Alicia Perez-Arrieta

Why Meeting Planners Need Housing Partners

By Alicia Perez-Arrieta, CMP, Director, Client Management, Connections Housing

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Before joining Connections Housing, I was a meeting planner for more than 25 years. Throughout my career I worked with groups of all sizes and never once used a housing company for my events. Knowing what I know now I can’t believe it. My life could have been so much easier!

Strategic Partnership

Meeting planners have so much to worry about – from planning a program to making sure the buses are waiting outside. When you partner with a housing provider, you’re adding yet another level of service to your client offerings. Consider:

It's Complicated.

From contracts to those ever-present room poachers and pirates, housing is a multi-faceted part of any event. Your housing partner’s expertise in this channel allows them to really drill down to cover every part of the housing equation so you can focus on other things. We monitor your room blocks and booking patterns. We make sure concessions are built into your contract. We have insights into the city and hotels and know which ones should be part of your block. We’re paying attention to the smallest detail - daily reservations, inventory, etc. -- to make sure you’re completely buttoned up on the housing front.

It's a Partnership.

Your housing partner is exactly that – a partner, an extension of your team. Here at Connections, we can customize our service offerings to represent you to the extent you want to be represented. As a full service sourcing, housing and event management firm, we can help with everything from contract negotiation to site selection.

It's all About Collaboration.

Under your direction, guidance and parameters, we also work with convention and visitors bureaus and the national sales offices of hotels. We are not in competition with each other – or you. Rather, we represent you and can pool all our knowledge and areas of expertise to help you create a fabulous experience for your attendees.

It's the Big Picture View.

Throughout the event cycle, we are gathering data and analyzing booking patterns to make sure everything is on track. After the event we provide comprehensive wrap-up reports with historical information that can be very valuable to you in planning your next event.

At the end of the day it’s all about providing top level service to your customer. So much more than a supplier, a housing company can help you deliver a memorable event and a positive client experience. You’ll sleep better, too!

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Top 10 Reasons to Use a Professional Travel Service Provider

By Edie Gupton, Travel Services Manager, Connections Housing

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As a full-service sourcing, housing and event management company, we have watched the pendulum swing from one end of the spectrum to the other when it comes to group travel planning needs. Early on, clients looked to travel service providers for everything – hotels, car rental, flights and more. As online travel agencies (OTAs) evolved, clients decided to use professionals for convention/meeting housing but began booking their own flights and other travel needs. That’s changing. Clients are seeing the benefits a professional travel service provider can offer that they just can’t get on their own, including:

Airport lobby
  1. Bringing Everyone In For Less. We are able to offer meeting fares. When you have attendees coming in from different locations to one central place, we are able to secure the best rates and itineraries.
  2. Bringing Everyone In Together. We can also offer group fares for 10 or more attendees traveling on the same flight. We find competitive fares, flexible ticketing options and book it all for you.
  3. Bringing Everyone in Together...Even When You’re Not Quite Sure Who Everyone Is Yet. As part of the group fare offering, we can hold a certain number of seats so everyone can travel together once your plans are finalized. So say, for example, you end up with some changes to members of your group or team. On your own you’d be holding non-refundable, non-transferable tickets. Most group contracts have provisions for travel service providers that allow us to make name changes without fees so we can finalize your list until a few days prior to departure.
  4. Getting You Back and Forth with Ease. In addition to groups, we’re also a convenient, one-stop resource for individual flight needs, too.
  5. Inside Access to the Big Picture. We have access to tools like Global Distribution Systems to do price comparisons across the full spectrum of airlines. With OTAs you’re only seeing what they choose for you to see in terms of flights and rates. We’re able to look objectively at all available offerings to find the best possible rates.
  6. Thinking Outside the Box. We’ve been doing this for years. We know which airlines serve which routes. So we can get creative. For example, if you or one of your attendees isn’t near a preferred airport, we can come up with great travel alternatives that save time and money – and still get you where you need to be.
  7. Offering a Helping Hand (And a Live Voice!) When The Unexpected Happens. When things unravel, as they inevitably do (flight delays, cancellations etc...), we have your back. Rather than waiting on hold to talk to an unknown OTA representative, we are the one to call. There’s no middle man. We will help you resolve the issue and find the solution.
  8. Providing Great Last-Minute Solutions. As hotels sell-out or pass those cut-off dates for last minute reservations, we can help. Using Global Distribution Systems, we have access to all sorts of hotel rooms and rates. And, unlike those OTAs, we can book them for you without pre-payment.
  9. Advising On International Travel Documentation. Travel document requirements differ from country to country. And they change from time to time too. We stay on top of this and make sure you know how to access important visa and other travel documentation needed for your upcoming trip.
  10. Saving You Time and Money. You are busy. Time is money. We will save you both -- with the peace of mind that you are getting the best possible rates, itineraries and customer service to meet your needs.
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Connections Housing Setting the Standards in the Industry

VISIT PHOENIX PARTNERS WITH CONNECTIONS HOUSING FOR MEETING & EVENT HOUSING MANAGEMENT



PHOENIX, AZ (February 25, 2016) – Visit Phoenix, the convention and visitors bureau for Greater Phoenix, has named Connections Housing as its preferred housing partner. The partnership represents the next step in ongoing efforts to further strengthen and enhance the high-touch service and level of support Visit Phoenix provides to organizations bringing conventions and other events to the Greater Phoenix area.

Connections Housing is the preferred provider Visit Phoenix recommends to organizations seeking housing and event management support. As a full-service provider, the Connections team will offer comprehensive housing solutions for everything from reservations and room block management to pre-event and on-site meeting management, attrition prevention, and more.

“We’ve been working closely with Connections for the past year and know that they share our customer service commitment,” says James Jessie, Sr. Vice President, Sales, Visit Phoenix. “This partnership allows us to optimize our core competency by enhancing all aspects of the destination experience while leveraging the resources and expertise offered by Connections Housing. The Connections team has strong relationships with our hotel and client community and has proven their ability to custom-tailor housing strategies to meet the unique needs of groups of all sizes. We are proud to make Connections an extension of our team.”

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to take our relationship with Visit Phoenix to the next level,” adds Brad Weaber, chief operating officer, Connections Housing. “Phoenix has so much to offer and we look forward to working closely with our friends here at Visit Phoenix to make sure that their event stakeholders and attendees have the best possible travel experience.”

ABOUT VISIT PHOENIX

Visit Phoenix is a not-for-profit organization that markets Greater Phoenix as a travel and meetings destination with offices in Washington DC area, Chicago and Texas, and serves as the primary booking agent for the Phoenix Convention Center. Greater Phoenix encompasses 2,000 square miles and more than 20 incorporated cities, including Glendale, Scottsdale, Tempe and Mesa, Maricopa County. The area offers more than 62,000 rooms in approximately 450 hotels and resorts. For information on Phoenix meetings and conventions, go to www.visitphoenix.com or call 877.CALLPHX

ABOUT CONNECTIONS HOUSING

Founded in 1986, Connections Housing has emerged as one of the fastest growing full-service sourcing, housing and event management companies in the industry. Bringing unmatched customer service, knowledge and experience together with the latest technology, the company has maintained a 98% retention rate of clients in a host of different industries. With offices in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Washington, DC, Connections Housing provides sourcing, housing and event management services to a number of the Tradeshow Top 200 and successfully manages more than 150 events each year ranging in size from 10 to 100,000+ attendees. For more information, visit www.connectionshousing.com or call 404.842.0000.

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Connections Housing Setting the Standards in the Industry

CONNECTIONS HOUSING NAMED OFFICIAL HOUSING PARTNER FOR LA AUTO SHOW®



ATLANTA (February 9, 2016) -- Full-service sourcing, housing and event management company Connections Housing has been named the official housing partner for the Los Angeles Auto Show (LA Auto Show®).

As part of the new partnership, Connections Housing will handle all housing needs for the 2016, 2017 and 2018 editions of the nation’s biggest car buying market. With offices in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Washington, DC, and two full-service, fully-owned call centers, Connections will oversee all aspects of the housing process – from contracting and room block management to reservations and post-show analysis.

“We are thrilled to partner with a leading housing provider that shares our commitment to delivering a high-touch level of customer service,” said Terri Toennies, executive vice president and general manager, LA Auto Show. “Connections’ strong relationship with the LA hotel community and solid service reputation, coupled with impressive technology capabilities and a proven track record of increasing hotel pick-up, were just a few of the reasons we knew they were the right fit for us. We look forward to working with the Connections team to offer a seamless housing experience to our exhibitors and press, trade and consumer attendees.”

“We are honored to have the opportunity to provide housing services for such a world class event as the LA Auto Show,” said Brad Weaber, chief operating officer, Connections Housing. “We understand the specialized needs of each sector of the LA Auto Show audience. And, we have a custom-tailored plan in place – backed by our dedicated team, cutting edge technology and signature service commitment – to deliver the best possible booking and accommodation experience.”

ABOUT THE LOS ANGELES AUTO SHOW AND CONNECTED CAR EXPO

The Los Angeles Auto Show is the first major North American auto show of the season. Press & Trade Days for the 2016 LA Auto Show® include the Connected Car Expo (CCE) and will be held on Nov. 15 - 17. The Los Angeles Auto Show and Connected Car Expo Press & Trade Days have become the trade show for the new automotive industry. Established leaders and emerging innovators from the automotive and technology industries convene in what is hailed as the car culture capital of the world to shape and unveil the new era of transportation in front of the world’s most influential media. The LA Auto Show is endorsed by the Greater L.A. New Car Dealers Association and is operated by ANSA Productions. The show will be open to the public Nov. 18 - Nov. 27. To receive the latest show news and information, follow LA Auto Show on Twitter or via Facebook and sign up for alerts at www.laautoshow.com For more information about CCE, please visit www.connectedcarexpo.com.

ABOUT CONNECTIONS HOUSING

Founded in 1986, Connections Housing has emerged as one of the fastest growing full-service sourcing, housing and event management companies in the industry. Bringing unmatched customer service, knowledge and experience together with the latest technology, the company has maintained a 98% retention rate of clients in a host of different industries. With offices in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Washington, DC, Connections Housing provides sourcing, housing and event management services to a number of the Tradeshow Top 200 and successfully manages more than 150 events each year ranging in size from 10 to 100,000+ attendees. For more information, visit www.connectionshousing.com or call 404.842.0000.

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Featured Guest Blog: A Conversation With Hotel Poachers

By Mark Roberti, Founder & Editor, RFID Journal | Shared from RFID Journal Blog

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I received a call the other day from a company called National Travel Associates, asking if I was exhibiting at RFID Journal LIVE!, being held in Orlando, Fla., on May 3-5. I said I was. I knew immediately that this was one of the bottom-fishing companies that pretend to represent an event in an attempt to grab some easy commission business.

Sure enough, the person on the other end of the line told me, "I'm working with the event organizer and the convention center to arrange travel for exhibitors. Have you booked your rooms yet?"

I played along to see where this would go. "No," I said, "I have not gotten around to it." He asked how many rooms I need. I said "Around 50 rooms for the duration of the event," and asked, "Were you hired by the event organizer?"

He dodged the question. I asked if he had any relationship with RFID Journal, the company organizing the event. "We work with the convention center," he said.

"Are you an agent for the convention center?" I asked. He dodged my question again and, when pressed, finally admitted that no, he had no formal relationship with the convention center but could get me rooms at rates below what the show organizer was offering.

"Great," I said. "I'm interested."

The caller connected me to someone who could actually book the rooms for me. I told her I needed 50 rooms for four nights throughout the event dates. I said I wanted to stay at the Hilton, next to the convention center. She said she would see what she could do.

I waited on hold for a while. Finally, the woman came back and said she could book me 20 rooms at the Hilton during the early May dates I needed, and that the rate would be $389.

"You're kidding," I said. "The show organizer is offering those rooms at $220 per night."

She assured me that I would not get those rates during the four nights of the event, and that I might get them once. I asked if she was sure. She said "Yes, the shows post a low rate to get you interested, but you have to pay higher rate for most nights."

I replied: "That's interesting, because I am the show organizer and I signed the contract with the Hilton, so I know that rate will be offered for each night of the event, and we have plenty of rooms in our block available to exhibitors."

At that point, she hung up on me.

I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The company simply responded that it did not misrepresent itself, which I hotly disputed.

It's unfortunate that companies like this—and there are certainly others out there—are trying to take advantage of unsuspecting exhibitors. I encourage you to avoid these third-party agents and book at one of the official event hotels, the Rosen Centre or the Hilton, directly with Connections Housing, our official housing bureau. They will secure you the rate posted on the event site’s Hotel/Venue page if you book before Mar. 31, as long as rooms don't sell out before then. I promise.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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Connections Housing Setting the Standards in the Industry

CONNECTIONS HOUSING NAMES WEABER CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER

Convention Housing/Event Management Leader Announces Additional Executive Team Promotions to Drive Further Growth



ATLANTA (January 4, 2016) -- Full-service sourcing, housing and event management company Connections Housing has made a series of executive team promotions to enhance its continued growth and customer services focus. Brad Weaber has assumed the role of Chief Operating Officer; Robert Colvin has been named Executive Vice President; and Jena Greer has been named Senior Vice President, Operations. The announcement comes from company founders and co-owners, Nancy Hallberg and Kris Sieradzki.

Brad Weaber

In the newly created post of Chief Operating Officer, Brad Weaber will continue to focus on growth and expansion initiatives, overall executive oversight of operations, social media, industry relations and corporate branding. He will also cultivate external speaking engagements, industry thought leadership and the development of a client advisory board. Previously Chief Innovation Officer for Connections, Weaber joined the company in 2014 from the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau where he served as Executive Vice President. He reports to Connections co-owners Nancy Hallberg and Kris Sieradzki.

“Over the past year Brad has played an invaluable role in helping us oversee some of the most significant changes, new business opportunities and overall growth activity in our company’s history,” says Hallberg.

“Brad has an incredible ability to motivate people and understands how to balance and spur growth -- without sacrificing our critical customer service commitment. He is absolutely the right person to help shepherd our company into its next phase of growth,” adds Sieradzki.

Robert Colvin

In other executive team developments, Robert Colvin, CEM, has been promoted from Vice President to Executive Vice President. In addition to his current role directing all housing, operations, call center and travel services of the company’s Las Vegas office, Colvin will now also oversee the Chicago account management team and transition the reporting of Atlanta office housing operations to his purview. Colvin will assume responsibility of all housing managers, as well as call center, travel and other housing operations of all offices by March 1, 2016. Colvin will report to Brad Weaber.

Jena Greer

In addition, Jena Greer has been promoted from Vice President, Operations to Senior Vice President, Operations. Over the next three months, Greer will work closely with Weaber and Colvin to fine-tune housing operations and be heavily involved in best practice sharing/creation. She will also spearhead important research and development initiatives, fine-tune and enhance technology offerings, and serve as top advisor on sales opportunities as they relate to ongoing technology enhancements.

“Company founders Nancy Hallberg and Kris Sieradzki are true visionaries who understand just how important it is to evolve and align corporate resources in the highest impact manner possible to sustain momentum and prepare for future growth,” says Weaber. “From the tremendous results Robert has generated in building our Las Vegas office, to Jena’s tireless efforts to ensure that our cutting-edge technological and service offerings always exceed client expectations, their proven track records and industry insights assure that we will meet our strategic goals. I’m so excited to be working with each of them, and the entire talented Connections team, as we poise our company for continued success.”

Connection Housing has experienced significant growth in recent years. In 2015, the company made a number of new hires, new business acquisitions, and opened a new sales and account management office in Washington DC. In 2014, the company also announced an expansion and relocation of its west coast operations, sales, marketing and call center in Las Vegas, as well as the addition of airline ticketing and travel services to the full roster of housing and meeting management services it provides to its clients.

ABOUT CONNECTIONS HOUSING

Founded in 1986, Connections Housing has emerged as one of the fastest growing full-service sourcing, housing and event management companies in the industry. Bringing unmatched customer service, knowledge and experience together with the latest technology, the company has maintained a 98% retention rate of clients in a host of different industries. With offices in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Washington, DC, Connections Housing provides sourcing, housing and event management services to a number of the Tradeshow Top 200 and successfully manages more than 150 events each year ranging in size from 10 to 100,000+ attendees. For more information, visit www.connectionshousing.com or call 404.842.0000.

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Brad Weaber

Why Use A Housing Partner Series | Part Two: Using Housing Management Services Saves Money and Time

By Brad Weaber, Chief Innovation Officer

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The many compelling reasons as to why your organization should take a stronger look at moving towards working with a housing management partner fall into three basic areas—creating a memorable event; reducing overall costs; and increasing peace of mind through a professional approach. In this second of a four-post series, let’s review the savings to your organization in both money and time.

Arrows and bar graph showing growth

Organizations not using professional housing management company play roulette with future room blocks. This approach could have dire outcomes for both attendees and the organization as a whole. Now, more than ever, partnering with a savvy housing management company protects you from risk and maximizes the value you bring to major convention cities.

Guaranteeing rooms and fulfilling that agreement in a city gives your organization the opportunity for better room rates, discounts on food and beverage, and meeting space at the hotels and the convention center. Without accurate, concrete booking information, you will lose negotiating leverage and will not be able to book the cities you need and want for future meetings. Your Annual Meeting will lose attendees and the meeting’s value will decrease. Ultimately the organization will pay the price.

When Connections becomes involved in managing your housing process, we are confident that we will save your organization both money and time in more ways than one. Here are just a few ways we will achieve this when working with your organization.

We Aggressively Increase Room Blocks – Connections has a strong history of increasing our client’s room blocks through applying numerous strategies we have learned over the years. All of these strategies and processes take numerous human hours to implement and a certain skill set to put into action. In the end, you will see a significant growth in your room block, protect you from costly attrition and boost your comps and concessions. This approach not only saves you money and time but your bank will grow as well, if there are rebates included in your rates.

Manage your Hotel Contracts – We all know that this can definitely be a full-time job within any association. We are not looking to take over anyone’s job but only to partner and serve as your advocate and advisor. However, if needed, Connections can manage the entire sourcing process, manage your hotel and convention center contracts, and numerous addendums. We are aggressive with all contracts, immediately completing addendums for each hotel to include clauses that will help us better manage your housing process including cut-off dates, Cancel/Replace, and, in many cases, we negotiate no attrition for our clients. We also work with you to tweak all future contracts to include more clauses that produce revenue back to your organization.

Monitor Rates Online – Monitoring is also an area that can evolve into a full-time job and most associations just don’t have the bandwidth to perform this much needed task. On a bi-weekly basis, we monitor online rates to ensure you receive the lowest rate at each hotel. If there are lower rates online, we contact the hotel to have them drop the online rate or reduce your group’s rate immediately. This step is often a huge money saver in many ways – convention rates are lowered and it also keeps attendees within the room bocks when the online lower rates are no longer available.

Protection from Pirate Companies – Pirating of convention attendees has become a huge challenge in our industry, growing into a billion dollar business. It takes an aggressive, proactive approach to educate your Exhibitors and Attendees to avoid falling prey to the pirate companies. We take the time to communicate to each attendee instructing them to trust only Connections in regard to booking hotel rooms. Again, this is a task that an association does not have time to manage and by educating each attendee that these pirates exist, will keep more attendees in the room block.

At Connections Housing, customer service has shaped how we conduct business and interact with our clients at every level since 1986. As a team member and partner, we are available to address your organization’s unique concerns. When planning future events—meetings, conferences and conventions—consider the ways our team will make your life easier and to increase your return of these activities.

About Brad Weaber: A seasoned industry veteran actively involved in industry organizations, including ASAE, IAEE, PCMA, he brings a wealth of experience to clients working with Connections Housing. He can be reached at 703.447.6572. www.connectionshousing.com

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Nancy Hallberg

Simply Awesome Cities Spotlight | San Antonio, TX

By Nancy Hallberg, Co-Owner, Connections Housing

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Visitors to San Antonio find a unique mix of history, cultural diversity, and attractions to more than fill their calendars. For 300 years or more, Mexican, European, Asian, African and Western traditions have come together to create this matchless metropolitan area. The nation’s seventh largest city offers all the services required by meeting and event professionals for a memorable event:

Bio-science and healthcare are two growth industries in what is sometimes called Military City, USA. San Antonio is home to Joint Base San Antonio, the largest base organization in the U.S. Department of Defense and one of the nation's largest active and retired military populations.

San Antonio International Airport. Two terminals service an average of 260 daily domestic and international flights with a total of more than 8 million passengers on more than 13 airlines, according to 2012 stats. Arriving visitors are approximately eight miles or 15 minutes from downtown.

Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center,located in the heart of the city on the River Walk, boasts four exhibit halls with over 440,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space; three ballrooms with large pre-function areas; a 2,300 seat theatre complete with state-of-the-art sound system; 67 meeting rooms; and 45 loading dock bays.

The convention center stands in the shadow of the Tower of the Americas, a 750-foot tall facility topped with a revolving restaurant and observation deck, a legacy of the 1968 San Antonio World’s Fair. Nearby the Alamodome’s Illusions Theatre can configure from 3,785-11,000 seats. With the Alamodome you get the advantage of both a convention center and a dome without the drawbacks of either, plus the capability to accommodate assemblies and tradeshows. The city is packed with museums, restaurants and history offering one-off venues to make any event sparkle.

Housing/Lodging. San Antonio is known for providing convention housing that ranges from luxury to economy. Whether you are seeking hotels, motels, inns, resorts or spas, the city has a place to lay your heads.

San Antonio River Walk

Downtime. The very visible Alamo contrasts with the modern city surrounding it and is one of many sights along with the Riverwalk, Institute of Texan Cultures and Market Square. San Antonio offers a bounty for food lovers with acclaimed restaurants, local diners, and markets.

The city’s five missions represent the largest concentration of Spanish colonial missions in North America and have been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Outdoor sculptures and artwork, art galleries, more than 25 museums, over 40 performing arts stages and many cultural arts festivals round out the cultural offerings.

Family attractions include SeaWorld® San Antonio and Six Flags® Fiesta Texas, Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort, Splashtown San Antonio and Morgan’s Wonderland. Sports options include the NBA San Antonio Spurs, the WNBA Stars, San Antonio Rampage hockey game, the Missions for minor league baseball, and the San Antonio Scorpions for soccer. Also popular are the more than 50 golf courses.

You’ll find more details at www.visitsantonio.com. San Antonio ranks high on my awesome city list after working with groups of many sizes and needs to create successful events. I’m happy to answer questions about finding the best city for your conference, meeting or convention needs at 404.358-7100 or nancy@atlantaconnections.com.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Thankful!



As we pause to give thanks this season, we wanted to take this opportunity to say how thankful we are for you, our clients, hotel partners and other wonderful industry associates.

We truly appreciate your business, loyalty and the confidence you place in our ability to effectively meet your housing, sourcing and event management needs.

We wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving and wonderful start to the holiday season!

Your friends at Connections Housing
Atlanta | Las Vegas | Washington, DC

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Judy Kent

Why Use A Housing Partner Series | Part One: Overall Benefits

By Judy Kent

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Overall Benefits of Using Housing Management Services

While our industry undergoes rapid change, more challenges face the meetings and conventions business. Notably, as hotel rates increase, we are seeing a swift shift to a “sellers” market. When rates escalate, hotels cut back on inventory for convention blocks. For organizations this situation means booking first and second tier cities for conventions threatens to become impossible.

Since 1986 Connections Housing, has assisted clients with all aspects of event management—site selection, hotel and convention center contracts, and meeting planning. We began as a housing management company and this service remains a critical focus and link to our industry reputation. The many compelling reasons as to why your organization should take a stronger look at moving towards working with a housing management partner fall into three basic areas—creating a better event; reducing costs, and increasing peace of mind through a professional approach. We will address each point with more detail in three subsequent posts.

Save Your Association Money and Time – Letting a housing management company do the work allows your team to focus on the many additional details of your meeting. Managing your room blocks internally is not time effective. Our focus is 100% on the housing process for your meeting. We work hand in hand with your team to ensure a smooth and effortless housing process from beginning to end. We become part of your team, saving you money as well as time.

Increase the Overall Value of Your Event – Housing Management is a key component to measuring the economic impact of any meeting. Through ongoing housing trend analysis and constant monitoring, housing management maximizes convention room blocks, minimizes attrition risks and increases the overall value of your convention.

Increase Peace of Mind with Professional Support – Can you put a price on removing the worry of the housing process from your plate? Basically, when your association turns everything over, we take it and apply our expertise. We manage your Exhibitors, VIPs, Attendees, your staff and more importantly give you and your team peace of mind. Juggling multiple components when managing your association’s meeting goes beyond your day-to-day job. Rely on our experience to manage this critical and time-consuming segment of your event.

At Connections, customer service is our fundamental tenet and shapes how we conduct business and interact with our clients at every level. As a team member and partner, we are available to address your organization’s unique concerns. When planning future events—meetings, conferences and conventions—consider the ways our team will make your life easier and to increase your return of these activities. The costs are too high to risk missed opportunities.

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Brad Weaber

New Office Enhances Customer Service

By Brad Weaber, Chief Innovation Officer

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According to NewVoiceMedia, poor customer service in the United States costs companies $41 billion each year. WOW! It’s not your imagination: A recent survey of 10,000 consumers indicates that customer service is getting worse. This year’s Global Consumer Pulse Research from Accenture found two thirds of consumers dropped their allegiance to a company and took their business elsewhere due to poor service in 2014. These defections created a “switching economy” worth $6.2 trillion dollars, a 26% increase over 2010. Double WOW!

Peachtree Roach Race

Maintaining a 98% client retention rate is impressive and we are very proud of our record. At Connections Housing, customer service is our fundamental tenet and shapes how we conduct business and interact with our clients at every level. An evaluation we see frequently is “Nice to have a phone call instead of email.” This statement should resonate with anyone concerned about customer service.

We manage more than 150 events annually with 10 to 100,000+ attendees involving multiple facilities, organizations, and hotels 24/7. Our clients have members, employees and customers. If a situation is not promptly resolved, it is not uncommon for one of our co-owners to pick up the phone to have a personal conversation and ensure that everything is on track.

For better interactions with clients for our housing & event management services, Connections Housing recently opened a new office at 1201 15th St, NW, Suite 202, for our Washington, DC metro market and eastern region key account business. This location joins our full-service sales, operations and call centers in Atlanta–corporate headquarters– and Las Vegas. Our philosophy is that close proximity to our current client base in the Washington DC market and surrounding areas increases our accessibility and allows us to truly maximize our customer service offerings. We also look forward to the opportunity to become more engaged with local chapters of industry organizations we support.

Connections Housing is all about maximizing customer service at each touchpoint. We build relationships and partnerships to ensure successful events. As Chief Innovation Officer, finding ways to continually enhance and maintain service levels in a true collaboration sets us apart. Tracy Janosko, Vice President of Sales, Eastern Region, and Alicia Perez-Arrieta, CMP, Director, Client Management, will also work out of our DC office. We are all supported and support a strong network of experienced staff in Atlanta and Las Vegas. We look forward to having face to face conversations with our colleagues in the nation’s capital.

About Brad Weaber: A seasoned industry veteran actively involved in industry organizations, including ASAE, IAEE, PCMA, he brings a wealth of experience to clients working with Connections Housing. He can be reached at 703.447.6572. www.connectionshousing.com

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Connections Housing Setting the Standards in the Industry

CONNECTIONS HOUSING OPENS WASHINGTON, DC OFFICE

New Sales, Account Service Office Joins Growing Housing | Event Management
Company’s Atlanta, Las Vegas Locations



ATLANTA (AUGUST 31, 2015) -- As the next step in a long-term growth strategy for the full-service sourcing, housing and event management company, Connections Housing announces the opening of its new office in Washington, DC. Located at 1201 15th St, NW, Suite 202, the new office will serve as the sales and account management center for the company’s Washington, DC metro market and eastern region key account business. The new location now joins the Connections Housing full-service sales, operations and call centers in Atlanta –its corporate headquarters -- and Las Vegas.

DC Office

The new DC office will provide much needed space for the company’s growing executive management and sales teams. The office will be led by Brad Weaber, former EVP for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, who joined Connections Housing in the newly created post of Chief Innovation Officer at the end of 2014. He is joined by Tracy Janosko, Vice President of Sales, Eastern Region, who will focus on new business development. Alicia Perez-Arrieta, CMP, who came on board in March of 2015 as Director, Client Management, will also work out of the DC office – serving as liaison between Connections Housing and its DC | Eastern region key accounts.

“Washington, DC is a vitally important location for Connections Housing from both a strategic and service standpoint,” explains Weaber. “Close proximity to our current client base in the metro market and surrounding areas increases our accessibility and allows us to truly maximize our customer service offerings. Our DC presence also reflects our long-term commitment to this marketplace – opening the doors for new business growth opportunities.”

Connections Housing has experienced significant growth in recent years. Shortly after Weaber and Perez-Arrieta joined the team, Connections Housing appointed seasoned meeting/hospitality executive Judy Kent to the new post of Vice President, Strategic Sales. Focusing primarily on new business development in the Chicago marketplace, Kent, who came to Connections Housing from Experient, A Maritz Travel Company, will also explore key account growth opportunities in the metro DC and Mid-Atlantic regions. Last year, the company also announced an expansion and relocation of its west coast operations, sales|marketing and call center in Las Vegas, as well as the addition of airline ticketing and travel services to the full roster of housing and meeting management services it provides to its clients.

ABOUT CONNECTIONS HOUSING

Founded in 1986, Connections Housing has emerged as one of the fastest growing full-service sourcing, housing and event management companies in the industry. Bringing unmatched customer service, knowledge and experience together with the latest technology, the company has maintained a 98% retention rate of clients in a host of different industries. With offices in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Washington, DC, Connections Housing provides sourcing, housing and event management services to a number of the Tradeshow Top 200 and successfully manages more than 150 events each year ranging in size from 10 to 100,000+ attendees. For more information, visit www.connectionshousing.com or call 404.842.0000.

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Nancy Hallberg

Simply Awesome Cities Spotlight | Atlanta, GA

By Nancy Hallberg, Co-Owner, Connections Housing

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Metro Atlanta is both my home and an awesome city for meetings, reunions, trade shows or conferences. Seeing the city prepare to host 60,000 runners and walkers plus friends and families for the annual Peachtree Roach Race held on July 4, reminds me of the many sights and services available at my fingertips and worth sharing with you.

Peachtree Roach Race

Beyond top of the line fundamentals, this city ticks all the extras for association, meeting and event professionals with the following:

International airport. The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) located 10 miles from downtown Atlanta covers 4700 acres. Flights serve 150 U.S. destination and more than 75 international cities in 50 countries. The world’s busiest airport, based on passenger traffic, averages 2500 arrivals and departures daily. Ground transportation options include shuttles, taxi and the MARTA rail inside the domestic terminal. For touring downtown, Atlanta Streetcar is a recent addition.

Positioned at the intersection of three interstate highways, metro Atlanta is within easy driving distance for anyone in the southeast.

Venue variety for events of all sizes and styles. Georgia World Congress Center is recognized for its capacity to serve major events. In addition conference facilities are located throughout the metro area in Buckhead and Midtown, near Georgia Institute of Technology or Emory University and the Cobb Galleria. As one of the top convention cities, Atlanta offers entertainment, transportation and catering services that will amaze and engage any group. Experts in healthcare, business and technology are available to enhance your programs.

Hotel housing to suit any budget and group. Atlanta offers more than 10,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the GWCC and downtown attractions, as well as the capacity to lodge groups in the areas noted above. Whether you seek luxury views or reliable budget rooms, we can help you find what you need in Atlanta.

Abundance of restaurants, attractions and resources. Sports, culture, history, attractions and just plain fun—Atlanta has it all. The leading edge culinary stars you’ve seen on Top Chef and Food Network are just the beginning of the diverse dining experiences available.

Cutting the attractions list to 30 or 50 is a challenge: Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, Center for Civil and Human Rights, High Museum of Art and dozens of specialty museums, Centennial Olympic Park, Stone Mountain Park, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Zoo Atlanta, concert facilities. Draws for sports fans include the College Football Hall of Fame, NFL Falcons, NABA Hawks, and MLB Braves. With Philips Arena, Chastain Park, The Tabernacle, The Fox Theater, Gwinnett Convention Center, Aarons Amphitheater, Atlanta Symphony and more, music is always happening. Oh, and did I mention shopping—we are a retail mecca!

Consider awesome Atlanta when scheduling your next event. We’re here to help.

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Nancy Hallberg

Simply Awesome Cities Spotlight | Washington, DC

By Nancy Hallberg, Co-Owner, Connections Housing

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When I visit Washington DC, I am amazed at the beauty of the architecture. Of course the monuments, museums and parks are gorgeous, but it seems every building there is unique and tells a story. I feel a sense of patriotism and history every time I am there. This awesome city checks multiple boxes for meeting and event professionals with:

To highlight metro Washington, I’ve interviewed our Chief Innovation Officer Brad Weaber, who leads our Washington office and is a long-time area resident, for insider comments. If you are attending ASAE Springtime Expo, stop by booth 413 and register for a personal beachfront retreat and a chance to talk with Brad and our Connections Housing team.

Terrific airport & transportation options. As a destination by air, rail and car, Washington is hard to beat. Once you arrive, the walkable city is inviting for pedestrians with plentiful cabs and user-friendly public transportation to reach key area attractions.
Brad’s thoughts: Choices, choices! The metro DC area boasts three major airports (Washington Reagan, Washington Dulles International and Baltimore Washington International), as well as superior rail service up and down the east coast. DC is a gateway city for all types of travelers, local and global.

Unique convention and venue selection. As a bonus, there are iconic views from land and Potomac to plan memorable programs with experts on issues from agriculture to zoology to support your programs.
Brad’s thoughts: In addition to the state-of-the-art Washington DC Convention Center and a myriad of hotel properties with large and flexible meeting space, Washington DC is a host to some of the most memorable meeting experiences and venues. The architecture of DC ranges from the historic and iconic to hip and contemporary -- creating special events to cater to all types of demographics.

Variety of housing to fit all budgets. Whatever your group size or budget, metro Washington offers a selection of properties from Alexandria and Capitol Hill to Georgetown or Embassy Row.
Brad’s thoughts: The hotel landscape is ever changing in DC with the introduction of new properties as well as the constant upgrading of some of the most historic properties in the country. Groups of all types can find a myriad of price points to help attract all types of attendees and all types of budgets. The metro system connects many hotel “neighborhoods” throughout DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia.

Attractions and activities to fill multiple visits. There’s so much to see—most lists start at top 25! Even at an established venue, there are fresh exhibits. Restaurants and shopping abound.
Brad’s thoughts: As a longtime resident of DC the thing I love the most is that every weekend there is something new to explore. Whether you are a history buff, a lover of nature, a foodie or a music aficionado there is something to do for every taste. DC has some of the finest shopping and a food and cocktail scene that rivals any other major city. The parks, theater, historic architecture, outdoor markets, green spaces and overall vibe are why I love to call this city my home!

As you plan your next event, remember awesome Washington, DC!

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Brad Weaber

Heads in Beds: Starting the Customer Service Journey

By Brad Weaber

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"In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts." ― Jeff Bezos

Top companies know that to stay competitive, customer service must be integral and authentic to all operations. Like Rome, effective customer service is not built in a day. This core value provides the infrastructure on which company growth depends, steering decisions on acquisitions, hiring and sales goals. Weak or false claims cannot be hidden.

In the hospitality industry, the bottom line goal is heads in beds…a transaction. At Connections Housing and other smart companies, customer service is in the DNA of the corporate culture. Having a client relationship of a decade is routine here. We are partners focused on achieving success. This approach requires examining each touch point to assess its role in the decision process and to help make each personal decision, well…personal.

What happens before the head meets the bed? The customer journey launches before a single head hits the pillow. The commodity of time (we all have the same 24 hours in a day!) continues to play a pivotal role in most buyer’s decisions. Why should I attend, what is the value of being away from my work, what makes this event better or different from the others? These are all questions that go through every potential traveler and one we all must be able to answer.

The first contact may be unplanned—a phone inquiry or booth visit—or a scheduled meeting that closes a sales strategy. Impressions are made with and without your direct input. However, to close the deal, customers must have confidence that service expectations will be met. This trust opens the door to being more than a vendor and creating a valued relationship. We at Connections Housing understand and respect the role we play in the customer journey…how can we make it easier, more comfortable, and more efficient when you put your head in your temporary bed? Trust me, we think about this all the time!

No contacts in the customer journey can be overlooked. In our industry, you are only as good as your last encounter. To remain successful, keep building relationships and improving the journey with every action, concentrating to perfect the experience.

Taking a team approach means looking forward and deciding the best way to grow and go together based on the same vision. This philosophy of we versus me and you is a differentiator in client relationships. We are at your service!

About Brad Weaber: A seasoned industry veteran actively involved in industry organizations, including ASAE, IAEE, PCMA, he brings a wealth of experience to the clients working with Connections Housing. He can be reached at 703.447.6572. www.connectionshousing.com

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Connections Housing Setting the Standards in the Industry

CONNECTIONS HOUSING NAMES ALICIA PEREZ-ARRIETA DIRECTOR OF CLIENT MANAGEMENT FOR WASHINGTON, DC OFFICE

Press Contact – Suzanne Pruitt | 678.285.0307 | Suzanne@marshmeadowsmarketing.com

ATLANTA ( MARCH 17, 2015) - As part of a continued growth strategy focused on further strengthening and enhancing its client service offerings, Atlanta-based meeting management , convention housing and travel services leader Connections Housing has named Alicia Perez-Arrieta, CMP, Director, Client Management. In this newly created position, Perez-Arrieta will serve as liaison between Connections and its eastern region key accounts, maximizing customer service and business growth opportunities. Working from the company’s Washington, DC office, she will report to Connections Chief Innovation Officer Brad Weaber.

Alicia Perez-Arrieta

With more than 25 years of meeting management experience, Perez-Arrieta comes to Connections from Gatherings, Inc., the meeting management firm she established in 2000 to serve the non-profit sector. With a versatile portfolio of clients, including the National Postal Forum, National Electrical Contractors Association and others, she oversaw every element of the meeting management process – from site selection and hotel negotiations to citywide conventions, speaker management and registration.

“I am thrilled that Alicia has joined our team in the Washington, DC region,” says Brad Weaber, Chief Innovation Officer, Connections Housing. “Her proven background and acute customer service focus, as well as years of experience, promise to enhance the travel and housing experience for our clients.”

Connections has experienced significant growth in recent years. Perez-Arrieta’s new position comes just three months after Weaber joined the company in the newly created post of Chief Innovation Officer. Last year, the company also announced an expansion and relocation of its west coast operations, sales and marketing office in Las Vegas, as well as the recent addition of airline ticketing and travel services to the full roster of housing and meeting management services it provides to its clients.

ABOUT CONNECTIONS HOUSING

Founded in 1986, Connections Housing has emerged as one of the fastest growing meeting planning and housing management companies in the industry. Bringing unmatched customer service, knowledge and experience together with the latest technology, the company has maintained a 98 % retention rate of clients in a host of different industries. Connections Housing provides housing services to several of the Tradeshow Top 200 and successfully manages more than 150 events each year ranging in size from 10 to 100,000 + attendees. For more information, visit www.connectionshousing.com or call the Las Vegas office at 855.476.6976 or (702) 216.5861.

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Nancy Hallberg

Simply Awesome Cities Spotlight | Phoenix

By Nancy Hallberg, Co-Owner, Connections Housing

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Great locations often result in higher attendance, so warm and inviting Phoenix may help your event grow. Greater Phoenix enjoys sunshine during 85 percent of the daylight hours — more than any other major U.S. metro area. In addition to beautiful weather, this awesome city checks multiple boxes for meeting and event professionals with

You’ll find more details at www.visitphoenix.com. I’ve assembled highlights of the solid services and unique assets found in America’s 6th largest city by population. We work with groups of all types and sizes to create successful events in Phoenix, and I’m happy to answer questions.

The Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport serves more than 40 million passengers a year with flights to more than 100 domestic and international destinations via about 20 airlines, making it one of the 10 busiest airports in the nation. Sky Harbor is the only airport in the country with hubs for two major low-fare carriers (US Airways and Southwest Airlines), which is one of the reasons its average round-trip airfare has been below the national average for the past 13 years. Once you arrive, there’s a choice of METRO light rail, taxis, shuttle, and rental cars for transportation.

Civic Space Park Phoenix | Photo courtesy of www.visitphoenix.com

The Phoenix Convention Center boasts nearly 900,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space. Thoughtful touches include air-conditioned loading bays, exhibit halls with pre-scored floors, towering windows and outdoor meeting areas that capitalize on Phoenix’s greatest natural resource — the sun. The centralized and pedestrian-friendly location is within an easy stroll of every downtown hotel and there are always pedicabs.

Meeting space includes three ballrooms (two at street level), 99 meeting rooms, an IACC-certified Executive Conference Center and an adjoining performance hall that seats 2,300. The convention center’s food court offers five themed eateries and the catering staff can feed 360 people every eight minutes using locally farmed produce. CityScape, a 2-block concentration of restaurants, bars and fashion retailers is within easy walking distance of the convention center.

Also located in the heart of downtown, is the 28-acre Phoenix Biomedical Campus with smart options for offsite meetings and tours. This collective gives medical-meeting planners access to expert speakers in education, research, technology and patient care.

Hotels in downtown Phoenix range from historic to boutique and business chic. Greater Phoenix has more than 60,000 guest rooms, and nearly 3,000 are within walking distance of the convention center. Thousands more are situated at beautiful resorts with full-service conference and meeting facilities as well as golf courses, spas and restaurants. In fact, suburban Phoenix has some of the most amazing resorts and spas I have ever seen.

Attractions and activity options abound. Phoenix recently hosted an exciting and esthetically beautiful Super Bowl, where many attendees stayed on to enjoy a great extended vacation. There’s so much to see and do. Did I mention more than 200 golf courses? South Mountain Park and Preserve, the largest municipal park in North America, covers more than 16,500 acres with hiking, biking and equestrian trails.

The amateur sports venues are second to none, attracting events like the SC del Sol President’s Day Soccer Tournament and soccer’s Phoenix Desert Showcase. Greater Phoenix is one of only 13 U.S. cities with franchises in all four major professional sports leagues. Other top attractions include The Phoenix Zoo (home to 1400 animals); The Heard Museum (Native American); The Desert Botanical Garden (world's largest collection of desert plants); and Taliesin West (home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation).

As you plan your next event, remember awesome Phoenix!
Photo courtesy of www.visitphoenix.com

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Jon Mitchell

10 Considerations for Selecting the Perfect Destination for Your Meeting

By Jon Mitchell - VP National Accounts

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The important word in this headline is “your” meeting. Correctly identifying the stakeholders and clearly communicating the purpose to the key players are critical for success. There are similarities, but cookie cutter approaches do not work in selecting a destination.

Not only are the dynamics of each group different, the concerns around a particular event may vary from year to year within the same organization. Although groups may return to the same location annually because of facilities related the purposes, ease of travel or other considerations, reviewing the considerations ensures that your event appeals to your audience.

Presentation made by Sara Hotchkiss, CMP, Business Manager of The General Conference of The United Methodist Church and Jon Mitchell, Vice President of National Accounts with Connections Housing, at the 2015 RCMA Annual Conferenc

The ten questions below were created to focus your thinking and serve as a safeguard to building a sound event blueprint.

  1. What matters to your group?
  2. Will you fit into the destination?
  3. How will you get there and get around?
  4. What is the meeting and hotel infrastructure?
  5. Are there enough things to do?
  6. hat is the lay of the land?
  7. What is worth the experience?
  8. Are they green?
  9. Does the city have destination appeal?
  10. Is the city easy to work with?

Consider each question objectively and response honestly. The responses will generate an excellent guide for your decision making. At Connections Housing, we work with myriad organizations selecting destinations for association meetings, professional conferences, corporate events, symposiums and congresses, trade events, and sporting events. Paying attention to the needs and purpose of each group in choosing a destination allows our team to create successful events and grow attendance.

This post was taken from a presentation made by Sara Hotchkiss, CMP, Business Manager of The General Conference of The United Methodist Church and Jon Mitchell, Vice President of National Accounts with Connections Housing, at the 2015 RCMA Annual Conference. Contact Jon at (404)876-5555 or at jon@connectionshousing.com.

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Brad Weaber

Exceeding Expectations

By Brad Weaber

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Don’t you love our never boring industry? Each day brings new challenges and opportunities in the customer service journey. My multi-faceted career story has helped me develop an appreciation and understanding of many facets: hotel management, event/meeting planner, association management and CVB. What drew me to Connections Housing is the absolute core value of service that resonates throughout this company. Working with a team of industry pros who routinely exceed expectations in service delivery is invigorating. How rare is that to be with a company that exceeds expectations? Trust me….very rare!

The 98 percent client retention record since 1986 says it all.

While the world and our industry continue to change, customer service remains a too often elusive priority. Having a new title is exciting for me and the company. As Chief Innovation Officer, my focus will be on that next generation of best practices to continually improve our top flight customer service, using technology as an accelerator delivered by our customer-centered team. My charge is change management, focusing on social media initiatives, partnerships with destination cities, venues and new programs.

As I meet with long time Connections customers, the comment that stands out repeatedly is “We did not know what we weren’t getting until we came with you.” Being part of the team that generates those accolades makes work fun.

Innovation wears many hats. Connections Housing works as an extension of the customer with the staff volume to support services. Rather than making customers fit into a box of restrictions, we build a custom box. Tailoring to your needs, we serve as a trusted advisor, with the expertise to know what works and what does not. Our goal is to attract, grow & retain attendees for the events; grow pick-up and increase profitability for you.

We make it simple based on a custom-tailored, comprehensive plan. We manage every step of the housing and event process for you, significantly reducing your workload. Using this model for 29 years, Connections Housing is one of the fastest growing meeting planning and housing management companies in the industry. With offices in Atlanta, Las Vegas, South Carolina, Washington, DC, and Oklahoma City, we provide services to a number of the Tradeshow Top 200 and successfully manage more than 150 events each year. I look forward to working with you and our team to exceed expectations.

About Brad Weaber: A seasoned industry veteran actively involved in industry organizations, including ASAE, IAEE, PCMA, he brings a wealth of experience to the clients working with Connections Housing. He can be reached at 703.447.6572. www.connectionshousing.com

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Nancy Hallberg

Simply Awesome Cities Spotlight | Las Vegas

By Nancy Hallberg, Co-Owner, Connections Housing

Photo | Las Vegas Welcome Sign

Always a favorite, Las Vegas serves all sizes and styles. Additionally, Las Vegas ranks # 3 with respect to where meeting planners report they "intend to hold a major meeting in the next three years," according to DestinationMapXV (2013).

More good news for meeting planners, shows rotating into Las Vegas have increases of 8% in attendance. No surprise, this awesome city has been North America’s top convention destination for 20 consecutive years. In fact, we love it so much that Connections Housing recently expanded and relocated our west coast full-service operations, sales and marketing office to 3834 Silvestri Lane, Las Vegas, NV 89120. For convention housing and meeting management made simple call (855)476.6976.

Let me share highlights of what you’ll find courtesy of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Weather

No need to stress over seasonal changes. The warm, dry climate averages 320 days of sunshine annually.

Getting There and Getting Around

Air transportation to Las Vegas is a snap. McCarran International Airport offers daily service with more than 900 daily flights between over 130 U.S and international cities. Close proximity between hotels and venues allows delegates to walk, eliminating the need for transportation in most cases. Options include bus, taxi, shuttles, trams, the country’s first automated monorail, and overhead walkway.

Hotels and Venues

No worries! Las Vegas resorts host more than 22,000 meetings, conventions and incentive programs annually, ranging in size from 10 to 150,000+ attendees. To ensure a positive experience, the city boasts 150,000 hotel rooms with more guest rooms for people with disabilities than any other city in the nation. In addition, 219,000 resort industry employees are available to serve your needs.

With 10.8+ million SF of exhibit and meeting space, Vegas is home to three of the country’s largest convention venues plus space in hotels, non-gaming hotels, showrooms, theaters, sports facilities, and medical/bio training.

Entertainment

AKA The Entertainment Capital of the World, the activities menu exceeds expectations whether business or family focused. Dining ranges from all-you-can eat buffets to fine dining for all tastes and budgets.

Sports know no season. NASCAR, NBA, PGA Tour, Major League Baseball, Professional Bull Riders, AAA Baseball and AA Hockey are among the regular events. Multiple listings are offered for concerts, comedy, magic, variety shows, hypnosis (!), impressionists, and dance from hip-hop to ballet. Attractions include the Mob Museum, gardens and the Freemont Street Experience. Did I mention golf, casinos, spas, shopping, and outdoor recreation?

The Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (LVCVA) averages 250 events with nearly two million attendees annually offering information and services. The tagline Vegas Means Business is not an idle claim.

The latest DestinationMAP XV, published in 2013, covers 26 travel destination attributes for 40 major destinations in North America. Las Vegas ranked #1 in:


In this competitive ranking, Las Vegas was also in the top five for good restaurants, convenient airline service good value for the money, different/unique, moderate food and lodging cost, variety of things to do, and willing to provide financial/other concessions. As part of its green mission, LVCVA is committed to building on current successes and maintaining a proactive approach towards future sustainable activities.

Photo courtesy of Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority.

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JonMitchell

You've Registered. Now what?

By Jon Mitchell, Vice President of National Accounts, Connections Housing

Rims 2015 Logo

Once you register, Now what? is the key question. Our client, RIMS (the Risk Management Society) knows that. The group will hold its annual conference in New Orleans next April and knows how to deliver helpful information to its members.

Some key steps to take after registering for RIMS '15 in New Orleans are presented clearly and simply. Check out the details for Connections Housing and other tips in this video example. We’re grateful for the mention starting at 0:30 and know it will help attendees!

Kudos to RIMS!



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Robert Wood

Five Reasons Rejuvenate Marketplace Offers Proven ROI

By Robert Wood, CTA, Vice President of Sales, South Central Region, Connections Housing

Each year Rejuvenate Marketplace brings together planners, suppliers and experts in faith-based meetings and events for three days of general sessions, boot camps, roundtables, workshops, pre-set appointments and networking. Started in Virginia Beach in 2007, it landed in Atlanta for 2014 and heads to Dallas next year.

Walking into the Georgia World Congress Center this fall for this event, my energy rose. Clearly a fan, I reviewed the website -- www.rejuvenatemeetings.com -- and my experiences to list five reasons to register for the November 2-4, 2015 edition:

Rejuvenate Marketplace | Dallas - November 2-4, 2015

#1 - The appointment setting process

The innovative scheduling system matches planners and suppliers for six-minute appointments based on their requests and additional factors with 44 time slots available. Planners sit in designated booths and suppliers have two minutes to travel between appointments. The registration fee due at registration will be refunded at the end of the conference if you keep all of your appointments. Mutual requests get priority, then planner requests and then supplier requests. It is not a first-come, first-served process.

#2 - Extremely helpful to see profiles and next open dates for conferences

Keeping your profile current is critical to ensure that you are presenting your expertise and services to appeal to future business. If someone has requested you and you want to meet them, request them back to increase the likelihood of receiving that appointment on your schedule.

#3 - Great educational sessions

In addition to obvious CEC opportunities that offer credits toward CMP certifications, there is a broad focus on education. Business tips from speakers, interactions with industry pros, roundtables and appointments provide multiple ways to increase your skill set.

#4 - First class speakers

General session speakers at Rejuvenate Marketplace include an impressive list of top tier presenters like Laura Bush, Frank Warren, Soledad O’Brien, Michael W. Smith, Jeff Foxworthy and Bernice King, among others.

#5 - Continual improvements

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning.” Benjamin Franklin Our colleagues at Collinson Media and Events embody this adage. Each year the organization continues to make enhancements that improve all event aspects. They do not rest on success, but strive to do more.

Robert Wood, CTA is Vice President of South Central Sales with Connections Housing working from Oklahoma City. With more than 18 years in the hospitality and convention industry, he is actively involved with PCMA, ASAE, MPI and SGMP. Reach him at RW@ConnectionsHousing.com or (405)420-3707.

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Robert Colvin

Connections Is On the Move: We’ve Expanded, Added New Services, Relocated Our Las Vegas Office

By Robert Colvin, CEM, Vice President, Connections

We are excited to announce the expansion and relocation of our west coast operations, sales and marketing office here in Las Vegas. As our second expansion here in less than four years, our new space provides much needed room for our growing staff of 25+ account managers, reservation staff, and other team members who will now also handle our newest services offerings -- airline ticketing and travel services.

The new office is located at 3834 Silvestri Lane, Las Vegas, NV 89120.

image of Las Vegas office building.

Las Vegas has proven to be a very beneficial and strategic office location for us. In addition to providing the perfect Western US location and space to help effectively balance and grow our client base and support services, the move also reinforces our long term commitment to the city of Las Vegas and the community here.

Our company is headquartered in Atlanta, GA and we opened our first, additional full-service office in Las Vegas in 2010, moving to a larger space by the summer of 2012. The Las Vegas office has given us a unique perspective and service capability in one of the nation’s largest convention cities, while helping ensure that we continue to deliver high service levels to our growing roster of clients around the country.

Our team here in Las Vegas team will also now take on the duties of the new airline ticketing and travel service categories that are joining our full-service line up. As part of the new offerings, we now add airline ticketing, group and meeting discount fare contracting, and full service travel management to the housing services we already provide for trade show, convention and meeting attendees, as well as VIP corporate and leisure travel planning for clients and their staff.

If there is ever anything we can do to help you with your next event or meeting, let us know. We make it simple – we do it all for you! In addition to our newest service offerings, we can handle every aspect of your event, including site selection, contracting, block management, reservations, marketing, on-site services, meeting management, logistics, vendor management, reporting and more. We also have sales offices in South Carolina, Oklahoma City and the Washington, DC area, as well as our full service offices here in Las Vegas and Atlanta.

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Robert Wood

SEE YOU AT IMEX AMERICA: CONNECTIONS HOUSING | BOOTH 256

By Robert Wood, Vice President of Sales, South Central Region, Connections Housing

Connections Housing will be at IMEX America, will you? As the USA’s largest global hosted buyer exhibition in the incentive travel, meetings and events industry, this event is truly much more than a trade show.

imex america | October 14-16, 2014 Las Vegas

Held annually at the Sands Expo®, Las Vegas, IMEX America has a unique business model that combines high quality, face-to-face business opportunities with a wide range of networking and professional education.

Who Attends?

According to IMEX America press materials, when the doors open, the October 14-16, 2014 edition will be 13% bigger than the previous year.

Exhibitors: 2,600+ organizations from across the U.S. and over 148 countries. They represent destinations, tourist offices, convention and visitor bureaus, hotel groups, technology providers, destination management companies, airlines and more. For 2014, the show growth is reflected in new exhibitors as well as larger booths from some key global suppliers. USA & Canadian representation has increased by 15.6 percent, Latin America by 6.5 percent; Europe by 3 percent and Asia-Pacific by nearly 8 percent.

Hosted Buyers: Well over 2,500+ pre-qualified decision-makers from the association, corporate and agency sectors attend as ‘hosted’ buyers (with travel and accommodation paid for by the organizers). 80% are from North America, 20% from over 40 other global markets.

Attendees: 1700+ attendees come to the show also attend, with around 50% being buyer attendees who pay for their own travel and accommodation. This group includes US buyers from the association, corporate and agency sectors. Buyer attendees are able to access the unique IMEX appointment system, plus a number of additional benefits, including reduced flight and accommodation costs.

IMEX America reports that both hosted buyer numbers and the number of US and international attendees are expected to exceed 2013 levels.

While here, these attendees will have the chance to explore exhibitor offerings and attend free executive and professional education sessions and network. In fact, many of the industry’s top associations, companies and agencies hold their most important annual meetings (board meetings, chapter meetings, client events) during the week of IMEX America.

To learn more about the October 14-16, 2014 edition, visit the official event website at – www.imexamerica.com.

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Connections Housing Setting the Standards in the Industry

Connections Housing Expands, Adds New Services, Relocates Las Vegas Office

Press Contact – Suzanne Pruitt | 678.285.0307 | Suzanne@marshmeadowsmarketing.com

ATLANTA ( October 7, 2014) – To better serve its growing national client roster, convention housing and meeting management leader Connections Housing announces the expansion and relocation of its west coast operations, sales and marketing office in Las Vegas. As the company’s second Las Vegas expansion in less than four years, the new space will accommodate the company’s growing west coast staff of 25+ account managers, reservation staff, and other team members who will also handle Connections newest services offerings -- airline ticketing and travel services.

The new office is located at 3834 Silvestri Lane, Las Vegas, NV 89120.

image of Las Vegas office building.

Headquartered in Atlanta, GA, Connections first opened its additional full-service office in Las Vegas in 2010, moving to a larger space by the summer of 2012. The Las Vegas office has provided Connections with a unique perspective and service capability in one of the nation’s largest convention cities, while helping ensure that the company continues to deliver high service levels to a growing roster of clients around the country.

“Las Vegas has proven to be a very beneficial and strategic office location for us,” explains Robert Colvin, CEM, Vice President, Connections Housing. “In addition to providing the perfect Western US location and space to help effectively balance and grow our client base and support services, the move to our new, expanded location is also a vital part of our long term commitment to the city of Las Vegas and the community here.”

Colvin and his expanded Las Vegas team will take on the duties of the new airline ticketing and travel service categories that now join Connections’ full-service line up. As part of the new offerings, Connections will add airline ticketing, group and meeting discount fare contracting, and full service travel management to the housing services it already provides for trade show, convention and meeting attendees, as well as VIP corporate and leisure travel planning for clients and their staff.

These services join the comprehensive Connections Housing service roster, which also includes site selection, contracting, block management, reservations, marketing, on-site services, meeting management, logistics, vendor management and reporting.

In addition to its full-services offices in Atlanta and Las Vegas, Connections also operates sales offices in South Carolina, Oklahoma City and the Washington, DC area.

ABOUT CONNECTIONS HOUSING

Founded in 1986, Connections Housing has emerged as one of the fastest growing meeting planning and housing management companies in the industry. Bringing unmatched customer service, knowledge and experience together with the latest technology, the company has maintained a 98 % retention rate of clients in a host of different industries. Connections Housing provides housing services to several of the Tradeshow Top 200 and successfully manages more than 150 events each year ranging in size from 10 to 100,000 + attendees. For more information, visit www.connectionshousing.com or call the Las Vegas office at 855.476.6976 or (702) 216.5861.

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Nancy Hallberg

Simply Awesome Cities Spotlight | Los Angeles

By Nancy Hallberg, Co-Owner | Vice President, Connections Housing

Entertainment capital of the world…cultural mecca ….lovely year round climate… diverse destination neighborhoods….beaches, mountains, deserts….

Ferris Wheel at Sunset

There’s a good reason Los Angeles is the only city in North America to have hosted the summer Olympics twice.

It’s a simply awesome city for gatherings of all sizes, budgets, audiences and types. This is a city that puts tremendous emphasis on tourism and hospitality. In fact, tourism and hospitality rank among the top industries here – with the tourism industry supporting employing close to 436,700 people in 2013 –representing nearly 1 of every 9 workers in LA County.*

There are so many benefits to hosting your meeting, conference, trade show or other event in LA that this blog post could go on and on. Here are just a few key benefits to consider:

Hotels

Whether you’re looking for a 5-star luxury property, a sleek boutique or a budget chain, Los Angeles has something for every taste and budget. What’s more, these hotels offer every possible meeting space size option -- from venues for thousands to small cozy conference rooms. Here at Connections, we have solid, long-term relationships with the city’s properties and will find the ones that best match your attendee profile and event needs – and negotiate the best possible rates.

Endless Entertainment Options

As the world’s entertainment capital, LA has it all. The metro area encompasses a number of energetic, eclectic neighborhoods – each a destination of its own. In downtown LA alone you’ll find the Financial District, Fashion District, Little Tokyo, China Town and LA Live, the $2.5 billion entertainment and sports complex adjacent to STAPLES Center and the LA Convention Center.

There are world class museums throughout the metro area, including Downtown’s Exposition Park, the J. Paul Getty in Brentwood and Malibu, the Hammer in Westwood and many others.

Looking for outdoor excursions? Consider the Pier in Santa Monica, bike paths along Venice Beach, the trails and attractions at Griffith Park, Zuma Beach in Malibu and the many walking and bike trails at Runyon Canyon.

Other ideas for your attendees? Catch a game at Dodgers Stadium. Take a shopping excursion on Rodeo Drive. Cruise down Sunset Strip. Take a studio tour of Universal Studios….The opportunities are endless.

Easy Access

LA is easily accessible from anywhere in the country and the world. The main airport, LAX, is just 10 minutes from downtown. The 6th busiest airport in the world and 3rd busiest in the US, LAX is now undergoing a capital improvement program, including the new $1.9 billion Tom Bradley International Terminal. LA County boasts other airports as well, including Bob Hope, LA/Ontario International, Long Beach and John Wayne Airports. In addition, LA’s Metro provides bus, rail and subway service thoughout the city.

The Weather

It doesn’t get much better than this. It’s sunny nearly 300 days a year, with gentle ocean breezes in the summer. The average temperature is 75 degrees (25 degrees Celsius).

Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board (LA Tourism)

The LA Tourism team offers an extensive menu of service to help ensure the success of your event. From dining and entertainment options, to meeting venues and more – they can match your goals and objectives with local partners to effectively meet your needs. www.discoverlosangeles.com

Groups of all sizes will find endless meeting, housing and entertainment options in LA. To learn more, or to start planning your next event contact us here at Connections Housing –www.connectionshousing.com or visit the LA Tourism site at www.discoverlosangeles.com

*From LA Tourism Board Press Release | May 6, 2014

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Nancy Hallberg

Discovering A Diamond In The Rough: How A New Trade Show Owner Can Outshine The Masters

By Nancy Hallberg, Co-Owner | Vice President, Connections Housing

Somehow it happens in every industry. Veteran professionals think they are changing the scope of their professions by re-creating their world. They add ecommerce or a phone app or even market to a more “hip” crowd. They believe that the new technology they are applying will be the next latest-and-greatest, and will get them noticed in the field.

Image of people walking

Amazing what a fresh perspective in an old industry can produce.

Recently I worked with a new show --- a dental show -- that started up in Los Angeles, California. The owner of the show is an actual dentist. This, in itself, is amazing enough. In the trade show industry, most producers’ core competency is in show management. Having someone who is actually in the field the show serves is a novelty.

As a dentist, Dr. Amir Motamed had a vision -- to improve his profession, to share knowledge with other dentists, and to involve young dentists in the industry -- all at little or no cost to them. His desire to make his industry better brought a great first year -- 1200 attendees.

To support the industry, Dr. Motamed envisioned engaging the novice dentist in continuing education. To do this he had to make the conference free. Dental students leave dental school harboring large student loans. Dr. Motamed recalled not being able to afford to go to conferences himself. He wants the next generation to have continuing training he once could not afford.

But to top this amazing feat, he implemented a program that no other medical conference had done to my knowledge. He made his speakers transparent.

In his effort to improve his profession, Dr. Motamed implemented a color-coding system of identifying speakers. This system informs the attendee who sponsored the speaker’s studies -- a pharmaceutical company, a device company, a university, or maybe no one. This gives the listener a different perspective on what he is listening to.

At the end of the conference, 87% of the dental attendees surveyed indicated that they would like to see this concept expand nationally, through a nationally-recognized, color-coded system that would transparently categorize the commercial involvement and sponsorship of all dental educational programs in the United States.

This concept could also help other medical industries, where healthcare professionals could use their judgment to decide if a researcher’s paper could be skewed toward a sponsoring interest. It might also keep the sponsoring interest honest.

Dr. Motamed might have just changed the course of medical conferences. What a first year.

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Nancy Hallberg

Retailers From Throughout Southern California, Western Region Flock to Summer 2014 California Gift Show

By Nancy Hallberg, Co-Owner | Vice President, Connections Housing

The July 18-21, 2014 edition of our client Urban Expositions’ California Gift Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center attracted thousands of attendees from throughout the dense, retail rich Southern California marketplace, as well as Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and other parts of the Western US. Drawn by the show’s expanded focus on all things ‘new,” these attendees had the chance to explore new resources unique to the California Gift Show, attend a full roster of educational programs full of new marketing and sales strategies, and take advantage of a number of new buyer services and show promotions .

California Gift Show Ad January 23-26, 2015

As Urban President Doug Miller explained in a post-show press release, “There’s little question that retailers come to market to see what’s new. That has been the driving force behind our efforts to revitalize the California Gift Show’s offerings and bring the Southern California marketplace the trend-driven, product rich showplace it deserves. In July, we launched a number of new show initiatives, attracted many new, first time exhibitors, including those offering products unique to the California Gift Show, and reestablished our co-promotional partnership with the LA Mart and California Market Center (CMC). Together, these efforts attracted the attention of retailers and vendors alike and we were very happy to see the return of customers who had not been to the show in a while, as well as first-time visitors.”

The show featured a number of new promotions, including a 50/50 Giveaway that invited buyers to show orders placed on the show floor for their chance to win daily prize drawings for $50 cash and $50 in merchandise credits to use with orders placed with exhibitors. The giveaway culminated on the last day with a grand prize drawing for a free two-night hotel stay at the next edition of the California Gift Show. The grand prize winner was Tanjia Mejia, Una Bella Boutique, Los Banos, CA.

The expanded promotional roster was backed by a versatile product selection, including a growing number of first –time exhibitors, products unique to the California Gift Show, s well as companies who have returned to the exhibit roster.

Attending retailers had the chance to discover new resources and new introductions among a wide range of designs conveniently categorized into easy-to-explore sectors, including Gifts, Design LA, Handcrafted, Boardwalk, Personal Style, Jewelry (Cash & Carry), Vintage, World Style, Outdoor Living, as well as many Fair Trade, Eco-Friendly and Made in America resources.

The summer edition was also further strengthened by a unified marketing campaign with the LA Mart and California Market Center. “How the West Is One” put a spotlight on how the combined product offerings of the three venues create the largest gift and home market in the west. As part of the concerted effort to maximize the buying experience for attending retailers, the three venues honored each other’s admission badges and provided inter-venue shuttle service.

We look forward to working with Urban and their buyers and exhibitors for the next edition of the California Gift Show, which is scheduled for January 23-26, 2015 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

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Robert Colvin

Las Vegas Market Sets Stage For Strongest Summer Market To Date

By Robert Colvin, CEM, Vice President, Connections Housing

Our client, Las Vegas Market, recently issued a press release that pre-registrations for Summer 2014 are running 7% ahead of Winter 2014 – the largest event in its history. This pace is setting the stage for a potentially record setting attendance. In addition, hotel room pick-up is up over 15% and well ahead of any previous Market.

World Market Center entrance

While registration growth has been strongest in the gift and home categories, overall Summer Market pre-registrations are ahead across all merchandise categories, including furniture, which is experiencing steady and consistent registration activity as well.

The release went on to detail that the increase in registrations for Summer 2014 correspond with the resource expansion as part of the Las Vegas Market’s three-year strategic growth plan, which has resulted in an increase of more than 1,200 resources exhibiting in 850,000 square feet of space since the January 2013 market, including approximately 900 new gift lines and some 300 new furniture and home décor lines.

We’re wishing all buyers, exhibitors and showrooms a successful market!

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Marcy White

Expanding Our Stable: National Horse Show Joins Growing Roster of Equestrian Clients

By Marcy White, Senior Vice President, Connections Housing

We were very pleased to recently be named the Official Hotel and Travel Agency for this year’s National Horse Show at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY from October 28-November 2, 2014.

Kentucky Horse Park

Despite the number of purchasing and business decisions that are made, and orders that come in AFTER a show, it’s amazing how little follow-up is actually done on leads gathered AT a show. In fact, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) reports that almost 80% of leads generated are never followed up on.

For the third year in a row, the National Horse Show has been named the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame Horse Show of the Year and is also one of the North American Riders Group (NARG) top rated horse shows. With many innovative improvements on the horizon, the show this year is anticipated to be of the most highly rated ever.

This premier event now joins many other top-notch equestrian events we’ve been handling for more than 15 years.

In a press release issued by the event, Mason Phelps, President of the National Horse Show Association said, “We welcome Connections Housing to the National Horse Show. This is a company that has a long history of success and their reputation throughout the industry is excellent. We hope that they can be of help to those competitors and families joining us in Lexington this fall.”

Kentucky Horse Park flag

Of that, the National Horse Show Association can be sure! Here at Connections we know that every competition, tournament or sports event is different and requires custom solutions to ensure success. When clients partner with us, they tap into the most powerful online reservation system on the market today. That’s because Connections Housing Sports is “powered by Passkey,” the worldwide leader in web-based group reservation technology. And, this high tech experience is backed by high touch customer service as our staff is readily accessible to answer questions and assist attendees with any of their needs.”

To learn a little more about the National Horse Show, visit www.nhs.org. With over $850 in prize money offered, this year’s show has been designated a CSI-W 5* show by the FEI. In addition to an important World Cup Qualifier, the International Open Jumpers will compete for $530,000 in prize money, while the top ratead hunter sections have a total purse of $205,000. In addition, $100,000 is offered to the amateur/Owner and Junior Jumpers.

Photos courtesy of client.

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Connections Housing Blog

Jon Mitchell

Tradeshow 101: It’s Not Over When It’s Over

By Jon Mitchell, Vice President of National Accounts, Connections Housing

At Connections, our client roster includes all members of the trade show audience -- from show management and exhibitors to attendees and service providers. Over the years we’ve gathered feedback and customer insights on all elements of the trade show marketing mix and one area, in particular, seems to consistently garner a “needs improvement” grade, and that is show follow-up and lead management.

People walking in a convention center

Despite the number of purchasing and business decisions that are made, and orders that come in AFTER a show, it’s amazing how little follow-up is actually done on leads gathered AT a show. In fact, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) reports that almost 80% of leads generated are never followed up on.

Skyline Exhibits even talks about stories they’ve heard of exhibits being pulled out of storage to prepare for a show, only to find the leads from a previous show still packed in the exhibit!

Skyline also offers some quick and easy tips to increase the effectiveness of lead follow-up that I thought were worth sharing:

  1. Regardless of whether you are using an electronic lead management system, have your own lead form for capturing specific information. When you create the form, get your sales organization (who will be using it) to review it prior to giving it to them to use at the show. Get early buy-in.

  2. Train your staff how to capture information in the interview process. What information should they be seeking that will be beneficial to follow-up?

  3. Discipline your staff to categorize your leads - "A", "B", "C" as they are generated, and review them each night for completeness.

  4. Create a system to manage the leads. When the show ends how do they get fulfilled, who is responsible for the transmittal letter, the lead management reporting? When and to whom does the sales force report their results? When and to whom are the results reported?

  5. Prepare your lead follow/fulfillment before leaving for the show. If you are sending a letter along with literature, prepare and store it so all you have to do is text merge your leads into your word processor. Most exhibitors go to shows to accelerate the sales cycle. In order to accomplish this goal, a well thought out lead management systems needs to be in place.

  6. Make your follow-up timely - time your follow-up so it arrives the week after the show's attendees get back to their offices so that they have time to clear their desks of work that was generated while they were at the show. They will then have time to give your proposal consideration

These are just a few ideas and you can find plenty more on the Skyline site as well as in many of the leading trade publications and association newsletters

And remember, when the show ends, the profit potential and new business growth opportunities are only beginning!

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Nancy Hallberg

Learning a Lesson from the Cheerleaders| Part Two: If a Six Year Old Can Get Up and Support Her Team, You Can

By Nancy Hallberg, Co-Owner|Vice President, Connections Housing

As I sit and manage the numerous sub block requests coming to me from a cheer competition, I can’t help but think of the complexities of managing housing for a sporting event. Setting up sub blocks, building reservation links for parents, making sure the blocks are filling up for the hotels, strategically placing staff and officials to save the most money…the list is long. There are so many things that need to be managed perfectly to make a sporting event run smoothly from the housing side.

ACE cheerleaders holding trophies

There are many days in a business that things can go wrong. But it is not that a problem occurs, because one always will. It is how the team comes together to handle it.

Sometimes an employee does not take ownership of a project. It is up to a good manager to make each team member understand that he or she is an important cog in the wheel of success -- and no matter how small a part that team member plays, without him, the team falls apart. A good manager teaches employees that if you are the one who falls, you must push that much harder to get up and finish the job successfully -- for the team.

Recently I overheard a parent asking for a bandage for her six-year-old cheer athlete who fell and scraped her knee during her four-minute cheer routine. The child was being brave, and the parent was proud of her. When I handed her a bandage, I mentioned how impressed I was that the child was not crying. More impressively, I learned, this six-year-old child not only sucked it up and didn’t cry, but she got up from her fall on stage -- and finished the routine so her team could win.

What we can all learn about teamwork from a six-year-old cheerleader.

It takes dedication from each member of a team to be sure that a project is completed up to and beyond the expectations of the client. Finishing the job right when faced with an obstacle is the sign of true champions. No finger-pointing or excuses, just getting up and finishing it.

As business owners and managers, it is our job to set the stage for this kind of fortitude -- to train strong team members and to give them the tools to succeed. We must hire those who have a true sense of teamwork and those who want to do their very best, nothing less. We must lead by example and be there to support the team effort.

If we fail to put together a dedicated team, and fail to reward them in the end for their hard work, the job will never be done correctly. Each team member needs to know that they have won the trophy, and be proud of their accomplishment -- especially the one who got up and finished the job after a fall.

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Cari Auger

Bonding With Your Hotel Chain Global Representatives

By Cari Auger, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Connections Housing

We all know how important it is to foster strong business relationships with our clients, vendors, service providers and other industry associates. For housing providers and meeting planners, this is especially true when it comes to your hotel chain global sales representatives. When you take the time to build solid partnerships with these knowledgeable, service-oriented professionals, you’ll reap the rewards of a truly mutually beneficial working relationship.

Silhouette of 2 people with luggage in front of a window

Hotel chain global representatives can:

SAVE TIME

The time it takes to study a marketplace can be daunting when you need to contract hotels for clients hosting events in multiple cities. A chain’s global representative can save that time and give you peace of mind. They can familiarize you with the intricacies of different cities and work with you to obtain a better financial and concessions package for your client.

VOUCH FOR YOU

Once you’ve established a good working relationship, your global representative can facilitate smooth introductions with new hotels – vouching for you and your organization and demonstrating that you already have a rapport with the brand. This can be especially helpful when you have an event in a new city that might be unfamiliar with your organization or event.

BE YOUR ADVOCATE

A global representative can become your advocate for all meetings – large and small – within the chain. Among the many areas where they can offer assistance include obtaining special VIP concessions for smaller events or VIP travels. They can also push for a faster billing process and audit at the close of a citywide.

FACILITATE NEGOTIATIONS

Global representatives can be invaluable when it comes to negotiating contracts and upholding an organization’s agreements. Your representative can help individual hotels understand your organization’s verbiage and secure the property’s agreement to the terms. What’s more, they can even help in obtaining loyalty points.

OFFER ADDITIONAL SERVICE SUPPORT

There are just so many areas where your representative can lend support. In addition to those referenced above, reps can also help with site inspections, general hotel discounts for your own staff or client VIPs when traveling and much more.

So invest the time to get to know and appreciate your global representative’s capabilities. It’s all about relationships.

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Tracy Barrett Janosko

Room Block Piracy On the Rise:
Tips For Fending Off Attacks

By Tracy Barrett Janosko, Vice President of Sales, Eastern Region, Connections Housing

They’re back…..With a vengeance! If you represent an association, trade show or other meeting/event, chances are you’ve faced a “pirate attack” on your room block at one point or another. The bad news? These fraudulent housing companies are only increasing in number. What’s worse, they’re constantly coming up with new tactics and techniques to try to convince your attendees to book rooms through their services. The results? You face significant attrition penalties and more often than not, your unsuspecting attendee loses money and their rooms.

Pirate Flag

Aaaargh indeed….

At Connections, we work closely with our clients to make sure they are protected against these predators. To help fend of the attacks, we:

Beat Them Back: Educate Early and Often

Awareness is the key to prevention. I cannot stress how important it is to educate all of your audiences about the piracy threat as early in the show/event cycle as possible. This includes your exhibitors, board members, sponsors, vendors, attendees. In simplest terms, anyone associated with your event who needs a hotel room becomes a target. As part of our awareness campaign, we provide our clients with messaging to post on their website room booking pages and collateral materials informing all current and prospective attending audiences about the risks of booking rooms through any entity other than the official show housing company.

Sink Them At The Start

Our team regularly conducts online searches around a given event to see if we can uncover potential pirate companies that are reaching out to our client’s attendees. We also encourage our clients to contact us immediately if/when they find out a company is approaching their attendees. The moment we uncover the name of a group, we make sure to educate our client and their attendees to watch out for that entity.

Here are a number of pirate companies that Connections Housing has identified recently:


In addition, Rachel Wimberly, president and editor-in-chief, TSNN.com recently added a post to an article she had written on this topic listing a number of other companies to watch out for, including:


In addition to our suggestions and warnings about these known pirates, leading associations like ASAE, PCMA, IAEE, as well as online news services like TSNN.net and others, offer a number of tips and tools to help you fight off the threat, too. In fact, the Convention Industry Council (CIC)’s Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) initiative recently formed a new workgroup to raise industry awareness of the impacts of room block poaching and to develop best practices and strategies to help industry members fight the problem.

When you do learn of a company that is going after your business, let them know it. Associations have examples of “cease and desist” letters that provide good models to use in creating your own. Click here to see PCMA’s letter.

Here at Connections Housing, we are actively partnering with our clients to prevent and stop these damaging attacks. We’ll continue to stay on top of industry developments and regularly share updates, news and tips on our blog. So look for more posts in the near future.

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Robert Colvin

See You At Springtime | ASAE’s Springtime Expo ‘14

By Robert Colvin, CEM, Vice President, Connections Housing

Connections Housing will be at ASAE’s Springtime Expo ’14, will you? As the largest one-day show in the meetings industry, this is truly a must-attend event for everyone in the business – from industry veterans and newcomers to the occasional meeting planner. This year it will be held on May 15 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC.

asae's springtime expo '14 the premier meetings industry event

The take-away benefits are invaluable. The event’s promotional campaign says it all, “Inspiration in Full Bloom.” You’ll have the chance to:

Participate in Robust Educational Sessions

New this year, a special day and a half “Meetings & Event Technology Bootcamp“ will feature experts in social, mobile and digital technology, who will walk you through an exercise of creating, implementing and assessing a strategy as it relates to meetings. Also new for 2014 -- “Deep Dive” sessions. A format that has been highly successful for attendees at ASAE's Annual Meeting and Great Ideas Conference, these extended 2.5 hour sessions invite you to explore key issues in depth. In addition, the popular “Learning Labs” return covering a wide range of topics. As an added benefit, full-day participants will be eligible to earn Certified Association Executive (CAE) hours and Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) points.

Explore the Expo

Featuring more than 400 exhibitors (including Connections Housing!), the Expo floor offers a one-stop resource industry trends and best practices. You’ll have the chance to learn more about destinations, venues, services, cutting edge meetings technologies and more.

Network & Mingle

Of course all ASAE events provide fun and engaging opportunities to network, meet new friends and industry associates. Springtime is no exception. From the “Participants & Pairings Party” at the Marriot Marquis to golf, tennis and spa events, there’s something for everyone.

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Nancy Hallberg

Learning a Lesson from the Cheerleaders: How Sporting Events Help Local Economies

By Nancy Hallberg, Co-Owner|Vice President, Connections Housing

Throughout my career as an event planner and housing manager, great emphasis has been placed on economic accountability; How will this citywide convention or that corporate meeting affect the economy of a city? Convention and Visitors Authorities have taken great stride to make events accountable for room nights. But how accurate is this analysis? How valuable is a sporting event?

2 Cheerleaders holding a street sign CHEERLEADER ST

The Great Inequity

After managing several Cheerleading Competitions, I have experienced a great inequity. Most hotels see sporting events as “filler” business, as perhaps a second choice to the so called corporate or association group. It seems that all sports are put into one general category, and all corporate/association groups into another. But why?

It is my belief that a citywide amateur sporting event is just as profitable to a city as a corporate event, and actually more valuable than they are given credit. While they are often pigeonholed into a city’s “down” times -- weekends, the summer, holidays -- sporting events actually do more than just bring room nights into a city. The actual profit margin is higher.

If one were to analyze the average rate during a high demand period, that rate is consistent. There is always someone who will take that prime date, so if Client A chooses another city, there is always a Client B to take that place, maybe even some transient corporate to fill it in. That revenue will always be there- one way or another. In fact, it is pretty common to lose your dates to a second option or third option if you don’t sign a hotel contract fast enough.

The off times that sporting events fill are hit or miss. During a weekend/holiday when a hotel (and a city) has nothing major going on, there is a mad scramble to hit the internet discounter sites and unload everything a hotel can unload -- regardless of rate. A “Heads in Beds” mentality comes though and, with God as my witness, I don’t know how a hotel can unload a rate so low. If a room is being sold on Expedia for $79.00, you know the hotel is getting at best $39. I doubt if it covers their housekeeping expenses.

When Cheerleading Comes To Town, Things Change

When a competition like cheerleading comes to town, things change. Ok, so maybe the rates are not as high as the corporation market pays -- but the compression that sports bring into the city is bringing the hotel rate out of the toilet to a suitable rate. In fact, the rate may be as much as $100 per night higher than a hotel would have been able to get through Priceline, which is the other option in low demand periods when no one else is in town. Plus the occupancy goes up when normally one can shoot a cannon off in a lobby.

As an added benefit, sports parents spend money in the outlets- and lots of it! They feed the family of four that the d/d room housed, and the bars are usually full with parents relaxing.

I would like to see hotels give a little more credit to sports as an economic giant for a city, and less complaining about some noisy children or some glitter in the carpet. Hotels should see the glitter for what it really is to them - GOLD.

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Cari Auger

BETTER CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS = BETTER RESULTS!

By Cari Auger, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Connections Housing

At Connections Housing, we understand that every client is different - -with specialized needs unique to the industries and audiences they serve. We use a custom-tailored approach in developing housing strategies that are perfectly in sync with each client’s specific event, goals and objectives. That’s especially true when it comes to contracting.

image of people sitting at glass table reviewing a contract

We firmly believe that a single, blanket contract for all clients is the wrong approach. Protecting the client is our number one job, in order to do that there are a number of things we do to negotiate contracts that are completely customized to each client’s every need. Among the features that differentiate our contracting services from others include:

First Things First

There are always certain elements that are especially important to our clients. We take the time to find out what those are and make sure those are covered first. We look for what’s important to them in the terms concessions, legal clauses and other features. Then we go one step further and anticipate other potentially beneficial elements the client might not even be aware of. We use this information to tailor contracts that cover all of these bases.

Hotel Considerations

On the hotel front, we are always negotiating from the client’s perspective – zeroing in on what protects them, what delivers the best financial package and what housing processes are most efficient. A few of the things we take into consideration include the hotel’s location and if it is cost-effective for bus/shuttle routes. We also research which hotel brands appeal most to the attendee audience. We know that variety is important so we also focus on providing different rate options. In addition, we strive to secure as many added value features as possible, ranging from complimentary Wi-Fi and suites to complimentary parking and more.

Timing Is Everything

We also work closely with the client to finalize the headquarter hotel contract shortly after the convention center contract is finalized. From there, approximately one to two years out, we contract the overflow hotels.

These are just a few of the extra steps we take. We understand that it might make the contract negotiation process longer, but it’s time well spent in ensuring that we deliver the best possible contract and event experience for our client and their attendees.

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Jon Mitchell

Meeting Trend-watch 2014

By Jon Mitchell, Vice President of National Accounts, Connections Housing

I’ve been reviewing 2014 meeting industry trend predictions from a variety of industry publications, association newsletters, white papers and research studies. As we are well into the first quarter of the year, I thought 10, in particular, were especially important to track for the rest of the year. Among them:

Pitcure of Bejing Convention Center

1.Reduced Spending Totals | Increased Emphasis on ROI

A blog post from PCMA Staff Writer David McMillin called out a number of points from the American Express Meetings & Events 2014 Global Meetings Forecast. Among them, the fact that corporations and associations alike have grown increasingly concerned about the dollar figures attached to their meetings and conferences and will continue to keep a close eye on those budgets throughout the year. Respondents in Europe, Asia Pacific and Central/South America all predicted the overall meetings spend within their organizations to drop. In North America, respondents estimated that overall spend will remain completely flat. And, while money isn’t expected to grow, North American respondents do anticipate a 1.5 percent increase in the number of meetings.

Add to this the fact that ROI (return on investment) is more important than ever. According to a trend report from Benchmark Hospitality International’s Resorts & Hotel division, meeting professionals are becoming more firm with demands of flexibility, including negotiation of attrition clauses. The demand for value in their investment has never been higher. It all ties back to more accountability for meeting ROI.

2.Who’s Meeting and Where

McMillin also called out a statistic from the American Express Forecast noting an up-tick in demand for regional meetings. As he put it, meetings may represent a chance to get away from the traditional day-to-day grind of work, but in 2014, that “getting away” may not take attendees quite as far.

And what groups are meeting? According to the Benchmark report, it’s the traditional industry segments that continue to deliver business to meeting properties, including Financial, Pharmaceutical, Insurance, Association and Healthcare. Silicon Valley and the High Tech Northwestern US are on the rebound too, significantly benefiting properties in this market.

3.Speed It Up

The approval process for meetings continues to face obstacles in many organizations. Of note, American Express Forecast respondents in every region believe that they will see shorter lead times in 2014, which can hold serious implications for securing optimal dates and affordable room rates.

On the other hand, the Benchmark report sees a bright spot as meeting demand and booking pace are both consistently on the upswing. While short-term bookings are still prevalent, the booking demand window is increasingly stretching into 2015, 2016 and beyond. As Benchmark puts it, “not quite the good old days…but getting closer!”

4.Apps…Social…Digital

Mobile apps….social media presence…These elements are key for more and more businesses today –especially meetings. According to Issa Jouaneh, vice president and general manager, American Express Meetings and Events, “Meeting organizers are looking to utilize social media tools to create higher quality and more engaging programs that better meet the needs of attendees. The future will be truly exciting for the industry as we redefine the meeting investment and experience management through the incorporation of digital meetings solutions.”

Drilling down a bit more, some say only select social media has a place in meetings. Benchmark reports that social media has minimal impact on actually securing corporate meetings business, with the possible exception of LinkedIn. During meetings, however, planners and conferees use Twitter and LinkedIn for communicating with each other, and also with moderators. On the horizon, and backing up Jouaneh’s point above, look for the rise of meeting-specific property apps tailored to optimize communication during the planning and implementation phase – which may soon supersede the role of social media.

5. WiFi Wins

Perhaps the #1 issue for planning professionals and conferees in the meetings business today is highly effective WiFi. Benchmark reports that conferees often come with up to three wireless devices per attendee – so greater bandwidth is a necessity to drive multiple devices.

6.Content Is King

As google search algorithms continue to evolve, web content is king. There’s little question that planners and potential attendees learn about properties and events via Google searches. As Benchmark reports, targeted exposure on the Internet has never been more important, or more utilized by planners. As a result, it’s more important than ever to be visible and connected, but never forget that well executed, timely and informative website content is vital to attracting and engaging your audience.

7. Going Green Gradually

According to Benchmark, being green is not seen by most planning professionals as a critical factor in property selection. While almost everyone agrees that making eco-conscious choices is of value, there are other issues that are currently more pressing in contributing to the overall success of a meeting.

8. Healthy Choices

Mirroring the overall mood of the country, planners and attendees are looking for healthier choices when it comes to food and beverage options at meetings. Benchmark reports that creative spa breaks may substitute for refreshment breaks at properties that offer this service. Planners and attendees want healthy choices instead of set menu options, and they want value.

9. All About Experience

Benchmark observes that demand for out-of-the ordinary, unique experiences is contributing to meeting destination decisions. Properties partnering with local resources, like wineries, historic, natural wonders and unique reception and dinner venues are attracting attention and bookings.

10. Team Building is Trending

A trend that Benchmark sees rising is groups with budgets seeking unique ways to build camaraderie as the business environment continues to improve. Even groups with limited budgets, or a socially conscious focus, are also honing in on team building by seeking volunteer opportunities that can be tied to the meeting as well.

It’s going to be interesting to see how these trends perform throughout the year. We’ll revisit them as 2014 comes to a close and see what’s next!

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