Good Clean Fun for Halloween

For all of you who read my “serious” article last time about how hotel managers pick and choose which meetings to pursue, you can relax because this week, I am just having fun.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.  Before I was a meeting planner, or a hotel geek or even just a hotel employee, I was a child who grew out of trick-or-treating early and moved on to scaring the pillowcases out of the hands of my friends and neighbors.  It all started when I took over the exterior house decorations from my parents and spent after school hours in October building a fake guillotine from scrap wood, to complement the spider webs and tombstones.

I was so excited about my decorations, I wanted to be part of the action, so I dressed myself as a grim reaper with a big gown and hood, and I sat slouched over in a chair on the lawn looking like a stuffed mannequin, while my mom waited on the porch with a bowl of candy looking perfectly friendly.  As groups would advance up the driveway, I would lunge toward them, eliciting screams and making some people run back to the sidewalk.  It was tons of fun.

Now I am a Dad, and I have my own little trick-or-treater to follow around, but I still appreciate a good clean prank.  The internet has made it possible to see how some people go to great lengths for the pranks.  One of the best is a guy who pranks fast food drive through windows.  I wanted to share one of his recent videos because it made me (and anyone I can corner in my home or office for 3 minutes) laugh really hard.  In the video, the prankster uses his invisible driver trick, along with a full size skeleton to get some truly genuine gasps from the restaurant employees he visits.  This video is completely safe for work (no bad language or violence), but you do need to be able to hear it.

And for anyone who needs a hotel for an upcoming meeting, or group trip, but is scared to start calling around and facing the terror of high hotel room rates, just call or email me at VenueQuest.  I promise I won’t scare you!  Contact me by email at, or by phone at 678-977-1977.

Team Retreats: Re-Posted from “Venture Energy”

Following is a blog post from a fellow Atlanta area entrepreneur Johnson Cook.  The advice is good and relevant to any team.  Naturally, a larger team may not fit into one house.  VenueQuest clients who utilize team retreats have found that hotel and resort locations more than 1 hour from their home base, but less than 3 hours are ideal.  It’s just far enough that everyone can step out of their daily grind, but close enough to not be inconvenient.  And if you really want to emphasize the team building, charter a large motor coach or luxury mini-coach to take everyone there and back together.  You can use that time on the road for productivity and continued discussion.


Team Retreats

by Johnson Cook, September 6, 2013,

In my last company, we had a distributed management team. 6 team members across 3 states. It took us a while to figure it out, but we eventually found a healthy cadence of huddles, team meetings, and everyone’s favorite: retreats.

Team retreats are awesome.   We ended up scheduling quarterly management team retreats. Occasionally these would be schedule during the 2-3 days before a Board meeting, so we could prepare and strategize for the next quarter, then use the Board meeting as a presentation/finale for the output of the retreat. Most often, however, these retreats weren’t anchored by another event and we would just go find somewhere quiet to get several days of focus on the company. Here are some ideas and lessons learned about retreats for startups looking to do these.

Always Plan a Detailed Agenda in Advance
I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.   Any retreat where you don’t have a detailed agenda will go sideways.  People are traveling and having fun so often it is way too easy to throw structure and planned activities out the window.   It’s critical to discuss the agenda 2-4 weeks before the retreat and have the entire time on the same page.  If everyone has input to the agenda (at least the high level), it has a better chance of success.    You also can play around with which team member plans the agenda. You might trade this off to share ownership of the schedule and planned activities among the team.

Balance The Work vs. Play Time
This is a best practice for EO retreats and it translates well to team retreats. As you plan the agenda, decide in advance what breakdown of work vs. play time you want to build into the retreat. Assume you have a 10 hour day to plan. Decide what percentage of time will fall into which categories. Generally, we found a 50/50 or 60/40 (work/play) was the most productive.  You will find that being together away from the office yields the most productive work time you will find. It’s intense and exhausting. Trying to work all day without fun excursions isn’t fun and the productivity will tank fast.

Stay Together
We always liked to rent a house or a cabin and stay together. (Another lesson learned from EO.)  Going back to hotel rooms at the end of the night is an energy killer. We all still had our own rooms and private/quiet space, but there’s a different vibe when you are sleeping under the same roof and are responsible for taking care of the facility as a team.

Format Idea: Single topic per day or Half day
One of the formats that worked well for us was to avoid dealing with the little “piddly-sh*t” that you deal with every day at the office and take LARGE chunks of time (3-4 hours) and focusing on a single deep dive subject.  Whether it was a new product launch, a new market, or even a single big problem, like culture issues. We found these deep dives to be very healthy. Most entrepreneurs don’t have the attention span to imagine spending 4 hours talking about a single subject, but some topics are important enough to justify this intense focus… like culture.

Format Idea: Innovation Retreat
A few times over the years, we planned these “innovation retreats.” On these retreats, we intentionally agreed to not discuss current problems and fires and only think ahead. Blue sky sessions. Product brainstorming.  How to better serve clients or help them accomplish their mission. We usually came away with 2-3 big ideas to monitor and 1 big idea to actually tackle over the coming quarter. It was powerful and energizing to pull our head out of the grind and find something that is visible forward motion.

Format Idea: Pre-Planned Exercises Like Start, Stop, Continue
One exercise we did that worked well was to have each team member write down and bring 3 lists to the retreat. A list of things the company should START doing, a list we should STOP doing, and a list of things we should CONTINUE doing.   Each team member presented their list and they were discussed. Tons of action items came from these meetings any time we did them.

Format Idea: Core Values Only
In the early days of our company, we realized that we didn’t have a clean set of written core values or a clear understanding of our WHY.   One of the most painfully frustrating, yet equally rewarding retreats was the one where we agreed to discuss nothing the entire time but our core values. Given how important these are to your culture and ultimately determine your success, I don’t think this is a bad idea. Really taking time to debate and process core values was useful for us.

Team retreats are awesome, and I could write 100 more posts about these. In the early days of a startup, obviously you can take the whole company, but as you grow, this normally becomes financially impossible.  Still, remember to have some all-hands events when and where you can.


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Air Travel Etiquette

Here at VenueQuest, business is brisk.  Our clients are booking hotels for department meetings, managers meetings, board meetings, annual conferences and incentive trips.  And a new survey released this month indicates that 84% of Americans intend to take a vacation away from their home area this year.

That is way up from the usual 50-70% of people desiring to travel away from home.  These two facts tell me that the skies are more crowded than ever.  Here are some tips for flying and visiting airports.  I’m not saying these guidelines will make flying pleasant, but maybe, just maybe it could be a little better.

  1. While waiting in line at the security checkpoint, empty your pockets into a small zippered pocket in your carry-on or jacket.  This avoids the fumbling around at the beginning and end of the conveyor belt as you sift through keys, coins, chap stick, boarding pass, pens, receipts, cell phones, watches, and other small personal objects.
  2. Here in Atlanta, there is a Starbucks right next to the main security checkpoint.  No matter how early your flight is, resist the urge to grab a coffee or bottle of water in the terminal, because you WILL have to leave it behind at the security checkpoint and trying to talk your way through with your Grande Machiato will only slow down the line.
  3. Use the bathroom before you get on the plane.  This is especially true if you have a window seat or middle seat.
  4. As you enter the plane, hold your carry-on bags low and in front of you.  A pulled wheely suitcase is going to bang into peoples knees and a bag over your shoulder is definitely going to drag across the side of everyones face who is seated in an aisle seat.
  5. Be understanding of children.  Most travel writers would use this topic to advise parents to keep their children in check.  That is important, but it is also important to understand that even little kids in diapers pay full fare to get on a plane.  There is no such thing as a child fare in the airline industry.  Everyone has to learn, and everyone is entitled to their own fears.  So, however bad you think it is to sit near a crying child, keep in mind that the child is probably in actual physical pain from the pressure on their tiny ears, and their parent is likely on the verge of an anxiety attack by being being at the crossroads of humiliation, despair and helplessness.
If you are feeling a little despair when you look at your to-do list and see that you need to find a hotel for your company’s next off-site, board meeting, or quarterly conference, just give VenueQuest a call.  All we do is locate the perfect hotels and the perfect price for our customers.

Get started right here.


Rachel Mirves Joins the VenueQuest Team

Rachel Mirves Photo

Rachel Mirves, VenueQuest Global Account Manager

Rachel Mirves, a Michigan based, 15-year veteran of multi property hotel sales has joined VenueQuest Global Meetings & Travel of Alpharetta, Georgia as a Global Account Manager.  Rachel has spent much of her career with Marriott International, where she earned President’s and Chairman’s Awards for excellence in servicing the needs of clients in diverse market segments including corporate, government, sports and entertainment.

“I am excited to transition from sales to consulting where I can help VenueQuest clients place their meetings in the perfect venue, regardless of what name is on the front of the building.”  Recently, she was responsible for Group Sales for 150+ Marriott Hotels, including 8 brands, in 10 Midwestern states.  At VenueQuest, a hotel site selection firm also known as a third party or meeting brokerage, Rachel will have a nationwide client base and be tasked with placing client bookings in small and large hotels and resorts anywhere in the world.

Rachel Mirves is a graduate of Michigan State University, with a B.A. in Hospitality Business, Her passion for quality travel and customer service led her to VenueQuest.

Daniel Gennari, President of VenueQuest Global Meetings & Travel, and also an alumnus of The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State said, “I couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Rachel to the team.  Hotel site selection is a logical next step in the career of a hospitality sales professional.  As a third party, this role opens the door to truly helping customers plan successful meetings and not just selling them something.   She has always been a professional when we have crossed paths professionally and it is simply icing on the cake to reunite with a classmate from MSU.”

Contact her at or on Twitter @RachelMirves.


Oh Baby

Everyone has heard all about the royal baby by now.  But here are some fun things you might not have known about babies in general.

  1. The protein that keeps a babies skull from fusing is called “noggin”1
  2. On average, Tuesdays have the highest number of births, and Sunday’s have the lowest number (I’m calling out doctors spending Sunday’s on their boats and golf courses and putting off scheduled C-sections and enducements until Tuesday!)
  3. The inner ear is the only sense organ to develop fully before birth.  It reaches its adult size by the middle of pregnancy.2
  4. Human babies are the only primates who smile at their parents.3
  5. Famous premature babies include Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Mark Twain, Pablo Picasso and Sir Winston Churchill.4
  6. The very best chance a baby has of surviving gestation is when its mother is aged 22, an age which has been described as “the age of fecundity” in humans. 3
  7. Adults have 206 bones. When babies are born, they have 300. Their bones fuse as they grow, resulting in fewer bones as adults.1
  8. If a person who was born 8 lbs. and 20 in. at birth continued growing at the same rate as he does the first year, by the time he reached 20, he’d be 25 ft. tall and weigh nearly 315 lbs.3

Finally, the frequent travel I embark on for VenueQuest customers was responsible for my own baby knowing how to navigate TSA security before he was 2 years old.  I will never forget being in the security line, looking down, and seeing my little guy sitting in his stroller holding his shoes in his hands!  Thankfully, that rule has been relaxed recently and children under 12 years old no longer need to remove their shoes.

If you are sitting at your desk thinking, “Oh baby, how will I get all this work done, and find a hotel for our next meeting?” then you need to call VenueQuest Global Meetings & Travel.

Like a good Nanny, we will treat your meeting with care and give it all the attention it needs until it grows into a fully planned and executed meeting or conference.

You will be shocked at how easy it is to book hotels for a meeting when you start by calling VenueQuest:

  • No contracts with VenueQuest
  • No extra expense
  • No hotel sales reps calling to bother you
  • You keep your bonus points
  • We make you look like a hero
or email me at
1. Morris, Desmond. 2008. Amazing Baby. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books.
2.“Fascinating Baby Brains.” Live Science. Accessed: June 14, 2011.
3.“It’s Important to Have Your Baby’s Hearing Screened.” National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. May 2011. Accessed: June 14, 2011.
4.“Famous Premature Babies.” Premature Baby. 2011. Accessed: June 14, 2011.