Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Importance of Training New Hires

Before you can start training new hires, it is critical to assess their skills and take into account strengths and weaknesses. While it is important to let them "show off" their strengths, it is equally vital to focus on the areas that need improvement and work with them to polish those skills. For example, if the person is a whiz at interacting with others but doesn't have a clue about how to put together a production schedule or budget, focus the training on those needs. On the other hand, if the person is wonderful at budgeting, proposal preparation and scheduling, but doesn't seem to fit in with others, focus on helping him or her be more comfortable with the team and clients. It's not necessarily that a new hire won't know how to perform the job description, but maybe it's more about teaching him or her how to fit into a specific work environment. Of course, a lot of this depends upon the person's experience level at the time of entry, so make sure you've done a thorough assessment before beginning the training process; never assume.


The Orientation and Training Process

  • Executives should discuss company goals, philosophy and the mission (the big picture) with new hires.
  •  Human Resources should outline company policies via the training manual and review the job description and responsibilities with the new hire.
  • The office manager should review reception/office management procedures.
  • Sales should outline sales procedures.
  • New hires should be teamed with an experienced professional within their job function who mentors.


Tips for Trainers/Mentors

  • Be generous with praise and positive feedback but stingy with criticism.
  • Coach on how to be considerate, respectful and make others feel comfortable. You can't change another's personality, but you can illustrate the proper conduct and how to fit better into your team's environment.
    •  This is going to involve socially and professionally mentoring new hires. A friendly, knowledgeable, positive trainer is an invaluable resource for a trainee and really helps to bridge the gaps that all new hires experience.
  • Never micro-manage and be flexible with the learning time frame. Setting unreasonable goals is one of the largest roadblocks for a new hire.
    • Do the training in stages or segments. Give the new hire a chance to master one element before going to the next. 
    • Remember, there are no training shortcuts; therefore, allow time and repetition to bring the results everyone wants.
  • Emphasize documenting every conversation in writing and asking for confirmation. 
  • Teach new hires to read everything thoroughly before sending out communications.
    • Become the guru of communication skills and pretend you are teaching your child how to be the most considerate and polite human being possible. A "golden rule" is to be as respectful to vendors and colleagues as you are to client and management.
    • Make new hires conscious of who is receiving written materials. Though it is fairly safe to be as succinct as possible, not every person works in 140 characters or understands social media acronyms.
  • Provide templates for complex materials, such as budgets, production schedules, proposals, etc. so the new hire can refer back to them once you are gone to reinforce what they've learned.

Orientation and training are critical keys to the long-term success of good employees. Take the time necessary to give new hires the tools they deserve to do an outstanding job for you.

Top 4 Training Activities Specific to Production

 From my perspective, assuming the new hire is fairly "green" to events and time and resources are available, the top 4 training activities for a new event coordinator, manager or producer should be:
Learning how to ask for a proper quote. As a producer you spend a large amount of time receiving and negotiating quotes with vendors. It might sound easy, but the more detailed you can be with your ask, the more accurate your quote will be. This is vital when time is of the essence, which it normally is in our line of work.
  • There is a way of presenting information to vendors that will result in the most  inclusive/"turn-key" cost possible. Key points of information to include are: date, time and location of the event; date and time frame for load-in and load-out; venue access details; scope of work you require (i.e. if it is entertainment you need, state whether you are looking for an 8-piece corporate band or a headline OR if you are working with a lighting vendor, indicate if you want simple up-lighting to accent the room or programmable moving fixtures that function as decor and entertainment); and finally budget parameters you're aiming to land on.
  • By reinforcing your need for an all-inclusive cost and asking vendors to note anything NOT included, you will be saving you and your team a lot of time and unnecessary back and forth. Once a new hire builds up confidence, he or she can begin to be critical if someone is priced too high and hone in on the art of negotiation. But that is for another time.
Learning how to budget in your current company's format. This step requires a template with detailed instructions for each line item as well as practice, practice, practice. Of course encouraging new hires to ask as many questions as possible as they need is critical to avoiding mistakes and will only help to strengthen their skills. This is where the patience and positive attitude of a mentor are key.

Learning how to interact with clients, vendors, colleagues, and management. Everyone has "quirks" and knowing them is very helpful to ease communication. For example, always assume a formal relationship with clients until a more long-standing relationship can be built. Get to know other team members and how they like to work. When emailing someone be as concise as possible. Most people won't take the time to read a lengthy email so if you have much to say, go "old school" and pick up the phone. You can always recap the highlights with an email afterward.

Learning how to put together a detailed production schedule. To begin, I encourage "newbies" to think about an event from the guests' experience. What's the first thing you would see, hear, smell, etc. when you walk in? Once they can think through an event in this manner, they can begin to get elements into a production schedule. Remember, everything that comes in must come out and some things have to happen before others can. Thinking a job through from beginning to end is vital. The best way to perfect this particular task, which is extremely detail-oriented, is to shadow an experienced pro.

Most companies, EE included, have training manuals which are great reference tools for company policy and overall guidelines; however, the best way to learn is by doing. This is why I share management's belief that internships are so vital in the event business. Not only is it a wonderful way for a novice to learn the business, but it is also a great way for the company to set itself up with a wonderful, already adjusted potential employee.

Mandy Bianchi is a senior account manager with Extraordinary Events. She may be reached at


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Working Trade Shows to the Max

Almost every industry has a trade show, and "working" them both from the exhibitor side and the visitor side can be challenging. As an exhibitor, you can win new business, re-establish or find new relationships, or you can damage yourself irreparably. As a visitor, you can educate yourself, find new products, make new contacts, re-establish relationships, or waste your time and money. In both cases, you have a choice.

Thoughts for Exhibitors

I firmly believe that anyone who represents a product should be trained in sales and have a very firm grip on the product. Why? Let's look at the hospitality industry. I have walked by booths where the representatives were so busy talking on their phones or texting that they never noticed I was there, waiting for their attention. Or, when they met with me, they pulled out a canned IPad "spiel" and when asked a question beyond the computerized scope, had no answer. Unless someone can really "sell" the product, no fancy booth will matter. It's great to have a full bar, cappuccinos and fancy food, but those won't earn business. They'll just attract people who want to eat and drink. So exhibitors should invest in the booth people and train them. That goes double for a formal presentation. They should be rehearsed and dynamic. The job is to sell. If that means hiring a trained presenter and then having someone else on standby to answer questions, then it's a solid investment. Think of how much money is lost when the audience becomes disinterested and bored.

To the exhibitor, please don't put loud music in your booth so that no one can talk (or hear). Nothing can be more annoying than a loud band across from a small booth. It's rude and inconsiderate to the other exhibitors, don't you think? And no destination was ever sold by having a loud musician in its booth.

Another tip? Have a microphone for the person presenting to a group. I want to hear what is being said. Make the visuals fascinating as well as informative and don't just read exactly what is on the screen ... entice me.

As a visitor to my travel and hospitality industry trade shows, I'm often criticized for not having an RFP in hand when I visit the booths and exhibits. What is my response? I have little interest in making appointments with destinations with which I am familiar, hotels I have seen and people with whom I've already met. They already have my RFPs. I want to meet with destinations about which I know nothing, hotels with which I am not familiar, and people I don't know but should. Then I am truly bringing value to my clients by learning new products. How can I possibly suggest to my customer a place about which I know nothing? How can I know that it might be perfect for their meeting or incentive? Thus, no RFP. I am sourcing and fact finding, which is why I go to these trade shows.

General Suggestions

There is always a boon when renewing friendships and business relationships. However using valuable appointment times for visiting old friends is for non-show hours or in one of the lounges in-between appointments in my opinion. From the exhibitors' point of view, if the appointment time is used up showing kid and pet photos and "catching up," would it not be more worthwile to meet a new prospect with some business opportunities?

Trade shows are big business and a huge investment of time and money for exhibitors and visitors. So, the next time you attend a trade show, think about the injustice you do your clients (or your company if you are manning a booth) when you don't work all the opportunities available to you in the moment. Really think about your goals and outcomes and then how to achieve them. They are gold opportunities, don't you agree?

Andrea Michaels is Founder and President of multi-award winning Extraordinary Events. To learn more about Extraordinary Events, visit To contact Andrea, email her via