Office-product company Avery now offers customized three-ring binders, perfect for individual presentations or for packaging conference programs or training manuals. Visit averysignaturebinders.com to design with preexisting templates and photos, or upload your own. A single binder costs $16.99; bulk discounts are available. Contact binder.service@
averysignaturebinders.com for quantities greater than 100.
One Size Fits All
At the conference, attendees can stick their ID, room key, money and phone into this Cell Phone Sock. Afterward, the sock, which can be printed with your logo, can keep an iPod, smartphone or other device scratch-free. The socks cost $2.80 for the minimum order of 100 pieces, plus a $50 setup charge to add a logo. (888) 447-6840; snugzusa.com
Junior Merino, better known as The Liquid Chef (646-342-8302; theliquidchefinc.com), can design a cocktail to suit an event's theme and even hold a mixology seminar for guests who want to make more interesting blends than rum and Coke. Here's the recipe for the drink shown:
1 1/4 oz condensed milk
1 1/2 oz Castries Rum Peanut Creme
1 1/2 oz Leblon Cachaca (Brazilian alcohol made of fermented sugar cane juice)
1 oz Orange Juice
1 1/2 cups of ice
Run all the ingredients in a blender for 20 seconds and serve in a tall glass. Garnish with powdered cinnamon.
Davek's phenomenally sturdy umbrellas aren't cheap (the retail price clocks in at a steep $99), but they come with a lifetime guarantee. Not that recipients will need it: The Golf umbrella features a fiberglass shaft and a double canopy that protects it from flipping out in the wind. A screw-on handle spike roots the umbrella when the user is teeing off. Substantial discounts are available for bulk orders, and both the canopy and the packaging can be logoed. (212) 749-8746; davekny.com
Jump-Start the Conversation
To get attendees talking, ask them these two questions: "What is the biggest accomplishment you achieved in the last year that was not about your career?" and "What is one of the most outrageous things you've done in your life?" This works every time for Dena Marie Patton, CEO of Chat, Chew and Chocolate LLC (480-282-4242; chatchewandchocolate.com), a company that combines the almost-universal love of chocolate with the power of conversation.
La Vie En Rose
We've all heard that lighting can make an event; at a luncheon celebrating the Cherry Blossom Festival, the Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C. (202-835-0500; ritzcarlton.com), underscored that point. The A/V department aimed pink wash lighting over white pipe-and-drape to transform the space. With just a few collected cherry-blossom branches by the entrance, the transformation was complete -- for a fraction of what high-concept décor usually costs.
The Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C. (202-835-0500; ritzcarlton.com), put on a classy cherry-blossom-themed event this year on a slim budget. Table centerpieces were miniature cherry crème brûlées, cherry tarts and cupcakes with cherry-blossom decorations. This not only saved money on décor, it also sped up service toward the end of the lunch, so the keynote speaker could begin on time.
Some people can't eat chocolate. Others don't like cooked fruit. Still more have trouble digesting dairy. Cater to everyone's picky eating at dessert by giving each attendee a sampler of bite-size sweets, suggests Teri Hurley, owner and operator of Blue Moon Travel in Austin, Texas (bluemoontx.com). Those who like one and not another will be more likely to share than if each person just got one dessert.
Drawing Out Ideas
Graphic recorders use drawings with text to distill speeches and brainstorming sessions into an easily understandable and visually stimulating format. Companies can hang the finished product in the office or scan it in and post it onto a blog with hyperlinks. Courtney Caplan, president of Caplan Miller Events in Austin, Texas, recommends Sunni Brown, owner of BrightSpot Info Design (sunnibrown.com), whose corporate rate is $2,000 per day.
Cooking contests in the spirit of TV's Iron Chef and Top Chef are lots of fun and not hard to pull off. The InterContinental Tampa (866-915-1557; intercontampa.com) sets up tables in the ballroom with portable stoves, and each team is given a target ingredient (for example, an orange for a Florida-themed event), as well as a protein, like steak or salmon. They then can pick other ingredients -- vegetables, spices, etc. -- from a large shared table. After an hour, a team of judges, including perhaps the executive chef and the president of the organization, taste and comment on the food, then declare a winner.
Convention cities generally offer lots of opportunities for walking, but it's a drag to do it in heels or wing tips. At MPI's World Education Congress starting tomorrow, the Salt Palace Convention Center is offering a free shoe check, so those walking from nearby hotels can arrive in their sneakers and network in their dress shoes (and switch back midday if needed).
Money for Nothing
To boost trade show foot traffic , try a cash giveaway like the one MPI is doing this weekend at the World Education Congress. Every hour, organizers draw a name at random from everyone on the trade-show floor (detected by RFID technology), and the winner gets $500. Can't come up with the cash this tactic requires? MPI got the Peabody Orlando to sponsor the giveaways. mpiweb.org