Official Newsletter of The Association for Convention Operations Management

APRIL 2008

Chicago Chronicles: ACOM Summer Conference Registration Now Open!

Making Your Days More Productive

Eight Tips For More Effective Email Communication

Tips for networking

Event gives Rockford woman a chance to bloom: Meet ACOM’s CVB CSM of the Year Theresa Sellers

Capital Cities Collection Offers Convenience and Geographic Diversity To Busy Meeting Planners

On The Move


Chicago Chronicles: ACOM Summer Conference Registration Now Open!

ACOM Summer Education Conference

June 26-28, 2008
The Palmer House Hilton
Chicago, Illinois

ACOM and the planning committee have planned a fantastic program for the ACOM Summer Education Conference. ACOM has heard your suggestions on the hot topics you want to learn more about. The newest trends and the latest crazes in the meeting industry as well as learning professional development skills to help you excel in this fast-paced industry are among the sessions at this year's Summer Education Conference. Sessions will target a full spectrum of subjects in order to appeal to seasoned service managers, as well as those who are new or mid-level.

Registration is now open! Please visit our Summer Conference website. Note the early-bird deadline of May 23. The full agenda, hotel and registration information is posted.

For you to begin planning your trip, the Welcome Reception and an optional dine-around will be Thursday evening, with full day meetings on Friday and sessions concluding around noon on Saturday.

Registration Fees:

  Early Bird Registration General Registration

ACOM Member
$295 $310
Non-Member $325 $350
Student $ 50 $ 50

Hotel Reservations
The special ACOM room rate at the Palmer House Hilton is $179. Reserve your room today, by calling 877-865-5321.

Palmer House Restoration Project
The renovation of The Palmer House-which has played host to every American president from Ulysses S. Grant to Bill Clinton-is the largest hotel renovation in this country's history. The hotel was originally built as a gift for Chicago's first great dame, Bertha Palmer. There have been three Palmer House hotels in Chicago. The first, known as "The Palmer," was built as a wedding present from Potter Palmer to his bride Bertha Honoré. It opened on September 26, 1871, but burned down just 13 days later in the Great Chicago Fire. Potter decided to rebuild immediately with a $1.7 million signature loan-believed to be the largest individual loan ever secured at the time. Opened in 1875, The Palmer House was one of the most luxurious hotels in post-fire Chicago (it was also the first hotel in America to operate "vertical steam railroads," aka, elevators). By the 1920s, the Palmer Estate decided to erect a new 25-story hotel. The hotel opened for a third time in 1927, touted as the largest hotel in the world. In December 1945, Conrad Hilton bought The Palmer House for $20 million. In 2005, Thor Equities, LLC, purchased the hotel and set in motion plans for a $150 million renovation; it stayed open through renovations, retaining its claim as the longest-operating hotel in North America.

The Palmer House literally shines due to the ongoing restoration. Everything from the Beaux Arts ceiling to the addition of an entire floor of deluxe-tech conference and meeting facilities, right down to the "1871" brass nameplate on the building's cornerstone. More than 1600 rooms and suites reflect the tasteful, functional priorities that guests expect and demand from hotels with the Hilton name.

ACOM looks forward to being there!

(Some text about the Palmer House was excerpted from TCW's March 2007 edition)

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Making Your Days More Productive
Published in The ReunionFriendly Network Monthly newsletter
Do you ever feel as though your days at work are non-productive, fragmented, or stressful? Do you ever feel as though you're in a trench that keeps you mired down and you can't get anything accomplished? Of course, you do! We all feel that way sometimes and, hopefully, it's a temporary quagmire - or is it? What actually causes it? What can you do about it?

What Actually Causes It?

"The Dog's Tail"

There's an old adage that sometimes the dog wags it's tail and sometimes the tail wags the dog. It is you who should have the control and not allow outside factions and frictions to disorganize your day and your job. True, sometimes you don't have that choice but it shouldn't be a consistent situation where you can't get your job done.

"The Generous Heart"

From the time we're small children we are taught to share our time, to help others, to be part of a team, and yet those early teachings ingrained in us can create lack of success and productivity when overdone. When you spend too much time being a sounding board, a problem-fixer, a people person, a best friend during work hours, you may be creating your own problems.

"The Creative Mind”

In our industry, creativity is extremely important. The best businesses and the most successful professionals use creative thinking and planning to maximize their potential; however, when too much time is spent on creativity (especially when there are other tasks at hand where timeliness is crucial) business may be lost.

"The Open Door”

Psychologists and time study analysts recommend that an open door policy creates a healthy work environment. To what extent should you adhere to that policy and how does it affect your business? When you are relegated to cubical work space in an open room, a shared office space, or a work space that is adjacent to the office entry way or a common hallway where there's a lot of foot traffic, your open door is an invitation to distraction.

"The Definitive Role”

Some jobs come with specific job descriptions, usually ended with a short sentence that reads "...and may be asked to perform other duties as needed". Lack of role definition is a confusing situation and builds doubt in your mind as to what your real job is supposed to be.

What Can You Do About It?

"The Dog's Tail” cannot be in charge! You are in charge and it is up to you to set the pace whereby you (the dog so-to-speak) take action. Determine what things are occurring on a regular basis that hinder your productivity and correct them yourself. If you can't do so, then talk to your supervisor or department head about those factors that keep you from taking care of business and come up with a plan to minimize the friction, the faction, the stress.

"The Generous Heart" should not be abused! You are not the "counselor" and your position probably doesn't require you to fix everyone's problems. Saying something "isn't my job" is going too far, but explaining that you have work that must be completed first will put you back on track. Our industry is a people industry and our very nature is such that we want to be liked, to be appreciated, and to enjoy our surroundings; however, too much of that limits our success in every way.

"The Creative Mind” must be used in an effective way! I once heard it explained that some call it creative thinking and some call it day-dreaming. Both are partially correct. From day-dreams come some of the best creative thinking and from that often come the most successful and unique changes, the most amazing results in the industry. Take some small creative thinking moments each day to give you a change of pace and to lift you up inspirationally and motivationally, write the ideas down and then set aside a block of time each week if possible to really devote an hour to just that effort.

"The Open Door” needs to be closed sometimes! That's up to you! At the CVB where I worked this market, it was a customary policy to close the door to our office when we were working on a detailed proposal, a business plan, a budget, or when we needed privacy to catch up on important calls or letters. Put a small note on the outside of your door reading "Working on a project, please knock only if an urgent matter", and then put your phone on "privacy". Doing so gives you uninterrupted work time and you can accomplish in just one or two hours what may normally take two days.

"The Definitive Role” is a major key to success! If you were hired to sell, selling should be your number one priority and that means spending the lion's share of your time on marketing and sales-related activities. Even if you aren't having to do the actual selling yourself, you must stay involved to understand the potential and the overall good for the entity for which you work. If you do not feel you have a "definitive role" - target the need to have it better-defined and act upon it. Just as it is your responsibility to be at work, to plan your day and your week, to be the best industry professional you can - without a definitive role, success will not be part of your career.

In any industry where selling is the priority there is a well-known ratio of 80/20; 80 percent of your time should be used for selling and 20 percent of your time should be used toward everything else. That's the bottom line!

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Eight Tips For More Effective Email Communication
By David Friedman, Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training
A recent report estimated that over 7 trillion emails were sent worldwide last year! Spam messages are jamming in-boxes across the globe and the average office worker now gets between 60-200 messages a day.

While no one denies the obvious productivity gains we’ve realized from the efficiencies of email communication, many people find themselves drowning in all these messages.

Here are eight tips that will make your email communications more effective.

1. Practice being clear and concise with your message.
You’ll save time and your reader will appreciate it.

  • Consider using bulleted points to clearly express your thoughts.
  • Everyone has a different style of how they intake information.
  • Email communication works best if you clearly outline the points you’re trying to get across in an easy to understand format.

Investing extra time while authoring an email pays big dividends by giving your reader a clear understanding of your message. Remember, if your email is written with the purpose to educate, inform or persuade, then making sure to get your point across is even more critical.

With the sheer volume of email messages most business people receive, there’s an inverse relationship between the volume of text and successfully making the point. Most people will immediately read and understand a ten sentence email. Send them a 10,000-word document and they’ll likely scan the highlights, save it for later and you risk it not being read fully. People appreciate brevity. Remember, if your objective is to tell the reader what time it is, you don’t need to explain how to build a clock!

2. Before sending, ALWAYS reread your message and double check for grammar and misused words.
It’s obvious to most of us to use spell check after we’ve composed our message. You should also make it standard procedure to reread your entire message before sending. Often times, you’ll notice words which have been left out, grammar that’s incorrect and worst of all – words witch our spilled write butt knot used inn the write weigh. (Note, that this last sentence runs through a spell checker perfectly.) How many times have you caught something too late, making your only option to curse at your spell-checking software!

3. Copy back salient points when replying to an earlier message.
Most people receive hundreds of emails every week. When you combine that with face-to-face meetings and phone calls, it’s dangerous to assume your recipient will remember your earlier exchange. Which of these messages has the greater chance for reader confusion?

"Sure, sounds fine... Please proceed."
You wrote: Hi Jody, Are you okay with the proposed color scheme on the new brochure? I'd like to print it next week.
"Sure, sounds fine... Please proceed."

It’s frustrating when someone sends you an email, with a specific answer but you’re unable to recall the original issue. This problem is largely avoidable by copying a portion of the original message alluding to the context.

4. Use specific subject line descriptions.

Since many email messages go back and forth several times over the course of many weeks, it’s important to accurately describe what the reader will find inside.

Considering the level of spam and anti-spam software in place today, you can’t afford to risk your message not being delivered because of a generic or poorly worded subject line. A subject line such as, “What do you think” doesn’t tell the recipient much. “Need your suggestions for options re: acct#45619 – Robinson Inc.” is more specific. Remember, a legitimate message coming from your plant in Hong Kong advising you that “they’ve still had no luck increasing the prototype by 3 inches” is unlikely to ever make it past today’s spam filters!

5. Realize that once your message is sent, THERE’S NO GETTING IT BACK!

Email communication in the workplace has been around about ten years. Before the 90s, if you composed a letter later deemed too harsh or in poor taste, there were more steps involved before the message was sent. Today, the stakes are much higher. People can literally ruin their career with a single 60-second lapse in judgment, by sending the wrong message to someone.

Email is also ridiculously easy to edit and forward. Keep in mind that sending a message to one person can eventually be viewed by many other unintended parties. Always double-check the recipient line before sending any email. Horror stories about messages accidentally copied to “ALL” are becoming routine.

As a rule, it’s a good idea to never put anything in writing that a reasonable person would consider to be confidential or dangerous. If your situation dictates you email such information, try to word your message in as factual and balanced a way as possible. As you write, imagine that the person you’re writing about eventually sees your message. Stick to facts, not opinions.

6. Practice the 24-hour rule when you’re upset.
It’s never a good idea to send an email when you’re angry. We’ve all been guilty of this. In the heat of the moment we type up a literary bombast. A message that will reduce the recipient to mush. We even reread it, and we’re actually sort of proud at how powerful the wording is. We imagine the recipient opening and cringing as he/she reads our words. Then we send it.

Only later, after we calm down, we revisit the message and realize that we dramatically overreacted. But it’s too late to do anything now, except apologize and try to mend fences. This is more common than you think.

If you compose an email in anger, wait a predetermined period of time before sending it. If your emotions are legit, then your issue will still be there tomorrow. But in 95% of the cases, you’ll be glad you waited and toned things down after you’ve gain the perspective that can only come with some additional time.

7. Avoid sh-cuts and abbr. in biz email msgs.
Anyone with a teenager knows you practically need a CIA decoder chart to understand the abbreviations and shortcuts that are popular in email, pagers, text messages and instant messages. These cutesy short cuts and misspellings are ill advised to use in any corporate context, no matter if your customer is external or internal. Even common shortcuts like LOL (laughing out loud), BRB (be right back), 2 (to) and u r (you are) are simply too casual for most business communication. What’s hip to one sender can be read as flip and disrespectful by another reader. Since a casual message to a coworker could easily be forwarded, it’s best to practice the same high level of professionalism no matter who you're writing to.

8. Don’t Forward Viral Messages.
What’s that you say? You’d only forward important messages on to your coworkers and friends? Not so fast.

Unlike obvious computer viruses that involve actual destructive code, many messages are viral in nature, in that they are purposefully crafted so you’ll send them on to friends with the idea that you weren’t positive if this was real but wanted to be sure they saw it just in case! Although not usually harmful, these emails prey on normally smart individuals desire to inform others.

Everyday, intelligent people who would never consider themselves gullible forward on hoax messages about:

  • Pending Congressional taxes on emails
  • Avoiding waking up in a hotel bathtub of ice - minus your kidneys
  • Easy steps for getting some of Bill Gates/Disney/AOL’s money
  • How to delete viruses from your pc (which are actually legit Windows’ files your system needs)
  • Child abductions at giant retailers
  • A widow from Zimbabwe begging you to look after her $18,000,000 if you’ll just give her your bank account number.

The list goes on. If you are the recipient of an email message you think is relevant to your friends and family, run it by this test: Copy and paste a few words from the message into along with the word “hoax”. If the returns come back showing articles claiming the message is a fake, save everyone in your address book some time by hitting the delete key! The same rule applies to jokes and pictures which would be deemed as inappropriate by your employer.*

While there may not be a silver bullet that saves us from an onslaught of never ending messages, common sense practices can make our business email correspondence more effective and productive every working day.

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Tips for networking
Are you nervous when you attend a cocktail party, a trade show dinner or an informal reception? These tips will help:

  • Approach people who are standing alone or in odd-numbered groups. That way, you won't feel as if you're interrupting a private conversation.
  • Be the first to say "Hello." If you don't know anybody, say so. That helps to break the ice.
  • Listen more than you speak. The more interested you seem, the more interesting you will become. Ask questions and aim to learn at least one new thing about each person you meet.
  • Give yourself a break. Small talk and mingling can be stressful, so take time to refill your drink and get something to eat. Remember to eat and drink wisely: Drink alcohol sparingly, if at all, and don't hog all the food.

Competitive Advantage e-zine, formerly Sales and Marketing Strategies & News E-zine, is published by Douglas Publications LLC.
Visit us at

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Event gives Rockford woman a chance to bloom: Meet ACOM’s CVB CSM of the Year Theresa Sellers
By Elizabeth Davies

The planters were hanging, the weeds had been pulled and the flowers were planted.

That done, it was Theresa Sellers’ job to roll out the red carpet.

Sellers was the hostess in charge of making sure everything ran smoothly when 350 people arrived in Rockford last fall for the 2007 America in Bloom conference. Leaders from around the country were spending three days in the Rock River Valley to discuss community beautification and to honor cities that did it well.

It seemed like a simple task, but keeping all 350 people happy meant setting aside hotel rooms, planning city tours and impressing visitors with Rockford’s best. Sellers wrapped gifts and posted welcome signs around town. In all, she spent “hours and hours” over the course of two years helping to plan the event.

And in the end, her hard work paid off. The America in Bloom representative was so impressed by Sellers that she nominated her for the 2007 Convention Service Manager of the Year for CVB by the Association for Convention Operations Management and Successful Meetings Magazine.

“I was a go-between, helping them find suppliers, being their meeting planner’s assistant in a city they don’t know,” said Sellers, a 26-year-old group sales manager at the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “A lot of my role deals with making sure that events coming to town have everything they need.”

Because Rockford wasn’t just the host for America in Bloom — it also was a competitor — Sellers put extra effort into making sure that Rockford was perfectly showcased.

She coordinated tours of area gardens, set up a reception at the Coronado Performing Arts Center and arranged seminars at the Clock Tower Resort and Conference Center.

“Our biggest challenge was making sure people got on the right bus and all the attendees had everything they needed to have a good time,” Sellers said. “It was one of the most prestigious events I’ve worked on.”

She also spent plenty of time hearing from America in Bloom participants, and learning about the organization’s push to increase civic pride by making their communities look better.

“It’s neat to see adults excited and passionate about beautifying their cities, and bragging about their hometowns,” Sellers said. “It was fun because, as a visitors bureau, we’re always bragging about Rockford.”

That’s also why this Rockford native is so passionate about getting the people of the Rock River Valley to enjoy their community just as much as out-of-towners do. She hopes people can get past the misconception that there’s nothing to do in Rockford.

“There’s so much to do,” she said. “People get in a rut of (going to) the same six places. They forget how to be a tourist in their own hometown.”
About Theresa Sellers
Age: 26
City: Rockford

What do you do in your spare time? I’m out with friends downtown. I spend a lot of time at events — there’s something going on in Rockford every week. If it isn’t something I planned, I’m going there to check it out.

Which local places do you recommend to visitors? Chocolat by Daniel, J.R. Kortman Center for Design and Carlyle Brewing Company.

Did your time with America in Bloom make you a better gardener? I have a black thumb. I could kill a cactus if you let me. So it’s completely ironic that it was America in Bloom that nominated me for this award!

Copyright © 2008 GateHouse Media, Inc. Some Rights Reserved.

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Capital Cities Collection Offers Convenience and Geographic Diversity
To Busy Meeting Planners

Busy meeting planners looking for a rotation of culturally distinct and geographically diverse cities will find a time-saving solution with launch of the Capital Cities Collection. A collaborative sales and marketing effort among state capitals Baton Rouge, La., Providence, R.I., Raleigh, N.C. and St. Paul, Minn., the Capital Cities Collection will allow planners to enjoy the outstanding facilities, services and amenities of four destinations that are similar in size and amount of available meeting space.

“As the meeting and convention market becomes more crowded and competitive, Providence and our partners in like-minded, similar-sized cities see the importance of collaboration,” said Martha Sheridan, president and CEO of the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It makes sense fiscally for us to pool our resources and it allows the meeting planner to select four different, dynamic destinations in a simpler, more efficient way.”

Each city offers easily accessible convention facilities in the heart of their downtown areas. Yet, each capital offers a unique visitor experience, from the rich Cajun heritage of Baton Rouge to the gorgeous Victorian architecture of St. Paul. Raleigh is home to a vibrant arts community, while Providence mixes urban sophistication with small town charm.

“As capitals of similar sized, yet geographically diverse cities, we are excited to pool our resources and work together to bring meetings and conventions to our unique destinations.” said Karolyn Kirchgesler, president and CEO of the Saint Paul Convention and Visitors Authority.

As part of the initiative, the Capital Cities Collection has establish a distinct brand
with the creation of a logo, Web site (, and a comprehensive fact sheet about the four destinations that will become part of each city’s sales presentation.

“We are pleased to be a part of this cooperative marketing effort with the great cities of Providence, Raleigh and St. Paul” said Paul J. Arrigo, CDME, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “This strategic partnership will allow us to cross market our capital cities in all regions of the country.”

The group is also planning to tout the program at several meeting planner events and conferences beginning this spring.

"As the meeting and convention industry continues to grow and become more competitive, the Capital Cities Collection offers meeting planners a packaged solution to site selection, thereby saving them time and money," said Denny Edwards, president and CEO of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau. "By collaborating with these similar cities, in size and product, we are able to offer meeting planners a ready made geographical rotation of unique destinations."

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On the Move

Greater Lansing CVB Executive Inducted Into Hall of Fame
The Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau is pleased to announce its Senior Vice President and ACOM Board of Director, Julie Pingston, CMP, was recently voted into the Michigan Meetings & Events Magazine inaugural Hall of Fame. The distinguished group of 2007 inductees has been recognized as best-of-class in the meetings industry and have demonstrated outstanding work and significantly contributed to the industry. Pingston was formally recognized in the category of Best Supplier.

Pingston has been with the GLCVB for 15 years and works in conjunction with the Bureau’s President in overall organizational operations. She also has direct oversight over convention services, sports services, membership and special events which are coordinated by the organization. Previously, she worked in Washington, D.C. for the United States Travel & Tourism Administration within the U.S. Department of Commerce. Pingston is an alum of Alma College in Alma, Michigan.

Julie has been an active member of ACOM for 18 years. She is currently on the Board of Directors as well as the Continuing Education Committee Chair. Congratulations, Julie!

Abby Podkul, CMP
Abby Podkul has moved on to new endeavors from Event Manager at America’s Center to Commodity Classic Manager at American Soybean Association. Abby is responsible for managing their annual convention, called the Commodity Classic. Abby’s contact information is:

American Soybean Association
12125 Woodcrest Executive Dr., Suite 100
St. Louis, MO 63141
314-754-1345 (direct)
800-688-7692, ext. 1345 (toll free)
314-567-2786 (fax)

Congratulations, Abby! We wish you the best of luck!

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Do what you do so well that they will
want to see it again and bring their friends.

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