Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tasty Thursdays: Celestial Summertime Chicken Sandwich

Summer is the best time of the year to go outside and grill some delicious food. When it comes to grilling three key items come to mind, burgers, hot dogs, and steaks! A chicken sandwich is the perfect substitution to a long summer filled with burgers and hot dogs. They are simple and easy to make. I came across a delightful recipe for a summertime chicken sandwich that made my mouth water the instant I read the ingredients; grilled chicken breast with a fresh cream cheese dill spread alongside tomatoes and lettuce on a toasty French bread, mmm! A cool glass of lemonade would be a perfect companion to this delightful meal. For this recipe you will need:
· 4 ounces cream cheese, softened

· 4 teaspoons dried dill weed, divided

· 4 tablespoons minced garlic, divided

· 2 tablespoons butter, softened

· 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

· 1 small tomato, diced

· 1 leaf lettuce

· 4 thick slices French bread
Simple yet satisfying! Enjoy…
1. In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese, 2 teaspoons of dill, and 2 tablespoons of garlic. Set aside.

2. Melt about half of the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Season chicken breast halves with remaining garlic and dill. Grill for about 8 minutes per side, or until the meat is firm and juices run clear. Remove from the grill, and set aside.

3. Spread the remaining butter onto one side of the slices of bread, and toast in the skillet until golden. Spread the cream cheese onto the other sides of the bread, and make sandwiches with the chicken breasts, lettuce, and tomato.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wonder Wednesdays: Securing Corporate Secrets on Hotel Computers

In this day and age, most travelers come equipped with laptops, tablets and/or smart phones to stay connected while away from the office. Even still, most hotels offer the added convenience of complimentary computers to check email and print a few key documents on your way into your meeting.  Sure, you know to sign out once you’re done with the computer, but do you really know what data you might be leaving behind?

An article written for takes a look at the corporate secrets these hotel computers hold.  The author, a corporate security manager whose identity has been withheld, explains that email is ‘the most vulnerable repository of documents’ in a company- while traveling or not.  The ability to access email from anywhere in the world is essential to today’s business traveler, but downloaded information (emails, attachments, contacts and calendar items) remain on the device, even once the application is closed.
The security manager tells a story about a phone call he received from a hotel with which his company does a great deal of business.  The hotel manager wanted to alert the article’s author that 1GB of sensitive corporate information was found on the hotel’s public computer left behind from a sales representative’s email.  The data left behind included information about pending deals, copies of contracts and internal memos, plus some of the rep’s personal financial data.  The company immediately sent one of their IT staffers to the hotel to remove the data.  The hotel also re-imaged the computer
This is some scary stuff! So how can we better protect our data while we travel? The most obvious tips are: bring a company laptop and avoid wireless networks you don’t trust (and even the ones you do trust!).  But sometimes you just can’t avoid that public computer, so here are a few additional tips:
1.      Always connect to your computer using the https connection.  It is likely that your email client is available over both http and https and generally when you type in the short version of the link you are directed to the unsecured site.  You can also check your remote access settings as most email client’s offer an ‘always use https’ option.

2.      If you have to download documents, encrypt your files with password protection.  It is best if you do this ahead of time so there is no chance of the file being downloaded and then resaved after encryption, leaving the unsecured file behind and available.

3.      When downloading files, make sure you know exactly where they are being saved so you can delete them afterwards.
And of course, only open essential emails and download essential documents.  And ALWAYS log off when you’re done, clear the cashé and erase the history.

URGENT: Hurricane Isaac Grounds Flights

As Hurricane Isaac passes through the Gulf Coast there will be no more airline flights to or from New Orleans until the storm subsides. 
The New Orleans Airport is one of four that have suspended flights indefinitely due to the growing storm. The other airports that have cancelled their flights are Gulfport-Biloxi International in Mississippi, Mobile Regional in Alabama, and Penascola International in Florida. Combined the airports have cancelled an approximate 1,500 flights system wide.
Business in the most affected areas has come to a standstill because of Isaac. Stores and transportation services have been closed and suspended throughout these areas. While Isaac is not expected to be as strong as Katrina it has certainly made its mark on the Gulf Coast.
Isaac is an unfortunate reminder of the need for the “Force Majure” clause many (should be ‘all’) meeting planners and hotels include in contracts. While we plan and execute corporate meetings and events, we never know what natural causes will come to affect our plans and leave us without any control.
For more information visit:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Travel Tuesday: Cosmospolitan Las Vegas

The Cosmopolitan (commonly referred to as Cosmo) is the newest hotel and resort in Las Vegas. Opening on December 2010, with 2,995 rooms, AAA Five Star Rating, 100,000 square foot Casino, and over 150,000 sf of meeting space, the Cosmo has become the place to be. Originally the Cosmo was built to be mostly condos, but with the real estate market taking a dive it made more sense to turn the condos into hotel rooms. For this reason, the Cosmo offers oversized residential styled living spaces with private terraces and gorgeous views of the Las Vegas skyline.
The Cosmo is centrally located on the strip and offers world-class dining, stylish design, and a vibrant nightlife. Three distinct pool experiences allow guest to sit back and relax at their own pace. Your next meeting experience could be redefined by the combinations that the Cosmo has to offer. The Cosmo is a great example of a resort and casino on the strip that makes their guests want to shout “Viva Las Vegas!”

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wonder Wednesdays: Quick Tips for Greening Your Meeting or Event

Events typically have major environmental impacts and it’s very difficult to hold a truly ‘green’ meeting- everything from printed materials, to bottled water, to ensuring attendees are comfortable by blasting the AC, gives most meetings a large carbon footprint.  Event organizers are left wondering- how can we make our meetings greener?  Old habits can be hard to break, but here are 8 easy tips for greening your next meeting or event.  

Agenda- reduce the agenda booklet down to a one-pages and/or a smartphone app.  This will reduce the amount of paper being used (and tossed at the end of the meeting) and it will make your attendees feel more tech-savvy.  If you still need to post more detailed information, post it online or in one central place where attendees get what they need.  This will also allow you to post updated information quickly.
Evaluations- this is another place where smartphone apps and online surveys can shine!  There is no need to distribute paper evaluations anymore.  This also saves you the time and pain of tabulating the results manually and typing up attendees’ feedback.
Giveways should be useful items that attendees will want to keep, not something cheap that ends up in a landfill.  You could raffle off a few great prizes instead of giving everyone something mediocre. 
One green idea is reusable water bottles.  If you distribute these, don’t use any bottled water throughout the event and encourage your guests to carry their giveaway with them and refill at designated water stations.
Compostable Items- sometimes it is impossible to do without disposable items.  There are compostable cups and flat-ware that will make your event much greener. 
Recycled Materials- many companies are offering plastic name badge holders and other items made from recycled materials.  Think through everything you are using at your event and everything you are distributing to your attendees.  Are these items green? Are they available in recycled materials?
Venue- find a venue that embraces green practices like recycling, composting and energy saving.  For US venues, look for a certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the US Green Building Council.  Many hotels now offer a carbon footprint report which calculates your carbon footprint based on some basic factors of your meeting.  Do your best to reduce the footprint each year.
Local Vendors- use local vendors as much as possible to reduce shipping and trucking products across the country (or world).  You’ll be surprised how much money you can save when using local resources!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wonder Wednesday: SEO

Websites are all fighting for one thing, Traffic! This is one of the only instances in which “traffic” has a positive connotation. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of development of a website so that it will naturally attract visitors by winning top rankings on the major search engines for various keyword phrases.
Here are several tips for creating your website with search engine optimization in mind:
1. Every page on your site must have a unique HTML title tag, meta keywords tag, and meta description tag.*
2. Follow World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) recommendations for HTML document structure. Begin the body copy of your page with your keyword phrase, and repeat it as needed as the theme of the page throughout your copy. Feature your keyword phrase prominently by including it in headers and making it bold or italics.*
3. Use text navigation on your site, and use the keyword phrases you have selected as the links. If you cannot use text navigation, include a footer on every page using text links.*
4. Build a text site map, and link to it from every page of your site.*
5. Organize your navigation according to the importance of your keyword phrases. If you break your site into many pages, link to the most important pages from every page of your site, and link to the other pages from section header pages and the site map.*
6. Establish your site by submitting to the major directories, The Open Directory and the Yahoo! Directory, then build your link popularity by submitting to web directories, search engines, and requesting links from related websites.*
One final but very important key to successful SEO of your webpage is to be patient! This is a slow but very rewarding process. For more information and more tips visit: ;
*Tips provided by SEO Logic

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Breaking News: GSA Freezes Per Diem Rates for 2013

GSA announced that it will keep per diem rates at current levels for 2013 to help agencies meet the Obama administration’s directives to reduce travel costs government wide. 

For more information visit:

Travel Tuesdays: PUBLIC Chicago

Ambassador East, which is an iconic and historic building Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, has been renovated into what Ian Schrager, American hotelier, entrepreneur and real estate developer, into what he calls “a new breed of hotel.” The PUBLIC brand is focused on great service, great style and great value- all together for the first time.
The philosophy of the brand is “inclusiveness”- combining the service of a Four Seasons with the practicality and value of a Courtyard by Marriott into a uniquely luxurious experience.  Luxury at this hotel is not about extravagance or spending big bucks.  Instead, the hotel takes on a “no-frills” look giving guests what they need at a reasonable price. Rack rates for double rooms at the 285-room hotel begin around $135.
The brand is also about being democratic- the entire hotel is designed to be conducive for “hanging out” and meeting new people.  When Schrager set out to rename ‘The Pump Room’ the hotel’s restaurant, famous as a hangout for many celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and Humphry Bogart, he let the foodies in the area decide the new name.  The response was to keep the ‘Pump Room’ and that’s just what Schrager did. 
Since opening in fall 2011 to rave reviews, Conde Nast Traveler has named PUBLIC Chicago one of 2012's Best New Hotels on their annual "Hot List."

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fashion Fridays: Fall Fashion

Fall is coming and although we love summer, we are looking forward to all the exciting layering possibilities that the fall brings us. We are still in the in between season between summer and fall. I know a concern for some people is how to transition their summer clothes into fall so that they do not have to go out and buy a whole new fall wardrobe. Below I have listed one way you can wear your favorite summer clothes into fall so you don’t have to put them away for good.

A summer dress that we typically wear just by itself can be transformed for our fall wardrobe by adding a few basics that we probably already have in our closet. By adding a pair of tights, we make this dress more Fall appropriate and weather ready. To top it off, we add some black booties that every girl should have and a light cardigan and we are ready to go. If the cardigan is not enough, you can always add on a heavier jacket and this outfit can carry you well into winter!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tasty Thursdays: Portobella Mushroom Burger with Avocados

Most people think that in order to keep up that perfect bikini body for the summer pool parties and beach days, they can no longer eat the food that they love. That can’t be farther from the truth! You can turn your relaxing summer nights into fun family events and barbeque your favorite foods without derailing your diet. All you have to do is put a healthy spin on your beloved foods and no one will be the wiser. Everyone loves a good burger at a cookout, am I right? Well why not turn the burgers into Portobello burgers? Portobello mushrooms are known for their meaty texture, so even the men won’t be disappointed.

Portobella Mushroom Burger with Avocados
  • 4 medium portabella mushrooms, stems removed                  
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 2 tbsp low-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 4 hamburger buns, lightly toasted
  • 4 roasted red peppers, from a jar
Brush mushrooms and onion slices with oil; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper.
Heat large skillet or grill pan over medium heat until hot. Add mushrooms; cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes, turning once. Transfer mushrooms to plate, cavity side up; cover to keep warm.
In same skillet, cook onion slices until golden, about 8 minutes, turning occasionally.
Meanwhile, combine in small bowl, 1/2 of the avocado, yogurt, garlic and remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; mash until smooth.
Spoon onions and  roasted peppers into mushroom cavities, divided equally. Spread smooth Avocado mixture on bottom of each bun; top each with stuffed mushrooms.
Top with remaining sliced avocado. Cover with tops of buns.
Find the original recipe here:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wonder Wednesday: Sunshine Act

What do third party meeting planners and hotels need to do to prepare for the impact of the Sunshine Act (page 571)?

The Sunshine Act has third-party planners and hotels scrambling to get ready for the first of many impacts from the Sunshine Act. The goal of the legislation is to provide all record of all payments and “transfers of value” made to physicians and other covered entities to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The CMS will post the payments on a website where the physicians will have 45 days to review, comment, and contest any payments or “transfers of value”. After 45 days the transactions will be posted on the website for the public to be able to review. The objective is for patients to see the payments or “transfers of value” being made to their physician and decide if there are any conflicts. Payments are supposed to be standardized and consistent.
There are many articles and comments on the randomness of applying large payments to physicians conducting clinical trials, Continuing Medical Education and meals that they did not even attend.  At Meeting Sites Pro our concern is how do we report the payments and “transfers of value” that occur at your typical clinical trial or advisory board meeting.  Honoraria, plane tickets and hotel rooms are pretty straight forward.  The dollar amount on the bill/check is put in the physicians’ account using the Individual or Organizational NPI number.  The hard questions for us are how do we report and assign values for all the other costs of the meeting?  Generally speaking we have asked our clients and they tell us how they have decided to treat various expenses for their entire organization.  The problem is that each client has slightly different methods to assign “transfers of value”.  Below are several different examples of how assigning “transfers of value” can be difficult for us.
Example 1 - If a physician is picked up at the airport by a sedan and the cost is $75  than the physician is credited with a “transfer of value” of $75.  That is pretty straightforward.  If three physicians get in the sedan should they each receive $25 of value or should they each receive $75 of value.  Right now clients are collecting data using both methods and allocating values that vary significantly (300%).  Another question for this example is what is the “value” that should be allocated on a transfer from the airport to the hotel?  Should the “value” be the cost of the Sedan, the cost of a taxi or maybe even the cost of a shuttle?
Example 2 - A dinner meeting at a hotel with 30 guaranteed physicians at a cost of $50 per physician for a total guaranteed cost of $1,500.  If only 15 physicians attend should the physicians be allocated $50 (the expected ”value”), $100 (the total spend) and should the physicians who did not attend be allocated their $50 of expected “value”.  How do you think the physician who attended the meeting is going to react when he sees a $50 value or a $100 value on his website report?  What about the physician who did not attend being allocated $50 of “value” for a meal he was not at?  When the physician contests the allocations how much time is it going to cost the company to research the charges, how they were allocated and respond?
Example 3 - A meeting with 10 external physicians and 10 internal personnel has a management fee of $1,000, a room rental of $1,000 and AV equipment costs of $1,000.  Should these “values” be allocated to the physicians at all?  If you answered yes, what is the correct allocation of value?  Should clients allocate “value” to only the physicians ($300 per physician), to all attendees ($150 per attendee), or some allocation in between the two choices?  Remember the objective is for all reports to be standardized and consistent. 
Right now CMS is still reviewing the 329 comments they have received from Physicians, Physicians families, Hospitals, CME Providers Medical Device and Pharmaceutical companies.  Hopefully when they finalize the regulations they will give us some additional guidelines to help our clients provide standardized and consistent reports for the public.  Until then our clients and their attorneys will have to continue using their best judgment on how they should properly allocate transfers of values to physicians and covered entities.

For more information on the Sunshine Act please visit the resources below:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Travel Thursdays: J.D. Power & Associates North American Guest Satisfaction Index Study

Yet again, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. has topped the J.D. Power & Associates North America Guest Satisfaction Index Study.  2012 marks the 3rd year in a row that the ladies and gentlemen of Ritz-Carlton have led the way in overall customer satisfaction and experience.

Ritz-Carlton currently has 79 hotels and resorts worldwide and recently announced plans to add 35 new properties to the collection in destinations from Vietnam to Morocco.  Ritz hopes to operate over 100 award-winning properties by 2016.  The most recent openings include Ritz-Carlton, Okinawa, Japan and Ritz-Carlton, Montreal, Canada.
The report found deteriorating guest satisfaction with all hotel chains across the nation to their lowest levels in 7 years.  Despite this, Ritz-Carlton is not only in 1st place, but has received an increased score in every category since last year’s report.  The study was based on feedback from more than 61,300 Ritz guests staying at properties in Canada and the US between June 2011 and May 2012.  The study measures seven key areas- overall satisfaction, reservations, check-in/check-out, guest room, F&B, hotel services, hotel facilities and costs/fees.  Ritz also dominated in this year’s new survey of “Opinion of Staff”. 
In most luxurious destinations across the globe, there’s sure to be a Ritz-Carlton property waiting to welcome you to an extraordinary experience.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Meeting Mondays: Social Media

As social media sites rapidly grow and evolve, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the average person to really wrap their head around social media and process what it all means.

The Meeting & Event Industry has always been “social” by nature – whether it’s establishing personal connections at live events, understanding a client’s meeting objectives, or building a working relationship with vendors in order to negotiate better business deals in the future. However, the channels through which these social interactions take place are changing in some fundamental ways. For example:
·         Attendees will probably be talking about an event before, during, and after the event on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or uploading pictures of it on Instagram. Many of the members attending these events, whether it is large or small, may already be connected to one another on one of the above mentioned sites. If they are not connected already, they could connect with other attendees on sites like Twitter where if using a specific hashtag (e.g. #WEC2012)will show all other members using this hashtag indicating that they are at the event.

·         Promoting events on social media is a great way to drive attendance. For more social events such as a party or a concert, you are bound to be already connected to many of the people you are intending to invite. That way you can send out a mass invite to all of your friends on Facebook and voila you’re done. If you are hoping to get more people than your group of friends there are almost a billion people on Facebook, 100 million people on LinkedIn and 40 million on Twitter, common sense would tell you some of those people might be interested in attending your event.

·         Mobile apps are feeding the frenzy by making social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs easily accessible. This not only increases social participation of the live audience at the event but also allows those that weren’t able to attend to follow the live updates and engage. For example, various Olympic athletes have thousands of followers on Twitter, who are eagerly awaiting their new tweet.
Social media is allowing us to create new business opportunities and a better event experience by streamlining the interaction process and allowing us to engage with attendees, vendors, and clients on a daily basis rather than only when business comes up. How are some ways that you are utilizing social media to promote your business?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Fashion Fridays: London Edition

With the Olympics in full swing, all eyes are focused on London and the participating athletes in the most exciting athletic event of the year.  While most of us are unable to attend, we are able to pretend we are by emulating London’s unique and impeccable style which has earned them a spot as one of the fashion capitals of the world.
Having its own unique flavor, London fashion is a mix of prep, grunge, and overall the best layering you will ever find. Having to always be prepared for the weather, Brits are masters in layering. A perfect example of London fashion would be style icon, Alexa Chung.
Here Alexa has shown us perfectly how to layer to be summer sweet and yet be completely prepared for any weather mishaps that may come along in London. She started off her outfit with a neutral shirtdress that is easy to slip on for days you don't want to think about what to wear. Over that, she has layered a striped cardigan and then a long coat in case it got a little chilly. On her feet, she wears socks in neutral tones to spice up her black peep-toe booties. To top everything off, she has a very ladylike purse in another neutral pink shade. By taking style notes from Alexa, you can never go wrong while getting dressed.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tasty Thursdays: Peach Melba Parfait

Summertime has some of my favorite fruits and my all-time favorite has got to be peaches. They are so delicious and can only be found in grocery stores during the summer, so when they start rolling them out you can bet that I grab a bunch. Usually the first dessert that comes to mind when thinking about baking with peaches is a pie or a cobbler. However, summer is also the time for bikinis and showing off our toned and tan bods so I chose a relatively healthy snack/dessert that is quick and easy to whip up. The much healthier sounding Peach Melba Parfait. A relatively easy recipe, you can whip up this dessert in a jiffy and enjoy on a hot summer day.

For this recipe you will need:
·         1 ½ cups water
·         1 ½ cups sugar
·         ½ vanilla pod, split lengthwise
·         1 tablespoon lemon juice
·         4 peaches, cut in half

Raspberry sauce:

·         1 ½ cups raspberries
·         2 tablespoons powdered sugar
·         1 tablespoon lemon juice

·         1 pint vanilla ice cream
Heat the water, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla pod in a large saucepan over medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Bring the pan to the boil and let it cook for several minutes.   Reduce heat and bring the syrup to a fast simmer. Poach the peaches for several minutes until just softened. Remove the peaches to a plate and let cool.  When cool, remove the peels and pits and cut each peach half into 4 pieces. 

Combine the raspberries, powdered sugar, and lemon juice in a blender or a food processor and blend until smooth. If you’re using a standard blender or food processor, put it through a sieve to remove the seeds. If using a stronger food processor, you can skip this step.

To assemble alternate layers of the poached peaches, the raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream and garnish with a couple raspberries. This recipe serves four.

To see the original recipe, check it out here:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wonder Wednesdays: F2F Meetings vs. Video Conferencing

We live in a time where information is accessible to us in the blink of an eye or rather the click of a button. Chatting with friends who live across the country or even the world is no big deal. The advances that have been made in technology in the past decade are mind boggling. We can now video conference with people anywhere at a fraction of the cost that it takes to have a face-to-face (F2F) meeting. Which begs us to ask the question, why have F2F meetings anymore? Today we will compare the pro’s and con’s of each and let you, the reader, see the benefits of why F2F meetings are still the best.
Anyone who has used Skype, Oovoo, or any number of free video chat software knows how easy it is to video chat and the biggest perk? It’s free. Now let’s compare this to a F2F meeting which requires making travel arrangements, lodging, transportation, meeting space, and so much more. Why would we have a F2F meeting when we could save ourselves all this trouble and money? There are some things that a video conference cannot replace ever. Having the ability to sit down with a fellow while listening to an expert in your field, enjoy a meal, and make real connections is something that a video conference cannot ever be a substitute for. Sure you may save yourself a ton of money but you would not be able to experience a new location, meet someone face to face and shake their hand, or be surrounded by a number of people who share the same passion and interests that you do in the same room.
Some may argue that having to travel to meetings and conferences is detrimental to productivity because of the stress involved with travel. However, this is not the case. Oftentimes, meetings and conferences will be held in either a large city or resorts across the world that otherwise the attendees probably wouldn’t be visiting on their own dime. Traveling to these locations gives the attendees a chance to experience a new place, meet new people, and relax away from the stressful office environment that they are in most of the time. This time away, while still considered work, is much more relaxing and conducive to productivity. Talking to people who are in the same industry allows for more creativity and flow of ideas.
Let’s say Wicked is your absolute favorite musical on Broadway. Wouldn’t you rather see it live instead of watching it full-screen on your computer screen? This is the same for video conferencing. Yes, it may be more convenient and leave a smaller footprint. However, it cannot compare to seeing a speaker in the flesh and having the chance to go speak to them afterward where they could answer all the questions you have. It is so much easier to make a personal connection face to face than seeing someone over a computer screen. This is something that is irreplaceable.
We have outlined some of the many reasons why F2F meetings are still relevant in the world and how they compare to video conferencing. This is not to say that we shouldn't use video conferencing. For small meetings and calls, it is a great resource that would help to get information across more effectively than just regular phone calls or emails. However, in a larger setting, it cannot substitute for the experience of being there in person.