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Tag Archives: Event Management

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Nicknames:  Every state has one (or more)

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Nearly everyone knows that the United States has 50 named states. What isn’t so well-known is that each of those states has a nickname — or maybe more than one. And it’s not just because they needed a clever or unique slogan for their license plates.

It’s because each state has its own history and backstory that it’s proud to share. Some nicknames come from the pages of history (Delaware: First State and Illinois: Land of Lincoln), while others come from indigenous animals (Oregon: Beaver State, Wisconsin: Badger State and Louisiana: Pelican State). Others come from what grows there (Georgia: Peach State and Kansas: Sunflower State). A few nicknames identify a prominent natural feature (Arizona: Grand Canyon State and Vermont: Green Mountain State), and others simply want to entice you to visit (Florida: Sunshine State, Hawaii: Aloha State, and New Mexico: Land of Enchantment).

To non-residents, a state’s nickname might seem strange or mysterious — or not at all what you think it means. Let’s look at some examples.

Connecticut is nicknamed the Constitution State, but this isn’t where the U.S. Constitution was drafted (that was in Pennsylvania), but rather the nickname was derived from a 1639 document called the Fundamental Orders with regulations for the administration of Connecticut towns. It was considered by some to be America’s first written constitution.

Another oddball nickname from the colonial era — the Tar Heel State — hails from North Carolina where it was born from the fact the state’s pine trees were harvested for pitch, tar and turpentine used in wooden shipbuilding. The sticky residue from this process inevitably wound up on workers’ shoes or boots, hence the name.

At precisely high noon on March 3, 1889, thousands of would-be homesteaders made a mad rush onto a 1.9-million- acre tract of newly opened Oklahoma Territory to claim cheap land. Some of them came early, before the specified time, earning the nickname “Sooners.” The name stuck and became Oklahoma’s official nickname when it gained statehood in 1907. Apologies to Merle Haggard, but unless you’re an Okie from Muskogee, you probably didn’t know all that.

Another nickname that stumps most folks comes to us from Missouri. What the heck is a “Show Me” state anyway? We had to look it up ourselves — and here is the most convincing story about how it came to be:

The nickname seems to have originated from remarks made by United States Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver who, speaking at a conference in Philadelphia, was quoted as saying, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats — and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”

As mentioned earlier, some states have more than one nickname. Delaware, for example, has four of them. The official one is First State — referencing the fact that on December 7, 1787, it became the first of the 13 original states to ratify the U.S. Constitution. That’s clearly one of the best reasons among all 50 states for a nickname, but Delawareans have conjured up three more of them: Blue Hen State, Diamond State and Small Wonder. Perhaps the Biden State will someday join the list.

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5 behaviors that make (or break) global relationships

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This article first appeared in Real Leaders.

Whether you’re working on assignment in a foreign country or hosting Zoom conferences with teams around the world, your ability to build relationships can make or break your business success.

In some cultures, the strength of a relationship indicates your trustworthiness as a business partner — and building the relationship depends on five key behaviors.

Ask yourself:

How do you greet others?

We’ve all been socialized on how to greet other people. We might kiss (be it once, twice, or three or four times on the lips or cheek — or in the air), bow (after gauging how low and with whom), or shake hands (using one or both hands to firmly pump one, two, or more times).

In the U.S., a firm handshake and a toothy smile is the norm. In Italy and France, a double kiss is more appropriate. In Iran, men might greet other men with a kiss or handshake, and women kiss women. In Japan and Korea, bowing is more common.

In the digital realm, how team members are addressed when greeted — and who speaks first — deeply matter. In many cultures, failing to use formal titles or adhere to protocol means being written off as ill-mannered, impolite, rude, or worse.

Tip: In unknown situations, err on the side of greater formality. Use Mr., Ms., or Dr. with a surname and more deferential speech. While this may feel inauthentic if you’re more informal, it’s easier to start with greater formality and move to informality over time.

What’s your social distance?

During the COVID pandemic, everyone is thinking about social distance and how far they are from others. It turns out, we’ve been doing that long before the pandemic. Even in pre-COVID times, think of the last time someone stood too close or too far from you when they spoke with you. Without any thought, you reflexively moved back or closer depending on your socialized norm. It was a subconscious judgment resulting in an automatic behavior.

If the person moved closer or further again (using his or her automatic behavior), the subconscious action became a conscious violation. You might judge the person to be “creepy” or “weird” — or just different, depending on how much time you’ve spent with those from a different culture.

A study of social distance in 42 countries found that preferred distances vary considerably depending on the country. For example, in China, the preferred distance from a stranger is about 110 centimeters, whereas it’s only 90 centimeters in Spain.

Tip: When you first meet someone, try to remain still. As a reflex, the other person will move to the distance that feels right. For you, it might feel too close or too far, but it will be comfortable for the other person.

Are you hands-on or hands-off?

As with greetings and social distance, there’s a wide range across cultures in how much people use touch in conversation. In some countries, it’s a norm to touch another person’s arm for emphasis, to foster connection, or to show empathy.

In a study of European countries, researchers found many differences. In Greece, for example, 32% of conversations included some form of touch. Yet in the Netherlands, only 4% of conversations did.

Tip: Be mindful of gender and age differences with respect to who will be open to touch — and whether touching someone of the opposite sex will be viewed as appropriate.

Are you chatty or silent?

Do you remember the last time you were in a conversation with someone who either remained silent when you were expecting a response or interrupted you when you were talking? In either case, the flow of conversation was disrupted.

The use of both silence and interruption has vastly different meanings, depending on the cultures. At one extreme, in some Latin cultures, talking over another person (i.e., interrupting) is a way to express enthusiastic engagement for what’s being said. At the other extreme, in some Asian cultures, remaining silent before speaking is a way to show thoughtful engagement.

When silence is used correctly in multicultural interactions, those interacting go into a state of conversational flow, experiencing a greater sense of belonging, social connection, and consensus. Without conversational flow, people may feel rejected, and it can sour their view of you and others. Wherever you are on this continuum, your speech pattern can affect how you will be viewed as a conversational partner.

Tip: Learn how your team members’ cultures affect their communication patterns and use of silence. Seek out foreign movies and TV shows to practice listening to a member’s native language (or accented English) to learn the intonation, rhythm, use of silence, and how engagement is shown verbally and nonverbally.

Are you comfortable with self-disclosing?

Zoom calls from kitchens and living rooms have heightened our awareness of our colleagues’ comfort with privacy. Yet these differences are present with or without bringing our colleagues — virtually — into our homes. For example, have you ever met someone for the first time while on a plane, bus, or in line at the market, and, without inquiry, he or she begins to tell you something you thought was too personal? What’s your reaction? If you’re like most, it’s to get away from the person as quickly as possible (if doing so doesn’t require a parachute).

What’s deemed too personal, however, differs across cultures. In some cultures, as in the U.S., self-disclosing personal information about family, health, and work is comfortable. In other cultures, personal information is limited to a small circle of loved ones and therapists.

Tip: Begin conversations with something neutral, like the weather. Do your homework on topics. In some cultures, even commenting on a family photo or making a cultural inquiry might seem rude. In team conference calls or Zoom meetings, acknowledge each team member’s personal and professional milestones, respecting differences in privacy. Celebrate virtually if that’s comfortable for everyone.

These behaviors all influence how you perceive others — and how they perceive you — as you foster relationships. However, this list is not exhaustive. To learn more, consult with colleagues, mentors, and friends who understand the culture and how to effectively build rapport, communicate, and, ultimately, gain trust within it.

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3 essential KPIs to align creative output with performance

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Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are measures used to gauge the success of a business, a campaign, a project, an employee, or processes of production. For example, if you send a fax online with an invoice, an accounting department can use this as part of their KPIs to see the time it takes to receive payment of that invoice.

For creative teams, projects, or inputs, measuring performance can be difficult. Businesses with creative departments constantly question the value of those departments. And creative agencies are constantly trying to figure out how to align their output with their performance. Yet, even though creativity is not easy to define and is hard to measure, it is possible to assess its value using the following three indicators, among others.

Why Do KPIs Matter?

The most obvious benefit of tracking KPIs is the ability to measure input against its results, and those results against the performance of your project, campaign, business, etc. There are other benefits, including:

  • The ability to see how far you are from goals or ideal results
  • Boost your brand
  • Informed decision-making
  • Observing progress over a period of time
  • Watching and improving productivity, efficiency, performance, use of resources, and standards

All these benefits build the direction of your company, ensuring the proper implementation of all business actions and decisions, and providing practical indicators of progress. With the indicators, you can measure small goals that all contribute to the overarching aims of the business’ brand strategy.

1. A Project’s Estimated vs. Actual Time

At the beginning of a project, it’s the standard that the client and creative consultant agree on a deadline for the project. The lead time is a metric that measures the time it takes to complete your project from proposal to product. Yes, this is its own metric.

Determining a deadline is the same as estimating a lead time. Observing your progress against the deadline gives you a brilliant idea of your productivity, guiding you on whether you need to increase the pace of your creative output.

Monitoring the estimated vs. real times of your creative team’s projects also allows you to have a better understanding of your performance capabilities. You can expand available resources to decrease the gap in the times, because a failure to deliver on time might mean the projects you’re taking on don’t match your capabilities (i.e., your staff is too small to handle a project or your workforce needs upskilling).

Understanding the trends in the times of different projects also helps you judge which kinds of tasks take longer to complete. This way you can allocate resources accordingly and prioritize processes that need more time to finish. Going forward, you can use this knowledge of your process times to give more realistic deadlines to customers.

Implementation tips:

  • Set up milestones with their own deadlines (i.e., if you are developing a website, you might provide options of the best site designs as a deliverable). These help you monitor your headway against the bigger deadline.
  • With milestones, you can also take note of which steps in your creative process take longer and find a way to cut that time.
  • Implement more efficient communication channels like a virtual business number specifically for one client.

2. A Project’s Estimated vs. Actual Costs

This metric is similar to the first one except it compares the estimated budget stipulated at the beginning of the project to the actual cost of the final creative output. Budgets are key for creatives trying to create the best work while still generating profit.

Keeping an eye on this measurement assures clients that you spend money thoughtfully, and that profit is a priority. Businesses are about the bottom line, and cost-friendly projects favor their financial performance.

By illustrating cost-consciousness as a part of your creative process, you’re more likely to get future opportunities. You also make clear the value of your creative output for the performance of the organization.

Implementation tips:

  • Use adjustable budget software like Excel where you can track dates, expenditure, and changes in the budget.
  • When drafting a budget, conduct research on industry rates, factor in emergency expenditure, and consider cheaper alternatives for resources.
  • Also, monitor the return on investment for the client from completed projects. (i.e., if the creative output is for a product campaign, track engagements with the project on social media platforms).

3. Customer Satisfaction

For creatives working on commissioned output (i.e., in agencies or for organizations) — which is what we’re talking about — customer service is key! Awareness of your customers’ feelings about completed projects helps you set a standard of performance and output that you can improve on.

Whether you’re working internally in a creative department or team, or as an independent contractor, if your client is unhappy with your product, they can stop working with you. You need to make sure your client is 100% pleased or risk replacement.

Plus, creating consistently great output emphasizes the value of your work for the organization.

Implementation tips:

  • Post-project survey or a virtual phone call to discuss feedback.
  • Video call with your team to discuss post-project feedback and areas to improve.

Image: Pexels

Final Thoughts

KPIs are a massive field of study, particularly for marketers and creatives, so these three metrics are not the only ones you can use for performance measurement. There are other metrics like employee well-being which you could consider. Deciding on the KPIs to lean on requires you to consider a range of factors. Those include your goals, your field, your creative process, the common kinds of creative projects you take on, resources, and much more.

However, these three KPIs give you a head start to measure you and/or your creative department’s performance. They highlight important factors in the relationship between creative output and performance: time, cost, and quality. And if you can nail these areas, you can establish yourself as a creative powerhouse that adds value to the performance of any organization!

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The year of the comeback: What COVID-19 means for associations in 2021

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For industry associations, recent shifts from the physical space into the digital have brought a serious blow to their highest revenue stream: in-person events like trade shows and conferences. Nearly 60% of association executives report having cancelled or postponed events as a result of the pandemic — often incurring additional loss due to cancellation fees, ticket refunds, lost exhibitor fees, and more.

At the same time, the function of associations as a source of networking, support, and connection for their industries makes them more valuable than ever to their members in a landscape where disconnection is ever-present. Nothing beats being able to pick up the phone and get advice from someone who “gets it” — especially now.

This seems to portend the triumphant return of the association. It also adds additional pressure to associations already struggling financially: they must provide value to members in innovative ways while balancing the in-person/virtual hybrid environment 2021 demands.

Challenges Faced by Associations

For years, associations have been consulting with their advisors and accountants on issues like member retention, relevancy, and ancillary revenue; today, the effects of the pandemic have exaggerated some of those concerns and completely flipped the script on others:

Cash Flow: Aside from membership dues, meeting and convention registration fees are the highest source of revenue for associations. Although more than 65% of association leaders reported a projected revenue loss of at least one quarter of their total budgets in 2020, they were previously ineligible for financial support like PPP loan funding.

Thankfully, things are looking up with the passing of the most recent COVID-19 relief legislation, which expands PPP loan eligibility to qualified 501(c)(6) organizations.

Cybersecurity: When the onset of the pandemic swept a critical revenue stream out from under them nearly overnight, associations had little choice but to try to take as many events virtual as possible. With this switch came new and heighted security concerns.

Member privacy has always been paramount for associations; in a virtual setting, with members logging in from multiple locations and conveying and submitting information through digital channels, ensuring the security of everyone involved has become an even greater concern. With additional cybersecurity requirements come additional costs — creating a need for funding that associations haven’t had access to.

Relationship Management: Simply converting events from one format to another isn’t enough. When events go virtual, it’s more than the literal physical connection that is lost. There is also a loss of opportunity: no chance for water-cooler small talk, no chit-chat over dinner, no truly natural moments for good old fashioned getting to know one another.

For associations, this has been a two-pronged challenge: how to make sure virtual events are still providing networking and support value for members, and how to maintain close relationships with members and other stakeholders when those in-person moments have been removed from the equation.

Now, the unique positioning of industry and professional associations brings both challenges and opportunities. Associations have the chance to play a key role in providing the industry-specific peer support that professionals crave — but it will require a strategic approach.

Considerations for Associations in 2021

With vaccines being distributed and a positive global economic forecast as the U.S. heads toward economic reopening in 2021, businesses and organizations can approach this year with a more hopeful eye, as market forces give them a chance to breathe after months of strategic pivoting and recurring uncertainty. For associations, this means an opportunity to rebalance their sheets and consult with their advisors and CPAs on reducing spending and recovering lost revenue. It also means time to take a step back and proactively plan for what’s ahead:

New Funding Opportunities: In late December 2020, Congress voted to expand PPP loan eligibility to qualified 501(c)(6) organizations. This opens up new opportunities for industry associations to balance some of the revenue loss experienced due to cancelled or postponed events.

Associations should discuss funding opportunities with their accountants, who are already well-versed in the PPP loan program for their charitable nonprofit clients and can help them apply for this funding as early as possible this year.

Hybrid Models: Associations can expect more fully virtual meetings and trade shows, along with hybrid online/in-person events. They need to be careful to not silo members and must be creative in allowing opportunities to promote programs across audiences, no matter the format of attendance. Creating an integrated member experience will be key to maximizing value.

Increased Spend: Integrated programming will also give associations an opportunity to marry revenue streams, which will be crucial as they continue to take on an increased tech spend for things like cyber security, virtual communication tools, and more. Associations should consult with their financial advisors on ways to curb these added expenses with strategies like increased event sponsorship opportunities and applicable loan and credit programs.

Regulatory Issues: Associations also need to consider ongoing regulatory and compliance matters — especially as they pertain to virtual meetings and shows. For example, the IRS has safe-harbor provisions in place for in-person meetings and trade shows, so associations that follow these provisions can feel confident these events are not subject to Unrelated Business Income Tax. However, the changing format of these meetings calls into question whether the safe harbor provisions still apply.

Also, many states are still evaluating and changing their nexus rules with regard to activities conducted at conferences and trade shows, a result of the landmark Wayfair vs. South Dakota decision. Associations should consider careful consultation with their CPAs and attorneys to mitigate any overlooked risks in these and other areas.

Intentional Events: As in-person events begin to make a comeback, associations should thoughtfully consider how they can optimize these events to create extra time and space for small relationship-building moments between attendees. After so much time spent social distancing, members will be placing more value on these opportunities for personal connection than ever.

Relationship Nurturing: Working with other professional advisors to relay information and resources to members will help associations emphasize their value and nurture member relationships. Associations should also consider strategies like trial memberships to attract new prospects.

Privacy Considerations: Continued virtual meetings and events will mean continued increased privacy considerations for associations. Associations must review and update their privacy standards to ensure the protection of sensitive member data when information is being shared virtually.

Final Thoughts

Despite the challenges they have faced in an increasingly virtual landscape, associations are more important now than ever. This year finds members hyper-focused on two of associations’ most defining functions: connection and opportunity.

Professionals in every industry are both open to and eager for collaboration, and associations are in a unique position to create valuable spaces for members to connect. After months of distance and uncertainty, now is the critical comeback moment for associations: they must leverage the opportunity to optimize and emphasize the value that only they can provide.

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What to see and do in America’s newest national park

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Hidden away in the COVID-19 stimulus package passed by Congress on Dec. 27, 2020, was a pleasing bit of “pork” that resulted in the designation of the nation’s 63rd and newest national park — New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.

Situated in southeastern West Virginia, this rugged 73,000 acre stretch of Appalachian canyon land, coursed by the roaring New, Gauley and Bluestone rivers, has long been a world-class hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking and whitewater rafting destination. It was recognized as far back as 1978 as a national river based on its natural beauty and recreational features.

The upgrade to national park status will help elevate the gorge to a more road-trip worthy destination for adventure seeking visitors from across the country and it will provide a boost for local businesses — including dozens of tour companies and trip outfitters.

“Redesignation of the national river to a national park and preserve will shine a brighter light on West Virginia and all that it has to offer, and provides another catalyst for our tourism industry and local businesses,” said U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. She originally proposed a park bill in 2019 along with her fellow senator from the state, Sen. Joe Manchin, who added “this designation will increase the international recognition by highlighting West Virginia’s world-class beauty and resources.”

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve becomes

one of just a half-dozen dual-status or “combo parks” — those that include both park and preserve. The park proper measures 7,021 acres around the heart of the gorge, with the remaining 65,165 acres classified as a natural preserve, making it accessible to backcountry hunting and fishing. The park and preserve includes three locations that were already managed by the National Park Service (NPS) — the Gorge itself, the Gauley National Recreation Area and the Bluestone National Scenic River.

Known simply as “The New” by locals and frequent visitors, the Gorge features 53 miles of free-flowing whitewater, including numerous Class IV and V rapids. One of the most popular stretches is the “Lower New,” a 13-mile gauntlet of wild Class V rapids that is often cited as the most challenging whitewater in the eastern U.S. Seasoned outfitters like Adventures on the Gorge run a variety of rafting trips ranging from wild to mild.

It’s not all about whitewater at the Gorge. Rock climbers flock to the area, particularly in the spring and fall, to take on the park’s more than 1,400 established routes on hard sandstone walls and cliffs that reach up to 1,000 feet in some areas. There are numerous other hiking and mountain biking trails as well.

The New River Climbing School hosts daily climbing and rappelling courses perfect for beginners and intermediate climbers. Joining the long list of things to do in the park are some relatively new adventure activities such as ziplining and stand-up paddle boarding.

The national park designation also is a signal that West Virginia is moving away from its one-time prominence as a coal mining state and towards one with increasing emphasis on conservation and recreation. The outdoor recreation industry in West Virginia is currently a $9 billion industry that supports more than 91,000 jobs. Sens. Manchin and Capito predict that making New River Gorge a national park could boost visitation by 20%.

www.nps.gov/neri, 304-465-0508

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Washington Reagan National’s perimeter rule to stay

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Washington Reagan National Airport’s so-called perimeter rule, limiting the range of where flights can depart to and originate from, is to be retained without change following a government review and discussions with key stakeholders.

What is the Perimeter Rule?

Washington Reagan National (DCA) is one of three airports serving the Washington, D.C., area, alongside Dulles and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). Its location close to the downtown area, the Potomac River and government buildings such as the White House and United States Capitol give it a unique and somewhat restricted operation.

Always popular with business, leisure and government travelers, owing to its central location, DCA is heavily slot-controlled by the FAA, limiting the number of daily movements. Airlines must also use their slots at least 80% of the time or risk losing them.

It is also restricted, since 1966, by a rule limiting the distance over which flights can operate. This has effectively made DCA a short- and medium-haul airport, leaving longer distance and international flights (apart from nearer parts of Canada) to other airports.

Today, this limit is 1,250 miles — a range which covers the entire Northeast, Florida, eastern Canada, and much of the Midwest. This allows the intense schedule of shuttle flights to cities like Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Atlanta, plus leisure destination, to be operated.

In order to satisfy demand for flights to other parts of the United States, a waiver is in place to allow 20 daily round-trips to a range of other cities, including Austin, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle, and San Juan.

The New Study

A new study into Reagan’s perimeter rule has been conducted by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) and was published at the end of November.

The purpose of the study was to look the effect of the rule, implemented to help the new Dulles airport establish itself and attract airline services, as well as to reduce congestion at Reagan, on the airport, its neighbors, passengers and airlines. The rule has been amended on three previous occasions, in 2000, 2002 and 2012.

Image: GAO

A number of key stakeholders were consulted in the study, including nine airlines, four airport authorities, seven academics, five associations and community groups and two consumer advocates.

Key findings from the study included:

  • Airlines operating flights outside the perimeter rule accounted for 6% of total flights, and 10% of total passengers.
  • They used larger aircraft and took up more space in ticketing and gate areas.
  • These flights did not contribute significantly to delays at the airport.
  • The flights may have drawn flights and passengers away from Dulles airport.
  • Many key stakeholders did not support a change to the rule, citing concerns about congestion, or negatively affecting other airports. They also considered a change would disadvantage some airlines.

The Conclusion

The GOA considered three options for Reagan:

  1. no changes to the current perimeter rule or beyond-perimeter flights;
  2. adding a small number of beyond perimeter flights; and
  3. completely lifting the perimeter rule.

Following discussions with stakeholders, the decision was made to make no changes to the rule or beyond-perimeter flights at the present time.

Recommending no change may seem somewhat of an anticlimax. However, this decision reinforces the reasons for introducing it in the first place as still being relevant, and acts on the advice and opinions of others.

DCA has continued to grow, registering 23.2 million passengers in 2019, which is more than the larger Dulles, and second to BWI’s 26.8 million. It also registered more aircraft movements than any other Washington airport. This year is likely to be a different story for Washington’s airports given the impact of COVID-19, with a drop totaling 78% of flights and 92% of passengers over the previous year. But there’s no likelihood that the previous levels will not be achieved again as the industry recovers, and the report acknowledges that “airports—including Reagan National—may need additional terminal capacity to implement new social distancing practices in response to COVID-19.”

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How concerning is it when contactless self-service pushes people out of work?

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COVID-19 has accelerated a few foreseeable changes that the service industry expected for the future. For example, more consumers have wanted delivery service since the pandemic hit in March. Restaurants, hotels, airlines, retailers, and shopping malls have extended their current contactless self-service offerings through mobile apps, kiosks, facial recognition, and palm recognition technologies.

To embrace the growing demand for delivery and contactless self-service, many fast-food chains also introduced new restaurant designs, featuring double- or triple-drive-thru lanes, conveyor belt delivery, and food lockers for pickup orders. In Chipotle’s case, its new digital-only restaurant only focuses on delivery and pickup services with no dining rooms.

Machines are replacing humans in the workplace even before the pandemic

Machines and robots are capable of doing a wide range of service jobs for humans. To name a few examples, restaurants and hotels can now use machines to:

  • Accept and manage reservations.
  • Manage customers in queues after they perform self-check-in.
  • Direct customers to the assigned seats or guestrooms.
  • Take orders or service requests.
  • Prepare the amenities or cook the food.
  • Deliver the service items/food to a table in a restaurant or a guestroom in a hotel.
  • Deliver dirty dishes or laundries to the kitchen or back of the house for cleaning.
  • Automatically wash the dirty dishes and sort them after they are cleaned.
  • Collect payment and feedback from customers.

Machines produce consistent outputs with minimal variations. Consumers also like making requests on their handheld devices because that gives them a sense of “control” over the service-delivery process. Meanwhile, consumers become more engaged as they are part of the co-creation process of the service product.

Moreover, using machines instead of humans can help service providers cut labor costs. The increase of minimum wage will no longer be a significant concern for the business that relies on machines to deliver service.

What types of jobs are at risk

Jobs that involve repetitive duties, e.g., tasks reacting to a specific situation, are probably at high risk of being replaced by machines. Back in the 1950s and ‘60s, when robotic arms were introduced in factories as a means of industrial development, many assembly line workers lost their jobs over machines.

Today’s robotics has reached a new level of sophistication. Automation in manufactories is no longer a concern.

Looking ahead, it is predicted that such occupations as taxi/bus/truck driver, mail sorter, office clerk, parking enforcement, meter reader, data entry, restaurant server, cashier, among others, are the jobs that might not exist in the next 50 years. The pandemic simply accelerated the adoption of automatic technology in the service industry.

Jobs that will not get replaced easily by machines

Jobs that require sympathy, creative thinking, and sophisticated problem-solving skills will have better luck, in my opinion. Machines can “think straight,” which are operated through programming. Humans can do a better job of finding creative solutions to a solve complex issue.

For instance, well-trained staff in hotels can do a superior job than machines in delivering impeccable service. Imagine a traveler coming to a guest service agent in a hotel, saying that s/he just found a hole in the only business suit s/he carries, but s/he needs to meet a really important client in 10 minutes. Within a few seconds, the guest service agent must develop the best solution for the guest, usually in a very creative way. Alternative solutions arise:

  • Will a silk scarf or a flower be able to cover the hole and, at the same time, match the outfit and style of the traveler’s look?
  • Will it be possible to purchase a new jacket or outfit for the guest?
  • Do we have a spare outfit that might suit the guest?
  • Do we have enough time to sew the hole if needed?
  • Is it possible for any of our staff members to lend the guest his/her outfit for a few hours?
  • … (the list can go on)

What should the guest service agent do to help the traveler? Many of these unexpected cases have no pre-set algorithms and cannot be solved by a machine. The best solution varies, depending on who is the guest, who happens to be working at the time, and what is available at the moment.

Service jobs of the future require human-machine interactions

No matter how much people want to criticize that automation is pushing workers out of the job market, the reality is that machines or robots are not going away. Workers are expected to work side-by-side with machines to deliver a better quality of work with higher efficiency.

What can people do if they do not want to get replaced by machines?

My suggestion is to be creative and never stop acquiring new knowledge. At a minimum, we need to learn how to turn machines into useful tools to support our work. Additionally, leadership and essential transferable skills (e.g., verbal and written communication skills, critical thinking, and analytical skills) are also important if we strive to be irreplaceable at work. Now, it is also time for institutions in higher education to reposition their roles to better prepare our students for the future.

Are you worried if you will get replaced by machines? If so, to what extent? What suggestions will you make to those who do not want to get replaced by machines?

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Reimagining airport parking to support the travel industry

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When most people think about airports, they generally think about airplanes. This makes sense, considering the majority of people head to airports to fly. But when looking at the revenue sources in airports, air travel is one small part of a very complex system.

Along with airlines, airports rely on the businesses that support them internally — rental car companies, retail stores, restaurants and parking lots — to provide the majority of their revenue. As the travel industry suffers due to pandemic restrictions, all of these sources of revenue are also suffering.

Although 53% of destinations worldwide have eased travel restrictions, international tourism plunged by 93% in June when compared to 2019 numbers. Airport executives need to begin thinking creatively about their existing assets to recover lost revenue.

The Problem

With a decrease in air travel activity, all aspects of the airport experience, from eating at restaurants in terminals to shopping and parking, are currently underused. This has resulted in massive revenue losses for airports and associated businesses.

The largest loss for airports has been in airport parking. From 2015 to 2018, airport parking revenue rose by an average of 13.6%. And even as airport parking declined, revenue increased: at San Francisco International Airport, parking was down by 7.5% from 2014 to 2017, yet parking revenue increased over the same period.

For many international airports, parking accounted for 17.2% of total airport revenue in 2018. Typically, this asset is well-used, but with airline travel down and restrictions on who can enter airports, parking lots are largely vacant.

At the same time, the rental car industry is suffering. Rental car companies across the U.S. have had to file for bankruptcy protection, while rental prices have dropped to entice customers. For example, Florida experienced a 18% drop in rental car prices.

Like many other businesses in the travel industry, COVID-19 will have a severe impact on the rental car industry for years to follow. And since the majority of rental cars are usually on the road, most companies are looking for places to store excess inventory. This is causing financial hardship, forcing companies to resort to paid parking to store unused vehicles. As businesses begin to reopen, public parking spaces are declining, forcing rental companies to seek out alternatives.

The Solution

To benefit both airports and the businesses that rely on them, airport parking can be reimagined to become an important source of revenue. The solution is to use these unused parking spaces to store fleet cars. Rental car companies, which are experiencing a steep decline in ridership, could rent out parking spaces in bulk, saving money from daily parking fees. Since many rental car companies already operate the majority of their business out of airports, these spots are conveniently located. When their business begins to pick up again, they’ll have quick access to the cars that are stored away in fleet parking.

Another industry that would greatly benefit from fleet parking at airports is the transportation and shipping of vehicles. Even though passenger air traffic is declining, the increased reliance on e-commerce is causing the air cargo industry to expand.

By storing their fleet of shipping vehicles at the airport, companies can support the industry, benefit from steep bulk discounts, and have a convenient location for their vehicles. The global e-commerce industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 14.7% from 2020 to 2027, which will drive up demand for adequate space to store growing fleets of vehicles.

The Future

The impact of the losses that the travel industry has experienced throughout the pandemic is staggering. This can be seen in a GDP drop of approximately 3% globally due to air travel restrictions.

Supporting airports, airlines and all businesses associated with air travel is of paramount importance right now. By reimagining airport parking, airports can do just that, while simultaneously driving revenue for airports. As the industry struggles to recover, this type of creative thinking will help businesses succeed over the next few years.

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8 great Florida botanical gardens

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Although most tourists flock to Florida for its gorgeous beaches and fun-filled theme parks, the Sunshine State is also home to a number of the nation’s most lush and exotic public gardens. Horticulturists, gardeners and ordinary nature lovers alike will find these enticing green oases the answer to a vacation dream come true.

From Jacksonville to Coral Gables to Sarasota — here are eight of Florida’s finest botanical gardens.

The Cummer Museum & Gardens on the St. John’s River in Jacksonville.

Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Jacksonville

Idyllically located on the banks of the St. John’s River, the Cummer Museum’s gardens are the most spectacular and important public gardens in Northeast Florida. Created in the early 1900s by the Cummer family, prominent lumber barons of the time, these gardens bear the imprint of some of the foremost names in landscape design and horticulture, including Ellen Biddle Shipman, Thomas Meehan & Sons and the prestigious Olmstead firm. The museum and gardens are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Throughout the year, the gardens dazzle with rare plant specimens nestled under a canopy of mature live oak trees. Special features abound, including fountains, reflecting pools, arbors, antique ornaments and a large collection of sculptures.

www.cummermuseum.org, 904-356-6857

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota

Tucked away in 15 acres of lush subtropical foliage on Sarasota Bay, this garden complex is one of the world’s most prestigious botanical centers. It was founded in 1971 as the first and only botanical garden in the world focused solely on the study and display of epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants rather than in soil), which include most orchid species. No question, this place is an orchid lover’s delight.

The garden was once the home of oilman William Selby and his wife Marie, who left the property to the city of Sarasota when she passed away in 1971. Beyond the colorful profusion of orchids, the garden offers a collection of bromeliads from pineapples to Spanish moss; an amazing collection of palm trees from around the world, and a mangrove walkway bordering the bay. Selby Gardens hosts an orchid festival each fall focusing on different themes and complimented by special events, lectures and classes.

www.selby.org, 941-366-5731

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Coral Gables

Established in 1938 by Col. Robert H. Montgomery, Fairchild was named for Montgomery’s friend and fellow tropical plant enthusiast, Dr. David Fairchild. The 83-acre preserve houses a vast collection of tropical plants gathered from around the world by Fairchild.

The garden’s headline attraction is the Lin Lougheed Spiny Forest of Madagascar — named for the major donor and art collector. It nurtures a variety of that island nation’s exotic plant life, including spiny octopus trees, swollen baobabs, cactuses and desert roses. Also very popular is the garden’s butterfly conservatory, housed in the Paul and Swanee DiMare Science Village. Twice daily the staff releases butterflies into the conservatory — much to the delight of visitors.

www.fairchildgarden.org, 305-667-1651

Morikami Museum & Japanese Garden, Delray Beach

This complex of six gardens spread over 200 acres in Palm Beach County was created by Japanese garden designer Hoichu Kurisu, who says he intended it to help visitors “lay aside the chaos of a troubled world.” The time is obviously right for a visit. To accomplish that goal, Kurisu made use of small lakes and pathways that wind through pine forests, bamboo groves and rock arrangements.

With its two landscaped islands joined by a bridge, Morikami’s gardens were inspired by those of Japanese nobles from the 9th to 20th centuries. The museum’s collection of bonsai trees is said to be one of the top three such collections in the world.

www.morikami.org, 561-495-0233

Naples Botanical Garden, Naples

This 170-acre tropical paradise features designs from a team of internationally celebrated landscape architects and includes cultivated gardens of Florida, Brazil, Asia, the Caribbean — and a water garden filled with water lilies, lotus and papyrus.

Dedicated to the cultivation and preservation of plants that grow between the 26th parallel north and the 26th parallel south, Naples Botanical Gardens features seven ecosystems, including mangroves, marshes and pristine forests where hundreds of animal species and more than 300 species of exotic and native plants thrive. In 2017, just eight years after opening, the Naples Botanical Garden became the youngest to win the Garden of Excellence award from the American Public Gardens Association.

www.naplesgarden.org, 239-643-7275

Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida

Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales

This popular Central Florida attraction was founded in the early 1920s as a bird sanctuary by Edward Bok, a Dutch immigrant and the publisher of Ladies’ Home Journal. Bok soon added a carillon tower and gardens as the property expanded from 53 to nearly 300 acres. The 205-foot-high neo-Gothic Singing Tower dominates the park. Made of local stone, the tower houses a 60-bell carillon that rings forth twice daily.

The signature feature here is the 50-acre Frederick Law Olmstead Jr.-designed gardens that form the core of Bok Tower Gardens. Bursting with magnolias, azaleas and camellias, this garden is at its best at full bloom in February and March.

www.boktowergardens.org, 863-676-1408

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, Gainesville

Named for a nearby lake, 62-acre Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is comprised of 24 distinct gardens, including Florida’s largest public display of bamboo and the largest herb garden in the Southeast. In addition to its prized stand of Chinese royal bamboo, the gardens’ signature plants include giant Victoria water lilies and Asian snake arums.

Kanapaha hosts a number of festivals and special events, including a two-day Camelia Show in January, a Spring Garden Festival and a Moonlight Walk, when paths and meadows are illuminated by special laser lights and more than 1,500 luminaires.

www.kanapaha.org, 352-372-4981

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens in Miami

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, Miami

No doubt Florida’s flashiest gardens, Vizcaya recreates the glorious French- and Italian-style gardens of the 17th and 18th centuries, exuding both elegance and fantastical whimsy.

Built between 1914 and 1922 by retired International Harvester executive VP and conservationist James Deering, Vizcaya is set on a magnificent 50-acre estate that features almost 10 acres of formal Italian- and French-style gardens designed by famed international landscape architect Diego Suarez.

The Fountain Garden features a plaza with a fountain from the Italian town of Sutri and, hidden among the strangler figs, Suarez added a two-story “Secret Garden,” where cactus flowers and succulents bloom in pots built into the stucco walls.

www.vizcaya.org, 305-250-9133

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A new era for Berlin as Brandenburg Airport finally opens

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A mere nine years late and approximately $3.8 billion over budget, Berlin’s new Brandenburg Airport (BER) finally opened on Oct. 31.

A muted ceremony, at what is arguably the worst time to open a new airport aimed at handling more flights and passengers than ever before, allowed Germany to at least save face and put the huge debacle of this construction project behind it.

Originally planned to open in 2011, the flagship airport project has been plagued by problematic safety measures, insufficient retail space, and fraud as many reasons for delay stacked up.

Yet with its grand spaces, modern facilities and room to expand, it offers everything a modern city like Berlin needs as a gateway.

When is a new airport not actually new?

Despite its €5.9 billion price tag, Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt (named after the former West German Chancellor) occupies the site of the existing Schönefeld Airport in the east of the city.

What was once a hub for East German travelers had become outdated and overcrowded, with the new Brandenburg site being constructed to the south of the existing terminal.

The original terminal, itself upgraded only a few years ago, has been retained and rebranded as Terminal 5. It will be used by low-cost and leisure carriers.

Video credit: Berlin Brandenburg Airport/Vimeo

Schönefeld and its IATA designator of SXF officially ceased to exist on Oct. 25. Brandenburg, now operating as Berlin’s only commercial airport, has taken up the BER code.

The first day of operations was meant to see parallel landings of easyJet and Lufthansa Airbus A320neo aircraft timed specially for the occasion, but weather forced them to land one after the other, resorting to posed pictures on the taxiway to mark the historic moment.

The airport’s new, second runway did not go into operation until Nov. 4, with the arrival of a Qatar Airways aircraft from Doha.

CEO of Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH, Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, said: “With the southern runway, Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt is now in full operation. The commissioning of the runway is especially significant, with a view to the expansion of the intercontinental network, because, in addition to a new terminal, we now also have the appropriate infrastructure to handle long-haul connections on a larger scale. At the same time, the opening of the southern runway is particularly relevant for the surrounding area: The night flying restrictions, which were adopted in 2011 and have now entered into force, provide for the appropriate, citizen-friendly compensation and regulation of the economically important flights during off-peak hours.”

The future of Berlin’s airports

Alongside Schönefeld’s closure, the city’s other commercial airport, Tegel, has also closed. Once the lifeline to the outside world for those living in West Berlin, the final flights at the airport operated on Nov. 8.

Brandenburg Airport was built with scale and modernity in mind. Its large open spaces allow room for passenger flow, lounges, shopping and dining and greater passenger numbers.

The whole structure sits on top of a brand-new train station that whisks passengers into Berlin in minutes and connects to the wider rail network.

Opening day saw 3,077 passengers handled in the new facility, which is designated Terminal 1, with no major problems or delays encountered.

Yet in these difficult times for the aviation industry, the new airport is hardly being stretched. It was built to easily handle the 34 million passengers that used Berlin’s two older airports last year, and already has plans to open the rest of the building as Terminal 2 next spring.

Terminals 3 and 4, both satellite buildings with more aircraft parking gates and capacity, are future projects with no firm opening dates yet.

Realizing Brandenburg’s potential

With the opening of BER it seems the drama — something that Germans consider a national embarrassment — is over, and the city can look to the benefits it may bring in achieving what it was set out to do.

Most notably, the crowded and outdated airports at Schönefeld and Tegel, which served as reminders of a divided city, are now safely in the past. The new airport can begin to realise its potential, offering a modern, spacious travel experience for the city’s visitors and residents. However, much relies on the recovery of the aviation industry and appetite for air travel as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold.

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