the gaylord kitchen tour that opened my eyes

behind the scenes kitchen tour

When I was in Nashville a few weeks ago for The Special Event conference, I had the opportunity to go on a behind the scenes tour of the Gaylord Opryland Catering Kitchens. I love behind the scenes anything, but especially things related to hospitality. Even though I’ve been a planner for years and I know more about hospitality than the average person, I love every opportunity I get to see “back of house.” So naturally, I jumped at the chance to see the kitchens.

I was one of the few planners on the tour – mostly it seemed to be catering professionals from other (smaller) hotels or banquet facilities. Many of them ooh’d and ahh’d at the sheer scale of the Gaylord operation since it was noticeably bigger than their own. Several asked questions about procedures or logistics that I didn’t really understand, comparing their protocol to the Gaylord’s.

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hilton boston back bay

hilton boston back bay

I was in Boston last week for the PCMA annual meeting, Convening Leaders. I did something that I almost never do anymore – I stayed in a hotel and didn’t see any of the meeting space! All of the sessions were in the Hynes Convention Center and the Sheraton. I was in and out of sessions so much that I forgot to peek at the Hilton’s offerings! So this site report is based on sleeping rooms only, like I was a regular guest and not a crazy event planner!

If you are traveling to Boston for a meeting at the Hynes, the Hilton Boston Back Bay is a convenient alternative. While it’s not attached to the center via skywalks and the mall like many of the other hotels that are nearby (and were part of the official PCMA block), it’s actually closer to the Hynes than other hotels, such as the Westin and Marriott.

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gaylord opryland in nashville – meeting rooms and resort

gaylord opryland in nashville

Last week I had a brief trip to Nashville for a conference. I stayed two nights at the Gaylord Opryland. You can read my thoughts on the sleeping rooms here. Since I was there for a conference I got to see a lot of the meeting space.

The Gaylord Opryland is a resort and convention center. The convention center is part of the main building – there is no need to go outside (which is good, because it was too cold to leave).

The convention center is huge – 600,000 square feet of meeting space, most of it in huge ballrooms. I would say that overall, the space was rather functional. There wasn’t anything particularly exciting about it – the hallways and pre-function space had a subtle plantation feel, but otherwise it felt very similar to the Hyatt Regency Orlando (formerly the Peabody) – just massively large!

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the skirvin hilton in oklahoma city – an update

hilton skirvin | amanda jayne events blog

I recently lived at for a week hosted a meeting at the Skirvin Hilton in Oklahoma City. I had been there for a site visit in July and now after getting much more intimately acquainted with the property, I wanted to share my thoughts.

To begin, let me just say that our meeting was a small conference with about 45 participants. The hotel was one of several properties in a room block for a much larger conference (750 participants) in the days immediately following our event, with some overlap, and they hosted a few events on site as well. We knew this going into the meeting, and we positioned our event where we did because many of our attendees (about half) were also attending the larger conference. If you are a regular reader of my blog (thank you!) you may surmise that this situation was what prompted me to write When your meeting is a small fish in a big pond.

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when your meeting is a small fish in a big pond

when your meeting is a small fish in a big pond

Sometimes you’re a small fish in a big pond, or at least, your meeting or event is. Depending on where you are hosting your meeting and what else is going on in that venue, there are bound to be times when your event isn’t getting the priority treatment because there is something else going on that is bigger, more complicated, more important, more expensive, or maybe a more valued client.

Hotels like to tell you that each and every meeting is important to them but I can understand that everyone needs to make tradeoffs – it’s the ugly truth, sometimes you become the small fish and the big fish gets all the attention.

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how to save money on food & beverage for events

how to save money on food & beverage for weddings and events

I’m in the middle of planning several events and I feel like I am up to my eyeballs in catering menus and BEOs (banquet event orders). Luckily menu selection is one of my favorite parts of event planning (second to site selection, of course!).  However, it’s one of the fastest ways to add to a bottom line – and people are often confused as to why food and beverage ends up being so expensive. I won’t go into why it’s so expensive (that’s for another blog post), but here are some quick ways to save money without compromising quality.

Be flexible with your date and time

Have you ever gone to a restaurant at lunch and noticed that the prices are noticeably different (cheaper!) than at dinner time? The same goes for catering. Lunch is usually cheaper than dinner. But if moving the time of your meal isn’t an option, maybe you have flexibility with the day. Many venues and caterers charge a premium for the most popular event days – namely Friday and Saturday (and depending where you live, maybe Thursday) – but will charge less or offer a discount in order to fill up the less busy days. On the wedding side – a Saturday evening wedding is almost always more expensive than Friday or Sunday. Continue reading

how do you plan for the unexpected?

Photo courtesy of Gaylord Hotels

Photo courtesy of Gaylord Hotels

Of all the things that can possibly go wrong with an event, do you ever consider that the venue might have its water supply shut off?

That’s exactly what happened last week when a damaged water main in Prince George’s County in Maryland almost led to a water shutoff. Officials were able to make the necessary repairs before having to shut off water for more than 100,000 people during a heat wave, but not before the 2,000 room Gaylord National Harbor and other hotels had already evacuated all the guests. The Gaylord also had to relocate five conferences.

I don’t know which conferences were relocated and to where, but I assume they were all covered by the force majeure clauses in their contracts. Still, I’m sure it was a headache for conference organizers and hotel staff alike.

Any event – big or small – needs a risk plan. Event planners pride themselves in being great problem solvers – reacting to the problems that arise during the event. But we need to be more proactive and work through potential scenarios ahead of time.

Risk management is a huge topic and tons of books have been written about the subject, even specific to events and conferences. I would encourage you to explore those resources when working on a risk management plan, but here are a few basic suggestions:

Always know where your staff and volunteers are and how to reach them in an emergency. Develop an emergency protocol that carries over for all events, such as a call list.

Have a plan on how to reach your guests or attendees in an emergency or even just to communicate change of plans – are you collecting cell phone numbers at registration?

Think about the weather when planning events – there are certain places that have riskier weather patterns at certain times of year. For example, avoid regions that get a lot of snow in the winter if you want to avoid potential travel delays. Avoid regions that are often in the path of hurricanes during hurricane season. Often you can get a great deal on meetings and events in these places at those times for that very reason, but understand the risk.

Have a plan B you can pull out of your pocket for speakers or entertainers who might be delayed.

Know your contract terms. Sit down with your lawyer and make sure you understand how an Act of God is defined in your contract so you know exactly which situations will put it into effect.

This doesn’t begin to even scratch the surface of event risk management. What are your suggestions?