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Kinsley’s Resolutions: Here’s to a Great Year

January 15th, 2019 by

2019 is well underway! To start the year off right, the Kinsley team made a few meeting & event planning specific resolutions:

Resolution #1: Exercise More!

As meeting planners, we know during a conference you can really log some miles moving between general session, breakout sessions, offsites and more. We crush Fitbit’s 10K daily step recommendation each day onsite. Back in the office it can be a different story in the weeks/months leading up to a conference as we analyze budgets, plan agendas, review signage and tackle work on the computer. In 2019, as a team, we resolve to move more! According to Harvard Medical School, walking for 2.5 hours a week (21 minutes a day) can reduce your risk of heart disease by 30%. What’s more, walking has also been shown to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and the risk of obesity.

And if that doesn’t get you moving – it can also help reduce stress! Break out those tennis shoes!

Resolution #2: Eat Healthier!

Let’s face it, food and beverage can sometimes make or break and attendees experience at an event. Meetings and conferences are opportunities to stray away from one’s normal diet – at least for a few days – with everything offered. And while we are not planning to cut out decedent desserts or savory bites at events we plan, rather, we will look for simple ways to give attendees the opportunity to keep things in check. Simple options include: adding whole fruit to breaks, offering sparkling water as opposed to soda, and serving salads with dressing on the side.

Let’s eat and be merry!

Resolution #3: Drink…Smarter

Happy hours, welcome receptions, and hosted bars can be a backbone to a great event. Why? Because they give / provide attendees a chance to network with one another in a relaxed and fun atmosphere.They can also be a hurdle for healthy lifestyles.This year, we plan to keep in mind these facts when it comes to sipping on alcoholic beverages:

  • Choose clear (ex. Gin or Tequila): they don’t have the added sugar that darker alcohols contain.
  • Tonic and Soda are not equals: tonic water has sugar, soda water is basically fizzy water – no calories there!
  • White or Red? Red wines tend to have a higher alcohol content which may lead to a hangover the next day, but white wines can be sweeter and more refreshing – leading you to drink more and get a similar hangover. Our vote: whatever you drink, chase it with water.

Resolution #4: Give to Others

For multi-day events, finding a pockets of time in the agenda for a volunteer event can provide an incredible ‘bang for your buck!’ A volunteer event allows attendees to network beyond the hotel or conference center walls. Volunteering connects your event to the local community which can lead to increased media exposure and help increase your organization’s public image. For your attendees, volunteering can be an opportunity to physically accomplish something, which in turn can help increase their sense of happiness and pride. These emotions then can be attributed to their overall experience during and perception of your event.The Kinsley team will strive to look for ways to help you, help others.

And finally, one resolution that endures from year to year:

Our Kinsley commitment to providing exceptional event and meeting planning service, delivering solutions outside of the box, and having some fun along the way.

Do you have a resolution this year? If so, we’d love to hear from you.

Five Questions With a Pro: An Interview with Tracy Stuckrath, CSEP, CMM, CHC, CFPM

January 15th, 2019 by

5 Questions with an F&B Expert helping Meeting Planners Provide Safe and Healthy Meals

Meeting planner veteran Tracy Stuckrath understands the importance of providing safe and healthy meals to attendees. And she learned it the hard way.
For years, Tracy struggled with health challenges only to discover she was allergic to yeast. After making changes to her diet, she also made changes to her profession. Now in addition to event planning, Tracy is a world-renowned speaker, trainer and consultant in the meetings and hospitality industry on how to serve healthy, safe and delicious food to all participants.

1: What food trends are you most excited for in 2019?

This year there are several exciting things on the horizon, including:

  • Insect Proteins: alternative proteins, like cricket proteins, are actually more common around the world than here in the United States. While they expand what we can offer, it is important to note that individuals with a shellfish allergy will also be allergic to insect proteins
  • Meal Kits: these are now popular in homes, but there is a potential to have the kit concept extend to meetings as well. They give attendees the option to create their own boxed lunches and select combinations that work for them
  • Cannabis-infused foods: this trend will most likely be limited to boutique restaurants/small events, but with more states legalizing marijuana – there is more exploration into how it can be incorporated into menus. At the same time, there is a requirement to ensure there is no cross-contamination with other food at an event to ensure someone does not accidentally consume it.
  • Donuts: they are huge again this year! What’s more, more places are offering Gluten-Free, Nut-Free and Soy-Free donut options enabling everyone to indulge.

2: As planners, how can we work with hotels to combat food waste while meeting the Food &Beverage minimums at hotels?

There are a number of ways meeting planners can help reduce food waste, with one of the most important is knowledge of your group.

  • Know the group’s history — what you ordered in previous years and how many specialty meals were actually picked up. Talk to your Conference Service Managers and/or Culinary Teams and do a visual inspection during the event of what gets eaten, and what gets left behind.
  • Ask your attendees about their dietary restrictions and then work to develop menus that are free-of specific allergens identified by attendees while still satisfying the whole group and/or developing plates that feed as many groups as possible (e.g. a nut-free vegan meal suitable for vegetarians).
  • Pay attention to arrival and departure schedules, so you don’t over order food for meals at the beginning or end of the conference.
  • Be cognizant of your surroundings: are you in a big city with a lot of options that will entice your attendees to skip your meals? Or are you in a remote area with only a few restaurant options offsite.
  • When negotiating your contract, build in partnerships with groups like Rock and Wrap It Up! or the World Wild Life Fund’s Hotel Kitchen to donate excess food.

3: Speaking of F&B minimums, the price of coffee always seems to be a discussion point when planning menus. Is there a reason it is significantly more expensive in some locations as compared to others?

The prices of coffee can fluctuate from location to location and there are several factors that play into establishing that price. With everything in the economy, supply and demand is one of the biggest determinants, followed by what the competition is doing in the area. Other factors include challenges with supplies – was it a bad year for growing coffee? The brand of coffee served impacts the price, as well as labor costs and the cost of living in the area.

4: In 2008, Congress expanded the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) to protect major life activities, e.g. eating, digestive system, immune system), thereby protecting individuals with celiac disease, gluten sensitivities and allergies. How do you ensure you are meeting ADA Guidelines with respect to the food and beverage (F&B) portion of your event, while staying on budget?

The expansion of the ADA now means that planning a food and beverage menu has now become a diversity and inclusion initiative and there are several ways to ensure your event meets ADA regulations, while keeping your budget in focus:

  • During registration, include “medically-necessary dietary need” under your ADA compliance question. Make this a mandatory field.
    If they identify a diet restriction, have them define it (diabetes, gluten free, celiac, food allergy, others).
    This helps your culinary team build selections.
  • Provide your culinary team the dietary needs early (site selection/contract) and then regularly in case something “special” comes about.
  • Also, during registration, ask if there are any food preferences (ex. Kosher, Halal), but try to get more clarification to determine if the person needs to just avoid pork or red meat? That additional clarification may help you avoid paying a surcharge for specialty meals, but just avoiding some ingredients.
    Being ADA compliant in the F&B portion of your event is about more than just meal planning, it also means your food labels must be a minimum of 18 point font to help those visually impaired.
  • And it is also important to ensure your room, buffets and tables are set for accessibility. Can the buffet be reached by someone in a wheel chair? Is there room at the table for a wheelchair?

5: Do you have a list of “MUSTS” for event planners, when it comes to planning the F&B portion of an event?

A few of my top recommendations are:

  • Label foods; spell out what they contain and what they don’t contain when it pertains to gluten intolerance and allergens. Your BEO should list your labeling needs.
  • Ensure BEOs spell out special meals: what is the vegan meal that will be served? You are paying for that meal, so you have the ‘right’ to know it is an actual meal more than bland noodles
  • Plan menus early: talk with your culinary team to help them get to know your attendees and give them an opportunity to get creative. Planning early also helps you publicize any unique circumstance with your event (e.g., if the event is peanut-free; you can ask attendees to avoid bringing any peanut snacks into the venue.)

About Tracy Stuckrath, CSEP, CMM, CHC, CFPM

Tracy Stuckrath, CSEP, CMM, CHC, CFPM is a dynamic, engaging speaker who will prompt your audience to evaluate, refine and use food and beverage functions to improve their events and their event participants. Through her personal experience as event planner for more than two decades and one of 15 million people in the U.S. with food allergies, Tracy sits at both sides of the table and offers solutions for feeding all guests safely, healthy and deliciously. Whether delivering a keynote, breakout session, interactive training seminar or cooking demonstration, audiences worldwide agree that Tracy brings passion and expertise to her presentations by offering detailed research and thoughtful analysis, and—most of all—by drawing on her own experience as a event planner with food allergies. Her stories will shock and inspire you, and her informative, yet easy-to-understand methods are usable tools. Learn more at www.Thrivemeetings.com.

10 Days of Silence

December 9th, 2014 by

This summer, I took a month off. I spent time with my mother and with our daughter who was spending a summer on campus, but I also decided to take part of the month entirely for myself. Through research, I’d learned about a series of silent meditation retreats held around the world. I was intrigued by the thought of ten days of silence, by the idea of combining a search for relevance and serenity, and certainly by the opportunity to be completely electronics-free for an extended period of time. I chose a location in Oregon and packed my bags.

Like most in our industry, I’m an intrepid traveler. We know where we’re going, plot out the most efficient way to get there, and expect certain perks and niceties along the way. This trip felt more daunting than the most foreign of countries. Among other things, I’d have to give up the one thing that most planners cling to: control.

Initial challenges came in the ground rules for the retreat: no music, no reading, no writing (how, I wondered, am I going to remember any of the insights I come across?). I could, however, look forward to a completely vegan diet – but only for breakfast and lunch, because the evening meal consisted of tea and a piece of fruit. The familiar and the unfamiliar were side by side: I was ostensibly at a meeting with 50 people – and had a roommate – but could neither talk to nor even make eye contact with any of them. Given those limitations, how does one pass the time? Answer: with 10-11 hours of meditation each day.


Someone's in the Kitchen with…Dani Rickert

December 1st, 2014 by

This month, Dani Rickert provides our monthly must-try recipe, Lace Cookies.

With the holiday season right around the corner, the first recipe that came to mind is our favorite family cookie recipe, Lace Cookies. Whenever the first batch of these cookies comes out of the oven at my mom’s house it is always a sure sign that Christmas and all of the family gatherings are only a couple of weeks away! My mom started baking these oatmeal and chocolate cookies when we were young and they have become a tradition ever since. I hope you are able to try this recipe in your holiday baking and enjoy them as much as our family does.

Lace Cookies

  • 2 sticks of butter (melted)
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 2 cups of Oatmeal
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp of baking soda
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 4 heaping tsp of flower
  • Nestles chocolate chips
  • Aluminum foil
  • Preheat oven to 375

Mix all ingredients together and use the melon baller to scoop a drop of batter on to an aluminum foil lined pan. Bake for 4 minutes and they should be done or almost done (do not leave the kitchen). Remove from oven and leave on foil until completely cooled and then peel cookie off. Melt nestle chocolate chips and sandwich between two cookies. ENJOY!

BYOSI (Bring Your Own Secret Ingredient)

December 6th, 2011 by

THE CLIENT: A global workforce management company, serving more than half of the Fortune 1000, that provides the tools for their customers to help them control labor costs, minimize compliance risk, and improve workforce productivity.

THE CHALLENGE: The client hosts a 2-day networking and education event for 50-100 of their top clients to learn about best practices in their respective industries. Attending the event are senior executives for industry leaders such as Microsoft, Apple, Starbucks and Marriott. The participants’ expectations for this annual event are that each year surpass the previous in creativity, networking opportunities and education, as well as incorporating the destination’s culture and local flair.

The 2011 event was scheduled at the Ballantyne Resort in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Our client needed Kinsley’s experience to develop an event that would provide their customers and executives with a memorable experience that allowed them to network in a relaxed environment.

THE SOLUTION: North Carolina is known for barbeque, so Kinsley created a BBQ sauce teambuilding event. To foster friendly competition and add to the excitement before the event, the participants were encouraged to bring their own “secret” ingredient to use in their award-winning sauce.

To facilitate the competition, and to judge the entries, Kinsley brought in Top Chef All Stars Fan Favorite Carla Hall. Carla, cohost of the new daytime series “The Chew,” is known for her southern-style cooking, as well as for her fun and quirky personality. Participants received a BBQ apron signed by Carla, and the How To Cook Like a Top Chef cookbook.

picnic -dec 2011 post

Challenge participants were divided into 12 groups of seven, each with its own distinct team apron color. Teams gathered around one of twelve work stations equipped with propane burners, paring knives, cutting boards and other necessary BBQ tools. Set in the center of the action was the Ingredient Table which included over 40 eclectic ingredients and seasonings from which to choose.

The challenge began and the 45 minute clock started ticking down, as it does on Top Chef. Half of the team worked on the sauce while the other half worked on the logo and branding of their sauce. Carla counted down the clock and teams scurried to get the last bits done before time was called.

All the sauces and tasting items were placed on the formal Tasting Table. The feisty and opinionated crowd watched as Carla and the three other judges smelled, tasted, savored and savored again, each of the 12 sauce creations, using proteins the teams chose to showcase their sauce. The secret ingredients were revealed, including tequila & dark chocolate. The awards went to the Best Overall Flavor, Most Creative Use of Ingredients and Best Product Name & Branding. Following the awards it was off to dinner with the 12 BBQ sauce creations in tow for tasting during dinner.

A successful team-building event will be memorable for those involved. For our BBQ event, the keys were:

  • Experiential interaction – active participation as opposed to passive observation;
  • Personal takeaways – experiences to share with family and friends. Interaction with and learning from a celebrity;
  • Creativity – injecting personality and fun through the opportunity to bring a secret ingredient.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” So, keep playing and find a way to inject fun into meetings with team building events.

Are you now craving BBQ? Below are a few fun links to get you started: