the destructive consequences that will happen if it does.

The first step is to identify risks. They can result from human error, financial changes and market fluctuations, technology breakdowns, and/or disease, weather and natural disasters. With all we have on our plates as meeting professionals, it can be easy to overlook these risks.

The process of analyzing risk can be very involved. You need to get detailed information on the risks from all areas relevant to your project. A good first step is to discuss the program with your insurance carrier.

When it comes to guests’ safety and fire, one of the best things you can do is get certified in crowd control. You’ll learn how to move guests to safety in a quick and orderly fashion avoiding panic, which could result in tragedy. You can become certified online HERE.

It doesn’t take much time to get your certification, and the time is a small investment in yourself and your business. In this case as in many others, knowledge is a beautiful thing!

From the:

Brain Logo smallAlthough risk is present in every component of our days, we leave home each morning
and lead productive lives. We can’t change the presence of risk, but we can mitigate its potential damage by being prepared.

We each react to extreme stress differently. Regardless of the situation or your mindset in a moment of crisis, without a plan or the proper tools in place, your ability to manage it can be severely hampered.

My barbecue caught fire during the summer. Not a simple, “the burgers were flaming” fire, a full-on inferno at the gas line. The propane tank was full so the fire had hours of fuel. I wasn’t sure what the physics behind propane tanks exploding was, but I knew I had to get the fire out quickly and that water wouldn’t work. Thankfully I had two fire extinguishers nearby. My preparedness compensated for my lack of knowledge on the subject of propane gas explosions and a crisis was averted, save for my destroyed grill.

My point: Identifying risks requires a two-pronged attack: forethought into what can go wrong and preparing for it with both knowledge and physical resources.

On-site at events, that means knowing where defibrillators and fire extinguishers are and when they were last serviced, meeting with the security team, understanding evacuation procedures, having a planner staying at every hotel guests are at, making sure that person has a list of all guests staying there and contact information for all key players. Knowing where the closest hospital or walk-in clinic is, and directions to it, are also essential.

Bringing a well-stocked gang box means you can handle office emergencies, but for true emergencies, make sure you have flashlights and first aid kits complete with warming blankets, CPR mouthguards, rubber gloves and ice packs.

With all we’re responsible for during a program, averting or minimizing a disaster is paramount. Remember: Well-prepared is beautiful!

Planning A Meeting? Assess Risks Now

From the:

Beauty logo smallMany issues in the event business are unique to our industry and, even more so, unique to each type of event we produce. Regardless of the size or nature, your event can be challenged by anything from security, safety, and financial and legal issues, to unforeseen disasters of the man-made or Mother Nature variety. To ensure your event’s success, you must manage all of these possibilities properly and nip any problem in the bud.

Not all risks are as obvious as foul weather, medical emergencies, delayed flights, terror threats or power failures. Sometimes unknown risks lay dormant and unseen — until they strike.

One of your best risk-management weapons is the ability to think quickly on your feet, always keeping the safety of guests and staff a top priority. After all, what will impact your attendees more, the pyrotechnic show starting five minutes late or that fire broke out because you were rushing?

When managing risks don’t try to do it all on your own; the more eyes the better. Teach your staff to observe their surroundings and to report anything that is a possible threat to the safety of any attendee or the event itself.

Finally, you and your staff should follow all regulations and practices in your best attempt to eliminate or lessen any associated risks.

From the:

Brain Logo smallIdentifying risk starts the moment you confirm you’re planning a meeting and must
remain top of mind until the final bill is paid. Here’s a checklist of things to consider:

  • What is the weather at your destination typically like on your program dates?
  • What is the airlift pattern? Can you avoid putting all your executives on one flight?
  • Are you confirming what competitive or incompatible groups are in-house on your dates?
  • What kind of attrition have you negotiated? Did you build in a resell clause?
  • Do you have a travel-advisory threat built into your force majeure so that if the threat level goes to a certain color you don’t have to host your program?
  • Have you confirmed with your banquet manager that all food will be clearly labeled no matter how basic? Food allergies can be deadly and many people don’t pay attention to what they’re eating.
  • Do you have event insurance?
  • Are you paying attention to Americans With Disabilities Act codes when doing you room sets?
  • Are your stage sets fire retardant or fireproof?
  • Do you have your speakers make multiple copies of their presentations and designate someone to carry all the backup files?
  • Are you taking time to go over all the important details with your audience/speaker/executives/talent? Assume nothing.
  • Are you scheduling daily meetings with your team to discuss the next day in detail so they can be ready for whatever is thrown at them?

Bottom line, it’s up to us to think of it all and be alert on-site. Risks are only a challenge if they get ahead of our preparedness.

If you’d like more suggestions on how to identify and prepare for risks, email me at:
*protected email*

And until next time, remember, smart is beautiful.