Time to Upgrade from 3-Ring Binders

All meeting and event planners have horror stories about how they manage their events, from 3-ring binders to elaborate spreadsheets. Heaven forbid, if you lose the binder or can’t get online to access the spreadsheets, there are so many things that can go wrong. Here are organization tips for highly effective event and meeting planners to keep pace in the industry.

  1. Bye Bye Spreadsheets. Spreadsheets were initially used for mathematical or financial tasks, and even though event planners have to track hundreds of deliverables (due dates, costs and assignments), there are better solutions for event planners. These include project management tools with mobile apps that can be used before the event begins and to access information while on-site. These apps are like your notebook, but better; they sync back to the cloud so nothing gets lost. They also allow you to keep in touch with your peers at the office in real time.
  1. The Cloud is your Best Friend. The problem with notebooks is it’s out of date as soon as you put it in the book. A cloud-based system creates a central location for all information associated with an event or meeting. It’s a place where files, decisions, contracts and conversations can be assessed and reviewed. That means fewer meetings and less time spent disseminating new information to team members.
  1. Delegate, delegate and delegate more. Event and meeting planners often exhaust themselves as they try to do everything themselves. You can delegate work effectively, while still monitoring the progress in real time. Collaborative work management software lets you assign work to members of your team and monitor the status of every task. Members of the team will appreciate the organization as much as you appreciate the transparency.
  1. Automate Deadlines. Events and meetings rotate around a variety of deadlines, from short term to years out.  These deadlines usually create a domino effect; one change affects the rest down the line. There are tools that help you automate these calculations so you can manage unexpected schedule changes with confidence, knowing the event is staying on track. Stuff happens. When you utilize automation, you can change one date and the computer will do the dirty work of figuring out the rest.
  1. Templates Create Success. If your event was successful, you want to duplicate that in every way possible. The problem with a notebook is that you can’t just photocopy it and start over again. Tools in the cloud allow you to access learnings from previous events or meetings and replicate your results, while reviewing areas for improvement. As the volume and costs of your events grow, this will help optimize your work, not just manage it.

If you’re a high-speed and high-volume event planner, it’s time to ditch the 3-ring binder and embrace modern conveniences, like cloud software, that will help you improve event planning from start to finish.

Source:  BizBash, https://www.bizbash.com/guest-column-when-to-throw-out-the-three-ring-binder/boston/story/36098#.W5u_gPlReUl

Hit Your Meeting Out of the Park With The Largest Conference Center’s Spring Training Package

The National Conference Center is one of the largest training and development facilities in the nation, and it’s celebrating the opening day of baseball by announcing its Spring Training Package.  Offering a unique bundling of services, the National is the expert at providing the perfect meeting place for experiential learning, meetings and teambuilding.Spring Training

“With Spring finally here, it’s time to refresh and rejuvenate with new ideas and goals for companies and associations. We work with each of our clients to advise and meet their goals with each meeting held at our facility,” says Juan Garcia, Executive Director of Sales.

The National is one of the leaders in developing the Complete Meeting Package (CMP), which is an inclusive per person charge for meetings. The National’s Spring Training Packages for day meetings includes:Savings Spring Training

  • One general session room
  • Two breakout rooms
  • Breakfast and lunch
  • Unlimited refreshment breaks
  • A technology package
  • Complimentary covered parking
  • Complimentary wi-fi

Hot Dates:  April 15 | May 6 | June 3
Save 20-40%

Big and Small Facilities
Depending on the size and flavor of your meeting, The National offers unique, individualized meeting space with conference rooms, outdoor space and rooms with natural light. With 265,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event space, offering 250 purpose-built conference rooms, breakout rooms and general session rooms, we offer flexibility in a big way. Recently, The National has created small, intimate meeting space. The outdoor courtyard with Pergola and fire pits are used almost daily, along with a modern Living Room space and a “speakeasy” room aptly named The National Secret. The finished room is down a hallway around the corner from the active Black Olive Bar & Grill with no other entrance.

The Food Experience:  Hyper-Local
The National’s food and beverage program continues to grow and evolve under the direction of Todd Goldian, Executive Chef. We focus on local farm-to-table cuisine incorporating over 60 local products to the daily menus that serve as many as 1,200 guests per day. The newest partnership is with a local farmer, CEA Farms, who has been farming in Loudoun County since 1797. Farmer Virts provides all the tomatoes, lettuces and specialty greens for our guess. For day meetings and events that take place in the adjacent West Belmont Place, guests enjoy the same food quality for a banquet or luncheon as guests in the Dining Room and Black Olive.

The National Challenge Course
Experiential learning has been touted as an exceptional method in creating memorable learning experiences with high recall. The Challenge Course includes action-based learning components such as the high ropes course and other elements designed for problem solving and leadership development. The new course features nine unique elements strategically placed within the 65-acre campus and each element provides multiple challenges.

For more information or to book a Spring Training Package at The National Conference Center, contact the sales office at sales@conferencecenter.com.

3 Loudoun County Side Trips to add to your Meeting Agenda

Meeting planners often are looking for activities off property to enhance their attendees’ experience. Check out these three Loudoun County side trips that can be added to any meeting agenda.

Sometimes you just need to get attendees moving and out of the classroom or meeting room. In beautiful Loudoun County, known for its historic, equestrian and agricultural landscapes, there are many attractions that can be added to your meeting agenda.

The National is part of a vibrant community in Loudoun County, with its award-winning, revitalized downtown, entertainment, sports, arts, shopping, dining and agriculture including wineries, breweries and distilleries. The surrounding Loudoun area offers everything from fishing, hiking and boating to golf, antiquing and exploring historic sites.

We’ve put together three side trips that we think would add value to any meeting, training or conference. These trips can be used as teambuilding add-ons or just a fun way for attendees to spend time together, an important part of any meeting.

Challenge Your Team

Team Building at NCCIf teambuilding events are planned and executed well, people feel good about themselves and about their colleagues. This trip starts right here at The National’s Challenge Rope Course.

Low Elements -permanent weight bearing structures constructed outdoors of wood and cables and High Elements-outdoor challenges constructed of wood and cable that allow participants to be as high as 40’.  All participants are in climbing gear and are protected by belayers.

The Rope Course could take place in the morning; then break for lunch with a Southern-style BBQ in the courtyard; then off to Pev’s Paintball or Top Golf. Paintball is fast paced, high-tension game that brings people together with a little pressure and competition. In order to win a game of paintball, your team must work together, communicate, and be willing to take risks. Our team can create a customized team-building program or your group can simply learn to play the game and have a recreational event.

Top Golf Dulles , now open in Loudoun County, features 102 bays over 3 floors, an amazing rooftop terrace, lively bars and a golf game concept that is sure to blow you away! Anyone can play Topgolf, from aspiring pros to those who’ve never walked 18 holes. All you have to do is swing a club and try to hit your microchipped balls into dartboard-like targets. It’s competitive. It’s fun. And it’s always better with a big group! There are many different packages available with food and beverage included.

Meet and Eat

Meet and EatStart the day off with a bus tour to Leesburg Farmer’s markets sponsored by EatLoco. Loudoun County is filled with rolling hills and farmland studded with orchards, vineyards, Christmas tree farms, and much more. From the eco-ganic vegetables at Potomac Vegetable Farm and the certified-humane heritage breed meats and organic produce at Ayrshire Farm to the county’s hand crafted beer, wine, and spirits, Loudoun brings the farm to your table. Visit the local farmers market with Executive Chef Todd Goldian as you plan for a custom Chef’s Table that night. That’s right, you’ll pick the produce, cook the dinner with chef in the kitchen and then visit a winery or brewery the next day. We know the value of food to meetings. Research shows that food plays an important role in ensuring meetings are more efficient and more productive when attendees are eating food that effectively fuels their minds.

Our Chief Wine Officer Mary Watson will host a winery or brewery tour with you to learn how to taste wine, what to look for when pairing wine with food and explain the Loudoun County terroir. See the full list of wineries and breweries just a few miles from the National.

Backyard History

Morven ParkStart the day with a visit to the regional park, which was the site of the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. This October 21, 1861 clash was the second largest to take place in the county during the Civil War. It took place along the banks of the Potomac River, where the Union fell backward into the river in a defeat that merited a congressional investigation. The national cemetery here is one of the smallest in the country. A one mile hiking trail offers interpretive signs.

A visit and tour of Morven Park will not disappoint. The movie, “Fighting & Frolicking”, brings to life Confederate soldiers in camp early in the Civil War. The living history program features historical interpreters portraying Civil War soldiers who lived at Morven Park in the winter of 1861-62, as well as civilians.

If time permits, a driver could take your group through the Mosby Heritage Area or you could do a Middleburg Walking Tour.

End the day with a historically researched dinner prepared by the culinary team, along with a teambuilding exercise: Civil War Trivia Night in the Black Olive Bar & Grill.

Whichever you choose, each of these side trips complement  teambuilding activities or could be used as networking opportunities. Ask your conference planner for a private tour of our rope course or to help set up the culinary or historic tours. We look forward to working with you.

Chef Todd’s “Fall Food and Wine Pairing” Dinner

It was a lovely cool fall night for our Customer Advisory Board Fall food and wine pairing. Chef Todd Goldian and Chief Wine Officer Mary Watson-DeLauder created a perfectly balanced, comfort food menu with braised meat, toasty pumpkin highlighting cinnamon, ginger and sage herbs from the garden.

Pumpkin RavioliThe first course was a beautiful plate of Pumpkin Ravioli with Sugar Pecans and Pumpkin Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and Brown Sage Butter. This colorful dish had a perfect blend of soft, crunchy, savory and sweet without tasting heavy. Mary paired the dish with SCHLOSS VOLLRADS KABINETT-GERMANY, a dry Riesling that had a touch of sweetness, but a long mineral finish. This light wine is grown on about 80 hectors (about 200 acres) of dry land in the mountains of Germany. The strength of the German Riesling when compared internationally is that it contains little alcohol but an abundance of flavors.

Paella with Tequila ChorizoThe second course was Paella with Tequila Chorizo, Pork Belly (both from Springhouse Farm), and Carolina Prawns. Saffron is the key spice in any Paella, a Spanish dish of rice, peas, seafood, chicken or pork. Chef’s combination with Pork Belly and the head-on Shrimp had a bit of a kick, but was tasty without being overwhelming. Thank goodness this was a small portion. Mary paired the CHARLES AND CHARLES ROSÉ-WASHINGTON, which was salmon in color with a light and dynamic palate with a tangy bright finish. Mary explained that Rosé had disappeared from the marketplace once White Zinfandel came on the market, but they have come back strong particularly from Columbia Valley area in Washington state. This particular wine was light, tart and was a nice compliment to a complicated dish.

Slow Braised Short Ribs The third course was Slow Braised Short Ribs with Buttermilk Polenta, Charred Brussel Sprouts and a Cabernet Reduction. The short ribs had been cooking for 4 hours in the oven in a wine sauce, while the polenta was creamy and cheesy, the charred Brussel sprouts were crisp, and a lime green color. All were topped with microgreens from the local CEA Farms. The rich flavors of the meat and polenta paired beautifully with the NICK GOLDSCHMIDT FIDELITY-CALIFORNIA. From the Alexander Valley, the Fidelity is a deep garnet color that is nicely balanced with red and dark red fruit flavors with soft tannins in the finish. This seemed to go down way to easy.

We finished the night with a Wild Turkey and Ginger Cider Float. A combination of ice cream, cider, and cinnamon sticks topped with a flavorful Ginger Ale was a calm retreat to the night. Shots of Wild Turkey where available as Chef talked about his first Wild Turkey shared with his Grandad.

Chef’s Tables can be arranged as a private event or as part of a meeting or training session. It’s a great way to say thank you to board members, speakers or customers. Email Paula Safran to arrange a holiday Chef’s Table today.