Thursday, August 29, 2013

The holidays? Already?: Five reasons to plan early

The other day, we were in a hardware store, and we spotted with absolute horror the Thanksgiving decorations that were already out. Yeah, we know, we couldn't believe it either. But then the event planning side of us took over, and we realized that we'd better start thinking about the holidays. Parties, both the ones you plan for your own employees and the ones you plan as a gesture of goodwill! Annual gift-giving! Here are five reasons we like to plan early:

1. The Guest List
It's a nightmare already: For some parties, you're inviting clients and partners, and maybe media--basically, anyone who's helped make your business a success over the past year. So what's the best way to make sure that you don't leave anyone important off the list? Start thinking about it now. Planning an invitation list is a lot like trying to get someone to name the Seven Dwarves: you never remember them all at the first try, so give yourself plenty of time to get down every single person who counts.

2. Give Yourself Space
We're lucky--we generally hold our parties in our own spaces. But if you're like any other corporation, there's a good chance you'll have to find a place to have your party or event. Guess what? Locking in space early is one of the best, and easiest, things you can do for yourself. Once you've found a place, you can plan around it--food and beverage, activities, so on.

3. Recruiting Help
If you plan to start, um, the planning early enough, one option is to create a committee around the planning. In general, everything goes easier if there's more than one set of shoulders under the burden, so see if you can enlist some help. Asking early will help that.

4. Room for Oopsies
We've all had them--something got misprinted, or you didn't plan for enough people. With enough prior notice, most things can be fixed or Band-Aided. Wait too long, and...yeah. No time for fixes. Or Band-Aids.

5. Peace of Mind. 
This one's kind of self-explanatory. Staying calm during the holiday season is a total myth. But planning early can help take some of the sting out of it.

How early will you start planning your holiday activities? Let us know in the comments, or send us a tweet.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Could Cultural Know-How Have Prevented Oprah's Retail Snafu?

Guest post by Sharifah Masten at Protocol and Meetings By Design, Inc.
There's been a lot of conversation and debate around a certain talk show host's trip to Switzerland and her encounter with a retail establishment. Could Oprah's whole unpleasant experience have been avoided with a little more cultural know-how on both parties' parts? Let's look at the perception of words and actions, and keep one rule in mind: we don't, and can't, control how our actions and words are received.
 As Americans:
  • We consider ourselves open and welcoming, but in some countries they view this as being pushy, loud and intrusive. 
  • We like to celebrate and share accomplishments and successes; others are taught to not boast as not to make others feel inadequate.
  • As professionals, we are told to perfect our thirty-second pitch. In other countries it is not so much what you say and how fast, but the relationship you can build that matters.
  • We are proud of the freedoms that we have and wish for other to have the same opportunities but in other countries we are seen as not respecting their traditions or their traditional way of life.
  • We work hard to play hard and spend money on things we enjoy. In other countries, people are more focused on enjoying life, and not focused on work as the priority.
  • We are brought up to tip those working in service-related fields. However, in Europe especially, a tip is not typically expected and definitely not at 20%.  A generous tip to some means that Americans are trying to show their wealth. Worse, a large tip is sometimes seen as a handout.
  • Our salespersons are normally paid a salary plus commission which means they are taught to try and upsell. In other countries this is not the case.  They are normally paid a salary and whether they make a sale or the amount is immaterial.
What we expect in the US is not necessarily what will be the norm in other countries.  Whether you travel and make it known that you are American or if you are considered a celebrity here in the US, keep in mind that as Americans we are expected to be more tolerant and understanding of others. Not every action is a deliberate slight. Sometimes, it's just a misunderstanding or miscommunication.