Motivation Blog Posts

Group Learning & Shared Experience

Posted on: Monday, January 26th, 2015

Two key benefits of Face-to-Face Communications and effectively using Group Learning & Shared Experience is the easy spreading of influence and people who belong to groups get things done to affirm their bonds.

Doing things together creates a sense of mutual trust and shared influence begins.

As you look at ways to harness the power of live events and to get a larger ROI for your event think of creating these shared experiences when it can tie into your event’s theme.

As I looked back on some of Esprit’s events here are two of my favorites.


Chart the Course – Sailing Regatta – Dekalb Genetics – National Sales Meeting – To make this meeting theme come alive we conducted a sailing regatta where each attendee was part of a sailing crew on one of the 12 meter boats that we rented so they could be part of a full blown regatta on Newport Bay in Newport Rhode, Island. It made the meeting theme come alive and created close bonds as we turned the meeting attendees into part of a crew!

Caring is the Key in Life – Habitat for Humanity – Sun Health Care Group, Annual Management Meeting

The rise in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) over the past decade has been very beneficial not only to the people or organizations who are the recipients of the work done or funds being raised on their behalf, but also to the employees who are part of these events.

Several years ago we planned and produced a management meeting for Sun Healthcare Group. We incorporated a Habitat for Humanity CSR function the day before the meeting began. Over 100 managers worked on building several homes in the Lower 9th ward where some of the worst destruction took place after Hurricane Katrina.

The day was a huge success, as the team saw the efforts of their work unfold. They also realized a bond between all of the participants that only face-to-face communications and group sharing can realize.

It also made the meeting theme of “Caring is the Key in Life” come alive!


Posted on: Wednesday, January 15th, 2014


If you’ve looked around your office lately (assuming you actually work at an office), you’ve surely noticed that gone are the days of the 9-5 nuclear workforce, tied to their cubicles, working independently toward an individual goal.  I recently ran across an article in the Chicago Tribune that pinpointed and articulated some of the changes in today’s workplace culture, including some trends that more closely resemble the prior movement.  The pendulum swings and often all that is old becomes new again.

Flexibility over Salary:

Today’s employees value flexibility in how and where works gets done as a deciding factor in weighing two job opportunities.

Collaboration is Key:

While the trend continues to support working remotely, some companies are actually tightening the reigns a bit and bringing remote employees back into the office to foster greater collaboration and idea sharing among teams and peers.

Remote with Boundaries:

The desire to work remotely does not come without drawbacks.  Work-life boundaries continue to erode and the recent push is to build up some of those boundaries, the breakdown of which has led workers to feel overwhelmingly ‘on’.

Other trends mentioned include attention to job stress and overtime pay, an increase in females in leadership roles, and the trend toward hired freelancers to keep up with cost control and changes in workflow.

No matter how closely your workplace incorporates the aforementioned subject matter, one thing is for sure.  The way we work continues to be a fluid, ever-changing movement, the goal of which is an ideal balance between employee satisfaction and maximum productivity.

For the Greater Good

Posted on: Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

As an event producer, most of the time, we are working on meetings for corporate or association clients. We help their employees or members work to be more innovative in order to increase market share or to recognize the performance of their audience.

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Then there are events that are for the greater good of our society. In this case, the event was for those who live on the west or south sides of Chicago. Both of these areas are of low income. On Thursday, September 19th at St. Ignatius High School the Chicago Area Chapter of Meeting Professionals International  had the privilege of planning and producing the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the Carole Robertson Center for Learning (CRCL) as part of our Community Outreach Program.

CRCL has three locations that serve 700+ people daily. Each location is dedicated to the memory of Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, and Carole Robertson.  These are the four girls who died in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 15th, 1963.

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These centers evolved in response to the voiced needs of our families. Since the Center’s inception, they have added many programs to meet community needs.These programs include: center–based and home-based child development programs for children from birth through five years of age, school age and youth programming for children and teens through age 18, extensive family support, social services, and parent education activities, adult education and community training, and imbedded program enhancements including music education, family literacy and family health education.

This event was a rededication of their mission and services to those whose lives were tragically taken, as well as linking the past, the present, and the future of CRCL and the community. CRCL’s goal was to revisit their historical roots, talk about the center’s progress to date, and where they hope to go in the future.

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The Mistress of Ceremonies, Leah Hope of ABC 7 News Chicago, led the program. The program was full of inspiring speeches from several of their past leaders; including Carole’s sister Dianne Robertson Braddock.

The keynote speaker was William McNary, who has worked for the public interest for 25 years. He delivered a rousing speech to motivate the audience.

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Concluding the evening was 14 year old Alex DuBuclet. Her voice inspired everyone and demonstrated how CRLC can nurture its students to such a level of excellence. The evening finished with the CRCL students singing “Wake Up Everybody”.

Wendy Mitchell Gill, Vice President for External Relations for CRCL, followed up by saying, “We are still floating after last Thursday’s spectacular event!  Each of us had smiles on our faces from ear to ear throughout the evening’s program and that feeling has certainly carried over to this week. The energy from the evening has fueled the fire within us to push on and use this as our opportunity to springboard CRCL into the future and on to bigger and better things.  The feedback we received from our guests and staff alike was extremely positive.

We thank you for everything you’ve done to help leave a lasting impression on the minds of those who were in attendance Thursday!  I truly believe the best is yet to come!”

Schmoozing…The Art of Connecting and Networking!

Posted on: Monday, August 19th, 2013

Schmoozing blog

A common worry lately is the idea that small talk and conversation is starting to deplete and people are beginning to lose this very important skill. For younger generations, experts place the blame on videogames and texting for the lack of ability to communicate. According to The Wall Street Journal, in an article titled “How To Be A Better Conversationalist” by Elizabeth Bernstein, one can develop conversational intelligence. Bernstein expresses that conversation is not difficult if you keep in mind one thing: Focus on the other person. This will in turn make it easier for the other person to generate a meaningful and interesting conversation and alert them that you are interested in talking.
The Hidden Benefits of Chit Chat
Dr. Caducci, professor of psychology and director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast, in New Albany, Ind, provides insight on how conversation can be divided in five different stages and how to keep it flowing.

Stage one: “Getting Started” stage, you signal your desire to talk with a simple opening line based on something both of you are observing or experiencing in your shared surroundings.

Stage two: “Personal Introduction,” you should mention something about yourself, state your name if appropriate and provide hints for topics to talk about.

Stage three: “Pre-Topical Exploration,” you and your conversation partner are looking for common ground. This is a good time to ask questions, and to refer back to and build upon things said earlier.

Stage four: “Post-Topical Elaboration” stage, your job is to keep the conversation going.

Stage five: “Wrap Up.” Here, you signal that the end is near and show appreciation (“Nice chatting with you.”) Demonstrate that you were listening by summarizing highlights of the conversation (“Thanks for those movie recommendations.”) Look for a way to stay in touch, if you would like—offer a business card or ask if the person is on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Make sure to ask a lot of questions. Those who are not natural conversationalists fear awkward silences most. Remember that people love to talk about themselves and often will think you are a great conversationalist if you talk about them. Don’t let the conversation stall after the person has answered—be ready with follow-up questions or build on the topic.

People Continue to Work Well Into Their 70’s

Posted on: Monday, July 15th, 2013


Checking my Linked In page is something that I try to do daily. I can catch up with old business peers and even network with some new ones. A few weeks ago, though, something different caught my eye. Two marketing and communications professionals that I know were updating their skill sets. The interesting part is that they both happen to be well into their 70’s.

Then just last week, I saw this article that includes our freelance computer tech who serves Esprit Productions. Fred Wilson started his own business at the age of 54 and has been self-employed since 2000. Wilson created MAKO Computer Consulting after years of helping his friends with their computer problems. Wilson enjoys what he does much better now because he is able to help solve issues people may have been dealing with for a while in a short period of time. Wilson expresses how crucial it is the continue learning on the job and proving you’re the best at what you do to your costumers!

Updating one’s skill sets is a process that never ends.

Click here to read the article on Fred Wilson. TribuneMAKO copy

People Want to Be Heard

Posted on: Thursday, March 7th, 2013

With all of the communication tools that we have today, it appears that we can certainly improve on half of what good communications is about…listening. People want to be heard in all aspects of their lives. Citizens want the government to hear their voice. Employees want their bosses to hear their points of view. Wives want their husbands to hear their requests.


Recently, the White House’s “We the People” has taken off, by doubling over a six-month span. This is a platform that allows citizens to view current petitions, add a signature to emphasize the importance of these issues, and if there are enough, the government will view this petition as a concern of the people. With the increased usage of technology and primarily the Internet, citizens are able to connect to the government and others that may feel strongly about a particular issue and they are able to “use the Internet as a platform for collective action.” As President Obama says, “That’s what the new We the People feature on is all about – giving Americans a direct line to the White House on the issues and concerns that matter most to them.” The biggest leap forward that this feature has provided, is the acknowledgement of the 32 varying petitions related to gun violence to which President Obama responded. This only gives Americans the confidence that their voices are being heard.

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Being heard in the workplace is essential for employees in order for them to feel satisfied with their jobs and confident in their co-worker support. A unique technology, FacilitatePro, features tools that assist in brainstorming, capturing ideas, action planning, surveying, documenting and categorizing.  This type of enhancement “changes group dynamics by allowing people to contribute anonymously and gives people time to think individually while sharing ideas with others.” In groups, some people tend to shy away from expressing their opinions and conforming with the group majority, while this technology will provide an outlet for those employees and allow others to brainstorm on their own and contribute as the thoughts are developed. Employees will be relieved and encouraged when they know that their voice is heard amongst the group and by their supervisor.

And finally, being heard within one’s personal life is the key to strong communication. It is imperative that couples (married, straight and gay) listen to one another and speak about their concerns or setbacks. Personal communication is key in this situation, not information communication. There is a huge difference. Communication between couples or partners revolves around the development of a renewed relationship. After all, “Creating love in your relationship paves the way for effective communication.” This relationship is about the “depth of connection between the communicators.” Couples, by relating again on a deeper level, can feel as though they are being heard and listened to.

Altogether, the weight of feeling heard holds strong importance to many individuals in today’s society. There is a plethora of ways to communicate with one another to express our opinion, but determining the right mode of communication is what is most important. Using the We the People platform will help citizens shorten the gap between them and the government. FacilitatePro will help employees feel comfortable to express their brainstorming ideas on a timely basis. And, improving personal connections will help couples. After all, people want to be heard.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Posted on: Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! This day is always a great reminder to tell those around you how much they mean to you. Yesterday, I came across this article, illustrating a one-of-a-kind experience.

White Castle

Do you like to have reservations on Valentine’s Day? Would you like to receive free dessert after your meal? And, would you like to have a complimentary photograph taken to remember the evening? Well, it so happens that all of these are available in any White Castle in the Chicagoland area. Yes, White Castle. Today, White Castle customers will experience luxury, as they dine with tablecloths, flowers, and decorations. There is an experience for everyone.

Gourmet Sliders

White Castle is infamous for it’s sliders: the bite-size burgers that are absolutely delicious. Interestingly, restaurants and hotel catering menus all over are looking to implement these finger-foods on upscale menus. The bite-size delectable could be considered gourmet steak, or even salmon. These locations strive to bring the feeling of comfort and home that comes along with these foods. Next time you are visiting a five-star hotel or restaurant, check out the menu and see if you can spot them! Or, next time you are hosting an event, of any kind, whip up a batch of sliders and they are sure to be a huge hit.

Reflecting on ten years…past, present, and meeting predictions

Posted on: Friday, February 1st, 2013

Milestones like anniversaries are a great opportunity for reflection, so I checked to see what was happening back on February 1, 2003 when Esprit first opened vs. what’s happening today.

In science

  • Then – Feb 1, 2003 marked Shuttle Columbia’s tragedy and infamous foam insulation damage.
  • Now – The U.S. rover, Curiosity, continues its drilling quest for life on Mars.

In sports

  • Then – Jim Harbaugh was QB for The Oakland Raiders while brother, John, was special-teams coach for The Eagles.
  • Now – Jim, Head Coach for The San Francisco 49ers, faces off with John, Head Coach of the Baltimore Ravens, at February 3’s Super Bowl XLVII…or “Superbaugh” to you sports fans.

In entertainment

  • Then – “Chicago” won Best Musical or Comedy Film in 2003 at The 60th Annual Golden Globes.
  • Now – “Les Miserables” earned the same acclaim at January’s 70th Annual Golden Globes.

In business

  • Then – Apple was $6/share, and launched its revolutionary iTunes in April 2003 with 200,000 songs and total corporate sales of $6.21 Billion.
  • Now – Apple is $450/share, and celebrates iTunes’ ten-year anniversary in April with $12 Billion in annual iTunes sales alone through a library of 26 million songs plus an Apps and iBookstore.

In meetings and events
2003 marked:

  • A return to growth after 9/11 with a boost in training and sales-related meetings;
  • $82.52 was the average U.S. room rate;
  • The U.S. business-to-leisure travel split at 52%/48%;
  • Las Vegas was named top corporate travel destination by Maritz Travel;
  • Holiday Inn and Marriott were the top U.S. hotel chains; and
  • Gas at a mere $1.83/gallon.

2013 trends indicate:

  • A 5.2% increase in U.S. group travel spending;
  • $102 and rising for the average U.S. hotel rate;
  • U.S. business-to-leisure travel as a 40%/60% split;
  • MeetingsNet citing corporate travel destination to be selected by: Location, sustainability, nutrition, team adventure, and technology;
  • The Langham, Chicago debuts this summer as the top meeting and incentive hotel; and
  • Gas will hover at $3.50/gallon.

This paper includes a few predictions and trends about the future of meetings from our production assistant, Mary Grace Thomas, who shares her views from a millennial perspective.

Make Your Voice Heard

Posted on: Thursday, June 14th, 2012

The GSA scandal from this past spring was a huge embarrassment for the organization.  In May, I wrote a blog post about how poorly the situation was handled from the beginning, starting with the selection of Las Vegas as a destination. Not that there’s anything wrong with Las Vegas, but perhaps Sin City isn’t the best location for the federal agency whose mission is to provide “innovative solutions for our customers in support of their missions, and by so doing, foster an effective, sustainable, and transparent government for the American people.”

On April 25th, Congress passed legislation as a knee jerk reaction to the GSA’s missteps and lack of judgment. The newly written amendments attached to legislation would strictly limit the government’s spending on future conferences and events.

We all know that it just takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch. In this case, not only did GSA make all government agencies look bad, but also this action by Congress is reactionary to government and contracting as a whole. Peers, colleagues, and coworkers need to meet, sometimes off site, for dialogues to be opened and work to get done. Just because some federal employees were wasteful and excessive doesn’t mean that the need no longer exists for meetings or conferences. The solution should be transparent and responsible event planning.

We are still in the midst of an economic recovery. People are starting to plan and attend conferences again. Putting such a severe roadblock in the way of effective meeting planning when the production of meetings and events gets money flowing back into the American economy is very shortsighted.

MPI.web has some great resources available regarding how we can make our voices heard. Go here for details.

Rulon Gardner Never Stops Pushing

Posted on: Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Throughout my career in event planning, I have had many interesting experiences that I never could have predicted. One especially memorable one was working with Olympic gold medalist Rulon Gardner.

Gardner’s win over Russian Aleksandr Karelin at the Sydney Olympics was nothing short of epic. Karelin was the considered to be the greatest Greco-Roman wrestler of all time and was undefeated and un-scored upon in 13 years of competition. The crowd in Sydney first sensed an upset in the making when Karelin broke his grip on his opponent. The announcers went wild, along with the crowd.

Rulon Gardner’s defeat of Alexander the Great is one of the greatest moments in Olympic history, ranking right up there with the 1980 Miracle on Ice. It was completely unexpected, totally thrilling, and it endeared this baby-faced young man from a Wyoming dairy farm to the nation.

In 2001, I had the opportunity to do some speech writing and coaching with Rulon Gardner, who these days makes his living as a motivational speaker. It was fun getting to know him, and we did a good job helping him find a way to tell his story in a way that highlighted some important key messages, while making it sound like him, and not like it was written by someone else.

One really fun moment we had was when I was planted in the audience and “randomly” selected to wrestle him on stage. That’s not something you ever forget! The other amazing memory I have is a morning I spent coaching him for an evening speech college in Fort Wayne, IN. That day was September 11, 2001.  To the college’s credit the speech went on as planned that evening, but stopped when President Bush came on television to speak to the nation. After the President was finished, Rulon resumed his speech. He did a wonderful job and brought a few hundred people some comfort when we really needed each other.

Gardner has had an eventful life in the 12 years since his historic win in Sydney. He suffered hypothermia and frostbite after a snowmobile accident, after which he lost a toe. He also survived a plane crash. In 2011, he staged a remarkable comeback of a different sort as a contestant on “The Biggest Loser” where he lost a substantial amount of weight, down 173 pounds from a height of 474 pounds in just 16 weeks. His life has been anything but dull. I learned a lot from him in the time I spent with him, and it was a terrific experience for me to help him move to a new chapter in his life. And, I saw first-hand the benefit an inspiring speaker can bring to an event.

Will we see you this summer in London, Rulon?

Watch the video Gardner shows before being introduced to an audience.