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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.

Four Questions With a Pro: An Interview with Holly Duckworth, CAE, CMP

April 13th, 2015 by

4 Questions With An Association Engagement Expert

Holly Duckworth’s new book, Ctrl+Alt+Believe: Reboot Your Association For Success moves associations through a process to clarify association beliefs, evaluate control, and create new alternate solutions. Her premise is that to innovate and thrive, association executives and boards of directors must balance the desire to honor their history and innovate simultaneously.

1. What is an association belief? How can we identify them and use them in our associations?

A belief is an acceptance of truth for your organization. Often this comes from history, sometimes bylaws and more often than not the stories that have been told year over year. Beliefs have a hidden power that truly inform our leadership experience. If you believe you have troublesome, demanding or hard personalities in your boardroom you will get more of that. If you see, feel and express energy that your boardroom has perfect strategic leaders dedicated to your heart centered vision – that is what you will attract to your organization. It is important to recognize the association’s collective beliefs and when necessary consciously shift them to be positive and flexible.

2. A theme in the book is that Boards unconsciously fear change, causing problems in their organization. “Organizations die of fear,” as you write. Is there something about the structure of boards that encourages this fear? How can we overcome fear?

Fear of change in organizations has a micro and macro component. Micro meaning that each individual board member will naturally have a little tentativeness leading an organization. The macro comes from their collective fear. Being part of a board/organization forces people to look at their strengths, weaknesses and what they contribute, and then ultimately creating an unknown or new future together. Until we embrace that individual and collective fear as a positive catalyst for change we may experience stagnant organizations.

3. You recommend that the organization spend time distilling its mission statement into six words. Why is this valuable and how can it help the board be more strategic?

You can determine the success of any organization by asking its leaders what the vision/mission of the organization is. In most cases nobody in the room can answer that question. Yet, organizations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars writing vision/mission statements to carve on marble walls or place on stationary that is never used beyond the moment the period is put at the end of the sentence. Most vision/mission statements are paragraphs-long and full of meaningless jargon that does not link anywhere else in the organization.

I use the 6-word model as a guideline to direct leaders to shorten the vision/mission statement to something that inspires. It needs to be a statement you and your leadership can memorize with your heads and with your hearts, meaning you can each articulate what the vision/mission means to them in their own words.

Note, I also choose intentionally to use vision/mission together. We can debate all day long what a vision is, what a mission is and if you need one or both. What I know is 100% true is it doesn’t matter if nobody is reading and using the vision/mission each and every day as a guiding and inspiring principle.

4. One suggestion you have for organizations to shake off the dust is to beta-test new ideas. To make them successful (or identify them as unsuccessful), what kind of structure should a beta test have? Should you set distinct time limits on them? Definitions for success? When do you pull the plug?

I find it fascinating that corporate America uses the term “beta” on projects all the time. Software companies like Microsoft, Apple and other developers intentionally put out products when they are not quite finished to get customer feedback on them. If this concept is good enough for corporate American why can’t associations borrow the concept?

Identify an aspect of your association that needs attention, and define the dollars and volunteer hours to devote to it. As an example, instead of making the decision to retire the annual golf tournament forever, we might “beta test” a mini-golf tournament for a year. At the end of the project, assess if it worked, did it not work, do we do it again.

In a beta project – you set a deadline to “pull the plug” at the beginning rather than the typical association outlook that assumes a project goes on forever. Assume the project has an end and “re-plug” in the beta project only if/when it works in a way that exceeds the needs and desires of your members.

Holly Duckworth, CAE, CMP, Spirit Strategist is CEO of Leadership Solutions International

Follow her @hduckworth and on Linked In at https://www.linkedin.com/in/hduckworth.   Her book is available at Amazon and www.ctrlaltbelievebook.com Interested in booking Holly to speak or facilitate your next conference or event? Contact Kinsley staff today for booking information.

Five Questions With a Pro: An Interview with Dave Mitchell

December 5th, 2014 by

Kinsley: The name of your company is the Leadership Difference and you speak on a variety of leadership topics all over the world. Do you find that there is a correlation between leadership style and the type of wine someone drinks?

Dave_Mitchell_PhotoDave Mitchell: Well, I think being in a leadership role can certainly drive someone one to drink! I actually do a seminar called What is Your Wine Personality that compares a person’s leadership style to a type of wine. The program was inspired by the content of my new book The Power of Understanding People. In the book, I refer to four types of leaders: Romantic, Warriors, Experts and Masterminds. For example, emotionally sensitive leaders – Romantics — tend to be quite attuned to the morale of their team and work hard to make the organization’s culture fun to be in and for the group to have a comfortable unity. I think a sparkling wine, with its effervescence and inherit celebratory nature, is a nice reflection of this style. On the other hand, analytical leaders – Warriors – are direct and results oriented; sometimes even perceived as brusque. A big Cabernet Sauvignon perfectly captures their style with the bold flavor profile and substantial tannins. Having said that, one of the most aggressive leaders I know drinks White Zinfandel. Go figure.

Kinsley: You travel the world doing keynote speeches and seminars. What is your favorite wine region?

Dave: Oh my! That’s like trying to pick your favorite band. Several wine regions have left me with amazing memories. My lovely bride and I were lucky enough to visit Valpolicella and tasted some amazing Amarone de Valpolicella at Le Salette Winery. It was just us and the winemaker. It was incredible. We visited a charming winery outside Madrid, Spain. Unbelievable! We love the Willamette Valley in Oregon and the Columbia Valley region in Washington, too. However, based on the number of visits we make there, I would have to say the Dry Creek AVA in Sonoma is our favorite. They have a huge range of varietals and it is not as crowded as the rest of Sonoma and Napa. It is a beautiful area, lovely people and a real foodie vibe to boot.

Kinsley: During the holidays, do you have specific wine recommendations that pair with the traditional foods?

Dave: While I have some favorite pairings, I have found that everyone’s palette is unique. My motto is, “if you like it, drink it. If you don’t like it, drink it fast!” Here are the four wines I recommended in my November newsletter for Thanksgiving and I would feel comfortable serving them all through the holidays. Again, I broke the selections down to reflect the style of the person and I focused on my favorite region (with a bow to the Willamette Valley).

No celebration can begin without popping the cork on some sparkling wine. A lovely brut rose works great for the holidays. I love J Brut Rose for its floral and raspberry flavors and elegant bottle. At $38, it’s at a moderate price point for high end sparkly and worth it to start the party off with class. It is wine in the style of the Romantics: fun and effervescent

For the Experts, I recommend one of the great food wines in the world; Riesling. The combination of acidity and full mouth feel makes it perfect as an insurance policy against overcooked white meat.   The best version I tasted this year was the Trisaetum 2013 Estates Reserve Dry Riesling at $32 (Trisaetum also offers less expensive Rieslings that are wonderful, too). It is the Experts version of wine; traditional, safe and exceptional quality.

For those Masterminds out there, I found an exceptionally unique wine in the Dry Creek appellation of Sonoma County at Preston Vineyards. It is the Preston Vineyard 2012 Marsanne. Marsanne is rarely made into a varietal wine and even more unusual to find in this wine region. It is definitely unusual on the palate, but the first time I tasted it I was overwhelmed with holiday flavors. This one is a love/hate wine. You will have an opinion, but you won’t be bored; much like talking to a Mastermind. $30 and probably only available through the winery: www.prestonvineyards.com.

Finally, for those Warriors, we need a red wine. I don’t like big reds like Cabernet Sauvignon with the traditional holiday fare. For my money, I pick Zinfandel. Zinfandel is made in a variety of styles ranging from huge fruit bombs to delicate food wines. Porter Creek makes an old vine version that strikes just the right balance. ThePorter Creek 2011 Zinfandel Old Vine Sonoma County is priced at $34 and is bold enough to satisfy any red wine fan while not overpowering the food.

Kinsley: What is your favorite wine and why?

Dave: You’re killing me.  I almost said, “whatever is open,” but you are probably looking for a more thoughtful answer. Well, I am fond of saying that the appreciation of wine is 90% context. It is more about who you are with, what you are doing, where you drink it and how you feel at that moment. So, given that, my favorite wine right now is the Red Car 2009 Sonoma County Syrah. We bought a case of it and got a crazy, great deal at the winery. When we tasted it in Sonoma we were having a great day in wine country and now it is our Friday night pizza wine. Friday night pizza and wine is my favorite thing, so the current wine pairing would stand to reason as being my favorite wine. I reserve the right to change that answer on Saturday.

Kinsley: Are there any life lessons you have learned that relate to your training as a sommelier?

Dave: I really wish I could provide a pithy remark to go out with, but the truth is that my love and appreciation for wine has taught me to pay more attention to the simple joys that surround us all the time. I think it is easy to keep looking forward to something big in our lives while missing the fantastic details that are happening now. Is there anything so amazing in life than a glass of wine and a moment in time? Oh, wow; that was pretty pithy.


About Dave Mitchell, Founder/President, the Leadership Difference, Inc.


Since founding the Leadership Difference in 1995, over 250,000 people have attended Dave’s “enter-TRAIN-ment” seminars on topics that include leadership, customer service, selling skills, and personal performance enhancement. His clients include Allstate Insurance, Bank of America, Universal Studios, Hilton Worldwide, Sub-Zero Wolf Appliances, Electrolux Appliances, Trek Bikes, Walt Disney World and the CIA.   Dave has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois and designated as a Certified Advanced Wine Sommelier by the International Wine Guild.

Dave is the author of the book Live and Learn or Die Stupid! The book focuses on personal contentment and performance excellence. His second book, The Power of Understanding People, was released in December 2013 and was immediately named Best Business Book of the Month by Amazon.

“Dave’s ability to keep people engaged and laughing and truly teach something is incredibly powerful.” — Kimberly Janson, Vice President of Global Leadership of H.J. Heinz

“Investing in Dave Mitchell has been the best business decision I have ever made. He is the mos
t entertaining speaker I have ever heard, which is why he is so effective getting his message across to the audience.”
— Willis Chrans, Chairman, Avitus Group

Five Questions You Should Have the Answers to Before You Source – and Why

October 6th, 2014 by

Five Questions with two Kinsley Pros: Erin Parrott and Joslyn Strock who are responsible for a large percentage of the hotel sourcing and contracting that is provided for our clients.


Erin Parrott, Meeting Architect


Joslyn Strock, Meeting Architect

Do you think you know your meeting and what you will need for a complete and efficient RFP? Can you answer the questions below confidently? These 5 questions may help when you source your next meeting. They will certainly make it easier for hotel partners so that you get the correct information the first time.

1. Where’s Waldo? – Where and when to hold the meeting?

The first question to ask is actually not where, but why you are holding the event. Once you have determined the reason (hopefully not just that you always hold it!) you will be able to narrow down other key factors. Where are the large majority of your attendees located? Is priority on ease of access to the meeting site, or do you want more of a remote retreat setting? When would you like to hold the meeting? Have you made sure your dates are not over holidays? Are your dates/pattern flexible? As the meetings industry picks up again, a lot of locations are being booked farther and farther out, and being flexible could help your chance of finding availability – and your bottom line.

2. What it’s worth? Do you know the value of your meeting?

Once you have figured out the reason for the meeting, it is helpful to look at data from previous meetings and understand the economic impact of your meeting. Do you feed your attendees three times a day or leave them to their own devices? Is your audio visual budget on the scale of a Broadway production, or more along the lines of flip charts and markers? It’s up to you to know the value of your meeting, as it drives the ability to negotiate pricing and concessions for the hotel contract.

Finally, create a budget, and don’t be afraid to share what may be perceived as budgetary limitations with the hotel. Ask them to be creative within your guidelines.

3. Wide Open Spaces – What are your meeting space needs?

When envisioning the meeting agenda, do you have a clear idea of what meeting space you will need? Will you need multiple breakout rooms? Can you reuse a general session for a breakout or is this room going to be a black hole for 23 hours of the day that you are not using it? You might want to rethink using that room for something else during the day, or in the evening. Have you looked at setup times? The more accurate schedule you are able to provide with the RFP, the more pertinent the information returned will be. Keep in mind if you need a 24 hour hold on all rooms your F&B minimum will more than likely be higher than if you only held one or none of your rooms on a 24 hour hold. The hotel can then resell the space after your conference hours. If you are just using a room with hotel equipment, this may not be necessary. Give this some thought as it could save you money in the long run.

4. Keep Me Connected! – Do you know what your Internet needs are for the meeting?

As technology changes and advances, this is a KEY element in the RFP process. What are your attendees using the Internet for? Will it primarily be for email or for streaming the television show they missed last night? Make sure that you are familiar with the differences between WiFi and Wired and which you would prefer. The costs for each can be dramatically different. Do you need your internet to be dedicated for only your attendees? This will help in negotiating contracts and potentially asking for internet in concessions. Another related consideration to keep in mind: how much A/V the group will use and if you are going to use in house AV or an outside AV company.

5. What are your Must-Haves? – Contract Clauses and Concessions

What are the most important Terms & Conditions for your organization? Are there specific clauses that will make or break the contract for you? Add them to the RFP and ask if the hotel will agree to the T&C’s before submitting a proposal. If they don’t agree with these T&C’s upfront, then it will save everyone some time later on.  This also goes for concessions, list your 2 to 3 must haves upfront in the RFP. No one likes to be blindsided. The more communication/information you can give the property the better. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, if you are nice about it they just might say yes!

Five Questions With a Pro: An Interview with Jama Rice, CAE

May 6th, 2014 by

Jama Rice, CAEJama-photo-300-200x300

1. We talk about “Meeting Renovation” – a complete re-imagining and overhaul of events. How does “renovation” apply to your association in terms of the work you are doing on your organization’s mission, vision, and/or structure?

The Museum Store Association is itself in the midst of a “reinvention”  — the term the board and staff use to describe our “renovation.”  Everything about the association is being scrutinized for relevance and value added – for members and for the sustainability of the association – including the vision.  A big step taken over the last year has been the board refocusing its time and energy on strategic issues the non-profit retailing industry is facing and handing the implementation of the association’s strategic plan and day-to-day business operations back to the staff to manage the tactical steps.  As a result efficiency and effectiveness are increasing and the association is talking about some big issues that have needed attention.

 2. How do you see your annual meeting changing to align with the association’s goals and objectives?

While many changes are taking place in and around the Museum Store Association’s annual conference and expo, there are three that I point to as critical:

  1. Increase the quality and quantity of the content for increased relevance.  The non-profit retailing industry is being challenged by for-profit competitors.  In order to maintain focus on the institution’s mission and extend the experience of visitors and patrons through to the retail environment (often the last place they interact with the institution’s brand), non-profit retailers must be knowledgeable and skilled with all of the business aspects of retailing while also exceptional at interpreting the mission of the institution and its collection in the retail environment.
  2. Incorporate adult learning techniques.  Encourage the attendees to learn from each other, to learn through doing, to direct the learning process.  Sessions incorporate a variety of learning formats and opportunities to “connect the dots” are part of the schedule.
  3. Work with vendor exhibitors as partners in the non-profit retailing world as the Museum Store Association plans and designs its expo. Because of the nature of our museum members’ business, the Museum Store Association has a large expo.  The expo is an efficient buying opportunity for conference attendees since the expo presents a condensed and targeted gift show.  It’s important that the Museum Store Association support those vendors whose products and services complements this distinct retailing space and clearly communicate the unique aspects of selling to this retail market.

3. What are the most exciting challenges you see for the year ahead?

Reinvention doesn’t happen overnight; the association is going through a huge culture shift.  The overall anecdotal feedback is positive:  the association is being handed back to its members and they appreciate that.  And the devil is in the details.  We’re continuing to update and modify; but we’re also assessing what’s working and what’s not and making changes on top of the changes.  And change is hard for an organization that’s been around for almost 60 years.  The exciting part: members are telling us that they are excited to see the ship changing course.  The challenge: continuing to change course in a way that leads to a sustainable business model.

4. Can you share the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Pace yourself – but not too much.

5. If you were stranded on an island with only 1 thing to eat and 1 thing to drink, what would they be?

For survival I’d tell you water and a fruit yogurt, but I’d really be ordering up a cosmo and some really good sushi (which now that I think about it covers a lot of the food categories needed for survival, so change my order from the practical to the fun!).

About Jama Rice, CAE


Jama has more than a decade of experience as an association management professional.  Prior to her position as Executive Director/CEO of the Museum Store Association she was a senior staff member with the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, Intl. She has also been on staff at the Financial Planning Association, the largest membership organization for Certified Financial Planner® professionals in the U.S. and served as interim ED for the Advertising Club of Kansas City (now the American Advertising Federation of Kansas City).  She has an MBA from the University of Kansas and a BS degree in communications and political science from the University of Tennessee, Martin.  She is a Certified Association Executive (CAE®), the highest professional credential in the association industry.