Category Archives: Uncategorized

Are We As Bad As Automated?

I called to have our phone lines moved. Went through the automated system. Gave Mr. Computer my account number and address. First thing the live customer service representative asked for? Yep, my account number and address! I laughed and asked her if that hadn’t popped up on her screen. She said no. I then asked (nicely) then why did I have to give all my information to the computer? She said she didn’t know and shared they wonder themselves.

It got me thinking… are we doing the same thing? When someone calls in, they may share information about their conference or reunion or anything so we can decipher who to direct the call to. Wonder if they’ll appreciate a simple “I apologize, but in order for Joe to help you best, you’ll probably have to repeat your information.” It might at least deaden the sting.

What do you think?

Do The Disney Thing

Did the Disney thing! My son loved the Star Wars themed weekends and my daughter was giddy to meet all of the princesses and of course, Mickey and Minnie. Don’t tell my wife, but the trip was partially a reconnaissance mission for me. And I was marveled again by the exemplary example Disney provides to the others of us in the travel/entertainment industry.

It probably helped that in April I had just heard about Customer Service “Disney Style” as part of NASC’s CSEE program. The speaker offered action plans to build loyalty in our offices, delivery systems that enhance service and service plans that promote quality. All great systems but really, it was some very simple things that amazed me – easy things we can “steal from Disney”, do every day and impact our operations and destinations.

Name Tags… I’m certainly not trying to infringe on the Name Tag Guy’s domain by mentioning Name Tags but man, everything Scott preaches about approachability is dead on at Disney with EVERY cast member wearing a name tag! It became very comfortable to call them by name, feeling like you knew them for years and guilty if you didn’t call them by name! I came back realizing name tags aren’t just for trade shows. It’s required wearing helping not just the visitors but your community partners feel they can approach you and be comfortable doing so.

Research… the gentleman that spoke in Greensboro at NASC’s Symposium shared how Disney had done research to learn the average person will walk 27 paces with a piece of trash before they throw it on the ground. Thus, there are trash cans every 25 paces through out Disney. And trust me, I counted. Not all of them but from time to time I would pace it off and sure enough, 24, 25, 24, 23, 25… How well do we know our visitors? Are you constantly collecting secondary research? Monitoring TTRA or USTA’s MOF… Are you collecting any primary research? Heck, pick one question you’re gonna ask every visitor that walks in your Welcome Center this summer. No it may not be absolutely scientific, but I’ll be you know how far your visitors will walk with that empty cup looking for a receptacle!

Speaking of Trash… the cleanliness of Disney parks are legendary. But the cleanliness is real! They’re spotless! Okay, there was a napkin or something from time to time but it was shocking to see anything on the ground. What I was impressed with was the managerial staff that walked around with the ‘trash pick up tools’, ‘garbage grabbers’, prongs, whatever they’re called. Trash wasn’t beneath anyone. Which leads me to wonder if picking up the can or paper or empty cup in the parking lot or on our downtown sidewalk is below us? It’s not just individual efforts either. Can our DMO’s organize a clean-up day before a major event in our community? Disney set the trash bar high. Any trash in our communities is less than what is expected by our visitors. Both the individual and group efforts might be contagious.

Three simple things we can steal from Disney. I’ll bet there’s more. Feel free to leave your suggestions or comments below.Thanks for reading!

Men at Work Singing of You?

December marked the two year mark for me at the Norman, Oklahoma, Convention and Visitors Bureau. As expected, this has been a tremendous, tremendous professional growth opportunity. I joined a DMO right at the brink of full-scale transition and have experienced a “re-branding”, a complete staff re-engineering, and a 75% turnover of the Board to hit the highlights. But it hasn’t all been smooth.

I’ve had Men At Work’s “It’s A Mistake” ringing in my ears a time or two. I alienated a core committee and group of volunteers. It haven’t had the best of relationships with a hotelier and my predecessor who is still in the community. As I annually take time to reflect on the year past and what I could have done better, I perused common mistakes managers make. They’re from numerous sources and are – January’s Five @ 5:

1. Not being flexible to change and open to new ideas. Be open to what employees have to say. Even if you don’t always agree. At least acknowledge them. It shows you’re open-minded and a good listener. park of being an effective manager or supervisor means practicing good listening skills.

2. Changing everything. Don’t re-invent the wheel. Just because the way something is done isn’t the way you would do it, it isn’t necessarily wrong. Learn the difference between “different” and “wrong.”

3. Not acknowledging that you do not have all the answers. A Good manager does not make the mistake of trying to solve every problem. Seeking help from individuals with expertise in specific areas is a sign of strength, not weakness. In addition, a good manager must understand that his or her way is not the only way to do the job.

4. The glass is always half empty. Managers who continually focus on the negatives, without recognizing positive achievements or employee accomplishments, end up with employees who are not motivated and often have one foot out the door looking for a more positive work environment.

5. Too much technology. A new breed of managers are more tech-savvy than they are comfortable handling and managing people. Embracing technology is a key to success in the modern office environment, but not at the risk of embracing people skills. Do not hide behind e-mails and other technology.

Whether you’re a newly appointed manager or working on your gold watch, these mistakes managers make will create a more enjoyable work experience for you and your employees.

Time For A Better Conference

Back from another astounding DMAI Annual Convention. The session with Claire Hughes Johnson of Google, the PDM sessions, the “cheap therapy” as you network and realize you’re not the only one dealing with those issues… And the expo is a perfect opportunity for small bureaus to window shop and compare valuable tools that will help their Bureau! If you believe the Convention is only for the major markets, you’re mistaken! Dan Fenton offered a money back guarantee. Perhaps Stephen Perry will offer the same next July.

But, I don’t believe it was perfect. Jeff Hurt has offered his thoughts on improving conferences. Here’s a few other random thoughts as to how to improve the conferences we attend every year – August’s Five @ 5:

1. True Descriptions of Session Contents – I swear some of the same people that write the over-exaggerations we tend to put in our visitor guides write the session summaries. If it’s going to be an infomercial, tell me please. If you sell it as a session on marketing to 35-45 year old high school drop out martians, make sure the speaker stays on topic and doesn’t change his mind after a conversation with a friend as he walked into the breakout room.

2. A Frank Dialogue with Hoteliers – we always grumble about the hoteliers. We wish we could get them to understand us or just hear us. Have we ever invited them to a round-table dialogue? Get the HLA leadership(s) to attend a session, listen and encourage them to take the message back to their membership. (Better yet, hold the HLA and DMO conferences concurrently and have joint sessions!)

3. No Motivational Speakers or Celebrities – Save the money. The celebrity will just say something stupid and show he/she doesn’t have a clue about the group they’re addressing. And I’m motivated enough being out of the office. No rock climber or fighter pilot or former athlete will help me with my job. Save the hour and give me more time to network.

4. More Time to Network – Ten minutes between sessions is not enough time to start a serious dialogue. (Perhaps I’m stupid in that I go to sessions.) But the time to chat with the colleagues about their ‘best practices’ or mistakes they’ve made that will help me is invaluable! Give me more time!

(Oh, and when a niche specific round table session is held, don’t spend half the time writing down 20 topics leaving us with enough time to only touch on 3. Especially if you polled the group in advance and already have a list!)

5. Hold the Conference in a Small Market – “small market” is a relative term. If it’s a state conference, hold it in really small community. One that will really value the attendance. I know there’s logistic issues but figure it every fourth year or so. Nationally, go to a Des Moines, or Lincoln, or Topeka, er, I’m sorry, Google, Kansas. Do we always have to go to the same major markets? Besides, it will be a lot easier for smaller bureaus to sell it to their boards if you’re headed to Fargo (with all due respect Fargo!)

This is certainly not a knock on Michael Gehrisch and the staff at DMAI. The convention is outstanding and DMAI is moving in some great directions! Stay tuned for some incredible offerings in the form of a tool kit from the Advocacy Committee! And this certainly wasn’t directed just at DMAI. My state’s conference could use a refreshing I’m sure. I’m not going to suggest #5 to them this year though ’cause it’s scheduled to be in my city!

(Originally posted August 2010)

Resolved to Communicate

Every once in a while an opportunity comes along that one just has to take. And while I had every intention of growing Stephen Koranda & Associates and not moving from Kansas, when I learned about the opportunity in Norman, Oklahoma, to direct the CVB, I had to take it. Besides, in today’s economy, one has to go with a sure thing.

Naturally I still have contacts with associates and if either one of us can assist, please let me know. But in the meantime, I’ll focus on the immediate task at hand – the Norman, OK CVB. In the spirit of Bill Geists’ last Z-news, I still plan to continue these dialogues so that we continue to connect. What will you find with the monthly Five @ 5?

1. Ideas, tips, and best practices I discover. While I’m going to bring a lot of ideas from Kansas, I’m going to learn more from Oklahoma. And I’ve already connected with colleagues in Texas that are sharing. If I can forward any thoughts, you’ll read about them.

2. Lessons learned from mistakes made. Seriously, we’re not all perfect. A buddy of mine in Kansas laughs when he tells me about mistakes he made in Atlantic City. Sure they’re great to hear over a beer, but they’re also great lessons.

3. Research. Yes, we’re all doing our own primary research to learn more about our customers, but if I can uncover some incredible secondary research that will help us all, why not share it!?

4. Comments from colleagues in response to these posts. One is below. Others will be added as they come in. There’s many of us that have ideas, lessons and information. Let’s share. Which leads to…

5. Increased tools for dialogue. Besides these monthly sharings, I’m working with my webmaster to create a forum on the website. Post a question. Respond to a question. Share some information. Communicate! “Share concepts that, combined and debated, could recreate this crazy business in which we find ourselves” as Bill says.

One thing I’m learning doesn’t differ on this side of the state line – tourism is all about partnerships, sharing and communication. Here’s hoping this Jayhawk in Sooner country can foster the communication and help us all grow and succeed in 2009. I look forward to hearing what is on your mind!

(Originally posted December 2009)

Sometimes Its the Simple Reminders

Miss me last month? I’d like to think the 5th of June ended and you screamed “Where’s Stephen’s Five @ 5!?” For both of you that asked about this correspondence’s where abouts, budget time at our CVB, other ‘fireworks’ at the Bureau, vacation preparation, and, well, life happened!

There were feelings of being overwhelmed. Feelings of guilt ’cause I can’t get a simple newsletter out. Feelings of ‘holy crap, can there be any more?’ But then a magical day happened and I’m reminded… Nothing terribly profound… Just simple things that are this month’s Five @ 5.

1. Take time for you. When is the last time you had a vacation? When is the last time you had a day off? Sure there’s all the stuff and email that piles up the week one is out of the office, but some times we just gotta get away! Oh, and I hate to hurt your esteem, but it will run while you’re out of the office!

2. It’s okay to ask for help. I’ve been handling my father’s affairs since his death and got behind on a couple of things. My brother called me and asked what he could do to help. ‘I’ve got it’ I told him. He replied with a gentle, ‘It’s okay to ask for help. I won’t think any less of you.’ I don’t believe your board or co-workers will think less of you either.

3. Slow down and pace yourself and you’ll finish. Runners will know this and being a runner I shouldn’t have had to be reminded but within two days, two very different runs helped me recall this lesson for everything in life. Slow down. Do one thing on that ‘to-do’ list at a time and you’ll finish it.

4. Pick yourself up and move. Actually lyrics from Switchfoot hit me one night (during that a fore mentioned run.) Something not go your way? Make a mistake? Board critisize you for something? It’s okay! I dare you to life yourself up off the floor. I dare you to move like today never happened…

5. Take time for Him. Good devotions hit us at the perfect time don’t they!? This one compared a bird trapped in a garage to us trapped in our busy lives. The bird wouldn’t stop so they could be rescued. We need stop and go to Him so he can assist us in the planning and organizing of our day. He knows what you will be facing and longs to prevent you from ‘banging’ your head against the wall. Won’t you fall into the open arms of your Father and allow him to rescue you? He is waiting.

These probably aren’t going to help your bottom line, let alone attract a visitor to your community or attraction, but then again, if the bureau or attraction shuts down ’cause staff has ‘lost it’, you’re not going to attract visitors then either. Sometimes it’s taking care of ourselves and re-energizing us that help us get back to the task at hand!

(Originally posted February 2010)

Tion’d in Atlanta

Leading up to this year’s DMAI Conference in Atlanta, I heard hype like “can’t miss conference”, “best networking”, and “in this economy, one should attend now more than ever.” Outside of the ventures on the planes, (Southwest – please start flying into Atlanta!) the event last week was ever bit worthy of the hype!

I case you missed it or all your co-worker talked about was the 80’s cover band Thursday evening, the ‘tions that came from the DMAI Conference is this month’s Five @ 5.

1. Motivation. The blind mountain climber was one thing, but when US Travel’s Roger Dow delivered his ‘the gloves are coming off’ address, who couldn’t help but be motivated to work in this industry employing 1 in 8 Americans!? Actually Roger’s quote was, “(The tourism industry) is done being the drama team. We’re going to start being the football team!”

2. Inspiration. If the “shirtsleeves” sessions do one thing, it’s inspire you knowing that you’re not the only one. There’s others out there in your size bureau struggling with the same issues – finances and threats on transient guest tax receipts, city council reps that don’t get it, hotel relations, branding…

3. Education. Sessions that actually lived up to the description! Unique concept in conferences but DMAI’s did. Websites, the “Experience Economy”, sales tools… quality education that one can take back and utilize immediately.

4. Information. Never one to truly value expos (unless they’re in our conference center generating room nights) I found myself looking forward to the second day of the expo seeking out vendors for that one on one time to truly understand their software, services, consulting and more. No more webdemos for me. Give me DMAI’s expo!

5. Networking-ation. Partnership programs from Colorado. Software advise from New York and Texas. Social marketing thoughts from (where was he from?) It’s very difficult to calculate an ROI on great networking, but advice, tips and best practices from colleagues are extremely valuable!

The season of state Governor’s Conferences is nearing. Texas holds theirs next week. Others follow later this fall. If you haven’t been in a while, I strongly suggest you reconsider it. If you’re preparing to go to the “same ole conference”, try attending this year with a new perspective. Besides, in this economy, one should attend education sessions now more than ever!

Hope this helps! I look forward to hearing what is on your mind!

(Originally posted February 2010)