Jane Lobbenberg, meetings and convention manager, the Waldorf=Astoria, NYC
A Team Player
The person who nominated Jane Lobbenberg for the CSM of the Year said that she feels that Lobbenberg is a member of her organization's team. "That's important to me," says Lobbenberg. "It's key to form a business partnership and get to know the client and what they need."
The Waldorf=Astoria is unique because the property is also a cultural icon. Attendees meeting at the Waldorf have a fantasy conception of what the meeting is going to be like. "That's wonderful, but it's also a challenge because you have a very high expectation to meet," says Lobbenberg.
Lobbenberg turns those fantasies into realities about three times a month -- that's the average number of meetings she handles. "After one event is over you have to go on to the next one right away," she says. "But it's a wonderful feeling to wrap up an event and know that everyone has worked hard on it and delivered what the group needed."
James C. Morrissey, meetings and convention mgr, Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort, Phoenix
Readin', Writin', and the 'Seven Ps'
"I'm a student of the 'Seven Ps' of service: 'Prior proper planning prevents piss-poor performance,' " says James C. Morrissey.
Morrissey works with anywhere from 40 to 50 groups a year. "That's a lot of times to go through the 'Seven Ps' but it's necessary because all you have to do is slip up once and you've lost the confidence of your client," he says.
Morrissey will go to great lengths to keep that confidence. When the American Board of Plastic Surgery used the resort to give doctors a certification exam, they needed absolute silence. For three days Morrissey had all the fountains around the property turned off. He even got the landscaping department to shut off all the lawn mowers and leaf blowers.
After the first day the doctors went back to their rooms to study instead of going to the restaurant or bar, and the hotel's room service was swamped. "We handled it, though," says Morrissey. "We recruited people from other departments to become waiters to deliver the orders around the property."
Bill Behrens, director of convention services, Experience Columbus
Bill Behrens divides every group he works with into its four component parts: the attendees, the exhibitors, the local community, and, of course, the meeting planners.
"For the attendees, we try to give them information on attractions and venues that will help them get the most value out of their time here," says Behrens.
Behrens and his staff also make sure that the exhibitors know how much they appreciate their participation in local events. "We do a special exhibitor welcome," says Behrens. "We go onto the trade show floor before it opens and hand out Buckeyes, which are chocolate candies, promoting the Buckeye State."
For the local community, Experience Columbus sends out a monthly information sheet of the upcoming groups to let the city's merchants know who's coming to town. "It gives them some details on the group so they can prepare for the attendees," says Behrens.
For meeting planners, Behrens and his colleagues try to gauge what type of services will be most helpful to them. "Communicating with the hotel community was very important last year because we have had groups with attendance challenges," he says. "Helping them work through that issue was a key activity for us in 2003."
Sandra L. Clore, director of convention services, Greater Cincinnati CVB
This is the third time Sandra Clore has won a CSM award. Her previous wins were in 1997 and 2000.
Clore always visits her clients' Web sites and tries to get programs from the previous year to see what worked well in their last city. "This gives me an idea of what I might have to do to translate that experience to Cincinnati," she says.
Clore is also willing to work long hours. "I always make sure that the planner has my home phone number," she says. "I'd rather get a late-night call about a problem when I can do something to fix it than wait to hear about it during the post-con when nothing can be done."
Often it's just simple things, like unlocking a parking garage or going to a supply store to pick up a couple of boxes of badge holders. But sometimes it requires a little more effort. Last year, when the American College of Nurse Practitioners came to town, Clore found out one day before the event that the group always gives a piece of artwork to its board members. "It wasn't a problem; my staff and I shopped around, found some appropriate pieces, and got them all purchased and gift wrapped in time for the presentation."
Convention Center Winner
Tiana Weiler, senior event coordinator, Minneapolis Convention Center
The Disaster Queen
Folks around the Minneapolis Convention Center call Senior Event Coordinator Tiana Weiler the "disaster queen" because of all the unavoidable calamities that have befallen her shows. She's weathered floods, power outages, and air-conditioning breakdowns.
Last summer during a show setup, a stage hand accidentally broke a water main, which caused a major flood. But the attendees never knew about it because Weiler and her staff jumped in and worked with the decorators and the production company to get everything cleaned up. "The water was pouring down onto the trade show floor and we had to shut down the electricity," she recalls. "Thankfully it happened on the first day of setup so we had enough time to clean everything up."
As a former stage manager for theatrical productions, Weiler says the key to being a good CSM is learning as much as she can about the event. "I work very hard to get as much information as possible from our clients, their suppliers, and their vendors to make the event successful," she says.
Convention Center finalist
Mario Prado, event services coordinator, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, San Antonio
The Go-To Guy
Whenever a big event comes into his convention center, chances are Mario Prado will be coordinating it. Prado has been a CSM since 1976 and in that time has worked on such high-profile events as the NBA All-Star Fan Fair when San Antonio hosted the event, and Hoop City, when the NCAA Final Four were in town.
Gonzalez, who became a CMP in 2002, is one of the most requested coordinators at the center. "A lot of planners ask for me but I can't work on every event," he says. But the planners who do get him never have trouble finding him during an event. "I don't just start the meeting and walk away," he says. "I always make sure that I am visibly close to the customer. My philosophy is to always be available to and ready to solve a problem."