PEC Employee Spotlight: Meet Kaitlyn

Each month, we like to recognize and highlight an internal employee on our blog. PEC wants you to know the names and faces behind our walls, since these are the people that work daily for the betterment of our services for our clients. In today’s PEC Employee Spotlight you’ll meet Kaitlyn.

employee spotlight

Name: Kaitlyn Herbst
Position: Event Coordinator

What point in the event planning process is your favorite?
I like the creative proposal stage. It’s fun to research and pull together ideas to present to clients. Anytime we get to brainstorm colors and themes is a fun day.

What is your favorite hobby outside of work?
I enjoy refurbishing wood furniture and making any crafty wall decor. Stripping paint is my least favorite part of a project, but once I get to sanding and painting or staining I really start to have fun. There is satisfaction in taking something old and creating something unique to my taste that I can use.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? (Given that your family or friends would be there too).
I’m pretty fond of home (here) and I’m really looking forward to my first summer in Milwaukee. I don’t think I would ever leave for long, but an extended stay in Ireland or New Zealand would be a dream.

What cooking or baking dish are you known for?
Chocolate sour cream cookies (now Greek Yogurt Cookies) with Andes mint chips. They taste like meltaways and are delicious! They are probably one of the things in life that I don’t stay humble about. It’s my Grandma’s recipe, which you can never beat.  The secret ingredient (according to her)… 1 cup of love!

If you weren’t working in events, what would you be doing?
I would be working in a health/fitness related field. I would probably take my coordinating skills and apply them to creating nutrition and fitness plans for clients.

Name one interesting fact about yourself!
I can be indecisive…I attended 3 colleges in 4.5 years to obtain 1 degree. Or I have a traveling scarf with me two best friends who have lived in different parts of the world at given times. It has been to more countries than me, but it has mainly resided in Oshkosh, Wisconsin; Seattle, WA and Miskolc, Hungary. It currently resides in the Chicago area.

Celebrating 10 Years in Business

We have exciting news: We are celebrating 10 years in business! March 17, 2013 marks the 10 year anniversary for Professional Events and Consulting down to the day. 10 years ago, Cheryl McShane, owner and president, filed the paperwork to make Professional Events and Consulting an official business. This week, we are celebrating 10 years of hard work, doing what we love, and success.

To make our celebration official, our team came together for a delicious soup + salad lunch in the office this past Wednesday. To top it off, we made sure to make homemade shamrock shakes in the office as well! With full and happy stomachs, we congratulated owners Cheryl McShane and Denice Waldhuetter for their huge accomplishment.

shamrock shake

We want to make sure to thank everyone who has contributed to our success along the way. From our valued clients, trustworthy suppliers, and reliable industry partners to our supportive families and friends – thank you from the bottom of our hearts! We have been blessed to work with each and every one of you along the way.

As we head into our 11th year in business, we have many exciting new changes taking place that we can’t reveal quite yet. Stay tuned to our blog for an announcement within the next few weeks!


Hosting a Meeting in the Midwest

Not considering hosting a meeting in the Midwest? Read this first.

Having been raised in Wisconsin, I was often asked, “Where do you want to live when you grow up?” My mind never wandered to distant places. My desires were not to have warm sand beneath my feet all year long or to experience the big city lights to the east. My real unanswered question was – could I ever leave? At this stage of my life, nearing my mid-twenties, the answer is yes, I could.  However, would I really want to? I have always been a Wisconsinite. I have traveled throughout the United States and to Eastern Europe, but my heart always remains in the Midwest.

I recently moved to Milwaukee – the biggest city I have lived in. This city has a way of connecting with my heart. The connection one experiences when listening to music, I feel walking the streets of downtown. With the big city lights overhead, I still feel my small town roots. As a young adult, moving here was easy. The people, young and old, are friendly, motivated and driven.  There are more cultures than I have experienced in a lifetime and weekend upon weekend there are festivals to celebrate those specific cultures. The atmosphere is one that I would describe as eclectic. There is always a new restaurant or pub to check off the list, or for the knowledge hungry, ever changing museum exhibits.

Other big cities in the Midwest such as Chicago, Indianapolis and Minneapolis provide much of the same. Opportunities in these cities to experience art and culture are endless. For a meeting planner, it is like being a kid in a candy store. Not only are the cities unique and entirely affordable, but the event venues offer a solid reason to visit. Long gone are the days where every reception is held in a ballroom. Here in the Midwest, venues provide diversity. Museums, warehouses, stadiums, theaters, union stations and other unique venues have become common sites to host events.

As a leading event planning agency in the Midwest, PEC encourages our clients to think outside the box and to give their guests an unforgettable experience. We have planned extraordinary conferences and galas for clients at venues such as the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Target Field in Minneapolis, and the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

If you have an upcoming event, the region I call home has everything to offer!

This post was written by Kaitlyn Herbst, Event Coordinator at PEC.

feature image source

Instagram for Events

With over 80 million registered users, Instagram is an ever-growing smart phone application (app) in which users can snap, customize, and share photos instantly with their social network. Instagram has the capability to share photos in real-time with a particular audience at a particular time. If Instagram does not sound like an app that would be extremely useful in the events world, look a little harder. This app has the potential to change events for the better.

The first step in boosting attendance for an event lies in event promotion and marketing. Although there are several ways and mediums used to promote events, Instagram is one specific way that can be used to make an impact on potential attendees pre-event. As a meeting or event planner, consider taking pictures on-site during event set up to capture the process of the event coming together. Share these “behind the scenes” photos with a social audience and allow potential attendees to feel hype around the start of the event. In this way, you become an exclusive provider of insider information.

So what’s the big idea behind Instagram for events?
Instagram for Events

Instagram works well in marketing an event ahead of time, but it can also be used to engage attendees during the event. Consider this: how are you bringing together everything that is said and posted about your event into one place or feed? The answer should be a hashtag. Having event attendees use a common hashtag allows for all communication to be processed through one specific feed. In this way, you’re combining Instagram photos from 10s, 100s, or even thousands of event attendees in one feed that allows everyone both at or not at the event to view. A hashtag creates a sense of community as individuals scroll through other’s photos to see what other opportunities the event holds.

Finally, consider how Instagram assists your company in reminding event attendees of the event’s call-for-action when used in correlation with your event. Since users can go back and revisit their old photos, they are likely to look back on the Instagram pictures taken at your event in the future and the photo once again brings the event initiatives to front of mind for those individuals.

Since event attendees will not know about your Instagram usage and campaign, it is vital to communicate the use of Instagram both before and during your event. Make sure to choose a hashtag prior to the event that can be used by both your company as well as the event attendees. Communicate that hashtag in all invitations and pre-event communication materials. During the event, use well-placed signage, verbal announcements, and a projected live Instagram feed to ensure that attendees are well informed of the opportunity to share photos with one another. The app can even be used to run photo contests through for the ultimate attendee interaction.

Implementing Instagram for events does not need to be difficult, it simply takes planning and smart communication with attendees.

This post was written by PEC’s Marketing Coordinator Molly Rasmussen.

How to: Fill Hotel Room Blocks

Your convention is months away and you have established a hotel room block, but how do you keep attendees from reserving a room outside your room block? This is a primary concern of many meeting planners, as the need to fill room blocks is vital to the overall success of the convention or meeting.

“What’s in it for me?” That is what the attendee is asking when they see hotel information on their registration site. Your attendee’s need to reserve a hotel room for your event, but how do you convince them to reserve a room within your room block?

As the meeting planner, you must ensure that you are creating  a hotel contract with minimal risk for your event by starting with a reasonable room block and the necessary clauses to protect your company. Not reaching your room block means owing the hotel attrition, which has the potential to add up to thousands of dollars if you are not careful.

Here are some tricks to provide incentive for your attendees to reserve a room within your room block:

  • Negotiate the lowest rate possible and hold the hotel to not publishing a lower rate over your event dates.
  • Offer a discount on registration for the attendee’s that book at the hotel.  It could be a discount on the hotel itself or one of the sessions or socials.
  • Offer a “VIP” reception at the hotel on the first day of the event for just those booked through the block.
  • Attendees may want to see a cash value or some sort of discount associated with the hotel.  Try working with the hotel to offer something complimentary like breakfast, drink vouchers or free Wi-Fi.
  • Get your local CVB involved. Most CVB’s can put together a welcome packet full of discounts at local attractions or restaurants that can be put in your hotel welcome packet.
  • Enter attendees into a raffle for a cash prize if they book within the block.
  • You can work with your registration system as well. Determine if they have the capability to disable registration for the event unless they see your reservation at the hotel first.
  • Increase registration by a certain dollar amount if they book their sleeping rooms outside the room block.

Given all of these incentives, your attendees may still book outside your room block for various reasons. In this case, place a clause into your hotel contract that allows you to audit your attendees. The hotel will use your attendee list from the event and compare it to those attendees that booked at the hotel over your event dates. You can pick up those few attendees that did not register through your block but still stayed at the hotel.

PEC Plans: Operation MOVE

In early December, the staff of PEC planned and executed Operation MOVE, a 4,000+ person public event dedicated to battling childhood obesity. Nearly 4,000 children from area Milwaukee schools poured into the seats of the US Cellular Arena on December 11, 2012 to learn about the importance of staying active throughout life. Students danced and moved around all day with various entertainers, speakers, and local celebrities as they were educated on the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

Screams, cheers, and laughter filled the arena when Green Bay Packer, Greg Jennings, arrived on stage to tell his own story and to motivate the audience. Jennings even managed to do the Cha-Cha-Slide with a group of eager students on the floor of the arena. Joining Jennings to motivate kids were several local professional sports team mascots, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the FigureHeads, The Zoological Society, The Ability Center, and several local nutritionists, pediatricians, and health professionals.

Operation MOVE would not have been possible without the support of its sponsors. PEC extends a special thank you to United Way of Greater Milwaukee in partnership with GE Healthcare, CommunityConnect HealthPlan, and Educators Credit Union for your support in bringing Operation MOVE to life.

We hope you enjoy a brief video highlighting the best moments of Operation MOVE 2012.

[vimeo id=”60101299″ width=”600″ height=”350″]


Negotiating a Hotel Contract

Reviewing and negotiating a hotel contract can be time-consuming, confusing, and down-right frustrating. You are seeking a fair agreement that accurately and comprehensively covers your meeting arrangements, keeps financial risk to a minimum, and protects your company assets. Often times the contract you receive from the hotel may be one-sided in favor of the hotel, vague in many places, missing essential language, and difficult to interpret.

Hotel contracts have gotten increasingly longer and more complex in recent years.  One reason is because hotels are trying to protect themselves from previous mistakes that have cost them money. Secondly, they are seeking good fortune reigns. Convention hotels have experienced increased occupancy, profits, and annual rates. Due to this fact, performance-related clauses are now the rule rather than the exception.

As a meeting planner, you are entitled to agree to a hotel contract that is written in the best interest of your organization that not only gets you what you want at the right price, but is also clear, easy to read, written in laymen’s terms, and is unambiguous.  Did you ever consider the fact that it’s time for the hotel to sign your contract?

Rule number one in your contract: everything must be in writing.  A verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.  When parties fail to live up to an agreement, written proof of the negotiator’s intent is critical.  It eliminates the “he said, she said” confusion.  What if the original hotel general manager or kind sales executive you negotiated with is no longer employed at the hotel? A written contract ensures that everything agreed upon is in writing to avoid points of contention upon the arrival of your meeting.

What are your obligations for room nights?  Room block, rate, and reservation method are quite standard in a contract, but have you provided a clause that allows for a room block adjustment without penalty and one that flows down to attrition/cancellation penalties? The hotel might have offered the lowest room rate possible, but given this detail, does your provision include rates that are published and may be booked on the internet?  If a lower rate is discovered, does your clause include a must-match for the entire group?

Avoid hotel form contracts.  Hotels can take a brilliant negotiation and reshape it into something ugly that is not in your organization’s best interest. Your hotel contract will be strait forward and 100 percent reflective of the negotiation in addition to being completely understandable.

PEC specializes in Site Selection and Hotel Contract Negotiating. Not only does PEC have a hotel contract that can be presented to the hotel on the client’s behalf, but we have an arsenal of clauses that can be included in a hotel contract that benefits both the client and the hotel. PEC will work to find hotel contract clauses that best apply to the needs of the client and event.

PEC Employee Spotlight: Meet Jean

Employee Spotlight
Each month, we like to recognize and highlight an internal employee on our blog. PEC wants you to know the names and faces behind our walls, since these are the people that work daily for the betterment of our services for our clients. In today’s PEC Employee Spotlight you’ll meet Jean.

Name: Jean Lynch
Position: Account Executive

What point in the event planning process is your favorite?

On the public event side,  it is when we secure our sports/celebrity spokesperson. The rest always falls into place after that moment!

What is your favorite hobby outside of work?

I enjoy working out and watching my kids in all their activities.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? (Given that your family would be there too).

My parents were both born in Ireland. Growing up I spent my summers there visiting relatives. I would love to live in Ireland for a period of time with my family!

What cooking or baking dish are you known for?

Rigatoni pasta with mushrooms, heavenly!

If you weren’t working in events, what would you be doing?

I would be working for a child protective agency.

Name one interesting fact about yourself!

I actually worked at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport while I was in college and parked the planes after they landed.

Fun Feature: Valentine’s Day Ideas

Valentine's Day Ideasimage

As event planners, we’re always keeping our eyes and ears open for unique and thrilling ways to provide hospitality to event guests. Because of this, we have a working knowledge of activities around Milwaukee that will provide a good time and leave visitors smiling when they walk out the door. This week, we thought it would be fun to share a few Valentine’s Day ideas for couples in our area! These can be done with friends as well.

Splash Studio

“Chocolate. Painting. Drinking” is the tagline for Splash Studio‘s February 13th and 14th session. What more do you and your special someone really need? Splash Studio is located in the heart of the Historic Third Ward in downtown Milwaukee, and offer an unique (and fun) bar experience.   My girlfriends and I went a few weeks past, and I am not exaggerating when I say we had the time of our lives. Artists are there to help you through the session’s painting, or if you are like us, there to help you paint whatever you want! Valentine’s Day or not Splash Studio is a must do! Sessions range from $28-$33 a person.

Red Arrow Park

The necessity of hand holding makes Red Arrow Park the perfect spot for you and your valentine. Nothing says romance like accidently or not so accidently slipping into the arms of someone you love. It’s fun, romantic, and very affordable. It’s free if you bring your own skates, or just $8.00 to rent. Red Arrow Park is walking distance from a wide array of bars and eateries on Water Street, and sells coffee, bakery, soda, beer, candy, and snacks in their Warming House. It was voted the Best of Milwaukee Best Place to Skate for a reason!

Music Under Glass at The Domes

February 14th 2013 is Valentine Sweetheart Night at Music Under Glass with FREE PHOTO BOOTH PICTURES. Need I honestly say more? Enjoy a concert, lightshow, and the beauty of The Domes for only $6.50 a person. With food and beverages available at The Domes itself, it’s the perfect Valentine’s one stop shop.

Romancing the Stars at the Milwaukee Public Museum

Want to give your honey “a romantic tour of the universe” but don’t know how? At the Milwaukee Public Museum’s Planetarium, couples have the opportunity see and learn (this is a museum after all) about all the constellations of love. The museum is also giving each couple roses and chocolates with admission. How cute! Admission is $20.00, and shows the 14th will be at 6:30pm and 7:30pm. I can’t image anyone actually wanting to lay out in the cold snow and star gaze, so stay warm and check out the Milwaukee Public Museum’s Romancing the Stars.

Stay at Home

A romantic night in can be just as good as one hitting the streets of Milwaukee. Find a cool new recipe on Pinterest and try your luck at cooking together.  (And if it doesn’t turn out Pizza Hut still delivers on Valentine’s Day!) Pair it with some wine, and a board game or cards. I personally love cribbage. It’s fun, competitive and easy to teach if need be. If you and your beau are feeling adventurous, try your hand at some chocolate fondue! YUM!

This post was written by one of PEC’s Event Coordinators, Sam Dobrzynski 

Event Decor On A Budget

Budget, Budget, Budget. This is the one concern that every client of mine has in common, no matter what type of event it is. It is my job to give every client the most bang for their buck and everything they wish for and more while staying within their budget. While the economy may be slowly rebounding day by day, budgets are still one thing that has remained tight… especially in the meetings and events industry. Here are some of my ideas for impressive event decor on a budget.

Start with an attractive venue

A venue that contains preexisting style and class can serve as event décor in and of itself. Start with a venue that is full of color and life already, and use that to your advantage in your décor budget. Choose color schemes that complement the theme and feel of the venue or room.
Event Decor on a budget 1(image)

Not everything has to match

Long gone are the days of matching centerpieces. This is not to say that thought shouldn’t be put into making sure centerpieces and décor complement each other, but having the same item on every table is no longer necessary to complete a room. This can impact a budget by allowing you to utilize some higher end décor pieces in particular parts of the room while simultaneously balancing that out with some budget friendly pieces. This combination will not decrease the value of the event, but will give the event space more variety.

Event Decor on a budget 2(image)

Choose one large statement

If your budget does not allow adding smaller décor elements throughout the room, you can still make a large impact with the use of one large ‘WOW’ factor showpiece. This is a strategic move because the piece can double not only as décor, but a great photo opportunity for your guests to enjoy. Your guests will go home with pictures they will share with family and friends after the event, thus keeping the event alive long after it is over. PEC has the ability to create these pieces for you in whatever shape, object, logo, etc. that you desire.

Event Decor on a budget 3(image property of PEC)

Use your network

It still reigns true today that you get to where you are because of the people you know. Your network and relationships can have a profound impact on your budget if you utilize them appropriately. This could apply by using items and décor pieces that other groups have already used (go green!), maximizing your negotiating power with those that you have solid relationships with, or forming new relationships (with a third party events company, for example) and benefit from their already solidified relationships.

Keep it simple

Décor does not always need to be extravagant floral arrangements or over the top centerpieces. Choose the items that work best for your group and for your budget. This could mean flooding the room with uplighting, gobos, and color instead of putting physical décor elements into the room. This could also incorporate LED light shows, lit bars and tables, or acrylic décor pieces that will leave your guests in awe of your creativity and attention to detail. Use what is already necessary to your event and turn it into décor. Request creative Food & Beverage presentations instead of a typical buffet style layout. Bring your Food & Beverage elements or attendee giveaways into your centerpieces so that your table décor doubles as something that the guests can physically enjoy or take home.

Thinking outside the box is something that I have learned to master as an event planner. This not only gives my clients the unique event they are looking for, but will also ensure outstanding event decor on a budget.

This post was written by one of PEC’s Event Coordinators, Nicole Putchel.