How do you Google?

They say to never judge a book by its cover. However, that was said long before emails and the slow death of Hotmail, Ymail, and the rarest of all, Earthlink.com (Personally witnessed several months ago…), domain names! Luckily, Andy Mann, of the Muskegon Area ISD was able to show us the advanced and cloud based world of the Google suite, including Gmail, Chrome, Drive, Docs and Calendar. Access to all of these items just requires you to sign up, and you can begin collaborating both interoffice, or across the globe. Some of the best information gained from the meeting included the ability to share documents, and collaborate in real-time, all on a free to use system of Google Docs. We also learned some great tips and tricks for Google Chrome add-ons and productivity boosters. So, if you are still hanging on to that personal agenda book, and your Netscape installation disks, consider the move to the Google Suite!

Written By: Leonard LaFrance

Audio Visual: Beyond the Basics

Audio Visual, for most, is an important tool that gets their ideas and information out to the masses. However, do we really understand all of the numbers, figures, details, that go into the design, planning, and set up for our events? Some of us may be so inclined to learn and understand, but many times it is easier to let the professionals handle it. Plus, it puts the responsibility in their hands if Murphy decides to stop by your meeting. Tim B., Greg, and Kent all gave great insight from the On-Site Technician, A/V Rental Company, and the Venue Representative. The major takeaway was that we should never assume that the technology will be available, free, or 100% reliable no matter the circumstances. Both planners and suppliers should do their due diligence, and make sure that all the needs are met for both sides. As technology continues to advance, properties continue to update, and attendees continue to bring 12 different devices that all need wireless, we must all be ready to adapt, and work together on getting our ideas out to the masses.

Written By: Leonard LaFrance


Winning the Generational Differences

Millennial, Gen X, Baby Boomer; these are all terms you know well, and probably already have your predetermined thoughts on the generations they label. Each of us would like to think that our generations have made great advancements in Organizational Behavior, and that our new way is leaps and bound better, when in actuality, we must find a way to blend all of the generations together, and continue to evolve. Our presenter, Joe Gulino, from CARE Worklife Solutions, gave us an intriguing look at the differences, and similarities between our generations, and how we can benefit from one another. He showed us that when we take positive aspects of each Generation, we will find that the character traits like the Boomer’s dependability, paired with the Gen X Fun & Informality, and the Tech Savvy Millennial you have a work place that is fun, functional, and modern. So, next time we want to complain about the 21 year old kid in the office that can’t stop texting, but pulls in a ton of clicks for his Social Media posts for the company, let us realize in 5 years, he will be complaining about the next generation along with us!

Written By: Leonard LaFrance

December 2015 Program

                I’d like to preface this by stating that normally, I am not one who is moved by motivational speakers, as I’ve always found they all deliver the same rhetoric and catchphrases in a different package. Our December speaker, Adam White, changed my opinion of such speakers, and if you missed this meeting, you truly missed out on an emotional and powerful lesson on becoming a leader by, “Developing Your Likability Factor.”

                Mr. White began by breaking down The Mind into the psychological makeup of the human mind, and our outside world. The Mind, according to Adam, has 3 favorite options to make thought easier: We generalize things into their own cubby holes. We delete those items that we don’t want to remember. We distort those items we want to change our own perception. This leaves our Mind in “Autopilot”, just going through the motions of daily life.

In order to develop ourselves, The Mind must respond to stimulus, which creates meaning, emotion, which then leads to action. There are 6 Human Needs, Certainty, Variety, Significance, Connection, Growth, and Contribution are all based on avoiding two primary fears; The Fear of Not Being Loved and The Fear of Not Being Good Enough. All action and human emotion is based on those two items.

We must remember that Leadership is not a title, a position, or authority held over another. Leadership is influence. It is the inspiration of others to achieve better, to grow, to be accepted, to be loved and good enough. We must look at the influence we have on those who follow us.

By understanding your mind, and how we develop leadership, Mr. White gave us 5 Keys to successful leadership:

  1. Master the Leadership of ME. – In order to lead, we must let go of the past, change the present, and build our future.
  2. Lead by permission.
  3. Lead with passion.
  4. Become Selfless vs. Selfish.
  5. Must be a Leader of Leaders.

Written By: Leonard LaFrance

November 2015 Program

 It’s always there to wrap its greedy little arms around us and squeeze. Yes, stress grabs us in a number of ways and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Well, that’s not so true and that was the focus of the November meeting. Jenn Dubey of Evolve Corporate Wellness brought us some tips we can use to reduce stress in our daily lives. She also pointed out a few facts about the health effects of stress which include: chronic fatigue and headaches due to increase in muscle tension, slow digestion due to decrease in blood flow and secretions needed for digestion, a reduction in the immune system making you more likely to get colds and other illnesses, increased symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders if you lack coping skills, increased blood pressure and the risk of stroke and heart attack and resultant behaviors that contribute to death and disability, such as smoking, alcoholism, drug abuse, and overeating. Jenn demonstrated several ways we can actively reduce stress whether at work or at home, in the form of simple exercises or relaxation techniques that we can do. Her message was that all of the above symptoms are lowered and even removed with healthy lifestyle practice including diet, sleep, laughter, and work - life balance.

Written By: Andrew Silver

October 2015 Programm

Seating arrangements? What can be said about seating arrangements? Chairs are just some metal, fabric, and a design that is easy to clean, or hide the occasional spilled and smudge food remains from a previous banquet, that you can be pretty sure was attended by Gremlins. What if I told you that the seating arrangement is so much more? Well, it is, now sit down at this lovely Classroom arranged conference space and take some notes, while I tell you all about what CultureShoc’s very own Pete Honsberger had to say about the importance of seating arrangements.

  1. Emotional Engagement Always: Get what you want done, and keep your attendees interested both Mind and Heart.
  2. Rock Star Questions: Have excellent questions that inspire participation and creativity.
  3. Determine the Format: Determine the goals of the event, and set accordingly. If your attendees are taking notes, make sure they have a writing surface!
  4. Nail the Basics: Is it comfortable? Can everyone see? Is it engaging?
  5. Classroom VS. Theater: Both give the speaker the attendees’ full attention. Classroom has the benefit of a writing surface.
  6. Conference VS. U-Shape: Both have the benefit of creating group discussion. U-Shape has a benefit when it comes to Audio/Visual visibility for all attendees.
  7. Banquet Rounds VS. Half Rounds: Both allow for ease of food service. Attendees benefit from having full visibility, and not having to turn their chairs or bodies.
  8. Breaks in Action: Be sure to have exact break times, and keep in mind that generally attendees are most engaged for 50-52 minutes.
  9. Stand Ups and Cocktail Tables: Great for networking, casual, happy hour settings. NOT great for meetings.
  10. END ON FIRE!: Be sure to end on time, and “on fire” with everyone leaving energized and ready to go!

Written By: Leonard LaFrance

September 2015 Program

The MI SGMP Annual Silent Auction didn’t start (or finish!) very silently, as we started the evening out with an excellent presentation by Ronda Whiting, of the Michigan Vehicle & Travel Services Department. We delved head first into per diems, taxes, rates, and anything else budgetary for State of Michigan Departments.

Ronda gave us insight into how the budgets are set, how the per diems work, and when they are applicable. One interesting item is that if an Individual/Group are booking at a property that has a group rate above the State Per Diem, it must be approved and they have to go through the State’s preferred Travel Agent. There is also access to a webpage (listed below) that will give you full information on State Group Travel and policies.

Pro Tip: Visit http://www.michigan.gov/dtmb for lists of executives, per diems, and other Budget Info!

Written By: Leonard LaFrance

August 2015 Program

Whether you are a power user, or can’t remember your password, the August Education Session on LinkedIn was a great learning experience. Niki Perkins of Baker College gave us a thorough and in-depth look at a great tool for not only networking, but career advancement and sales too!

LinkedIn has a vast number of tools that you can use to better represent yourself, your company, and find other professionals just like you. With premium options like Job Seeker and Sales Kit, you can find your next big break, or your next big lead. However, a paid membership isn’t necessary to do most things on LinkedIn, and I, personally, have found it invaluable while making new contact, and my own personal development.

Pro Tip: While social media may not be for everyone, you should definitely take a chance on LinkedIn!

Written By: Leonard LaFrance

July 2015 Program

Take a deep breath, and reflect for a moment: Are you an ethical person? We’d like to thing we are always doing the right thing, incentivizing the right actions, and being stellar members of society. G. Jerry van Rossum, Professor at Mary Grove College in Detroit, pushed us to really look at the effects of the Market Based Society in which we live, and how incentives and our actions can leave us on the wrong side of the Ethical “fence.”

Professor Rossum looked very critically at the need in our Market Based Society, and how there must be an incentive for people to be ethical. If there are not appropriate incentives, people will stray from what we believe is ethical. The topic was very challenging, and really ignited great discussion between Rossum and the members. The discussion left us with a great takeaway, which easily sums up in a perfect “Pro Tip.”

Pro Tip: Don’t ever do anything you wouldn’t want published in the newspaper.

Written By: Leonard LaFrance

June 2015 Program

In June, we rose as the Honorable Judge Laurie Nickson presided over another exciting mock trial. This year, we dug deep into the trial, which covered a slip and fall injury tort between “The Capitol Hotel”, and Ms. Annette Pepper. After hearing some compelling, sometimes even comical witness testimonies, and closing arguments. The Jury soon found out, that many times a decision to such a case was complex, as there are so many variables and previous statutes that have effect on many decisions. There were a few major items to keep in mind in regards to slip and fall cases, especially in the state of Michigan:

Four Major Elements to a Slip and Fall Claim

  • Injury – Proof that there was injury
  • Causation or “Proximate Cause” – Proof that there was a dangerous condition that caused the injury
  • Negligence – In Michigan requires that the Property: knew about the condition, had the opportunity to fix the condition, and were negligent and failed to do so.
  • Purpose on Property: That the person was on property was an Invitee, Licensee, or Trespasser

**Under MI Law, if the Judge or Jury determines the victim is more than 50% Responsible for their Injury, than they are not entitled to any recovery, regardless of the extent of the injury.**

It was then left to us, the Jurors, to decide the impending fate of “The Capitol Hotel”, and Ms. Pepper’s financial and physical future. As the jurors gave their decisions, you could see there was a great divide in compensation for Ms. Pepper’s injuries. Including many who felt the hotel was fully responsible to the eloquently stated, “(EXPLETIVE) happens!” In the end, as supplier partners and planners alike, we must be prepared for how to work through such possibilities, because sometimes, (EXPLETIVE) really does happen.

Written By: Leonard LaFrance

May 2015 Program

 While the anticipation grew as the start of the 4th Annual MI SGMP Road Rally loomed, we were delighted to have a great presentation from Shari Pash Berger on the important topic of Growing Attendance, Growing Occupancy. Shari emphasized that you should always ask the question, “Why?” when you begin strategizing how to grow your meeting attendance, and therefore growing the supplier’s occupancy. Examples you should ask yourself or your attendees include, “Why am I holding this event?”, “Why do/should people attend?” etc. When you ask the simple question, you get can get right the core necessities for your event. From there, you can reach out to the people who would attend, plan appropriate activities, and provide a meeting that will keep them coming back for all of your future events. If you need proof of growing meetings and events by asking, “Why?”, you only need to look as far as our very own MI SGMP Road Rally. While golf is fun for some, MiSGMP saw the opportunity to provide something new, fun, and exciting, and 4 years later, you have the biggest Road Rally to date.

Writtern by: Leonard LaFrance

April 2015 Program

April 15th, Tax Day, is generally regarded as the one of the worst days of the year. However, for all of the planners in the Government Meetings Industry, those very taxes are what you rely on for your budgets. It was fitting that, on Tax Day, we learned to spend those tax dollars more wisely. Our very own Chapter President,  Michelle Milligan, CGMP,  was our presenter, and she gave us some great ways to help stretch dollars and still have stellar meetings. The  key to stretching your budget: partnerships. SGMP allows us to build a great network of suppliers and planners, who will do anything to help each other achieve the best level of service, and yet, be as budget friendly as possible. Michelle showed us how you can stretch that budget even further by determining the needs of the meeting, identifying what are really just “wants” and what are necessities. That way you can “trim some of the fat” and focus your budget on necessary items. Other ways to save that she pointed out: 1) take advantage of the wealth of technology, and save the cost of expensive printing, registration items, accounting, 2) “be green”.  So, maybe this Tax Day wasn’t so bad after all!!


If you missed the February 2015 SGMP Meeting, you missed out on some great writing tips for your Social Media Messages. To make it easy, you can cut right to the stats on the typical social media users and the internet as a whole:

  • Typical social media user views 285 pieces of content daily, over 1000 clickable links.
  • They spend 11 HOURS a day in "rapid-gathering" mode.
  • 2,000,000 searches on Google per MINUTE.
  • 2,500,000 Facebook posts/shares per MINUTE.
  • 200,000,000 Emails are sent every MINUTE.
  • Typically only view content for 10 SECONDS.

How does this affect your content, and what can you do to get your content read?

  • Use the word “you” in your content. Avoid Us, We, Our. (See what I did here?!)
  • Think about your writing before you even touch your keyboard.
  • Cut to the chase, and don’t clutter it with “fluff.” (Use of bullets? Oh yeah.)
  • Keep your emails simple, and use the proper etiquette.
  • After finishing your content, take a step away and come back.
  • Think like a story teller, and make your message a journey.
  • Make it interesting, and know your audience!

What should you take away from this?

  • The fact that I’d like think I successfully applied the learning in my whole article above.
  • That for every one fact, we can add one piece “fluff.”

This summary brought to you in by a great lesson from Veronica Gracia-Wing, of Piper & Gold! See you next month in Midland at AEC, March 18th-20th!
By Leonard LaFrance


January 2015 Program

The 25th Anniversary Year of the MI Society of Government Meeting Professionals kicked off with a very optimistic forecast of the 2015 Hotel Industry expectations. The discussion was led by Mission Point’s very own Debbie Denyer, who was joined by 4 panelists made up of both planners and suppliers.

According to the statistics provided, Hotel Occupancy will be at its highest in the last 25 years, the Average Daily Rate (ADR) will have its highest increase in 8 years, and the Revenue per Available Room (RevPAR) will grow 6.9% in 2015. This is great news for the Hotel Industry, which was hit especially hard during the recent recession!

However, a rebounding Hotel Industry does not correlate into increases in Government Planner’s budgets. This led very constructive dialogue between planners and suppliers, both looking for the WIN-WIN in their respective professions. Taking into account that we all must work together, we discussed multiple options that are both planner budget friendly, and supplier approved. In the end, to quote Margaret Morse of the Park Place Hotel said, we must look at the “humanity” of our Government Meetings Industry.

Written By Leonard LaFrance


You Say “Potato” and I say “Potahto” December 17, 2014

As the 2014 MiSGMP meeting series comes to a close we had the pleasure of finding out what makes us “tick.” David Hulings, of Hulings & Associates, gave us an in-depth review of the 12 internal archetypes that we may, or may not, have known about; showing us how they influence our behaviors, personalities, and even our leadership styles. The presentation began with an introduction to the 12 archetypes: Warrior, Caregiver, Innocent, Orphan, Seeker, Lover, Destroyer, Creator, Ruler, Magician, Sage, and Jester, and their individual characteristics. We soon found out that many times we all had the same reaction to each of the strengths and, as David put it, “shadows” of each underlying characteristic. David highlighted that, as with anything in both our professional and personal lives, there are always two sides to the coin. Many times, we just have a habit of shining the light on those characteristics we have ourselves, or desire to have, and keep hidden the negative. However, we must learn to balance both sides of our archetypes. So, as we come into 2015, let us take our newly discovered selves, and become even better planners and suppliers!

Written by: Leonard LaFrance


Your Educational Trip Begins With Pure Michigan

On November 19, 2014, MiSGMP was honored to have Michelle Grinnell of Michigan Economic Development Corporation present on the phenomenal wonders of Pure Michigan. We saw the latest commercials, learned how the campaign was created and how it has become the #1 tourism campaign in the country. Michelle explained how Pure Michigan has blended not only tourism but economic development in all areas of the system. She shared with the suppliers in the room the method to add their property information to the Pure Michigan site as well how to make sure the information stays current and includes all upcoming events. The 2012-2017 Michigan Tourism Strategic Plan includes goals in the following areas: Collaboration, Cooperation and Partnerships; Funding; Product Development; Promotion, Marketing and Communications; Public Policy and Government Support; Research and Technical Assistance; Resources and Environment; and Service Excellence. All this and we were also able to tour the Eli and Edythe Broad Museum, the newest of many unique venues on Michigan State University campus.


October 2014 Program

Our October session was a special meeting hosted by Mt. Pleasant Comfort Inn and Suites and included two wonderful speakers.  First, Dr. Sherene McHenry taught us how to Dream Big and make good things happen.  Some dreams are accomplished using magical thinking—putting forth little to no effort to make your dreams come true.  For larger dreams, Sherene suggests to taking 3 baby steps per day.  Each baby step that you take moves you one step closer to accomplishing that dream.  Listen to the whispers of your heart and seize the day.

An entertaining and engaging program by our second speaker, Tim Gard, taught us how to use humor to change our perspective in any situation. We must learn to be resourceful and resilient in order to change our perception of our current situation.  Every job has its own situational stress factors—so learn to laugh at the things you can, be serious about the things you have to, and let laughter become you.  We must put our game face on and remember that at the end of a stressful day, we must dismount before leaving the office, just like a professional gymnast would end a performance. We must remember to always use our comic vision to “Change the Game”.

Written By: Aimee George


Silent Auction a Smashing Success

The 2014 MiSGMP Silent Auction, Awards Banquet and Education Program was held on Thursday, September 18, 2014 at the Crown Plaza Lansing. Over 60 members and guests turned out for the chapter's biggest fundraiser. 

Education Program: Excel @ Excel

Our speaker for this session, Marcy Dwyer, showed attendees how to unleash their Excel power and make their conference experience less strenuous. Some of the topics covered included: budgets for meeting planners, calculating registration fees, break-even analysis, attrition, year to year comparison, magical event time lines, converting lists to work with your email program, filtering lists for segment marketing, developing a mailing or email list, a formula to calculate guarantee meal counts based on “actual” meals served at the previous year’s event, as well as some Excel short-cuts and spreadsheet templates. 


The donated auction items ranged from an iced tea maker to an African Safari. The bidding was fast - and sometimes furious - as Committee Chair, Laurie Nickson, counted down the last seconds for bidding on auction items. When the dust settled, Chapter Treasurer Nate Melvin tallied the final bids. The total funds raised was a record setting $7,238! Michelle Milligan, Chapter President, announced that the money will be used to fund MiSGMP educational programs, scholarships to the 2015 National Education Conference, the 2015 MiSGMP Annual Education Conference, and will also go towards offsetting the cost of tuition for members taking the CGMP course, which will be held in Michigan next February. The MiSGMP Board would like to extend a huge thank you to all that attended the event and contributed either by donation of auction items or by making purchases. The prosperity of the Michigan SGMP Chapter continues, which only solidifies our self-proclaimed status of "Power Chapter"!


Planner of the Year

She deals with all details large and small, is the hardest of workers, tells it the way it is; she’s competitive but always approachable, she is loyal, loyal, loyal; she’s connected and makes things happen. She is the go to person! Those were just some of the awesome ways our 2014 Planner of the Year, Diane Dick was described. An excellent meeting planner and important cog on the MiSGMP board, Diane is most deserving of this year’s honor.

Supplier of the Year

Kristina Baxendale has plenty to celebrate, and there is plenty we can celebrate about her. She does everything with a smile on their face. She always delivers amazing customer service. For example, she recently drove to the airport to pick up a meeting planner for a large conference. Her supervisor says, “She has an amazing ability to bring calm to any chaotic situation.” Kristina is a regular attendee and regular host of SGMP programs, active in SGMP committees and recently presented to our group.

President’s Award

President Michelle Milligan honored the entire 2012-2014 MiSGMP Board with this year’s President’s Award. In presenting the award she stated, “The Michigan Chapter has become a Power Chapter over the last two years. We have achieved amazing goals and will continue to do so. Just this past May we received 3 awards at NEC Chapter Excellence (4th year in a row) 3rd place in Communications of the Year and exemplary success in net membership, which raised us to the 2nd largest Chapter. We also came in 4th for programming of the year but have our sights on placing in the top three this year. All of this could not have been achieved without the work of the entire 2012-2014 MiSGMP Board of Directors. It has amazed me how much everyone puts into MiSGMP especially as the board positions are voluntary and often the work is done after hours. I want to personally thank all of you for your hard work, dedication and for achieving our BHAGs. (Big Hairy Audacious Goals)”


January 15, 2014

This month’s education program was very informative and interactive thanks to our skilled presenters, Event Garde’s Aaron Wolowiec and Amway Grand Plaza Hotel’s Kelly Van Dyke. To start the session off, Aaron and Kelly grabbed our attention with on a short little skit demonstrating some of the most common issues experienced between event planners and conference services managers. Then they asked the members of the audience to write down some of the things which they are most grateful for when working with either an event planner or CSM. As they read through the many different answers given by our audience, one answer in particular kept coming up over and over. It quickly became very clear to everyone in the audience that day that the number one thing we are all grateful for in order to ensure the event planning process goes smoothly is communication. Good communication was the most common response given by both planners as well as CSM’s. So, if we are all in agreeance that communication is the key to a successful CSM/Planner collaboration then why do we still have so many issues?

Aaron and Kelly spoke to us about how we can improve our own communication skills and become more aware of how we communicate with others. The best way to effectively communicate with each other is to be as open and honest as possible about what we want from one another throughout the event planning process. They gave us some tips and tricks on to how improve our communication process and suggested using documents such as, an event specs template, a pre/during/post event checklist, and detailed RFP’s. They also shared some of their own personal experiences with us and highlighted specific examples of when they were able to successfully bridge the gap between planner and CSM through communication. In addition to proper communication, many of us also said we liked it when our CSM or Event Planners were flexible, realistic and timely.

For additional information and resources on this presentation: www.slideshare.net/aaronwolowiec.

Chartered: January 24, 1990